We know that our nerves can cause a world of pain in our body, still, people are unaware of how bad it can really get. There are a number of neurological disorders that are commonly spoken about and thus people are more aware of them. For example, Alzheimer's disease, Autism spectrum disorder, Epilepsy, Multiple sclerosis, and Seizures---just to name a few. However, there are many that are overlooked. Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is one of them.
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic condition that affects the trigeminal nerve. It has two types, TN type 1 and TN type 2. According to the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD), TN1 or classical TN is characterized by attacks of intense, stabbing pain that can affect the mouth, cheek, nose, and/or other areas on one side of the face. TN2 or ”atypical” is characterized by the pain being less intense, but also a constant dull aching or burning pain. A person can actually experience both types.
First off, the pain of TN is excruciating and at times can be very debilitating. It has affected my life for almost four years and I have to say, the battle has been super long.
Now, you're probably reading this and wondering where this is going. I just want to get people more aware. This is such a rare condition with no cure in sight. Sure there are surgeries and things that can be done to help manage the pain like medication for example, but it is not a guarantee to work. There are many people I've read about who have tried surgery and while for many it may work, for others, it either does nothing or makes it worse. Plus for some individuals who it has been successful for, the pain may have returned months later or even years later.
I follow support groups and have read many stories from individuals with TN and it's nice to know we have others to talk to but at the same time, it's sad that any of us have to suffer from this condition. The part I think that sucks for many is the lack of belief from those around us. The fear of not being taken seriously.
In my early days of having TN, when I visited an oral surgeon, he couldn’t find anything wrong with my oral health that could cause such pain so he suggested to my mother that maybe it was all in my head. It was by far one of the most embarrassing and insulting things I’ve ever experienced. What reason would I have to fake my pain, it was a huge inconvenience and made absolutely no sense.
Another experience is having people compare the pain of TN to a toothache. “Oh I know how you feel. I’ve had really bad tooth pain before too.”
Sorry guys but you don’t understand. A toothache is mediocre in comparison. I’d take that over TN any day. This condition is literally called the ‘Suicide Disease’ by many because people will take their lives due to the excruciating pain they have to deal with daily. It’s no secret that chronic pain of any kind can cause depression, so one can only imagine what these individuals must feel to one day decide to end it all.
I won’t lie and say that the thought hasn't ever crossed my mind but I just keep pushing forward. I was able to make it through college and get a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. That has been a big accomplishment regardless of my chronic pain and though there is currently no cure for Trigeminal Neuralgia, I have hopes that someday soon there may be a more efficient solution to this problem. Until then all I can do is try and bare it.
One thing for sure is that I wouldn't wish TN on my worst enemy.