Warning: Heavier than normal stuff in this post.
I’ve have been feeling “it” circling me for a little while. The symptoms are unmistakable: a gradual social withdrawal; the somewhat manic devotion to projects and work for the distractions they provide; the nagging sense that if I can keep thinking happy thoughts and stay busy enough that I’ll keep from sliding toward that dark place that dominated my life just a few short years ago.
My slide into the dark abyss where I wallowed for an extended period of time came in the wake of our last ditch attempt at conceiving through ICSI IVF. When the BFN (to use the term of art that I’ll translate for the uninitiated: Big Fu#!@ing Negative) came in after the last beta test, I was beset with all of the classic symptoms of depression. I fought back as best I could through writing, counseling sessions with a RESOLVE-recommended counselor and lots of support from my ever patient dear husband.
But during the worst of it I gave Rip Van Winkle a run for his money sleeping almost constantly when I wasn’t required to fulfill work obligations. While I lost a fair amount of time in slumber land the sleep immersion was my body’s attempt to escape from the harsh reality I didn’t want to face. I avoided just about all social requests. I developed a contempt for my body that led me to accept (but not ingest) from my ob/gyn a sample birth control pill kit that would have left me with only four abbreviated periods a year rather than the customary tear-inducing and failure-mongering dirty dozen.
Keeping those BCPs close at hand in the medicine cabinet was my way of reminding my body that I was capable of taking control of it. It was as if I was saying “Okay, you good for nothing plumbing, you may not perform the way the mother nature intended, but just know that I can shut you down altogether with just a glass of water and this hormone packed pharmaceutical.” (In truth, I couldn’t bare the idea of taking more hormones and I wanted deep down to believe that a miracle was still possible.)
I still have the BCP package but they’ve long-since expired. They’re one of an odd set of items that are squirreled away from those darker days. While I’ve rid the house of baby items and stretchy, loose-fitting clothing I bought over the years with an eye toward maternity wear, there are certain odds and ends that I haven’t been able to part with…yet.
So what gives? What’s behind the brooding cloud that’s been gathering over me the past few weeks? I wish I knew for certain. I’ve been impressed with the great progress and courage that other women in the IF blogging community have been demonstrating. Perhaps by comparison I feel as though I’m still stuck in a limbo of sorts. There are weeks when I feel I’m taking two steps forward and then, BAM! there I go taking one step back. Let me offer up as exhibit A in my “fortified heart.”
And by fortified, I mean “fort” in the classic Middle Ages sense. I’ve recently become painfully aware that over the past several years I’ve built an impressive wall around my heart that keeps me from genuinely engaging with and getting to know new people. The wall also keeps me at a distance from many others whom I’ve gotten to know over my lifetime. The wall is a defense mechanism that keeps me from opening up and fully revealing who I truly am now — that would require tapping into a full range of experiences and emotions that have severely battered me. I clearly don’t have a problem tapping into those here in this blog but it’s safe here. The physical world is a different matter.
I expend a lot of energy when required in business and social settings holding a smile on my face (but as Aunt Sassy noted recently there’s a big difference between smiling with your mouth and smiling with your eyes). I’ve caught my reflection in a mirror unexpectantly at times and am surprised by the sadness I see in my eyes — but in those unguarded moments it’s unquestionably there.
So why not tear down the wall? While I know I need to work on doing just that, I worry that in allowing myself to fully open up to people the way I once did before IF stole a large joyful part of me that I won’t be able to control my heart. I might dissolve in tears, lash out at an innocent comment or become ugly in my anger. Because of that I’ve found that it’s been easier to retreat than to explain. The dark clouds, though, remind me that shutting myself off is not without its costs. It’s exhausting to live on guard and it should come as no surprise to me that it’s a downer not to be free to be myself.