Last week was a bad week. Not so much the blues as the mean reds, as Holly Golightly has it. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.
The 14th marked a whole year since our first miscarriage. And while I’m feeling a bit brighter now, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about the Bad Days.
I’ve had a couple of (truly lovely) comments on Instagram lately about how positive I seem and that this is inspiring. (This is not a humble brag, I promise.) Don’t get me wrong, I love that people see that in me. But it feels important to be honest and say that it doesn’t always feel that way on the inside.
Yes, I post a lot of pictures of Technicolor flowers, fluffy cats, and almost offensively upbeat song lyrics. Yes, I am plugging away with this blog, doing my half-marathon training and trying to raise some money for Tommy’s. Positive, productive things, no question. But I would hate for anyone who sees this and thinks this means I am fine or fixed or somehow coping better than anyone else fumbling through this miserable fog of loss and ttc.
I post this kind of thing partly because it does genuinely cheer me up – I like flowers and cats and cheesy music – and partly because I hope it might cheer someone else up. But also, I admit, I do it partly to make the story I’m trying to tell with this blog a little more palatable.
I want people to care, to think about miscarriage differently, but I don’t want my grief to become a chore and a drain on people’s (limited) emotional energy. An Instagram horcrux, sucking the life and happiness from everyone and everything. A constant reminder that, oh yes, we’re still here, still barren.
So I couch ‘bad days’ in positive terms… we made it through, here’s a fun thing I did, here’s what I’m looking forward to, here’s how far I ran when I really didn’t want to.
But it really is only part of the story.
Reaching a year since the first loss with no baby – not in our arms and not on the horizon – knocked the stuffing out of me. No, I won’t sugarcoat it, it kicked the shit out of me.
This anniversary, which I wish I hadn’t remembered, arrived amid a flurry of social media activity that sent my mind to some ugly places.
Pregnancy announcements from couples who’ve been married five fucking minutes. Couples who found out after a bender in Ibiza. Toddlers holding up ‘I’m going to be a big sister’ signs. I hate them all. Viscerally. Violently.
Why does this get to be their life and not ours?
I hate these goofy, pseudo-sheepish announcements, grins gurning as if to say what a lark this impending parenthood thing all is – and not, as it feels for us, a grim matter of life and death.
It makes me feel savage. And then small. Sad and ashamed.
That’s when my inner-critic really finds her stride. I’m pathetic. I should be over this. I’m making a spectacle of myself by writing about it. People are laughing at me. Other people deal with this with much less fuss than you’ve made.
That last one may well be true. But we have wonky standards for what counts as coping, I think. When we say that someone is coping well with whatever life’s thrown at them – whether it’s death, disease, depression – we’re not necessarily thinking about how they’re doing at all.
‘They’re coping so well. They’re so strong. They’re doing brilliantly.’
What we really mean is that they’re making their grief easy for us. It isn’t permitted to trouble us. It doesn’t intrude. They’re coping – or at least they’re convincing us they are, and that’s as good as.
I am as guilty of this as anyone.
So in the interests of full disclosure, there are still Bad Days. Bad Weeks.
I wish I had something more helpful, positive and productive to say, a year on. Really I do. I wanted to write different post, but I’ve struggled to draw the strands together. I’ve felt anxious and tired and my head hasn’t made much sense lately. No cogent thoughts, just a crowd of chickens scritch-scratching around in there.
It’s funny how quickly coping mechanisms can become sticks to beat yourself with. Skipping a run leads to a guilt-spiral. Writing about how I feel curdles into anxiety and fear of what people think. Or that I’m not a good enough writer to tell this story. But, cluck the chickens in my head, I must do these things or else I’m not coping ‘well’. And so it goes on.
Now though, from a slightly clearer, kinder vantage point, I can see that there is no ‘good’ way of coping. There is only coping.
Whether it’s cranking out 8 mile runs and organising charity sales, or staying indoors all weekend with the shutters drawn, ignoring Facebook because it makes me want to throw my phone at the wall – whatever it looks like – I am coping.
And you are, too.