Lightening the Load Over the Holidays

By Carol Levy, PNN Columnist

There was a train full of sewage traveling through Alabama. One town found the smell so horrid, likening the stench to “rancid meat” or worse, that they refused permission for the train to enter the town or even stop to transfer loads.

Another town welcomed the train. “Let it come. The smell can't be as bad as they say. They're exaggerating,” they said.

But then the train arrived. The second town found the stench to be as utterly revolting and repulsive as the first town had said. The second town had to experience it firsthand before they would believe a train could emit such noxious smells.

Sound familiar? I’ve always felt that those of us with chronic pain are singled out in a similar way, when we are disbelieved and told the pain "is all in your head.”

But if it can happen when people have a freight train full of sewage in their backyard, and even they are not believed, it gives me hope. Maybe we are not so different after all.

What does this have to do with the holidays, you ask?

When I heard about the train and the reaction to it, it started me thinking. The holidays are fast approaching and so are all the dinners and social gatherings that come with them.

I see the worries starting as I read posts on Facebook and elsewhere. Will I be able to do whatever they ask me to do? Will I have the energy to stay and make small talk and play with the kids? Will my family and friends accept me as I am, respecting my limitations and boundaries?


We can only answer those questions in the theoretical. We don’t know what the reality will be, how we will be, and how others will be when the holidays arrive.

Maybe now is the time to prepare ourselves. To realize some people will be respectful, helpful, compassionate and empathetic; while others will turn their backs on our needs and us. We often already know who will do what. We know who thinks, “It's not so bad. You're exaggerating.”

And like the first town with the sewage train, the residents' lives brightened and the stench dissipated when they got rid of the train. That is the thing about visiting. You know you can leave.

As the holidays approach, it is important that we allow ourselves the freedom to accept the caring folk, as well as the uncaring; the kind as well as the nasty; and the helpful as well as the hurtful.

And, most important of all, we must accept ourselves and all that we are.

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

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.