Last night, out of nowhere, I felt the weight of my depression and anxiety return. I woke up in the middle of the night when R. turned and rustled the bed, and as I was drifting off again, it was like all the blankets were yanked away from me, and there I was: awake, sad, frightened.
At first I didn’t understand why it happened, when I’d been doing such a good job of taking care of myself and giving myself other things to do besides fret over the future of our frozen embryos. Then I remembered: it was a pregnancy announcement.
This one was different, because I am sincerely happy for this girl. She’s a fellow infertile. It’s not my story to tell, but if one were to play the Pain Olympics, she would be on the podium. We’ve emailed each other many times over the past few months, confiding in one another when we felt hopeless, angry, despairing, or on rare occasions calm. So when I say I am happy for her, I’m not just saying that to keep you from thinking that I am evil-hearted. I sincerely want her to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
My depression may have an ounce of jealousy to it, but more than that, I think my reaction is that I feel newly alone. I intend to stay in touch with her and hopefully I can offer what support I can from where I am – but she is no longer alongside me, struggling through cycle after cycle. That’s great for her, of course. We can stay friends, but we’re friends separated by experience. It’s a friendship that will take more effort.
She is being as sensitive towards me as one could ask, and I am grateful. Ironically, I had wondered how I might act if it were me to get a positive, and she’s behaving exactly as I had “planned.” Unintentionally, it brings home once again how I’m still caught in the same place after all this time. Hell – she and I even cycled at almost the same time in January, and I’m essentially still caught in the January cycle: waiting, waiting, waiting.
(I even have cramps already – over a week before my period will arrive. So in addition to the depression and anxiety, I get to feel physical pain as well. Wow. I mean, wow.)
In the midst of my own problems, I learned this week that another friend – this one someone whom I see in person, regularly – and his family are going through a difficult time. His son, who is maybe preschool age, has a brain tumor. Because he is so small, the dose of chemo will be very low, but it will go on for a very long time – years, even.
How to express this without disrespecting my friend’s tragedy? My friend is one of the few men who are aware of our infertility struggles, although not in any great detail. He has been kind and supportive. To see him experiencing a crisis of his own – one that will last for a long time, whatever the outcome – is upsetting, but in an odd way, I know what to do for him in a way that I don’t in my own situation. I can’t seem to navigate my own grief and sadness, but I can wrap my mind around bringing my friend and his family dinner every so often. I can remember to ask how he is, and I think I know how to listen to bad news without forcing truisms or false optimism on the other person. In no possible way am I grateful for a friend’s tragedy, but I am grateful that I have some notion of what my means of helping might be.
I’ve been reading about the Buddhist concept of bodhichitta, about choosing to learn compassion through our own experience of pain. I’m not grateful for infertility in any possible way, but I can try to acknowledge and accept the pain and fear I feel on this journey, and I can make a choice: use this sadness as a pathway to caring, or let the depression and anxiety embitter me permanently.
I don’t honestly know which way I’ll wind up. But right now, I have a choice before me, with two friendships: do I run from sadness and loss, or do I accept that they are real, and find a way to show compassion anyway?
Today, I will try to make the choice for good. Tomorrow, I will have to choose again.