The sun is out and I have a had a nice week. Here is what is have been up to.
I had a lovely time with some of my little ones. Everyone was feeling snuggly this week, so auntie ly got all the cuddles.
The wildflowers I have planted have come out in force this year and they make me so happy. I have these beautiful Marguerites at my front door that make me smile every time I leave the house. Bees appear to love them and this week ladybirds were also enjoying my blooms.
On Thursday I met my very favourite man for drinks and some chat. It was crazy hot in Glasgow so I opted for a super floaty and light outfit. It was nice to be out and having some adult conversation. Much fun was had.
Unfortunately my body rebelled and Friday was a festival of pain. It’s looking like a weekend of rest and recovery. I hate that there is always a price to pay, but I still really cherish the days I get to do lovely things.
It’s been ‘ugh’ for a while now and I’m in danger of wallowing in a big puddle of woe is me. I’m making efforts to feel better. I started by tackling my inbox and then tried to clear some light housework. Ticks on my to do list helped me feel less useless. Now seems a good time to build on that by counting my blessings.
So, today I am grateful for,
My big comfy bed (& no one snoring, farting or otherwise bothering me in it).
My fridge holds soups & fruit juice galore. My stomach only wants these & the occasional bread product.
My demanding little purr ball.
Excellent new Jim jams. They have pockets and are so soft I keep stroking myself.
Hot running water.
The sick & ridiculous humour of the Small Town Murder podcast.
A plethora of supportive & loving people.
All the perfect little ones said people have made.
The writings of Sara Pascoe & Barbara Trapido
Free and accessible healthcare. Big love, NHS.
The freedom to drift in and out of sleep as needed.
The phone steriliser relieving covid related iPhone anxiety.
Messages of love from my big muffin.
Lemon & lavender scented heat pads.
A room festooned with beautiful blooms.
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I used a hand sanitiser in a train station the other day. It was one of those super strong types that you find in hospitals. As soon as it hit my skin I was whisked back in time. For a second or two I was somewhere else. Somewhere I didn’t want to be.
The cold sensation drifted through my body. A zoetrope of mixed up images spun in my head. Blurry flashes conjured by the clinical scent. I felt dizzy. I sat down, took some deep breaths. It passed. I was grateful.
It wasn’t entirely gone. That night the whirl of disjointed scenes dipped in & out of my dreams. Random words have jarred memories. My mind has wandered mid thought or conversation. I have felt the panic rising. Spells of forcing my head to connect with my physical reality have emerged. Struggling to focus on what I can actually see, hear, smell in this moment. Ignoring the feelings climbing my throat.
Tonight in the shower I couldn’t shake the feeling that the hot water streaming down my legs was blood. I couldn’t wipe the hospital aroma from my nostrils. Nor soothe the ache that spread from my back to my thighs. The hand sanitiser has triggered a reaction. My body is recalling the trauma stored deep within. It’s a phenomenon associated with PTSD known as body memories.
I haven’t experienced this symptom in quite some time. It lies dormant; rising unpredictably. Sometimes reacting to obvious & painful stimuli. Or, like this week, triggered by a tiny insignificant detail. My olfactory senses seem particularly attuned to old wounds.
This time it’s the initial loss. I feel my body failing. I know it isn’t happening. I have learned how to pull myself back to the here & now. Still, those moments when I’m dragged to the past feel completely real. I am not just thinking about unpleasant events. I am feeling them. My flesh & nerves & senses are reacting to something that happened 20 years ago.
Body memories are excruciating. It becomes a battle between what you know & what you feel. Fighting strong emotions is a challenge. When you add physical sensations grounding yourself is an onerous task. I have experienced these episodes replicating the sensations I felt during miscarriages & pregnancy. At times these physical memories are accompanied by flashbacks & other PTSD symptoms. Other times they occur in isolation. They mirror my actual experience so completely that I’ve found myself taking multiple pregnancy tests when I knew it was almost impossible for me to have conceived.
It’s another aspect of PTSD that I rarely see discussed in the mainstream. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only (or even mainly) associated with combat trauma. Yet, it’s the link most people draw. The violent outbursts in media portrayals of the illness are not accurate. New studies are highlighting how prevalent PTSD is in women who have experienced baby loss & birth trauma. For most of us, managing PTSD is an internal process. Distress may leak out, but the grind is with yourself. Accessing the right help, surviving that help (trauma therapy can be brutal), learning to manage symptoms, accepting the parts you can never fix & the impact they will have on your life.
It’s painful & exhausting & many of us never completely recover. To stand any chance of healing specialised therapy is essential. There are so many barriers to reaching that help. It can take years to obtain any psychological intervention without the resources to pay privately. Even longer to receive the specialised therapy that can actually help. So many people can’t afford to wait.
This month I’m supporting The Birth Trauma Association and Sands. Both organisations support families who have experienced trauma surrounding baby loss & birth. Please join me if you can.
Saturday is my due date. Or would have been my due date. I’ve been so scared of its approach because I have so many unresolvable feelings.
I tried not to know my due date. I had asked in previous pregnancies not to be told because I knew the knowledge of the first one haunts me. I got a little too confident after I heard a heartbeat & let the midwife tell me. Then I made the mistake of setting my calendar to that date. Now I can never forget it.
It is sad & overwhelming for all the obvious reasons. I haven’t processed this grief. In that sense Saturday is just like every other day. I’m always thinking about this in some sense. Be it specific memories of the miscarriages or thinking about all the memories I’ll never make. Mostly, I feel lost.
I am not entirely sure who I am anymore. I haven’t ever envisioned a life without children. I don’t know what to do now. I have to accept that my future can only ever be not quite enough. Moreover, becoming a mother has been my driving force. It’s the dream that kept me going when I wanted to give up. It was my inspiration to get stable & pushed me to pursue writing.
It’s very frightening to have your reason to fight melt away. It’s even harder to grieve the loss of this baby when it is such a crucial part of my big picture. I don’t know how to let go of that heartbeat.
I’ll be 39 next month and I have not a single clue about how I fill the rest of my life. A huge part of my identity was a mirage. I have a new reality. I don’t know how I learn to live in it.
I knew Mother’s Day was going to be tough this year. Since I always over think every little thing, I did spend some time dwelling on that in the run up to Sunday. Occasionally my inability to switch my thoughts off serves me well, this was just such an instance.
It didn’t change how sad I felt, but I did stumble upon a new strategy. Simply put, I’m going to try my damnedest to have more fun. My life is not really all that easy (who’s is?). There’s a lot of pain, exhaustion, stress & large scale disappointment. None of which I can control. I’ve had to make some huge adjustments in my life expectations this year and that is, well, a process. I can’t change the fundamentals of my situation. I can let go a little bit. I can allow myself to please just me more of the time and I am going to.
I’m going to date. For fun, god help me. I’m not seeking a soul mate or partner. The aim is merely to find some amusing people I can do enjoyable things with. Hopefully without anyone making too many demands. I’m reviewing all my filed away lists of things I’ve always wanted to do and bloody well jumping on anything that is actually doable. Efforts will be made to ditch the guilt. I’m going to say more no’s to the things I do for the benefits of others that cut me in two. Plus a lot more yes’s to anything & everything that makes me feel good. To hell with the rules or convention. Life is going to fuck me regardless, I might as well squeeze as out as much glee as I can along the way.
With that in mind I began my week with a jaunt to Edinburgh to see my favourite man. Friends who will let you say anything and always leave you feeling better than they found you are magnificent. So, I soaked up too many glasses wine & just enough of his loveliness to give me a major boost. I followed up with the an almost perfect day at the farm. Watching my baby nephew discover the world is a truly beautiful experience. The tiny goats were also worth the trip.
I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck now. It’s going to take some recovery days to get back to ‘normal’. My ratio of doing to resting isn’t what I’d hope for. I’m giving myself permission to use some of those good days for pure frivolity.
It’s been around 8 weeks since I miscarried. I think all things considered, I am doing ok. I mean, I’ve not completely fallen apart. I haven’t turned to scalpels for comfort or absented myself from the world. I’m getting up & painting my face & taking part in life. I wish I could say it was easy, but on days like today, it feels like drowning.
I am attending the recurrent miscarriage clinic to see if there are any issues I am not already aware of & the midwife I see has been wonderful. She had given me info on a ‘support group’, which I’m considering. I’m on some new meds to help with PCOS & tracking my periods etc to keep on eye on things from that side. I’m socialising & blogging & getting more politically active. I’m doing everything i can think of to keep moving forward. So why do I feel like I’m wedged in wet sand?
I think about what might have been every day. Not all day long, but it’s never far away. There are so many reminders. So many painful things that can’t be avoided. From appointments at the maternity hospital & other people’s babies to just the scent of something that made me nauseous when I was pregnant & doesn’t anymore. I don’t want the world to stop. I don’t want to rob anyone of their joyous moments; it’s just so hard. The happiness I feel for others comes with a stab of sorrow. It’s been this way for so long, but my recent loss has given that sadness renewed potency. I let all my hopes out of a place I kept tied up tight. Blueprints for a life that I hadn’t dared to examine sprang to life & folding up those plans is proving difficult.
I have my period again & I know that impacts on my mood. All of the sensations of menstruating mirror miscarriage symptoms. The cramps & sensitive nipples are reminders I don’t want. The blood remains wrapped up in my trauma. Forever a trigger. And yet, I’m glad to have the period. Not so long ago I had practically none. It’s a relief to have this increasingly reliable sign that my ovaries are doing something. Like so many other things the positive is marred.
I think from the outside I probably look fine. I want to look well. No, I want to BE well. I’m really fighting not to let my life slide. The truth is I’m struggling. My creative output is vastly decreased. I lack the motivation & clarity to write. Not writing is not good for me. I process my experiences through words on the paper. The less I write the more anxious I become. Of course the more I stress about it, the less I am able to curate my thoughts. It’s a predictable cycle. There are obviously more practical concerns; my words keep a roof over my head.
My physical health hasn’t been good. My sleep is appalling. I know that takes it’s toll. I attempt to rationalise myself out of days like this. My exhausted, pained, grieving & traumatised self will obviously have lows. I know this is to be expected. That knowledge doesn’t change the dread. It does nothing to chase away the fear when I awake to a complete inability to function. When nothing shifts the weight crushing me or the desire to disappear. 24 hours isn’t a long time except when your swamped in depression. I can get through the bad days. I’m just terrified of the days multiplying.
That’s the crux of it. Mental illness feels a bit like being an alcoholic. I will never completely recover. The lows will always come. Life will always have ways to trip me up. The fear of everything unravelling sits quietly on my shoulder. It’s a bad day. I’m still grieving. I hope for better.