An interesting thing happens when you have persistent health issues. You can begin to fight your own body. Both mentally and physically.
Over the last two years I’ve felt intense anger and even hatred for my body or parts of my body. Startling, but true. While others’ bodies seem to love them and react well when they decide to have a baby or exercise, mine has revolted. It has bucked every effort I’ve made to get pregnant and seemed to buck every effort I’ve made to get healthy. Instead of thanking me profusely after every Whole 30, new exercise regimen, doctor visit, supplement, adjustment, juice cleanse, acupuncture…the list goes on…my body seems to get worse. It is almost as if it is laughing at me. Fighting me. Digging it’s heels into the ground and resisting me.
This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced. Probably worse than my symptoms. My body is not just a shell, it’s a living thing I’ve known intimately my whole life, a soul. No one knows it or has cared for it like I have. And I guess that’s what makes the hatred so tempting. Frankly, I’m bitter. I’ve put in serious work and I thought we [my body and I] were a unified team. Now, no matter what my mind or heart wants, my body is rebelling, doing it’s own thing. Breaking away from the team. How dare it. How dare I, in a sense.
It’s a bizarre feeling to hate something that is also someone. Especially when that someone is literally yourself. Even more bizarre to not see the culprit. The specific thing in the body that is revolting. We can’t pinpoint the cause of my issues. I want desperately to be able to look at it, point my mommy finger and tell it to “Shape up!”, or “This is not about you!”, or “There’s a whole body here, a whole LIFE here that you’re screwing up! I have a daughter I’d like to stop snapping at because I’m in pain, a husband I’d like to make a baby with and a LIFE I’d like to live!”
But when I mentally or literally yell things like that to a part of my body, I’m just yelling into a mirror. And I feel crazy. Additionally, I can’t dispense hate to one part of my body without it affecting the others. Just like we can’t singularly numb emotions, we can’t single out parts of ourselves to hate. Hating any part of ourselves negatively affects the whole.
Up to this post, I have not chosen to write extensively about our infertility struggles. And while, on one hand, I’d LIKE to share about it only in a technical, mostly informative, mildly emotive piece with gobs of statistics, that’s not what I’m doing. It is all Brené Brown’s fault. If you’ve never heard her name, stop reading this and Google her. It is a much more productive use of your time (I love you so much, thank you for reading my ramblings). Brené Brown is a researcher and, likely, my social work spirit animal. Her work on vulnerability and wholeheartedness is incredibly meaningful and has arguably changed the course of psychology/social work. I was listening to her audio sessions on parenting, a handy two CD collection called The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, and she said something that rocked my health world. She said, in not so many words, that belonging hinges on being your true self. You cannot feel a true sense of belonging if you have not presented your true, raw, and vulnerable self. When we wear masks, fake-it-till-we-make-it, or “power through”, we rob ourselves of the ability to feel truly seen. Truly known. The ability to truly belong.
How in the world does this connect to my bonkers rage about my uterus? One of the hardest things about health problems is the feeling of loneliness. The feeling that you are completely isolated in your struggle. Even those who have gone through the same technical diagnosis do not have your specific life circumstances. Even if we have a strong faith, great support systems, financial security, or any number of circumstantial protective factors, we can still feel completely alone and terrified. What struck me about Brene’s statement was the emphasis on “true self”. We do not always show our true selves in our struggles. Have we ever shown another human the extent of our anger/sadness/rage about our situation? If we do not put our true self out there, we will not experience the joy and sense of community that comes with having that true self accepted. I’ve come close a few times and I am incredibly indebted to my husband and my tribe of women who have cried with me, prayed with/for me, and listened intently. I cannot tell them what their compassion has meant. When I was seen, I felt life-giving waves of belonging.
So here you go. Here’s my “truly seen” post where I bust out to you that, MAN, I get super hateful angry with my uterus. I think some of you might be pretty angry about stuff too. Maybe not a uterus, and maybe not angry. But something. I want you to know that I see you. It is terrifying to be honest with how we really are. Even if it is with a few select, safe loved ones who we know care deeply. But, for the love of Pete and your mind/body/soul, take the leap of faith in humanity. Prep them that you’re about to drop an authenticity bomb so they know to try really hard to not say something stupid (at least, if you’re talking to me I’d love the heads up), and then present how you are REALLY doing. No momma should feel completely alone. We all have darkness. Let’s be brave enough to share it, and sit in it with others.
Compassion is knowing our darkness well enough that we can sit in the dark with others. It never is a relationship between the wounded and the healed. It is a relationship between equals.
– Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
Brown, B. (2013). The gifts of imperfect parenting: Raising children with courage, compassion, & connection.
Chödrön, P. (2018). The Places That Scare You: A guide to fearlessness in difficult times. Boston: Shambhala.