The support balance

I’m part of a few Facebook groups that I find so enriching it’s incredible. For the most part I don’t know the members in real life, but we share something deep.

One group is called ED Happy Hour – for nonprofit executive directors across the country. People share updates, ask for advice and complain about their boards.

​There’s a lot of great humor too (one time I laughed so hard I cried reading about someone who took on an ED role and two months in, found out about a ‘surprise employee’ that she didn’t know existed at the organization. She thought she was the only staff member. You can’t make this stuff up. (Everyone’s reaction was – maybe I have a surprise staff member!! that would make my job a lot easier!)

​When the sh** was hitting the fan at my last job, I so badly wanted to share my predicament with the group and get some advice and support, but I held back because a few of my clients and partners were members of the group and I didn’t want to jeopardize the organization. While ultimately the big lesson that I learned from leaving that job was that I had to put myself first, there were other ways to do that responsibly, and I did.

Now I’m still a part of the group and follow the posts partially for my own catharsis (I am sooo relieved to not be running an organization anymore) and partially for professional learning. (The primary group of people I work with as a consultant is nonprofit EDs – just now I’m on the other side, blissfully).

I’m also part of a few Facebook groups for people going through IVF and other fertility related treatments, and they are mostly super helpful. Also sometimes overwhelming and depressing. One group that I’m a part of was started by someone in my orbit – aka a NYC Jew – so while I don’t know her I know a few people in the group and am one or two degrees removed from many of the others. This builds a level of shared experience and trust that I find settling. Yet sometimes I still hesitate before sharing with the group because I know some of these people – do I really want to share the crap I’m going through/admit to the tough times we’ve had?

There’s often a level of shame a lot of people talk about when going through fertility challenges and miscarriages. I don’t even love saying we have ‘fertility challenges’ or ‘problems’ because…it feels shameful for some reason. It’s totally not our fault and is just sucky luck, but it can be isolating. I never thought I would need to do IVF, let alone do it and have it fail.

Brene Brown talks about shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

I don’t feel unworthy of connection or even unworthy at all – but I do hold back from it sometimes, and I’m not sure why.

Not only are my fellow Facebookers going through the same thing, but many have been in it for longer or have experienced more heartbreak! (e.g. quantitatively…10 failed rounds of IVF, 7 years without success etc etc).

So it’s a process…taking the leap, reminding myself that giving into shame is lonely, and being open and honest creates connection and growth.

A few weeks ago when I had a crappy experience with my current doctor bashing my future doctor and giving opposite advice, I went to the FB group for answers and got a ton! Advice, support, and validation that doctor A was treating me crappily and was super unprofessional – and that I was smart to leave him.

One member of the group started chatting with me on FB and told me about a support group she goes to on the UWS. I decided to check it out last night. It’s one thing to seek support from behind the safety of a computer screen; it’s another to confront your pain in person with strangers.

Yet as I walked in the room I noticed, not for the first time, how little social anxiety I tend to have in life. (I am so thankful for this). I easily meet new people, speak publicly, etc. I assume people will like me. But the underside of this is that I care if people like me, and I am good at showing just enough of myself to be super likable, but not enough that I connect deeply so easily.

The support group looked and felt initially like the groups you see on TV. A dingy room in a YMCA with uncomfortable chairs and people looking around awkwardly. Most people looked older than me, and as the first person started sharing her sad 7 year journey I thought…why am I here? I am totally not coming back. Who needs this kind of depression?

Yet as more people shared the tone got more comfortable (in my experience…I think the regulars probably felt comfortable all along) and I loved the way the de facto facilitator ran the group. (She’s been involved for almost 10 years and ultimately had twins with donor eggs). It was not just empathy and support and ‘that sucks’ as people spoke. It was practical, with people brainstorming and problem solving, and the facilitator gently but confidently summarizing what each person was moving toward in the coming weeks. There was a healthy balance of cynicism and hope, and all kinds of incredible stories (e.g. one woman turning to her sister to be an egg donor after many years without success. And then the discomfort of hearing about them negotiating about splitting the eggs, etc).

I met the woman who told me about the group there and we walked home together. 35 blocks in the extreme heat with a stop for ice cream, and lots of pauses at street corners as we shared our stories, frustrations and bits of humor. She is hilarious and ridiculous – I like those people (in small doses). And yet she said to me ‘I’m miserable, Naomi. You just don’t know me.’ She’s 44 and has been in this mess for years.

While I do have a few friends who I’m sharing this experience with, I’m only intermittently in contact with them, and to be honest – they’re all pregnant now. That makes it harder.

So the support helps. A lot. But at the same time – I’m starting to feel supported-out. Over the last week I’ve had several intense conversations with other people in this boat. Then the meeting last night, and dinner tonight with someone who went to a fertility clinic and is now a pregnant single mom-to be.  It’s intense, and feels obsessive at times. I feel like almost all I talk about with Hadar is this, and I am sooo over it. I miss my blissfully ignorant days.

That’s why I had a joy goal, right?? And a meditation goal? To lighten things up/find some peace? Take a break from the blood tests and heartache?

Yet I’m not dong so much with these goals. A bit here and there. Doing different meditations from Insight Timer. Sitting in my garden earlier this week with a book. Pictures with Joanna that were fun and goofy and romantic (can’t wait to see them). It’s not that I’m not interested in joy or meditation, it’s that I don’t always think to meaningfully infuse them in my life. I know there are structures I could put into place here – but I feel like it’s probably more of a being issue.

Hadar is also running into some being questions with regard to his second goal, so we can spend some time on Shabbat working through these 🙂

Also – someone else I met in the FB group did the work in Cali and has mutual friends from Advanced Ed! I invited her to join the next PSPlife and she is so pumped!

Thanks for the space, guys. For whatever reason I felt compelled to start writing in the middle of the workday and it was cathartic. Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “The support balance

  1. i really enjoy hearing how well you know your strengths and being honest about what they are and to what degree. i’m not sure exactly why that is. do i find some people are scared to be immodest? do i also like speaking aloud my strengths? i don’t know- but again, i really dig when you articulate yours so thank you.

    it sounds pretty normal to accidentally overbook/overcompensate and then finding yourself over-supported. sounds like going through a break up and overbooking yourself to stay busy.

    you’re an incredibly strong person. in another post, you wrote that you don’t want to dwell on the sadness and want to feel like you again so you choose to be happy and upbeat. you are very likable and easy to be around despite the difficulties you have been facing. and though i encourage you to feel the feels when you want to or when you feel them, your way of being is really inspiring and i’m learning so much from you just being in your orbit. thank you, N!


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