Editor’s Note: John Lucas, the creator of The Face Caddy, has been such an incredible supporter of all of us who struggle with jaw pain. In this blog post, he shares his story of pain and its impact on his life.
TMJ Disorder can be many things. A physical issue. An emotional issue. A relationship issue. A job issue. It can disable you, change your outlook on life and be devastating on finances.
I think the one real issue of all these seemingly separate issues is pain. Physical, emotional and spiritual. So that’s what I want to write about this month. Pain.
As I said in last month’s column, I do not suffer with TMJD. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t known pain, specifically physical pain. I was born with a lot of bone “issues” in my arms and left leg. It required me to go through several surgeries before I was even one year old. And after that, I was physically unable to be held for the first year and a half of my life, because I was wrapped in splints and casts. It’s left a scar on my body as well as my emotional and spiritual bodies.
As an adult, I’ve been run over by a hit-and-run driver, which left the bones in my right arm in 18 pieces and has given me ongoing lower back pain. I’ve also had to have neck surgery for a ruptured disc, and to wrap it up, I was immobilized for 4 months due to a broken shoulder.
I’m not telling you this for any kind of sympathy. I’m telling you this because at the core of all this is my relationship to pain. I believe that your pain and my pain are the same. Not physically of course, but rather in how we deal with it. How we bend our lives around it, accommodate it and bring it into the house.
Think about the relationship you have with your pain. Is it a constant bully, forcing its way into every detail of your life? Or is it a surprise visitor? One who shows up unexpectedly and demands that you drop whatever you’re doing and give it all your attention. Or, is it that subtle whisper that is always following you around, quietly telling you what you can and cannot do.
Whatever your pain looks like, a bully, an occasional visitor or a whisper, you have to deal with it in some way. Surgery and meds are sometimes required. No debating that and I’m not a doctor so I would not even comment on that aspect of pain management. But what I am experienced in is emotional (and spiritual if you’re so inclined) pain management.
When pain is in your world, does your world become painful? Think about that. Does your day-to-day outlook on life depend on your pain? If so, then your pain is manifesting in more than your body. Your pain has seeped out into the world, you see, and there’s no amount of surgery that can mend that.
So what can you do about this condition? And don’t fool yourself, it’s most definitely a condition. Well, the first step is to become aware. Watch for the emotional pain when the things you love (people, activities, etc) become lifeless, worthless or meaningless. This is your physical pain throwing itself everywhere it doesn’t belong.
When you understand that the only real pain you have is in your body, then you can focus on the real issue. When I am experiencing pain, my normal go-to thought is, “This is how it’s going to be forever.” I don’t even realize I’m thinking that way! The next thing that happens when that thought/belief spreads out from the real pain is having pain outside my body, in my world.
Does this happen to you? Does your world become painful when your body is in pain? It’s a common reaction to pain, but it doesn’t have to be an ongoing reaction to pain. Try to become aware of when your pain jumps into your world. Then boldly, boldly, boldly remind yourself that your pain is in your body,and may indeed require docs and meds, but it doesn’t have to rule your world.
You can use your mind to notice what is happening, and try new ways of constructively dealing with it. The key to thing to remember is that this is a journey — one we are all on together.
John Lucas is a writer who lives in Manhattan and Winston-Salem, NC. He is the inventor of the Face Caddy, Hot and Cold Therapy Wrap. His monthly column is about TMJ and the stories around it. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.