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Day 1: Where to Start?

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by maxpower, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. maxpower

    maxpower New Member

    It's been a long road. I've always driven myself too hard. Had a fear of failure. And despite having accomplished a lot in my career, athletic pursuits, and outside interests, I've always felt like a fraud. I've never lived in the present; instead, I'm always regretting the past and fearing the future. When I get into something, I obsess over being great at it until I've "sucked the joy" out of it. I've done this with everything from triathlon to the guitar to mountain biking. But enough about the way I'm wired...

    In 2006, I stepped off a new triathlon bike only to be greeted with the worst pelvic floor pain imaginable. I went from dr. to dr., and no one could explain what happened or why I was in pain. Everything looked normal, but the nerve paid was terrible. A pelvic pain specialist told me my pelvic floor muscles had gone into spasm, and were not impinging my pudendal nerve. Another specialist told me I'd never ride a bike again or risk "entrapping" the nerve and needing surgery. That pain lasted for five years, and I tried everything to fix it. Nothing worked, until eventually, I had a "real" medical issue: a brain aneurysm that required emergency surgery.

    After that, I was so scared and nervous about my brain holding up for the long term, my focus left my pelvic floor, and the pain mostly subsided. But now I was determined to reclaim my life after my near death experience, and decided to start mountain biking again. But not just causal riding; I set my sights on the Leadville 100, perhaps the most difficult MTB race in America. But how can you train for a 100 mile mountain bike race when you have a pelvic floor in spasm?

    It was at that time that I found Sarno's "Healing Back Pain." Even though my pain was slightly different, I recognized my "perfectionist" personality in the Sarno discussion, and realized how much stress I had been under when the pelvic pain started: newly married, hated my job, was planning to move across country with my new wife and start a new life, alienating both of our extended families.

    As Sarno recommended, I returned to what I was most scared of: riding a bike. I took it slow at first, and talked to myself quite a bit, and the pain eventually disappeared, allowing me to complete the Leadville 100 in 2013 in under 9 hours.

    But that wasn't enough for me. It never is. I realized I was pretty good at mountain biking, so I trained harder and harder. I lost another 30 pounds. I kept getting better and better. And in 2016, I earned my pro license and started racing against the best guys in America, and holding my own.

    But deep down, I hated what I was doing. I hated training 20 hours a week, when I have a demanding full time job and a wife and two kids. I hated how obsessive I got about my weight, basically starving myself so I could compete at a high level; I would eventually develop an eating disorder at 41 years old. I hated the my happiness was TOTALLY predicated on whether I had a good workout that day, not on whether my kids mad me smile or my wife had a great day at work. I hated that I wasn't able to take any joy out of my successes, because I always felt I was one bad race away from being that middle-of-the-packer and I had been only several years earlier. I hated that for nine months a year, my career was my hobby, and racing mountain bikes was my career, when it was my real job that put food on the table and paid our mortgage. I felt guilt that I was successful at my career despite not giving a shit about it from February through October each year.

    So to say the least, I was conflicted. But I kept doing it, every day. Training harder. Eating less. And I was pain free. I had gotten into bike racing, and not running, because in 2009 I was told I had an arthritic hip and would eventually need a replacement, but my hip hadn't caused any problems.

    Then, in January 2017, I'm diagnosed with ulcers. Then we find out my testosterone has dropped under 200 from all the training. I start stressing about that, feeling more guilt that as I'm getting "more fit," my body is breaking down from all of the stress. I realize that my "fitness" is an illusion, and I'm actually less healthy than I've ever been.

    Then in June of 2017, during a routine physical all the partners at my firm get, I find out I have heart disease. More calcified plaque in my arteries than 99% of people my age. And you know what I felt? RELIEF. Because in my mind, I finally had an "excuse" to quit racing; a reason that no one would blame me for and brand me a quitter.

    But I didn't quit. I did the opposite. I immediately went to a vegan diet, and kept racing. Do you know the stress and anxiety you feel racing at your absolute max when your doctor has just told you that you have a significant risk of a heart attack in the next 5-10 years? That stress caused a spiral.

    In September, I got news that my nuclear stress test came back OK. No more than three days later, I had an innocent crash on my bike, and my entire low back seized up. I couldn't move or stand up for two weeks. Instead of worrying about my heart, now I was obsesses about my back, and how I would ever return to racing. I would eventually get an MRI that showed a l4-l5 herniation and extrusion, and I thought that explained all of my pain.

    Then a strange thing happened: from October to January of every year I travel a lot for work. It's very stressful, and I am constantly busy. Everyone told me my back would only get worse during that time, but do you know what? It got better. Probably because I had REAL things to worry about rather than obsess over my back all day.

    So now its January 2018. Time to start training again. Back feels OK. But now my cardiologist wants me to go to Houston for a PET scan of my heart just to be sure. I get filled with fear, but my test comes back great. On the way through the airport, I start to limp. It's my bad hip, which hasn't given me trouble in 9 years. Now I cant' walk. For the next SIX MONTH, I limped for 21 hours a day; the only time I wasn't in pain was when I was training or racing. Doctors all told me my hip was destroyed -- bone on bone with multiple labral tears -- but somehow, I could still race with the best guys in America. Meanwhile, my eating disorder was only getting worse.

    Finally, in June, I'd had enough. I finished my last race as a "pro" and decided to take the rest of the summer off. The VERY DAY I stopped training, my hip stopped hurting, and my back became a big problem again. Over the next six weeks, I started to find happiness and balance for the first time in years. I surfed. I swam. I had a beer or two. I stopped my eating disorder. But while all this was happening, my back started to go crazy, but with totally different pains then when I first hurt it. Nerve pain in both glutes. Nerve pain down my leg. And mostly, a horrible burning feeling in both feet. But the pain was constantly moving; going from place to place. At this time, I started to think about Sarno again: maybe this radical shift in my lifestyle was making my brain freak out? It's as if I had a baseline of anxiety that for years, my brain had put towards my racing and training, and now that I wasn't doing that, it didn't know what to do with the stress. The more I read Sarno again, the more the pain would move around and intensify.

    Two weeks ago, I returned home after a few weeks away, and got another MRI on my spine, expecting to find that l4/l5 had gotten worse, and that it would explain my horrible burning in both feet. And guess what? Not only had my disc not gotten worse, it had COMPLETELY HEALED.

    Then, because I'm a vegan, I had to get my B-12 tested, because that can cause nerve pain. But that came back fine too.

    So now I have no explanation for my burning feet. Deep down, I know how anxious and stressed I am. I know that in the past six weeks, I haven't been able to make even simple decisions without so much regret and agonizing analysis. I know that until two weeks ago, I was a grown man with an eating disorder. What I'm saying, of course, is that deep down, I know that like my pelvic pain ten years ago, this is a psychological response. But somehow, despite having ALREADY been through a Sarno success story, I can't buy into it this time. I can't accept that my back pain was TMS. My hip pain was TMS. And now, my burning feet are TMS. But what else would explain any of it? Why would my feet burn, with no burning anywhere else in the leg, unless it were an anxiety response?

    I hate the fact that I spend 23 hours a day knowing this is my brain playing tricks on me, but for the other hour each day, probably undo all of the good by doubting everything. I'm still scared to go back to the gym. I wont' run on my "bad hip." And every time my feet burn, I panic and believe it's anything BUT TMS.

    And here's the weirdest part: As I said, despite being really anxious and stressed, I am happier and more balanced than I have been in years. I'm glad to be done training and racing. I can't wait for another ski season. I don't panic now when the weekend comes and I have to figure out how to fit my racing in with my family. So if I'm finally "healing" emotionally and letting go of all of the stress and anxiety caused by racing, why am I suffering so much physically? How do I commit fully to TMS?

    I guess this post is my start.

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