Each day we are faced with the unpredictability of living with the pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia and various other chronic pain syndromes. There are multiplicities of choices for pain management. As the old saying goes, “Everything is not for everybody, but there is something for everyone”. How we cope with our pain is as individual as each tiny shard of colored glass contained inside a kaleidoscope. What we see when we look through the lens, and what another person may see when he/she looks through the very same lens are never the same. It is an individual paradigm.
Many people are often surprised at how quickly I made the decision to choose micro vascular decompression (MVD) as treatment for TN. It was and is not a quick decision. I made the choice after years of research, sleepless nights and great physical and spiritual angst. My final decision came after deep reflection and the realization that living with chronic pain caused me to be absent from own life.
What an epiphany! It reminded of a valuable teachable moment on complaining written, by Dr. Maya Angelou, “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”. She wrote: “So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
The simple truth of this lesson revealed itself very clearly in December of 2008. Over the years my stoic attitude toward pain held me hostage to going about the business of dying instead of living. While I fully understood that TN could not cause my physical death, I neglected to pay attention to the warning signs of emotional, psychological and spiritual decay. When the pain returned with unrelenting ferocity, after an eight month remission, I experienced a clear shift in my attitude toward pain.
You see, in the past, even though I knew various treatment options existed, I always chose to tough it out. Based on past experience, I knew the pain would eventually pass. However, as I looked through the lens of my own kaleidoscope of painful experiences, the prism changed. Instead of seeing “just” the pain, I saw the warning signs of danger and an impetus for change. The truest danger lied in doing what I’ve always done: tolerate the pain, take the medication, hope for the best and forget about the rest. But this time “the rest” meant something different to me. During the remission period, I enjoyed getting up, pain-free and going to work at a job that allowed to me to use my talents and abilities to serve others. I liked going to special events and spending impromptu moments with friends and family. I looked forward to being fully engaged in my only child’s college experience and future successes.
My harbinger for change existed in the “knowing” that, my happiness with living in the present and loving my now far outweighed the risks of taking a chance on toughing it out again and waiting, one more time for the pain to pass. Instead of complaining and riding it out, I conducted a personal inventory. In the end, I concluded if i took a risk to change the things i could, remaining a hostage to pain, and feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired, could not persist.
When I used my new lens, answering the question,” what next?” made my decision easier. I understood as Andy Dufresne said in the movie, Shawshank Redemption that I could either “stay busy dying or get busy living”. I knew without doubt, I could not get busy living under the fog of medication, the duress of the “next attack”, and the fear that I would do something desperate and impulsive that could leave me physically dead or impaired for life. I needed to the pain to end!
How did I make the decision to take the next step? I used years of personal information gathering, expert consultation and access to the best available resources to make a well informed, well-timed, educated, medically sound decision. Through very patient- doctor centered care and decision making, personal , professional and medical risk assessment I opted for MVD. It was the right choice for me.
As I wrote in the beginning, everything isn’t for everybody, but there is something for everyone. It is all about indentifying and utilizing options. Everyone must choose what is best for his/her life. Outside of a medical emergency or an extenuating circumstance, there is no necessity to hastily choose or rush into any option for treating trigeminal neuralgia. It is a personal choice, and, one we must all view through the continually changing lens of our own personal kaleidoscope.
Have a beautiful day!
Peace and tender pleasures sent your way,