I didn’t pay much attention when the doctor breezed into the examination room. After days of morning appointments I’d become accustomed to the quick poke and prod. It was routine—check out my ovaries to see my progress, and then we’d both be on our way. She gestured for me to put my feet up while idly inquiring about my morning. Not particularly interested in small talk, she barely waited for me to answer before starting the exam. Success seemed certain—I even imagined the feeling of excitement when told 10, 15 or even (the gold standard) 18 eggs were harvested and put on ice. My poster-woman-perfect numbers gave me reason to believe my vision of a child was just within reach. I looked at the monitor to inspect my ovaries and look for any sign of progress. They looked the same as yesterday, so I turned my attention to the doctor’s face—surely she could see what I was missing. I watched her eyes squint and her lip curl, and then she sighed. I remember a really long sigh followed by the sound of her gloves coming off. And that was it. There would be no counting of eggs, no moment of excitement, and that vision I cultivated for years faded—all in an instant. I could feel a sting, a kind of cramping and burning sensation in my gut that reached up into my heart, my lungs, and my head. I know this feeling—the pain that comes alongside disappointment and an uncertain future. We all know the pain that comes with disappointment. Many of us in our nation felt that pain this week. The challenge in the weeks to come will be to figure out how to acknowledge that pain and ultimately shift that pain into power.
Pain can hit us in an instant or develop cumulatively over time. Whether it happens in that moment—when we suddenly realize our reality is not what we expected and the future is unclear—or after being knocked down, over and over—it hurts. To heal, we must first acknowledge that hurt by articulating our pain; that is, naming where the pain is coming from both physically and emotionally. By naming our pain, expressing where we feel it in our body, and tracing the emotion behind it, we are allowing ourselves to live in our pain for a purpose—to understand it, own it, and finally take control of it.
Healing from pain or grief isn’t necessarily an overnight process. Our mourning styles are highly individual. But it’s important to know that time alone isn’t magic. Time does NOT heal all wounds. To release ourselves from pain’s grasp sometimes requires action. Our body, heart, and mind are inexorably linked. Simply put, our actions influence our feelings, which influence our thinking. It is when this body-heart-mind connection is brought to life that our resilience kicks in.
We have all survived disappointment—some of us more than others—during our lifetime. We know this pain, but we also know the wisdom, strength, and clarity that follow. We’ve earned the “been-there tattoo,” so to speak. But really, each survival strengthens us physically, emotionally, and mentally to take better care of ourselves, our families, and friends. Our pain empowers us to do better, feel better, think better, and be better.
Don’t let your disappointment take you down. Temporary fixes like escaping into food, alcohol, and inactivity only pull you deeper into your pain. The better fix—the one that will help in the long run—is taking action. If not today, then tomorrow, or the next day. Listen to those around you, read and take in as much as you can from good sources, and make a plan to make this pain your power.
After that day in the fertility clinic, I researched my options. I maintained my faith in Western medicine and reaffirmed my belief in the mind-body connection. I was determined to be a success story interweaving the best of Eastern and Western medicine. And I am. I never reached 18 eggs; I didn’t get the answer I was looking for; but with a bit of soul-searching, that vision of children is, once again, intact and clear.
After an emotional election week for our nation, as those Americans negatively affected by the outcome acknowledge, heal, and move forward, I believe our disappointment will once again morph into our greatest strength, just as it has so many times before. We’ll see the suffering of others more clearly, be more compassionate, act with determination, mobilize, band together and be who we ache to, want to, and believe we can be. And we will be better, stronger, and more resilient together because of it.
This really is a message for all of us. No matter how or if you voted, the equation for resilience and success is simple: Do, feel, and think to be. DO to clarify how you FEEL. FEEL to strengthen how you THINK. THINK to BE your best self. Take it one day at a time, but strive to make small changes each day so we can reach our goals together—with the wisdom that comes with all our “been-there tattoos.”