I give up…

The universe is determined to give me opportunities to discover social faux pas. The events of the last weeks have revealed to me a host of new things that lots of people say when one talks about miscarriage. The vast majority of these comments are very well meant, but nonetheless, have considerably missed the mark.

Being open about having had multiple miscarriages seems to unfurl two main threads of conversation. The most prolific being enquiries as to why it keeps happening and what I have done about it. I think I know why people ask these questions. Partly fear, no one wants this to happen to them. I suppose people think if they know the whys they can avoid it or fix the problem. The other side being an assumption that everything can be fixed. I understand that, we are so used to living in a world where things can be cured or treated. I know from having chronic conditions that people are often confused to learn that some things can not be corrected. In the case or recurrent miscarriage this enquiry is unhelpful for variety of reasons. Firstly miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage and infertility often fall into the category of ‘don’t know’. About half of those who suffer recurrent miscarriage are unable to find a reason after testing. I am one of those people. I have had all the standard tests and investigations to little avail. I did have some adhesions that were successfully removed and I have PCOS, but no Dr I have consulted believes that to be the cause. The short answer is, no one knows. Asking this question isn’t helpful. If a person doesn’t know, you’re just underling that difficult fact by making them explain it again. If they do, they may not want to discuss such private and sensitive information with you or anyone else.

Offshoots of this such as, Have you seen a Dr about this? You should get another opinion, My friend did such & such or surely there must be something they can do, are unwelcome. I have had four miscarriages. I have lost four children that I desperately wanted. Of course I have done everything within my power to find out why and prevent it from happening again. The suggestion that I haven’t offends me. It indicates that you think I am either stupid or careless. I understand that wasn’t the intention, but please, think before you speak. It’s also important to be aware that the NHS usually won’t begin these investigations until after a third miscarriage. Not everyone has the resources to seek private medical treatment. Anyone in that situation doesn’t need nosey salt in their wounds.

The other comments this loss has garnered are of the don’t give up variety. A lot of people have reached out to tell me there’s always hope. The have shared their own experiences of loss or struggles to conceive and assured me that miracles happens. That they eventually had their baby and it was all worth it. I know you think you are helping. I know you are trying to be kind. Let me just say this, not everyone gets a miracle. We are not all able to try again. There are limits to what the body can do, physically & emotionally. There are time constraints. Relationship constraints. Financial constraints. At this moment I don’t feel like I have another try in me. Losing another baby would destroy me. Maybe I will feel differently in the future (it would have to be the fairly near future), but I don’t think so. Facing the reality of my limitations is not weak. Recognising that I can not square this circle is not giving up.

I don’t intend this as an attack. I realise these aren’t purposeful attempts to hurt. I just want to have an open discourse. I think these confusions arise because we don’t talk about this topic enough. If you want to offer support to someone who has suffered this kind of loss it will be appreciated. Simply offering your condolences and assurances that you are available is enough. Respect that everyone grieves differently and your kindness will cherished.

 

Advertisements

Time to say goodbye…

This week I said goodbye to my Uncle Gerry. He died before his time, but faced death with courage & humour. He lived his life with warmth & generosity; never forgetting a birthday & always offering whatever he could of himself to his loved ones & community. The packed chapel at his funeral reflected how much he was appreciated.

In his honour I wanted to pause to share the beauty I am still lucky enough experience. So often I (we) get bogged down by the stresses & strains of daily life that I forget how lovely the world can be. Sometimes it takes a loss to remind us what we still have.

Fireworks, swans, GlasgowSunset paws

Blue sky, Glasgow, lilies

In the spirit of his giving nature I also wanted to share some organisations doing incredible work. I hope you will support them if you can.

Crookston Community Group aims to develop a sense of community whilst helping those in need. The fund a number of services ranging from a food bank to children’s activities and community cohesion workshops.

Street League works with unemployed youth using sport as means to provide training & gain skills needed to find employment. They have fabulous success rates in getting young people into work. They focus on areas of high youth unemployment.

Peek want to increase the opportunities for children to reach their potential. They offer free play and creative learning services that allow children to thrive. They remove barriers by offering support & education for both parents & children.

Chin Chin, Uncle Gerry. You will be greatly missed.

Don’t tell me what to do…

In this world of self care & mindfulness it seems like everyone thinks they’re a therapist. Don’t get me wrong, sharing what works for you & talking about our mental health is great. It’s just that, to put it bluntly, some people talk crap. Others just regurgitate tired old advice that ain’t helping anyone. Man alive, I’m sick of it.

I want to talk specifically about the useless chatter surrounding self harm. I’ve been hearing & seeing the same patronising advice for YEARS. The most frustrating part is it often comes from people who really should know better. So, allow me to take you through why so much of the standard advice is just plain bad.

1/ Draw on your skin instead of cutting/burning etc.

This one usually takes two forms. The first opines that whatever relief/release a person may find in hurting themselves they can also attain by simply drawing on their skin. Now, let me ask you this, if drawing lines on yourself would make you feel better would you be causing physical trauma in the first place? The answer is of course, no. The components of self harm that serve a purpose vary, it may be pain, blood, disfiguring the skin or even a need to punish oneself. None of which needs are met by drawing.

The second part of the draw on your skin nonsense is the idea that you draw something pretty (often a butterfly) where you would normally self harm. The desire to preserve the ‘body art’ is then supposed to dissuade a person from ‘spoiling’ their skin. The stupidity of this idea is obvious. If actually scarring oneself will not prevent a person from harming themselves it seems very unlikely that spoiling a temporary drawing will. Even if by some miracle a biro butterfly were enough to assuage overwhelming distress, the body has a lot of flesh. Are people to cover every inch of themselves in rainbows & roses?

Butterfly drawn on skin

2/ Have a hot bath, cup of tea, blah, blah, blah…

Imagine the kind of agony you would have to be in to take a scalpel to yourself & cut for hours. Do you think a nice bath would magic that away? The answer is no. A bath helps you feel better at the end of tiring day. It does not release you from excruciating emotional pain.

3/ Distract yourself.

The need to self harm is powerful & persistent. For some reason lots of people (both professional & laymen) believe the urge is fleeting. I often see those struggling told to distract themselves until the urge passes. This advice betrays an ignorance regarding the workings of self harm. The need to hurt oneself does not easily wane. In fact, the longer a person self harms the stronger the compulsion becomes. Often it is impossible to focus on anything else. No sleeping or eating or thinking until the hunger to hurt is sated. It isn’t possible to distract oneself from that level of intrusion. When you cannot function on the most basic of levels watching a film or phoning friend are not options.

4/ Throw away your self harm tools.

The rationale here being that if one does not have the apparatus used to self harm, then self harm is impossible. WRONG.

As already discussed the compulsion to injure oneself is incredibly strong. Desperate people become ingenious. Trust me, when you really need to, you can hurt yourself with anything. Believe me again when I say those fraught & frenzied moments are when people make mistakes. As incomprehensible as it sounds self harm can be the very thing keeping someone alive. Asking or obligating an ill person to give up their lifeline is dangerous. It is also cruel.

5/ Ping your wrist with an elastic band/hols an ice cube in your hand etc.

My objections to this one are again two fold. To begin with it’s just ineffective. Self harm is both a habit firming & escalating problem. A person almost always experiences a need to increase the severity of their injurious behaviour. This takes us right back to the start. If the nip of an elastic band were sufficient, no one would be putting themselves in hospital via self harm.

A more serious objection, though, is the message this sends. Telling a vulnerable person that hurting themselves is ok, is a head fuck of massive proportions. Self harm is never the real problem, it is a symptom. In order to tackle self harm one must deal with the underlying issues. That is hard work, time consuming work. It’s much easier just to counsel harm minimisation. In doing so, you validate a sick person’s maladaptive thought process. That mental health professionals routinely tell patients that hurting themselves is ok is a disgrace. The basic premise of the hold an ice cube/ping an elastic band technique is that hurting yourself is a reasonable response to emotional turmoil. Just don’t do it badly enough to bother other people. By suggesting someone harm themselves in a small way you have shifted the conversation from, ‘let’s help you not hurt yourself’ to ‘hurt yourself in ways that do not draw attention to the act’. It is ignoring the root of the problem & allowing a person to believe that they are deserving of pain. It’s lazy, it counter productive & it is bullshit.

Hand holding ice

If you are struggling with self harm or you know someone who is, don’t feel helpless. When you are searching for help & find only these sort of suggestions it can feel like there are no answers. Whilst there are no quick fixes, there is hope.

See your Gp. If they don’t listen or offer help, see another Gp. I know this is exhausting at a time when you can least afford a fight, but please, don’t give up. If you have a friend or family member who can be your advocate, take them with you. You deserve treatment. You deserve care.

If you have badly injured yourself please seek medical advice. Again, if you have a friend or family member who can support you, take them along. If you do not & are worried about how you will be treated taking a copy of NHS NICE GUIDELINES can be helpful. You are entitled to be treated with the same compassion & respect as any other patient. Most emergency personnel will do this, but a few may need reminding of their duty. Being able to quote these guidelines helps in such situations. As scary as this may sound, do not put yourself at risk by avoiding treatment. You are worthy of diligent medical care.

If you are not yet ready or able to see a Dr, you can contact The Samaritans 24/7.

Call – 116 123 (uk)

Email – jo@samaritans.org

Go gentle…

This year World Mental Health Day has intersected with Baby Loss Awareness week resulting in lots of media/online talk about both subjects. Obviously, this presses pretty much all of my buttons as my mental health has historically (& currently) been so interconnected with my losses.

I believe society’s discomfort of miscarriage increases the distress experienced by those who live it. Feeling that I could not talk about my loss certainly compounded the trauma of my first miscarriage. There is a massive crossover between mental illness & baby loss, I believe part of that is how we treat people who have to deal with either issue. I also believe that making really simple changes in attitudes would allieviate so much pain. Miscarriage & infant loss will always be horrific, but if we allow people to openly explore & process those losses long term mental illness can be avoided. Or at the very least recognised & treated. 


Miscarriage  & other types of baby loss affect many people. We can all help make their lives easier by following these straight forward suggestions.

1. Acknowledge the loss.

Many people feel so uncomfortable about this kind of loss that they simply don’t acknowledge it. I know that this often comes from a good place, one might fear upsetting a grieving parent or intruding on their privacy.  I get that, but trust me, the silence is worse. If you know that someone has miscarried a simple ‘I am sorry for your loss’ goes a long way. Having people recognise that you have suffered a loss is massive. Too often those of us who have experienced miscarriage are  left feeling that our child only existed for us. Having people in your life affirm that the life you carried was real & had worth is extremely valuable. 

2. Really listen. 

Asking someone how they are, sending love etc is a good gesture, but if you really want help, listen to their response. When I lost my first baby what I really needed was to talk about it. I desperately needed to express how I felt & what I was struggling with, but never felt it was ok to do so. Burying those emotions compounded my trauma & led to a complete breakdown. If someone needs to talk about their experiences, please let them. 

3. Respect the grief.

When you have a miscarriage you grieve. Your grief is not only for the baby you have lost, but also for the life you have been planning. Grief is a very personal thing, everyone does it in their own way & on their own timetable. Wether that involves a memorial service, commemorating an anniversary, a tattoo or even never speaking of it again, please respect that. Don’t judge or rush.  Be supportive of whatever your grieving friend needs . There are no right or wrong ways to heal, even if you feel uncomfortable with someone’s chosen expression of grief. Just be kind & remember it is not your journey.


4. Don’t hide baby news.

I understand the urge to shield loved ones from pain. Certainly be sensitive, but share & celebrate your baby news. I can guarantee that although it may sometimes be painful I never want to dampen anyone’s joy. Losing a baby is hard, but it does not prevent me from being thrilled for other people. Any tears I have to shed will be done in private & are only my concern. I want all good things for everyone that I love. I absolutely adore the beautiful little people my siblings & have friends have been blessed with. I have never met a person who had suffered a loss who felt any differently. 

There you have it. Four straightforward pieces of advice that may lighten the load of someone who is suffering. All you have to do is swallow your discomfort, listen & be respectful. Surely, that’s not too much to ask?