Blog of Matthew Porter – Husband, Father, Entrepreneur, Geek, MS Warrior, and Ultramarathoner
In 2016, neuroscientists published a paper entitled, “Social Transfer of Pain In Mice” in Science Advances. The experiment tested pain experience and tolerance in three different groups of mice. The first group underwent controlled changes to have a more acute feeling of pain. The remaining two groups were unchanged.
Researchers then conducted a series of standard tests that allow the measurement of pain each felt. (The ethical merits of animal testing are not up for debate in this post.) Only a portion of the mice underwent anything causing pain. A controlled group of mice was left that neither underwent any changes nor had undergone tests causing pain.
The researchers were surprised to discover that a portion of the control group experienced pain. This only occurred with the control group mice that were roommates with those that experienced pain. To reiter, the mice under pain had effectively caused their roommates to experience pain. The authors theorize that the social transfer of pain occurred via smell.
The end result – Pain is contagious.
I can understand any skepticism around that conclusion and its relevance. Yet, how different are we as humans? Maybe, we transfer our pain, fear, and anxieties via smell. Maybe. I believe we might do it via more complicated manners, and those are not pretty in the long term for ourselves and others.
The transfer of pain does not merely exist in the lab or for mice. We have each experienced this in our personal lives. We can treat the ones we most cherish and love as our personal emotional punching bag almost irrespective of the topic.
We use words like “hangry” to describe an emotional state derived by a lack of fulfilling the lowest need in Maslov’s hierarchy.
We live in a world of road rage which fundamentally does not make sense. It effectively translates to – “I am pissed at someone cutting me off and putting me in danger. My response is to drastically and actively increase my risk and danger by being hostile to another car.” It’s an increase of our negative and pain while trying to spread it to another.
We have emotional bleed, and pain is contagious. So are anxiety and other negative emotions.
The world is scary right now. Life contains a level of uncertainty that many have not experienced since 2008 or perhaps 2001. An entire generation of adults, the Millenials, may only have faint whispers in their memories of there previous periods that have challenged us. I wrote about how the generations need each other more than ever, and that one of our greatest modern workplace challenges may be one of our greatest resources.
Pain can stem from the uncertainty in front of us. That is the danger zone. Are we really pissed at the person receiving our anger? Perhaps. At the level in which we are expressing it? Doubtful.
We have decisions to make in the midst of today’s chaos and increased emotion. Will we amplify the pain through ignorance? Will we amplify the pain through exaggeration? Will we amplify the pain, anxiety, and fear of others so we are in comparatively less pain to become the one-eyed man on the island of the blind. (The wild disbelief that pain is a zero-sum game.)
Another option is to lead our inner selves, our families, and our communities through this pain. Instead of doubling down on our infection, we can stop hurting ourselves and use this moment for personal growth. We can process the traumatic events in front of us and use it to come together with the love and cherish that unite us.
DISCLAIMER: I posted this and realized someone could think this is a passive-aggressive message to a person in particular. It is not. I am absolutely sure I have pissed people off and hurt people. I have relationships that could be healthier. I am human, and that statement is an explanation BUT not a reason or excuse. I have not heard from anyone, but if I did hurt you, I am truly sorry if I didn’t heed my own musings.
The modern workplace entered a new phase a few years ago. For the first time in history, we have five generations working together under the same roof:
Nearly half of the Millenials (Gen-Y) and all of Gen-Z have never experienced the current level of uncertainty in the world. The early half of the Millenials experienced the beginnings and aftermath of 2008 as they were already adults and part of the workforce. The latter half was approximately 21-22 years old when the financial crisis hit. Their adulthood was born at the bottom of the crisis. Gen-Z may only have faint whispers in their memories of the previous period that challenged us.
In late 2019, the meme “OK, boomer” was birthed into existence. It was brought into the Internet’s consciousness to dismiss and mock the attitudes and perspectives that some Millenials and Gen-Zers felt were held by the baby boomer generation. Yet, it may have been cast on the Boomers, but it was meant more as a statement to every previous generation.
The meme is an expected response from the Millenials. Previous generations have always complained about the following generations. As a Gen-Xer, I remember being cast with the stereotype of being a rebel slacker. We were expected to be unmanageable, lazy, and entitled. The Millenials are no exception as “the generation that’s fun to hate.” As a generation born of the Internet era, a meme to express their feelings was not only expected. It was the most Millenial response.
The back and forth between the generations may seem unfair. Maybe it is. It is also familiar and relatively normal. George Orwell summed it up. “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than theone that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”
What does all of this have to do with today and the current world situation?
It’s time to think about how much these generations need each other right now. The Millenials and Gen-Z need the Boomers and Traditionalists to share their experiences dealing with crises that seem insurmountable and destabilizing of the normal. The Gen-Xers have been through one crisis in 2008, but most of us were barely more than young adults.
The Traditionalists and Boomers are the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. They need the younger generations to sacrifice, realize our responsibility, and take precautions.
Ok, Boomer. We need you, and you need us.
So, how does one end a week of posting about a life with multiple sclerosis? That’s the question I have been asking myself all week. To answer this, I thought back to why I stepped out to become public about my MS and why I posted this week.
Every person has some struggle that she/he is dealing with, or they will in the future. Those struggles often lead to questioning “Why me?” Those struggles often lead to pain which can be both debilitating and contagious.
For whatever reason, I am blessed to be engineered to want to fight this. The question was never, “Why me?” It was always, “Why not me? What makes me so special that I deserve a life free of pain, struggle, or challenges? OK, now how am I going to fight this – for me, my family, my friends, and my community?” That’s why I stepped out 2.5 years ago. That’s why I posted this week. My intent has been to show a more balanced view of what MS is for me (and others?). I was exhausted seeing only the negative side of MS. I hope I showed an honest point of view. Life is neither normal nor abnormal. It is not binary of easy or hard.
I hope I never came across as a victim because I have never viewed this in that manner. In many ways, my feelings are the exact opposite. MS has given me new context and perspective. It has given me an opportunity to help others.
It has instilled an internal fire to love every moment and the people in my life.
#ThisIsMS (Pic is from a rock pile where I first publicly stated I had MS. It’s written on a rock down there… somewhere amongst all the other secrets and proclamations.)
A few weeks ago, I fell while running. It was a nasty fall and worse than I thought. I didn’t fall on the hills. I fell on the flat. It could have been MS. It could have been a root. It could have been dumb luck.
After dealing with pain for 2 weeks, I decided to see my team over at @bluetailmedical. I have a torn right meniscus and have been running on it for weeks.
Yesterday, they did BMAC on the meniscus. This involves taking my blood and harvesting both fat and bone marrow. That is then injected in the site to rapidly repair it. I am expected to be back to half strength in one week and full strength within 2 weeks.
Falling is part of MS. Pain is part of MS. It matters more how I get up and accept a constantly changing new normal. Then, put one step in front of the other. Even if it’s a bit of a hobble.
Oh, make no doubt… Leadville 2020 is absolutely on!
Husband, father, volunteer, and CEO. These are a few of the roles that define me. My MS is not one of them. #ThisIsMS
I don’t want to give the impression that MS is easy for me or anyone. I am blessed & can deal with most of the challenges, including the pain. Sometimes, it rears its head in ways that impact me. But, it’s the commitment to keep fighting that matters most.
These pics are from when MS won a battle. My hand was when my brain turned off for a half second. I was on a treadmill running 5:20 pace. The others are from a fall a few weeks ago. I didn’t fall on the hills. It was a flat trail section.
In both situations and others, I got back up. Today and this moment are gifts. They are blessings. I might be in pain, but I choose to respect and love this moment. And I fight for the next second, the next minute, and the next day.
#ThisIsMS but this is me fighting!
Today was my 200th class at OrangeTheory Fitness. I started 16 months ago to supplement my running & personal trainer. It has forced me to run faster than I usually like. (AO – 11.5+) #ThisIsMS
As part of my treatment, I incur weekly injections. How funny? I once tore apart a treatment room at a doctor’s office when I was a kid because the nurse tried to give me a shot. Today, it’s just part of the process to fight MS. #ThisIsMS
Today is the start of MS Awareness Week.
It was a hard decision to become public about having MS for numerous reasons. The biggest was that I wasn’t being authentic. I wasn’t honoring our family mission statement, and I needed to own that.
I stepped out to help those who also have MS and those who have given up against the struggles in their lives. I was exhausted from seeing all the bad stories of those with MS. It didn’t tell the full story. It didn’t tell how hard they fought. I didn’t see enough stories about those who are fighting everyday.
Sometimes we fall down (figuratively and literally), but sometimes we succeed… and succeed just because we are strong enough to fight.
Today’s post is from the end of Leadville 2018. A guy with MS who could have walking stripped from him fought for nearly 30 hours to run 100 miles.
Oh, I am headed back again this year. Because… #thisisms
Two of our three kids have already started school. Those two are Gabe and Owen who will be in separate schools for the first time in 8 years. That breakup with them also means all three will be in different schools for the first time. Ever.
The kids being gone inevitably means that we will have less time with them. They will have less time with each other. School will take up a huge portion of the weekday. Sports and after school activities will fight to absorb its fair portion. Social activities, including even dating in the near future (gasp! ugh), will soon become the black hole of their time.
The reduction of time together may mean the reduction of influence or the increase of influence by others. As I reflected on this, I became proud of who each child is as a person, not just my child. I know this needs to be protected and explicitly called out. For me, it is not worth being subtle with something so critical. The world will enhance their values and character. The world will also test them and test who they are.
With that, I sent them the following before the school year kicked off:
AGO [Avery, Gabe, and Owen] – as the school year approaches, mom and I have less time with you. It means we may also have less influence… or that other people have more influence. We have raised you to know who you are and what you stand for. That can be tested by others who want to influence you.
This makes me think about Anne Frank and how she stood for her ideals.
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart…I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals.”
In the darkest of humanity, Anne (who is around your ages) still believed in her ideals. I hope we have given you the guidance such that you have built the strength to hold onto yours and our family’s.
Love you all!
It’s not lost on me that Anne Frank was around the same age as our children when she wrote these words. These are words from a peer who dealt with the worst and was able to hold up her ideals – many of which stemmed from her family, her upbringing, and the inner beauty of someone leaving childhood headed to being a young adult.
Perhaps that’s why I was reminded of Anne Frank when contemplating the upcoming school year and its changes…