29 June 2010

Hope & Disappointment

The Nine Arches
Click photo for a larger view.

This bench sits not far from my home on the very edge of our small town. Every time I walk past, I can’t help but smile and wonder about the optimistic soul who placed it there. The bench sits with its back to the road and overlooks a local landmark, the Nine Arches. I can imagine the planner, envisioning locals and visitors sitting on this bench and looking out over this iconic local landscape. But despite our best effort and plans, our hopes are not always borne out. For passersby the bench calls out with promises of beautiful vistas, but once you sit down and take a moment to look, the landmark suddenly becomes bitter and tired. Those gorgeous architectural aches are marred with graffiti and neglect, the stains of urban living. What looked so inviting at first glance becomes uncomfortable reminder that life isn’t always picturesque.

For me, we’ve been on a cycle of hope and disappointment for over a year now as we try for a baby. Due to my long term health conditions, we always knew that caring for a child would be difficult, but we were also told that my kidney stones would make any pregnancy high risk. So in the year before my wedding we tried to get my kidney stones treated. Clerical errors meant that my appointments were delayed several months, but finally after two years I was declared stone free.

While we’d been waiting for the doctors, we’d started preparing. I stopped my Depo injections after the wedding so they’d have plenty of time to clear my system. We took Basal Temperature readings for months so we’d know when to try. I had pre-pregnancy blood tests done to make sure nothing was wrong. I filled myself with iron tablets and pre-natal vitamins, so I’d be in the best health. We read books and websites, optimistically planning for when we received the all clear...

Growing up when I was young, we were told virtually anything could get you pregnant. Sperm was some insidious fluid that got everywhere, much like the germs on anti-bacterial adverts. I suppose it kept us safe, but also terrified. No one really mentioned that things could change. Now, when I actually want to get pregnant, nothing works. Each month I cross my fingers and hope for good news, and every month I crash back to earth with disappointment. It took us two years of patience and hope to get to the point where we could even try to realise our dreams, and after a year of failure it’s hard to decide what to do next.

Obviously if things don’t work this month we’ll make an appointment with the doctor, but I have a difficult relationship with doctors at the best of times. Being ill with invisible disorders for which there are no clinical tests, always leaves the doctor in doubt. And while I appreciate IVF is a wonderful thing for some people, it just isn’t for us. I’ve read the common advice “relax” and “stop trying so hard”, but I don’t know how to. In the three years we’ve been planning and waiting four babies have been born in our extended family, amongst my friends the number is nearly three times that. My life’s been put on hold for years, with the hope that we could eventually have a family. Now I wonder if I have to let that dream go.

Right now we are in the hopeful stage again, trying desperately not to count the days till July 8th. If anyone has some luck they can spare, I could sure use some right now.

Written for this weeks Writing Workshop and Gallery. The theme was Emotions

22 June 2010

A Dark Mantle - Writing Workshop

As I've been struggling to find somewhere to start, I thought I might try a few writing exercises from Sleep is for the Weak. This is my first and I hope you'll forgive any minor spelling and typing errors as I can't ask anyone to proofread it for me.
What does depression feel like to you?
Depression and I have been life-long companions. It wasn’t till I was in my twenties that I realised most nine year old girls don’t dream of romantic ways to die. As far as I knew it was normal and no one noticed that anything was wrong. It was when I reached university that things became untenable. Between the anxiety of my degree course and the world-altering shock I received when I finally escaped the high school bullies, the invisible shadow that is depression could hide no longer.

I ran the whole gauntlet: the doctors, the pills, and the therapy. I had my patient confidentiality broken; I was accused of being psychotic twice (and cleared both times); and I had to fight my parents to remain on my university course. At the end of everything, the only thing that had helped was a list of cognitive distortions I found in a nursing handbook. Once I saw them written on the page, it became clear that this wasn’t some integral part of my personality...this was depression speaking. So I stopped. I can’t tell you how, but once I saw the truth written on that page, these logical fallacies had no power over me and fell away.

I wish I could say that I vanquished the monster and lived happily ever after, but real life isn’t like that. Now that I know its tricks, depression has become more subtle, hiding in the shadows. Taking those dark moments everyone faces in life and using them to its own end. Taking stress, anxiety and pain and making them bigger and darker than they have any right to be.

Like an ominous thunder cloud, it hangs just on the horizon ready to rush in at any moment of weakness. For the last two years I’ve felt the cloud building, each small failure and broken promise giving it power. Rather than wage a daily battle with an incorporeal foe just out of reach; I’ve saved my energy and got on with life. It mostly works. Usually my days are overcast if not always sunny, while that cloud looms on the horizon...but not always.

Last month everything came to a head, and that dark shadow swooped in. Overwhelming despair and hopelessness, so sharp it physically hurt. After an hour or two it was completely unbearable, a constant unrelenting weight that smothered me accented by a wrenching pain that threatened to tear me in two. I reached for the scissors. It wasn’t a cry for help exactly, and there was never any danger of serious injury; but physical pain gave an outlet, a way to siphon off some of the overwhelming emotion. A month later the patterned marks from the small snips are visible, external proof of an invisible pain.

I was embarrassed at first, worrying that someone would notice the cuts. That they'd think less of me or assume I was unstable, that they'd judge me as less...but I needn't have worried. People just don't look that closely. Plaster a smile on your face and chatter superficially, and no one will notice the difference.

I can’t describe depression; it’s been with me so long I can’t always tell where I end and it begins. Like a pair of dark glasses, I suspect it adds shadows to everything around me. But they say ignorance is bliss, and I do my best to ignore the darkness.

18 June 2010

The Blank Page

To be honest I don't know where to start.

Like a large white canvas, the site shines with an unachievable potential. So with a deep breath, I take my pen and write a single bold line. Neither pretty nor perfect, the canvas is now awakened, with it's own personality, history and essence; ready to face its future.