Hi everybody! Daniel Lyman here. I'm a licensed pain therapist and have been active on the wiki for many years now. I recently opened a group therapy/coaching practice dedicated to helping people overcome TMS/Chronic symptoms. Our group practice is called the Mind Body Therapy Center. Check out our website here: www.mindbodytherapycenter.org Daniel Gaines, an awesome TMS therapist, recently joined our group practice. As a way of introducing him, we thought he might share how he was able to overcome his own back pain/TMS! So, I'd like to share with you 7 TMS tips from Daniel Gaines, LCSW: Here are my top 7 tips that helped with my own TMS recovery: 1. Don't take the pain seriously (as much as possible): Like so many TMS patients, I went to a wide variety of doctors and was prescribed all manner of physical treatments and medications, none of which helped. Meanwhile I was mostly bed-ridden, terrified to do anything that could further strain and injure my body. However, once I read "Healing Back Pain" by Dr. Sarno, I began to test the idea that I could engage in more physical activity and be fine. Although it was hard at first, the more I tested my former limits, the more those limitations gradually disappeared. At some point I also realized that when the pain wasn't excruciating, I was still hyperfocusing on it and believed I had to get rid of it before I could move on. Now whenever that low-grade pain comes back, I tell myself, "it's just TMS" and continue about my day, knowing the pain will fade with time. 2. Be your own best friend: When my TMS was the worst I often found myself laying in bed for hours with tremendous pain; even though I knew that getting up and doing something would make me feel better, I just felt too defeated. Then I realized that if a friend was there and offered their hand to help me up, I would take it in a heartbeat. So I decided that—no matter the circumstances—I had to be my own best friend. I learned to do this not only by helping myself up when I felt stuck, but also by forgiving myself for the time "wasted" and not dwelling in envy for everyone in my life who was pain-free. Lastly, being my own best friend also meant not believing my catastrophizing thoughts that the pain would last forever, and keeping an attitude of perseverance by telling myself that one way or another, no matter how long it takes, I would unlearn those pain pathways. 3. Learn to respond—not react—to "the pressure": Very much in line with being your own best friend, this one is about caring for your own needs amidst real or perceived social pressures. I was the kind of student who raised their hand in class when no one else did, just to protect the teacher from feeling hurt that no one wanted to participate. While there's nothing wrong with caring about someone else, this started generating TMS in me when I felt that, even among close friends, I always had to be the one to break an awkward silence, or tell jokes if people seemed bored, or do any number of performative acts to make sure others liked me and felt safe. It was the worst job I ever had, and no one even asked me to do it! Naturally, this way of being gave me a consistent diet of anxiety, anger, and pain. In this case, I had to keep reminding myself that the expectations I thought others had of me often weren't real or were blown way out of proportion. However, whether the outside pressure is real or not (since it sometimes is), I found that to truly care for myself I had to learn to tolerate and soothe the anxiety that came from feeling like I was letting others down—without allowing the anxiety to push me into kneejerk, often regrettable reactions. Of course, I also had to learn to be kind to myself each of the many times I failed to do this, but through this work I now have much more choice in how I respond to those moments when the pressure is high. Life can be hard enough, so we might as well not put so much pressure on ourselves! 4. Have fun: I already knew from my OCD therapy that focusing on enjoyment rather than my obsessions was another way to rewire my brain, so I set about rediscovering activities that brought me joy, like riding my bike and dancing to good music, as well as discovering new activities like playing ukulele. Engaging in at least one enjoyable hobby each day not only made my life feel more worthwhile but also gave me the strength and calm to face my more painful triggers. This habit also helped me heal from perfectionism, which is antithetical to fun, by giving me ample opportunities to let go of perfection-seeking behaviors whenever they infringed on my designated fun time. 5. Don't plan your life around your pain: When I got my first full-time job after getting TMS, I was worried my fatigue alone would be overwhelming, but I was excited enough about the opportunity to know it was worth a shot. I stayed with that job for four more years, and that experience proved to myself once again that I could focus on what matters in life before waiting to be symptom free, and not avoid so many things out of fear of the pain. Of course, it took some time to get to the point that I was ready to make that leap, and I encourage clients to go at their own pace; but it's worth noting that I wasn't pain-free before I made that choice. Although it certainly came with it's own stress, working more also gave me less time to focus on my symptoms. 6. Get out of problem-solving mode: There's a scene in the film "Life is Beautiful" where the main character, Guido, sees an old doctor friend at a dinner party he is made to serve at while being held in a concentration camp. Overjoyed to see a familiar face, he approaches the doctor for help, only to find that the doctor just wants Guido's help solving a riddle. Confused and dismayed to see the doctor so preoccupied with a riddle while Guido and his family could be killed at any moment, Guido backs away from him, knowing he'll be of no help. This scene spoke to my experiences both with TMS and OCD, in that I noticed whenever I got too fixated on figuring out how to make the pain go away or stuck in indecision of some kind, my neck pain would skyrocket. Furthermore, just like in the film, we miss out on actual life when we're too preoccupied with getting rid of the pain, whether that means being there for a friend in need, or experiencing the joy of a sunset or family gathering. These days I do my best to avoid problem solving mode when it's not necessary, and when I need to solve important problems, I take breaks, and remind myself that whatever solution I come up with, I've done the best I could. 7. Know that treatment works: While each person's recovery journey is unique, just knowing that there are tens of thousands who have healed or dramatically reduced their TMS can be of immense comfort. Thankfully, pioneers like Sarno have taught us so much about this condition and its remedies, and the proof is in the pudding! Not only have there been so many examples of individuals like myself who have recovered from the worst depths of this disease, but there is now plenty of published research showing the brain's ability to influence pain and the effectiveness of TMS treatments. I've found it's important to keep all this in mind when the going gets tough, especially as the current medical model is still largely resistant to the evidence. The next step is to try some things out and find what works for you!