We all have the basic needs for love and belonging, and we oftentimes believe that feeling understood goes hand-in-hand with this need.
However, it is impossible to be understood by everyone in our lives. This does not mean we aren't loved, but rather at times our loved ones just don't have it in them to really get it.
Or to really get us.
Surviving IVF and living a childfree, yet childfull, life sometimes feels like I will never be fully understood.
For the most part, I have been lucky and blessed to have amazing people in my life. Even if they don't completely get the infertility thing, they work very hard on loving me through it. But, I have noticed a few categories emerge:
My fellow warriors
Those who have been through some version of infertility or pregnancy loss themselves, even if their journey has looked completely different (especially their outcome). My fellow warriors also include those who have not walked this journey, but understand the difficulty through their own struggles with family planning or any other life struggle really. They overall choose to live their lives wholeheartedly.
They genuinely get it.
With them I am truly known.
My true friends (really family).
Those who may have never had to think about infertility, never really been exposed to it and therefore struggle to empathize with the journey, but they still try. They ask the questions, sometimes not in the best way, but they still ask.
They truly walk along beside.
With them I am truly seen.
My limited supporters
Those who will never ask about it and become extremely uncomfortable whenever it's brought up.
They do the best with what they have.
With them I am truly loved.
Those who openly criticize, question and deny what we have been through. Maybe they used to talk and ask about it, but have never had the capacity to quite understand any of it. Not only do they deny the journey, but oftentimes they somehow shut down that part of who we are.
They may never get it.
With them, I am incomplete.
Through these last few years of my ever upward recovery, I have realized this has nothing to do with my infertility journey at all, but rather is just what happens for all of us as we grow, evolve and love.
Relationships change, relationships end, relationships reemerge, relationships evolve.
As I hugged a dear friend goodbye today, I am flooded with gratitude for change. The change of life, the change of relationships and how much we all change and grow. A friend who has been in and out of my life for years, some of our falling outs worse than others, but a friend who I know will always have some piece in my life and in my heart.
We've had to re-cateogrize each other several times in our 15-year friendship.
I use the term re-categorize with my clients a lot, referring to the ever-changing relationships in our lives as we age. I believe people are meant to come in and out of our lives as we all change. Sometimes these changes warrant a re-categorization. Who you thought would always be there may leave your life for a few years and then reemerge. Or they may be gone forever, never meant to be the lifelong friend you had hoped.
Hand in hand with re-categorization, we all must accept the limitations of our loved ones. Sometimes, they just don't have what we need. Accepting their limitations improves our well-being, as we only have control over ourselves. We cannot make someone understand us. Accepting our loved ones' limitations means we realize they just don't have it to give. We must stop going to the empty well expecting there to be water.
But, I am also not type of person who will stop going to the well altogether because I believe in our capacity for growth and change. So, I go to the well not expecting there to be water but rather to enjoy the blue sky and the pretty flowers.
Being completely understood by others needs to have nothing to do with who we are or our stories. We must honor ourselves, no matter what our loved ones' capabilities of understanding us are.
We all must do the work to validate ourselves; seeing, knowing and loving ourselves.
Life is difficult and people are complicated, which means relationships take work and are forever changing.
For me, I must accept that there are some who will never understand my journey of infertility or the lifelong losses of a child-free, yet childfull, life. And even though this can feel like a complete denial of who I am and may change our relationship, I must continue to speak my truth and live my story authentically for the world to see, because this is simply who I am.
This is my story, it is our story, it is ever upward.
I must be my truth, not to fulfill the need to feel understood or to make someone get it, but rather to live my authentic truth and light.
To be true to myself.
For that light will reveal my fellow warriors and true friends.
And maybe, one day, that light will grow those limited supporters and incapables into my ever upwards.
This piece updated for HuffPost from original on www.everupward.org and in Chapter 5 of Ever Upward.