Tolerating Pain

Hi lovely readers,

Today I’m going to be talking about a less-than-fun topic – pain tolerance. Tolerance is in some ways the right word to use here, and in some ways not. Because what I really mean is not simply sitting in it, but actually letting yourself wholly and entirely feel what is hurting you.

let it hurt

As a recovering addict, this is perhaps my least favourite thing to do. Substances ‘fixed’ any low mood I had – I remember saying, so many times, “I need to pick up today, [so and so] happened” or “Can you spot me today? It’s a really hard one for me”. Of course, this only prolonged and worsened the pain, all the while ruining my life day after day.

When I got sober from drugs, I discovered other ways of temporarily muting painful emotions. Most of which are really healthy coping mechanisms, like taking baths, listening to positive and calming music, going to therapy, doing my makeup and hair nicely for a self-esteem boost, cleaning, etc. Sometimes though, it turned into impulse buying and a compulsive need to be hanging out with/talking to people. I remember a phase in my sobriety where the concept of being unhappy without anything to occupy me resulted in facetiming people over and over until someone picked up and I could selfishly use them to get my mind off of what was bothering me. I also don’t think I heard myself say, even once, what was really bothering me to any of my friends or, god forbid, admit what that made me feel.

All of that healthy stuff is great, but does it work 100% of the time? No. Sometimes it just pushes the time when you’re going to have to experience that pain until a little later, which is nice, but not necessarily effective.

Things are going to get really personal here, because I think it’s important that it does, for anyone who might relate. I’ve been sexually assaulted before, more than once, and I never think about it. Sometimes I can’t even remember what happened or when it happened, unless I’m asleep, dreaming, which apparently is PTSD. Occasionally I’ll mention it to be people who are really close to me, but I always say it in a “yeah that was fucked up but it’s fine” kind of way. But how does it really make me feel? Horrible. Disgusted. Angry. Miserable. Embarrassed. Like doing a mountain of drugs and jumping off of a cliff.

Why would anyone want to feel that? Why would anyone in their right mind want to semi-re-experience their trauma? Because it’s the only way to grow from it, come to an understanding of it, and accept yourself and your life. If you want to stay stuck, occasionally having nightmares and sometimes getting that stabbing pain in your stomach with a little flashback of your worst moments, you’re welcome to continue to push it down. At least, that’s what my therapist still tells me. My suppression of pain has even gotten to the point where I’ve spoken to men who’ve done these things to me and been friendly and even said it didn’t really hurt me so they didn’t need to be sorry. Once it resulted in me taking it out on someone randomly who really hadn’t done anything wrong. Sometimes it came out in impulsive self-harm, or using, or not eating for days on end.

Let yourself feel it, give yourself permission to cry, listen to music that sounds like what you’re going through, watch a movie that makes you break down, write miserable poetry and think about it. But tolerate it. Tell yourself it’s okay to be sad, or angry, or hurting, because you deserve to feel those things. What you went through really is painful. Your depression coming back and telling you life sucks and isn’t worthwhile is painful. Your embarrassing experience during a class you had that day was kind of mortifying. There’s nothing wrong with you personally, but what happened felt wrong, and you know it, and maybe there are other people who should know it. Maybe you should take that experience and protect yourself as best as you can going forward (not to an unreasonable extent – things will always arise that cause pain). Maybe you could turn it into art.

It’s fine to then force yourself to go to a workout, because you know it’ll make you feel better, or to clean your room, or see a friend, but don’t limit your pain to a certain amount of time or tell yourself that an action has to prevent it from coming back. It may always be there. But if you can feel it productively, and move forward a healthier, stronger person, and not do anything to impulsively numb it or just to react to it, you’ll be an overall happier person.

Thanks for stopping by, and I apologize for the heavy topic. But it’s something I’m just learning about and I think it’s worthy of sharing.

Lots of love,

Liz

P.S. Here’s a playlist I made that helps me get into my feelings. It’s not very uplifting but I find it useful!

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