- by Gitabushi
When I was an infant, I had colic. As I understand it, “colic” is basically just a child that cries for no reason its mother can understand, and the crying does not seem to correspond to hunger or filled diapers.
My mother was a high-strung individual, so she was very proud of the fact that she learned to just leave me to cry on my own in the bedroom, rather than trying to comfort me, which would lead to her frustration when I couldn’t be comforted.
On the one hand, it isn’t good to teach a child that no one cares about your discomfort, and no one responds to your cries. On the other hand, it isn’t good for a parent to get frustrated with a child for things the child can’t control…because such frustration can boil over into abuse.
But I digress.
I’ve heard that high pain tolerance is associated with socio-paths, and that sort of worries me, because I have extremely high pain tolerance. In my late 20s, due to a mistake in communication, I once had a tooth drilled and filled with no anesthesia at all.
When I was about 12, I realized I often have shooting pains in my inner ear, and that some things give me heartburn. When I was about 24, it occurred to me that neither of those were normal conditions, and I should start paying attention to the circumstances under which they occurred, and try to avoid those conditions.
Now that I’m in my late 40s, I realize: Although I’ve never been in constant pain, I constantly have pain. It’s just little twinges. Not every second, but every day. I think. I’m not sure, because I usually just ignore them.
On the way to work this morning, I had what felt like a bee sting on my left shoulder. No reason for it. Nothing in my clothes that might have caused it. I just shrugged my shoulder, and instead of the pain intensifying as a bee sting would, it faded after about 10 seconds.
Just now, I felt a burning pain in my wrist, just below the heel of my hand. This is most likely mild carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. I’ve had mild to moderate problems with that since I began using a computer to work. Sometimes it is a soreness on the heel of my hand from resting on the desk as I use the mouse, sometimes I soreness in the muscles of my forearm, sometimes a shooting pain in the wrist. It never lasts more than an hour or two. I change my position I’m typing or sitting, or change the angle of my arm, and the next day I’m fine.
And while I typed the last paragraph, I had an itch on my left thigh that had a sensation of pain, and then the same sort of painful itch on my left jawline.
There are times (probably from working out) that the bone in my upper arm just aches. This is the closest I have to a difficult-to-bear pain. Experience has shown that it is most likely some sort of damage from doing push-ups. I have had signs of cartilage tearing in my chest when I do dips of any kind, so it might be the arm version of shin-splints: the muscle or tendon pulling away from the bone. But I’m not sure, because it never lasts more than a day.
And yet, at the same time, I never get headaches.
The result of all this is I’ve never gotten in the habit of using pain relievers. Even after surgery, I take the pain relievers because the doctor orders me to, but I never notice them wearing off, because I don’t really notice them helping in the first place. After 2 days, I stop taking them. I don’t know: maybe they are having an effect and I just don’t realize it. Local anesthetic injections certainly work, so it isn’t like I’m impervious to pain relief medicines.
The reason I’m bringing all this up is I have no idea if this is normal or not. I hear about people getting hooked on pain medications to deal with pain. But when I hear people describe the pain they are in, I have no idea how bad it is. The Pain Scale just has you put the pain on a scale from bearable to unbearable. I almost never get above a 3. The only unbearable pain I can remember ever experiencing was from burns when I was working at McDonald’s. Two or three times that I burned myself, I had to have a cup of ice water standing by so I could put my fingers in it every 60 seconds or so, or the pain was unbearable. But that’s it.
Now: does that mean I have a high pain tolerance, compared to the people who need pain medication? Or does that mean that these people are experiencing pain I haven’t encountered? How objective and subjective is pain?
I’m not bringing this up to try to say anything about myself, or to make any point. The long narrative of pain perception was just to provide examples and background so we can talk about pain. I’ve never heard anyone else talk about what they feel, how much pain they experience, what pain they ignore, etc.
If I were forced to have a conclusion, I would say that I have a low pain threshold: I feel pain where most people wouldn’t, and my nerves are constantly firing to notify me of all sorts of phantom pain. But at the same time, I have developed a high pain tolerance due to over-exposure. To the result that, rather than making me a socio-path, I am actually more empathetic to other people’s pain. I cry for other people’s pain, but can’t cry for my own. At least, that’s what I think about myself. Understanding yourself is sometimes more difficult than understanding others.
What are your experiences with pain? Are they anything like mine? Am I taking the suffering of those with chronic pain too lightly?
Let’s talk about pain. Let me know your thoughts, reactions, ideas, etc.