Archive: January, 2016

January 26, 2016

How Much Pain Will You Tolerate?

angle of grief

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle.

Challenges build character.

If we can get through this, we can get through anything.

No pain, no gain.

There is a lot of glorification of pain in our culture. There are a lot of stories about pain making us stronger. And while it’s true that through adversity we can grow…it’s also true that there is a limit to how much we can (or need to) endure.

Years ago I was an actress and during a show I passed a kidney stone on stage. I was in excruciating pain, but I kept going. After the show one of my co-actors said to me, “I’m really impressed with you. What you did, only actors or athletes could do!” I remember wearing that statement like a badge of honor. I was proud of myself for pushing through. There is a lot that can be said for honoring your obligations and commitments. And at the same time, I totally ignored my pain in order to keep going. Earlier that day I had called my urologist (I had been in the hospital for kidney stones a few days prior) and complained about pain and he told me I was being sensitive and I should take another vicodin. So I listened to the expert and told myself that I was overreacting. I told myself I was being weak and I went out in the world (and on stage) and ignored my pain.

For anyone living with chronic pain, you know what it is like to desensitize yourself from your pain. You are so used to the pain that it starts to be incorporated in how you feel every day. What might be a 7 for someone else on the pain scale, becomes a 4 for you, because that is your normal. Your relationship to pain changes. Your tolerance for pain changes. And sometimes you suffer greatly.

This doesn’t only happen with physical pain, but also with emotional pain. If you’ve been ignored in a relationship or treated poorly, you may expect to be treated that way. If you are used to taking care of others without much reciprocity, you power through when you need support. You may deny your own wants and needs. You make it work.

If you’ve been sick for a week, your coworker may respond with, “You think that’s bad? I’ve been sick for 2 weeks!” As we compete for whose life is harder, we start to doubt our own experience.

You’re crazy.”

Don’t be so sensitive.”

You’re overreacting.”

Man up!”

Don’t be silly.”

It’s not a big deal.”

Don’t you trust me?”

It’s not that bad.”

If you’ve been tolerating quite a bit of pain then you might start to doubt your own intuition. If your own pain radar goes off but someone else tells you it’s not a big deal, you might start to believe them and ignore yourself. As someone else invalidates your experience, you may believe them. You wonder, ‘Am I overreacting? Is it really that bad?’ You see other people soldiering on and you feel like you should do the same.

Pain is inevitable. Things happen that are hard or sad or excruciating. There will be pain. There are also limits to what you need to endure.

Take a little inventory in your own life. How much pain are you tolerating?

(I didn’t ask how much you CAN tolerate, I know that you are strong and able to tolerate pain, but do you need to?)

How much pain are you willing to tolerate?

Is there anything that will alleviate some of your pain?

Support from friends or family

Seeing a doctor

Exploring your grief

Hiring a coach or therapist

Delegating or getting help with tasks

Getting more sleep

Radical Self Care

There is no shame in making your life easier. Getting support doesn’t make you weak. And tolerating excruciating pain doesn’t always make you strong.

Filed under: Receiving, Strength, Support, Trust — admin @ 5:00 pm