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donavanf
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Photographer, Actor, Writer

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donavanf

Well known member, Male, 47, from Los Angeles, California

Excited to be aboard the TMS wiki!!! Dec 23, 2014

donavanf was last seen:
Nov 29, 2018
  • My Story

    I am the 44 years old and the son of satirist Stan Freberg, who died in April of this year, the day after my birthday. I mention this, because it relates to my TMS. And it goes back a lot farther than April. My mother died in 2000. She was my dad's producer and creative collaborator for 42 years. My father was a kind and gentle father, in mostly robust health, though he ALWAYS had a "bad back". Mostly passive, he occasionally had very angry outbursts. Looking back, he had mountains of repressed narcissistic rage, which he (thank God) mostly channeled into his work. My mother was a well mannered lady, tough, sarcastic and a stoic ball of repression. She was a 'goodist', generous to a fault and the bravest nervous wreck you can imagine. She was always in some kind of pain. She was diagnosed with Lupus and "neuralgia", when I was about 12. I can see now, both my parents had TMS. I can remember going from doctor to doctor with my mother (parents took me EVERYWHERE) and being very scared for her health. I saw her suffering silently and stoically in chronic pain. She almost never complained, though her body was falling apart, her hair was falling out and her skin was one big rash. This terrified me and made me afraid of what a body could do, when it turns against you. My mother tried to protect me from seeing this as best she could, but I was a very observant child, sensitive precocious and artistic. I professionally acted for nearly 30 years, booking my first gig at the tender age of 7. My parents paid for my higher education and supported me well into my late 20's. But it went both ways. When my parents had terrible money problems in the early 80's, I bailed them out. I once gave my father $30,000 to pay back taxes. I was 10. "Goodist", anyone? But I digress. When school started, my parents did not set it up to be something safe or fun. They told me "You're going to a government institution, where you will be forced to learn a curriculum dictated by the school board. It will be horribly dull. You will have to stop staying up late (I was a night owl from birth) and get up early. We don't want you to go, but the government is forcing us to and if we don't comply, we will go to jail". I don't understand why my parents told me this, but they did. Of course, it filled me with terror. I asked, "How long do I have to go there for?". They answered, "12 years". Frightened out of my mind, I began to sob and shake. I could not wrap my little head around this idea. It sounded like jail or a prison camp. I then asked, "Is there any way out?". They replied, "No. You HAVE TO GO, well...unless you are sick". Well, I saw the solution immediately. On the first day of school, I came down with the flu. This became a routine. During my 12 year scholastic jail sentence, I caught every imaginable illness. I became regular at the pediatrician with maladies that ranged from tonsillitis to migraines, tummy aches to allergies. I spent more time in the nurses office than in class. In the fourth grade, I was diagnosed with a double inguinal hernia. After the surgery, the doctor said I could resume normal activities within about six weeks. My (well meaning but EXTREMELY overprotective) mother heard this as, "Your son is now an invalid" and she wrote me a note saying "Donavan can't do PE, he is ill". I carried this (laminated) note for the rest of my school years. I attended not a single PE class, which was fine with me, because the only thing worse than math class was gym. I was bullied terribly, all through school, ESPECIALLY in gym. So now, thanks to my (fully healed) hernia, I spent my gym time in the library. Books became my best friends, which was great for my mind but didn't do much for my health. I'm STILL terrified of exercise. Once I had escaped the terrors of k-12, now a young adult, I decided I actually wanted to go school. Film school. But I was still not feeling good. I was at the ENT every month with chronic sore throats. I took so much penicillin that I became allergic. My sister (a health nut) decided to take me to her Chiropractor. Now, I will back up here. I had a LOT of faith in this cracker because YEARS prior, he actually gave my mom a nutritional regime that put her SLE into a near FULL remission. He had been the family witch doctor for decades. Whether mom's Lupus remission was wheat grass, adjustments or PLACEBO, we may never know. But in my mind, he healed my mother. So I TRUSTED this man IMPLICITLY. Upon reviewing my symptoms, he told me I had "severe candida". I had no idea what this was, but he explained that it was a yeast overgrowth in my body that could continue to spread and if it got bad enough, "could kill me". I was scared to death alright! However, he said if I followed his health regime, I would gain a level of wellness I had not seen previously. In fact, I would be "unstoppable, strong as an ox and full of vigor". He was like the Kellogg character in "The Road To Wellville". He wasn't merely convincing, this chiropractor was PT Barnum in the flesh!!! His protocol was legalistic and extreme, sugarless and ascetic. Worse yet, I was to do the unthinkable. Exercise! He told me that as soon as my "candida" was gone, all of my health problems would VANISH! I didn't merely stick to his routine, I stuck to it like glue. Within 30 days, I had lost 25 pounds, gained a bit of fitness and regained (most) of my health. But I was a nightmare of perfectionism. I checked every label, looked at pizza like it was the plague and thought that if I had a Coke at the movie theater, I'd drop dead. I would force myself to do some exercise, though I hated it and feared it. My parents and friends told me to "lighten up and live a little". Well, I didn't. I just kept getting more and more hard on myself, not allowing myself even to eat my own 18th birthday cake. I developed so much OCD, I became a hand-wash-a-holic, germ-o-phobic, fun-less, fear machine. Now, I see it so clearly. This self-punishing, hypochondriac, angry, frightened, TIGHTLY wound boy. How I wish I could go tell him to have some cake and eat it too. What a stage was being set for TMS, and come it did. Though my sore throats had basically vanished, I had a new symptom. Tummy aches and GERD. Classic IBS. But that diagnosis wouldn't come for a while. In the meantime, the chiropractor and Malibu shaman decided to refer me to his friend, a Beverly Hills acupuncturist. This would change the course of my life. As I sat in the expensive looking Zen waiting room, I saw two celebrities who shall be nameless. Dr. Cha-Ching was clearly doing well. I imagined a cross between Mr. Miyagi and Yoda. When he entered the room, he looked more like Patrick Swayze. He introduced himself as "Dr. Mark" and took my pulses and looked at my tongue. Then he said, "you probably don't remember but I treated your mother when you were young, I helped her back pain". Then it hit me, and I was flooded with the memory of him coming to the house, needles in hand, and in 45 minutes of acupuncture and massage, my mother went from bedridden to walking. Again, I trusted this man, because like his friend Dr. Ed, he had healed my mother like Jesus healed the leper. After reading my pulses and looking at my tongue, he had his diagnosis: "Your spleen is damp and your liver is angry". This sounded equally intriguing and terrifying. He put needles in me (I was scared of shots, but these I barely felt) and he told me to take the herbal pills he gave me. He said "Your stomach aches will disappear now. Chinese medicine will cure you of this". And it did. COMPLETELY. I was so amazed, that I soon became this Jedi surfer's apprentice. After six months at that, I decided to become a Jedi myself (sans surfing) and attend acupuncture school, ditching the arts to instead receive a masters in traditional oriental medicine. That's four years, though it took me eight, because I also decided to get a PhD in homeopathic medicine while concurrently completing a master's in counseling psychology. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. After nearly a decade of studying the mind and body, and a (ironic) worsening of most of my hypochondriasis, many of my body symptoms had disappeared. I see this now in hindsight as placebo. Like the acu-doc and chiro-quackter, I trusted my teachers, so when I would develop a symptom, I would simply go to the school clinic and see one of my teachers, who would usually quell my fears and tell me that I just had "medical student syndrome", which I had in spades. My teachers always put my fears at ease, though my OCD continued. Just as I was finally finishing school, in 2000, my mother passed away of lung cancer. Shortly after her death, my father married a woman (a stalker) who cut him off from the family the moment the ring was on her finger. My sister and I received letters from my new "stepmother's" lawyers, saying that the rights to my fathers work, all his assets, his house and every one of his creative endeavors were now "her property". I was completely cut off financially, college tuition included, and would never see my father again. I felt dumbfounded and destroyed. I tried to reach him, to no avail. I was now an orphan. In the span of less than one year, I had lost my mother, my father, my education, my home, my dogs (due to finances and housing, I had to give them to a dear friend), and my identity. I had to give up my doctor dreams and get a retail job. I told my father's new wife that she could have his money, in return for simply being allowed to see my father. I could live without funding, but I felt I could not live without a father. My daddy was my hero. He still is. She told me, to my face, "As long as I'm alive, you'll NEVER see your father again. EVER!". A year later, she actually had the ghoulish gall to dig up my mothers grave and throw her remains into an unmarked "hobo's" plot. Why she did this, I may never know, though I would imagine it is because she is a sociopathic, maniacal monster. Amazingly, though fiercely enraged, I did not show it. I stuffed it deep down inside my broken heart and spent the next ten years in mourning, stunned and stuck, frozen and traumatized, working in a Chinese herb store selling (what I now believe) are (mostly) placebos. Because I never got my acupuncture license, I could not set up private practice, so this was the best I could do. I felt so defeated. Worse yet, my bosses were verbally abusive and stingy. I'm out of there, back into the arts where I belong, but that's another story. Which I'm about to tell. In 2010, I decided to pursue my lifelong hobby of photography as a means to generate some side income. I'd been a photo geek since I was 13. I had always dearly loved photography and as I said, I decided to "go pro" in 2010 and shoot a wedding. I had a blast, the client loved my work and I made more money than I made in a month at my 'day' job! So I kept going and shot more weddings, finally found my true love, shooting portraits. As a longtime actor, I found kinship in helping other thespians with their career, so I made head shots my "focus", pun intended. I live in LA, so with some marketing muscle and networking, I began to get more gigs. I cut down to part time at work. In 2012, I was making more on my days off than I was in a week at my retail job. As I began to see how much I could love a CAREER (professional photographer), I began to despise my JOB (snake oil salesman). I had lost faith in Chinese Medicine and my boss was a egomaniacal bully, so my day job days became miserable. But...on weekends, I would gleefully shoot, shoot, shoot. I kept booking and cooking. I was close to quitting my day job! The artists dream! Through all this, despite long days spent on my feet at the boutique herb factory and long weekends clicking the camera and the photoshop mouse, I had almost no TMS pain. Occasionally, I would have a stiff back, tight neck or sore shoulders, which is "normal" for most photographers. Especially ones who didn't take PE. A few days rest, a week off of shooting, a hot bath or a massage would usually put my neck and shoulders right and I was back to shooting. Looking back, I was constantly "wading, waiting and hating" my days at the day job, soullessly punching the time clock, counting the minutes, wanting to be elsewhere, the inner rage boiling up, angry at myself that I still even had to be there. Why couldn't I just get my photography going? My own inner bully (Type-A/Type-T) was relentless. Then I began a down-spiral. In 2013, I was asked by my sister if I would be willing to go to NYC to attend my niece's graduation from NYU film school. My sister had not been on a plane in 28 years. Because of her own panic attacks, the furthest she'd traveled had been from her home in Santa Monica to a hotel in Santa Barbara, a mere 90 minute car ride. Now she wanted to take a six hour plane ride across the country. And she wanted me to be her in-flight companion. Not a fan of airplanes myself and not wanting to travel with my anxiety riddled sister, I told her I would love to attend my nieces graduation, but I just couldn't, due to finances. Truth be told, I just didn't want to go. I hadn't had a real "vacation" in ten years from that dreadful day job and though I love NYC, I didn't want to use my accrued vacation time to hand-hold my sister, go visit the city that never sleeps and watch my niece graduate from the film school dream that I secretly wanted, and never got. But...I couldn't see that then, I just knew, in my heart of hearts, in my gut, that I REALLY did NOT want to go. But I couldn't just say "no" (Goodist/People Pleaser) so I blamed finances. My very pushy, controlling, often bullying sister, said, "I will pay for your airfare, and we will stay together in a friends apartment in Brooklyn. You have to go. You owe it to me and you owe it to your niece". GUILT! Now I HAD to go. So go I did. And the trip was an absolute nightmare from beginning to end. It was the pitch perfect petrie dish of TMS, but at this point, I didn't know what TMS was, nor that I was a race car in the redline (repression), so I "kept calm and carried on". I won't bore you with the details of the trip, but it was literally GO, GO, GO from start to finish, and I was staying in an apartment above a fire station, sleeping almost never. It was like a war zone for my sympathetic nervous system, and to make matters worse, on the trip, I found out that one of my best friends and mentors from acupuncture school had died of eye cancer. But I didn't shed a tear, I had to catch a cab in the pouring rain to get to another family event. When I got back, I was so tired, I could barely stand. And I had to go back to work two days later. Worse yet, I had spent all my savings on the trip, so I did a photo shoot upon my return instead of resting. I needed the money. For the first time, photography was a chore. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Within a week of starting back at my day job, I started to develop a strange headache. This was no normal, "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" kind of headache. This felt like someone had my temples in a vice. I saw my MD, who was perplexed. I then came down with a bad head cold, so my doc said, "I think it's most likely sinusitis and that explains your headache". I was put on antibiotics and nasal spray and told to rest for a few days. My headache was gone in three days. I felt relieved. But my fatigue lingered, and I had to cancel some upcoming shoots. My headache returned three weeks later with a vengeance, this time when I picked up my camera, which felt crushing. I was referred to an ENT who put me on another round of antibiotics which did NOTHING except exacerbate my IBS. And my TMS. But I didn't have TMS yet (I didn't KNOW I had it), I had "Sinusitis". The ENT then put me on a round of oral steroids which sent me into panic attacks. I stopped the steroids but the headaches continued, alternating with more panic attacks...(the symptom imperative). During one of the panic attacks, while driving, someone honked me, jolting me back into reality and I flew into a vitriolic rage. My ID took over the reigns of my superego. I rolled down the window and yelled every obscenity in the book at this honking person. I punched the wheel, gritted my teeth, and felt like The Incredible Hulk was emerging. I screamed at the top of my lungs, as loud as I could, pounding the wheel and crying. Then, I realized what was happening and became embarrassed and ashamed. My superego now in battle with my ID, I suddenly developed a new symptom. Severe neck pain. My MD sent me for an MRI of my head and neck and they found nothing unusual (sinuses perfect) except for one thing...my lateral ventricles were apparently 'a few millimeters 'larger than normal'. Well, I knew enough neurology from acupuncture school to know what this COULD mean. Adult Onset Hydrocephalus. My mind went into a DARK hole of fear and I was CONVINCED I had it. My doctor told me it was unlikely, because I had no outward signs of the disease, but referred me to a neurologist to be safe. In the SIX WEEKS of waiting to get into a neurologist, my neck pain and head pain worsened daily. My shoulders felt like they were in the claws of a T-Rex and my head was pounding like a jack hammer. Finally, I saw the neurologist, who reviewed the MRI, gave me a battery of neurological tests and told me, "You don't have hydrocephalus, you have no signs of it whatsoever, your reflexes are perfect, cognition perfect, gait normal, and your ventricles aren't really "enlarged or engorged" just a TINY bit bigger than normal. In light of the fact that you are a big guy, and because you have no symptoms of the disease, it's more than likely a structural anomaly and a minor one. I'm not worried. My doctor called me a day later and asked me to come in, where he also told me that he, the ENT and the neurologist all spoke to each other and I was "in the clear". I walked out of the office like a man who had been reprieved of a death sentence (although Hydrocephalus is not fatal if treated) and within a day, a lot of my neck and back pain was gone. But it returned. I finally saw a Dentist, who told me I had "Textbook TMJ" and sold me a night guard, which took away my headaches and they never returned. But as soon as the headaches left, I developed pain in my right shoulder blade, which a PT (a trusted teacher from school) diagnosed as "Bad posture induced RSI". She gave me a very regimented plan on how to "change the entire way I moved, sat, stood, laid down, used a computer, drove and used a camera". I went to work and within a week, I was walking around like General Patton at full attention. People said, "Man, you're posture is amazing!". But my upper back pain? MISERABLE!!! It just got worse and worse as I became more regimented and tight. Of course it did! I was back to my old-ocd tricks and read every book and website on posture I could find, which are endless. FINALLY, I saw a psychotherapist again (I'd been in and out of therapy for years, mostly out) and in our first session, I literally had to lay on the floor. I could not sit in her soft chair without my entire upper back going into spasm and my neck feeling like it was made of stone. PAIN! FINALLY, relief came in the form of a book, recommended by a stranger, "Healing Back Pain", by John Sarno, MD. Well, needless to say, I saw myself on EVERY PAGE OF THE BOOK and within a week of reading it, my symptoms had improved by 50%! I went on to read all his books, Dr. Schecter's book, Dr. Schubiner's book and joined this forum. I'm still not all better, 43 years of TMS is not easy to undo. I have daily flare-ups, but keep fighting. I am determined. And I take it easy on myself. After 43 years, I finally see that I am my own worst enemy. So I've decided to be my best friend instead. Knowledge is the cure! Thank you, Dr. Sarno!!!
    1. yb44
      yb44
      Wow, what a story!! TMS on steroids, as they say. Glad you joined us and hope you stick around.
      1. Forest likes this.
    2. Enrique
      Enrique
      Glad you found out about TMS! Welcome to the forum.
    3. donavanf
      donavanf
      Excited to be aboard the TMS wiki!!!
      1. Forest likes this.
      2. Forest
        Forest
        Welcome, donavanf! We're glad to have you here!
        Dec 23, 2014
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  • My Story

    Gender:
    Male
    Birthday:
    Apr 6, 1971 (Age: 47)
    Home Page:
    http://www.donavanfreberg.com
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Occupation:
    Photographer, Actor, Writer
    I am the 44 years old and the son of satirist Stan Freberg, who died in April of this year, the day after my birthday. I mention this, because it relates to my TMS. And it goes back a lot farther than April. My mother died in 2000. She was my dad's producer and creative collaborator for 42 years. My father was a kind and gentle father, in mostly robust health, though he ALWAYS had a "bad back". Mostly passive, he occasionally had very angry outbursts. Looking back, he had mountains of repressed narcissistic rage, which he (thank God) mostly channeled into his work. My mother was a well mannered lady, tough, sarcastic and a stoic ball of repression. She was a 'goodist', generous to a fault and the bravest nervous wreck you can imagine. She was always in some kind of pain. She was diagnosed with Lupus and "neuralgia", when I was about 12. I can see now, both my parents had TMS. I can remember going from doctor to doctor with my mother (parents took me EVERYWHERE) and being very scared for her health. I saw her suffering silently and stoically in chronic pain. She almost never complained, though her body was falling apart, her hair was falling out and her skin was one big rash. This terrified me and made me afraid of what a body could do, when it turns against you. My mother tried to protect me from seeing this as best she could, but I was a very observant child, sensitive precocious and artistic. I professionally acted for nearly 30 years, booking my first gig at the tender age of 7. My parents paid for my higher education and supported me well into my late 20's. But it went both ways. When my parents had terrible money problems in the early 80's, I bailed them out. I once gave my father $30,000 to pay back taxes. I was 10. "Goodist", anyone? But I digress. When school started, my parents did not set it up to be something safe or fun. They told me "You're going to a government institution, where you will be forced to learn a curriculum dictated by the school board. It will be horribly dull. You will have to stop staying up late (I was a night owl from birth) and get up early. We don't want you to go, but the government is forcing us to and if we don't comply, we will go to jail". I don't understand why my parents told me this, but they did. Of course, it filled me with terror. I asked, "How long do I have to go there for?". They answered, "12 years". Frightened out of my mind, I began to sob and shake. I could not wrap my little head around this idea. It sounded like jail or a prison camp. I then asked, "Is there any way out?". They replied, "No. You HAVE TO GO, well...unless you are sick". Well, I saw the solution immediately. On the first day of school, I came down with the flu. This became a routine. During my 12 year scholastic jail sentence, I caught every imaginable illness. I became regular at the pediatrician with maladies that ranged from tonsillitis to migraines, tummy aches to allergies. I spent more time in the nurses office than in class. In the fourth grade, I was diagnosed with a double inguinal hernia. After the surgery, the doctor said I could resume normal activities within about six weeks. My (well meaning but EXTREMELY overprotective) mother heard this as, "Your son is now an invalid" and she wrote me a note saying "Donavan can't do PE, he is ill". I carried this (laminated) note for the rest of my school years. I attended not a single PE class, which was fine with me, because the only thing worse than math class was gym. I was bullied terribly, all through school, ESPECIALLY in gym. So now, thanks to my (fully healed) hernia, I spent my gym time in the library. Books became my best friends, which was great for my mind but didn't do much for my health. I'm STILL terrified of exercise. Once I had escaped the terrors of k-12, now a young adult, I decided I actually wanted to go school. Film school. But I was still not feeling good. I was at the ENT every month with chronic sore throats. I took so much penicillin that I became allergic. My sister (a health nut) decided to take me to her Chiropractor. Now, I will back up here. I had a LOT of faith in this cracker because YEARS prior, he actually gave my mom a nutritional regime that put her SLE into a near FULL remission. He had been the family witch doctor for decades. Whether mom's Lupus remission was wheat grass, adjustments or PLACEBO, we may never know. But in my mind, he healed my mother. So I TRUSTED this man IMPLICITLY. Upon reviewing my symptoms, he told me I had "severe candida". I had no idea what this was, but he explained that it was a yeast overgrowth in my body that could continue to spread and if it got bad enough, "could kill me". I was scared to death alright! However, he said if I followed his health regime, I would gain a level of wellness I had not seen previously. In fact, I would be "unstoppable, strong as an ox and full of vigor". He was like the Kellogg character in "The Road To Wellville". He wasn't merely convincing, this chiropractor was PT Barnum in the flesh!!! His protocol was legalistic and extreme, sugarless and ascetic. Worse yet, I was to do the unthinkable. Exercise! He told me that as soon as my "candida" was gone, all of my health problems would VANISH! I didn't merely stick to his routine, I stuck to it like glue. Within 30 days, I had lost 25 pounds, gained a bit of fitness and regained (most) of my health. But I was a nightmare of perfectionism. I checked every label, looked at pizza like it was the plague and thought that if I had a Coke at the movie theater, I'd drop dead. I would force myself to do some exercise, though I hated it and feared it. My parents and friends told me to "lighten up and live a little". Well, I didn't. I just kept getting more and more hard on myself, not allowing myself even to eat my own 18th birthday cake. I developed so much OCD, I became a hand-wash-a-holic, germ-o-phobic, fun-less, fear machine. Now, I see it so clearly. This self-punishing, hypochondriac, angry, frightened, TIGHTLY wound boy. How I wish I could go tell him to have some cake and eat it too. What a stage was being set for TMS, and come it did. Though my sore throats had basically vanished, I had a new symptom. Tummy aches and GERD. Classic IBS. But that diagnosis wouldn't come for a while. In the meantime, the chiropractor and Malibu shaman decided to refer me to his friend, a Beverly Hills acupuncturist. This would change the course of my life. As I sat in the expensive looking Zen waiting room, I saw two celebrities who shall be nameless. Dr. Cha-Ching was clearly doing well. I imagined a cross between Mr. Miyagi and Yoda. When he entered the room, he looked more like Patrick Swayze. He introduced himself as "Dr. Mark" and took my pulses and looked at my tongue. Then he said, "you probably don't remember but I treated your mother when you were young, I helped her back pain". Then it hit me, and I was flooded with the memory of him coming to the house, needles in hand, and in 45 minutes of acupuncture and massage, my mother went from bedridden to walking. Again, I trusted this man, because like his friend Dr. Ed, he had healed my mother like Jesus healed the leper. After reading my pulses and looking at my tongue, he had his diagnosis: "Your spleen is damp and your liver is angry". This sounded equally intriguing and terrifying. He put needles in me (I was scared of shots, but these I barely felt) and he told me to take the herbal pills he gave me. He said "Your stomach aches will disappear now. Chinese medicine will cure you of this". And it did. COMPLETELY. I was so amazed, that I soon became this Jedi surfer's apprentice. After six months at that, I decided to become a Jedi myself (sans surfing) and attend acupuncture school, ditching the arts to instead receive a masters in traditional oriental medicine. That's four years, though it took me eight, because I also decided to get a PhD in homeopathic medicine while concurrently completing a master's in counseling psychology. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. After nearly a decade of studying the mind and body, and a (ironic) worsening of most of my hypochondriasis, many of my body symptoms had disappeared. I see this now in hindsight as placebo. Like the acu-doc and chiro-quackter, I trusted my teachers, so when I would develop a symptom, I would simply go to the school clinic and see one of my teachers, who would usually quell my fears and tell me that I just had "medical student syndrome", which I had in spades. My teachers always put my fears at ease, though my OCD continued. Just as I was finally finishing school, in 2000, my mother passed away of lung cancer. Shortly after her death, my father married a woman (a stalker) who cut him off from the family the moment the ring was on her finger. My sister and I received letters from my new "stepmother's" lawyers, saying that the rights to my fathers work, all his assets, his house and every one of his creative endeavors were now "her property". I was completely cut off financially, college tuition included, and would never see my father again. I felt dumbfounded and destroyed. I tried to reach him, to no avail. I was now an orphan. In the span of less than one year, I had lost my mother, my father, my education, my home, my dogs (due to finances and housing, I had to give them to a dear friend), and my identity. I had to give up my doctor dreams and get a retail job. I told my father's new wife that she could have his money, in return for simply being allowed to see my father. I could live without funding, but I felt I could not live without a father. My daddy was my hero. He still is. She told me, to my face, "As long as I'm alive, you'll NEVER see your father again. EVER!". A year later, she actually had the ghoulish gall to dig up my mothers grave and throw her remains into an unmarked "hobo's" plot. Why she did this, I may never know, though I would imagine it is because she is a sociopathic, maniacal monster. Amazingly, though fiercely enraged, I did not show it. I stuffed it deep down inside my broken heart and spent the next ten years in mourning, stunned and stuck, frozen and traumatized, working in a Chinese herb store selling (what I now believe) are (mostly) placebos. Because I never got my acupuncture license, I could not set up private practice, so this was the best I could do. I felt so defeated. Worse yet, my bosses were verbally abusive and stingy. I'm out of there, back into the arts where I belong, but that's another story. Which I'm about to tell. In 2010, I decided to pursue my lifelong hobby of photography as a means to generate some side income. I'd been a photo geek since I was 13. I had always dearly loved photography and as I said, I decided to "go pro" in 2010 and shoot a wedding. I had a blast, the client loved my work and I made more money than I made in a month at my 'day' job! So I kept going and shot more weddings, finally found my true love, shooting portraits. As a longtime actor, I found kinship in helping other thespians with their career, so I made head shots my "focus", pun intended. I live in LA, so with some marketing muscle and networking, I began to get more gigs. I cut down to part time at work. In 2012, I was making more on my days off than I was in a week at my retail job. As I began to see how much I could love a CAREER (professional photographer), I began to despise my JOB (snake oil salesman). I had lost faith in Chinese Medicine and my boss was a egomaniacal bully, so my day job days became miserable. But...on weekends, I would gleefully shoot, shoot, shoot. I kept booking and cooking. I was close to quitting my day job! The artists dream! Through all this, despite long days spent on my feet at the boutique herb factory and long weekends clicking the camera and the photoshop mouse, I had almost no TMS pain. Occasionally, I would have a stiff back, tight neck or sore shoulders, which is "normal" for most photographers. Especially ones who didn't take PE. A few days rest, a week off of shooting, a hot bath or a massage would usually put my neck and shoulders right and I was back to shooting. Looking back, I was constantly "wading, waiting and hating" my days at the day job, soullessly punching the time clock, counting the minutes, wanting to be elsewhere, the inner rage boiling up, angry at myself that I still even had to be there. Why couldn't I just get my photography going? My own inner bully (Type-A/Type-T) was relentless. Then I began a down-spiral. In 2013, I was asked by my sister if I would be willing to go to NYC to attend my niece's graduation from NYU film school. My sister had not been on a plane in 28 years. Because of her own panic attacks, the furthest she'd traveled had been from her home in Santa Monica to a hotel in Santa Barbara, a mere 90 minute car ride. Now she wanted to take a six hour plane ride across the country. And she wanted me to be her in-flight companion. Not a fan of airplanes myself and not wanting to travel with my anxiety riddled sister, I told her I would love to attend my nieces graduation, but I just couldn't, due to finances. Truth be told, I just didn't want to go. I hadn't had a real "vacation" in ten years from that dreadful day job and though I love NYC, I didn't want to use my accrued vacation time to hand-hold my sister, go visit the city that never sleeps and watch my niece graduate from the film school dream that I secretly wanted, and never got. But...I couldn't see that then, I just knew, in my heart of hearts, in my gut, that I REALLY did NOT want to go. But I couldn't just say "no" (Goodist/People Pleaser) so I blamed finances. My very pushy, controlling, often bullying sister, said, "I will pay for your airfare, and we will stay together in a friends apartment in Brooklyn. You have to go. You owe it to me and you owe it to your niece". GUILT! Now I HAD to go. So go I did. And the trip was an absolute nightmare from beginning to end. It was the pitch perfect petrie dish of TMS, but at this point, I didn't know what TMS was, nor that I was a race car in the redline (repression), so I "kept calm and carried on". I won't bore you with the details of the trip, but it was literally GO, GO, GO from start to finish, and I was staying in an apartment above a fire station, sleeping almost never. It was like a war zone for my sympathetic nervous system, and to make matters worse, on the trip, I found out that one of my best friends and mentors from acupuncture school had died of eye cancer. But I didn't shed a tear, I had to catch a cab in the pouring rain to get to another family event. When I got back, I was so tired, I could barely stand. And I had to go back to work two days later. Worse yet, I had spent all my savings on the trip, so I did a photo shoot upon my return instead of resting. I needed the money. For the first time, photography was a chore. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Within a week of starting back at my day job, I started to develop a strange headache. This was no normal, "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" kind of headache. This felt like someone had my temples in a vice. I saw my MD, who was perplexed. I then came down with a bad head cold, so my doc said, "I think it's most likely sinusitis and that explains your headache". I was put on antibiotics and nasal spray and told to rest for a few days. My headache was gone in three days. I felt relieved. But my fatigue lingered, and I had to cancel some upcoming shoots. My headache returned three weeks later with a vengeance, this time when I picked up my camera, which felt crushing. I was referred to an ENT who put me on another round of antibiotics which did NOTHING except exacerbate my IBS. And my TMS. But I didn't have TMS yet (I didn't KNOW I had it), I had "Sinusitis". The ENT then put me on a round of oral steroids which sent me into panic attacks. I stopped the steroids but the headaches continued, alternating with more panic attacks...(the symptom imperative). During one of the panic attacks, while driving, someone honked me, jolting me back into reality and I flew into a vitriolic rage. My ID took over the reigns of my superego. I rolled down the window and yelled every obscenity in the book at this honking person. I punched the wheel, gritted my teeth, and felt like The Incredible Hulk was emerging. I screamed at the top of my lungs, as loud as I could, pounding the wheel and crying. Then, I realized what was happening and became embarrassed and ashamed. My superego now in battle with my ID, I suddenly developed a new symptom. Severe neck pain. My MD sent me for an MRI of my head and neck and they found nothing unusual (sinuses perfect) except for one thing...my lateral ventricles were apparently 'a few millimeters 'larger than normal'. Well, I knew enough neurology from acupuncture school to know what this COULD mean. Adult Onset Hydrocephalus. My mind went into a DARK hole of fear and I was CONVINCED I had it. My doctor told me it was unlikely, because I had no outward signs of the disease, but referred me to a neurologist to be safe. In the SIX WEEKS of waiting to get into a neurologist, my neck pain and head pain worsened daily. My shoulders felt like they were in the claws of a T-Rex and my head was pounding like a jack hammer. Finally, I saw the neurologist, who reviewed the MRI, gave me a battery of neurological tests and told me, "You don't have hydrocephalus, you have no signs of it whatsoever, your reflexes are perfect, cognition perfect, gait normal, and your ventricles aren't really "enlarged or engorged" just a TINY bit bigger than normal. In light of the fact that you are a big guy, and because you have no symptoms of the disease, it's more than likely a structural anomaly and a minor one. I'm not worried. My doctor called me a day later and asked me to come in, where he also told me that he, the ENT and the neurologist all spoke to each other and I was "in the clear". I walked out of the office like a man who had been reprieved of a death sentence (although Hydrocephalus is not fatal if treated) and within a day, a lot of my neck and back pain was gone. But it returned. I finally saw a Dentist, who told me I had "Textbook TMJ" and sold me a night guard, which took away my headaches and they never returned. But as soon as the headaches left, I developed pain in my right shoulder blade, which a PT (a trusted teacher from school) diagnosed as "Bad posture induced RSI". She gave me a very regimented plan on how to "change the entire way I moved, sat, stood, laid down, used a computer, drove and used a camera". I went to work and within a week, I was walking around like General Patton at full attention. People said, "Man, you're posture is amazing!". But my upper back pain? MISERABLE!!! It just got worse and worse as I became more regimented and tight. Of course it did! I was back to my old-ocd tricks and read every book and website on posture I could find, which are endless. FINALLY, I saw a psychotherapist again (I'd been in and out of therapy for years, mostly out) and in our first session, I literally had to lay on the floor. I could not sit in her soft chair without my entire upper back going into spasm and my neck feeling like it was made of stone. PAIN! FINALLY, relief came in the form of a book, recommended by a stranger, "Healing Back Pain", by John Sarno, MD. Well, needless to say, I saw myself on EVERY PAGE OF THE BOOK and within a week of reading it, my symptoms had improved by 50%! I went on to read all his books, Dr. Schecter's book, Dr. Schubiner's book and joined this forum. I'm still not all better, 43 years of TMS is not easy to undo. I have daily flare-ups, but keep fighting. I am determined. And I take it easy on myself. After 43 years, I finally see that I am my own worst enemy. So I've decided to be my best friend instead. Knowledge is the cure! Thank you, Dr. Sarno!!!
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