Many years ago I was riding the subway. Because my trigeminal neuralgia makes me very sensitive to light, I always wore sunglasses.
I started to get out of my seat as the train came to a stop. Immediately a woman appeared at my side and put her hand around my elbow.
“Hold on. I’ll help you,” she said.
She had evidently decided I was blind.
I was in a quandary. On the one hand, I did not have a visual impairment. On the other, she decided I did and was going out of her way to help me. What to do?
I quickly decided I should go along with it. I did not want to embarrass her by saying, “I’m not blind.”
It was a lie by omission, but one dictated by decency.
Another time I was on a Greyhound bus, on my way to California for my 4th brain surgery for trigeminal neuralgia. I was sitting in an inside seat so no one could inadvertently brush against my face.
At the time, any touch to the affected area on my face — even the weight of a wisp of hair — caused horrendous pain. I was unable to even think of washing the area. As a result, there was a buildup of brown, scabby looking dirt.
A woman with a baby sat down next to me. The baby lay on the woman’s right shoulder, close enough that she could potentially touch my face.
I felt bad as I turned to the woman and lied.
“Excuse me,” I said and pointed to my face. “This is contagious.”
She immediately jumped up and looked about for another seat, a panicked look on her face.
It was mean, I had scared her and felt guilty about it (I still do when I think about it), but my safety had to be my first concern.
How many times have we had to lie?
We lie when strangers ask, “How are you?” and we reply, “I’m fine.” It’s none of their business that we are in pain.
We lie when family, friend or colleague debates with us about how bad the pain really is. Sometimes it’s just easier to go along with them then continue the effort to convince someone who does not want to be convinced, that it is really bad.
We lie when someone asks, “Do you need help?” but we are too uncomfortable, embarrassed and independent to say, “Yes. Thank you.”
We lie when we’re asked, “How are you feeling?” We say we’re fine, not wanting to admit we are in pain, feeling it makes us look weak or bad.
It is said you have to pick your battles.
We also have to pick when to tell the truth and when to lie. And to know which will be the most beneficial, not only to the other person — but more importantly, to ourselves.
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.