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"Suffering is an introduction to happiness."



 Last week, I entered my IVF appointment brimming with hope and confidence. We were all ready and set for our 3rd embroyo transfer attempt, and this day was a scan to check that my uterus was as ready as we were. Technically it would be our 4th attempt, with the very first cycle being cancelled due to improper thickening of the uterine lining. Though there was a slight tinge of nervousness about things going wrong again, it remained a distant worry, lurking in the shadows. As the exam started, I felt relaxed and at ease. However, soon the doctor's expression contorted into puzzlement while trying to decipher my ultrasound image. In that moment, my optimism quickly faded.

 

Although she reassured me that everything was okay, when she called in another doctor, I sensed otherwise. With an uneasy tone of lightness, they confirmed a growth in the uterus that required removal, leading to the cancellation of the transfer.


All my preparations, canceled plans, work adjustments, and the future I had eagerly anticipated—all now forefited to yet another setback. My hopes of finally making the long-awaited blushing pregnancy announcement came crashing down, buried beneath the rubble of crushed dreams, once again.


I couldn't get myself to move. My whole body felt heavy. The doctor told me I could dress again, but I needed to process what was happening. "Just a minute," I managed to say, yet she returned a third time to urge me up. I was trying to calm myself, but it seemed there was no room or need for that in her eyes. They assured us we were just "postponing" the transfer, attributing it to a polyp likely caused by the high estrogen levels I was taking for cycle preparation. A common issue. Their casual attitude made tears of anger and sadness well up as I asked again how long the delay would be. "Look - it's simple. It will only take just a few months," they said. To them, maybe it was simple, but to me, it was anything but.


The news, combined with the sudden and drastic change in hormones as I adjusted my meds, sent me spiraling into despair. This journey has been long and arduous, and like most travelers at some point, I feel exhausted and uncertain if I have the strength or spirit left to continue forward. The hormonal imbalance exacerbates this feeling, and while there isn't much research on it, I believe this experience resembles the effects of postpartum depression. The abrupt decrease in hormone levels can profoundly impact a woman's mood and perception. I felt a deep sense of hopelessness pervading every aspect of my life—not just my chances of becoming a mom, but my career, finances, body and health, relationship (IVF is hard on couples), and of course, my mental well-being.


The following days were a battle. Life kept moving forward, which, in a strange way, fueled my frustration. I felt like I couldn't afford to dwell in my despair and grief. Was it selfish to wish I could spend the day in bed, treating my emotional pain like a physical illness? There were family members visiting from afar, important birthday parties, and work that demanded my attention. I had to figure out ways to cope, soothe, or sometimes simply push aside the overwhelming emotions of deep sadness.


Suddenly, my body succumbed to illness. My throat burned, my muscles ached, and I had zero energy. I had no choice but to stay home and rest in bed. I couldn't help but wonder: was it merely a coincidence, or was there some natural intelligence guiding this physical response to my emotional distress?


But the longer I felt unwell and stayed in bed, the more I started to worry. I couldn't discern if my feelings were a natural reaction to the situation or something more concerning. I felt overwhelmed by depression, struggling to cope and function. As a yoga teacher, I'm expected to provide wisdom and uplift others, and feeling inadequate in this role weighed heavily on me. To make matters worse, I felt like a burden to my husband, who was visibly affected by my struggles, compounding my sense of failure as a spouse. I felt shattered, and despite well-meaning reassurances, I grew increasingly ashamed of my perceived weakness. I was willing to seek help in any form, including considering antidepressants, but unfortunately, I couldn't secure an appointment. So, I turned to the other healers I know: those who address the spirit and mind.


Turning to teachings from Tibet, specifically Geshe Chekhawa's Seven Points of Mind Training, provided the medicine I desperately needed. Whether it was the teachings or perhaps my hormone levels balancing out again—maybe both—I found a bit of healing and the clouds began to lift.


During a particular lecture, the teacher emphasized the importance of facing suffering directly rather than avoiding it. Suffering is an undeniable aspect of human life and plays a crucial role in achieving enlightenment or a meaningful, happy, and fulfilled life.

"Suffering is an introduction to happiness."


This idea suggests that happiness follows suffering and that one cannot truly appreciate happiness without first experiencing suffering. This concept piqued my interest, leading me to explore it further, as I do, including through a Western lens. Surprisingly, studies support the notion that embracing suffering is vital for a meaningful and happy life (Kaftanski, W., & Hanson, J., 2022). Contrary to the current focus on alleviating suffering in wellness and positive psychology, the research argues that acknowledging and accepting suffering can lead to personal development and deeper fulfillment.


This newfound perspective completely transformed my outlook. I came to realize that my suffering wasn't merely something to be alleviated or fought against—it was exacerbated by my resistance to it. Viewing my emotions as a burden only intensified my struggles. Instead, I try to see them as natural and even beautiful, nurturing my personal growth and development. Despite the discomfort of this moment, I must learn to understand it holds valuable lessons. While it may temporarily hinder my moitvation and ability to work, I believe it will ultimately deepen my capacity to teach and support others in the future.


It's crucial to allow oneself to feel and process suffering fully, without the pressure to put on a brave face, numb it out, or seek quick fixes. We don't need to be strong to fight through it; we need courage to fully sit with it.


That it's okay. I am not broken. I don't need a quick fix, a distraction, or to run away to Costa Rica and start a new life, fortunately for my husband.


This pain is necessary. This pain is temperory.


But one crucial factor I must clarify here is time.


Suffering isn't easy whilst we're going through it. It's crap! In those moments, what we truly need is support and the freedom to fully experience ALL of our emotions, freely—without the pressure to smile, be pleasant, or make sense of it. We need time to pass so that we can see the fruit that grows out of the manure.


Let those who are suffering rest, cry, and embrace their fragility. It's time to stop insisting that people be strong and instead learn how to provide the space, strength and support they need until they regain their own strength again.


Suffering is only benificial once it has passed. Don't rush it. It's like trying to sunbathe in the rain —it's simply not realistic. Instead, grab your umbrella, wait out the storm knowing the clouds will eventually clear. And when the sun finally returns, its warmth will feel even more glorious after the storm.


And one more thing that has truly been healing: when we are suffering, it can be transformative to shift our focus from our own pain to helping others with theirs. Whether it's offering a silent prayer for someone going through a difficult time or cooking a meal for a grieving family, I've discovered that easing another's suffering also eases my own. Even on days when I wanted to stay in bed, showing up to teach a class with the hope of making someone else feel better made a positive difference in how I felt too.


I do not wish more suffering apon myself, nor do I wish suffering apon you. I wish to find more peace with suffering when it does arise - as it is unavoiadable and to see it instead of the end of happiness, as the possible beginning to even more happiness.





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Thank you Amy for sharing this - I have no words other than to say if anyone deserves that happiness you do in return for the amount of joy and healing you share xx thank you 🙏 also thank you for the reminder that quite often it’s the resistance to what is that compounds and extends the suffering x

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Amy - I see this with bereaved families. I tell them they are hurting, they are poorly. When they need to curl up under the duvet and rest for half an hour. Nurture. Embrace. Recognise suffering. It is ok not to be ok.


And yes - do kindness to others and it will make us feel better.


Lots and lots of love Fiona xx

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