I’m not sure anything I write can really do justice to the degree of pain that being childless-not-by-choice causes. It’s a mental, physical and emotional pain that I’ve never experienced in any other context, but this one. Even when I have lost people in my life that have meant the world to me, nothing touches the pain I feel when I reflect on my miscarriage and being unable to have the family I wanted. It’s a grief that seems to never really completely resolve itself, because the ripple effects on our lives will be felt for the rest of our lives.
And that can be hard to grasp and grapple with, especially when people around us seem unable to understand the extent of the loss we feel, because they’ve not had to experience it. I’ve found that even with friends that are child-free, there simply isn’t that understanding of my sense of loss and pain, because they’ve had the luxury of a choice that I didn’t. And, at points that can lay me low, just as I imagine it does with you.
So, what happens when we’re struggling with the pain to the point that it becomes overwhelming and all-encompassing? It comes out as a deep depression and a sinking into a pit of despair that threatens to swallow us whole. I know I’ve been there on more than one occasion and sometimes I can be going along quite nicely and I find myself teetering again on that precipice.
It’s where I found myself before Christmas and the I could feel grief tapping me on the shoulder again. I can feel the creeping quality of the sadness coming on before I got to the point of acknowledging that I’m back in that dark place yet again, with only myself to help me get back out yet again.
But this time I wanted to tune in and really feel what’s going on when I can feel myself on a knife-edge of depression. I didn’t do this to wallow, but so that I could tune in to better understand how it felt, because I wonder if it would help if I shared when I feel at my lowest to help you when you’re at yours. It might help you not feel so isolated, alone and helpless.
I guess for me the main feeling I get when I’m teetering on that edge is sad. Just so impossibly sad. It’s a sadness that permeates through everything, even when I’m laughing at something. It’s not even that I’m telling myself I can’t laugh, it’s just there isn’t that quality of laughter you have when you’ve not got the black hole looming. You know, the lightness and the joy of laughter…
I constantly feel the loss of the child I should’ve had and there are constant comparisons and thoughts that bubble through my mind. It’s like the sliding doors moments are on a constant loop. Being able to go to a friend’s at short notice, shouldn’t be happening because if I had a child I would need to organise child care. Adverts, families and people with children all become a mocking reminder that I wasn’t able to have that. It’s like the cruellest joke just having to go out somewhere public and be reminded of what you can’t have.
As a result, the physical, mental and emotional pain amp up. The emptiness in my chest, I can occasionally feel when I’m feeling OK or good, becomes a constant heaviness. It’s like a dull ache that becomes a dull roar whenever your triggers are paraded in front of you when you’re feeling laid low. My body feels incredibly heavy, my brain like treacle and everyday things like needing to have a shower become a thing that ‘must’ be done. A pressure, nagging at you, rather than an automatic, routine thing.
Because everything does become such a chore and hard work, I often find myself wanting to hide away and not be around people, simply because the little energy reserves I have, I want to be able to use on myself. It’s not a selfishness in the sense of ‘screw you all – I’m done’, it’s just a lack of energy and impetus leading to needing to conserve what I do have, so that I am able to function at a basic level.
It takes a lot to be able to pick yourself up out of this black hole, and I can imagine you thinking, all the exercises in the world aren’t really going to help, because there simply isn’t anything you can give to help me. I get that, but I found that accepting how I felt and being kind to myself has helped me, not only accept the fact that I was back in the black hole, but it allowed me to express my feelings to myself and others. It also meant I was able to give myself permission to treat myself kindly and invest in things that would help me feel a little better – walking, reading or even just watching some crap telly. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re able to be able to treat yourself a little lovingly in the tough times and give your self permission to do so.
And so for those of you struggling with the life that you’ve ended up with, I get it. There won’t always be the will to be able to find your way through the dark just yet and perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness. But there will be a time when you feel ready and when you are, then it’s time to start thinking about what life will look like when you’re ready to engage with it. But until that time, just make sure you’re being your best mate and looking out for you when times are tough.
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