the baddest days

These days, I am extremely fragile. Free from madness for over a decade, I’ve somehow failed to find new trust in my unstable mind. Memories of the Bad Years haunt me, a tiny voice whispers at me, “Remember who you are.” A skinny beauty, weak and occasionally violent towards myself, arms dripping blood as reality swirled around me, dizzy from the pictures and screaming that I would be the one to rescue the latest band of medics from the end of days. A filthy-faced girl huddled in a cupboard as disembodied voices screamed at me that my mom would kill me if she had a chance, unrelenting paranoia and hallucinations, emerging only occasionally to see my caseworker, who sat my psychotic ass down in a ramshackle building downtown and grew impatient as she tried for the hundredth time to explain what a Medicaid spenddown was to a girl not even aware she was on a different plane …

Besides being a broke(n) infertile woman, I also have a psychotic disorder. I am bipolar I, and I hear voices whether I’m in the grips of a mood episode or not, making me schizoaffective, bipolar type. Does that frighten you? I’ve heard them all my life; I can’t imagine what it feels like to live in quiet like most of you. I function despite the noise, although within gentle parameters. I cannot hold a job without the madness creeping in, I have to avoid stress whenever possible. But now, with medication and unending talk therapy (which I am fortunate to have access too, and am fortunate that medication works for me because it doesn’t always help everybody), you’d probably not peg me a a psychotic woman. High strung, fuck yeah. You may see I lack basic social skills, I have a difficult time making meaningful friendships or maintaining them–I often disappear for years. But today, at thirty-nine, you’d see my anxiety and maybe witness a panic attack and see me cry, but you would not see a girl who used to get handcuffed by police and dragged off to the Crisis Unit in the ER of our local charity hospital…

She’s still in there but for now is quiet. I remember the perinatologist explaining Molly’s defects to us as I tearfully clutched my stomach. I thought it would break me, that maybe my brain would need a vacation from the incredible pain and the people that weren’t real would come back and whisk me off to madness again. I imagined my frantic husband waking to find me gone, getting in the car only to find me on a street corner shouting that I was chosen to save all of you from eternal damnation and then I’d maybe black out and find myself in four point restraints in some hospital and I’d be sick, really sick, and Geoff would go away forever. 

None of that happened. I’m not sleeping, leaving my house, or answering my phone but reality is intact even if it’s not good enough right now…mostly, I am very sad and angry, but I am right here.

And I am okay.

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throwing the towel way the fuck in…maybe.

I’m not sure where to go from here but I know I can’t stay in this place forever. I’ve been breathing ttc for years now, the cycle of hope and disappointment holding me captive as I barreled towards my own destruction. And I sit at home quietly, afternoons spent with hungry arms wrapped around my little cat, burying my face in his feathery fur and sobbing.

I have fought; I have been brave and proud. I am exhausted and I can’t bear this horrible addiction to hope any longer. The only hope that remains is scant and unreliable but I still chase that dragon.

I second guess myself. Maybe I should try to increase my dose of Femara, give it one last hurrah. Ovulation week was a total loveless disaster this month; I can’t do that again. I’ve reached out, listened to the dull sounds of the words “self-care” being bandied about and felt myself recoiling because “self” is my actual problem — I am the problem, with my self-centeredness and self-obsession. I cannot trust a self that is sent reeling into panic if my phone rings or I have to face a simple obligation. My self is sick, and I’m bumfuzzled on how to treat it.

And I have such terrible nightmares, such terrible memories. And the rain gushes like waterfalls down my bedroom window; I cannot heed the sudden call to hit the streets, to move, to get out and leave this place so far behind…

Freedom.

randomness and existential crisis

The rain is back and resolve stiffens my spine — I will not let another summer fall into the sucking hole in my life that is infertility, not when summer days in the PNW are so few and precious. I still dream of life elsewhere, somewhere sunny and warm and closer to family, but I lack confidence as I face the looming threat of slashes to Medicare funding. We continue on here, broken and isolated and desperate for healing.

What is healing, what does it look like when you’re as sick as I am? 

I remember seeing my first therapist; I must’ve been in the third grade or something. My mom arranged to have my best friend’s older sister watch my younger sister, so the whole school ended up knowing there was something wrong with me — I was crazy under my mask of timidity and fearfulness. My moods and tantrums baffled my parents and I never slept, and I had an overactive imagination to explain the fact that sometimes I heard and saw things that no one else could see or hear. I was only vaguely aware that there was something different about me, I was doing well in school.  It was the eighties and childhood onset mental illness wasn’t a thing that was recognized by mental health professionals. They said I had abandonment issues because I was adopted. Even I believed them. My poor mother was permanently traumatized, to this day convinced that this is all her fault.

There was a lot stacked against me, and things got worse after my sister died. I struggled with addiction, I went on meds. Therapists paraded through my life, both caring providers and toxic wannabe do-gooders that should have never been allowed to practice, until finally I found someone that could help me. I was so unhinged but I fought like hell, found people to connect with in a meaningful fashion, and got my disease into remission in my late twenties. I thought I, too, could have a normal life, the sort of life I believe most people deserve. Then I met Geoff, who is amazing, and we lost Molly and spiralled into grief. And then the sickness came back. And I don’t know what to do.

It’s different now. My brain isn’t cycling through moods, my psychosis is as controlled as it can be. But here I am, shellshocked not just from my pregnancy termination, miscarriages, and infertility but from life and its infinite randomness, by the knowledge that lightning can strike arbitrarily and there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it. Children can be stricken with severe mental illness or they can die of cancer, babies can have their chromosomes put together all wrong, and the ones they leave as living witnesses will suffer. So I live my days in terror. I pray to no one that I’m wrong about the nonexistence of God. I do anything I can to ward off bad luck. And I never leave my house.

.

.

me right now and I’m adorable.

CD 16, so not in the mood. Overslept, missed my chance with Geoff. UGH.

thirty-nine years and three months 

Do I look hopeless? 

The soft light washes away the fine lines around my mouth. My hair has gone long from three years on prenatal vitamins, still black as ever with no help from Clairol. I still blush when strangers speak with me. I like to think I don’t look old and crazy.

Inside though…

An East coast neurosis simmers in my belly and I always feel a sense of urgency. I try not to do crazy things or inadvertently send out cries for help, but with my bipolar in check all that remains are the powerful vibrations of an anxiety that stands solid in the face of yoga, herbal teas, unending meditation classes. Yeah, I’ve always been high strung but since things started to go wrong in reproductive land I find myself struggling to make meaningful connections for fear of something, anything, setting me off in an all-too-frequent full blown panic attack. I battle with narcissism; no, not clinical, but a sudden dangerous obsession with both how I present to people and why I do certain crazy things. I talk too much, I don’t ask people how they feel. 

The real world calls, and I’m so lonely and broken. High school wasn’t bad for me; I had friends, albeit cruel ones, I never sat home alone in weekends. How did I end up trapped in solitude?

CD 15 and we’re barely moving…

Oh, the things that stand between me and the world: an unrelenting grieving process, regularly occurring psychotic symptoms, withered old ovaries and an empty pocketbook. If I can have a baby, will the world take me back? 

almost ready

I suspect my little cat peed on a small pile of clothing I carelessly tossed on the floor of my second bedroom, the one I still refer to in my head as Molly’s room. I am having trouble gathering my resolve to go in there and deal with it, as disgusting as it may sound to put off the odious task. I stood in the doorway for maybe a minute, contemplating the pink owl print I hung on the wall in an unhinged moment, feeling so desperately sad that my legs felt like jelly. Collapsing into my own bed, defeated again by grief. Story of my days as an agoraphobe. 

The inexorable pressure and anxiety of ovulation week. CD 14, it really starts to count today but my heart’s not in it. We barely eked out our monthly deposit this morning and I’m not tracking my cycle anyway…I usually ovulate on CD 16 – 18. All of our plans are dying in ten car roadwrecks*. The hopelessness of depression is a familiar friend, albeit one I have not seen in a while. I wonder briefly if I should cancel my therapy tomorrow. I can’t be hearing the insensitive comments but on this late a cancellation my Freudian shrink will charge me anyway.. 

It just seems to me that suffering lasts for a predetermined amount of time. I see other infertile woman hit rock bottom before being surprised by a second line on their Wondfo at their hour of greatest need. My bottoms keep on going, and yeah, I’ve reached a couple of low points and been joyously jolted out of my head with a second line, only to experience another miscarriage that drops me lower. I don’t think I can survive a new, lower bottom than the one I am currently wallowing in. I feel like I’m done with the universe’s dumb pranks. I want out of the game but since I figure I’ll still be damaged — just one more old-fashioned way cycle…because I’m still not sure i know how to stop.

* Hopeless by The Future Bible Heroes 

ghosts

My uterus is full of ghosts. Sometimes I still wake up feeling flutters thinking Molly is still within. I couldn’t save her, but I will never forget. She touched my life so briefly that my mind is boggled by the impermanence. In my dreams, I never see her face.

The world spins on its axis, inevitably circling a sun that never warms me. I find myself shivering cold and impassive, an automaton seeking blood. I stumble through interminable days as the seasons change, inexorable and relentless. My hair covers my face, hanging down in greasy tangles; impatiently, I toss it back over my aching shoulders and try to go through the motions of living. How long has it been since I’ve sat sipping cola on the beaches near my distant home? How many summers will pass by unnoticed as I lay tangled in blankets with the shades drawn, no sunlight, no escape from my self-imposed prison? 

CD 13, a day that counts insofar as I might be in my not-so-fertile window (RE says I have less than a 2% chance of conceiving a chromosomally normal baby the old-fashioned way). I continue to troll infertility forums and fuck, wondering if my sins are revisiting me because this is a special region of hell that I never dreamed of when I married my loving husband five years back. Perusing my wedding album is like being stabbed in the heart, me in my black thrifted dress smiling at friends that have all but disappeared leaving me to wonder how things took such a turn for the worse.

Fuck infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. The anger is the worst, the thing that drives me to perdition and forces me to dig an alligator filled moat around the squishy core of my being just to keep love out because I’m sick of everyone’s disappointed stares and radio silence when I pathetically rest my hands on my now-empty womb and keep them there until the sorrow spreads to my eyes. 

And I remember all the saddest things…
 

the saddest songs, the saddest things

All the umbrellas in London couldn’t stop this rain. And all the dope in New York couldn’t kill this pain.”  –The Magnetic Fields 

To the one person that read my last blog entry…no, I won’t compromise my sobriety. It’s just habit, really, for me to think of easier, softer ways to deal with unfathomable misery. But honestly ^^ Stephin Merritt has it right–to anesthetize this horrible sadness, I’d need Dr. Conrad Murray with his propofol (the stuff he gave Michael Jackson, who, say what you will about him, was not a man who was fucking around when it came to checking out). There is no easy path for me.

No children, no grandchildren. When I did get sober at 25, when my little sister succumbed to cancer, and hell, even right after my abortion for medical reasons took Molly from me…after each of these terrible things, I told myself, “okay Kathleen, you are going to feel like shit for a very long time but eventually you’ll be okay again”. But if I decide to stop trying to have a baby or if that choice is taken from me, I don’t have faith that I’ll ever feel better. I can’t imagine ever feeling better again. 

I walked yesterday, had a nice conversation with my mom, felt a little okay–until a couple online BFP announcements knocked me on my ass. I don’t know why I still troll around on Internet infertility forums; it’s for sure an exercise in self-flagellation. I do admit, however, that Scruffy is still twitching every now and again. There’s the tiniest spark of irrational hope. I cannot nurture that. I really don’t think it’d be good for me.

Maybe I’m having a depressive episode. Maybe these feelings aren’t real. Geoff and I are still getting our groove on during my fertile window. But I’m out of ubiquinol and idgaf. I’m confused, disoriented. And I’ve never felt so alone.

i’m in a pickle and it’s a pretty fucking big one.

CD 10 and Geoff and I are back at it the old fashioned way with low expectations of success. Well, I have low expectations of success (I could say I have no expectations of success), I’m not sure how he feels. I feel a horrible sense of panic wrapping around me, relentless and perhaps easily avoidable, if I could only stop the madness…there is no miracle on the sunlit horizon that promises me a healthy, breathing infant, there are no kind and soft women waiting in the wings to say, I did this too, I survived it, and you are going to be okay. No matter which direction I choose, I move forward with only my for-some-reason devoted husband by my side.

I think of all the things I’ve done in life because I just couldn’t handle doing otherwise. When my sister was dying, I didn’t go to the hospital in the city every day to see her because I just couldn’t handle it, not on top of going to high school and volunteering everywhere and riding horses and filling out applications for colleges I wasn’t interested in attending and dealing with the early stages of my schizoaffective disorder. Forgivable under the circumstances, maybe, but the price was a lifetime of regret. If I cry uncle and stop trying to have a baby, would the price be the same? I’m a severely mentally ill alcoholic/addict in recovery, is honoring that side of me, that fundamental flaw in me, a sufficient reason to take opportunity away from myself and Geoff, who has waited two times in tears in sterile lobbies while I had his babies scraped from my insides and who has squeezed my hand so tightly and wept as I bled out a third?

And I have a terrible confession that might make you hate me. I’ve been sober off drugs and alcohol since I was twenty-five (13 years), but if I choose to give up trying to have a baby, I could soften the blow so easily with pills and cigarettes and a couple of shots of whiskey upon awakening. Fuck, right now I could get dressed, walk a block down the road and purchase fucking weed at a weed store because it’s currently legal here and all of this could go away. I hate the smell of grass, but these days I hear there are delicious baked goods that a person can just buy and consume and it makes them stoned. I know from experience that for me, substance abuse is extremely effective at driving off the demons that assail me. No, if I am to let this go, I have to know I can do it clean because as much as this path beckons me with promises of ultimate comfort, I owe this much to Geoff and my family and yes, to my broken and battered self. But let me tell you, these thoughts are real to me because through and through, I am and always will be an addict that just can’t handle feeling scared. Btw, if I do continue trying, I couldn’t soften the blow of that choice and I’d stay off the bad shit because as selfish and terrible as I am, I would never do that to my child and I know this in the core of my being.

I still have a bottle of Femara on my nightstand. I hate Femara with a passion and really, it promises untold suffering but with a glimmer of hope. There’s always next month, if I can decide…




words i whipped out as my husband cooked me dinner

I walked into my therapist’s office feeling broken, and left feeling pretty much the same way. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. I don’t know why I still seek comfort from a woman that has four grown children and grandchildren. 

“Miscarriages can certainly be disappointing,” said the woman who, over the last fifteen years, has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count.

Words swirled in my head. “Disappointing”. How about invalidating, minimizing, silencing. You fucking bitch, what’s wrong with you, I’m bleeding??? She hesitantly ceded that yes, my eighteen week pregnancy termination for medical reasons was a traumatic event, and my subsequent nine week miscarriages were “re-traumatizing”. 

I honor the memory of each of my lost children. Molly, yes, Molly was my closest. I wear her name tattooed on my forearm, under the little Moomin tattoo that Geoff and I used without permission on our Xeroxed wedding invitations (once a zinester, always a zinester, I suppose). I felt Molly moving inside me, yes, Auntie, a fetus just shy of nineteen weeks does move and quite certainly is more than a blob of cells “barely the size of the tip of my pinkie with no discernible features whatsoever” (and yes, I believe in abortion nonetheless). 

People talk to me about healing when I reach out in the land of the Interwebs. I have a very strong drive, perhaps a habit formed from years of group therapy for my bipolar/schizo stuff, to find others who have suffered in similar ways that I have. But those women all have rainbows, or rainbows on the way. My search for women who are childless after loss hasn’t unturned much of a support network. There aren’t any therapists specializing in infertility and pregnancy loss in my area, and the pregnancy loss support group here in town is sparsely attended by young women that just want to talk about getting pregnant again (and is run by the chaplain at our local Catholic hospital to boot). I don’t actually want to get a new therapist after cementing a strong therapeutic relationship with my current one–fifteen years is a very long time to be working with someone. I just want to make her see me because I feel invisible. 

What do I do? Where do I go? I’m terrified, being so alienated but I’m even more scared of the insensitive comments, especially from those closest to me. That’s why I don’t leave my house. That’s why I don’t talk to any of my friends.

 violence

CD 3 came and went, and I didn’t take the Femara. But here I am, still a train wreck. My little cat curls up behind me and offers comfort as my mind spins and my body shakes. The thought of facing another fertility window, medicated or not, paralyzes my limbs and I feel them heavy against our hard mattress with the memory foam that fails to yield to the bones that jut from my tender flesh. Everything hurts today, and I am alone.

Halloween marks one year since the tragic end of my first pregnancy after my eighteen week abortion. My only natural pregnancy loss, when I passed the gestational sac as a cold, dispassionate tech rammed the dong wand roughly inside me, refusing to allow me the dignity of losing a baby in a private solemn moment with my husband by my side and refusing to honor me as the pain and cramping wracked my body, because the Rules dictated that she take the dimensions of the wasteland I call my ovaries like it was the only possible time for them to do it. We had seen a heartbeat weeks earlier, but our second baby was dead and gone.

I hate the term “angel baby” because fuck God for needing angels. I don’t believe in angels or heaven anyhow.

Coincidentally enough, I arrived in the States at three months old on Halloween of 1978 to meet my adoptive family at JFK International airport. It’s always been a special date for me and my parents and I hate that now it’s tainted by grief. And, whew! If only adoption now was as easy as it was then.

At this point, I’d rather stick my arm in the garbage disposal and flip the switch than face another TV ultrasound. This isn’t an abstract concept to me; if offered that choice, I’d genuinely prefer a maiming to another date with Wanda, followed inevitably as always by heartbreaking news. I’m scared my already dysfunctional mind will someday just crack wide open–it has happened before, why shouldn’t it happen again? I feel burdened and weighed down, my back aches and I cannot tell if it is physical pain or a metaphorical projection.

Scruffy has taken paid time off, in as such as I feel no more hope but I am paying for it in blood. I’ve bled out three babies and my god, there is so much blood it is as if an act of violence has been precipitated against me and I stand as a survivor that nonetheless is permanently damaged and too sensitive to step out into a cruel world devoid of caring. I really don’t think I’m going to get pregnant again, yet am occupied with the fear of another loss, especially another abortion for medical reasons. So many possibilities for suffering, and I’m, like, I’m half-past give a shit. Do I go back on birth control? Will I even be able to afford birth control? *wry grin* Fuck the President too, while I’m at it…hey, I already took a shot at God.

I don’t think I can go on trying until I’m 40, the way I’ve always said. I think I need to save myself and my sanity before then, and if I must accept childlessness in order to accomplish that, so be it.