A Pained Life: My New Year’s Resolution

By Carol Levy, PNN Columnist

I am visiting at my sister's house. This was 38 years ago, but I still remember it and feel the hurt and pain as though it was yesterday.

My 12-year old nephew looks down at my penny loafers. Pointing to the penny in each shoe, he asks, “Are you wearing them to let everyone know how poor you are?"

That idea could only have come from his mother. This was a few years after the trigeminal neuralgia pain started, which disabled me and left me virtually housebound.

Unable to work and having no savings on which to rely (I was 26 at the time), I had to do something I never could have imagined. I went on public assistance. I was embarrassed and humiliated asking for that kind of help. That my family saw it as a black mark only made it that much worse.

In a way though, it was a badge of honor.  Not because I went to the state for help with food stamps and medical assistance, but because I chose to do what I needed to do.

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The emotional cost to keep control and be as independent as possible -- in spite of the pain and the disability -- was enormous.  But I did it anyway.

What a good lesson that would have been for my nephew. Aunt Carol had a choice: Go back home and live with her parents (which would have been a calamity for all of us and a loss of my independence), or do what she needed to do to stay in control of her life even though it was very difficult. And she bravely chose the latter.

Instead the lesson learned was: Aunt Carol is poor and we should look down on her.

How many times have we had awful things said to us by family, coworkers, friends and people we turned to for help, only to be held in scorn, derision or plain indifference? And yet we held their “truths” as truths to be held dear.

I remember an Oprah Winfrey show from many years ago. Her admonition was as true then as it is now. Hold onto anger against another and who does it hurt?

They will forget what they said and the anger, nastiness and humiliation they showed us; while we hold onto the hurt and pain their words and behaviors caused.

So, at the end of the day, the one that stays hurt is not them, but us.

It's a new year. My resolution is to let go of all the hurt and pain that others have sent my way. It took me almost 38 years to realize I needed to make this change in my thinking. But, as they say, better late than never.

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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.