For the past 4 years, I have struggled with increasingly persistent muscular pain throughout the right side of my body. It began in my knee and foot. Over time it slowly worked its way up into the muscles of my mid back and trunk, occasionally straying into my right arm, even my face. It became more and more constant and intense, making it very difficult to focus or get any sleep. I labelled the pain as some sort of mysterious chronic overuse “injury” resulting from my rigorous workout regimen. I finally came to the conclusion that I would have to take an extended break from exercise. However, once I did this and the pain didn’t disappear, I quickly became obsessed with it. What’s the cause? Will it ever get better? Why is this happening? And on and on… The more I feared and dreaded and was baffled by the pain, the worse it got. In the past year, I have tried everything - acupuncture, chiropractic, injections, medication for nerve pain, massage, osteopathy, physical therapy, stretching etc. Every doctor I went to pointed to a different culprit - short leg, flat foot, poor posture, herniated discs, misalignment of the spine/pelvis, muscle imbalances etc. With each conflicting diagnosis and each failed treatment, I became more hopeless, more afraid, more overwhelmed. And as I crumbled psychologically, withdrawing into myself, cutting myself off from the world, the pain flourished and spread like a virus. My entire identity was wrapped up in the pain. I WAS the pain. I spent each day having panic attacks, sobbing uncontrollably, projecting catastrophe into the future. I would never be able to work, go on a date, move out of my mother’s house, have a family. Each day I became more despondent, more inconsolable. I began to imagine death as my only way out. Finally about 10 days ago, I happened upon John Sarno’s Mind Over Back Pain. I opened it up and immediately saw myself on every page. I tore through it like man possessed. So much of it applied to me personally, to my life, and to the behavior and evolution of my pain. I have nearly all the risk factors and personality traits of someone prone to TMS - early childhood sexual abuse, need to be perfect, awful self esteem etc. I can also trace the onset of my pain to a very specific and stressful period of my life - my last semester of college before entering the workforce. From that moment on, the stress has only built. I’ve hopped from one job to the next - all of them in sales, an inherently stressful line of work to begin with. Every step of the way I’ve felt as though I’ve been running away from all my responsibilities, doing barely enough not to be fired and constantly afraid of being found out and labelled a fraud. Running from job to job, from one location to another, running from the terrifying prospect of finding my purpose in life, running from adulthood. At every turn I projected an image of confidence, drive, capability - all the while feeling like a scared child, waiting for the entire charade to come crashing down on top of me. I alone bore this terrible truth - that I’m terrified all the time, that I know deep down I can’t take care of myself. I’m scared, and ashamed, and sad, and absolutely furious with myself. I’ve been this way my whole life. As the pressure built and I continued to run away, the physical pain built and built. Spreading, intensifying, morphing, constantly flowing from one area of my body to another. The funny thing about my pain is that it really is a terrible liar. The pain insists at every turn that it is the result of some structural defect, and yet the story it tells is laughably inconsistent. Okay so sitting hurts terribly, but only when my attention isn’t occupied? Same with standing and walking? Please explain why. How come bending, twisting and lifting don’t cause pain? Don’t I have a herniated disc? Sometimes exercise causes terrible pain afterward, except when it doesn’t? My pain goes from a 5 out of 10 to a 1 out of 10 over the course of coffee with a friend, all the while I’m sitting in the same position? Despite these and many other inconsistencies, I’ve bought in enthusiastically to the lie at every turn. All our lives we are conditioned to attribute physical pain solely to some organic process, and old habits die hard. It has been 10 days since I was first introduced to John Sarno. Since then I have consumed as much literature on the subject as possible. Each day has been a whirlwind of self-exploration and discovery. Of hope and elation and understanding, and reduced pain! And then somehow doubt - not intellectual doubt, but emotional. What if my pain won’t go away? What if I can’t buy in? What if my pain is somehow unique? The fear is real just like the pain, but neither serves a purpose and both must be methodically suffocated. I know that my pain is TMS, but now I must teach myself to believe it. I’m building my case against the pain, compiling evidence, presenting it over and over and over. Eventually, the truth will be undeniable - that this pain is entirely psychosomatic. Much like the alcoholic who must first admit he has a problem, accepting my diagnosis is the first and most vital step to recovery.