Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Problem With Invincibility

"So, what doesn't kill me doesn't kill me..."  Diana in "Another Day," Next To Normal original Broadway soundtrack 
"I created the sound of madness/wrote the book on pain/somehow I'm still here to explain/that the darkest hour never comes in the night..." Shinedown, "The Sound of Madness"

What the fuck was I thinking, attending my friends' sons' britot [ritual circumcisions] one month to the day after I was wheeled into an operating room and had the remains of my first, and only, pregnancy extracted from my body? I wasn't thinking. If anything, I was just feeling, and feeling good. Feeling, dare I say, invincible. I have been put through a crucible the past eight weeks. Losing my father tragically and surprisingly. The shock and indescribable excitement of learning I was expecting one week after we buried my father in the ground. My husband presenting with dramatic and scary medical symptoms with no obvious cause. Heartache caused by my father's handling of his estate, which by the way, I'm executing. Finding out at 9 weeks that the baby ceased to grow past week 6. Waiting around to miscarry. Not miscarrying. Listening to the obstetrician's gruesome description of a D&C, then being wheeled later that day into an operating room. The incredulity I felt when the administrator who checked me into the hospital asked me if I was ok, even though the reason for my admission was printed on the stack of forms in front of her. "I am anything but ok," I answered.

I never thought about how I'd react in the situation I found myself in this May. I wanted to curl into a ball. Instead, I've opted to pour every ounce of energy I have into healing myself physically, mentally, and spiritually, so God willing, one day I can try to be a mom again. For me, this means treating my physical therapy like my life depends on it, because it does. It means upping my meditation past my comfort zone. It means getting back into a yoga practice, and doing challenging cardio workouts to boost my mood and sate my anxiety. Most importantly, it means working through my physical pain through all of this.

Much to my surprise, the result of going through the crucible is that I feel friggin' amazing. It is exhilirating, in a way, to walk through the seventh layer of hell and come out the other side, burned but not broken. After avoiding most things pertaining to babies or small children for four weeks, I started testing myself. Can I look at a pregnant woman's belly and not feel a pit in my own? Check. Can I enjoy Shabbat dinner with my friends' darling toddler? Check. Can I hold an infant without my heart breaking? Check. All of this, to me, meant that of course I'd go to my dear friends' twins' britot. I was thrilled for them, and wanted to celebrate the miracle of their sons. I also wanted to catch up with dear old friends I don't get to see often enough. I'm sure somewhere in my intellect I thought, "This might be hard," but that was drowned out by feeling good. By feeling invincible. But, the problem with invincibility is that you're not invincible.

Everything started off just fine at the celebration. I have a rough time at these things anyway, because religious obligation aside, I'm not totally copacetic with circumcision, which is why I only attend the britot of close friends' children (usually a whole religious community is invited to these things). At no point did anything set me off or trigger me. A feeling of darkness just gradually crept in. I tried mindfulness to distract myself, to no avail. Almost instinctively, I sought out my husband, David, my comforter in chief. When he held me close to him, wiping tears from his own eyes, my walls came tumbling down. The atmosphere became oppressive; all I saw and heard were babies, and missing my own. After the ceremony, I knew I had to bolt. I gathered myself to wish the new parents a final "mazel tov," and planned to discretely make my exit. Then I knew, if I opened my mouth to say those words, a wail would escape me. I made the choice -- against all my schooling in Southern manners -- to leave without saying goodbye, and to not run cry on a friend's shoulder, which would've put the focus on me and not on the celebration and the celebrants. David held me while I sobbed in the stairwell, and then I made my way to the gym, sobbing all the while on the bus. I almost asked for a Xanax, but then remembered, "That doesn't help a broken heart."

I had a killer workout. I poured out all my grief, sorrow, and anger on that cardio machine, and I became one of those gym rats I admired but never come close to: someone who sweats through their clothes. I was soaking wet and heaving, but calmer. Somewhere, in that workout, I stopped chiding myself for being so foolish to try and go to that bris. I let admiration fill its place -- I tried to do something positive, with the best of intentions. Instead of viewing it as a moral failing that I couldn't stay the whole time, I just worked on accepting it as what was. I felt compassion for what I've been through instead of remorse for this perceived failing.

I've gained insight that your stuff will grab you when you least expect it, so you just run with it and make it work. Truly, the darkest hour never comes in the night.