1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
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Day 1

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by Free of Fear, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. Free of Fear

    Free of Fear Well known member

    I am 33 years old, one year out of graduate school and pursuing my dream career, and six months into a relationship with the woman of my dreams. Writing this now, it is no surprise to me that my symptoms exploded when they did, five months ago at the end of March. (Plus, I lost an extremely dear friend just two weeks prior... Surprise?) I'd had increasing lower back pain since age 25, absent for a few years, then consistent from age 26 onward. Noticeable sciatica through both legs and feet by age 32. It never stopped my functioning, but then in March, when the pain switch got flipped, it became impossible for me to work (my job required me to be very present mentally to work with other people's struggles in an emotionally engaged way). I still feel weak admitting that I stopped, but if a friend had been in my situation I would have wholeheartedly supported them in taking a break. But, what was supposed to be a one month break became two, then three, and now here I am almost five months out, still not working and now living off of state disability. This is NOT what I wanted for my life. I was convinced by the medical industry too that the pain was caused by two herniated discs, then degenerative discs disease - no agreement though, plus one specialist looked at my MRI and said there's nothing he sees that explains the amount of pain I'm in, and that if anyone recommended surgery he would strongly advise against it. Even the two surgeons I saw said that they would not do surgery because there's no obvious structural pathology - but if I didn't improve then all they could do would be a two-level fusion, and they both were not excited by the idea, and I was terrified given all I've heard about it. All the while I'm anxious as all heck over losing my relationship, never returning to work, going onto long-term disability at age 33, needing to move in with a parent, and becoming a burden. All the stress was intensified by having treatments fail one after another (chiro, acupuncture, etc.). Someone recommended Sarno to me early on, and while I was impressed that it worked for so many people I still thought that mine was a structural issue so it didn't really apply. Instead I got deep into the McGill method/ideology, which, while it apparently works for many people, was really problematic for me, given their claim to be able to determine the cause of the pain by a simple assessment involving leaning in different directions and adding weight (supposedly compressing any culprit discs) - this assessment 'confirmed' that the two L4-S1 discs were bulging with flexion, and I was thus convinced even more that my issue was structural. This belief wasn't challenged until I discovered Explain Pain by Butler and Moseley, Paul Ingraham's website (painscience.com), and Peter O'Sullivan's treatment model called Cognitive Functional Therapy and his excellent video on his patients recovering from back pain in a manner similar to Sarno (see awesome video here). I STILL didn't think it could be me though. It just seemed impossible that I could be in so much pain and for so long if there wasn't a physical problem. Anyway, I've oscillated back and forth, back and forth, each time believing more and more that the problem isn't structural. If the problem were structural, I just realized the other day, it would need to be some pathology that was both extremely destructive and yet totally undetectable. Once I named this, I realized how ridiculous it sounded. It was also a kind of weird narcissism - 'Yes, you all recovered from the Sarno/Schubiner/etc. methods, but MY situation is totally awful, I'm worse off than all of you!' - in other words, I'm the *real* victim here. So, naming that was hugely important too.
    At first I never thought I would try the TMS model; then I thought I'd try it if all else had failed; and now I've found myself here because I more and more believe that there's nothing wrong with my back (other than all the changes that have come from inactivity - I completely avoided flexion for 3 months, so now my spine feels stiff as all heck, and my brain is still trained to think that flexion is tearing my discs and pressing the disc nucleus into my nerves, "like squeezing a jelly donut", one doctor said - see the Peter O'Sullivan video for how destructive and fear-inducing these metaphors are!).
    So, here I am, ready to try this program. Despite the 15 moths of believing I had major structural issues (first MRI in May of 2017), I've gathered some great resources along the way that have prepared me for this next step, including
    - Explain Pain by Moseley and Butler
    - Peter O'Sullivan and the CFT crew
    - Joletta Belton's blog, which is beautiful and I highly recommend it
    - Sarno of course
    - Moskowitz and competitive plasticity
    - This forum! and more
    I'm sure there's more I could write here, but what I've written is the bulk of it. This is my story.

    Following the Day 1 prompt, What would a life without TMS mean to me?
    It would mean that my dreams are achievable, having a family, going on trips with my partner, dancing, walking, hiking, sitting, working, and so on.
    I also think I will feel very proud of myself for making it out of this extremely difficult time in my life. I think I'll have greater confidence for handling problems in the future, including health crises and mental breakdowns. I can empathize with what it is to be at rock bottom (even though, admittedly, things could have gone much much worse for me, they were still pretty bad).

    Also, I just realized, when I told my story above I didn't actually explain much of the pain symptoms, such as the pain level, what it fels like, etc. I feel good about that! That used to be my story - "It was like knives in my spine, I couldn't walk, etc." - but I don't want that to be the story, because that's NOT the story. The real story, I think, is that I've believed for so long that I have a bad back, and then at a very stressful time in my life the pain switch was flipped on and my anxiety took over, and I became trapped in a pain spiral. And now I'm climbing out!

    This was a great exercise for me. If anyone ends up reading it, I hope that it helps in some way. I'm open to any feedback too.

    Thank you all
    Trellis likes this.

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