This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get over it....

As a therapist, there isn't a workday that goes by without hearing the question, "Why can't I just get over it?"   The short answer, of course, is that if it was that easy to get over whatever it was, you wouldn't be here talking to me about it in the first place--you'd be working or laughing doing your laundry or drinking a coffee or taking a nap.  Psychotherapy, like infertility treatment, usually isn't anyone's first choice.

The reason people often go to a therapist in the first place is with the idea that psychotherapy may help them "get over" something, which indeed it may, although not in the way they might initially expect.  In our culture, o there seems to be an expectation that to get over something, you shouldn't have negative feelings about  anymore--your sadness, anger, hurt, despair will all become things of the past.
If that were the usual course of events, that would put me out of a job.  And believe me, I would be fine with that.  Instead, I find myself trying to find way to gently explain that perhaps "getting over it", in terms of no longer having negative feelings, is an unrealistic goal, for that there are some things in life that just can't be gotten over so easily.

Infertility is almost always one of those things that can't be gotten over so easily.  No matter what the outcome, the struggle of infertility almost always changes a person in fundamental ways. The losses endured are often profound and unchangeable.  They have due dates, anniversaries, and countless other reminders.  Other people are reproducing everywhere you look.  In the thick of my infertility treatment, the number of pregnant women I would see on a daily basis was breathtaking.  I sincerely wished the continuation of the human race would just stop for a few minutes, to let me catch my breath, but that wish, like so many others, never came true.

I suppose that is one of the many things I have never "gotten over" about infertility.   And although I have children now, I don't think I will ever lose touch  with how bad that felt.  Thinking about those moments of my life still makes me feel sad, angry, and alone.  When I am around people who didn't have the same struggles I did, I still sometimes feel alienated and shake my head, marveling that children could arrive in their lives with such little fuss.  I don't see how that's ever going to change.

What has changed, however, is my expectation that I am ever going to feel differently.  I have come to accept that there are certain memories and issues that are going to upset me no matter what, and that they probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

This is no small thing.  For by recognizing that you can't escape certain negative feelings, you can find freedom in other ways.  First of all, you don't have to feel badly about yourself because you haven't "gotten over it" yet.  And secondly, there is something about accepting how you feel that makes those feelings less intense and more bearable over time.  Once you start processing your feelings, they may not go away; but they may not affect your ability to enjoy the rest of your life.

My rule is that if you keep telling yourself you need to just "get over" something, it is likely that you may be up against an impossible task.  Instead, take some time to explore and process the feelings you think you should just be getting over.  You may be surprised that even though you aren't over it, you still feel better anyway.