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Day 1 Bennet's day 1

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by bennet, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. bennet

    bennet Peer Supporter

    For me, it’s day 1 of this particular program, but I’ve been working with Dr. Sarno’s books (and a good, similar one by Georgie Oldfield called "Chronic Pain: Your Key to Recovery") for a few months now.

    I’d like to share my story but I’m going to try to keep it fairly quick and positive because it’s long and complicated, about it and I worry about getting dragged back in to hopeless feelings by retelling it.

    I’m 24 now, and for over a year I had such debilitating pain in my left hip that I had to leave my job. There were times that I could hardly walk, and could not sit for more than a few minutes. I spent most of a year in so much pain that I could barely get through 2 workdays a week. I was terrified of sitting. I was in too much pain to exercise.

    I saw 3 physical therapists, 2 chiropractors, and did acupuncture. One of the chiropractors really did help me quite a bit by actually figuring out which muscles were being affected (no one else could find what was wrong), and acupuncture provided amazing but temporary relief when painkillers did nothing. (I practice mediation now and it results in a very similar feeling of physical relief as acupuncture, and helps me work through my underlying psychological issues.)

    For about a year I have also been seeing a therapist, to work through childhood traumas and their effects on my personality today. (My trauma is ‘mild’ comparatively speaking, but it has an enormous effect on me and I have always struggled with mental health.)

    About 3 months ago, my hip pain was finally much less severe. Then I got ahold of Georgie Oldfield’s book and that really finished it up over the course of a month. I hardly have any discomfort in my hip any more (after a year of being disabled!) and I am going to work and exercising comfortably.

    The pain moved, though. Early on as my hip pain started to get better, I started getting headaches, which turned into intense neck and shoulder pain. I learned to be afraid of sleeping because I could not get comfortable during the night, and would wake up with more neck pain. It’s a very specific pattern: I know exactly which muscles act up, in what order it progresses. My neck muscles felt like ropes about to snap. There has also been a ringing in my ears almost all day, every day, for months.

    The past 2-ish weeks the neck/shoulder issues have been milder, and very obviously correlated with extra stressors and with worries about the pain.

    So, I see it’s definitely getting better, when I step back and get some perspective. I know that feeling afraid, frustrated, and hopeless just reinforces the pain (telling my body that the pain is working because it’s distracting).

    The most helpful things are: making sure I go to therapy, reading the TMS books, meditating, and getting on with activities I am afraid of, regardless out their outcome.

    Meditation has been helpful to me because it's teaching me how to disentangle pain and suffering. I can be in pain, but I don’t always have to suffer from it. I can allow it to be and let it be ok. Then it kind of looses its hold on me. I can go about whatever activity that sounds scary —say, typing at a computer when my shoulder hurts— and tell myself, “It’s ok. You’re not damaging yourself. There is some pain, but you don’t need to pay attention to it. Don’t worry about willing it to go away. Just keep working, it won’t stop you.” And then usually it recedes after a while.

    This is different from suppressing negative emotions, which I know is the root of the whole problem. I feel afraid somehow that this isn’t a good long-term technique, though. Is it still reinforcing the pain to pay attention to it this way? Is that why it comes back? I expect, based on how hard I had to work on my hip, that it will probably just take time.

    To end on a positive note, because that feels helpful to me: I have been sleeping better and waking up with less neck pain. It’s not completely gone, and I often do worry about it increasing throughout the day (which is definitely a self-fulfilling prophesy) but overall it is much less severe. It’s normal to expect pain symptoms to jump around, it’s normal for them to get worse before they get better. Maybe I’m past that hurdle? Maybe I’m not. I guess we’ll see.

    My main challenge now is to ‘un-link’ my learned fear of sleeping. I need to fully, completely know that sleeping will not cause my neck to hurt. I would love, love, love to hear from you, especially if you’ve had similar struggles. Have you made good progress? What kinds of coping techniques work for you?

    Janine28 likes this.
  2. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    Hi Bennet! Welcome!
    Congrats on your success so far. I've found that reading Sarno and other TMS
    literature is very beneficial, especially when I take the attitude "take what you want and leave the rest!"
    In addition, I found the SEP, found free on this wiki, to be extremely helpful. In addition to reading a lot of success stories, you'll journal on various topics and be exposed to a variety of resources. After two years of horrible foot pain, the SEP gave me my life back!
    Blessings on your journey.
    bennet likes this.
  3. Janine28

    Janine28 Peer Supporter

    Hi Bennet,
    It's great to hear how far you've come already with linking your physical pain to stress, trauma and negative experiences. I too developed some learned fears around the physical pain (mine have been in my knees)- to the point where I was afraid to walk more than 1/2 a block or stand for a few minutes. There have been several keys for me in working with this fear:
    1. Completing the SEP. The process and support of this program was amazing!
    2. Whenever I experience any amount of pain, I go directly to my heart, asking myself what emotions do I feel right now?
    3. Becoming familiar with fear itself. Basically, not being afraid to be afraid!
    4. Working with positive affirmations (I was never a big fan of this approach, now I'm a regular practitioner!)

    Finally, regarding fear of sleeping: I see that you find meditation helpful. I've practiced meditation for over 25 years and when I first learned how to meditate, my teacher mentioned that if we meditate while lying down and our bodies are truly tired, we won't be able to help falling asleep. This cured my insomnia at the time! And now I share this wisdom every chance I get. As you meditate while going to sleep, you could just watch with nonjudgemental awareness any fear that arises. Even become curious about your fear, feeling its ebbs and flows and the way it feels in your body. As you watch with gentle awareness (and not getting caught up in the stories our minds create, just watching), you may find yourself relaxing into sleep more easily.

    Best wishes to you!
    mike2014 likes this.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Bennet.

    Meditation is a wonderful way to relax and to overcome worry, fear, and anxieties. I have found he Relaxation Response form of meditation to be very helpful and suggest you try it...

    Meditation is a time-honored way of relaxing the mind and relieving anxiety, mental stress, headaches, and even physical pain. There are many ways to practice meditation, but many consider the most successful to be a technique called the Relaxation Response (RR).

    It is a wonderful way to practice TMS Mindbody Healing because it changes harmful thinking in the subconscious mind which Dr. John Sarno says causes pain in many people.

    The RR, practiced daily for a few minutes has a profound positive effect on the subconscious mind, relieving or curing everything from inflammation and pain to headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, high blood pressure, to even aiding in recovery from cancer.

    RR is like Transcendental Meditation which is taught by TM specialists who charge hundreds or thousands of dollars. But the RR is free and you can do it yourself.

    It is done 20 minutes once or twice a day, before a meal, and works best if not practiced within two hours after a meal. I do it in bed before arising in the morning and again in bed before falling sleep. Often, I only do it 5 or 10 minutes and it works to calm me and put me to sleep.

    Just sit in a chair (or lie in bed in the morning or at bedtime), close your eyes, don’t listen to any music, and try to avoid outside noises. Let your mind think of a word such as "One " which has no real meaning or association. Or say a calming word such as “Peace,” or add the faith or spiritual element by saying a favorite religious word. Breathe in through the nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, then say the word when you exhale.

    Say the word silently over and over. At the end of the 10 to 20 minutes, picture and feel yourself as you were when you felt your best, and in a place where you felt that way.

    When distracting thoughts arise during the RR, as they will, just tell yourslf, “Oh, well,” and go back to repeating your chosen word. Transcendental Meditation teachers will charge hundreds of dollars to give practitioners a word, but the word you choose yourself in the RR works just as well.

    There are several free videos on Youtube about the Relaxation Response. I especially recommend these two by Dr. Benson:

    bennet likes this.
  5. bennet

    bennet Peer Supporter

    Hi Gigi- thank you so much for your encouragement. Especially for the note that it's ok to 'take what you want and leave the rest'. For example, Alan Gordon's page suggests expressing anger at your pain when it shows up, saying to it things like "How dare you!" Once in a while that's helpful, but I'm finding more often that approach just makes me more stressed.
  6. bennet

    bennet Peer Supporter

    Hi Janine-- thank you so much for your support and suggestions! I am definitely finding that meditating in bed helps me with falling asleep. I'm still having trouble *staying* asleep -- I wake up very often throughout the night -- and I still seem to hold tension when I wake up a lot, so that I wake up in the morning with neck pain. But it is getting a bit better and I hope that continuing to meditate will help to "stabilize" me over time. Positive affirmations have been hard for me to adopt but are really helpful too. And I'm starting to become "familiar with fear" as you put it. Observing fear as an emotion, thinking about why I'm afraid, considering with compassion how fear tries to help me, but also how fear does not have the final say in everything.
    Janine28 likes this.
  7. bennet

    bennet Peer Supporter

    Hi Walt, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I've been meditating at least 2o minutes twice a day for a few months now but have mostly been listening to guided meditations. I've been thinking it might be time to try some 'un-guided' meditation and as I read your reply, I realized that I have been instinctually doing something very similar to the RR meditation you described, during moments like taking the train to work in the morning. I'll watch the videos this evening and give it a try. Thanks again! I hope you're doing well.
  8. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    Yes, sometimes I get quite stern with my subC. At other times a gentler approach is more successful.
    bennet likes this.

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