A Pained Life: Fruitcake? Ah Nuts!

A Pained Life: Fruitcake? Ah Nuts!

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.

file5991318957564I 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 Levy

Carol Levy

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.

Carol is the founder of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness”. Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

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.

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Authored by: Carol Levy, Columnist

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I was born with spina bifida myelomeningocele in 1950. I have been able to work most of my life with Level 4 chronic low back pain (1-10). Recently, I was diagnosed as having arachnoiditis, incurable, and Level 8 pain without medicine. Level 4 with medicine which is fine. I think those of us who endure chronic pain have a special gift. That special gift is an unusual empathy and compassion for those who may be going through difficult times or have a painful, incurable disease. We really do understand what others are going through even if the rest of the world doesn’t. Your blog is one I make a point to read because it serves to demonstrate how chronic pain can serve as a mediator for others who live with chronic pain. How many times have we said or heard others say: “They just don’t understand me.” Well, we do. And we know that chronic pain is not when life stops. The validation of the reality of chronic pain in others is vitally important for those living with chronic pain.


In order to truly understand what it is like to live with chronic severe pain, someone has to do it. It is that simple. If/when we try and explain, it either isn’t listened to or comprehended.

Several months ago I spent some time with a dear and old friend fn mine who also lives with severe chronic pain on the way to a baby shower for one of my daughters. My friend and I have several conditions that are the same. It is also impossible to get others to understand how we are effected by them. After the shower was over she took me home, we talked for two more hours. Several times she said that no one really understood what she was going through like I did. I told her that was because I lived it every day also.

Hopefully this holiday season will put us in touch with others who truly understand what we go through and we truly understand what they go through. That would be a priceless gift for us and them.