I was at church and someone started taking pictures with a flash camera.
My eye cannot tolerate bright light, especially when I am unprepared for it. My entire body recoiled, pain searing my eye as the flash lit up the sanctuary.
Fearfully I kept my head down, staring into my lap. Minutes passed and no more photos were taken. I felt safe enough to chance looking up.
I found myself constantly checking the pews, feeling like a trapped animal. Where is he? Where will the danger come from, left, right, the middle? Will it happen again? When? Will it be soon?
How often do we feel like this? How often is it that the predator is not someone or something, but the pain itself?
It’s a good day. I am reading, fooling around on the computer, or at a store shopping. Doing things that are my triggers. My eye is doing well, feeling pretty good. The pain is not being set off, at least not enough to make me sit up and take notice, take a pill, or stop.
I continue what I am doing, not paying attention. Suddenly the pain comes. It forces me to stop, screaming at me, “Ha! Got ya!”
I am the prey, sipping gently at the stream, not paying attention, just being. The pain is the predator, hiding in the bushes, waiting until I am most vulnerable, relaxed, unprepared.
I think the pain angers me the most when it is set off by things I cannot predict.
It is bad enough when I do the behaviors and actions that I know will cause the pain to start, to build up, and get to the point where it is uncontrollable. I can at least blame myself for the pain being set off or made worse.
It is the complete lack of control over things like the flash of the camera that is harder to deal with, because then it is not only the pain over which I have no rein. It is over that which set it off.
For many of us, we know exactly what makes the pain worse and what makes it better. We strive to be the overlords of those things. But life is uncertain, and so too are the unexpected triggers.
An animal of prey does not take itself to task for getting in the way of the predator hidden in the bushes. He runs as fast as he can to get away. He’s glad when he makes it. Sometimes he is not fast enough and gets hurt. The lucky ones do not get killed.
They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The pain, as horrendous as it is, does not kill us.
Even when triggered by that which was hiding, even when we get caught and the pain is very bad as a result, it does not kill us.
We cannot control everything that makes our pain worse. But we can accept that sometimes there is a predator called pain. And even when we’re caught in its grasp we do not have to stay there.
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.