With Great Mercy

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

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November 17, 2010

Decisions We Can't Undo: Part Two - A Mental Decision I Can't Undo

If you live with facial pain, chances are you know about regret. Somewhere along our journey, we find ourselves looking back, wishing we had done something differently. A few years ago, I opened correspondence from someone who had the misfortune of encountering a physician with whom she was angry. The lady with facial pain expressed her unbridled rage.

She shared her story, saying that the neurosurgeon had performed a procedure and had not cautioned her about the possibility of anesthesia dolorosa.  The treatment had not worked, and she was left with  constant facial pain and numbness as well as other unpleasant side effects. She told us she had contacted the physician, but he would not acknowledge the failed procedure or validate her feelings.

with great mercyI understand her anger. When trigeminal neuralgia or neuropathic facial pain consumes a person's life, he or she becomes desperate for relief. We look for a way to stop the pain, a chance to live a normal life again. What we may not know is this: the very procedure that relieves someone else's pain could make our pain worse. Medications or treatments that help one person can be totally effective for another person. It doesn't make sense, but it's a reality. We can ask all the right questions and receive excellent feedback, but we have no guarantee that a procedure is going to be successful.

When I had terrible electrocution-type pains from trigeminal neuralgia, some of my practitioners encouraged me to seek treatment for my jaw. They believed some of my pain could be relieved. I moved forward with something called "functional jaw orthopedics" and went across the country to receive care from an expert. In the course of two years, I made many 3000 mile round trips.

Our insurance did not cover the treatment, and my husband and I had to pay for my flights, lodging, and meals. We thought it would be worth it, but we were wrong.

At first, my new bite felt great. But a few years after the TMJ/TMD treatment was complete, I started having a type of facial pain that was new to me. It went down my neck and into my shoulder, and I thought the pain originated from my sternocleidomastoid muscle. After all it wasn't TN type pain, and I believed my jaw joint was fixed. The situation was confusing.

The pain grew worse, especially when I went back to work. My jaw locked shut often. Pain spread deep into and around my ear.  My teeth, which had always been straight, had become crooked. (My two front teeth are getting pushed back and the two teeth on either side are overlapping them, as if they are pushing them back. Several of my lower teeth are crooked. When I run my finger over the bottom teeth, they are in an inverted "V.")

Although my bite was problematic before the functional jaw orthopedics, my teeth had always been straight. I had never worn braces. Part of the treatment for my jaw joint was to put crowns on eight of my teeth. Now I have a mouth that is crowded with crooked teeth, and my bite is still problematic.

About eighteen months ago, my jaw joint practitioner called me when he received a copy of an evaluation written by an orofacial pain specialist. A few months ago, I asked him to refund the money I paid him for treatment. I didn't ask for expenses, but I hoped he would refund what I had paid him.  I'd like to move forward with orthodontia and perhaps I can have the crowns replaced. But my request for a refund has been denied, and the practitioner states that he stands behind his work. He has done nothing wrong, he says.

Have I been angry with him? Yes. But it doesn't help me. Anger bites like a rattle snake, releasing its poison into us, it's venom penetrating our mind, body, and spirit.  Unless we forgive the person who has performed the offending procedure, we cannot move forward.

We must forgive for our own benefit. It doesn't matter if they don't care about us, believe us, or acknowledge our current need. The practitioner is part of our past and not part of our future, even if we continue to bear pain resulting form his or her work.

Lack of forgiveness results in bitterness. Have you ever known someone who is bitter? It's not an attractive trait. Bitter is the last thing I want to be.

The advice that Jesus gave about forgiveness can help us; forgive the offender seventy times seven times, He said. (Matthew 18:21-23). Even as He bore terrible pain during His crucifixion, Jesus forgave. But forgiveness isn't easy, and it can take a while to achieve it. I concentrate on good things, like the fact that TN's electrocution-type pains have been gone six years.

I choose to forgive the person who ignores my pleas for help. My forgiveness doesn't make him right, but it helps me. He thought he was helping me. We've all made mistakes. I've hurt people, and I'm not proud of it. I hope for forgiveness when I am wrong, and because of this hope, I forgive.

If you've made a medical decision you regret, please read part one of this entry.

Now tell me about you. Do you want to forgive someone? 

With Great Mercy

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