Dear Carolyn: I recently began painful and exhausting fertility treatments, with no guarantee they'll actually work. An old friend, a mom of three, coincidentally began studying for her Realtor's license on the same day I began injections.

She now sends regular emails about how excited she is that we're "in this life journey together." More than once, if I mention I'm stressed or worried, she responds that she knows exactly how that feels, because if she doesn't pass her exam, her dream will be crushed. Today's text: a photo of her textbook next to a Starbucks latte, with, "Thinking of you as we both pursue our dreams."

I'm trying to be patient with the idea that she sees her study sessions as equivalent to my shooting myself up with hormones, undergoing extensive lab tests and determining my familial future. But I'm frankly irritated. Not only does my friend's success depend entirely on her own hard work, but her worst-case scenario is that .?.?. she fails an exam and has to take it again.

I'm super-emotional about everything right now, but am I crazy? This is weird, right? What should I say that doesn't belittle her, but also makes this stop?

— Not the Same Thing!

Not the Same Thing!: Using whatever means available to do this safely: Have the in-person, “I know you mean well, but .?.?.” conversation. Say you’re really rooting for her, of course — but if you don’t spell out that you’re uncomfortable with this “journey” coupling, and why, then you’re going to start avoiding this friend or dump a latte on her, both of which are more aggressive acts than just telling her how you feel.

Sorry you’re having a tough time.

To: "Same Thing": I'm also currently doing IVF, and got a three-year graduate degree in 22 months, and there is zero comparison. Most people are so [bleeping] clueless about IVF and don't treat it like the complex medical situation it is. A New York Times article discussed research showing the IVF stress level is comparable to that of cancer patients. Hopefully your friend isn't so obtuse that she'd do this with a cancer patient; most think you should be positive because it's baby related. Another needle in my butt isn't some magical moment.

— Stressed

Re: IVF: I'm so angry at this I could spit. No, the stress levels are NOT equivalent. You don't die of not having a baby.

— Online Commenter 1

Online Commenter 1: Many responded this way; I direct you all to reread the comment, which referred to a news item (here, or here, about research (here, comparing stress levels. Please let’s resist some temptations to take offense.

Re: IVF: The point is that stress levels are COMPARABLE. Just as the stress levels from a wedding and a funeral are similar for these life-changing events, although weddings are usually joyous and funerals not so much. My partner has been treated for major cancers — it's really challenging to look at life ending sooner rather than later. That doesn't mean women undergoing IVF don't experience huge stress levels, too — just different. And those wacky hormones really magnify everything. It isn't a competition.

— Online Commenter 2

Online Commenter 2: Amen, thanks.

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