With Great Mercy

Finding hope when you have trigeminal neuralgia and other types of pain

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September 1, 2009

And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ Luke 15:9

Experiencing and Recognizing Loss - Disability. Let's talk about loss. Depending on who we are and what we have lost, the definition of it can change somewhat. If we are talking about a personal loss, we're trying to help someone truly understand our plight. That's when it becomes necessary for us to accurately portray what the loss involves. This is where the dilemma arises. Do we depart from our efforts to "think on the sunny side of life" and expose our inner bellies of pain and grief to someone else? We wonder if the other person can be trusted with our reality. It's a risk when we invite someone in to really hear the truth about the loss that is so personal to us.

I'd like to digress a little bit and address the word loss. In school we learn not to with great mercyuse the same word over and over again in a paragraph or even in an essay. I like to ignore that rule in my blog. If we want to deal with something, how can we do so if we call it by another name? Why sugarcoat it? It's not just an issue, is it? It's loss. Something we once had is gone. Period. We want it back, but it eludes us.

Because loss is such huge subject, I want to write about it for a while. Today I'll try to tackle one of it's sub-topics: disability. It's a topic I can really get fired up about.

Disability benefits are necessary for some people with facial pain. This is true for people with trigeminal neuralgia, orofacial pain, neuropathic facial pain, and face pain that has been named something else. I don't have to tell my readers why their pain causes dsyfunction and disability. They already know. Let's talk about what happens when we are forced to explain it to someone who has not experienced it.

No one - absolutely no one - wants to have facial pain. I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of people. They're all interested in one thing: "How do I get rid of this?" So if you are going through a disability application process, whether private or through Social Security - you'll be asked to explain how your pain affects your ability to work. It's a fair question. But the answer isn't fair.

Most people with facial pain do everything they can to make their lives as normal as possible, as enjoyable as possible. Those of us who understand that a mind-body connection (and that's MOST of us) exists want to think about things that encourage us to keep going. We want to think about the wonderful things we still have, even if the wonderful thing boils down to the fact that we are still alive.

So what happens with the time comes to explain the pain to people who review disability claims? We have to reach into our minds and think about the loss, the things we cannot do but would like to do. We have to remember that once we identified highly with our jobs and our ability to perform. Whether we are in the business world, teaching a class, or counseling others, work is all about fulfilling expectations. To walk away from something that fuels our self-esteem and bolsters our identity is devastating. We lose a part of ourselves. We also lose income.

I have spoken with many people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their medical benefits, their spouses, their self-worth. The list of losses goes on and on. Let's get even more personal: they've lost their ability to kiss, to speak, to chew, to swallow, to concentrate, to remember important things, to brush their teeth. It's difficult to stop naming the losses.

If people are trying to cope with everyday life, chances are their losses don't live on the tips of their tongues. People who have pain are either trying to maintain their ability just to get through the day or trying to move on with their lives. Why bring up the losses that cannot be changed? Because we have a valid claim that we must substantiate.

The thing I hate about the disability benefit process is that we have to justify being sick. It's much healthier for us not to think about it and to focus on the good things in life. But to get the money - which we deserve - we have to think of our worst case scenarios and expose our vulnerabilities. It's just not good for us.
We're putting ourselves out there to be judged. It's frustrating and causes feelings of guilt and helplessness. We've already experienced these feelings because of the pain. Now here they come again as we try to justify our needs. With the explanation emerges the feelings we try so hard to suppress.

We feel so alone, like failures. But we aren't either one of those things. We are coping with something many people are afraid to understand. They don't want to let it sink in. After all, could it happen to them? Will they take the chance to identify with your situation? Probably not. You already know this, don't you?

There's a time and place for everything, something else you already know. The time to make the loss and the pain clear is during the disability application process. It's not fun to share the pain. It's going to feel crummy, but you're surviving the pain, and you'll survive this process.

I'd love to hear from you about your losses. God bless you. May you regain what you have lost. If you aren’t familiar with the parable of the lost coin, it’s a passage that I hold dear to my heart.

With Great Mercy

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