Sunday, June 6, 2010

Self-Sabotaging for Self-Preservation

I texted these words to someone today (you know who you are), and decided to write a post about it because I think it is (or becomes) a VERY big part of the infertility AND miscarriage journey for most people.

That is self-sabotaging, or the conscious or subconscious decision to sabotage a cycle in order to preserve yourself the heartache and pain of another failed cycle or miscarriage.

Now, I'm not saying every infertile and subfertile woman does this. But I suspect that on some level, we all do - perhaps only after we've reached that boundary where hope meets sanity, and we have to choose what's more important to us at that moment.

Here are some ways in which self-sabotaging for self-preservation has displayed itself in my own infertility journey:

Often, on the most important day DH and I are due for relations, I will start saying hateful things to him, which causes a ripple effect. First, it makes him unable to perform (and unwilling, can you blame him?), which then leads to me getting angry at him, and finally me crying about all the "money wasted" on the cycle because we just threw it all away.

A lovely picture, right?
Here's another one:

Holy Week, I had what I thought was a message from God telling me my Easter was near. I was already in the post-Peak phase of the cycle. I was either already pregnant or I wasn't. 2 days later I discontinue my T3 thyroid medication, instead of waiting until the beginning of the next cycle. WTH was I thinking?

Well, here's my psychological interpretation of it:

If I can in some way blame yet another failed cycle on the fact that I didn't utilize the fertile days, or my medication protocol was not exactly what it should have been, rather than on my broken body, I will not only feel so much better about myself, but I will be able to maintain the false sense of hope that things may work out better next time when all the ducks are in a row.

I say a false sense of hope because if one really sits and thinks too long about it, they'd realize that there have already been DOZENS of previous cycles where everything went perfectly, and the cycle still failed and/or a miscarriage still occurred. And then the entire debate of self-sabotaging becomes obsolete.

But I do think this self-sabotaging occurs, maybe more than we even realized, and maybe more subconsiously than consciously.

For me, I have noticed that it happens much more frequently in the cycles AFTER I have seen a new Dr and tried their protocol to no avail. For me, these are the absolute worst times, because you see and read about others going to the same Drs, traveling from all over the world to do so, and having these incredible successes ("I have no fallopian tubes, 1 ovary, half a uterus, Cushing's Disease, Hashimoto's Disease, Celiac Disease, and my husband has one testicle and is paralyzed from the waist down, and one cycle on Dr So-and-So's protocol, and BAM, I was pregnant for the first time ever at 57 years old!!") and it seriously makes you feel like THE MOST BARREN woman on the planet.

(Note to the language police: I used the word "feel" in the sentence with the word "barren." Yes, I know I am not barren, I am infertile. The two are not synonymous. But walk a day in my shoes and you won't be able to tell the difference anymore.)

So, after trying out a "New Sensation" Dr's protocol for several months or even a year or more, and getting NO better results (pregnancy or sustained pregnancy), you could imagine it would make people want to sabotage their own cycles in the future to avoid death by self-inflicted wounds.

This may be something to keep in mind when speaking with a fellow infertile/subfertile, too. I know I am just as guilty as the next person at offering advice when I see someone going through what I am going through or what I have gone through. Heck, guilty isn't even the appropriate word here, because I think offering support and advice is a good thing not only for the person on the receiving end, but (maybe mostly) for the person on the giving end. It gives their struggle purpose. Ever hear the phrase we learn from our mistakes? Well, how much more could we learn from our own PLUS our friends' mistakes? And additionally we can learn from their gains.

BUT, when someone is resistant to accept our advice, our first response may be one of confusion, or we may be offended. "Why don't they just give this a try, it worked for me?" Maybe, just maybe, the reason is because they have tried so many things already, and each time have had the "promise" of a different result, hence lifting their spirits and hopes WAY up... only to fall deeper and deeper into despair.

Imagine this. You are climbing a very tall rock wall, one of those indoor kinds, except you are not given the option of a harness. So you begin on the first path upwards. 3 feet away from the top, there are suddenly no footholds on the wall, and you have no other choice but to let go and fall to the ground. Then you start the next path. Same outcome. You are hesitant to keep trying different paths, for fear of more pain from the steep fall, but you have heard that several people have reached the top on the 3rd and 4th and 5th paths... so you try them all. But you get within 3 feet of the top and each time, you run out of footholds and fall to the ground.
This would quickly start to get old, right?

Now imagine a friend approaches you and says, "Sally," (all my friends call me Sally, what, yours don't?) "you just HAVE to try path #47. It lead ME to the top, it lead Nancy to the top, and it lead Gertrude to the top after she had given up and adopted!" (Haha, just thought I'd throw that in there for good cringe-effect.)

Wouldn't you be a little hesitant to throw your climbing shoes on and jump right into path #47??

Because, what if there are only 50 paths on this wall? What happens if you reach #50 and still do not reach the top?


Faith makes things possible said...

I'm glad you found my blog. I guess I have been following your for awhile but am slowly pushing myself to actually comment! :)

I read your history...I'm sure at times it seems exhausting to look back at, it does for me and you have another year on us!

Anyways, I wanted to say that I had never really thought about this whole "self-sabotaging for self preservation" thing. Looking back at some months, I know that I did this. It's definitely a form of self defense at times.

Thanks for sharing this. Although it's something that I have never put a name to, it's something I am definitely guilty of!

Also, I love your analogy about climbing the rock wall. SOOOO amazingly put.

Suzie-Q T-Pie said...

Wonderfull post! I think most of us have all had this happen a time or two, or more? There just comes a point where you don't want to fail anymore, so you dont do the right things and then blame it on something else. I have done this several times myself.

barbie said...

the rock wall is a PERFECT pictured painted. I've tried to think of something that would explain it and you've done it here. As always you put into words what I think but cannot express.

God Bless you.

C said...

I've done this...many times...and the more I think about it the more I'm pretty sure my husband has done it also. It's easier to fail because I know I'm going to fail rather than fail when I have hope because I'm trying xy&z this cycle.

Good luck to you and God Bless.

expatbarrenness said...

I am not sure that I can directly relate to this, not having a shot during cycles, but I've probably done it in other areas of my life and you describe it well.
the wall, however, is very much part of my life at the moment - a great metaphor.

Lauren @ Magnify the Lord with Me said...

Thank you!!!

I have never put this into words before- just wondered what the heck just happened here???

This will require some pondering...

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

You put things into such an easy to understand message. The rock wall analogy is perfect-what worked for you may not work for me and that's just the way it is unfortunately. And you're exactly right that giving advice makes IF "worth it". Whether the advice is warranted or not. Thanks for this post.

[email protected] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
[email protected] said...

This makes perfect sense. Really well stated.

(And, the part about the "couple" with Hashimoto's disease and one testicle was genius comedy.)

... said...

I could take this analogy and run with it further, but won’t hijack. You make very good points.

mrsblondies said...

Great analogy. You always have such a great way of explaining things. I've done the self-sabotage thing before, although it's really hard to recognize it and stop it.

P.S. I really like your note for your comment box.

Hebrews 11:1 said...

I think you are absolutely right--I would bet we have all done this at some point. For example, my DH wants to start trying over the next 6 months or so, and I should be excited about that, right? No way. It surprised me how much I was against the idea. But it didn't take me long to figure out that the reason I didn't want to was because I don't want to deal with the inevitable disappointment of all those BFNs.

Sew said...

You are hilarious! I'm known to do that on more then a few cycles....It's just so hard to maintain preserverence....

I would notice too that when it was time for scheduled coitus, we would start to fight, his work phone would ring right on cue, or the desire was about as much as having to pick up cow dung.

There were many times too where we would start out strong, well for two days and then not for the rest of the month. ;)

Great post!

alliemich said...

TCIE...rock wall, great example. I now what you mean about self sabotaging, I wonder if that is what I am doing this month. I told dh last night, not sure if ready this month. I wonder though I just not ready for a possible heartache again? Thanks for the insight :)

Rachael said...

Oh, I have SO done the 'self sabataging' thing... You put this all so well. As someone who has struggled with IF for over 8 years, I feel your pain. And, similar to you, it seems as though everyone around me is pregnant (esp. all in my family!). I really admire you, TCIE.

the misfit said...

I do the fight-picking self-sabotaging - I thought it was just because I was pre-grieving what I knew would be another loss. Maybe it's both. Also:

("I have no fallopian tubes, 1 ovary, half a uterus, Cushing's Disease, Hashimoto's Disease, Celiac Disease, and my husband has one testicle and is paralyzed from the waist down, and one cycle on Dr So-and-So's protocol, and BAM, I was pregnant for the first time ever at 57 years old!!"

I think I know dozens of these people. Possibly I am paranoid?

Cecilia said...

Ab.So.Lute.Ly. I can completely relate to this. The conscious and subconscious fights on "fertile" days. (The need to snort and put "fertile" in quotation marks anytime I use it in reference to myself.) The option to plan a work trip around said days and deliberately choosing to travel during the "fertile" days b/c I should be past the delusion that it's going to matter anyway. Doing absolutely nothing for 6 months so that it's not another FULL year of failure on my dubious resume.

BTW: I laughed so hard at the description of the fertility challenged people who hand out advice after success. I always joke about the couple w/ half an ovary, and one deformed sperm who just KNOW that if they can procreate, well "so can you!!" Right. And now I feel like the biggest loser on the planet, so thanks for that. I know, I know. They mean well. lol.