what to do when you don’t know what to do with anger

I’ve been grappling with anger lately.

Over the last year I’ve noticed that I spend more and more time agitated and disappointed and feeling hurt by others. I often harbor feelings of anger that seep into my chest and seize me and can’t be shaken off. I find myself awake at night, with a loop of angry thoughts in my head, having imaginary fights. My heart rate increases, the pit in my stomach makes me nauseous. I want them to know, how they’ve let me down, how poorly they’ve behaved. I want them to know how much I hurt. But I don’t tell them, I just lay awake, angry and agitated.

None of this makes me feel good. I don’t feel like a good person or my best self sheltering those feelings. It doesn’t make me feel like the person I want to be. It doesn’t make me proud. It weighs me down, cripples me, impeding my path to lightness and balance.

I’ve always been sensitive, easily hurt, and often disappointed, but this feels new. This level of heaviness and fervor. It feels like too much, and more than I want to carry.

I want to release it all.

So I brought it to my therapist. After my rants, I pleaded with her. How do I let this all go? How do I stop being so affected by others? How do I stop caring what they do and what they don’t do? How do I forgive?

As we broke it down, I realized the anger I was feeling was only directed towards people that know about our struggles of the last two years, know about our losses, and know about the profound effect it’s had on us. But they are the ones that didn’t come through.

The ones that didn’t provide the right kind of comfort, never said the right things, and left us alone in our pain, grief, and isolation.They are the ones that don’t understand how deep this goes. They are the ones that act like life just goes on. They are the ones that said thoughtless things.

I don’t want to have to feel bad about being pregnant around you. Just relax, that’s what I did, look at all my kids! You miscarried because you are too skinny. You miscarried because you are too stressed. Don’t be upset about your miscarriage, it’ll happen, just stop thinking about it.

And then there are the ones that stayed quiet. And continue to stay quiet.

I feel angry at them because I have been hurt by them.

But my therapist and I started to dissect further. Why was it affecting me so much? I have such a huge network of love and support. I have so many people that never let me down. That listen, and try to understand even if they haven’t been through it. That never forget that no matter my smile, no matter my laugh, I’m always carrying a bit of pain inside. And I know, that this kind of loss is not easy to understand if you’ve never experienced it. I know that there’s really no way to understand. 

But eventually I realized the paradox. I have all this anger because I’ve never allowed myself to be angry about our actual miscarriages.

I’ve felt sadness, pain, grief, and loss, but never anger. Subconsciously, I didn’t think I was allowed to be angry. If I get angry at the universe, and start screaming, why me, that means I’m just throwing a pity party for myself. That means I’m not grateful for everything I have. If I get angry that I continue to have to fight so hard for everything I want in life, I’m ignoring all the things that I’ve been given easily.  If I get angry that means I think my struggle is worse than someone else’s struggle. If I allow myself to be angry, what will that do, besides create a pattern of negative, bitter thinking?

Underneath the surface, this is what I thought. And there is truth to it, if you hold on to the anger for too long, you will allow it to permeate, fester, and grip you, making it harder and harder to release and move on. Making bitterness and cynicism a default.

But when something happens to you that sucks, something that’s not your fault, that’s random and throws your world upside down, it’s ok to be angry. My therapist let me know I can be angry about one thing, while still grateful for all the other things. I can be angry without discounting all that I’ve been given. They can co-exist.

I’m a gentle soul with a soft personality, and exploding with anger does not come easily to me. Expressing anger does not come easily to me.

But harboring anger does.

So instead of expressing my anger over our losses, I found targets to direct my anger at, silently and secretly. Easy targets, since I already felt let down by them. But I allowed the anger to grow out of proportion to the slights. I let my anger towards them consume me. I let it dictate my day, my emotional balance, my wellness.

So now I need to go backwards. I need to go back to our two losses, the sweet angel we lost in July 2013, and the sweet angel sibling we lost in December 2013, and I need to allow myself to get mad. It’s not easy for me, when I try to access that I anger I get blocked, like I’m in a dense forest that I can’t get through, and the only thing I can find is the anger I feel at those that didn’t understand, who left us alone. It jumps in front and impedes the true reason for my anger.

But I need to keep trying. I need to get mad.

Get mad so that I can release it, and let it go.

Get mad so that I can feel forgiveness and compassion towards those who have let me down.

Get mad so that I can feel gratitude for all of my loved ones who have chosen empathy, who felt my pain with me so that I wouldn’t have to feel it alone.

So here it goes.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that I lost two babies, two babies that I loved so dearly and wanted more than anything to watch grow up and love and cherish the person they would become.

I’m angry that I have had this joyous rite of passage to motherhood ripped from me, trampled on, and gutted so that it will never resemble what I felt so briefly after that first positive test.

I’m angry that two of the closest women in my life shared my due dates and are now mothers to beautiful babies, while my womb and arms are still empty.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have made me feel like I am not deserving of motherhood.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have taken a toll on my self-esteem, my self-worth, and my confidence.

I’m angry that our once easy and innocent marriage has had to undergo strain, and that now we have to work so hard to stay united and not let the stress of this struggle destroy us.

I’m angry that I have to feel pain with every pregnancy announcement.

I’m angry that we are pressured to stay quiet about our losses. That so many don’t perceive them as real loss.

I’m angry that miscarriage and infertility have controlled our life for almost two years. Causing my career to suffer. Forcing us to always live with uncertainty.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have caused a tear in some of my friendships. The friends that are moms who don’t know what to say. Who look at me with pity and discomfort.

I’m angry that I have to carry this pain, day after day.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have caused so much suffering, for me, for my husband, for my family.

I’m angry for all the other women out there that suffer in this way too.

It’s time for me to work through this anger, the real reason for my anger, and the real reason for my suffering. When I get fixated on how much I’ve been hurt by people, I can remember, it’s not about them. I haven’t been hurt by people, I’ve been hurt by miscarriage. And even though I haven’t completely healed, I am getting there, little by little. And soon, I can release. Pain, hurt, anger. Because this too, shall pass.

please be kind to me, 34

I turned 34 yesterday.

Starting about a month ago, I couldn’t think about my birthday without crying. My feelings of failure around my lack of a baby got punctuated and emphasized by my impending birthday. Turning 34 meant I officially failed to reproduce at 33. And turning 34 meant there were no more birthdays between me and 35.

So I spent last week in misery. I dwelled in every negative thought, I gave in to every self-indulgent bitter emotion. I didn’t feel like smiling or laughing. I let myself feel agitated and unhappy. I had a hard time relating to everyone around me, including my husband. And I gave up even trying to pull myself out of it.

But I actually needed a week like that. I needed to let go of my constant pep-talk-positive-cheerleading that keeps me going day after day for a short while. I needed to get out as much negativity as I could.

Because better to leave it all with 33.

Because then I was ready to have a fabulous weekend turning 34.

My brother and his wife hosted a beautiful birthday for me on Friday night. My cousin and his wife came, and they created a fabulous spread of hors d’oeuvres, with bacon-wrapped pears, sausages, fancy cheeses, and caprese skewers.  For dinner we ordered from a trendy Venice restaurant, and ate salad with Tuscan kale, shaved fennel, radish, and ricotta, and feasted on braised pork meatballs and pizzas with chorizo and lamb sausage.

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beautiful table setting and beautiful food!

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guess what i wished for?!

On Saturday, my mom flew in from Austin and we went straight to Disneyland! My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew joined us along with my good friend, my godmother and her boyfriend. We spent a crazy day trying to navigate the park with half the group only wanting to go on mellow rides, and the other half (myself included!) wanting to do only fast ones. All in all it was a beautiful day, full of silliness and fun.

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never too old for a mickey cake!

On Sunday morning, my husband and I got up early and drove to Long Beach to do the Walk of Hope, hosted by RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. We were able to raise over $1100 and were the third highest fundraising team. I received a special thank you from the Director for our fund-raising efforts. It was a beautiful morning, and I felt overwhelmed with emotions to be in this group of people who understood this pain so well. It felt fitting to be a part of this event on the last day of my 33rd year, a year so wrought with struggle, and I hope symbolically it breathes positivity and a new outlook to 34.

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representing my blog and my angels.

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the beautiful 1 mile walk through the beach.

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they gave out free pregnancy tests!

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On Monday, my actual birthday, my mom and I spent the day together. We did a little window shopping and then indulged in a long, leisurely lunch at a gorgeous West Hollywood restuarant. The lunch was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had, and the day was one of the more special days I’ve had in a while.

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loving the time spent with my mom.

And then of course when my husband got home from work he spoiled me with gifts and took me out to dinner. We drank a bottle of wine, took our time, ate a ton of food, and talked about every fun thing we could think of.

My birthday this year was one of more perfect birthdays I’ve had. I know my family put extra effort into it, knowing the year I just faced. I needed the fun and the distraction to remember how lucky I am in life. I needed such a busy whirlwind weekend to snap me out of a deep funk that I had slipped into. I needed a fun birthday weekend to make myself feel like everything is going to be ok.

But I still will plead….please be kind to me, 34.

a time for gratitude

In the face of something difficult we need to remind ourselves more than ever of what we’re thankful for. On a daily basis I play that mental game of trying to put things in perspective, realizing all the ways I’ve had it easy and luck has gone my way. Trying more than ever to stay present and find joy in the small things.

My husband is a strategy consultant. He works for a firm that gets hired by large Fortune 500 companies all over the world to come fix problems. Almost every Monday he gets on an airplane and flies to whatever company he is working for. And then returns late on Thursday night. 

It’s a tough lifestyle, for both us. As newlyweds, we’ve spent 4 days apart a week for two years. I hated having him gone, and during the bumps we encountered this past year it made it even harder. 

He’s finally ready to leave. All the travel he had to do post-miscarriages, when we needed each other the most, starting to create a bit of resentment towards his line of work. And so we decided to do a Los Angeles stay-cation, where he can take a break, avoid airports, and start contemplating his next career move. A stay-cation where we sleep in our own bed, take long walks around our sunny neighborhood, slowly sip our morning coffee and tea, and explore the parks, hikes, and beaches we’ve never been to.

And with this, I decided to do a gratitude post. Time to slow down, take our time, grasp each other tightly and bathe in simple pleasures.

We started the week with a day walking around the ocean front in Santa Monica with our dog, sipping Boba, our favorite treat. The weather so perfect you hardly notice it, with a crisp sunshine and breeze. We sat in the grass, played with our dog, and talked about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place.

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We hiked our favorite hike, in the mountains near our home. As we settled into the field at the edge of the hike to have a picnic, we were suddenly joined by a van full of inmates, from some nearby prison. I got excited and tried to pretend I was in Orange is the New Black.

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We did a day trip to Laguna Beach. We started the day with a hike at Crystal Cove, followed by a long lunch and a few glasses of wine (my consolation prize after my BFN a few days prior).  We walked along the beaches and drove through the neighborhoods, wondering as we always do when we explore neighborhoods what it would be like to live here and whether we would be happy.

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We started creating rituals for ourselves, rituals that could never happen in our normal life because of my husband’s long hours. We would hike in the morning and then pick up Boba, from Urth Cafe. On the days we didn’t hike, we had long, leisurely breakfasts, with organic eggs, fruit, greek yogurt and tea. In the evening, we had happy hour outside, with an elaborate cheese plate, and a fun cocktail (with or without alcohol depending on the cycle day) .

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We spent days at the beach, and then caught up with friends over dinner. The stress of our fertility struggle sometimes causes us to isolate and miss seeing friends. It felt good to connect, to laugh, and be in the moment.

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In the midst of this vacation, my husband was approached by Disney for an opportunity in their global business development group. My husband spent a day with them at the office, interviewing and trying to decide if this was the right opportunity for him. This was followed by further courtship attempts and a night out at Disneyland, where the two SVPs and their wives took us to dinner to convince my husband to join the group. After dinner we got to cut the lines at a few of my favorite rides – Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and Soaring Over California. Going on fast rides leaves a perma-smile on my face, and despite the wobbly legs it felt so good to just freak out and laugh on these rides. Walking around Disneyland was bittersweet, with all the children running around us. I thought about our future children, and how much fun they’ll have to have a dad who works for Disney. It made me happy and excited, but also made my heart ache and long for them.

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My husband’s official offer from Disney came on the same day as our negative test. I tried to soothe myself by acknowledging that the offer symbolizes change and that everything will be okay. My husband had a brutal last six months at his job, and it felt like we’d never get to the other side of it. But then his dream job showed up, unexpectedly. It could change so much for us. He won’t be traveling as much. His work-life balance will much better. And he’s building a career that will create endless fun for our children. The children that I have to keep telling myself will come.

Change does happen. And I have so much to be grateful for.

“rarely does an empathic response begin with ‘at least'”

I love this short video which talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy:

 

This video made me think a lot about the way we comfort people, about our instinct to want to make things better, and about the way we want to be comforted. The line that sticks out to me the most is “Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with “at least.” 

Since watching this video, I’ve tried to slash the phrase “at least” from my vocabulary when I’m trying to be an empathetic ear. It’s made me realize just how much I use it.

I know what the intent is when using this phrase. It’s meant to help reframe a situation for a person so that it doesn’t seem as terrible. Help find the silver lining. Make it hurt less. Tell them it’s not that bad so they don’t feel bad. And in some circumstances, that can be helpful.

But most of the time, it’s just alienating. What I hear is, “your situation isn’t that bad, you probably shouldn’t be this upset.” And that makes the feelings I do have feel invalidated. And that creates distance between me and the person trying to comfort me. 

I also love the way the narrator describes what empathy is. How in order to really initiate an empathetic response you have to become vulnerable – vulnerable by finding a place within yourself that allows you to connect to what the other person is experiencing. This place can be uncomfortable. It can be a place you don’t particularly want to be in. But you go there so your friend is not alone.

Sympathy doesn’t go there. Sympathy is pity; it’s distancing and doesn’t require a vulnerable response. Because I’ve been somewhat open among the people around me about our miscarriages and what this experience has been like, I’ve often worried that people are feeling sorry for me. It’s funny how much I really want people to understand how hard and devastating this struggle is, but I don’t want any pity. It’s the empathy I crave.

I’ve learned a lot though my experience with repeat pregnancy loss. About what the soul needs in time of distress; about what I need from other people, and in turn what I should give to others should the situation be reversed. About empathy. About opening up about your private struggles, and what that means. About how to feel difficult feelings rather than run from them, and how to let them pass. About how to summon strength when you need it most. About how to be vulnerable.

And like the narrator says, rarely can a response make some thing better. What we really need to help us through is connection.

Voice: Dr Brené Brown
Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com

Watch Dr Brené Brown’s full talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXSjc-pbXk4
Find out more about the RSAhttp://www.thersa.org