December 14, 2010
Cold, Christmas, and Comfort
For people who have trigeminal neuralgia, Christmastime can deliver a double whammy. The pain caused by the cold can be paralyzing, making work and social interaction burdensome. Sometimes just surviving the pain is the best one can do.
Just when we're expected to enjoy "Walking in the Winter Wonderland," we are forced to retreat. The best time of year sometimes becomes the cruelest. And this is true for many, not just for people who have facial pain. The pressure of expectations weighs heavily on our minds, hearts, and spirits.
We're not going to be perfect, our friends and family aren't going to be, and perhaps the holiday will be less than idyllic. And that's okay. The key to surviving the imperfection is to find solace.
Finding comfort in one's situation can seem impossible, but it is doable. One way to start is to trim our list of activities. If you've gone to the neighbor's Christmas party and taken your special homemade divinity every year, it may have become an expectation. Expectations equal pressure. When we decline an invitation to a gathering, we often hear and sense others' disappointment. But we can get past it.
We must take care of ourselves. People tell one another to do this all the time, but often the phrase is uttered without considering its meaning. This Christmas, let's embrace the message.
Take care of yourself.
To fend off depression that can result from facial pain and as well as holiday stress, make a plan. Take a mental inventory of things, tangible and intangible, you find comforting. Write them down. Find them if you don't know where they are. Be prepared to spend a few hours alone when the rest of your family is socializing.
Need some suggestions? Make a list of music for your I-Pod especially for this time, a list that may include anything from tear-jerking songs to happy holiday tunes. You've experienced a full gamut of emotions in your life, and it is acceptable to feel them now. Believe you will have better times, less pain in the future. Unless we believe things will get better, they won't.
Put your favorite DVDs by the player. Brew a pot of your favorite tea or coffee. Peruse your favorite photo album. Prepare an online list of the funniest videos you've seen on YouTube, and have them ready to make you laugh. Have something to read that's easy and brings you comfort.
Now is the time to schedule ways to connect with people we love. If your family or friends are distant, make a date to text them if it is painful to talk. If not, make a date to Skype or call someone special.
Recognizing our limitations also helps us let ourselves off the "expectation hook.' Sometimes getting out or pushing through can help us feel better, but sometimes it makes pain worse. No one can make these decisions for you. You are the best judge, the best predictor of the outcome. It's important to resist the pressure of going along with everyone else if you believe the activity will trigger more pain. Stand your ground: take care of yourself.
As individuals, we find solace in different ways. What brings you comfort? Your comment may help someone else.
Have you read With Great Mercy?