Reading the articles today about miscarriage triggering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in some people has got me thinking back to my own recurrent experience of miscarriage.
Losing 7 babies makes me a prime target for PTSD. I don’t think I suffered from it, but equally I’d never have thought to go and speak to my GP about it either. I didn’t know it could be triggered by miscarriage. Instead, as Anita Rani said in her post today, I just kept ‘sucking it up’, time and time again. I’M NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT ANYONE SHOULD DO – NO WAY!! But this is what I did at the time. I didn’t know any better back then.
During the turbulent time of my 6 early miscarriages, this is what I did:
I tried to cope on my own. I shut myself off emotionally. I was told all those awful things like ‘it wasn’t even a baby yet’, ‘what about so-and-so who lost their baby at 9 months, how much worse was that?’, ‘at least it was early’ and ‘you can just try again’. These words were coming out of the mouths of people I loved, so I had two choices:
1) to believe what they were saying and deny myself the grief and pain I was feeling or
2) stop telling them about my miscarriages so I didn’t have to keep hearing the crap they were feeding me.
I chose the latter. I stopped telling people about my miscarriages. I closed the door to them, just like I felt they were doing to me every time they said a thoughtless comment.
My home was my sanctuary. Whenever I left my front door, I was at the mercy of other people. At work, at a family function, at the temple, at a social gathering. It was only a matter of time before someone slapped me across the face with a comment such as ‘how long have you been married now? Don’t you want children?’ or I’d be told of so-and-so who’s pregnant again or I’d hear a colleague complaining about being pregnant and not realising until she was 4 months gone. I had no control over any of this.
Given that this happened so frequently, I’m surprised at how every time felt like the first time, the first punch in the stomach, the first lump in my throat not knowing how to respond. So home was my only place of safety where I wouldn’t be subjected to this unwelcome assault on my emotions.
I avoided large gatherings. Every time we were invited to an event, I felt dread brewing in my stomach. For all the reasons above, I knew someone would say something and I would be left to pick myself up afterwards, while they went about their business completely oblivious to what they had done to me. So, eventually I began to avoid certain gatherings. I couldn’t deal with it. And while I also couldn’t deal with the judgement of others, the comments of ‘why aren’t you coming?’, ‘just come for a bit’, ‘you never come to anything anymore’, ‘stop being so boring’ – it was easier to deal with that than the emotional reconstruction that was necessary after attending these events.
But in doing this, I closed myself up even more to the people around me. I told myself I was better off dealing with it all on my own because no one around me got it anyway and they actually just made everything ten times worse.
My support network was literally just my husband. For all of the combined reasons above, the only person I chose to confide in, be completely real with and expose all my vulnerabilities to was my husband. I felt like he was the only other person in the world who ‘got it’. And while I’m so grateful to have had his support and we lent on each other through these really difficult times, I look back and think this could have completely backfired.
When you shut out the world and just lean on one particular person, you can put a strain on your relationship. You can turn a spouse into a counsellor, when that was never the role they entered into. It can be damaging. It can break a relationship. I’m so thankful this didn’t happen to us, but I can completely see how this can happen.
My silence was a breeding ground for anxiety. Every time I got pregnant, the only person I could tell was my husband. Every time I had a twinge that felt like the last miscarriage, I started a ‘worry spiral’ in my mind that everyone else was oblivious to because I still had to ‘act normal’. Every time I went to the loo, I’d dread looking at the toilet paper in case there was a slight tinge of pink blood. Every time I lost another pregnancy, I felt like the hole inside me grew that little bit more. The emotional distance from my loved ones increased that little bit more.
I felt alone. 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage. So where the hell were those 1 in 4? Why did I never meet one? Where were they hiding? I couldn’t understand why the statistics made me feel like I was not alone, but the reality was quite the opposite.
Maybe these women were hiding in the same place I was – coping alone, staying safe in their home, avoiding large gatherings, with little/no support – their silence a breeding ground for their anxiety.
I silenced my own needs to protect those around me
I’m in tears writing this because at the time I just ‘sucked it up’ and did all of the above to keep pushing forward and get through miscarriage after miscarriage. It’s like the above just happened instinctively, with no thought, my guard was up, my walls were up, my silence and emotional distance keeping me safe.
But now when I look back on it all I realise I was so so so wrong. I wasn’t protecting myself, I was protecting everyone else from having to see real hurt, pain, grief and longing. I silenced my own needs to protect those around me. And it served me in no way whatsoever. And the thought that there are other women (and men) out there doing the exact same thing is what breaks my heart. No one should EVER have to carry this weight on their own.
Breaking my silence was the route to healing
Starting my blog after I lost my 7th baby, Jiya, was the change I made. I spoke up. I didn’t try to cope on my own. I didn’t hide myself away to protect others. I saw a counsellor. I talked. I found a network of other women who ‘got me’. Strangers who were emotionally closer to me than people I’d known all my life. I wasn’t alone. I was supported. I was understood. I was welcomed. My grief was welcomed. I was cared for. And I finally found my voice, my acceptance and my healing. All triggered by me, breaking my silence.
If you are suffering in silence, please know it doesn’t have to be that way. Reach out, to someone you trust. Reach out, to me. I’m here. In the ways I wish someone was there for me when I was where you are now, I am here. I will always be here. Reach out. Please.
* If you know someone who needs to hear this or you suspect someone is suffering in silence, share this post with them, post it to your social media, do something to get this in front of them. This may be the most life changing thing you do today.