Sometimes I get asked this question. Contrarily, I’m glad I’m not asked it more often, as I never quite know how to answer it, but actually I’d like to be asked it more so I knew people hadn’t forgotten that life pretty shitty right now. Infertility can be a pretty lonely experience (that will be a whole other post!), so having people check in every so often, and acknowledge things are tough can go a long way to helping you feel supported.
I’m still trying different ways of answering – I want to be more honest so people know what its like, and because its hard putting on a brave face. But sometimes the timing or situation isn’t right for being honest. Sometimes I just shrug, make a funny face & brush it off. If its a question in a text message or email I might even ignore it – mostly because its more complicated than can always be put down in writing, or in a short few words. My common answers are that I’m surviving, or that I’m still breathing – because lets face it, getting to the end of the day still breathing is a pretty good win some days! I try not to fob the question off with “I’m ok” because I don’t feel ok and I don’t want to minimise my situation. And also, I’ve got so good at faking it and doing what needs to be done, that from the outside its really easy to assume I’m actually coping alright.
I think its because I have an ingrained habit to follow the rules, I’m big on making sure I do what I’ve said I’ll do. So if I need to attend a meeting for a charity I’m involved in, I’ll turn up, do what needs to be done, but it’ll take a lot of energy so when I’m home I’ll find I’m really tired, or peopled out more quickly than usual. Or like last year, I managed to keep up with my studies, and maintain my grades, even while going through fertility treatment and dealing with a miscarriage.
The problem with this is everyone else gets used to me being strong, and keeping on keeping on, they don’t realise how hard things actually are for me, or how much energy it actually takes to do so. From the outside it looks like I’m functioning fine – combined with the fact I’m pretty quick to support others, I think a lot of my friends and family forget that actually I might need some support myself.
My husband notices sometimes, and this is one of the things about the infertility rollercoaster that’s been hard for him. I put on a brave face, chat, smile, interact etc when we’re out with other people – but when its back to just being the two of us, I’m quiet and withdrawn. I’m all out of interaction energy, so he misses out on the fun/nice me, and gets the quiet, tired, snappy me – because he’s the one I’m most comfortable to be myself around. But it is a bit rough for him, missing out on the nice me.
I also do such a good job that it confuses myself -the stories you hear of people struggling to cope, generally are about people unable to get out of bed, or not able to carry out daily tasks, cutting themselves off from people etc. So in my mind I get this internal conflict – I’m still doing everything I’m supposed to be doing so I must be ok….but emotionally I don’t feel ok, and I really do just feel like I’m going through the motions – because actually I don’t know how to do anything else.
And so I start to think I’m doing ok….and then I notice some little things, which on their own, would just be something silly that happened, but when you add them all together, you realise they’re the signs of grief. Like the other morning when I was getting dressed to go for a walk and I forgot to put my bra on. Doesn’t seem much, but I am someone that never leaves the house without a bra, in fact I don’t even hang around the house without one! Or the couple of times I forgot to take my contact lenses out before bed – I’ve worn contacts for about 16yrs now…taking them out is just part of the routine of brushing my teeth and washing my face, so forgetting that is out of the ordinary for me. Or like the other day, when instead of going to put something back in the fridge, I started to put it in the liquor cupboard instead…..or the number of times I’ve walked into things, or banged my head on things, because my judgement just isn’t up to speed at the moment. Little tiny things, that no one else will notice, but actually show my brain can’t cope with everything I’m expecting it to keep up with.
So how are you doing? How do you answer this question?