Anger: It’s not glamorous; it’s not cool.
Anger is one of those emotions that has a bad rap.
It’s perceived as negative, and when we feel it, we are socially disciplined to push it down as if it’s shameful to feel it.
Anger as part of the infertility journey
One of the most challenging emotions I have felt on my journey through and beyond infertility is anger.
The utter, consuming rage that welled up has, and still does occasionally, takes me by complete surprise.
Typically, I’m pretty mild mannered and good-natured. Honest!
My job as a therapist and coach means I am empathic, warm and able to see the way forward through a positive lens. I’m sociable, friendly and like to laugh with my friends!
So who is this dark hearted, mean spirited, woeful being I see in my mirror?
She can be bitchy, judgmental of self and others, furious with the world and ready for a fight.
At the epicenter of my infertility grief, which was ten years ago now, I would find myself almost snarling at pregnant women, dishing out the filthy looks and generally feeling very, very DEEPLY angry that it wasn’t me.
And that’s the crucial point. I was raging that pregnancy and joy were happening for seemingly everyone else except ME.
Why? I couldn’t understand it.
What makes them, these other, fertile beauties special?
What’s wrong with me? (No doctor could tell me–unexplained IF)
So many “Why’s?” and not one damn answer to be had.
And so the anger simmered…
And so the anger simmered away. Getting hotter and more volatile each month.
Have you ever felt intense anger? Intense rage? The screaming-at-the-sky and bargaining-with-God fury?
Have you ever felt scared of what you may be capable of?
It feels like THE most destructive power, the way it spills out, the way it catches you by surprise and completely takes your breath away. The way it feels unstoppable. That’s frightening.
Some days I felt like the HULK, capable of tearing limbs off people and then at the end of my rage I would shrink back to my cave, in tatters, feeling pitiful.
Infertility is the epitome of powerlessness.
When our ability to make choices is taken away (to kid or not to kid for example) we feel that level of powerlessness on a cellular level.
If we are undertaking infertility treatment we then experience the effect that our bodies are also no longer within our power.
We are literally the puppets of the doctor. They have the power to manipulate our bodies to perform the functions needed to reproduce.
Amongst all the appointments, pills, injections, debt, shame, fear, longing and hope dangled enticingly on a string, I was essentially an injured animal stabbed backed into a corner by my own FSH needles and cowering.
Trouble is, we all know, animals backed into corners can also bare teeth and it ain’t pretty when they turn.
Understanding the anger
Understanding the anger is key to being able diffuse it or use it.
I always say, “Anger is fears bodyguard.”
My bodyguard was in pure defense mode. Anxious to protect the most vulnerable part of me, the scared, lonely, deeply shamed woman in me.
I didn’t want people to see me as ‘less than’.
In a society consumed with pro-natalist rhetoric, to be pitied or seen as a failure was crucifying. Especially when I was neck deep into self-loathing as it was.
Inevitably some days I felt like getting the first blow in as it were by having my defense up so strongly no one stood a chance.
What is your anger telling you?
Within the journey of infertility there are many, many layers of feelings and there are layers within anger. too. Anger is a dynamic emotion. It’s not static. It moves, it changes and it has a message. All emotions do.
What is your anger telling you?
Look beyond the front door of the anger and peer inside.
What vulnerable part of you needs to be seen and heard?
By listening to what your body and mind is saying to you, you can then put yourself into a new position of empowerment.
And take your power back!
It may be slow at first.
Small steps to begin to feel as if you are making active and conscious choices in your life and for your wellbeing, body and mind.
It may be learning to say “no” to invites to baby showers.
It may be implementing more self care into your day/week.
It may be stopping treatment.
It may be pausing treatment until YOU are ready.
It may be having that challenging conversation with your boss, your loved ones or friends
It may be feeling able to ask your doctor questions
It may be saying nothing, not feeling as if you have to explain yourself to anyone else
It may be doing the grieving.
It may be doing the crying
It may be doing the raging
Finding a safe space to do this is vital. It may be with a therapist, a friend or within one of the many wonderful childless/childfree tribes that offer kindness and inclusion.
All of your emotions are normal and deserve breathing room.
Anger is fear’s bodyguard
Thank your bodyguard for doing such an outstanding job of protecting you but don’t hide behind her anymore… You’ve got this… You deserve peace.
Tammy Davidson is a UK based therapist, life coach and relational supervisor of other clinicians.
She also works as a clinical lead for a large UK national mental health provider.
Tammy has an interest in the mental health benefits of sport and exercise and is currently studying for a master’s degree in the psychology of sport and exercise at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
Tammy has first hand experience of infertility, treatment, childless grief and coming to terms with living life without children.
Tammy is a big believer in surviving and thriving and rises to a challenge with an optimistic heart!