Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A high tolerance for pain.

One day, I was working with an acupuncturist and she was burning incense on the palm of my hand. She told me to let her know when it gets too hot and she would remove it, but to try and keep it there for as long as I could. Well, I kept it there as long as I could letting the incense burn all the way through to the skin. She asked why I waited so long? She had said to keep it there for as long as I could and that's what I did! I kept it there much longer than a normal human being would have done. Why? Because I have a high tolerance for pain.

There are different kinds of pains that I get from living with MS, and some are worse than others. They can range from aches to extreme itching to deep nerve pain. I know that I can count on experiencing at least a couple of them every day. I also know that when I'm feeling pain, that it will go away. For me, I think that knowing it will go away is a big part of tolerating pain.

Don't get me wrong. I feel the pain. I grit my teeth's and sometimes writhe in pain. Occasionally I will let out a few expletives. So it is not that I do not feel "the nail going through my foot”. I do. I am just able to tolerate it. Again, knowing that it will go away is a big part of how I tolerate pain.

Pain can be more than physical. There also emotional pains.  Pains that one experiences when they or someone close to them are diagnosed with an illness. Pains that are felt when a family member or friend or someone important to them passes away. I seem to have a high tolerance for these pains too. The questions are how and why.

The answer for emotional pain is partially the same as it is for physical pain. I know that it will go away. “Time heals all wounds”. The cliché is always true, but there are other ways that I deal with the emotional pain.  What seems to work best for me is gratitude and perspective.

I was very close with my mother. She was an extraordinarily active and vital woman who spent her life taking care of other people. She took care of her mother, her husband, and did everything she could to take care of our family too. But it did not stop with family. Whenever she saw or met someone that she thought she could help, she did. She also died at the age of 68.

Dozens of people responded to her death by saying “she was so young”. My response was that 68 is not young. It is just not a particularly long life. In fact, we were lucky to have had her for as long as we did.

She was not young. It is just that her life was not long enough. Her life wouldn't have been long enough even if she lived to be 120 years old. For me, the best way to accept her passing was to be grateful for all the years that I had with her.

The best way to deal with pain, be it physical or emotional, is gratitude. Grateful in knowing that the physical pain will go away. Grateful in knowing person for as long as I did.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.


  1. Thank you. My father has advanced MS and never complains about anything. I cannot understand how he does it. After reading your bolg, I think I might be starting to see his tolerance for pain. Your words were insightful and inspiring. Thank you.

    With deep gratitude,


    1. Debra Schloss---- I am Stuart Schlossman -- and I have a sister-in-law- named Debra Schlossman -- I have ms and many know me as Stu's Views and MS News -- Please sign-up at our site: www.msviewsandnews.org

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  3. Great commentary, Michael! Tolerance for pain can be used as a metaphor for many things (as you said!)

    Gratitude is a great mechanism to get one through tough times. What I like about gratitude is that it is not the 'Ostrich with its head in the sand' syndrome. You do not ignore the issues around you but rather you acknowledge them and look past them onto goodness

    Thanks for sharing!