Hi there all, I’m a long-time lurker, first-time poster. Because reading people’s TMS stories has been so important for me in struggling with TMS, and because I need something to write about as I slowly re-introduce myself to typing, I’ve decided to share my story so far here. And it looks like it’s going to be a long one … Looking back on it, my physical problems began during a period of intense stress for me, though I didn’t really appreciate this at the time. I’m an Irish citizen and I had been living in the US for two years. I had always wanted to work in the US for a period of time, as the industry I work in is much more developed there and there were opportunities to get good experiences on my CV. I had also enjoyed a more relaxed, fulfilling social life any time I had spent some time state-side, I have no idea why. It just seemed easier for me to be relaxed, to talk to people, and to ‘be myself.’ I had worked for a summer in the US back in 08, and ever since then this notion has remained with me. In 2014, an opportunity presented itself. After close to two years in the US, things had been going as I’d hoped they would. I was surrounded by people who were very career-driven and competitive, which made me expect more from myself. I really threw myself into being better at work, and putting more into the job. This in turn gave me more confidence socially. My successes transferred. It became easier for me to make friends or ask women out. They even asked me out! I took up running and found I was not bad at it, doing very well in local races. I saw myself as an athletic, confident person for the first time. I liked who I had become. But darker things were rumbling beneath the surface. Living in a country where you don’t have citizenship comes with a thousand caveats, major and minor. At the end of both years in the US I had to spend most of my free time researching my VISA situation, making phonecalls, dealing with Homeland Security (it ain’t part of their job description to be friendly) and desperately trying to find out how I would wrangle another visa. It wasn’t simple, and I was left wondering for months each time whether I would be accepted or not. Finally, I had a dream job lined up: a real step-up in terms of responsibility, one that would put me in the best possible position to continue my career when I went back to Ireland. But it meant being in the US another 2 years, and a strange kind of guilt was starting to creep into my thinking. Guilt at being away from home and family too long. Even though I didn’t relish the thought of slipping back into my old persona, as I thought would happen for sure if I went home, I now believe that this need to be home was weighing on me a lot more than I realised. One day when out running, I had a dull ache in my foot. Athletes are notoriously stubborn though, so I ran through it and it went away. Not wishing to be stupid, I left off running for a few days. I must admit though that I still was hiking a lot every day at work. A week later, running produced the same pain. I waited another week: no improvement. I was reluctant to accept that I would have to stop running for a while as it had become a huge part of my new identity as an athletic go-getter type person. So, while I did lay off the running, I immediately took up off-road biking for fear of becoming lazy. Two days later I woke up in the morning unable to stand, my sole and arch was so sore. Immediately I got the impression that this was to be a stubborn, long-term problem, as it was the same problem that had been troubling me during my runs for a few weeks, and even though I had been ‘taking it easy’ (by my standards!), it had not gone away but in fact gotten worse. I dealt with this very badly, becoming instantly depressed and feeling helpless and useless. I took five days off work and didn’t leave the couch the entire time but the pain didn’t change one bit. This was very worrying. I had never had an injury that didn’t go away within a few days of rest and icing. And being an alien whose visa was tied to my job, I could not take any long-term time off. And remember, my job required me being able to hike around for several hours a day, which made me very uptight as I was convinced it was making the injury worse. I took a few days working in the office instead of being outside, doing quite a lot of typing and also doing a lot of writing in my downtime, nothing more than I had done many times in the past. But within a couple days of my foot getting bad, an old injury from playing double bass came back: tendonitis in my left hand. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first: I had had occasional recurrences of it in the ten years since. Nothing that lasted more than a few days. But it did not go away. Slowly, I began to worry. It had taken about nine months to heal last time, and this was much worse. I didn’t use my left hand for anything now. I saw a doctor and a physiotherapist, took ibuprofen for a few weeks, did stretches and wore insoles. Nothing about the pattern really changed: the pain in my soles would calm down for a few days, I would start walking normally again, eventually something at work would mean that I had to hike around for an hour or so, and then I would be in agony for days on end. Apart from the occasional bit of work time, I stayed off my feet as much as possible for weeks and weeks. It was really starting to effect my self-esteem and sense of self. Within a week of this happening, I had to visit the dentist and afterwards found that my neck was extremely stiff. Again, I didn’t pay attention to it at first, but it got worse to the point that I could not sit and work at a computer or read a book for more than a couple of minutes. Now I was really falling apart: I felt as though any possible activity I could use to help me get through this was being taken away from me. And then my other foot went: I was standing in a library, trying to take my mind off things, and having been overcompensating on my good foot for a week, it began to ache in exactly the same way. I was really starting to doubt whether I could (or should) move to Wisconsin for my next job. To make everything worse, before I could start the job I had to move house and attend an intense 8-day first aid course in an extremely remote location, hundreds of miles in the wrong direction from where I needed to go afterwards. The course was very specific for the job and I had no choice. I was worried sick; at this point my neck was so bad I didn’t know if I could drive. The life I had just two months earlier felt like a scene from another panet. The first aid course was the last straw. Being surrounded by people who were training for the kind of outdoor jobs I loved and unable to participate except in the most humiliating way, my anxiety skyrocketed. My life was falling apart. Every movement filled me with worry that I was making my injuries worse. I hobbled around the grounds carrying a little fold-up stool. I sat down every second I could. And after taking a canoe out for one hour soas to get some exercise that didn’t involve my feet, the next day my left hand was throbbing with pain in a way it never had even ten years ago when I first injured it. I now couldn’t even use it for eating and brushing my teeth. Everyday things became a nightmare, and all the time dealing with a terrible decision: was this pain so bad that I would be unable to accept my great new job, and instead somehow figure out how I was going to get back to Ireland? I could think about nothing but pain. Would I ever be normal again? And then my right wrist began tingling. I panicked, teared up and completely lost it – there was now way I could lose that hand too! Sure enough, the next day it was giving similar symptoms to the right hand. I was now unable to use all four limbs. Somehow I made it to the end of the course and drove out of there with both my hands burning like they were on fire just from using the steering wheel! When I got to the first town where I knew somebody I pulled in to a gas station, made some incoherent phonecalls and had a panic attack. I stayed with friends for a few days, called my new job to cancel, and began figuring out how I was going to get home. I crashed at a few different places on my way to the nearest big city. I was lucky enough to have lots of friends in the area. I was fanatically ice-dipping my arms constantly to bring the pain down to a tolerable level. And then, frantically scanning the net for any news about anyone, anywhere who had recovered from such problems (forums for people with PF and RSI are a deep, dark black hole full of people who have suffered for months and years, with no ray of light) I came across an extraordinary story from someone who had a ridiculous number of symptoms, like me, and discovered that they were in fact not physical, but emotional. This was literally the first time I felt any positivity about my situation. This guy mentioned John Sarno. You know, I don’t think I would even have taken it seriously except the name seemed somehow familiar … an alternative care practitioner I had consulted previously had mentioned his name. I hadn’t given it much thought at the time. Not only that, but for the first time, here was somebody touting a near-miracle cure who wasn’t trying to sell me anything. Sure, he encouraged the reader to go get Sarno’s book, but he suggested that we get them cheap off Amazon, or any damn place we could find them. And as I discovered more about the TMS community, I was impressed by one thing over and over: this was a group of people who genuinely had nothing to sell, but who just wanted to ‘forward’ the information that had changed their lives. There’s no media organization overseen by Sarno the guru, just individuals who pass on the word. By the time I got back to Ireland I was convinced. There’s been no miracle cure, however. I was far too terrified of causing myself damage to test my body with anything that still caused pain (and that was most things). But I started paying attention to the inconsistency of the symptoms. They had each come on during a period of intense stress. They came and went without regard to physical causes, mostly. And once I started journaling and trying to process my emotions, crazy new symptoms started coming on, mostly recurrences of things I had suffered from in years gone by and forgotten about: constant running nose, rosacea-like blotches on my face. Again, no cause-and-effect seemed to explain these. I figured TMS was starting to get on the run. I started visiting a physio who has a very deep understanding of the connection between mind and body when it comes to pain. He foregoes the physical manipulation, as it is in many cases something of a placebo, strengthens my belief that there is nothing structurally wrong with my arms, and encourages me to continue returning to normal functions in a controlled manner. I have learned the myriad ways in which pain signals can continue after damage has healed, how the brain becomes more sensitive to pain after long periods of pain, and how fear causes pain. It has been extremely helpful to learn how informed, up-to-date medical care really does confirm many of Sarno’s ideas. It makes me cringe to think of the attitudes of previous practitioners I went to. If I have learned nothing else, it is that it’s worth shopping around for the right person. I still feel as though I have a VERY long way to go. Everyday now I do a slowly increasing amount of typing. I walk and cycle small amounts, I swim a lot, and just generally try to keep as busy as possible. My nervous system has been entirely frazzled by this experience, though, and there are still days when the merest pain can send me into a downward spiral that ends up in a panic attack. I have a lot of anger as this condition has literally taken everything from me that I though I was or could do. My entire life is on hold. I am meditating lots, trying to accept that I must be in a calm situation free from responsibility (it’s been hard to forgive myself for being unemployed and unproductive creatively), occasionally recording podcasts and doing simple social things. I hope to hear from you all and I believe that I will be able to report more positive results very soon.