Dents in Your Emotional Armor

No, this is not an album title…though now I feel like I should use it (so dont steal it!). This is something that has been on my mind to share for a few days, but it seems appropriate now because well… I had a little bit of a meltdown yesterday. Okay, okay…maybe it was a big, ugly crying breakdown. I have received a lot of compliments about how ‘strong’ I am, or remarks about how much courage it takes to write down our experiences like this. Truthfully, because I am terrible with compliments, I laugh or minimize these comments because these people dont see me when I am broken. They dont feel the burden in my heart that comes out in deep heaving sobs. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that breaking down emotionally is a really important part of this process, which is why I am sharing it here.

For the sake of my very clever metaphor, let’s picture an emotionally vulnerable person who happens to be wearing a suit of armor. This person adorns the entire suit of armor because they know that there are a lot of dangerous things in the outside world that can hurt them. This is how they have resolved to protect themselves. At first, the armor is beautifully polished and looks completely pristine. However, throughout the course of the day it becomes more and more damaged. Rocks and other hazards clank against the armor until it becomes worn, damaged, or even broken. And when our emotionally vulnerable person no longer has protection from the difficulties that life presents, they have a choice to make. Do I want to compartmentalize and ignore these problems so that I dont have to deal with it right now? Do I make room for those bad feelings to creep in and have a big, painful, cry? A combination of both? Neither? In the infertility world, these “dangers” and “rocks” are disguised so innocuously that no matter how you  try prepare yourself to deal with the outside world, something can creep in at a really inconvenient time and level you. It can be something as simple as seeing a pregnant woman walk into a grocery store. It can creep in when you’re watching a show on Netflix and suddenly there is a plot line about miscarriage/surprise pregnancy/child loss. Hell, sometimes it could just be walking through Target and glancing at the baby section and realizing that if your first pregnancy worked out, you would have a child who could wear those clothes. These little moments, these ‘rocks’ denting our emotional armor, that is what grief is. This is how grief can control the happiest days of your life.

Categorically, humans are most emotionally vulnerable when they are stressed and exhausted. And the day before yesterday, I had a very long night of fertility related nightmares (super fun) only to wake up that morning and have an irrevocably terrible day. You know the kind, where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong? And then when I arrived home to embark on an evening of work, I was completely disarmed by a pregnancy announcement in my Facebook feed. I froze. There was a picture of a pregnancy test – huh. Two lines. I stared at it for a second, almost unable to process what I was looking at. That’s when it hit me like a flood. A gigantic wave of emotion, and even in my suit of armor, I was powerless. I thought about all the times I have taken a pregnancy test, hoping and willing for that second line to show up so clearly, and it not happening because of pregnancy since our miscarriage. I had a positive when we had our trigger shot, which I stared at the same way, because I needed to see it come up positive, just once. I cried the tears that I had needed to cry for our failed FET. I cried tears for how unfair this entire situation is and how at my core I am afraid that Dean will decide one day that he has had enough of this and will leave. I cried harder, because I know deep down that I wouldn’t even blame him if he did leave. Shit, I would even feel sympathy for him because no one deserves to feel pain like this. And no; no, I did not choose my infertility. But you know what? He chose me. Out of everyone in the world, he chose me and now we are sentenced to this array of tests, medications, and ultrasounds, with seemingly no end and nothing but debt to show for it. And I cried, hardest of all, because his love and his devotion has never wavered. Not even for a second, and it was in his very arms that I confessed these deep, dark, fears. He understood. He heard me. He witnessed how deep my pain runs, and for the second time in 3 1/2 years I had reached a point in my psyche where I just couldn’t get through the rest of the day without unloading some of the weight on my shoulders. He always knows what to say to me, and knows how to make me smile, even when I am deeply distressed and neurotic. And when the tears dried, and the sobbing ceased, I was ready to pick myself back up because he bolsters me.

That is what strength is. It isn’t ‘putting on a brave face’, or ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ or keeping quiet when you are experiencing hardship. Strength is having failed at something so deeply that it levels you, and going back for seconds.

With that sentiment, I am going to share a video with you that has become a sort of mantra for me. It is quite amazing (honestly, the harmony at 2:53 made me cry the first time I heard it)

“When, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “you’re out of time.”
But still, I rise.

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in; think again
Don’t be surprised, I will still rise.

And I will. Again, and again, and again, even if my armor is broken. Maybe I need to invest in a forge.