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Yes, It Could Be Worse, But I'm Allowed to Be Upset About My Pain

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As I lay strapped to the cold, hard table, the doctor prepped me for my third nerve block. With the drapes positioned over my face, I couldn’t see anything other than a sliver of the ceiling. Nervous and upset, I tried telling myself to put things in perspective. It could be so much worse. I’m not having a major surgery. I don’t have as grave of a diagnosis as others. My daughter is healthy. Maybe I don’t have a right to be so upset.

After the procedure, the doctor took great care in applying my bandages. She apologized multiple times for not having smaller bandages and for any bruising I might have on my face. I told her it was OK — vanity had gone out the window at this point (which, looking back at it, isn’t exactly true). Then I asked her if she thought my neuropathy would ever get better. She said she couldn’t promise that I’d ever be pain-free, but she hoped we could get it to a tolerable level.

Still lying face-up, I held back the tears. The doctor placed her hand on mine and said, “It’s OK. This has been hard on you. You’ve been going through this for a year. I can see now how you’re trying to hold it in. Facial pain is one of the worst pain that exists. You’ve been brave.”

It was then that the façade started to crack. I cried as she blotted my face with tissues. But part of me was crying because I was thankful. I was thankful for the doctor’s actions and words. I was thankful for her empathy and compassion when I know it’s easy to dehumanize patients in the rush to make the next appointment. I was thankful that she acknowledged my pain and, by doing so, validated my feelings.

Yes, it could be worse, but living with pain on a daily basis is my reality. While I’m trying my best not to catastrophize it, I’m allowed to feel it.

Originally published: July 15, 2016
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