Saturday, March 5, 2011

anger

I know I've written about this before. (Probably used the same title.) But I've been thinking about it lately. I got to see Father yesterday and discussed it a bit with him; he gave me some interesting things from Aquinas to reflect on, and I think I will also have to discuss this with a therapist. (Need to make some more phone calls Monday to get that lined up.)

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that I'm not just often angry - I don't so much "have anger issues." Anger is my dominant emotion and I am angry approximately 100% of the time. Possibly asleep as well as awake. (My dreams, when I remember them, tend to be conflict-ridden.) And I feel that if I let the anger go, I would collapse, into a little puddle, and the drips would run into the ground and vanish, and I would disappear. The anger is exhausting me and handicapping my ability to live my life; but at some fundamental level I believe that without it I would die.

The image in my head, which I'm not too good at articulating, is that the ugly mess of infertility (which doesn't strike some people this badly - I have dealt with it particularly poorly, I suppose, or it came at a time in my life when I had already run my emotional resources to zero and I was operating in crisis mode from the get-go) is caustic. It set in and started seriously corroding some of the fundamental things in my life - my faith, my trust in a loving God, my sense of myself as a decent person, my concept of a purpose for my life, my understanding of how married life and love were supposed to work. And the corrosion prompts the rage, and then the anger fills in where some of that structure was corroded away; maybe it even accelerates the corrosion. It wasn't meant to. And slowly, slowly, the corrosion continues until basically all of the essential structure of my life and my person are gone, and the rage has helpfully filled in all the gaps, and I am now a person walking around more or less without the core and the identity that people are supposed to have, but I take strong steps and march firmly into situations because I am grounded, strengthened, firmed into rigidity by a structure built entirely of rage. But I can't see the change happening, I just know that I'm tough enough to deal with what I have to deal with but that sometimes I feel like I'm carrying a ten million pound weight and I march around with it determinedly but sometimes, in moments of repose, I realize that I am exhausted and want to set it down - and when I look to do so, I realize that I can't, because it's somehow got attached to me. It's not a burden, or at least, not a separable burden; it's me.

I have other theories, too. A few months ago I had some image of a girl with more or less my face, but with the almost ethereal youth I used to have (one of the interesting things about being Irish, or, in my case, part Irish. You have the skin of a newborn babe until exactly twenty-five, almost translucent it's so bright, and then on your 25th birthday you have crow's feet, and then by 27 or 28 you have frown lines, laugh lines, grooves in your forehead, and your skin has lost its shine). She had the bizarre assortment of ragamuffin clothes I used to wear (mostly too big) and she didn't have the darkness behind the eyes that I have - she had the eyes that will run away to smiles and laughter at the least provocation, the eyes that are ever on the lookout to see joy.

This is a stylized version of who I was, of course. But this is a girl who loved babies, and children. Before I was married, even if they weren't personally known to me, all of them; and looked forward with abundant joy to being a mother herself. After I was married that persisted, and then after a year of marriage the pain of dealing with infertility became so intense that I couldn't speak to people who had announced pregnancies and couldn't be around babies and avoided them because I would have collapsed emotionally. That was a response as spontaneous and genuine as my earlier joy - no policies there, just the emotions themselves.

Obviously since then the raw emotions have substantially receded into policies; the edge of the pain is blunted, and I can be around babies for a little while without losing my mind, but really, only because the grief is walled off and shut out. And of course it still hurts, at a dull level, always, and so if the people with the babies are doing something I understand to be insensitive - excessively showing them off, or making comments about how abundantly God has blessed them (when all that I've witnessed indicates that such "blessings" are pretty random and God may not have divinely tapped this or that woman to be a mother at all; just set the biology in place and allowed the Fall and every bit of accompanying illness and infirmity and sin, and stood by and allowed some people to have babies they wanted and some not to have babies they wanted and some to have babies they didn't want and some babies to die and some to be orphaned or born to parents who very much did want them but couldn't take care of them, and sometimes tried to anyway; and offered merely the graces to cope with whatever burdens or benefits a fallen world doles out to our frail selves; and only excessive vanity would lead us to assume that a baby is a blessing specially chosen for us on account of God's particular love for us personally, rather than an undeserved and gratuitous blessing, just a manifestation of the goodness of creation, doled out more or less at random, and just as easily taken away), or making obnoxious comments to me personally, or -worse - to some other infertile girl, then my tolerance and patience vanish away and I just wish that the mother and her baby would go somewhere very far away, never to be heard from again. These are policies, largely, but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that they're other than absolutely sound policies.

A few months ago I had a notion that that girl who wanted babies still existed, just on the other side of the looking glass, if you will. And I could vividly imagine letting go of the reins just long enough for her to take over again, and I could only imagine that I would drown in the tears - never be able to stop crying at all. It's too much. Maybe I could be that person again, but not that and also survive.

I've seen a few witnesses of infertile girls who've remained gentle and faithful and peaceful, to some degree or other, throughout the experience; most of them have not been dealing with infertility for more than maybe a year. Once we get a year or so past the diagnosis, those numbers fall away, and people become hardened; those who managed to try for thirteen months, or fourteen, before they got pregnant may congratulate themselves for their faithfulness, but I don't think that's any great shakes, because I was absolutely confident of the goodness of God's will at that point myself - and if my current meager measure of virtue is the yardstick you want for yourself, well, then, good luck to you. At that point, I was still ecstatic when other infertiles got pregnant. I felt myself in solidarity with them, I was happy for them, and I saw it as a sign of hope for me too. I've seen it enough times now that I know it portends no such thing.

I've also seen a lot of infertile women made bitter by their years of infertility who make the (probably prudent) decision to drop the reins and let the pretty innocent child come back on the very day they get their BFP; and thereby their joy is more effervescent, their gratitude more innocent and sincere, and they certainly don't have the floods of tears unto death to contend with. As I say, probably prudent. Of course, the flip side is that they abandon in an instant the armor they built to protect themselves from the onslaught of life with infertility; and apparently, with the shedding of the armor comes a giant memory hole, into which vanishes all their hard-won understanding of why infertile women wear that armor, and what things are incredibly hard for an infertile woman to hear from a woman with a child (or a pregnant woman), and what sort of things are just inconsiderate and vicious and cruel, things for which we try to forgive the fertile world because it really doesn't know any better, but even then, it's hard, and from a (former?) infertile - not forgivable at all, really. Because forgetting is a decision, and it's a decision at our expense, and we don't need that.

And then there are a few women, a very very few, who have carried the cross for a long time - longer, in many cases, than I - and who have not been embittered and hardened, who have not taken to living a life given meaning and structure by rage. Not because they let go of the bitterness once they had the assurance of a child (God's will doesn't mean a childless life for me, so I can say with confidence that His will is good. Why He has given no children to others I can safely consign to the category of - one of those inscrutable mysteries, I suppose. Or, better, I can say every day with confidence that they are next and I am praying for them - it's not I who will die childless, or live in the torment of unfulfilled hope, if I'm mistaken), but in the absence of any such assurance. Because of their great faith, and their love and goodness. While I generally find others' statements of faithfulness to be something of a plague, these women I simply regard in awe. Well, and some days with bitterness - see above - but, generally, I know I'm just looking at someone cut from different stuff from what I am.

So I know that the ways I've responded to this - badly, in sum - are not inevitable. I'm not angry and miserable because I was forced to be at gunpoint; there are other roads, some have found them. I don't want to disclaim responsibility; my sense that I've done so many things wrong is very strong. Though I'm not necessarily sure what any of them are, exactly. There's this or that person to whom I should've been nicer...but...I wouldn't have felt any differently; just kept my mouth shut, and there's some charity in that (and I don't give myself credit for the hundreds of times I do keep my mouth shut when I am longing to give some clueless person some Very Important Information), but not a fundamental change, not a change in the way I live this. Just a bit more restraint, or repression, or something. And always, of course, with that, a bit more rage. But I'm sure that there are plenty of specific things I should have done better. Maybe two years ago I should've seen a shrink straightaway, and not started a blog.

But I think, too, that rage is not entirely a decision. Maybe there's a decision available, with the assistance of wise professionals, to step out of it, but the way is shrouded, at least. It's not clear to me how I personally could live this a different way. More prayer...but when I've made little gestures toward taking that on, it's generally resulted in me feeling guilty about how angry I am, and pretending to be less angry - not being less angry. There's really no being less angry, somehow. I deserve no excuses, and I mean to make none, but maybe I ended up here through some endemic weakness, in addition to the moral one. Maybe other people had the support of a loving family (not I) or at least a prayerful one (nope) or an emotionally healthy spouse who could afford just to be supportive (no again) or their own complete emotional health, without the scars of an insane childhood (also no) or had grown up without the daily experience of poverty, so that they felt free to spend money for treatment, or therapy, or whatever they needed (also not I).

And maybe these are only excuses, and coincidences, and not the real reason, since I know everyone else carries a lot of crosses too; and the real reason is because I was always an angry person just looking for my opportunity. So perhaps, in some delightful and dramatic way, I am living my destiny. We shall see.

All this sounds like the most frightful adolescent melodrama, I'm afraid. Well, I can always delete it later if I decide it's a complete embarrassment.

11 comments:

  1. Glad to know I was not the only raging IFer. Did I tell you I was thrown out of 3 or was it 4 doctors offices for being too hostile, too angry, too difficult?

    Nothing cures IF rage but being a mother. Sorry, I knowt this is not what most people would say that are much deeper and more spiritual than me. But, for me, that is the truth.

    So, however, you can be a mother, I encourage you with all my heart and soul to pursue such.

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  2. I'm not just saying this to make you feel better: this does not sound like adolescent melodrama - you have the absolute right to feel this way.

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  3. You are definitely not alone. My anger is so hard to deal with and I struggle with it on a daily basis.

    I wish I knew some advice or wise words to comfort you, but for now I can offer prayers of healing for the both of us.

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  4. Hi! you could have described me here during the worst part of IF. Mad at God, the world, my DH, doctors, etc. I did not even recognize myself.

    In my case 3 things really helped:

    Prayers from others. Telling a whole convent that I needed urgent help, the catholic IF yahoo group and the blogs. They lifted me up when I could not.

    Helping others with my same problems. There was a shift once I started helping others (I decided to become a practitioner). Its not for everybody, but in my case it really helped.Sometimes it was just listenting, giving them info, crying with them.

    Also therapy. After my miscarriage (after 3 desperate years of trying) and the complications following it I needed therapy and it was the very, very, very best decision if you find the right person. I cannot recommend it enough.

    I will pray for you

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  5. I wonder what kind of people we'd all be today without this experience? I have really been wondering that lately...not just what our lives would look like (how many kids, where we'd live, what the state of our marriage would be), but who we would be deep down.
    I was always a positive person before IF. Not that I didn't have enough crap drama going on in my life with family issues to wipe any smile off my face, but I pulled myself together to be strong for my sisters and mom, who needed me. But IF - at different points through the years, it's beaten me down to a pulp. Sometimes I got up again and could still feel some hope and joy in life, other times I felt like the spark of what made me ME was gone forever.
    I remember the first couple times other bloggers commented about how optimistic and cheerful I was in the face of everything, and I was like, um, have you READ my blog?! I didn't see myself that way at all! I think having other people see me as positive or hopeful actually spurred me on to try and live up to that image more - maybe subconsciously. I've never been really big into the "fake in 'til you make it", but maybe there's something to be said for that outlook, as when I'm TRYING to be positive, I sometimes even succeed, and when I am determined to feel like shit about everything...well, it's becoming harder and harder to allow myself the satisfaction of wallowing in my misery.
    Anyway, anyone who doesn't have the loving support of family or their spouses are at a HUGE disadvantage in this "game". And you certainly shouldn't be embarrassed at feeling this rage and writing about it. The more outlets for all of this anger and sadness, the better, I say. Blogging, therapy...it's all important.

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  6. Gosh I know this heavy heart feeling of sadness and anger. I wish I could hug u....instead I'll keep praying.

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  7. I feel ya.. The anger is always there, i hate it. I will keep you in my prayers.

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  8. I'm way late reading this, but after this evening, just had to read it and comment :)

    I've definately been there - the anger for me hit rock bottom when I looked at infertility as "the last straw." I felt like my DH and I had already endured a crapstorm (still ongoing) and WHY did we have to go through this, too? What did He want us to prove to Him?!?!

    Luckily for me, through only the grace of prayer (other people's, not my own), it didn't last too long and even now it's fleeting moments only. I really don't know why that is, and I don't think of myself as grace-filled by any means. If you could see some of my fights with my husband you would know otherwise... but like Martha said, it has helped me immensely to feel like not only "I" have a purpose in this world, but my INFERTILITY has a purpose in this world, when I am using it to help others. Obviously not everyone can click their fingers and develop a career out of infertility (omg, I think I just realized that's what I did!!!) - but God CHOSE you to carry this specific cross for a reason. I'm 99.9% sure that reason was NOT so that you could be consistently angry.
    And I'm not spewing out the "everything happens for a reason" mantra. But I do think you are an amazing lady with a lot to offer, and even through this blog you are using your cross to reach out to others and serve God.

    OK, I am SO tired and not sure if any of this made sense... hope so.

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  9. I have felt this anger before. No words of advice on how to feel better, but you're not alone.

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  10. In TOB & other places, JPII talks about the fact that all women are meant to be mothers. Period. So anger when something natural is thwarted, for whatever reason, is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
    The problem comes in when we accept the culture's definition of motherhood & give that definition priority over the Church's definition, which has always included spiritual motherhood. This is NOT a kinda consolation prize for those who can't have a baby.
    The Church never defines things negatively or narrowly. This is what Martha & TCIE are refering to: As women, each of us will have to stand before God at some point and account for the "talents" which were put at our disposal. I.e., how did we use our ability to nuture, to see beyond, to troubleshoot, to help someone carry their cross etc? True to form, our culture disparages all the gender-based gifts we've been given but God doesn't.
    It's very easy for physical moms to fall into the trap of seeing their children as extensions of themselves. No matter how wonderful our children are, they are not & never will be 'ours'. They grow up. Mothers who define themselves in terms of their children do themselves and their children a great disservice. Physical moms and Spiritual moms are both called to do what every person on earth is called to do, give up our lives for someone else.
    After all is said & done, it's not about us, it's about love.

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  11. I just want to say you're not alone. And your feelings aren't unjustified.

    I remember this anger and I remember bitterly thinking that IF had given me all kinds of things just not a baby.

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