I suffer from chronic pain. My version is neuralgia. Neuralgia is a “stabbing, burning, and often severe pain due to an irritated or damaged nerve.” The nerve(s) can be anywhere in the body. Mine are in my head. I have troublesome left and right trigeminal nerves due to damage I sustained in a car accident twenty-three years ago.
I should’ve held out for a bigger insurance settlement.
Neuralgia is agonizing. I struggle to find words that will explain its full awfulness. Misery. Agony. Torture.
It’s like having a pickaxe slam into my head at random intervals twenty-four hours a day for close to a week, ten to twelve times a year. The pain is crazy-making.
I function when it flares. I take my pills. I get up. I go out, I do things, I write. I don’t exercise much but I carry on with life albeit with a degree of bitching and moaning. But because I carry on, because I’m not prostrate and screaming, the people I encounter don’t think it’s that bad.
And when I can’t pull it together, when I can’t rise above the pain to think much less function and beg off visits and plans, they get testy. There’s a downside to soldiering on. People fail to appreciate that there’s a struggle.
But what am I supposed to do? Take to my bed for a week every month or three weeks? Because that’s how often I get attacks. Ten to fifteen times a year, seven days at a time, for twenty-three years. Should I give up that much of my life to prove I suffer? What good would that do? How, exactly, would hiding out serve me?
Neuralgia is one of the leading causes of suicide among chronic pain sufferers. This doesn’t surprise. It’s utterly brutal.
There’s surgical treatment available. You can have the nerves severed. Possible side effects include trouble swallowing, trouble breathing, and facial paralysis. I have not signed up.
I get that other people’s problems are not our problems. We can’t fix everything for everyone and my pain is my issue. I deal with it. But I wish sometimes that people wouldn’t assume I’m overreacting or have a low pain threshold. No, Susan, I’m not that desperate for attention. I’m not faking it when I flinch or courting drama when I involuntarily convulse. And yes, your cousin’s neighbour’s sister’s migraines sound awful too and I’m glad giving up wheat helped.
I don’t need sympathy. Okay, maybe a little. Coddling when you feel punk is nice. But understanding, that’s the ice cream sundae with sprinkles on top. And if I never hear, “again?” when I tell people I’m suffering through a flare, that’d be great. Chronic means chronic, in case you were curious. *
I get that my pain is a source of irritation and frustration for those around me. I’m sorry that people with chronic conditions are an inconvenience. But perhaps instead of getting irritated and impatient, the people who aren’t afflicted could try empathy.
I get that other people’s problems can be difficult and inconvenient. How do you think people who are suffering feel?
Be kind. You never know what someone is going through.
*If you’re curious, the dictionary describes chronic as, “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.” Chronic pain is the Terminator of pain. It’ll be back.