I have long thought of myself as a strong, resilient person. Ever since age 17, when I first started college, I have been financially self-supporting, paying all my own bills including school-related expenses. I only lived with my parents occasionally during college, and since age 20, I have always lived on my own. No one has given me an allowance, or a bail-out, even when I desperately needed it.
In addition to supporting myself, I have dealt with many, many changes in my life. I have been through more break-ups with men than I care to think about now (having not married until I was 37) and have lost friends for various reasons, too. I moved frequently throughout my 20s, by my choice and by necessity. I went to law school when I was 30. I've had several different professional jobs and two separate and distinct professional careers. I have had to adjust to many new people and new situations.
At times when people like doctors or counselors have asked me if I am under a lot of stress, I have had to chuckle to myself. What is "a lot" of stress? With working as a hospital nurse, moving frequently, attending law school and then being a lawyer, and everything else I've done as an adult, I cannot recall a time when I didn't have what most people would likely consider a lot of stress. Being under a lot of stress is a normal condition for me, and I think I generally handle it better than the average person. At this point, I'm not even sure how I would feel if I didn't have a lot of stress.
One thing I have observed about myself during times of stress, though, is that I seem to do OK as long as only one area of my life is causing me problems. For example, if work is very busy and demanding, I can handle it so long as my personal life is going smoothly. Or when I was single and not dealing with man-related drama, I was able get clear in my head about a career change and how to make that happen. Or when I was going through a break-up, I would do pretty well as long as work was status quo and I could rely on my friends for support.
Since we have been dealing with infertility for the past 20 months, I have been fortunate in that most other things in my life have been going fine. My marriage is good, apart from the (unavoidable) strain caused by our inability to have a baby. For the most part, all of my relationships have been going well. Until recently, work was no more stressful than usual, most of the time.
Now that I am dealing with the possibility of losing my job and a decreased workload which is affecting my earnings, all due to the bad economy, I am finding myself less equipped to deal with the stress of this situation than I used to be. I think the reason is that I feel I am now fighting a battle on many fronts, and that is something at which I am not adept.
Also, infertility has shaken my confidence in myself and my faith in the idea that eventually things will come out right if I just keep working hard and moving forward. I am finding that I feel less optimistic and more beaten down than I can recall feeling in a long time. Normally I would look on my current situation at work as an opportunity to make a change which might turn out to be for the better, and while I say that to people who ask me about my future career plans, I don't feel it.
Instead, for the first time since before I finished college, I feel ill-equipped to deal with the challenge of finding another position. I feel like a failure. I no longer feel that if I work hard and do the "right" things, I will eventually be successful. I desperately need to focus my energy and efforts on some endeavor in which I know I can be successful. . . . but at this point, I cannot even imagine what that might be.
Going back and seeing many old friends this weekend was bittersweet. It was, and always is, great to see people who knew me as a young woman and to find out how they are doing and how life is going for them. I always enjoy a walk down Memory Lane when the memories are good ones, and the memories evoked by these people are some of my best.
At the same time, to an extent, I felt like a failure and a fraud. I felt like a failure because nearly everyone my age, and even younger, has succeeded in building the family life that she wanted. . . .everyone but me. At this point, I think some of the people I saw think I am a "career woman" who doesn't want children. I do consider myself a career woman, but I had always hoped to be a mother, too.
I felt like a fraud because most of these people perceive me as being successful, and I do not feel successful currently. Not at all. Yes, I am "finally" married after many years of singlehood, but I still haven't had a child of my own. . . . and it is looking more all the time like I never will. Yes, I have an advanced degree and have had two professional careers, yet in spite of this, I now live in fear of becoming involuntarily unemployed at any time. Hell, I haven't even managed to get my weight under control.
So if you have gotten this far, you have probably gathered that, in spite of my weekend away (which I did thoroughly enjoy, except for yesterday's migraine which ruined my afternoon and made flying home torture), my pity party continues.