Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Does trauma change our personality?

I've been wondering about this for awhile. Growing up I always enjoyed the personality quizzes in teen magazines. Even now, I still like to read the pop culture articles online and take personality inventories. They're just for fun. I know they're not scientifically based. But still...

When I was 23 and in my first year of teaching, we all did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as part of a professional development session. I was young, new, and enthusiastic. I dove head first into the questions and looked forward to learning my personality type. I was not surprised to learn I was an ESTP.

Fast forward fifteen years and we did the MBTI in graduate school...
Where I scored the exact opposite personality, INFJ. I found this so interesting!! 

I'd always identified as an extrovert (the "E" of ESTP), but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I was just a really, really extroverted introvert (the "I" of INFJ). I am not afraid of speaking in crowds. There have been so many times in my life when I presented in front of hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of people. Plus, I really like hanging out with people, something I've missed greatly over the last decade. (Thanks, infertility! Thanks, pandemic!)

But I need my downtime. People exhaust me. After a long day at work, I like to come home and sew (not go out with friends, assuming I didn't have a friend apocalypse due to infertility or assuming I would have been invited out with co-workers if there hadn't been a pandemic).

Everything I've read says your personality doesn't change. And again, it's not a scientifically-based assessment, but everything I've read about the MBTI says your type doesn't change. 

And yet mine did. Completely.

What do you think?

Does trauma change our personality?

Thursday, September 22, 2022

It's Okay to Quit

Well, here's a shocker: "quitting" being promoted in the news. 

news article published yesterday starts out describing a guy training for a marathon. He feels a pain in his foot but keeps training. Ultimately, he has to give up training due to a fracture in his foot. He does not run the marathon. He had to "quit." 

The article states, "From the moment most of us are born, we're told to never give up--and to try again (and again) if we fail."

Sound familiar?
We've all heard that before...

But wait, there's more!

The article actually uses infertility as an example. As the article goes into more detail about potential consequences of not quitting, it describes a couple enduring infertility and going through treatments. The article describes the couple's mental health as suffering and their life savings as affected. The article actually PROMOTES QUITTING and says, "It's brave to say, 'I am willing to abandon my goal to create space in my heart and mind for something else meaningful.'"

I am shocked. 

Three cheers for mainstream news telling us it's okay to quit!

This image is from one of my favorite websites.
Although not as serious as quitting fertility treatments or a job,
here is another article telling you it's okay to quit. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

My Week through My Infertile Lens

First of all, did you check out World Childless Week?
I found the letters to my younger self to be particularly powerful. 


Ok, now for my first thought from this past week...

Back in July, I signed up to do something in September. At the time, I did not know what my work or school schedule was going to look like, but I made a commitment to do this activity anyway.

As the date approached, I was still looking forward to it. (No commitment remorse, haha!)  And then the day came. I gathered my nerves and went. I tried something new, and I had fun.

It was a quilt workshop. I went to one last year, so the experience wasn't entirely new. But I didn't know who was going or what it was going to be like. I read the flyer about the teacher, the techniques, and the custom pattern she was going to teach us and wanted to go. So I signed up and went. Even better, the other women in the class were not only nice, but warm and friendly. I had a great time.

I was curious if anyone else didn't have kids like me. 

Well, I knew the teacher had kids. She mentioned them once during her presentation at the quilt group meeting earlier in the week. And I knew another woman had a son because I had visited with her before. I did not know about the others.

I just waited. I figured I'd figure it out.

Pretty quickly, two other women mentioned grandchildren. I mean, we were at a quilt workshop. It's a group of women talking about quilts they've made and for whom. Kids and grandkids are inevitable topics. It's completely appropriate. I'm not complaining. 

I was just curious. So, I continued to listen and notice...

A fifth woman mentioned grandchildren in passing. She was talking about using cowboy fabric to make a quilt for her grandson.

And then there was one. There was one other woman who had not mentioned children or grandchildren throughout our day-long workshop. But then, toward the end of class, she got a phone call from a grandkid inviting her over later that day.

Ah, well. Maybe next time! ;)


My second thought is personal. It's relieving news. My plumbing is fixed!
It took all week. The whole thing is almost done. Fingers crossed they finish tomorrow.

I found the whole ordeal to be extremely stressful. I was anxious all day every day last week. I'm still trying to settle my nerves. My anxiety just shoots so high, so quick. And I truly think it has to do with years of infertility followed by failed treatments. It's like something was triggered in me back then, and now it doesn't take much to make me anxious. 

It's honestly difficult. I don't understand it, so I don't expect others to understand it. My boyfriend was a great support, as was his family. I texted his mom and one of his sisters and they validated my stress. My family was glad for me that the problem was getting fixed but didn't seem to get how stressful the whole thing was for me.

It's got me thinking about the long-term effects of infertility and failed treatments. For me, the experiences were traumatic. I think it made my anxiety much worse.


Then, for my third reflection, my boyfriend and I went to a family-friendly outdoor event today. There were adults, kids, babies, teens, old people, and basically everyone. 

I remember attending last year. It was one of the first things we did during the pandemic. We felt safe because it was outside and we were both vaccinated. But still, it was the first time we had been out and about in a very long time. 

I remember being fascinated with all of the families with their various numbers and ages of kids. I just liked casually observing all the kids and people watching. It was just so nice to be out of the house and doing something fun.

So I was excited to go again this year. And it was cool! I loved it. We're gonna get there earlier next year so we can see more stuff.

But I noticed a shift in what caught my attention this time. I paid more attention to the different styles of walkers and wheelchairs than I did any of the families. I noticed the kids but nobody was particularly interesting. I was more into the outdoor show and enjoying time with my boyfriend than anything else.

I did not feel deep in childless grief last year. But I can tell a huge difference anyway from then to now. It's incredible how this CNBC experience continues to evolve. 

I had no idea what all was possible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Applying a Lesson Learned from Infertility

It's no secret that I've been stressed out and struggling for the past several weeks (a month? two months?). That's life. Stress happens. I don't say that dismissively to myself. My stress is real. It's also not unique. Everyone has stress. I'll go out on a limb and say most everyone currently has stress in their lives. Times aren't easy.

But I was getting sick and tired of feeling how I was feeling. I couldn't change any of it, so what could I do? Some options I thought of were to practice acceptance (suggesting this almost always annoys me but I still believe it's a beneficial coping strategy) and to change my perspective. I've been trying both strategies. 

I decided to rely on what I did toward the end of my experience with infertility. Instead of constantly thinking about what I didn't have, I decided to think about what I did have. I even wrote a list. It was long. I was pleasantly surprised. That was helpful.

Our poor primitive brains have not evolved from hanging on tightly to negative information. Yes, this was helpful when we needed to avoid getting eaten by a wooly mammoth. (Just kidding. Wooly mammoths were herbivores, but you get my point.) But, hanging on to negative information is not such a great thing when we live in a 24/7 news cycle of bad news. 

The brain can only handle so much.
The heart can only handle so much.

We have to be kind to ourselves, especially when society isn't.

No matter what we're missing and no matter how sad/lonely/bored/broke/frustrated we are, we have so much. That's not to take away from our very real negative feelings. It's to remind us of what we do have.

We have ourselves. We have each other. We have today.
And when today sucks, we have tomorrow. Every day is different.

Just a reminder. Because it's easy to forget.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Unpacking is Emotional

I am still very excited about finally moving out of my storage unit, but I definitely underestimated the emotional toll it would take to unpack. Imagine having everything from your life suddenly sitting in your living room. It's overwhelming.

Feeling overwhelmed is why I got a storage unit in the first place. I was sitting in the beautiful house that I bought for my children wondering what I was going to do with my childless life. Well, I figured, I wasn't staying here. So I started to pack. 

I started with the nursery. We hadn't bought a crib or anything, but I did have a wall lined with bookshelves where I had unpacked a lot of my kids books and stuffed animals. I didn't need any of it, but I also couldn't let it go. It all went into boxes.

The boxes piled up around the house for the rest of 2015. Everything was being packed. 

In 2016 it all went into storage. What was I going to do with a bunch of onesies? I didn't know, but I couldn't deal with it at the time. So everything went into a box.

In 2018 I moved everything from storage in one state to storage in another state. I still wanted my stuff, but everything from a four-bedroom house was not going to fit in a one-bedroom apartment. Then I kept moving each year, trying to find my landing spot for the rest of my life.

Last year I bought my house. Then it still took a whole additional year to deal with/coordinate my move out of storage. It hasn't even been a month, but I still feel like I haven't really felt the accomplishment that moving out of storage is after failed IVF and throwing everything in boxes.

I'm glad my stuff is here. I'm glad I get to go through it and decide what I want to keep.

It's also overwhelming.

What do I do with all of the onesies I bought from my undergraduate university?
What do I do with my textbooks about teaching kids how to read? 
What in the world do I do with my 20 boxes of kids books?

It's a lot to be confronted with the entirety of one's life.

Oh, you had plans to have kids? Too bad.
Oh, you were a teacher (and a good one at that) but can no longer afford to be one? I'm sorry.
Oh, you were going to decorate a big house but now need to downsize? First world problems.

And it's true. Having too much stuff is a first world problem. I acknowledge my privilege and am thankful for my life. But I still get to grieve my failed plans. And I still have to figure out what to do with all this stuff.

Why wasn't I expecting an emotional reaction? I mean, this is *me* we are talking about... I have an emotional response to most everything. But, I admit, I was not prepared. This adventure in unpacking has taken me by surprise.

So I'm doing it in small chunks. I'm reminding myself that I'm on my own timeline. Yes, I want to get rid of all these boxes. And I will. In my own time.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Full Heart, Empty Arms

A couple of weeks ago, I held a baby. It was on accident. But it still happened.

It began with me playing with a baby. After our last trip moving out of the storage unit, my boyfriend and I stopped by his parents' house to visit while they were babysitting his sister's youngest. I thought, oh hell, why not... Then I jumped in and started playing. 

I love to play. I never forgot how. I can play with all ages, levels, and abilities. Well, until they start playing video games... That's my exit point. I hate video games.

But back to playing with this 15 month old... He was fun. He was cute. He was easy. We played with Hot Wheels and some Legos and a jack-in-the-box toy with Curious George. 

My boyfriend's dad walked by and, not knowing that I do NOT hold babies, picked the kid up and placed him in my lap.

And that's how I ended up holding a baby for the first time in over 8 years.

It was okay. I don't necessarily recommend it. I probably won't do it again. Not voluntarily anyway.

It's not that I don't like to hold babies. It's just that my arms feel so empty afterward.

I know my own kids would be grown by now and I wouldn't be holding them. But I would have all those memories and lots of pictures to comfort me. Plus, I'd be their mom. They would still come crying to me with their problems and I could hold them then, no matter their age. (Well, they probably would... We all know that nothing is guaranteed.)

I held a baby. I didn't hate it. I didn't cry afterward. It would have been fine if I had, but I didn't.

Just another small miracle in this CNBC life that I'm living...