One of the many challenges on any fertility journey is dealing with emotional distress. Women who are trying to conceive experience anxiety, depression and rage, that if left untreated can take a serious toll on your daily functioning, physical health and overall emotional wellness. The decision to enter therapy isn’t always an easy one – in fact, it can be downright intimidating. It’s easy to give in to the excuses, so we rounded up 5 of the most common myths around infertility therapy and busted them wide open:
1. Going to therapy means I’m crazy
YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! Well, not just because you’re experiencing infertility. This is one of the most difficult events an individual can suffer in their lifetime. It is as stressful as dealing with cancer or a divorce. You are human, which means by design you are flawed. It is unreasonable to expect that you should be perfect or invulnerable – it is okay to ask for help. Coming to therapy is not a sign that you are crazy or weak, rather is a very rational and constructive way of dealing with an overwhelming issue. Denying yourself therapy and forcing yourself to suffer infertility-related depression and anxiety is imposing a double punishment. You are not mandated to therapy, nor are you forced to stay if it is not helping, but the reason you are not in treatment should not be due to an inaccurate value judgment.
2. If I ignore my anxiety, it’ll go away on its own
Sounds good, now if only I had a magic wand. Anxiety is like that carnival game where you bop down the gopher, only to have it pop up again in an unexpected place. Unfortunately ignoring your anxiety does not mean it will go away. What you’re doing is actually a defense mechanism called repression, which is when your mind attempts to protect you from disturbing or threatening thoughts. The problem is that it is not a very successful defense and can lead to anxious dreams, wishes, and thoughts. Let’s back up for another moment. This is one of the most stressful events one can experience, so why shouldn’t you have intense feelings about it? It would be strange if you craved a baby more than anything in the world and then didn’t feel sad or angry after a negative pregnancy test. Here are the facts: anxiety is not going to dissipate on its own, but it can be reduced by allowing yourself to access, process, and treat your honest feelings.
Coming to therapy is not a sign that you are crazy or weak, its a rational and constructive way of dealing with an overwhelming issue.
3. Stress does not harm my fertility
You may be one of the most mentally strong women around, but just because you can tolerate the emotional equivalent of a double Soul Cycle class doesn’t mean it is good for you. Research shows that women suffering from untreated depression and anxiety not only have greater challenges conceiving, but also supporting a pregnancy. Stress is cumulative, which means that each time you experience a bump in the road, and not a bump in your belly, the sadness, anger, and frustration adds up. Going to therapy will not transform that infuriating single line on the HPT into a double, but it will help improve your feelings, deepen your insight into your authentic needs, and help you identify the best ways in getting them met. Give yourself a fair chance in getting pregnant by minimizing your stress during this unbelievably stressful time.
4. Stirring up uncomfortable feelings will only make me feel more upset
You’re right, recognizing these difficult feelings can be unpleasant, but that is only part of the therapy treatment. It can be likened to a broken arm. Setting the fractured parts into place may painful, but it is a necessary step in the recovery process. Ultimately the repair will become the strongest part of the bone. The overarching goal is to help you raise your emotional awareness and develop understanding and acceptance. The pain is temporary, but learning techniques to self-soothe and address your genuine needs, will lead to greater resilience and long-term emotional relief.
5. I don’t need therapy, I have plenty of friends who will listen to me vent
Surrounding yourself with a valuable support network while trying to conceive is a total luxury, but there is a big difference between venting to friends and processing emotional distress with a trained psychotherapist. Expressing unbridled emotion can feel cathartic, but knowing how to contain, process, and appropriately respond to these feelings is where the therapeutic training becomes necessary. Both relationships may feel intimate, but the therapeutic alliance is protected and has boundaries. There are built-in limits that allow you to express your deepest, darkest feelings without fear of judgment or repercussions. It can also be a bit of a relief to feel like you don’t have to take care of your friend’s response as you disclose the details of your arduous journey. Part of the therapy may be learning to communicate your feelings to your partner, friends and family, or finding a way to ask for specific needs without feeling like you are burdening the people around you. Friends and therapists serve different roles in your life, but it’s always interesting to see that what happens in the therapy room is a microcosm of what’s happening in your greater world.