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Day 6 Fear

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by Mountain Girl, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    I'm made a connection today. And it's been a tough day. It's easy to be strong when the pain isn't there. But when it is, it's like I'm fighting the deepest demons. Even the slightest stab in one foot and there is a crack for the fear to enter my mind and--like a spark in a tinder-dry forest, it ignites, explodes and spreads until I am consumed by it.

    To stop being afraid—that’s the key. Not just fear of the pain and injury and disability, but fear in all aspects of my life. It plagues me, haunts me, follows me like a bear in the woods. The dark shadow in the bushes, waiting, lurking, ever-present, a constant companion. I need to be fear-less. Not reckless, but fear-less—without fear.

    And to look at my body with love. Those parts that hurt, to take a good look at them and love them and feel their strength. So after walking five km despite the stabbing pain in my right foot, and then taking my dog to the beach, I came home...fought the temptation to put on an ice pack (because there's nothing wrong, no inflammation, so no ice pack needed!), took a bath and then proceeded to do some light stretching. As I was stretching, I looked at my right ankle, which was/is killing me, and was surprised by how strong and healthy it looked. This is not an injured ankle, I thought. There's no swelling, there's no discoloration, there's no bleeding, no bruising--nothing but a beautiful, strong, solid ankle. Why have I been so angry at it for so long? And so terrified of it too? To think that it has actually crossed my mind to cut it off--to go to the doctor and ask for it to be removed and to get an artificial one in its place. Of course, I would never do that. But it has crossed my mind. And my doctor would think I was mad. And so he should. It's a perfectly good ankle. I should never have feared this ankle, this foot, or the other one for that matter.

    And then it clicked. I have been living in fear. Not just of my feet, or another body part, but of everything...The mind and the body are so connected. I need to conquer the fear, not of my feet (although them too), but of everything. I need to shake it off and live without terrorizing myself with constant fear. Not an easy task, but vital to all aspects of my life.

    Does my foot still hurt? Yes. But am I afraid? No. I am not afraid.

    Oddly, I've been having this urge to run. Of course, I'm too terrified to actually run. But I feel a physical urge, almost need (and I'm not a runner, at least I haven't been in ages), as if that would break the spell. I'm not sure if I'm going to follow that urge or not. It seems crazy. But then again, if there's nothing wrong with me, would running a couple of blocks really cripple me? No, it wouldn't. It couldn't.

    I think I want to feel free. I want to burst out of my bubble of fear. To break it, blast through it, not with delicate, fearful steps, which are just that—fearful—but to really just look the fear in the face and say "f*** you" and go running, free as a child.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
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  2. srton

    srton Well known member

    WOW! Amazing work!
    Please keep us updated -- I'm not a betting woman, but I'd put money on you going for a run (even a short one) in the next few weeks!
    Maybe now you can sit back and hug your inner child. Imagine you're talking to her and say " It's ok honey! I know that it hurts but you don't need to be scared" Really imagine this. Feel the hug, and feel the compassion. It's really powerful what this can do.
    All the best @Mountain Girl
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  3. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    Yes, I will try this. So today is the day I picked to get back on my bike...and biking was maybe not the cause of my feet issues, but definitely the tipping point. I know it's TMS for certain now, but I am still a bit scared to get back on the bike. Anyhow, since I live up on a steep mountain, I might take my bike down to the flatter lakeshore, just to take the pressure off myself a bit. So I can just cruise along for a little while, vs. "Iron Man" training. I just want to be relaxed, with the wheels spinning beneath me and feel free for a minute or two.

    But yes, I actually dug my running shoes out of the basement yesterday...so you never know! I might do a jog/shuffle down the block sometime this week. I mean, what have I got to lose? That's how I'm starting to feel about this whole thing. I need to try. Crying at home on the sofa isn't working!
  4. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    So I got back on my bike yesterday! I took it out to a local park that is flat (I live in the mountains, so flat is hard to find) and biked around for a short while with my dog. I felt nothing. I actually forgot about my feet because I was so focused on getting my dog to trot nicely beside my bike. Then I went for a dip in the lake and came home. That evening, I got stressed out about my work and whammo--my left foot started hurting (instead of the right foot). In fact, it still hurts a bit this morning.

    So there you go. It has to be TMS. How is it possible for me to bike and walk around and swim, all pain-free, but then be in pain while I'm sitting on the sofa, panicking about my life? It doesn't make any sense at all, unless it's TMS, and then it makes perfect sense.

    Oh TMS, I think I'm on to you!
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  5. gutter3

    gutter3 Peer Supporter

    This is inspiring. I have chronic muscle spasms in my neck that have kept me down for over 2 years. I am just now realizing that I put all these restrictions on myself. I thought that I couldn't do things bc of my neck pain. And now I realize I CAN do these things, and me NOT doing these things help perpetuate the pain. I have started walking more and standing more, I used to sit 90% of the day (no joke). I also used to run. I wasn't an avid runner but I like being active. I am having a hard time move towards exercising. I keep telling myself there's nothing to be scared of, there isn't anything structurally wrong. But I can't escape that fear.
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  6. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    I may have overdone it in my zeal to "get back out there" and I think I now understand why everyone says to resume normal activities gradually. Not because I could injure or damage myself, but because my mind is not yet certain and is prone to doubt and fear, so if I push too hard and then feel pain or discomfort, I panic and assume I've hurt myself--and the cycle continues.

    So I went a little overboard on the walking and biking on Tuesday, only to feel pretty sore for the next few days. Instead of panicking, I tried to stay calm and reject that negative cyclic thinking, with mixed results. I'm learning to be patient, which is not easy or natural for me. I want to hurry up and get better, which is very counter-productive and super fixated on results. Remember: outcome independence is the goal.

    Visualizations are becoming a key element in my journey, much more so than anything else. I find them very calming and positive and a great way to stop focusing on my body and physical outcomes. Through visualizations, I can experience my "healthy" self and enjoy what that feels like and how it makes me feel.

    I guess I'm thinking balance at this point. Reject the fear, but be patient and move at my own pace. It's not a race to get better.
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  7. srton

    srton Well known member

    Not sure if you've come across this in the program already, but I often comforted myself and reassured myself by thinking of it as an "extinction burst" and that this new intense onset of pain was further proof that it was indeed TMS at work.
    Stay strong - be gentle with yourself - and keep up the good work!
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  8. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    Thanks srton, I'll try!
  9. gutter3

    gutter3 Peer Supporter

    Can you describe more what you mean by visualization? Is it meditating? I know when I'm in pain I feel like I can visualize the pain and the tightness in my trigger points. I can't seem to visualize what no pain looks like.
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  10. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    Yes, gutter3, the visualizations are actually not about the pain (or lack of pain) specifically. They are visualizations that represent positive moments, situations or mini-stories to me. I then conclude with an affirmation such as "I have vibrant health." For instance, one visualization (that I came up with--they are all very personal) is simply me walking from my front door to my shed to get my bike. It's a moment that fills me with joy and anticipation and happiness for life. I try to include as many details and sensations (like how strong and healthy my ankles feel as I walk down the stairs, how wonderful the grass feels on my feet, how warm the sun feels on my back, etc.) as possible and really draw it out. When I open the shed and see my bike sitting there, waiting for me, that is the end of the visualization. I then think to myself: I have vibrant health. Then I say it out loud, usually several times: "I have vibrant health." If I am alone, I say it loudly, like I really mean it.

    This is to retrain the mind. I tend towards negative, end-of-the-world, fatalistic thinking, which I believe is a big source of my TMS--I'm always stressing myself out to the max. So this is to retrain my brain not to do that, which in turn will combat TMS pain. So it doesn't target the pain directly, it's more of a long-term strategy, but it does fill my body and mind with a sense of joy and calm, which helps with the pain in the immediate as well.

    I have a whole bunch of these visualizations that I have come up with. Some based on memories, some invented...They often involve me doing physical activities that I enjoy (or the anticipation of me doing them, like the example of going to get my bike). It is a way of seeing--and feeling!--my true self as strong and healthy and unafraid vs. my TMS self, which views itself weak and fragile and fearful.

    The more I do them, the more easily I seem to be able to come up with new ones. For instance, I just discovered a visualization of me at the foot of my street (which in real life is very steep) and I visualize myself jogging up it, which is something I used to do in real life back when I was a teenager on the track and field team. We would train on my street, doing hill work. So my visualization is somewhere between me now (an adult) and my teenage self. I'm healthy, fit, agile...and I jog easily and joyfully up the block, then walk down it, and jog up it again, over and over--like a meditation. There is no pressure for me to actually go and do this in real life, although, I must say that the visualizations are so strong and life-like that I feel tempted to go out there and try it. I'm still a bit afraid to do so just yet. But I feel that sense of physical well-being growing inside me with each visualization...

    Not sure if this method will work for you, but I'm finding it very enjoyable. It really helps me stop my brain from panicking about the pain and getting upset and frustrated about it too. Because I am free in my visualizations to do all the activities I've been missing out on lately.
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  11. gutter3

    gutter3 Peer Supporter

    Okay, I got it now. I have done that kind of visualization but not in that great of detail. I notice on my good days I can see myself doing things I used to do; running/jogging, playing volleyball, canoeing, dancing. I know what you mean by being quick to think negatively. It's easy to get sucked into the void, but a lot harder to climb your way out. I am trying to also retrain my brain and get away from the fear thoughts. I've put so many unnecessary restrictions on myself and now I find I'm trying to undo it all. I am having a hard time with doing all the physical activities I used to do. I know if I try the fear thoughts will creep up and I'll get worried I'm going to hurt myself. I have started regular walks and small hikes and attended a couple of festivals. Which is big for me since I used to sit 90% of the day. I'm hoping to start some light yoga or get on my recumbent bike more.

    I really appreciate all the info. I think I'm going to start trying this as well. I am trying to retrain my brain and this visualization technique will be beneficial.
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  12. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    Gutter3: you sound like you're in a similar spot as me. It's tough. I'm finding that I am a bit better, but not seeing any new progress. I don't know. It's a real struggle.
  13. Livley MJ

    Livley MJ Newcomer

    This is incredibly inspiring. I am on the 2nd day, and I would like you to post your progress until you are totally recovered!
    I am wondering how you overcome the fear.
    When you feel the pain actually, what do you think?
    Today, I tried not to focus on my sensation. So I walked and walked more than usual, but suddenly I felt severe pain on my heel so I stopped and took a rest on a bench. I thought I was overwhelmed by the fear. So I tried to think another thing and not to let the fear conquer me.
    But the pain was still there.
    Whenever you feel the sensation, what would you do at the moment?
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  14. Mountain Girl

    Mountain Girl Peer Supporter

    I have fallen off the wagon with this program for the past week or so. I'm just so burnt out with the effort and the struggle and the emotional upheaval. The pain has hit back hard, too, and I've been desperately depressed and had some very, very dark thoughts and moments. Although I have gone on two longer (for me at this point!) bike rides in the past week or so, which felt almost like a miracle and so freeing and wonderful that I didn't care what the repercussions would be. But then they came and I was simply unable to fight them mentally and emotionally and I caved under the despair of it all.

    Lively MJ: It's very hard when you're in the moment, struggling with it. It's the hardest moment of all. I find I have to dig very, very deep into myself to find the strength to continue.

    Today on my walk I tried to imagine that my struggle with TMS was in a different location. I had TMS in my hip for several years before I discovered Dr. Sarno's book (which cured it in about three months--but the concept was new to me and I devoured it). Anyhow, today, I tried to visualize how bad the pain had been in my hip, how debilitating and terrifying it had been. I was afraid to walk as I always thought that something was horribly wrong inside the joint and I was surely making it worse, perhaps permanently. And so I was in a terrible mental state too...So I tried to imagine me with my bad hip, struggling to walk even a block (in my mid-30s no less!) and then I let myself feel how pain-free and solid and healthy my hip is today, how easily it moves, how strong it is, how effortless my leg swings as I walk. So I tried to harness the contrast between what my life had been like with that form of TMS, how it had dominated every minute of every day for years. And now I can barely recall which hip it was...I have to think about it for a minute or two. So I tried to "feel" my old bad hip, then feel my current healthy hip: back and forth, back and forth, old hip, current hip, old hip, current hip.

    And then I tried to shift this concept to my feet. This was not an easy thing to do and I don't think I made it all the way, but I did get a sense of the power of this kind of visualization, how powerful it is for the mind. Basically, I'm telling the mind: See, you believed the pain in your hip was real, but it was false. And so the pain in your feet is false too. It's the same thing.

    It also helped a bit because it shifted my mental focus from my feet to my hip...and that in itself seemed to ease the situation a wee bit.

    I'm trying to hold onto these small wins to keep me sane.

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