Why can’t you just be happy for her?
Why can’t you just be grateful for everything you already have?
Why can’t you just put on your big girl pants and go to that baby shower?
Why can’t you just…
Why can’t you just…
WHY CAN’T YOU JUST…
When going through infertility, every other thought I had began with the phrase, “Why can’t you just…”
Any time I was feeling sorry for myself or jealous or bitter, this nagging judgmental voice would pop up and make me feel even worse about myself. Not only was my body defective, but I was also a petty, trash person who was incapable of feeling joy or gratitude. I didn’t deserve to be a mom…
See how quickly things escalated there?
My train of thought would go from, “Wow. Another pregnancy announcement…wait, didn’t she JUST get married? Why did it come so easily for her? Why is it so hard for me? Ugh. Why can’t you just be happy for her? She’s a good person. She’s your friend. You should be happy for what you already have…you have so much, you selfish b—. Stop feeling sorry for yourself…”
Etc. for another 40 minutes…
You see, things in my brain have a nasty habit of escalating veryyyyy quickly. The psychological term for this is called catastrophizing (although my husband and I lovingly refer to it as “tornadoing”) and it isn’t just unhelpful, it’s emotionally derailing. It can knock you off your butt. Change your plans. Force you to hide under covers and ignite a multi-day shame hangover.
I’m tired just talking about it.
So how do you talk yourself off the ledge when you’re catastrophizing?
Caveat: This does NOT come naturally to me, but over time I’ve found a few tricks I can remember to pull out when I’m facing one of these “tornado” moments.
Stop judging your feelings. Jealousy is an incredibly normal human emotion. Just about everyone experiences jealousy in one way or another (although some of us are more prone to this green monster than others). It’s ok to experience a feeling and then let it go. So instead of your internal monologue saying “Why are you feeling that way? Why can’t you be happy for her?” try saying, “Hm. I’m feeling jealous right now. That’s interesting. Hm. Ok, now what should I go do?” See how the second option isn’t judgmental. It simply acknowledges the feeling, sitting with it and then moving on. Remember, you’re human. Everyone has these feelings; you’re not a bad person.
Get active. Go for a bike ride or take the dog for a walk. Sometimes physically moving can help reduce anxiety. It gives you an outlet for all that pent up energy and can also serve as a good distraction by getting you out of your head and into the moment.
Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend. If your best friend told you that she was sad because her IVF transfer didn’t work, you wouldn’t say, “Why can’t you just be happy for what you already have?” You’d probably say, “Ohmigosh, I am so sorry you are going through that loss. How gutting. Are you ok? How can I help?” For some reason, we are SO mean to ourselves. Try talking to yourself the way you’d talk to a good friend or family member. Comfort yourself. Give yourself a hug. This takes practice, for sure, but it’s a really important skill and something you just have to keep working on.
Go to sleep. Ok…I know, I know…this isn’t an option if your shame spiral is swirling while you’re sitting at work at 2:30 on a Tuesday, but for me, most of my catastrophizing comes at night…when I’m scrolling through Facebook and maybe already feeling vulnerable and down…so go to sleep. Turn off your phone and snuggle under those covers. You’ll feel better in the morning.
How do you move past these TTC-related shame-spirals? What are your tips?