Have you ever noticed that sometimes the emotional effect of infertility can make us our own worst enemy? I had a classic example of this recently ….
The infertility back story
For quite some time now I’ve really struggled in social situations. Infertility has damaged my self-confidence when talking to people face-to-face and my sparkle has packed its bags and emigrated to Australia. I feel that I have nothing in common with people anymore and find “small-talk” boring. Years ago, I would make a real effort to find that common ground, now it takes too much energy. Endometriosis has caused my infertility and now causes Chronic Fatigue so I must manage my spoons very carefully. Andrew and I hardly go out: sometimes the our only human interaction is in the supermarket.
7th June 2017 …. I received a Facebook message from a girlfriend who lives just down the road. Being nosey about a mutual friend she thought it a good excuse to invite us over for drinks and nibbles on Friday. I really didn’t want to go. It was the day after the election so politics was bound to be discussed. However, I knew we really should say “yes.” I am very fond of this couple and we do enjoy ourselves when we see them yet I wasn’t sure if I could cope if the political discussions got heated. It’s one thing scrolling past aggressive or offensive comments on FB it’s another story sitting across the table from the person. Although Andrew does struggle slightly he doesn’t feel the anxiety and stress that I do with regards socialising. I put my feelings aside and said “yes” because I felt he deserved a night out: we’ve done nothing since Christmas.
9th June 2017 … Friday morning and my anxiety was mounting. The election results were terrible due to the lack of any majority and a feeling that things had got a tiny bit worse in general. Drinks minus 2hrs and I was having a long soak in the bath to feel calm and relaxed. I took a little more care over my hair, make-up and clothes than I have in a while. When I was in my 20s I used to “fake” my self-confidence by wearing a “costume” as if I was on the stage: it worked then it could work now. Andrew and I discussed the politics “challenge” and agreed that we could discuss the election result without getting into the details of who we voted for and the merit of different leaders/manifestos. We also had our “get me out of here NOW!” word.
2am Saturday morning ….. what had all the fuss been about! We had a lovely evening. Our friends mirrored our thoughts about the election and the political situation exactly. In fact, they were even more grumpy, if that was possible. We also talked about our shared frustration with the challenges of living in France. Like the fact that our family/friends in the UK think we are living the dream all the time. They imagine that we get out of bed at 11am, open our first bottle of wine at noon, snooze all afternoon and then go out to a restaurant in the evening. That couldn’t farther from the truth: if this is “living the dream” I DEMAND A REFUND!
I’d spent a couple of days panicking that I’d feel like a fish out of water. I’d slowly get pissed to numb my discomfort and ease the boredom about conversations I felt excluded from. Instead I had a fantastic time. I drank a glass of wine and a glass of Pimms over a 7 hr period, which even though it’s a lot for me these days, was not a huge amount in reality. I got a little bit of my pre-infertility sparkle back as I told the story of how Andrew and I had gone to buy a fridge/freezer last week only to be told there was none in stock and we couldn’t order that model. When we asked if we could buy the display model we were, quite aggressively, told “NO! That is one of our own brand models which is on promotion so we need the display model to promote the special price”. This said with a very straight face even though it wasn’t possible to buy that model of fridge. I got even more sparkle back as I regaled the tale of how, about 8 years ago, I had managed to get all British ExPats banned from buying lino from our local DIY store. Even now you might not be allowed to buy any if the head of the department is in the store!
Infertility doesn’t have to win
My point is that we often imagine situations will be horrendous yet they end up being enjoyable. Infertility shakes our self-confidence so much that we are afraid of the outcome of things that haven’t happened yet. So we stop ourselves from doing things that we might actually enjoy. I don’t think I’ve got enough fingers and toes to help count the number of times I’ve done that over the last year. However, I decided that this must stop. I can’t reverse my infertility yet I can take back a little bit of control. I can be a little braver about social gatherings. Not all of them will be a storming success like the one on Friday night. However, that’s OK. Every time I go out socially is a step in the right direction and helps my sparkle inch closer and closer to home.