Passing the threshold

When I was about 7 months pregnant with Maya, things started feeling…not so good.  My hip joints were constantly sore (because my daughter was sitting cross-legged on them), my lower back was sore as well.  My feet were the size and shape of pork chops. This was particularly disarming for me because of all of my functional body parts, I really loved my feet. I remember going to Disneyland with some colleagues during that time and barely being able to walk at some points. Walk is a relative term…I should say waddle because that is what I was doing. Since it was my first, and I didn’t expect pregnancy to be 9 months of feeling the best I’d ever felt in my life, I thought the way I was feeling was normal, or at least, normal for being in my third trimester.  It didn’t hurt that my pain threshold was relatively high – I would work a full day, then come home, maybe take a nap and sit on the couch with my pork chops up attending to more email. I was due to leave for Maui shortly after that Disney trip, a babymoon as they call it … and I thought in my head, if I can just make it to that blissful island, it will all be okay.  I was living in the future and ignoring my present state.

The problem was, all was not okay. Just a few days before I was due to leave for Maui, I came home from work, had a bit of a headache and sat down right here in this chair to check some email. I noticed that I was seeing stars, lights and other goodies not normally in my line of vision and my gut told me to call the doctor. I thought she might tell me to lay down, drink some water, take it easy, but she didn’t. She told me to go straight to the hospital.  That was not what I was expecting.

My body had had just about enough of me ignoring it; its threshold had been surpassed. I ended up being hospitalized for pre-term contractions (which I wasn’t feeling), high blood pressure (then exacerbated by the hospital stay when I was supposed to be packing) and severe dehydration (I’m historically bad at drinking water.) I had to literally beg the doctors to allow me to get on a plane so I could get what I knew I really needed at the time but was doing a great job of ignoring – some high quality rest.

I thought back to that time the other day and realized that pain thresholds are not only physical. They are emotional as well – and while some people have a high tolerance for pain that might serve them in certain moments, overall it likely does not. We find coping mechanisms to deal with all different types of pain…different things to numb ourselves. Some overdo certain things to numb, some become neglectful of those same things. I am generally an overachiever when it comes to anesthetizing myself. I’ve been an overeater, workaholic, TV addict. The overdoing feeds a need inside – a need for me to be soothed and also in some respects, to please.

I realized the same thing happened in my marriage.  I tolerated some things emotionally I probably shouldn’t have because my threshold was high. I fed my deadened state with food and television and my own tightly held dreams of how my life should go. I wanted to please my ex-husband in many respects. And then I passed my emotional threshold…suddenly things went in reverse.  I started running and doing yoga and eating better.  I had no desire to watch television and every desire to write. I started to feel so much more, both the good and the not so good and that’s when things changed, when I got real with myself, and found myself in the middle of a divorce.

In my current relationship, I’ve noticed that I no longer let anything fester like I used to. I am still sometimes slow to react to certain things, but this time it’s not because I’m tolerating behavior I don’t like, I’m just slower to process emotions and I approach (or at least try to) things with a less personal stance.  My threshold for pain is much lower now, and while I cry a lot more, for both good and bad, it’s so much better to live a passionate life than an unconscious one.

Do you know where your threshold is?

By Joy

I'm 42, a remarried mom of an 8 year old girl and a toddler son, a teacher, and a writer. People tell me I tend to be brutally honest and ...tell it like it is, so I had hoped to use this outlet to keep me sane while I got used to my new life as a stay-at-home Mom back when I was home with my worked. And it's been therapeutic through the end of a marriage and the emergence of me...


  1. My threshold was pretty high years ago…….and like you, not so much anymore……I let so much more out now than I did then. It feels wonderful, and thank you once again for putting your feelings onto paper. It does your body good, and sometimes mine!

  2. I think I’m like you in some respects… we go along with things because we think they’re normal… that everyone is that way… that we shouldn’t complain… and it’s only when you reach the threshold that you realise you’ve also passed the point of no return… and that’s when it gets kinda scary.

    What I find interesting (and inspiring) is looking back, realising what you went through, but also realising that yes, you survived and yes, you’re in a better place because of it.

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