Every time I think I’m starting to pull out this morass of answer-less frustration, to finally escape this cycle of depression, something comes along and triggers all the same thoughts and feelings and anxiety all over again.
This time, it was the well-meaning, but incredibly frustrating email from someone very dear to me, who I’ve unfortunately pulled away from in the past few months. I couldn’t handle, at the time, the frequent conversations in which she consistently tried to tell me how I should feel about the issues facing me, what she thinks the right way to deal with the medical issues is, and why I should listen to her because she has more “experience” of life because she’s a parent. I love her dearly, but it wasn’t helpful. It made me feel more like a failure over my infertility, because she assumes I should have both started trying to have children earlier, and be more aggressive in pursuing every option possible to make sure I have children, despite both my ethical reservations about some fertility treatments and other medical and psychological complications I’ve been facing.
My husband and I were, are, and continue to be on the same page. Every time we have a long talk over our life-goals, our moral and ethical boundaries, our views of all the current problems, we find that we are still in agreement. We understand what we’re doing, why we’re moving slowly, why we feel the need to ponder all the ramifications of the different choices before we make any decisions. We agree about our ambivalence towards what we feel is often a consumerist, product-driven approach to fertility. Our first goal is to be obedient to God, to understand His will for our lives and His calling on us. That kind of discernment doesn’t happen in a day, and if that means we remain in the limbo state we currently inhabit for many months yet, that’s ok. It’s not fun, and it would be nice to have a “plan”, but we’d rather take things slowly, to – in the immortal words of my brothers’ childhood hero, Davy Crockett – “be sure we’re right” before we “go ahead”.
I don’t understand why I keep being called on to defend my decision-making. Is the length of the process prolonging my physical pain? Yes. Does that mean it is inherently wrong for me to be dwelling carefully on these decisions? I don’t think it does. Pain isn’t fun, but I’m not sure that the chief object of life is to avoid pain, physical or emotional. The burden of infertility is more than just the failure to satisfy a goal by having a child; it also involves making decisions that affect a potential human life. It would be incredibly selfish if I did NOT take the time ponder all of the ramification of fertility treatments, of fertility goals, or the major lifestyle changes that always accompany the creation of a new life.
The problem, I think, is that these considerations, and the long, tortuous process that my husband and I have followed to arrive at our acceptance of temporary limbo, are not considerations that are easy to explain to anyone else. There are only two people – besides my doctor and my counselor – who I’ve talked to in-depth who understand the strain and stress and depression that I’ve been experiencing over this, and who offer genuine support rather than facile answers. And this dear, dear person has not been one of them. Instead, she wants to “solve” the problems for me by giving me “advice”. It is not only not helpful, it is actively hurtful, because it suggests that I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and that if I just x,y, or z, all my problems would be at an end and I could return to the proper realization that only people who Have Kids have legitimate problems.
I KNOW, none better, that I’m overreacting to much of this stress and strain. I KNOW that I “shouldn’t” let the depression overwhelm me, or let any thoughts lead me into panic attacks. I KNOW. But sometimes, I need to talk about these things without putting on a stiff upper lip and pretending like the issues don’t hurt. I need to have supportive friends who – even though they live several states away – can tell me they’ll support me no matter what my husband and I decide to do, or not do. I need the people around me to stop trying to convince me how I should feel, what I should do, what I should think.
Today, the email I received threw me into anxiety-attack mode. I’ve been so busy the past few weeks – grading exams, writing papers, hosting an out-of-town guest, and of course experiencing a two-day-long migraine this past weekend – that I felt almost back to normal, away from the bog of depression. Then – email, suggesting my lack of communication is “selfish” and that I need to seek “godly wisdom” from people like her who can advise me on how I should respond to infertility.
It feels like I’ve been punched in the gut by someone I trusted. I feel so invisible 98% of the time anyway, for one of the few people who I trust to turn on me in a suggestion that depression is “folly” is an intolerable response. I’m not trying to revel in the problems I face, but there is no use in telling me that they are not, in fact, problems. They ARE problems: I’m deaf; I’m infertile; I experience agonizing pain every single month; I have debilitating vestibular migraines; I have a long-standing and highly draining antagonistic relationship with a relative that, despite all my efforts, remains unreconciled and unpeaceful; AND I’m in the middle of the last stages of my PhD. Any one of those things is enough to drive any sane person into depression, and I’m facing them all. None of them are life-and-death, but they are burdensome. I nearly had a nervous breakdown last summer from the incredible pressure and weight of anxiety. I began having panic attacks in the fall. If, in response, I need to take time to heal, time to figure out what I want, time to focus on responding to these strains – why should it elicit an accusation of selfishness and ungodliness?
Or perhaps just the fact that I’m asking that question is selfish? Should I instead pretend that nothing is wrong?