honoring life's difficulties

When I initially shared about my endometriosis diagnosis, I received many messages of loving support.

it is being honest
my pain
that makes me invincible.

- yield

By Nayyirah Waheed


When I initially shared about my endometriosis and adenomyosis diagnosis, I received many messages of loving support. But I also received some unhelpful and even hurtful messages. 

Some people told me it was karma. Others said I was blocked in my chakras. And, even more hurtful, some people put the blame for my condition directly on my shoulders, saying that if I had thought more positively, this wouldn’t have happened.

It took me a while to come to terms with these responses, but I recognized echoes of them all around (including in these unsolicited advice comics published by The New Yorker).
As a form of spiritual bypassing - a term coined by John Welwood to describe a way of "avoiding pain and suffering by using spirituality as a way to avoid dealing with emotions" - these responses contained a lot of self-righteousness as well as judgment of others.

I am a firm believer that discomfort-avoidant cliches - think "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger" or "anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die" or "[insert trauma] is a life lesson you’ve been blessed with" - can do a lot of harm. The challenging and painful situations in our life can hurt and harden, and those who’ve gone through some form of trauma (which, if we’re being honest, includes a large percentage of the earth’s population) don’t need to be told to look on the bright side or to harden themselves further with unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

While I don’t believe it's a good idea to repress what we can address, I feel that it is tenderness and reminders to be gentle with ourselves as we address our trauma that we need. We can’t sidestep or use platitudes to avoid facing difficult situations. And oftentimes, the opposite is actually true: recognizing the reality of certain situations and feelings can be essential to reconciling with them and the challenges they present.

It can be (and most often is) a hard thing to check in and explore traumatic events when we want to check out or harden ourselves to it all.
But it’s not something that you have to go through alone.

It’s okay to ask for help and to expect that the person helping you isn’t going to bulldoze or blame you.
I deeply believe that it can be helpful to have someone notice where certain patterns pop up, to encourage you to check in with how something feels in your own body and to help guide you back to your intuition. To borrow a phrase from author and teacher Jeff Foster, the goal is to focus on feeling held, not healed.

When we listen, we can see signals - to what’s wrong, to what we need, to how we can ask for and get help. We can notice our self-talk (or spiritual bypassing) and make a plan for how to deal with and be aware of our emotions, thoughts, actions, words, body and environment instead of ignoring or avoiding them. 

Honoring your pain isn’t the same as wallowing in it. It doesn't mean that you won't allow it to change.
Honoring your pain means accepting that it’s there, that it’s part of you, that it’s part of your life and your story.

As Brené Brown said, "Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."

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Irina emits a healing energy that just feels good to be with. Each time we've met, I've relaxed into her presence, openness, authenticity and ability to offer support. She has helped me gain the perspective I needed to be more compassionate and gentle with myself. If you're ready to do the hard work of personal growth, I'd highly recommend partnering with Irina.

- April