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My SEP Journal

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by Orion2012, May 2, 2015.

  1. Orion2012

    Orion2012 Well known member

    Day 1: Where I am at


    I am very active 41 tear old male. I injured my back lifting weights just over 5 months ago, right before Thanksgiving. Hurt like hell for a few days. I assumed it was a sprain. Rest and ice seemed to get me past the acute phase pretty fast. Working in higher education, I only had two weeks of work to get through before I had a month-long break to take it easy. I took it easy for about a month and felt good enough to return to running on the beach, and even snowboarding (in a brace, at first) with no ill effects. My back felt better, and I could move pretty well, but I still had some minor sciatic pain. I started seeing a chiropractor recommended by a co-worker. He did a thorough assessment, told me a minor lumbar disc bulge was likely and told me he was very optimistic that I would respond well to conservative approach of PT. Sounded good to me and kept at the vigorous workouts, with the exception of not doing any heavy lifts.

    About two months ago, after about a month of going to Crossfit four times a week, I still had some sciatic pain but it actually went away while I exercised with intensity. Then, I had a pain flare-up where it became acute pain again and I could barely straighten my back. This time, I could not pinpoint a specific incident.

    The Chiro had me discontinue all weights, sports, and stick to stretching and the pool. I noticed that this did not help. He also referred me for an MRI, which revealed a 6mm disc bulge near the S1 nerve root. He then referred me to pain management/orthopedic doctor. The pain doc gave me a 12-day course of oral steroids, saying it was a low-risk option worth a try, before trying anything more invasive. He expressed some concern about my description of the pain moving down my leg into my foot, that it could be nerve degeneration, to call him immediately if I lost strength or bladder control, and he would see me again in month. The steroids seemed to help for about 4-weeks, reducing pain flare ups from a 7 to about 4-5, and I felt like the PT was helping me. At the follow-up, the pain doc said my response to the steroid likely indicate my s1 nerve root was not compressed and only inflamed. He recommended I continue stretching and PT, and said that I was not a likely candidate for surgery. He thought even epidurals (one of his specialities) was not indicated. I felt encouraged and support to continue a non-invasive approach to healing. I kept after the stretching and pool workouts, taking a break from all the running, weights, and high-impact stuff. Then, two weeks ago the stronger pain came back. Sciatic pain, focused in the hamstring, and glute, but sometimes the foot and calf.

    About a little over a week ago, a friend with back problems gave me Dr. Sarno's "Healing Back Pain" and said he thought it was bullsh*t, but that another friend friend swore it by it. 5 days ago, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. I’ll be damned if I haven’t had the best 5 days in a month…

    The day before I read the book, my pain level was probably 4-5 most of the day, flaring up to about an 8 at one point (when I was angry about being injured and feeling pressure to go be active, BTW). Since reading the book, my overall frequency and level of pain has been much lower (level 2-3), flare-ups have subsided quickly, and the location of pain is jumping around all over, from the low back to the bottom of the right foot.

    My Doubts:

    I know that I injured my back just over 5 months ago.

    Two months ago, the MRI revealed a 6mm disc protrusion near the right s1 nerve root, and my primary symptoms are pain in the lumbar spine and all along the sciatic nerve on the right side

    Why I think I have TMS

    -The mind-body connection makes sense to me. Fits my philosophical approach and my general understanding of how things work.

    -I don’t believe my back is structurally injured enough to produce the type of pain I have been feeling. Although I hurt at times, I am not physically impaired enough to be seriously injured.

    -TMS offers a logical explanation for many of the puzzling things about back injuries and sciatic pain: why surgery doesn’t help some people, why some people have worse disc but less pain or less severe bulges and have more pain, why my pain is so variable and keeps moving around.

    -I am the poster child for TMS pain in every way:

    1) Personality: A kind-hearted self-abusive perfectionist who puts a ton of pressure on himself

    2) Childhood psychological baggage (divorce, mom’s death at age 16)

    3) Current major life stressors: off the charts (see list below):

    Stressful job (first-year full-time university lecturer)

    Stressful job circumstances (end of semester madness right now)

    Moving out of state in a month (exciting job opportunity for the wife)

    Need to find another job when we get there (not too worried about that yet, but it looms)

    Adorable but demanding 2.5 year old (lots of joy but also lots of work)

    -The biggest flare-up I have felt occurred when I was angry at having to suck it up and function despite the pain.

    -My symptoms have jumped around all over my right side from the back, to the glute, hamstring, calf, ankle, etc. This seems unlikely to be a structural injury.

    -The radiologist who found the 6mm disc protrusion on the MRI summarized his finding as ‘mild degenerative changes’. No sh*t.

    -My chiro is confident in a non-surgical recovery. Nice guy, but I don’t think I need him anymore.

    -The pain doc also supports non-surgical recovery. We both agree that unless I get worse, I’m not hurting enough for steroid injection, muscle relaxers, or prescription pain meds. Don’t need him either.

    Sorry for rambling, I am convincing myself, I suppose. And it seems to be working…

    Life without TMS means to me:

    A return to the active lifestyle that means so the world to me, and freedom from the pain of unresolved anger, grief, and stress.

    Thanks to people for taking to the time to read or comment. Glad I found this place…
  2. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Orton. Your post is very interesting.
    Your pain moves around, and that is what the subconscious does when we have TMS pain.
    You've learned that your pain is not structural but psychological.

    The SEP will lead you to discover any repressed emotions and present stresses.
    I discovered my own repressed emotions stemming from my parents divorcing when I was 7.
    It left me feeling abandoned and insecure. In journaling, I discovered that my parents had TMS themselves.
    That led me to understand them better and why they divorced. That led me to forgiving them,
    and forgiving led to my severe lower back pain going away.

    TMS is a fantastic journey toward self-discovery and both emotional and physical hearing.

    Keep posting about your TMS/SEP progress.

    And don't forget deep breathing and enjoying each day. Live in the present, not the past or future.
    Spend half an hour in the past by journaling, but more is not necessary and can be emotionally upsetting.
  3. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    Welcome, Orion! Congrats on all of your progress!
    Your items listed as doubts make perfect sense to me in the realm of TMS. First of all, TMs often piggybacks on an injury, prolonging recovery time. Second,
    Dr. Sarno writes about various bulging discs etc. being found in patients who exhibit NO pain! I read his book Healing Back Pain, and it was a revelation to me, after 30 years of back pain.
    I firmly believe that this program has saved my life. Hang in there--the benefits are amazing!
  4. Orion2012

    Orion2012 Well known member

    Thanks for the replies, Walt and Gigi. I know my back injury was real, but I truly believe it was not significant enough to cause this level of impairment. With the the pain moving around so much, but no loss of strength, I'm pretty confident this is TMS. I still have some lingering doubts about the source of my sciatic pain, that perhaps my attraction to the TMS diagnosis is some desperate attempt to not be injured.

    However, I think the changing pain patterns is more evidence of TMS. The evidence mounts: It has now been one week since reading "Healing Back Pain". The month prior to reading the book, my pain would around a 2-4 in the morning but would dissipate when teaching or exercising, and leave me alone during the middle of day, then flare back up usually 3-5 in the late afternoon and early evening. Sitting made it worse. The occasional spasm sometimes would get up to 6-7, usually driving. Laying down or standing both seemed to help. (Mercifully, I have been sleeping OK most nights.)

    The first five days after reading the book, the pain never got above 3. Yesterday, was the most pain-free day post injury to date- until 4PM then it came on strong (level 5-6) until bedtime. Today was one of the more painful days I have had in a while, starting at strong and not letting up midday. I pushed through, took my boy to the zoo, had a good day in spite of the pain. Although I hurt, I was encouraged by the pain being very shifty today: moving from the low back to the buttock, calf, different parts of the foot. Shifting more so than before, when I thought this was a disc bulge irritating the sciatic nerve. Today, a few times, I felt a twinge in my left elbow- a body part that has never once had an issue before. Finally again, tonight, not so bad.

    I know I need to journal on anger and fear, and have been giving these some thought. These are big, difficult topics. More tomorrow....
  5. Orion2012

    Orion2012 Well known member

    Day Two: Anger and Sadness

    Things that make me sad:

    1) How I handled my mom’s illness and death: I rarely think about my mom, but when I do, I am sad that I never getting to know my mom as an adult. Her never getting to meet her grandson, and vice versa, makes me sad. The last two years of her life, as she was dying of brain cancer, I was an obnoxious teenager: rarely home, always in trouble. She was a very kind and loving person, but I have very few memories of my mother. I think part of how I coped with her illness and death was blocking her out of my mind. I think I feel guilty about that.

    2) Feelings of inadequacy: I never feel like I am good enough at my job, as a parent, or husband. Most of the feedback I get tells me that I am actually very good at all of those things. Still, I tend to be very self-critical. All my parents (mom, dad, step-dad, step-mom) were always very supportive and did not put much pressure on me, so I am not sure where I get the perfectionist tendencies from.

    3) All of the world’s suffering: I don’t try to take it on, but sometimes I think I must. I must feel guilty about how good I have it, and want to make the world a better place. Sometimes, all the war, poverty, violence, suffering, and injustice seems hopeless. The world is a cruel place, and the powerful few rule the many through fear and ignorance. The media fills our heads with nonsense, politics is a game of divide and conquer. Greedy corporate interests control the major political parties; democracy has become an illusion. The world sucks.

    Things that make me angry:

    1) See 2 above: Sometimes, these thoughts and feelings make me angry. Sometimes, I feel full of self-hate. I feel rage, just underneath the surface. I have on occasion taking my anger out on an inanimate object (punching a wall, etc.)

    2) See 3 above. Feelings of powerlessness lead to anger. All the greed, ignorance, fear and stupidity seem like insurmountable obstacles. Changing the world seems impossible, despite how desperately it seems like it needs to change. I also get mad at myself, for getting mad: A vicuous cycle. But it seems like I am often disappointed at myself for not handling the stress of all these different responsibilities better.

    3) More of the same: Feeling overwhelmed at work, as a parent, with all the things to do before we move (despite being excited about this relocation and the opportunities it represents).

    Obviously, anger and sadness are related. “Anger never stands alone,” I remember being said by a professor in a psychology class. There is always buried hurt behind feeling of anger. I indeed seem to be full of anger, much of it hard to explain, and at odds with the type of person I want to be.
  6. Orion2012

    Orion2012 Well known member

    Started my lists...feels good to be doing some work on myself.

    I still exercise almost every day, but very restricted. I am only stretching and working out in the pool. I have temporarily discontinued weight lifting and running and all 'impact sports' on the advice of my Chiro two months ago, after my flare-up. I am not yet pain-free and have actually had some stronger pains these past few days, but the inconsistency is encouraging. Pain this variable must be TMS on the run. Went for a jog on the beach and it was tolerable.
    I have looked into some yoga classes nearby and plan start to tomorrow. Not as PT, but to build strength and flexibility, and to build confidence and mindfulness. I will beat this.
    Ellen likes this.
  7. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Journaling can bring up unhappy memories but it's worth the effort.
    I didn't know how much I repressed most of my life when my parents divorced when I was 7.
    It left me with feelings of abandonment and insecurity. But journaling helped me to
    understand them better and forgive them. Forgiving stopped my severe back pain.

    Take your time finding the emotional causes of your TMS.
    Maybe spend only half an hour a day on journaling. Spend the rest of the day enjoying life.
  8. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Orion, I read something yesterday that is appropriate to thinking about guilt:
    "Don't try to be the conscience of the world."

    If you can contribute time or money to worthy charitable causes, and pray for those suffering,
    that's about all we can do.
  9. Orion2012

    Orion2012 Well known member

    Good words of advice, Walt. In my haste to "fix" the pain, I have done much too much over thinking these past few days...

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