I’m at my parents’ house again. My brother, his girlfriend, and my boyfriend are all sitting out in the living room watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother wherein the main characters are trying to conceive a child. So that sucks – only it’s good in a way, because unlike yesterday, I am now feeling capable of tackling the big question: what am I going to do next, to try to get the fuck over this already?
When I asked this question (not in so many words) last week, I got a couple responses. Two friends – each speaking from experience with vastly different traumatic events – suggested visualization. One said I should visualize a scenario – say, a friend’s pregnancy announcement – step by step, and then “work through those feelings as you are mentally going through the situation.” I believe that this could work, because when I was learning about EMDR, I heard about a study on visualization, using basketball players. Three basketball teams (I think college?) were instructed to do different things in the off-season: the first was to practice for an hour and a half daily; the second was to visualize themselves practicing for an hour and a half daily (meaning, sit still and run a mental practice for 90 minutes); the third was to do nothing at all. The first two teams performed equally well, both leagues ahead of the team who did nothing. So I believe that the mind is a powerful tool.
My other friend suggested visualizing a painful situation – say, a friend’s pregnancy announcement – as something that can be closed and sent away. For example, if I were to see an ultrasound picture on facebook, I should tell myself that since this person is not there in the room with me, she isn’t real, and I needn’t get all worked up over it. Then, she explained, I should picture myself closing the book of those feelings/memories of feelings and putting it away, “and–important–peruse your (mental) selection and pick up another one.”
Then, presumably, I would use the first visualization tactic to walk myself through a confrontation with this new pregnant woman, and thus train myself to say the right things, feel the right feelings, separate my own life story from hers (which is something I really struggle with).
I guess I could give it a shot – except, when I try to visualize myself getting a pregnancy announcement, I instantly go into panic mode thinking of who my next pregnant friend might be. And I know that some potential pregnant friends would be easier to accept than others – so do I start small, let’s say with Beth or Hillary, and work my way up to the more unexpected possibilities, the unmarried girls who just happen to possess viable uteri? Or do I jump in at the deep end so that the more likely pregnancies are easy to handle by comparison?
Another friend, who studied psychology in grad school, suggested the following:
Usually when we have a problem we tend to think of how it is NOT serving us…how it is getting in the way, causing pain,etc.
However, focus needs also to be given to how the situation is BENEFITING us. Strange concept right? Like how could your grief and pain be serving you? But there must be some benefit to it or you wouldn’t be holding on so tightly to it…. How do you think your situation is serving you? Only once you recognize this can you truly grasp the whole picture.
This is the same friend who once told me to “ask your body what it wants” when I was hungry and couldn’t figure out what to eat, so I do believe she hides pearls of wisdom under her pretty, laid-back exterior. Which is why I’d like her, or someone else, to tell me how my grief is benefiting me, because I can’t for the life of me come up with anything.
(She also suggested I look into David Burns’s take on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I googled it, and came up with this description of Borderline Personality Disorder, which I am now convinced that I have. Probably not helpful.)
And then, one of my best friends, Amanda, who would fall somewhere in the middle of my imagined-pregnancy-panic curve, stated the obvious:
It almost seems like the healing won’t begin until you actually have a baby…. From looking to women who have had miscarriages in the past, my mom included, it seems like the only thing that helps them move past their loss is to try again.
Well, yeah. I’ve been looking to the next pregnancy as the magic cure-all since day one. Except that it wouldn’t be – it would serve as a bandage, but a scar would remain. And it’s not really practical for me right now, nor exactly emotionally correct – when people suggest that what I really want is a baby, I tend to backpedal a bit. And Amanda doesn’t actually want me to get pregnant, because she and her husband are planning on waiting a little longer and she’s got a “baby frustration list” of her own. And I disagree that having a baby is where the “healing will begin”; it’s more like – at least, I hope – where the healing will end.
The healing has already begun. It began long before this blog began, and has happened in spurts and steps and missteps. It began with the nurse practitioner who reassured me that my IUD was actually the best birth control to preserve my fertility; with the friend who adopted Doug and me for the entire holiday season after my September miscarriage; with the way I was able to accept – even somewhat celebrate – Dawn’s pregnancy with Lilly; with that one time I rode my bike up the hill to my parents’ house, instead of walking like I usually do (progress is progress, whatever form it takes); with the photo shoot I did in preparation for this project; with the cookie fortune and Dove Chocolate Promise wrapper I keep in my wallet (“Everything will now come your way,” and “In life’s winter, find your invincible summer,” respectively); with the sun that came up the day after my D&C – okay, maybe the sun didn’t come out in Seattle, but somewhere, metaphorically – as though to say, “Life moves on, the world keeps turning; happiness is mysterious, elusive, but not impossible.”
Sometimes, I just need to give myself more credit.
Today I am thankful for – although I would wager my therapist isn’t – my ability to talk myself in circles until I’ve reached the conclusion that serves me best; my tendency to look at each day as independent from its neighbors, so that today’s moments of joy are not dissolved by yesterday’s sorrow, or rendered inept by tomorrow’s.