Remember the game Mouse Trap?
Players build this big contraption, with chutes, gears, slides, a bathtub, and other things in the middle of a game board. To work it, a player turns a crank that sets free a gear that pushes a lever that hits a boot that sets off a bucket that operates a gear that leads to more and more actions until a cage at the top of a pole is triggered.
The cage then moves down the pole — hopefully catching another player’s mouse.
We have our own traps that bring on pain.
When I’m at home, by myself, it is rare that the pain will come on without something to provoke it. I have to actively use my eyes, which is my pain trigger.
Sometimes my eyelid will swell on the left side (the pained side) for no known reason. That will be the death knell for being able to use my eye without pain.
But what is it about choir rehearsal and church that causes the pain to start swiftly start and swell, until I am fighting not to cry or cry out?
I wondered about that, but it finally it came to me.
I walk to church, where we have rehearsal. It is only a 3 minute trek, but enough time for the breeze to cause my left eyelid to swell.
I wear sunglasses to keep out the car and streetlights. They don’t weigh much, almost nothing, but the glasses add to the swelling.
Arriving at the church, I enter the choir room. The lights are bright. Even with the sunglasses on, my eye reacts with pain. So I put on a different pair of sunglasses, one that has the left lens blacked out with duct tape, paint or ink. The tape makes the glasses heavier.
The ceiling fan is on, its motion a major pain trigger. By keeping my head down I can avoid seeing it. But wait, there’s a shadow on the chair in front of me. It’s the fan rotating. Pain.
I talk to a few folks, moving my eyes to engage with them. More pain.
Opening the church bulletin, I look for the hymn numbers and find them in the hymn book.
Then we have to read the music in order to sing.
To add another level to the pain, to the gears and machinations, there is the tightness in the entire left half of my face, a result of the paralysis. Opening my mouth to sing pulls on the rest of my face. Another pain trigger. Another lever pulled.
Now what was I thinking before it became so involved? Oh, right. Why is choir rehearsal so much harder for me?
Suddenly it comes to me. Choir is my Mouse Trap.
I bet most of us have our own Rube Goldberg moments. And if we cannot always see what it is that makes the pain worse for us, it does makes it easier to see why it is so difficult for others to get it.
Mouse Trap is fun. The machinations of chronic pain? Never.
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 represent 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.