My glossopharyngeal nerve sometimes causes stabs and jabs in my jaw. It can cause me to “jerk,” suddenly as though I have put my finger in a light socket. The pain sometimes expands to the tongue, and even a little bit of movement of it can trigger “electrocution” type pains. “Lightning bolts” strike through my ear, down my jaw and tongue, and into my throat. Swallowing is difficult and quite painful. When the pains hit my ear, I get extremely dizzy and can lose my balance.
The first time I experienced glossopharyngeal neuralgia, I thought I had a virus. My ear and throat burned, and they felt worse when I swallowed. I quickly made an appointment with my primary care physician, and he examined me. The doctor was already aware of my battle with trigeminal neuralgia.
“Your throat and ear look good,” he said. Then he noted that the pain followed the course of my carotid artery. He diagnosed me with carotidynia.
Carotidynia? I wondered what could go wrong next. And as the hours passed, moving my head became more difficult and the pain in my neck became more severe. I lay in bed, thinking I might actually have meningitis. It made sense: an outbreak of it had recently occurred in the school where I taught.
Being confined to bed with an illness is an invitation for the mind to wander into the darkest of places. So many of us have experienced hopelessness. What I tell you next is not to frighten you or to be morbid. I ask you to find humor in it with me. I secretly welcomed meningitis. Maybe it will kill me, I thought. I will go to Heaven and finally be free of this pain.
I didn’t have meningitis, and in a few days I was back at work and feeling well. I told my teacher friends about my short-lived death wish, and we laughed. Later, my neurologist discussed the carotidynia diagnosis with me and explained that I actually had glossopharyngeal neuralgia.
Dwelling on bleak thoughts is easy but destructive. Finding hope is a challenge for people who have cranial nerve disorders. For me, hope is my faith in Jesus Christ. I will discuss the reality of glossopharyngeal neuralgia and my faith in a future entry. The Lord remains faithful, and it is well.