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Conditioning...Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by donavanf, Jun 26, 2015.

  1. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    OK, this is a funny title but a serious question. I am a professional photographer. I have TMS. The TMS mostly affects my neck, shoulders and upper back, the very muscles I use for shooting. I am guessing that some of you may know me by now. I am a patient of Dr. David Schechter's, a peer supporter and my TMS is getting better, despite some recent setbacks. I recently posted about how my TMS was much better and recently started to get worse (ironically about the time I decided to get really serious again about photography). Mostly, it's been on the run and on the mend. A lot of symptom substitution, but it always lands back in my upper back and shoulders/neck.

    I have a question about conditioning. When I first got TMS, before I knew what it was, I saw a physical therapist and a chiropractor who told me that my neck and back pain was poor posture, mostly from shooting and sitting in front of a computer doing PhotoShop all the time. As much as I now know this is baloney, there is a tiny piece of me (I'm guessing the part that hurts) that still believes it.

    I am in a negative feedback loop. I say this, because when I shoot, my neck and back tense up. Sometimes to the point of considerable pain. It is MUCH better than it was (for almost a year I could not pick up my camera without pain or the use of muscle relaxants) and now I can shoot much more. I can use the computer for much longer periods with less pain. I can drive with less pain (this was a big one and I mostly undid it with mental affirmations).

    But I still associate the camera with pain. Which saddens me practically to the point of tears, not only because it is the source of my income, but it is the source of my JOY! I've held a camera since I was 13 (that's more than three decades) without pain, but since TMS, I hurt when I shoot. I'm afraid I can't do photography because it is too hard physically. I have made myself believe the camera is too heavy. Dr. Schechter told me this was absolute nonsense. I am a 210 pound, six foot tall, strong guy. The camera is 2.5 pounds. But when I pick it up, I may as well be picking up an Anvil. The interesting thing? If I am shooting for love, or just for fun, I can shoot hundreds of pictures and have very little discomfort. But if I shoot a JOB, or even THINK about shooting a job, I get pain. How do I begin to associate the camera with fun and freedom, financial stability and creative expression, instead of pain and pressure?

    Is it the pressure I am putting on myself? I put a LOT of mental pressure on myself. But isn't pressure a good thing? I don't want to stagnate or live in fear. How do I push forward (I am trying to get a wedding photography business going and so far it is doing well) without putting undue pressure on myself? My inner voice tends to be a bully and the only thing that works is when I stand up to it. When I "give it hell" as Dr. Sarno says.

    I would love any thoughts from people who may have found that their TMS is getting in the way of their passion. How do I turn the camera back into a life preserver and not a noose? Intellectually, I know that the camera cannot cause me pain, but in real life, it most certainly does. And it breaks my heart to think of ever giving up my deepest passion. I love photography more than anything. I will never stop doing it, but I want to do it pain free! And fear free. And I'm scared I'll never get there.

    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
  2. Sandrine

    Sandrine New Member

    Hi donavanf,

    first: please excuse my English, I am not a native speaker but I try my best (of course, I am a perfectionist!)

    I have read most of your recent posts because your symptoms and your profession are so similar to mine.

    I think I know exactly what you are going through. I am a freelance textile desinger and I am dealing with shoulder pain for 18 years now. They get worse when I am drawing or painting on the computer. There were times when I could barly hold a pencil.

    After discovering Dr Sarno and his books one year ago I gradually recovered by reconditioning and much mental work to that point where I felt so fine and painfree that I decided to start a buisiness on my own and to do not work as a freelancer any more. Than, during my last vacation (which I thougt I could not afford because of so much work left to do and which I did to please my spouse) I had a big relapse. Now, 4 weeks later I get better by calming down and rereading Dr Sarnos and Eckhart Tolles books.

    Yes, to everyone who didn't have experienced this sort of pain it must sound funny that you cannot hold a camera without pain. For me it sounds funny that someone gets back pain while sitting. It is the same benign thing. Actually looking at the pain from this point of view may bring some relief.

    And, yes, we put too much pressure on ourselfes. Pressure to earn a living with our passion, pressure to deliver perfect work (photos/designs), pressure to get rid of the pain and pressure to relax to get rid of the pain....

    So, I am not sure if I can help you but for me it simply feels good having found someone with similar issues.
    donavanf likes this.
  3. Camila

    Camila New Member

    I can relate to a lot of what you have said. I am an artist and I sell my work mainly in the fall, so spring should be my "free and easy" time. Instead, I have my worst pain symptoms in the spring. This year it was so bad I stayed out of the studio for weeks on end. Why was I suffering more when there was no actual pressure on me to produce? That made no sense to me until I started this TMS work. I realize now that I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be productive and have a lot of trouble relaxing. I also have so much fear wrapped up around whether I'll be able to get the creative juices flowing, that it creates a block. I did an experiment this month. I gave myself permission to be on vacation and declared that every day was Saturday (even though I've been self employed for years I still feel more pressure during the work week than the weekend). I gave myself permission to stay out of the studio or just play when I went into the studio. The result of the experiment was I had my most productive month so far this year, made some pieces I really like and my headaches were better. Is there any way you can change how you view your wedding gigs? Can they become fun and play? Can you give yourself permission not to do a perfect job, not to get every perfect shot (I bet your clients will still be happy with your work). Can you do an experiment and pretend your next gig is just for fun and not a paying client? Peeling back the layers of emotions and discovering why I put so much pressure on myself also helped me a lot.

    On a separate note, I noticed in your other post that you mentioned not exercising. For me, exercising has been my salvation. I was not athletic at all growing up and it was out of my comfort zone to start working out, but I got into the habit many years ago. It takes the edge off and loosens me up. I really recommend you start something, just going for a walk would be an easy start. I jog and swim. I think all of my symptoms would be much worse if I didn't exercise. I also started meditating a couple of months ago and I think that has been very helpful. It was during a meditation session that I had the revelation to declare every day a Saturday - that's my new mantra!

    Hang in there, this is hard work but it pays off.
    donavanf likes this.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Donavan. Yes, I remember you and have followed your posts and replied to them.

    I think you are getting good advice from Sandrine and Camilla.
    My main thought is that you need to let up on the pressure to yourself to heal
    and also not to condition your mind that the pain comes when you use your camera.
    You are going to heal through 100 percent belief in TMS and be the photographer you want to be.

    I'm a fulltime freelance writer and am on the computer six or more hours a day.
    I can feel some back pain at times but take breaks to get up and walk around and bend and stretch.

    I suggest you do the same and incorporate positive thinking and deep breathing into the breaks.

    Your camera isn't too heavy. It never was before. You just think it is now. Tell yourself it is light as a feather.

    I love photography. I took pictures to go with some of my articles and books.

    You're a big fellow, so there is no way the camera is causing you pain, especially since there is no pain when
    you take pictures for fun. You need to de-condition your mind that it hurts when you are on a job.

    Good luck and you're going to enjoy photography all the time.
    donavanf and IndiMarshall like this.
  5. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    Thanks for the replies everyone, I am so lucky that this forum exists. My greatest hope is that through my own TMS journey, I can turn around and help others. We can all learn how to outwit this thing. Thank you, friends. And thanks, Walt! You always have such smart and kind things to say. Do you think that it may help me to make affirmations about my camera and about photography? I think that would be a cool idea.

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