When Advice Doesn’t Pass the Sniff Test


noseI’ve never been a fan of Dr. Phil, however, I offer him a begrudging thanks for providing me the grist for today’s post.

I wouldn’t normally pay any heed to this guy, especially since he’s on the record as a proponent of  the “just relax” theory of infertility treatment (which immediately
disqualifies him to offer any further “expert” advice on the subject), but in a recent comment Deathstar pointed out that he’s at it again. In a Dr. Phil column in this month’s O magazine a woman writes about undergoing Infertility and her difficulty being around friends who have children or have become pregnant. He advises that Infertility is happening to her and in short order goes on to dismiss the pain she is in and the support she seeks.  His “it’s about you, deal with it” response is simply nothing more than a lazy, patented refrain as far as I’m concerned.

In discussing Phil’s response with my better half, Mr. PJ immediately pointed out the hole in this ‘expert’ logic. Would you ever tell a person suffering from other diseases or painful losses:

“Hey, look, cancer is happening to you, don’t go bringing your downer experiences into our happy world.”

“Sure you may be fighting depression but take joy in the fact that we don’t have that problem. That should lift your spirits.”

See also  NIAW: You Can Make a Difference

“You may have just lost a child but can’t you be happy for the fact that none of us have had to face that. The loss happened to you. Just deal with it.”

In the end those who suffer with any physically or emotionally challenging condition or loss have to learn to cope (what choice do we have?), but it sure is a heck of a lot easier to manage when society doesn’t marginalize us outright.


18 Responses

  1. Farah

    October 7, 2007 7:30 pm

    All I need is more “experts” out there on TV spreading their “just relax, in due time” message.(it seems its always the ones my family watches the most) As if I do not have a hard enough time expressing that relaxing will not make me all of a sudden magically ovulate. or magically “fall” pregnant.

  2. Kami

    October 7, 2007 7:41 pm

    Ug. I am so tired of those kind of comments. As if IF isn’t hard enough. When I rule the world, these people will be “taken care of”.

  3. May

    October 7, 2007 8:33 pm

    Dr Phil can kiss my tuchus. If it’s about me, then it is also about my friends and family, or what the heck are friends and family for?

    And I agree. We’d never say to a sick or a bereaved friend ‘hey look! I’m fine! So keep your grief to yourself and enjoy watching me never having to deal with it myself!’

    And a lot of infertile ladies have been sick, have been in terrible physical pain, have had surgeries and medical treatment. It’s not just about ‘they have a baby and I don’t’. It’s about going through all that pain and suffering with no support, and seeing all the support going to people who are unquestioningly blessed with health and strength and children. No one would dream of telling a pregnant woman to suck it up and endure her worries and discomfort in cheerful silence, when what she really wants is reassurance and sympathy. No one would dream of telling a mother she couldn’t share her concerns over a sick child with her friends. So what dreadful crime did we infertile women commit that we aren’t allowed to expect support, comfort, understanding and respect from our friends?

    Like I said, Dr Phil can etc.

  4. MotherOfNone

    October 8, 2007 1:12 am

    The issue of how/when to present information about your IF and what type of response to expect is one of the biggest issues we have to confront. For example, I have on occasion declined to attend baby showers – not for my closest friends or even co-workers, but people who are tangential in my life. I have been put on the spot – why don’t you want to come? I explain it is my attempt at self-preservation. Believe it or not, I am challenged on this. “Can’t you be happy for someone else?” After reading this post, I might have some new responses.

    Dr. Phil is an exploitative person. The one and only time I watched his show he made a mom view a videotape of her daughter tricking and doing hard drugs. Disgusting.

  5. MLO

    October 8, 2007 6:09 am

    Believe it or not, IF is not the only disease that brings this sort of behavior and advice out. Anyone with food allergies will tell you about being excluded because we are too inconvenient to plan for or be around. There are even people who will purposely try and expose you to things that can kill you because they want to see what a reaction might do – this actually happened to me when I was dating a doctor. (Obviously, not still with him.)

    The oddest thing is that infertility seems to engender a hate-filled reaction in so many people – I haven’t seen that so much with allergy. It has really taken me aback, and I stand by what I said earlier that it puts people face-to-face with a sort of death that none of them are comfortable with – no matter how they deny it.

    Dr. Phil has no psychological or even ministerial training from what I understand and should not be calling himself “Dr.” Phil in association with advice he is giving. He simply is not qualified.



  6. Bea

    October 8, 2007 7:27 am

    There’s a fine line between encouraging someone to keep an appropriate balance and perspective and dismissing them unsympathetically. Unfortunately, most “experts” don’t have a proper concept of what “appropriate” means in the context of infertility. Simply put, it’s much harder than they’re accounting for, and their advice is therefore pitched all wrong.


  7. Sunny

    October 8, 2007 12:32 pm

    The day IF hits them close to home will change their tune, well I can only hope. I wish they would validate our feelings and where we are instead of blaming us.

  8. DD

    October 8, 2007 1:56 pm

    There’s nothing as sexy as a man who “gets it”. Congrats for having that man at your side.

    Dr. Phil can shove his advice squarely up his arse.

  9. SaraS-P

    October 8, 2007 3:16 pm

    This is why I tell my students that Dr. Phil, while having the “correct” credentials, is not the best example of a psychologist.

  10. Schatzi

    October 8, 2007 4:57 pm

    Do you have a link to the article from this month? I would love to actually see what he wrote, but I don’t get “O”, and I couldn’t find the recent article on the website.

    I did find one he wrote for “O” from May, 2003 on this subject and I actually didn’t have a problem with what he wrote. So I would love to see what people are upset about.

  11. Deathstar

    October 8, 2007 8:25 pm

    Oh, I sent O magazine an email. I think I will go back to the site and leave a rant! We should all write letters! They probably won’t print it but I feel better for having expressed myself.

  12. meghan

    October 9, 2007 1:37 am

    ugg…all of them drive me crazy. You’re right, no one would say half of what he has said if it was any other medical diagnosis. It’s great of him to make an already isolating situation even more lonely.

  13. Babystep

    October 9, 2007 5:57 pm

    Ugh. I am also very tired of this type of S***.

    Does it also bug you when someone that has gone through IF herself immediately becomes a smug pregnant person the minute they get their BFP? Like they never suffered through IF and have no tolerance for those that still are? Or they start complaining about back aches and morning sickness and how awful it is to be pregnant? This is the worst type of crime, in my book. I was on a small private TTC board, there were only 5 of us. Three got pregnant at around the same time (obviously I was not one of them, I have never had a BFP). And I am honestly, honestly happy for all of them. They all went through m/c and treatments and emotional hell. But then the board started to morph into tales of morning sickness, breast pumps, decorating the nursery, finding out the genders of their babies, feeling the babies move around. And although I was still very happy for them, I decided I needed to take a little break because it was getting really hard for me to read. Each and every one of them had taken a break before they got pregnant, when they were focusing on themselves and trying to heal from a m/c or going through treatment, surgery, etc. I wrote a nice note saying I was not going to disappear forever, and that I was still very interested in their progress, I was very happy for them, I feel that we are all close friends, and would continue to lurk periodically, but that I just needed some time to focus on my impending IVF. Well, this did not go over very well. One of the girls basically told me I was a selfish b**** and that I am punishing her because she is pregnant. That she had nothing to say to me, she wished me the best of luck with my life and basically said goodbye forever. I even wrote her back a private e-mail apologizing if I hurt her, but she did not respond. Was that really necessary? I felt like I was punched in the stomach. I thought of all people, she would understand, but not so much.

    Sorry for the long post. I just had to vent.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      October 9, 2007 9:42 pm

      Yes, Babystep. I’ve been in your shoes. The old expression, “converts make the worst zealots,” sadly holds true for some Infertiles. They are the ones you describe — those who morph into the dreaded Momzilla. That’s why I treasure so dearly those Infertiles who graduate to successful conception and delivery but at the same time continue to support their sisters. They don’t forget. They are my heroes because they go on to become advocates and defenders of their struggling sisters in the mainstream mom community. We have to coin a new term here for the non-Momzillas. Thoughts? Anyone?

  14. Makingpeace

    October 10, 2007 2:15 am

    OMG this is exactly what sets me off!!! Until IF is seen as an actual medical condition, people’s perceptions are going to remain the same. And that’s so frustrating and wrong!

  15. niobe

    October 11, 2007 1:24 pm

    Don’t be so sure that no-one would say something like this: “You may have just lost a child but can’t you be happy for the fact that none of us have had to face that. The loss happened to you. Just deal with it.”

    People say stuff almost exactly like that to people whose babies have died *all the time.* For example (and I’ve written about this on my blog), about three weeks after my twins died, I went to a first birthday party for my brother’s daughter. Also at the party was another brother and his very pregnant wife, whose baby was due about a week before my twins should have been born. I couldn’t face any of these people and went upstairs to cry.

    My mother followed me and told me how sorry she was that I was wallowing in my own grief and couldn’t take happiness in the joy of my siblings.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      October 11, 2007 2:39 pm

      My jaw hit the floor when I read your comment. Just when I think people can’t be more obtuse! I hurt for you and can’t imagine how your mother could say such a thing. My husband’s uncle once said something so simple and yet so true: “Life is a feeling experience.” I’ve been reminded of that countless times when people try to apply sometimes twisted logic to emotional encounters. I’m sorry not only for your loss but for the lack of understanding you face.

Comments are closed.