Many years ago I baked a fruitcake as a Christmas gift for my sister’s mother-in-law. I put a lot of care into it. The ingredients were somewhat costly, at least for someone on disability income, took a good amount of time and effort, and involved making my eye pain worse in order to read the instructions, do the mixing, etc.
But I was happy to do it, thinking she would like it.
I was dumbfounded when I saw the look on her face as she opened the package. She hated it. She and my sister apparently decided I had given her a fruitcake out of disrespect or dislike. I doubt they even tried it.
I tried to explain why I had made it for her.
“I made it with care in my heart. I truly thought you would appreciate it,” I said. But my words fell on deaf ears.
Christmas coming up reminds me of this incident, which seems a perfect analogy to the disbelief many of us face. The holidays can be harder for many of us because we see people we may not see or speak with during the rest of the year. As a result, we may find ourselves trying to explain more.
I do not like to be specific about my pain; what sets it off or what makes it worse. I know many others in chronic pain feel the same way, or feel they shouldn’t have to explain.
Sometimes when we do we are still met with skepticism or even, “I don’t care.”
This is a common theme for many of us in chronic pain and a common theme for me.
I recall explaining to a relative while we were at a restaurant that the flickering light from the table candles was giving me horrendous eye pain.
“My eye is exquisitely sensitive to light and movement,” I said. “Do you mind if we blow these out?”
“They look nice.” she said. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
It took too much energy to mount the fight to get her to agree to extinguish them. I also did not want to get into a fight when we were out at what I had anticipated would be a nice lunch with her and my mother. I spent the entire meal fighting the pain, instead of trying to enjoy the meal.
Sometimes explaining works. Sometimes asking works. And sometimes they don’t.
Even when we chose to explain or ask for what we need, it is necessary to bear in mind that the person listening has their own set of experiences and biases that may slant how they hear what we say.
We need to decide when the effort to explain is falling on deaf ears and is not worth the effort.
But sometimes – as is the case with the fruitcake — it is necessary to at least try and make the someone hear us and know exactly what we mean when we say, “I have pain.”
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.