Monday, January 31, 2011

Conversations with Job: suffering, accusations, and integrity

This past week, I've been reading the book of Job, a Biblical account of a good man who lost everything, including his health. Job's life turns upside down overnight, a riches to rags story.

When I consider Job's tremendous suffering, I think about people who are dealing with trigeminal neuralgia. Many have told me they relate to Job's situation because the pain from TN is so tremendous. I remember feeling the same way, years ago.

Facial pain can steal the things we cherish. People who are at the top of their game turn to focus on finding relief: an accurate diagnosis, a medication, or a procedure to erase pain.

In spite of the provisions the government has made for people with disabilities, individuals who have trigeminal neuralgia and other types of face pain sometimes lose their jobs. It's couched as "restructuring," or blamed on "this economy." After all, corporate America must abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Friends and family sometimes expect us to "get over it" and get on with our lives. When we can't, many of them retreat. Some of Job's friends, if they can be called that, accused him. They told him that his misfortune was caused by his own actions.  Zophar tells him to leave his sins behind and to confess them to God. In other words, get over it and get well, Job.

When I got sick with trigeminal neuralgia, some of my friends looked for a spiritual cause. Was I dabbling in something I shouldn't? Was my husband in business with someone immoral? Did we live in a house with a violent history? The possibilities seemed endless. Maybe someone has intimated that you are somehow responsible for your pain.

Handling accusations of this nature is tricky. We don't want to be deserted or alone. Yet critical rhetoric can make the anguish of pain even more intense. How can we respond? With his body practically decaying while he was alive, Job blamed no one, not himself or God.

Job's buddies missed his money, his prestige. But Job's integrity remained intact. He stated that we can't take it with us and refused to dwell on his material loss. But his health was another matter. Physical suffering cannot be denied. It's the ultimate thief. And it was the most difficult loss for Job.

Later Job's health and wealth were restored. You may have suffered so long that you no longer believe you will have a life again. Have faith that you will get better. If you need counseling to help you regain hope, find a practitioner who is experienced in counseling people with chronic pain.

Without hope, it's difficult for people to overcome pain. Don't blame yourself for disability. It's not your fault.

For more information about The Americans with Disabilities Act and facial pain, please see "disability and loss" on my website.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hair appointments: protecting your neck

Have you noticed that your facial, jaw, or neck pain increases after a visit to the hairdresser? If so, you may have issues with the shampoo bowl. Years ago, I began to notice that it caused my trigeminal nerve to respond in a negative manner. Even after I stopped having pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia, I noticed that putting my head back into the bowl caused my neck and jaw to hurt.

There's a solution. Some hairdressers have shampoo bowl neck rests. They buy them from professional suppliers for approximately twenty-five dollars. They "pillow" works quite well for me. If I go to someone who does not have a cushion, I stand up, face the bowl and put my head in it, avoiding the backward flexion that spurs pain.

If you'd like to buy your own neck rest, I've seen them on Maybe I should buy one, but instead, I think I'll give my mom a shout-out. She's a retired hairdresser who colors and cuts my hair at home. Thanks, Mom!

Here's to happy necks, faces, and jaws.

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No chew quick and easy chicken wild rice soup recipe

A simple recipe for the tough days.

16 oz chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup of whole milk or 1/4 cup or nonfat "half and half"

Combine the above ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for approximately half an hour with the lid on the pot. The xanthan gum will cause the liquids to thicken.

12.5 ounce can chicken canned in water
8.5 ounce packet Brown & Wild Uncle Ben's ready whole grain medley rice

Flake the chicken with a fork, until it's in small slivers. Add the chicken, it's broth, and the rice to the mixture. Allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend.

It's done, and it makes three large bowls of soup. You can add more rice or chicken, depending on your preferences. And if you'd like your soup to be creamier, you can add more milk or fat free "half and half." I garnished my bowl with a couple of leafs from a spring mix salad mixture.

For more no chew recipes, you can use the Google bar near the top of this page.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A pillow that reduced my pain: Part Two

The rattan pillow I've been using is placed atop a queen/king sized pillow (in the blue case) pictured above.

For part one of this post, click here.

I've tried to find the product online, but I haven't found a source selling them individually. If you search for "rattan pillow," you will find them being sold in quantity by wholesalers in Asia. It would be great to have a resource for people who have facial pain. Vendor, if you (or if you know of someone) who will sells the item individually, please contact me by email. (withgreatmercy at yahoo dot com)

Be prepared for some initial discomfort if you purchase a rattan pillow. It is hard, and it will take a couple of weeks (at least) to become accustomed to sleeping on it. But it stabilizes my neck and jaw and I had my life back soon after I began sleeping on it.

The pillow is approximately 15 inches wide, 4.5 inches deep, and 9 inches vertical. After I had slept on it a few nights, I took it into my neurologist. The moment he saw it, he realized I had found relief.

Please note that I was not having trigeminal neuralgia pain when I began using this item. My facial pain stems from issues with my jaw and neck.

Be sure to use a place case over the pillow so your face won't come in contact with the rattan. If you cannot get accustomed to the hardness of the surface, you may want to to place a very thin pillow or piece of foam rubber over it.

Those of us who have experienced facial or jaw pain know that what works for one person may not work for another. You may want to consult your practitioner before you try something new.

If you cannot find this item and are interested in something else, please see how my search continued and what I found. Click

Please let me know about your experience with facial pain and your search for the perfect pillow.

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A pillow that reduced my pain level

Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep, Genesis 28:11.

You may be wondering what this Bible verse has to do with trigeminal neuralgia or other types of facial pain. Or you may be one of us who "fights with the pillow" at night, trying to get comfortable. If you are, I am hoping this post will help you.

The pillow in the picture is a gift from my daughter's mother and father-in-law, Kuei Mei and George. A few months ago, Kuei Mei noticed my neck's limited range of motion and my discomfort. Through my daugher, she sent me a pillow that had been purchased in Asia. When Kelli brought the rattan pillow to me, she began to explain how it might help, and I practically jerked it away from her. I've been looking for the right one for years.

The search began when I worked for the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association. We were having a conference in Dearborn, Michigan and stayed at the hotel where it was held. On the bed was a large decorative pillow that was quite hard. One night when I was tossing and turning, I picked up the huge "cushion" and placed it under my head. I went right to sleep, and I didn't wake up until morning. I used it until we left, and it provided relief every night.

When I got home, I began to fight with my pillow again. I wrote about it on TNA Connect, and someone responded, saying she had the same experience with the decorative pillow at the hotel. Since then, I've looked for one that would give my neck more support, but I never found anything effective.

I longed for Joseph's pillow, one that I could sleep and dream on. That's why the stiff rattan pillow caught my attention immediately.

Although I no longer have trigeminal neuralgia pain, I have a jaw that causes facial pain. I also have cervical spondylosis and bone spurs in my neck.

The day before Thanksgiving, my neck hurt so badly that I could barely function. I had been to the dentist twice that week, one trip being to Lakeland. It put additional strain on my neck. I had no choice but to work on the meal in ten minute increments and then rest for thirty.

I received the pillow Thanksgiving Day. That night I used it, and the next morning my pain was reduced significantly. In fact, I went out to do some Black Friday shopping. My range of motion improved greatly after just one night. My facial pain (which radiates from my jaw and neck) has been greatly reduced. I can move my head to the right and left again. Thank you, Kuei Mei and George, for one of the best gifts I've received.

I'll be following up right away with more information about the pillow. But in the meantime, I'd like to say that I haven't had to take a pain pill since I have used it.

Hallelujah! A follow-up post about the pillow here . And if you cannot find this item and are interested in something else, please see how my search continued and what I found. Click.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

A new year, a new song

Happy New Year!

In January, it is easy to find ourselves hoping that the new year will be kinder than the one that just closed. Sometimes we get our wish, our prayer, our desires. Other times things get worse before they get better, and all we do is continue to learn new ways to cope with pain.

When trigeminal neuralgia was at its worst, I decided to take piano lessons. I began during the warmer months, buying a piano and finding a teacher. There were some issues; sometimes I couldn't see the sheet music very well because my eye hurt. And sometimes I made the same mistake over and over and over. I couldn't blame it on the pain; it was part of the learning process.

Even though the music I made was elementary and riddled with errors, my dogs didn't mind. They followed me into the room and lay at my side while I played. It was as though they had deemed it a "no fight zone." And they never howled, no matter how sour my notes. It was a sweet time.

Best of all, playing reduced the pain.

In my opinion, everyone who has chronic pain needs some sort of distraction therapy, a creative avenue that helps an individual work through the pain. I am impressed with the ventures of my friends who have facial pain. They are accomplishing all kinds of feats, making beautiful jewelry, exercising, photographing, writing, quilting, drawing, and painting.

Several years ago, I read a Chinese study which claimed that people who have chronic pain experienced a degree of relief while they looked at fine art. Is it logical that beautiful things could help us feel a little better? I thought about Keats "Ode to a Grecian Urn:" Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Let's create something beautiful.

I don't play the piano too much these days. I was away from it quite a while, and now I've gotten involved in a fiction project. But I'll never forget how I played my piano even in the midnight hours. My husband, who should have been sleeping, encouraged me to play, forfeiting his rest to help me survive an unbearable night.

I'd love to hear about your distraction therapy or how someone helped you create a way to cope with trigeminal neuralgia, neuropathic or atypical facial pain, or TMJD. What you share may help someone else.

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