Earlier this year I was down hearted about many aspects of my life, and these feelings carried through over the following months. Minerva had died, my trip to Thailand was over, and new health issues had arisen. In October it was ten years since Kirby and I met and where we are now, with no children, is not what we expected when we first met. My self-talk told me I was not good enough – I don’t have a nine to five job, I couldn’t have children, I have stupid health issues that require numerous appointments with doctors and specialists, I couldn’t even keep our house clean and tidy as I thought it should always be, and Kirby could have done so much better than me.
I was a failure, failure, failure.
In Australia we have a great program where if your mental health is not good you can go to a general practitioner and get a referral to a psychologist or counsellor for six free sessions in a year – with the option of six more if needed.
I didn’t want to go to a psychologist – I just wanted to feel better and I thought that I should already know how to do that. But, I started seeing a psychologist in July, if anything to get Kirby off my back about going.
It seems I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I could reach a place where my life was sorted out once and for all. That I would reach a place where the hurts of the past would fade forever, and where I would accept my limitations or, even better, I would overcome them to live life exactly as I wanted to.
I know that there is no such place. Life is a series of peaks and troughs and it always will be. I know this, but I forgot. And my psychologist helped me to remember what I already knew. She helped me to realise that I had grief to work through still, and that grief is not a set process with a defined end. I may be ninety years old and still grieve for the children we never had and the life I didn’t lead for various reasons. This was my tune up.
After the first session I told Kirby I wasn’t going back as I didn’t like it and I didn’t think the psychologist would be any help. Deep down, though, I knew I didn’t want to go back because my psychologist was challenging me, and I didn’t want to be challenged. I didn’t want to think about certain things and I didn’t want to admit I didn’t have it all together.
My psychologist recognised that I tried to be strong and positive all of the time – even to the point of excusing the behaviour of people who had hurt me. Even when I talked about issues that bothered me I was set on convincing my psychologist that I was strong and could deal with it. The truth is that I am not always strong – I was putting up a front.
The most important thing I learnt is that the life I thought I wanted, in terms of a nine to five job, a big social life with lots of parties and lots of people, and a perfectly clean house, wasn’t the life I actually wanted. I like my work at home, I like being with one friend or a small group of friends, and I love my pets so I will never have a spotless house. I’ve been working through my anxiety, particularly around house work. I consciously left the dishes unwashed overnight and, lo and behold, the world didn’t fall apart!
I can sit with anxiety much more easily now and I can be honest with my family and friends when I’m not okay – I don’t feel the need to put up that front.
What has this all got to do with not having children?
Not having children is a major life crisis. It brings up so many fears, feelings, and uncertainties about what life is going to be like. You’re not going to be a parent. What does that mean for other areas of your life? What are you going to do?
There will be grief.
There will be times, long into the future, where you doubt yourself and whether you are good enough.
There will be times when you think all the pain and grief should be done with already.
There will be times you need to talk to someone and get some direction.
And, everyone needs a tune up every now and then.