Hi Mr. R -
I can totally relate to this. When I was at my lowest point (five years ago, summer of 2011), I had multiple TMS symptoms, anxiety attacks, and borderline depression. Many of us believe, along with Dr. Sarno, that anxiety and depression are TMS equivalents, and it's all too easy for them to plague us just like physical symptoms. They are just another form of ill-conceived distractions created by our primitive and imperfect brains.
Depression and anxiety are really insidious, because if you can't control those, your ability to heal from the physical TMS symptoms is seriously hindered.
I was pretty successful in taking control of my anxiety after reading Hope & Help For Your Nerves by Claire Weekes (my #2 favorite book after The Divided Mind) and I seem to recall that she also touches on depression - meaning the type of depression that tends to go along with anxiety, not bi-polar or something else clinically more serious. I was developing a different relationship with my anxiety, and Dr. Weekes had convinced me that I had the ability to accept and move past it. By then I'd also had very good success in banishing many of my other physical TMS symptoms and I was feeling a lot of hope for the future.
I don't think I'll ever forget what happened one morning a little later on that fall. It had been a couple of months since I had felt any of the depression I experienced in the summer ("before Sarno"). I can't recall how I was feeling when I got up one day, but I remember I was headed to the shower, when I suddenly felt a wave of depression coming over me. The weird thing is, it was a very concrete feeling - almost physical - like a curtain being drawn across my awareness or something. This sensation made me pay attention in a very odd way: it was as if my conscious brain stood back and watched as the depressive sensation and thoughts tried to take over the rest of my brain. And as I watched this happening, I realized that I had a choice. I could see (feel!) that I had a really strong urge to just give in and let the depression take over. It was exactly like the urge to eat another cookie or slice of cake, for no good reason other than distraction. Or like the call of the Sirens, in Homer's Oddyssey, luring sailors even when they know it's to their deaths.
Sirens aside, I'm hopeless at resisting another cookie or piece of cake - but I was damned if I was going to give in to this depression, because I knew it would be a major setback. In other words, I was highly motivated to succeed in my recovery process. I simply said (perhaps even out loud, which is actually surprisingly effective for self-talk) something along the lines of "NO, do NOT go there - this is NOT necessary - I have a choice, and I choose to change my thoughts. Depression is NOT for me!" or something like that. The really amazing thing is that this totally worked. The depression left, and it never came back.
That's a long post, so here's the takeaway: if you can really hear the negative self-talk that your brain is inundating you with, you can also change it. The neuroscientists are telling us that we CAN re-wire our own brains for the better, by changing the unconscious self-talk. You have to find the motivation to do so, then open your consciousness to hear the negatives, and replace the negatives with something constructive. Saying your constructive things out loud, or writing them down is known to make them real, and it makes them work better.
This process can definitely be helped by the practice of meditation and mindfulness, as Avy mentioned.
Our TMS drop-in chat is tomorrow (Saturday) from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Eastern (now US Daylight Time) . It's a great way to get quick and interactive peer support, with Enrique as your host. Look for the red Chat flag on top of the menu bar!
- Doubt following visit to Tms dr