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For all the insomniacs out there

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Birdie, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    As I am still suffering from severe insomnia (my latest TMS-equivalent) I stumbled upon an interesing post in a forum. That's about how this person cured his insomnia and, what makes it so interesting, he mentioned Sarno and how he applied the TMS knowledge

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  2. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Birdie. Thanks for your post and the sleep.net article.
    I sometimes have trouble falling asleep, but Dr. Sarno's techniques like deep breathing and visualizing being
    on a sunny beach usually help. If I'm worried about something, I tell myself I will worry about it in the morning.

    Relaxing the mind and body for an hour or two before bedtime also helps bring on sleep for me.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for posting the link to the article, Birdie. I have been treating my insomnia as a TMS equivalent for about 6 weeks now. I am making progress, but it is slow. It is very similar to what the author in the article states. I am sleeping more hours per night than I was when I started, though not sleeping through the night yet. But it is improvement. It is very similar to dealing with pain, where progress seldom occurs in a straight line. The same principles apply--Don't "treat" it, don't let it interfere with what you want to do for the day--just go about your life, sleep deprived or not. I no longer dread going to bed.

    But I am somewhat complicating my situation because I am also weaning myself off Trazodone (an anti-depressant often prescribed for insomnia because of it sedating effect). It stopped helping me sleep years ago, but I kept taking it because stopping it made my insomnia worse. So I am now slowly tapering myself off of it. But even with this complication, I am experiencing progress using the Sarno method of addressing my insomnia.

    I hope you are finding some relief with your insomnia, Birdie. I know how difficult it is.
  4. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Ellen, great that you're seeing some progress! What are you doing to improve your sleep?
    I really don't what's worse: pain or insomnia! When my last pain (which was a "frozen shoulder" for 1,5 years and pain in my sitting bones) slowly subsided my mind decided that it's time for another symptom. And when the next TMS trigger came along, two deaths of loved ones, my insomnia started and slowly got worse and worse to the point I hardly slept more than 3 hours - every night without exception (I am always able to fall asleep quickly but then unable to get back to slepp once I am awake). I was always dealing with some HPA-axis-dysfunction due tu traumatic events in my childhood and therefore low cortisol, low sexual hormones and so on. But being constantly sleep-deprived completely messed up my cortisol levels and I was tested with levels which were completely out of range and so low that I developped exhaustion symptons like all over the body pain, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and so on. The sleep deprivation even resulted in depression. With weak muscles, pain all over my body, nauseatic feeling and all the other nasty symptoms from exhaustion I was hardly able to drag myself out of bed into the next supermarked. The more exhausted I got, the more I was unable to sleep with palpitations and that weird "tired but wired" feeling. After spending one year in this horrible state I decided I needed some help in a psychosomatic clinic. Well, stood there for 8 weeks and it was such a huge setback. The doc was really, really horrible and not empathetic and I had hard times to explain that walking/running for about 1 hours three times the week and lifting weights was not a good idea when I was not able to do the slightest household tasks. What I really needed and wanted was a calming and soothing atmosphere and psychotherapy and not a drill instructur!!! They also gave me the wrong medication and adviced me to continue, although I suffered from severe adverse reactions like all over my body muscle cramps and twitching which was so called "dyskinesia" from the neuroleptica they gave me. I had to fight 8 weeks for my rights and what I needed and what I did not want to and I really asked my self why I endured this over such a long period. Perhaps I always hoped that there will be some help around.
    When I was discharged from hospital I was dealing with withdrawal symptoms from the medications they gave me and was even more exhausted. They discharged me with the words that they cannot do anything for me. I was so disappointed and really had a hard time after the clinic.
    In the meantime my depression got a lot better and I am slowly beginning to drag myself out of the swamp. There were two brilliant body therapists and these were the good things I will remember. I also learned that I have to help myself and in my case it's wrong to hope someone other will present me "the solution" of all of my problems. I already have all the knowledge I need and "only" habe to apply it (what is the hardest part for me being discouraged and exhausted)They also have not heard about TMS yet and set some big nocebos (there's something wrong with your back...the classic one ;-) ).

    But I really sometimes can feel the hope again and I am in a much better place than I was when I decided to go into the clinic

    Sorry for my poor English
  5. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I also have had lifelong problems with insomnia. For fifteen years, I took a low dose medication that worked perfectly until I began having side effects and cannot take it anymore, but I still take a low dose antidepressant. My father and grandfather had the same problem, so I think there is a genetic component. I am over my TMS back pain, EXCEPT for short episodes when the insomnia gets really bad. I don't think I will be completely recovered from TMS until my insomnia is resolved.
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Birdie,

    Your experience in that clinic sounds just awful. I'm so sorry you went through that. It sounds like a concentrated version of what most of us have been through to try to relieve our symptoms before we discovered TMS and Sarno, but we went through it over years and you went through it over weeks.

    My experience is that insomnia is more difficult to endure than pain because it not only effects the body, but also your cognition and mood. So it is harder to push through it. But once I finally decided to focus on the insomnia and treat it the same way as I did my pain, I am finally seeing some results. Fortunately, I am between work assignments right now, so this has been a good time for me to address it as a TMS equivalent.

    I have been doing all the same things I did to get rid of my chronic pain (20 years of fibromyalgia) and my migraines (50 years). The first hurdle is to convince yourself that the insomnia is psychological and not physical. Giving up the physical explanation meant giving up all the stuff I had read about sleep hygiene (very similar to giving up special equipment for dealing with pain.) Sleeping is something that should be easy to do when you are tired. Period. You shouldn't need special routines, etc. to sleep when you need it. Also, I had been told by doctors that my chronic pain was due to a chronic sleep disorder. When I was able to get rid of my pain without eliminating my sleep issues, I knew that the two were not related. It was easier at this point for me to convince myself that my sleep problem was a TMS equivalent.

    Then you have to deal with the fear of the symptom. My fear of not sleeping was HUGE. I had fallen into this habit of taking sleeping medication when I went to bed because of the fear that I might not sleep. I started doing the SEP and through journaling about this, realized how much of an issue I had with feeling like I had to perform perfectly every day--like I had to be "on". So not getting enough sleep meant I couldn't do my best, and it fed into my low self esteem. No one would want to be around me or like me unless I was performing well. So I had to start challenging this assumption.

    So just like we need to go about our lives and do what we want to do despite having pain, I made myself do this despite being sleep deprived. I did everything I would do if I had slept well while being sleep deprived. And I found that I could still do everything just fine. I could still drive to meet friends and carry on conversations, and no one ever said "what's wrong" or "you seem tired". And I found that I was able to have fun. I never used my sleep deprivation as an excuse and never talked about it. And I was able to get all my household tasks done, do my yoga practice, exercise, and read. So the fear of not sleeping began to subside, which meant I no longer dreaded going to bed. I still wake up frequently during the night, but I'm able to fall back asleep most of the time. On those nights when I can't fall back asleep, I just tell myself "oh, well, I guess I'm not getting as much sleep tonight". I accept it. And then when I get out of bed I just go about my day. Acceptance is key.

    I know I'm not completely "cured" yet, and that I will probably always have some sleepless nights, just as I have the occasional relapse with pain. But I know I'm on the right track now, and am employing the right tools to address this problem.

    I'm hoping you can also find some relief, Birdie. Take care.
  7. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I agree, Ellen, that when we can't get to sleep, or get back to sleep after waking up,
    it's best accept it, that we may not get a good full night's sleep. I do some deep breathing
    and counting backwards from 100 to 1 and somehow usually sleep, even if I wake up again.

    I think we really sleep more than we think. Or it may be just resting and not sleeping.

    I've been going to bed too early. I need to stay up an our or two more. When I do that,
    I find that I usually sleep better.
  8. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Walt, that's right: waiting until you're really dog-tired can improve your ability to fall asleep tremendously. I love to read a good book in bed to distract my mind and turn off the lights only when I am ready to sleep. As mentioned before it's more a problem for me to stay alseep. Once awake there's a very small chance that I get back to sleep. It all started with the so called "early morning awakening" which seems to be a hallmark of mood disorders, especially of depression.
    Ellen, I really admire you! It's tough to act if everything is finde after a horror night of insufficient sleep. I was hardly able to do so when I worked in the night service to finance my studies, but I was "only" very tired and not exhausted. Since my cortisol levels were too low (p.e. in the evening 0,29 when they should be between 1,12-4,85 ) I really can't act any more as if everything was normal. I just have to listen to my body and give it the rest it needs. But I slightly started to change my attitude towards sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Normally it's: "oh nooo, I wanted to go to the swimming pool or meet some friends. I even have to do the housework. Now I will be too exhausted and can do none of this, this will be another wasted day". I recogniced that this kind of thinking really puts a big strain on me, making it even harder to get a normal night of sleep. And: thinking this way really is a wasted day. So I decided that I will try to have even good times when I am completely exhausted and can't do what I wanted to do. Just by changing how I think about it and how I react.
    So I can't go to the swimming pool, or meet friends, or have a walk, or go to the supermarket or work? Well, I will have a relaxing day on the couch, drink some nice tea and eat some chocolote (tp put some extra weight on haha), read a book or listen to an audio book, listen to some meditation CDs, habe a chat with a friend on the phone...trying to relax. I could not do what I wanted to do today, but I had a good day and eventually I will go to the swimming pool some days later.
    So, that's the theory. Well, in practice things are different. In the evening I decide that I will have a great day, no matter how the night was. But after 2 hours of sleep I seldom get up in the morning and think "wow, this will be a great day" because I know about the exhaustion and all the symptoms....and nobody likes to lie down with weakness and a vomit bowl. I certainly could get a description for low dose cortisone but I really prefer to treat it with mind body tools. And I am sure: the more relaxed I get, the better my sleep will get and the more my cortisol will get back into a more normal range. A few years ago, when my whole body starts to hurt, I begun to react very badly to substances I tolerated well all the years ago. So I wasn't able to take antidepressants or pain killers any more, because I really felt much more ill on them than I already did. I even do not tolerate the smallest amount of alcohol any more. So I guess due to chronic stress my body's ability to handle these substances became comprimised more and more.

    So it's all about outcome independence: Practicing peace, gratitude and happiness, even in times of physical and psychological trouble. Currently I am using the Gupta Amygdala Retraining as it provides many useful tools and goes hand in hand with the TMS theory and even with IFS.

    Feeling powerless and unable to do something to feel better again is my very own problem. As a newborn and baby I was not able to handle all the traumatic stress put on me and was left feeling helpless , powerless and overwhelmed. As the traumatic stress continued, I never leraned to soothe myself and I never learnd that feeling bad does not mean it will last forever and that I can't do something about it. So I guess my very intense feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless when I am exhausted or in pain have something to do with these early experiences and it's really time to do something about it. Because there will always be some discomfort and stress in life ...

    After 2 hours of sleep this night I will now start my wonderful day (haha ;-) )
    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) and Ellen like this.
  9. Helenback

    Helenback New Member

    I have had insomnia for over 2 yrs.. 3 hours seemed to be the norm. Since reading Dr. Sarnos books, (going on 3 weeks now) I am up to 5 hours of un- interrupted sleep.. I feel like a new person.. I believe my adrenal glands are out of balance as are the daily cortisol levels. This is all due to years of stress. It's all connected. I beleive Our TMS issues go beyond pain. The glands and gut want there time in the repressed rage spotlight too!
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  10. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Birdie, thanks for mentioning the Gupta amygdala retraining. I want to know more about it so I google it.
  11. Peggy

    Peggy Well known member

    I do not suffer from insomnia, but I am just trying to piece something together here. I am reading Howard Schubiner's Unlearn your Pain, and on page 300 he makes a statement about insomnia something like: before you go to sleep, to instruct your mind that you are going to sleep, you will not worry about your problems and you will wake up with no pain.

    My big problems now is anxiety. Probably social anxiety is the worse. Currently I have lost my voice for over a month (it's coming back, slowly) and am dealing with some breathing, maybe a breathless feeling while I talk. As I read Howard's statement about sleeping, I am thinking this could work with breathing problems, or even the throat spasms I get once in while. I could instruct myself before an event that I will have no breathing problems, I will not worry about my throat problems, I will have no pain. I never really thought about doing this in advance before. Usually my thoughts have been, face, accept, float and let time pass. Perhaps it is another tool I can put in my tool kit, trying to stay ahead in the TMS game.

    Have any of you thought of instructing the TMS before it comes? I don't recall reading anything on that specifically. I suppose mediation and mindfulness and journaling are all proactive.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  12. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle


    I haven't tried that technique, but thanks for mentioning it. I will give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.
  13. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's only a problem if you allow your TMS mind to make it one! Here's a great article I'll post once again. I now look forward to waking up in the middle of the night, when the world is quiet, and doing productive or un-productive things. When I want to take a nap in the afternoon, I fix myself a nice warm cup of coffee and I'm out like a light.


    The myth of the eight-hour sleep

    By Stephanie Hegarty BBC World Service

    We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
    In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month.
    It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.
    Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists.
    In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.
    [​IMG] Roger Ekirch says this 1595 engraving by Jan Saenredam is evidence of activity at night
    His book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.
    Much like the experience of Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.
    "It's not just the number of references - it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," Ekirch says.
    During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.
    And these hours weren't entirely solitary - people often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex.

    Between segments
    Some people:
    • Jog and take photographs
    • Practise yoga
    • Have dinner...
    A doctor's manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day's labour but "after the first sleep", when "they have more enjoyment" and "do it better".
    Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society.
    By the 1920s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.
    He attributes the initial shift to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses - which were sometimes open all night. As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.

    When segmented sleep was the norm
    • "He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream." Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1840)
    • "Don Quixote followed nature, and being satisfied with his first sleep, did not solicit more. As for Sancho, he never wanted a second, for the first lasted him from night to morning." Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615)
    • "And at the wakening of your first sleepe You shall have a hott drinke made, And at the wakening of your next sleepe Your sorrowes will have a slake." Early English ballad, Old Robin of Portingale
    • The Tiv tribe in Nigeria employ the terms "first sleep" and "second sleep" to refer to specific periods of the night
    Source: Roger Ekirch
    In his new book, Evening's Empire, historian Craig Koslofsky puts forward an account of how this happened.
    "Associations with night before the 17th Century were not good," he says. The night was a place populated by people of disrepute - criminals, prostitutes and drunks.
    "Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige or social value associated with staying up all night."
    That changed in the wake of the Reformation and the counter-Reformation. Protestants and Catholics became accustomed to holding secret services at night, during periods of persecution. If earlier the night had belonged to reprobates, now respectable people became accustomed to exploiting the hours of darkness.
    This trend migrated to the social sphere too, but only for those who could afford to live by candlelight. With the advent of street lighting, however, socialising at night began to filter down through the classes.
    In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed.
    [​IMG] A small city like Leipzig in central Germany employed 100 men to tend to 700 lamps
    London didn't join their ranks until 1684 but by the end of the century, more than 50 of Europe's major towns and cities were lit at night.
    Night became fashionable and spending hours lying in bed was considered a waste of time.
    "People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th Century," says Roger Ekirch. "But the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds."
    Strong evidence of this shifting attitude is contained in a medical journal from 1829 which urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep.
    "If no disease or accident there intervene, they will need no further repose than that obtained in their first sleep, which custom will have caused to terminate by itself just at the usual hour.
    "And then, if they turn upon their ear to take a second nap, they will be taught to look upon it as an intemperance not at all redounding to their credit."

    Stages of sleep
    Every 60-100 minutes we go through a cycle of four stages of sleep
    • Stage 1 is a drowsy, relaxed state between being awake and sleeping - breathing slows, muscles relax, heart rate drops
    • Stage 2 is slightly deeper sleep - you may feel awake and this means that, on many nights, you may be asleep and not know it
    • Stage 3 and Stage 4, or Deep Sleep - it is very hard to wake up from Deep Sleep because this is when there is the lowest amount of activity in your body
    • After Deep Sleep, we go back to Stage 2 for a few minutes, and then enter Dream Sleep - also called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep - which, as its name suggests, is when you dream
    In a full sleep cycle, a person goes through all the stages of sleep from one to four, then back down through stages three and two, before entering dream sleep
    Source: Gregg Jacobs
    Today, most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body's natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light.
    This could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, he suggests.
    The condition first appears in literature at the end of the 19th Century, at the same time as accounts of segmented sleep disappear.
    "For most of evolution we slept a certain way," says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. "Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology."
    The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too.
    Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view.
    "Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."
    But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

    More from the Magazine
    • Margaret Thatcher was famously said to get by on four hours sleep a night
    • That put her in a group of just 1% of the population
    "Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied," he says.
    Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
    In many historic accounts, Ekirch found that people used the time to meditate on their dreams.
    "Today we spend less time doing those things," says Dr Jacobs. "It's not a coincidence that, in modern life, the number of people who report anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse has gone up."
    So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you.
    Craig Koslofsky and Russell Foster appeared on The Forum from the BBC World Service. Listen to the programme here.
    Do you sleep in segments? Send us your sleep stories.

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
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  14. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Tennis Tom, you're right: getting 4 hours of sleep, then lying awake or doing something and going back to sleep for another few hours would just be fine. Would not complain about that if I was able to sleep like that! But sleeping for 2-4 hours and then being NOT able to get back to sleep is not fine. When M. Thatcher is able to feel great with 4 hours of sleep: perfect for her. But humans are different. And of course we can go on with only 4 hours of sleep. I am living with less than 4 hours of sleep for 1,5 years now and I am still alive. But I'd really prefer to get at least 5 to 6 hours of sleep (I normally sleep 7 to 8 hours).
    But yes, sleeping 8 hours in a row and classifying everything else as "sleep maintenance disorder" is really so typical for our society where every deviation fron the norm in labled as disorder or disease.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
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  15. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Birdie, thanks for commenting on the article, hope it helps you and others to worry less about insomnia. TMS/insomnia is another TMS symptom. It maintains the environment facilitating TMS as a distraction/defense mechanism. Are you able to get enough exercise to make you physically fatigued to the point your body needs to rest? Where did you learn to write in such good English, are you an ex-pat living in Germany?

    Cheers & G'luck!
  16. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I find that I get a better and longer sleep if I stay awake an extra hour. I still get 7 to 8 hours sleep.
  17. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Walt, that's great! That's also what sleep experts recommend: only go to bed and switch off the lights if you are really, really tired. The following sleep will be deeper and more restful.
    TennisTom: thank you, haha, it's funny to hear that. My English always was very bad to the point I nearly did't made the grade at school. So I deselected English the next grade. That was in 1995.
    It was when I heard about TMS and Sarno that I begun to regret that my English was so bad. As I wanted to learn everything about TMS I started to read SteveO's GPD and looked up every third word in the dictionary. So my passive vocabulary slowly increased. Holding a live conversation with me in English is still near impossible and I am stammering most of the time (ask SteveO if you don't believe, I once talked to him via Skype).

    Most of the pupils nowadays are trained very well in English. It also is not possibe to deselect English as subject any longer as it was when I went to school. You have to get your degree in English, if you want or not ;-)
  18. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    When I try to come off my meds my pain gets worse and my insomnia follows it a terrible cycle to break. I feel like I'm a prisoner to my meds..
  19. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I've had the same experience. It's really hard to get off meds, but the key for me is doing it very gradually. I'm currently trying to get off my third and last medication (Trazodone), and I'm doing it by reducing the tablet by 1/8 each week. So far it hasn't been too bad. I have 4 more weeks to go. But it's hard to know how much of my current insomnia is due to medication withdrawal and how much is TMS. That's one of the problems with taking medication that I encountered--it's hard to know what is side effects of medication and what is TMS. I think it complicates recovery somewhat.
  20. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member


    I came to the realization that I am not ready to stop taking them…at this point in my life I have reduced them to level where I am in touch with my pain but its not stopping me from working or exercising but if I lower them anymore I am bed ridden

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