Why is it Strong to Endure Physical Pain?

Rainbow over St. Paul

Here is the sky that I arrived home to on Saturday

At my medical checkup today, the physician instructed me to schedule a bone scan to make sure that I will not have osteoporosis. Numerous people have mentioned this condition to me, hoping to frighten me into eating more. The idea of my bones deteriorating is anxiety-producing, I will admit.

Yet, the sick part of my brain proclaims this a victory. After all, physical pain is good. The more that you endure, the stronger you are as a person. We respect and affirm those who battle each day through agonizing pain.

That is, we applaud them unless they are causing that pain to themselves.

Interesting, isn’t it? Why are we so in awe of a man who is ridden with cancer but repulsed by a boy with scar marks on his arms? What is the difference in our emotions towards a girl who nearly died from a car accident as opposed to a woman who survived a suicide attempt? Do we have a double standard, and if so, why?

What I just wrote is highly controversial and might even make you mad. I am not saying that it is wrong to differentiate between someone who endures self-inflicted pain and another who suffers from a physical disease. However, recognizing the distinction in our attitudes is important. Perhaps you have pondered it already. If not, I invite you to do so and really explore why you separate the two types of pain.

One reason people do so is because of the responsibility factor. Admittedly, a teenager who cuts himself has more control over the situation than a man with a cancer-infested liver. Does the situation change if that boy has deep depression, an abuse parent, and/or no other coping skill? Now both males are suffering from an illness that has symptoms that cause physical pain.

Another objection is that self-harm goes against the very nature of self-preservation. Humans usually strive for survival and comfort. Thus, causing pain to oneself makes little sense to others. We can understand and sympathize with a child crying through physical therapy after a car crash. Empathizing with a woman who needs the same type of therapy after jumping off a bridge is harder for us to understand. Unless you have been in a similar situation, the idea of ending one’s life or adding agony to it seems insane. How many suicide survivors receive flowers in the hospital as opposed to car accident victims?

There is a difference between pain inflicted by oneself or another person/thing. However, the fearful (and sometimes cruel) way that our culture treats those who harm themselves saddens me. Pain is pain. My goal is to help all who are struggling. Do we sometimes bring pain upon ourselves? Yes, but one can debate what role mental health plays in that. Whatever the case, this is an important issue to think about and decide your viewpoint on instead of just mindlessly listening to our culture’s biases.

Enough of my little rant. What are your thoughts on this issue?

 

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2 thoughts on “Why is it Strong to Endure Physical Pain?

  1. I think that one of the biggest things could be that it’s just strange to people. Mental illness is strange to people. Not thinking like other people is strange. So it might not even be that people don’t want to comfort suicide survivors or self harm victims; they just think that it’s strange and easier to avoid than to try to understand.
    Also, I think that it’s not so much that we admire those that go through pain as we admire that it appears that they have overcome that pain. I think a lot of people feel like someone with a serious physical illness should be incapable of normal life so when they do normal things, people see it as they have overcome their pain. When people have a mental illness though, people expect them to be capable of normal life so it’s not something worthy of praise if they do normal things.

    • You bring up two great points. Thank you! Mental illness is strange for most people. Also, I never thought about the fact that we commend overcoming pain. That is something I will have to think about more.

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