Before I get into what I really want to talk about, I need to say a few things about this extremely irresponsible “article” from Parents magazine about a possible link between IVF and childhood cancers. Not only is it poorly written by someone who has not gone through infertility or IVF, it’s a twisting of the facts to scare people. Not all studies agree that there is an increased risk. And even in those that do, the rates of childhood cancer are still extremely low to the point that the increase is statistically insignificant (the comments on the original article provide some good info). Way to go Parents magazine, because people dealing with infertility need one more thing to stress out about.
This post started in my head a few days ago. It all started with a text after my venting post about weight and exercise. I’m not trying to single this person out, but it was the jumping off point so I think it’s worth mentioning. One of the handful of people who reads my blog and knows me in real life sent me a text the night I wrote that post that said “Ok… I’m going to say something… Don’t get mad lol” Unfortunately she sent it after I had gone to bed so I didn’t respond that night and I was busy the next day so I didn’t get back to her until the afternoon. I sent her this message “Sorry, I’m not trying to ignore you. I was in bed when you texted last night and I’ve been busy all day. Say whatever you like but you don’t get to tell me how to feel about it (HUGE pet peeve of mine) :-P” Unfortunately I never heard back from her after that so I don’t know what it was she had to say. But that’s not the point. The point is my pet peeve, people telling me how to feel.
I don’t know when exactly this started. The first time I remember speaking up about it was when I was seventeen, which is kind of crazy because at that point in my life speaking up for myself was not a strength (ok, it’s still not). Other people, however well intentioned they may be, don’t get to tell me how to feel. I don’t care if you are my mother, my husband, my best friend. My feelings are mine. I don’t even have full control over them. You don’t get a say.
Like I said, I’m not trying to single her out. This is something we all do. I have caught myself doing it and I try to be conscious about it but I still slip up. We say things like “don’t get mad” or “don’t worry” or “don’t get too excited.” When it comes to telling people how to feel it usually involves telling them how not to feel, especially if those emotions are “negative.” I’m not even going to try to examine why, culturally, we do this. I think a lot of it has to do with protecting our own feelings (if you feel mad, I’ll feel guilty).
What I want to talk about instead is why this bothers me so much. I think it’s because I have always been a sensitive person. I feel everything, deeply. It’s not always fun, there are plenty of times when I would rather be able to turn off my emotions. My whole life I’ve been told that I’m too sensitive, that I take things too seriously, that I’m overreacting to something. I’ve been told to stop crying or lectured on controlling my anger. And while there are obvious social reasons for controlling what emotions we show the world, especially in the context of professional situations, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel my feelings. And sometimes talk about them. Even when they are negative or ugly. Even when I’m still grappling with what, exactly, they are. I tend to have intense emotional initial responses to things and then with time I am able to deal with them in a more logical way. That’s why I don’t generally have heated fights with my husband: I’ve learned to walk away because I know with some time I can deal with the issue in a reasonable, productive fashion. Or let it go.
This brings me to the article that Hope is something you pee on… posted last night. Present Tense is about reading about people grappling with something like depression while it’s going on instead of the retrospective view we are accustomed to seeing in memoirs. It can be hard to read and uncomfortable, but it is so very valuable. And it’s a perspective that modern-day blogging is allowing us to see more frequently. Consider just infertility blogs. We are all writing about this as we are going through it. I read your blogs and I feel your ups and downs. I feel the excitement of a positive pregnancy test and the heartbreak of a loss. Sometimes it’s hard to read. This week I found I had to skim blogs because there was so much extreme emotion, both joy and despair, that I couldn’t handle reading details. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel those emotions. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write about them, even if the next day we feel something different.
Our feelings are our own. They are complicated and shifting and personal. I hope we all continue to own them. And if you ever catch me telling you how to feel, call me on it. Please.