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Fear of the Symptom Imperative (New to the Forums)

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by HopefulHere, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. HopefulHere

    HopefulHere New Member

    Hello out there. This is my first time posting on this forum, but I have read many threads here and they are always of great comfort to me.

    I'm currently 32 years old. I discovered TMS when I was 25. My mother found "Healing Back Pain" in the library and thought it might help me. At the time I was suffering from horrible lower back pain. I started with it as a teenager (around 14) and went to my parent's chiropractor which seemed to help the symptoms for a time, but then they would come back again a few months later. At 19, I was in a car accident and that was all my mind needed to start me off down a road of tremendous pain. I went through the usual... MRI that showed herniated discs and was offered surgery. I, thankfully, did not choose to get surgery and instead just suffered with the pain when it came. And the more years I had it the more frequent it became to the point where I could barely sit (even with the back support pillow I carried around) for more than 5 minutes without feeling a twinge. I was so stiff I walked around like a robot, scared that any wrong move would set off a spasm of pain. It was so bad at times, I would not even be able to crawl across a room. Luckily, Dr. Sarno's book turned my life around. I must have read it a half a dozen times in a row over the first month and in a few weeks my pain started to go away. It took me about 6 months of referring back to the book again and again until the fear subsided and I started to loosen up and walk less stiffly and by the time I was 26 years old I felt better than I had since I was 15. I was finally free of pain. And I was so happy.

    What brings me to the forums now, 6 years later, is that I'm worried that I am experiencing the symptom imperative. I got married last year which was actually very stressful. I also switched careers and my husband did too and is currently in school, so it was up to me to support us. That dynamic was causing us tension and I ended up coming down with Mono last summer. I finally got over it and this spring I started to feel better. But I'm working freelance now and we were having some financial issues that again were landing on me since he is still in school. I am the typical personality type for TMS. I always put other people ahead of myself... out of fear of being disliked or seeming selfish. It also pains me so much when anyone is unhappy around me. I frantically try to fix whatever is making them unhappy as fast as possible. I help my husband with his classes when I can, even though I know that generates anger in me, because he leaves everything until the last minute. And I try to be this "perfect" wife which has put a lot of tension on me. So I am aware of some of the issues that could be causing this resurgence of symptoms.

    Last month our car broke down (my trigger, probably) and it looked like we wouldn't be able to fix it and a week later I developed a UTI. I took medication for it and it supposedly had gone away when I was retested at the doctor, even though I still thought I had some mild symptoms, discomfort, mild burning pain, etc. But for some reason I was obsessing over them. Then a week ago the symptoms came back stronger. I went to the doctor and they now tell me there is a different bacteria causing it and gave me a new antibiotic. However they were both supposedly very mild cases when they were sent for culture. So I'm taking the new antibiotic and I thought it was getting better, but the symptoms are sort of still there. It's basically been going on for a little over a month since it all started. If I concentrate on them they get worse. They are usually better when I first wake up though, maybe when I have less time to dwell over them?

    But what really made me scared was my doctor took blood work and said my white blood cell count was a little low. It's supposed to be 4 to 10 I think, and they said mine was 3.8, so not that low, but they want me to get it retested in a couple of weeks after I finish my antibiotics. My doctor is also sending me for a ultrasound of my bladder just to make sure everything looks okay, which I'm going for this week. But the anxiety I'm feeling about all these health things have set off alarm bells in my head. I know I've been under a tremendous amount of stress lately, financial, marital, etc.

    So... I started reading Dr. Sarno's other book, "The Divided Mind," hoping that I could attribute TMS to my current symptoms and banish them like I did my back pain, but the symptom imperative concept is terrifying me. If I notice I have a back pain I can easily ignore it as TMS and it goes away. But I'm worried that if I am able to ignore the back pain, my brain will cause me more sinister symptoms, ones that could really affect my health or my immune system. How do you deal with symptoms like those? This book seems to paint a much scarier picture than "Healing Back Pain." Specifically in reference to the symptom imperative. I'm not in a place right now where I can go to psychotherapy on a regular basis, so I'm basically terrified my brain is going to wreak havoc with my body, even if I believe it is all psychosomatic.

    Any experiences, help, or suggestions are greatly appreciated. I hope my above story isn't too haphazard and that it is somewhat understandable. Thank you for reading and I look forward to any replies sent my way.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
    Lily Rose likes this.
  2. birdsetfree

    birdsetfree Well known member

    Firstly I want to say you did a fantastic job getting rid of your back pain so well done! You must have learnt to not fear the pain and so it lost its power over you.

    These new symptoms of obsession/anxiety and potentially your bladder symptoms are just more of the same. In other words nothing more scary. It is only your own mind once again trying to trick you so that you have a distraction from all of the stress you are under at the moment.

    So I would employ the same attitude of indifference that you did back then, relax and start to look after yourself a bit more so that you are not so stressed. Of course keep up your doctors appointments but don't worry because it all sounds pretty standard to me.
    Lily Rose and Aziz like this.
  3. HopefulHere

    HopefulHere New Member

    Thank you for your reply. I just got my sonogram of my bladder done today. Haven't received the results yet but I have been reading through more of The Divided Mind and am trying to put this in the same place in my mind as back pain. I found a few threads here that talked about urinary discomfort as an equivalent to TMS and that has helped me with my resolve a bit.

    I think maybe I have gotten lazy with the techniques I used to use, since I've been free of back pain for so many years, and it's hard to create the same mental processes so quickly for a new symptom. I suppose I should probably try and be a bit more patient with myself. I took some time yesterday and today to try and think about what is bothering me and really feel those feelings.

    I forgot how strong the fear of the symptom can be.
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  4. birdsetfree

    birdsetfree Well known member

    I also had urinary frequency as a tms symptom but haven't had it for years now. Of course tms symptoms do feel real, that is the way your mind gets you to obsess about it. Keeping calm and mindfully occupying yourself with something else will stop the danger signals from firing. Its really hard to do but with practise and self care/compassion you will get there. Well done for feeling your feelings yesterday, that is a great way to look after yourself. Alan Gordons new programme may be good for you to do to refresh your tms techniques.
    Lily Rose likes this.
  5. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    The symptom imperative is real, but so is your huge capacity for raising your own deeper understanding. The very fact that you are having this rising tide of awareness about the imperative is what will stop it in it's tracks.

    Most of us can look back on our lives and see that sickness is usually a metaphor for the anger/anxiety/underlying issues that are NOT being recognized. Your body is a fully integrated machine and the same mechanism which drives the symptom imperative can be turned around to absolutely liberate you from all dis-ease.

    It's like a Tug boat... it can't make particularly agile moves, but once it gets turning it turns and then is strong as hell... you will beat this again.
    Lily Rose and Jules like this.
  6. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Keep the communications line open with your husband, too. Was it agreed before you married that he would not have income and go back to school? It's really early in your marriage to feel it's so imbalanced. It would be completely understandable if this makes you angry. Instead of worrying about symptoms, maybe look at ways that you are angry. Just a thought because I've been there myself. You can get past this. You already have.
    Lily Rose likes this.
  7. HopefulHere

    HopefulHere New Member

    @MWsunin12 It wasn't agreed upon at that time, but it is something we mutual agreed upon a couple months later. Because it will be good for us long term. But I'm sure even though logically I think that, I'm still angry at times.

    @birdsetfree Thanks for mentioning Gordon's new program. I will check it out.

    @Baseball65 Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I love the Tug boat metaphor. You are right, if I look back on this year I can see all the times I had a symptom that was based off TMS. I had dizziness last Fall when I was trying to quit my job (scans came back normal and it finally went away), Mono last summer (very stressful, terrifying time), bad neck pain at the end of Winter and headaches during the spring. Symptoms have been jumping around like crazy.

    My bladder and kidney sonogram came back normal. Still waiting on a culture from the obgyn and nervous about getting my blood work repeated in a couple weeks, but I am continuing to read Dr. Sarno's book and focusing on TMS. It's amazing how health anxiety can be such a hard fear to break. And it can get so all encompassing so fast.

    The day before yesterday, my close friend was going through a really rough patch, and I spent all day talking to her on the phone, texting, etc., and it seemed like my symptoms were much less... Maybe because my mind had something else to focus on. Classic tms, right?
    Lily Rose and birdsetfree like this.
  8. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    "The day before yesterday, my close friend was going through a really rough patch, and I spent all day talking to her on the phone, texting, etc., and it seemed like my symptoms were much less... Maybe because my mind had something else to focus on. Classic tms, right?"

    Yes. I like it too because it stinks of our 12th step from the program. I have found nothing as liberating from my own little homemade hell than being of service to someone else. The only caveat is to be careful that we don't absorb their 'drama' e.g. angers, prejudices, short-sightedness. All of those symptoms you can now see through hindsight are an important helper in the 'faith' necessary to overcome TMS

    That 'Faith' is knowing consciously that our consciousness is limited and that things are going on inside of us to which we might never have real time access... but they are there and they are real. It is actually a humbling admission.

    That is why "I don't know" is usually a good place for me as long as it is holding hands with "I need to learn more".....as soon as I think "I know" the cup is full and nothing else can be poured in...and is usually followed up by a correction....TMS or Anguish of some sorts.

    Gary Zukav's metaphor of life being like school is very useful for getting rid of TMS
    Lily Rose, birdsetfree and Lainey like this.
  9. Aziz

    Aziz Peer Supporter

    Hey HopefulHere,

    I am so happy to hear about your freedom from the debilitating back-pain! And I like how you are thinking psychologically and really looking at potential emotional triggers.

    Have you tried the good old "pressure list" recently?

    This is when I sit down to write out all the pressures in my life, external (relationship, job, finances, etc.) and internal (perfectionism, wanting everyone to like me, be the best, don't make mistakes, etc.)

    It sounds like you have a lot going on (As you acknowledge). I find it really helpful to slow down and observe each of the pressures in my life, saying to myself, "there's nothing wrong with my body. I am just reacting to these pressures."

    I had all kinds of wacky TMS symptoms with my bladder. Pain while urinating, burning, etc. My wife's main form of TMS was in her bladder. In fact she was diagnosed with Interstitial cystitis (IC). That is completely healed with a TMS approach and she is totally pain free in her bladder now (except once in a while when her TMS acts up and doesn't want her to face/feel something inside).

    In some ways, the more I can ignore the pain, remind myself I'm healthy, and not ruminate on it, the faster it all resolves.

    Good luck.

  10. HopefulHere

    HopefulHere New Member

    @Aziz, Thank you for sharing you and your wife's experiences with this. It was very helpful to know that others have overcome these symptoms as well.

    So far everything has come back normal from the doctor so I'm just waiting on taking my followup blood test to check the white blood cell count. But when I start to get anxious about that I have been diverting my attention to psychological things and it has helped quell the fear.

    Over the last week my symptoms have been majorly improved. I would say they were completely gone for a couple of days. I foolishly stopped reading the book for the last two days and had one symptom come back mildly today but I'm back to reading.

    I am very grateful these forums exist. Everyone has been a tremendous help with this recurrence of TMS I have been dealing with. Thank you.
    Lily Rose, Aziz and birdsetfree like this.
  11. Aziz

    Aziz Peer Supporter

    That's awesome to hear!

    Yes, in this process I find indoctrination is key. I go in phased where I will listen to audio books about it as I drive, read about it in the morning or before bed, and really immerse myself in literature that challenges my old conditioning - which told me my body was defective, weak, and broken. Bah!

    Liberation feels way better : )
  12. Plumcrazy

    Plumcrazy Peer Supporter

    So interesting to talk about the bladder, as I briefly overcame urinary frequency last fall, after deciding to treat it like TMS. I need to work a bit more on that, again, although it is already improving, now that I am back here at the forums again. Urinary frequency is something I have had all of my life, and while I am sort of back to peeing more often, again, my bladder doesn't hurt like it once did. Had a urologist once tell me and show me how "angry red" my bladder walls were. Amazing what the mind does to us.

    I pray you all the best with the rest of the results of your tests. You are on the right path.... The key is to not lose sight of it, right? (Note to self.)
  13. HopefulHere

    HopefulHere New Member

    Thank you again everyone for your replies. As expected, when I finally got my other blood work back, my white blood cell count was back to normal. And all my symptoms disappeared. TMS is fascinating how it can affect us the way it does. I notice that any validation of my symptoms, especially by a doctor, immediately puts me back several steps and I have to immerse myself in everything TMS to stop from getting caught up in it again.
    birdsetfree and Plumcrazy like this.
  14. Plumcrazy

    Plumcrazy Peer Supporter

    Great news!

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