Vicky Bonnefoy, (@freedom_fertility.coach_vicky ) an incredible TTC warrior and an even more incredible fertility coach.Vicky has been on one hell of a fertility journey and has battled with endometriosis for years and years. Here, she talks about a phrase that doesn’t sit well with her at all….
I’m going to say out loud right now, right at the beginning of this article that TOXIC POSITIVITY is so very damaging and even deadly!
From the very beginning of my ‘problems’ when I was suffering from endometriosis is when I heard this TOXIC POSITIVITY (which I’ll put in capitals throughout) first.
I was in A&E and I was in severe pain and really frightened as to what was going on inside. Frightened and uncertain. I was about 18 years old and I was told then by a Gynaecologist that night that I should just be GRATEFUL that this excruciating pain was only at certain times of the month rather than living in constant daily agony. I left that hospital that night with a few painkillers and a whole host of other feelings I didn’t expect to come home with! I felt guilty for wasting their time, I felt embarrassed to have caused such a scene, I felt humiliated and ignored and I felt the burden of this TOXIC POSITIVITY and was left questioning myself as to why I didn’t feel more grateful than I did. Did it make me a bad person? Was I being selfish?
Skipping a few years It was apparent that this type of forced gratitude is the way others tried to get me to feel positive about any hard and emotionally exhausting situation I fell into
I was told to be grateful that I was still young, young enough to go through IVF and fertility treatment. Throughout my 10 year fertility journey, this was a running theme. With each cycle emotionally and physically exhausting me and pushing me to my limits, I would hear the words, AT LEAST it ended sooner rather than later on, or I should be just THANKFUL that I was able to do another round.
After losing my first baby, I was told AT LEAST it was early on in my pregnancy.
That I should be GRATEFUL that It wasn’t a real baby and was just cells or that my baby wouldn’t have felt any pain.
That I should be GRATEFUL that my baby wasn’t born with severe disabilities.
Finally the IVF worked on my fourth round and within 2 weeks of feeling overjoyed with the pregnancy test finally showing those dreamed of, ‘two lines’, I began to feel unwell.
Now this is just pure evil! I still find it hard to explain as words never seem to express the feeling physically or emotionally. I was dying! I felt physically that I was truly dying. I was sick constantly, all through the night, all day long and I couldn’t swallow my own saliva. I had a bowl either side of me for months whilst I was hooked up to a drip and feeding portal. One for saliva and one for sick.
My body rejecting the babies that I had become finally pregnant with, that I had fought for with all my might
My mind wanting to just be well again and survive this, whatever the costs. During my hospital stay a Nurse had visited me one night to change my drip and bag and hook me back up to the only thing keeping me alive at that point, she looked me square in the eyes and said that the sooner I start feeling GRATEFUL for being pregnant, the sooner I would be well again. She said that it was all in my head, psychosomatic and that I just needed to be thankful truly and it’ll all be over.
So I thought it must be me. It can only be my own fault for not being THANKFUL or GRATEFUL enough. I was killing myself and my babies because of how ungrateful I was. From then on a sense of blame was weighing on me heavily. I racked my brains as to how I could take control, end this suffering and torture and save myself and my babies.
Both my babies were born by emergency caesarean at 27 weeks gestation. They were over 3 months early and instantly I felt physically better, sipping on an orange squash, feeling like I might actually survive this. It landed again, but this time it had changed, GUILT!
It wasn’t someone telling me to be grateful although I did here that a lot around this time too
GRATEFUL that they weighed enough, GRATEFUL it was 27 weeks rather than a few weeks earlier and it was endless but this time I felt GUILT and a real sense of BLAME and RESPONSIBILITY.
It was my fault, I had not accepted my pregnancy and I did not feel thankful enough and so this had all happened to them because of me!
That’s how I felt, It’s not true, I sort of knew that logically but what’s logic got to do with this feeling!
Years and years of being told that I wasn’t thankful enough meant that I somehow was a selfish person who did this by not being grateful enough, not being more positive about the situations I found myself in.
TOXIC POSITIVITY is so very damaging as you can see from my own experience. It still hurts now, but it hurts that those people made me feel that way. That I took that on board and tried to amend the GUILT and SHAME by trying to be perfect. In apology to what I had done.
It invalidates how we feel in that moment and all that we are going through. We can be grateful for all that we have and still be hurting for the things that we don’t, or the things that happen to us that are out of our control.
We can feel grateful for the baby we already have whilst suffering emotionally with secondary infertility.
We can be grateful for our families and friends and the roof over our heads etc and still feel like we’ve been dealt a rough deal.
Grief and Gratitude can co-exist! It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Emotional pain can run alongside Gratitude
Here’s the thing with forcing Gratitude, we think logically that if we tell ourselves or remind ourselves of all we SHOULD be grateful for then we will be, which will eliminate the pain we might be feeling emotionally.
Would that work physically? If we had a Physical trauma and we reminded ourselves of all we should be grateful for, and said to ourselves “ at least it wasn’t as bad as…” “it could have been so much worse” would our pain disappear? Of course it wouldn’t but it seems we allow others and ourselves to remind us of the things we should be grateful for which in actual fact just highlights the very thing that’s hurting us.
It Invalidates our trauma, making us feel that we aren’t strong enough to just get on and deal with it, weak and over sensitive and not moving on from it.
TRUE GRATITIDE is felt in the moment, it’s authentic and pure and true to our feeling brain and we can then bring in our conscious awareness from our analytical side of the brain and acknowledge that moment and cherish it and be aware of how it makes us feel in that actual moment.
That’s the best kind of gratitude! Thinking to myself as part of my daily pep talk that I look forward to noticing real, authentic moments in my day that I will feel grateful for. This is the difference between TOXIC POSITIVITY to REAL GRATITUDE.
We’ve all got out of bed on the wrong side, and we’ve set ourselves up for the day not going to plan and it’ll be just one thing after another, right? What we’ve done here is put our subconscious mind on high alert! To watch out for danger and notice all that goes wrong in our day. We can reclaim that same power to benefit us by using a simple morning pep talk. Working our conscious mind to alert our subconscious mind to look out for the things that go right, noticing the authentic moments that we feel genuine gratitude. I teach my wonderful ladies how to take back that control with a blend of counselling, coaching and CBT, using techniques and a personal strategy for wherever they are on their fertility journey. A chance to feel truly heard and understood from someone who really gets it.
If you’re reading this and have had this TOXIC POSITIVITY shoved and thrown at you then I’m truly sorry you’ve had to face this on top of the pain you have already suffered.
THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND YOUR PAIN, FEELINGS AND EXPERIENCES ARE IMPORTANT.
Love Vicky x
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