Briefly: Support me on Patreon | Can we learn, as a society, to simply be in pain? | Leah Hazard on The Wintering Sessions | Emily Fine’s ‘biblioadventure’ Hello, Last Thursday, I broke my little toe. Nothing dramatic happened. I just walked into a speaker that has always been there. I suppose I was jetlagged, and that my internal map had lost its precision after a couple of weeks away. But there it was: the sickening crunch that took my breath away en route to the kitchen. The surge of pain.
If find this even as a therapist. People will sit on my couch and explain a horribly painful scenario and then immediately tell me why it has a silver lining, or that their trying to find the positive. There’s nothing wrong with a silver lining, but I think it’s often just a bypass of acknowledging the pain. I wonder why we cannot let ourselves ache first? Humans are fascinating. I hope your toe is mending!
This was so beautifully written. Thank you for this. I'm glad your toe is healing.
I'm looking forward to hearing about your retreat. The name "wild rest" just brings up such amazing images!
Sorry to hear about your toe! I hope it heals up smoothly and that people give it a wide berth in the meantime.
Chronically ill people often habituate to pain to our cost. A few years ago, my gut inflammation worsened so gradually that when I finally had surgery, we learned the dilation had been so significant that it had actually reduced my lung capacity. I'd just got used to breathing problems. Hearing that didn't make me feel brave for having put up with it; it alarmed me that I'd had to.
All my life I thought I had a low pain threshold, but I nowadays I wonder if that's really a combination of autistic sensory sensitivity, and the fact I got Crohn's so young (and good old medical sexism, of course) having contributed in the past to the dismissal of my pain. At 40, I get a lot less impatience and irritation from staff when I express fear about painful procedures than I did as a child.
I think the change is partly to do with medical trauma being better understood, and my autism diagnosis helping the doctors and nurses understand me, but it's also that our culture is slowly shifting towards having less knee-jerk shame around expressions of pain or vulnerability. Long may that continue!
So sorry to hear about your little toe(( I hope it will heal very soon.
I love listening your podcasts, especially the intro section where you tell us something beautiful and touching like mushrooms or birds on the beach. Always excited to hear those stories and sounds of waves crashing on the shore. I am a sea lover too.
Great piece. The pain threshold thing is such an interesting charter, why do we also insist of comparing our pain against another’s? Pain is pain. As someone who navigates life with chronic pain often I denounce it, ‘well It’s not going to kill me’ but that gentle reminder that pain is a reminder it’s a way of asking for care is so important. Thank you for the reminder. I loved the image of your toe in bubble wrap, sometimes we all need that, hope your toe is on the mend for the retreat. Sounds heavenly.
I so needed this today; thank you. “But pain is a signal. It is your body’s last line of defence, its way of asking for care.”
My hope is there is a solid movement of people truly feeling their pain and doing the hard uncomfortable work. I am one of those people and I believe, by me doing the hard work it opens the communication and the awareness in others that there might be work they need to do as well. It is for me, about the ripples, being fully human and allowing others to see another way of being. We just keep on talking about your truth and the hard stuff because no one has been helped by keeping silent. With kindness, Rae.
Katherine: thank you so much for writing this and sharing it from the middle of the process! I’m sorry for how hard it is for you, and also grateful for your words which give voice to and help describe my own shutdowns and meltdowns.
It is intriguing how pain synesthesia arises. Like how the smell of the bin needing emptying made your pain worse. This happens for me too. Love your conclusion that these are simply things that need care.
I have low pain threshold and I’d always seek help when I’m in pain. I can live with it for a day or two, but after that I’m done and need to do something about it. Also not a silver lining person, when something was horrible, it just was. I don’t need to make it prettier.
On the other hand I can find joy and happiness in the smallest things. I’m easily happy and I recognise that I can sometimes seem childish in this. I don’t care. I like to feel all the feelings.
Oh, Katherine! I know I'm a few days late to this post, but it's certainly come to me at the right time. Reading this, I hear something almost "verb"-y about each word: "Be in pain." There is a doing involved, isn't there? To this being. To this being within. To this feeling pain. It all demands a certain sort of presence. I am working on this. Often I'm afraid making the descent will wind up with me lost down there forever (although my therapist says the most gutting, visceral parts of emotional pain are a body's signal something is awry, and they will only last about the length of a contraction, if I can just enter it and stop resisting).
Fascinating. Thanks for this.
I used to have a “high” pain threshold both for physical and emotional pain. It all came crashing down when I experienced a particularly traumatic event and ended up with PTSD. All the things that had made me “strong” before were actually coping mechanisms that had completely disconnected me from my experience. Fine tuned denial, which at the time I needed in order to function in a chaotic childhood.
When I went to the chiropractor for the first time in my 20s, she was surprised I didn’t report more pain. She said my back had shut off nerve sensitivity. A kindness my body had offered me, a natural anesthetic. As she started working on me, she re-sensitized the nerves so they could function properly.
The healing process hurt, but it was worth it in the end. My pain went from a dull background nagging before treatment to a strong aching pain as my nerves woke up, and eventually to a healed state with acute pain when appropriate.
Desensitization served me until it didn’t. Feeling pain is part of many healing processes, and fear of pain causes a lot of people to avoid confronting what needs healing. Or maybe it’s not fear of pain itself, but of not being able to “handle“ the pain -- of being seen as weak and vulnerable instead of courageous, as you mentioned.
I’ll be thinking about this post.
Sorry about your toe.
Absolutely beautiful writing. I mean of course as usual, but, you know, more so. Thank you.
This is so wonderful and true. We can transform our pain. All it takes is practice - just like everything else.
It’s so interesting isn’t it. The pain debate.
My little girl is nearly two and yesterday sought out a nettle flower to feel the sensation of the sting.
At the same age and probably even now, My little boy would have been upset and “in pain” if he’d been stung. He is avoidant of noise and sensations that over whelm him where as I’m learning my daughter seeks them out. Two completely different reactions. Two completely different pain thresh holds? Cx
I needed this