Throughout the process of writing about my struggles with fertility, I've received plenty of comments that made me upset, made me sad, and made me defensive. I've been told that using a fertility clinic to try to get pregnant was unnatural, and also selfish. I've been told that I shouldn't classify my ectopic pregnancy as "losing a child," because it's not fair to parents who lost children that were already born. I've heard that I whine a whole lot. But nothing has made me quite so angry as being told that I "might need some therapy." Let me explain why this comment has me so heated.
First of all, I want to say that I think counseling and therapy are extremely important tools for mental health. Speaking to a professional about your problems is a responsible way to address issues surrounding emotional well-being. I've been to counseling sessions for personal issues at different times in my life. I find them helpful. I think the stigmas in our culture surrounding mental health needs are really ridiculous, unfair, and ignorant.
Because of those stigmas, it's become pretty commonplace for people to tell those they disagree with that, "You need help," or "You should talk to someone about that." It's become a way to marginalize someone's voice and discredit their feelings. It's like saying that their feelings are abnormal or unwarranted, that their thoughts come from a disturbed place. These types of insults are all over the internet, where lots of commenters seem thrilled to play doctor and diagnose a writer's entire personality based on one piece of their story, typed up in 1000 words or less. And I guess that why it's seen as acceptable to tell a woman you've never met that she needs psychiatric help based on her emotional response to the Pottery Barn catalog or her anger at pregnancy sites that continue to spam her email even after she's asked them to stop repeatedly.
I've been writing about infertility every week for more than a year. There are about 75 "Unbearable" columns on this website. Throughout this experience, I've tried to be honest and open about discussing my struggles. Some weeks I'm doing better, feeling like I'm inching towards acceptance. Other weeks, I have a really hard time and get upset over a spam email. I've found that infertility is a rollercoaster, and you're going to experience some highs and some lows. There will be times when you completely forget about trying to conceive, counting your days or measuring your temperature. And then there will be days when your heart actually feels like it's aching, like your sadness is a physical condition. I try to write about all of these times, because I feel like that's the only fair way to tell my story.
Infertility has a huge impact on mental health. Stress, depression, and anxiety are all seen as common consequences of infertility. There have been numerous studies showing that the pressures of trying to conceive weigh on both men and women. Lots of people will deal with those issues by seeking counseling. You know what else they'll do? They'll share their experiences online. They'll talk about the dark places, the sad parts, or the ways that infertility affects other aspects of their lives. That conversation is another coping mechanism and it's one that many women have found invaluable. I've always appreciated that the comment boards on these posts are filled with other women's stories and struggles, with conversations between readers offering support and advice. I hope that I've done a small part in helping others through this difficult issue.
I don't want any woman to feel like she shouldn't share a part of her story because others might think it's "troubling" or "obsessive." We're talking about infertility here. It wouldn't make sense to mention that once I'm done writing this piece, I'm going to take my daughter to a Roger Day concert, not sit at home dreaming of newborns. Personally, I know that even when I write about a really emotional issue, once I'm done wiping away a couple of tears, I'm going to go about my day. My world will keep spinning. Just because my readers might not witness all of those other parts of my life doesn't mean they don't exist. And it's the exact same for women who might comment about their experiences. At some point, they're going to sign off their computers and move on with their lives. We cannot judge them based on a single comment.
Seeking therapy is a personal decision. I think it's a smart decision if you feel like you need to talk through your problems with someone. And it's something that I may choose to do myself one day, depending on where my infertility journey takes me. But that doesn't mean that any reader, who has just a very small window into my life, should tell me how they think I should deal with my emotional issues. It doesn't mean that anyone has the right to marginalize the less-balanced pieces I might write, that show just a single aspect of my infertility struggle, by saying that I "might need some therapy."