Sunday, April 24, 2011

When dying seems preferable to living

Those of us who have experienced the torment of trigeminal neuralgia know there are worse things than dying. Intense and unrelenting suffering can cause a person to lose hope in living, but we must hold onto it.

When I was ill with trigeminal neuralgia, I longed for death. My own suffering caused me to think about the violent death of Jesus and how His pain surpassed mine. If anyone understood that no one really understood, it was He. By "no one understanding," I refer to how our friends and family may think that we can overcome the pain if we want to, if we try, if we think positively. All those things can help, but they don't stop the pain. The stings, strikes, and electrocution-type pains simply wear people down.

Let's shift our focus back to Jesus and think about someone whom He loved, Lazarus. Lazarus was dead, in a tomb, and stinking when Jesus showed up. And we see in John 11, that Martha (brother of the deceased) was not happy with Jesus because He had not been around to heal His friend. But Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. A moment later, Jesus called for Lazarus, and he came out of the tomb: alive again.

After suffering so long, I remember changing my mind about wanting to die even when pain had spiraled out of control. My mother prayed for me and comforted me and through prayer, I got close enough to Jesus to "hear" Him calling my name. Like never before, I believed in His resurrection power. I began to ask Him to help me live.

Jesus gave me my life back. That was six and a half years ago. I've endured pain from another cranial nerve since then, and I have had some terrible neuropathic facial pain because of a jaw procedure that has gone awry. But Jesus has helped me through it all, helped me reclaim my life each time.

I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I owe my life, my health, and every good thing that is within me to Him.

Happy Easter. 

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Friday, April 8, 2011

It's flying time again...

Ray Charles, please forgive me for stealing your line, well almost: "It's crying time again." Simply stated, flying often causes additional pain, stress, and tears to those who have facial pain. The pressure changes in the cabin, the noise of the plane and its passengers, and the stress created by airport security issues seem to be enough to give a healthy person a headache. If you're reading this blog, chances are you experience pain that defies definition.

The causes of facial pain vary from one individual to another, and often the cause or diagnosis is difficult to pinpoint. If you have concerns about flying exacerbating your pain, a discussion with your physician or health care practitioner may be beneficial.

Some physicians will recommend that their patients clear their sinuses with a decongestant before flying. They may prescribe medication to help deal with the noise, stress, or other issues related to being a passenger on aircraft.

Because some individuals pain is triggered by noise, two products worth mentioning are Earplanes, earplugs that are made specifically for flying. You can find them online, drug stores, and airport shops. Another option more expensive: noise cancelling earphones or headsets. Although these tools can be helpful, passengers are asked to refrain from using them until the flight instructions have been given and the plane has begun it's flight. They must also be removed just before the end of the journey so information from the flight crew will be heard. You may want to check with the airline to find the current policy is about when the acoustic headphones can and cannot be used.

For those of us whose pain is caused by the jaw or neck, a tiny pillow to give added support can help quite a bit. It's one more thing to carry, but the number of these items are often limited on the plane. Unless one is flying business class, a pillow may not be available.

Fear of flying embraces a new meaning for those who have experienced trigeminal neuralgia, TMJD, or other types of facial pain. Have you heard the expression of living on a wing and a prayer. I think it really fits this situation. How about you?

Happy traveling. May your journey be full of the Lord's mercies.

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