Friday, April 6, 2012

With A Little Help From My Friends

Image Copyright JSH August 2010
Two years ago, my world was nearly finished. I had just learned that the baby I was carrying, River, died. I was waiting for my body to release her. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I have gone through many ups and downs. Lots of downs. Down deep. My emotions and sanity were flung so far down to a level I never knew existed. When I step back and look at myself, I wonder how I am even here. Truly, if it wasn't for my little boy, I may not be here. Th love for my little boy is what kept me holding on and the support from some amazing friends kept my head above water as I was drowning.

During my miscarriage, I experienced all levels of support. As I have written in the past, being a mother who has miscarried puts you in a weird place. Society doesn't know what to do with you. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of someone losing a baby. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the grief that accompanies such a loss. As such, many parents who lose babies feel very alone. There may be an initial burst of support, but that quickly wanes. Many experience an outright shunning. People no longer want to deal with your grief. YOU inconvenience THEM. I certainly experienced this. I have never, ever felt so alone. I have never felt so guilty for being a human and having those pesky emotions. I am so thankful for the love of my family and some friends for reminding me of the light. I lost friends because of my miscarriage. I lost my own respect for certain people in my life after I heard things they said about me not two weeks after I found out River died. It was so hard to grasp at those leftover pieces of sanity after all of the bullshit that I heard and read about myself. Thankfully, there were a few people who helped me.

Amongst all the negative, I had wonderful support from my family and my husband and some of my friends. I don't want anyone to feel slighted because I don't mention them, but I really appreciated their support. Some old friends from grade school and high school shared their stories of loss with me and told me how they were able to regain their strength and make it through. Friends from work also shared their stories and their strength. Others who hadn't experienced such a loss rallied around me, listened to me and gave me their love. A co-worker made me a necklace with River's name on it and that meant so much for me, especially at a time when I struggled to find people there who acknowledged what happened to me and that I was NOT crazy when I had emotional breakdowns. Two friends stand out, Eve and Lauren.

Eve is a nutrition goddess. She's not one of those weirdo dietician people who spout outdated and incorrect diet information from 1967. She has studied for a long time and she really knows her shit. Helping people achieve their optimal health through nutrition and exercise is her business (along with her husband). She knows food is medicine. She is not, however, judgmental. She isn't going to make you feel like crap because you ate a twinkie pizza. She'll just gently guide you to the right resources. She doesn't do this because she wants you to be a robot follower. She genuinely cares about the health of people and our planet. After my miscarriage, she gave me lots of love and good energy. She is three thousand miles away from me, so we communicated via text and Facebook. She was one of the few who would check in on me almost daily to see how I was doing. We talked about the fact that I was emotionally so out of whack and that my depression was scary. We talked about what was going on with me physically that could have contributed to my miscarriage. I'll admit, for all of my hippie, crunchy granola lifestyle, I wasn't eating the best. I tend to take care of others while I neglect myself. I would make sure my son ate optimally. Same for my husband. I won't feed my cats anything without reading all of the ingredients and understanding them. When it came to taking care of me, I wasn't so careful. After lots of talking, she thought I might have an issue with low progesterone and way too much estrogen. It's a common problem for women today, especially due to the piss poor standard American diet. She encouraged me to use a natural progesterone supplement called Progest-E, which is a gel that you rub on your gums. She also counseled me on making wiser choices with my food. She knew that the right foods would heal my body and my mind. For the past two years, Eve has put up with my random texts asking stupid questions about foods, hormones, exercise and  the like. With her help, I started taking the progesterone and changing my eating habits. It most definitely made a difference. My cycles evened out (I had a short luteal phase, which is usually caused by low progesterone and can increase the risk of miscarriage) and I began to feel better both mentally and physically. To this day, Eve is always there when I need nutritional advice at 1am or just plain old emotional support. Everyone needs an Eve.

And Lauren. We all need a Lauren. Lauren is one person who has seen the ugliest side of me many times and she still loves me. Lauren has had many chances to tell me that she is so over me, over my drama, over my issues and that she can't handle me anymore, but she doesn't do that. For me, Lauren is that single set of footprints in the sand during some shitty times in my life. I've known her for about 6 years now. I met her on the other side of my cervix, as she was one of my midwives when I was pregnant with my son. Lauren and I are a great example of how two people with quite a few differences can still be awesome friends. On the surface, we are both natural birth crunchy people, though I take the granola cake here. We have super opposing views on certain things. She is a very conservative Christian and conservative republican. I am a filthy liberal Christopagan. We definitely have different views on some issues, but that isn't what friendship is about. While the rest of the world would like you to think that polar opposites can't get along, we happen to be mature adults. It's about more than sharing common social ground. We share a very similar spirit, even if it's expressed differently. Honestly, we're just both awesome and awesome attracts awesome. That's why we work. I mention all of this because it seems like it's so easy to give up anymore. It's easy to brush people off if they don't fit a certain ideal or behave a certain way. Back to my miscarriage. I have written before that Lauren would always call or text at the exact moment that I really needed her. It would be the middle of the night and I would be crying in bed, asking God if He really listened and was there and my phone would go off with a text from Lauren (working the night shift in maternity) just checking up on me and sending me love. She was always there right when I needed someone. She heard the worst of me. She listened to my sadness, my promises to kill myself, my hatred for myself and other people and God. Like I said, Lauren is a Christian - the daughter of a Pastor - and I would sit on the phone and pretty much tell her that God was an asshole and that I hated Him. Heck, I didn't believe in Him. She never preached. She never told me I was sinning by saying those awful things. She gave gentle reminders that He understood my anger and that He wouldn't be mad at me. After all, He lost a child, too. She heard me say how much I hated this person and that person. I spewed a lot of vile anger at the time in an attempt to pin my pain on anything but myself. Whatever I said, she listened without judgment. She let me get it all out. In those really dark moments, she was right besides me pointing out light. Not to get all preachy, but she reminded me of God's love way more than any Bible, preacher, church or sermon ever could. I was in an awful state and hard for anyone to deal with, but Lauren wasn't going to let me go down. I was drowning in my sea of personal depression and she was my lighthouse, guiding me back to the shore. I've had many dark moments since, especially during this time of year, and she is still there. She has gone through a really horrible time in the past year and I hope that I have been some sort of comfort to her and she finds her own way back to the light just as she has done for me. Even in her rough times, she is still there for me if I need support. She is an excellent example of what true friendship is about.

It can be hard and frustrating to watch people go through shitty moments. Sometimes, it's easy to get angry at them, especially if they wrongly lash out at you in their pain. It's easy to want to slap them and tell them to put on their big girl panties and get the fuck over it. It is easy to write people off as a lost cause. True friends, however, understand that people are not perfect. We all have our dark moments. We all have to sail our little ships on rough seas now and then - those true friends will help you navigate through it. Many times, I have been that person whose hand steadies the wheel at the helm of the ship. I am grateful, then, to have friends who have done the same for me.

I'm writing this to honor special people who have stood by me and who have allowed me to stand by them. I want to remind you all to honor those who have stood by you. Sometimes, we get lost in the chaos of life and we don't truly reflect on the value of friendship. There are times when we don't see ourselves as a value to others. But, you are valuable. Even if your friends suck at expressing it. Most likely, just the knowledge that you are there is what gets them through a rough day or two. They may not need to call on you to fix everything. They may not need you to listen to hours of ranting. Just having the knowledge that you are available to them if they need that shoulder and that you will be there for them with love and without judgment can be one of the most perfect gifts in friendship. They may just need that glimpse of a lighthouse to guide them out of rough waters. While I have had my share of letdowns with people, I take time to remind myself that I do have some wonderful and amazing friends who are nothing less than an absolute treasure. They have helped me keep my eyes on the horizon. I can only hope that I have been able to do the same for them.

Love to ALL.

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