The final procedure performed when you undergo IVF is the re-implantation of your now fertilised eggs. This procedure is painful, both physically and emotionally. Before I underwent this procedure (on what was to be my third and final course of IVF), my husband and I, rightly or wrongly, agreed to be introduced to our two fertilised embryos (Edwin and Ernie as they became known in our house) – as they sat there, only a handful of subdividing cells between them, on a petri-dish under a microscope. Left alone to have a moment with them, we gave them some encouraging words and urged them both to “Grab on”. They didn’t grab on.
Before the day of the procedure you are asked if you would like to prepare a CD to be played in the operating room, to sooth you, or distract you, or act as an excuse for the tears, whatever is required at the time.
I thought long and hard about the songs I would put on this CD. It was important to me that I got this right, as these tunes would forever be associated with this day, this moment, and whatever its outcome was to be.
I have written elsewhere about the results and impact of this treatment (‘Learning To Live Without The Little People’), but one of the unexpected consequences was, it broke music.
After the day I found out Edwin and Ernie were not to be (which also turned out to be the day I found out I was to be released from the job that was killing me), I built a high wall around that treatment room and the music within it. I left that room, that day, that period in my life and emerged a shut down version of myself. I turned down the volume on my emotions as much as I could. These feelings were too hot, too sharp, too caustic for my human flesh to hold, and instead I placed myself in a safe but muted and joyless loop that would last for many years.
With the focus of all the things I had been working toward for the previous 5 years gone, I lost my way and succumbed to depression. I spent many aimless days at the beach just walking up and down the sands, averting my tearful eyes from strangers, staring out into the waves – ‘Stuck on The Sands’. In order to drown out the thoughts left in my head, and also to prevent any human interaction, I would have headphones and music on, but it was one band and one band only. A perfectly nice, but safe and non-challenging band that washed over me rather than through me – emotional white noise. I played this music, and only this music, for a whole 2 years. And then I stopped listening to music altogether.
Of course you cannot avoid music out in the world. But on the rare occasion I would let it touch me, it would produce inopportune tears in inappropriate places, which I would then have to hide from those around me – on a replacement bus service from London sitting next to my husband; in the car on a family day out with my brother and his children; in any number of cafés in which I would while away my lost hours; walking through a department store – suddenly feeling myself propelled back to when I was 18, amongst old friends, before any life had been lived, decisions made or hearts broken. Though I could pull together a pretty convincing impression of someone functioning in the world, this act would occasionally be scuppered – if some particular song, on a particular day was able to wheedle it’s way through the barriers I had constructed
And so, I put myself in a self-induced emotional coma – Where I resided, for many, many years, holding my breath and ‘Turning Blue’.
Music had been my refuge when I was young – locked away in my room for hours on end, where my insecure teenage self felt safest – amongst the words of artists who seemed to understand me better than the people beyond the door. In my early twenties, I grew to love live music. I would get over excited and feel silly inside. But after events had taken their toll, I couldn’t bear to feel that way. The memory of that excitement was too sad to recall and too intense to bear. Too many things were broken now for me to enjoy anything or feel that alive. Now music just made me angry – a painful reminder of the days when all things were possible and life and all its potential was still ahead of me.
I did try to step out of these self-preserving confines on occasion. A singer I had loved since I was a child was coming to London. I told my husband I was going to travel to see him. I didn’t ask him if he wanted to come. I knew I had to go on my own. Thankfully, I was at the back of the auditorium so I could hide the fact I sobbed from start to finish. His beautiful, gentle words took me back to a time of all innocence. I used to say that when this man sang no bad could happen in the world. Turned out I had a lot to learn.
And then this year Prince died. An artist I was introduced to by my big brother, whose music I spent a lot of time with in my teenage years, and who I admired greatly. His untimely death had an enormous impact on me, far bigger than just a singer I loved dying. It was tied up with all my emotional wiring, all of my growing up, all my losing myself again, and the pressing nature of our own mortality. In my post ‘But Then Prince Died’ (the event which was actually the catalyst for me starting this blog), I try to capture the unexpected and overwhelming grief that burst forth on the news of his death, and how it then spurred me into action.
And so to the present day. I have been struggling lately – feeling very low and a bit hopeless. Lacking a clear direction and beginning to feel those old familiar feelings of panic, blanket cravings and tears in public at inappropriate times.
But this week something rather strange happened. As I was reading someone else’s blog, I was presented with a playlist of songs. I should say at this point, I am a very spiritual creature, and I do not believe these things come to us by accident. At this time, and quite out of character for my recent self, I found myself delving into these songs rather than skipping over them in a hurry (with the usual flash of irritation I would normally feel at having to negotiate such a hurdle). One of the tunes in this playlist was a song from my early twenties, one I had absolutely loved at the time, and would listen to endlessly. The song – an angry, empowering little number, which I used to dance around the house to. I had forgotten what dancing around the house feels like. If there was one metric which I think would indicate I was ‘better’, had regained my mojo, was ‘fixed’, it would be finding myself dancing around the house again.
As this song played – instead of shutting my brain off, leaving the building or getting angry, I just sat. And I listened. And yes, the tears did rise, and the pain did flame, but I held it. I let it happen. I finally felt ready, even compelled, to allow these emotions to arise within me and let them be there. It felt like I could now face these feelings, hold them in my hands and be able to bear what arose from them. It felt like a seismic shift.
Healing is a strange and supernatural force, one you are not even necessarily aware of until after the fact. I know now that healing has been happening without me noticing – accelerated by the counselling I have recently completed, and what I have been learning about mindfulness. How it is possible to befriend our emotions as they arise in us and learn to hold them – as precious components of our own unique and powerful souls.
This week I feel that some major protective wall within me toppled. I believe my soul thinks it is time to let some light back in. This is scary. It will mean opening myself up to some of the pain I have spent years hiding from. But it is time. My emotional coma has allowed some critical healing to occur. I think my soul feels I am ready now to reawaken, to open my eyes, to open my ears, to live again. I am starting to believe – it may not be too much to hope that I might one day find myself dancing around the house again.
Copyright © 2016 · Words & Images · Forty and Everything After