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From the king of the symptom imperative

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by CreativeOne, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. CreativeOne

    CreativeOne New Member

    I’m new here (though not at all new to TMS) and would like to offer my experience that the symptom imperative is very REAL, and as crafty as can possibly be. I will offer my extensive history to demonstrate how persistent and creative this phenomenon has been in my life in the hope that this information will help others who suffer similarly. I’m male, aged 53.

    Beginning at age 19, my TMS began in earnest as I struggled with my gay identity and remaining closeted from my parents. TMS was revealed in intense lower back pain followed by sciatica, and iliotibial band issues on one side. These symptoms faded into a chronic low-level obsession/focus that has continued through the decades in a milder form, and, as seen below, re-emerging in acute forms when needed psychologically, and interspersed with other symptoms.

    I found Dr. Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” in 1993 and resonated with it immediately. I went to him for a consultation in NYC in April 1993. At the time, my major complaint was the knees burning to the touch. He did a quick exam, looked at my MRI’s, and told me I did not have TMS, but that I had a “conversion disorder.” (I think that if I had visited him a decade later, he would have told me I had TMS, as his ideas had developed over that time.)

    After seeing Sarno, I had an unnecessary discectomy in 1993 that did not alleviate bilateral burning pain in my knees (only to the touch). That pain subsided when replaced with other issues (such as burning pain to the touch on the underside of both forearms, which also subsided once replaced).

    To keep this post of manageable length, let’s fast-forward to 2004, when, after many global adventures in the Peace Corps and studying abroad, etc., I finished my PhD. at age 40 and moved to a new state to become a professor. It was then that I terrifyingly realized I was in a stable, full-time job, that I was responsible for my life, and I felt trapped in that. It freaked me out. Please note I am undiagnosed, but 100% sure that I have a moderate case of OCD.

    The following all resolved with the replacements listed:

    Fall of 2004: Numbness across my entire upper right arm.

    Fall of 2005: Obsession with my teeth and fear of feeling pain in them. Then body dysmorphia, with obsessive focus on the shape of my chest, and constant checking for glandular growth that did not exist (and I’m a trim person).

    Spring of 2006: Stepfather (who is like my dad) had a quintuple bypass. I had shooting nerve pains in legs, and a month later a spontaneous rotator cuff tendon issue in my left arm—couldn’t life arm overhead, and that took several months to heal. I also had very mild prostatitis with discharge (no pain) ater in the spring, and one day of vertigo for the first time ever.

    Fall of 2006: Fear that my lower back was getting worse, resulting in nerve damage. This prompted me to see Dr. Schecter in Los Angeles for a consultation, and he did nerve tests and suggested that this was TMS.
    2007-2008: Somewhat of a reprieve, but more psychological pain of living a place I did not like. I was for some reason feeling psychological pain and not seeking to replace it.

    Spring 2009: My favorite aunt died and within two weeks I was severely crippled with pain that attacked my right leg (L4-5), causing severe weakness in the hamstring and big toe, and drop foot. (No numbness or pain in the foot or toe). I consulted an orthopedic surgeon who said he didn’t see much, but offered the advice, “When in doubt, decompress” (as in operate). I was like, no thanks, with a side of WTF. Then I went to two neurologists who could not see anything on my MRIs that would explain such severe symptoms. The very afternoon that the first neurologist told me that the scan looked good, I developed bilateral pain in the backs of both thighs while in a reclining position only (had to be afraid of something after all). A month later I sat in the middle of the living room floor and just started weeping and started verbally apologizing to my deceased aunt (for what, I have no idea… hello subconscious) and in that moment I felt a shift in my body, and from that day onward, my symptoms began to resolve. It did take a couple of months for my leg and big toe to regain all strength.

    Spring 2010: Blood sugar came out at the high end of normal, so I obsessed about that for several months and visited other physicians, etc.

    Spring 2011: I was single and lonely and obsessed with losing more family members, as they were having health problems. Same issue that smacked me in the spring of 2009 with aunt’s death, so no surprise that I had a reprise issue with the same spinal nerve causing excruciating sciatica in butt on right side. This was just as crippling as it was the first time. Interestingly, I was scheduled to hike the Grand Canyon with my dad and brother a month later, so I was terrified that this would make me cancel. I remember when the pain started, I told my body, “Just do NOT give me that muscle weakness again. I have to hike the Grand Canyon in a month, and can’t be dragging my foot around.” So, while this bout attacked the same nerve, I had no weakness whatsoever, but severe numbness (remnants of which still linger to this day). That was when I read Sarno’s “The Divided Mind” while curled up on floor because I could only lay in a certain position. I did make the trip and had a great time as I was recovering. I even took that big book with me and finished it while at the camp in the bottom of the canyon, and sent that heavy thing back up the south rim on a mule J

    Once I knocked out the sciatica, and my mind had exhausted the obvious tricks. That’s when it started to delve into more bizarre manifestations to keep my attention, to keep me terrified:

    Summer 2012: Burning bilateral index finger pain AFTER obsessing and fearing getting a neck injury.

    Fall 2012—Spring 2013: Got mildly rear-ended and feared a back problem. Had electrical shock-like pains in my mid-section that felt like radial nerve symptoms. These went away immediately after an MRI showed no disk disease in my thoracic region.

    Spring 2013: Bizarre heart palpitations that continued for weeks, only to resolve immediately when I began obsessing over an insect infestation of one of my antiques, and trying to solve that, and obsessing over my other furniture being infected.

    2014: Foot metatarsal pain

    Spring 2015: Two months of a psycho-physiological dizziness syndrome (described in this forum alla Claire Weeks?) that freaked me out.

    Fall 2015: Low-grade revisitations of past musculoskeletal fears and symptoms as my stepfather was dying. He died in November.

    Spring 2016: Sudden re-emergence of the rotator cuff issue I’d had in left arm after stepfather’s death, but in what seemed to be different tendons this time.

    May 2016: Severe prostatitis (ungodly burning from hell) for two months that did not resolve with antibiotics. I read a book that described the psychosomatic nature of most cases of prostatitis, and within two days the symptoms stopped.

    July 2016: Three days after the prostatitis ended, I had a near syncope. The cardiologist found nothing wrong. In my fear, I spent the next two months having weird “whoosh” feelings in my head like I was going to pass out, and they were more like the “shifts” that Weekes describes. These ended when…

    August 2016: Obsessed over annual bloodwork and waiting for results to come in for an HIV test do-over due to a lab error that freaked me out. Once that was fine…

    August 2016 to present: The rotator cuff issue had fully blossomed.

    Many of the major symptoms above have occurred in May. I’m a professor, and the beginning of May is when I know I will have three months off to ponder my life fears. I have a running joke with my friends who want to make plans that I have to see what I’m facing in terms of what I call my “May surprise.” It’s remarkable to me how crafty the mind is, and that even though you know it’s TMS given the pattern, it finds new things that will convince you it’s a physical problem. Every. Single. Time. It’s maddening how I always fall for it. I always swear that I won't believe the next one, but I do.
    Jules and Ellen like this.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

  3. CreativeOne

    CreativeOne New Member

    Thank you! So very true and appropriate!
  4. Ines

    Ines Well known member

    Wow, the king indeed. Thank you for sharing.
  5. Jules

    Jules Well known member

    This sounds exactly like me. Been dealing with symptom imperative for nigh on 20 years! Have read all Sarno's and Ozack, Amir, et al, books and think I have it licked, but then viola! Something surfaces, yet again. I am seeing a therapist to deal with accumulated traumas, so that's helping, but it temporarily makes the pain worse.

    One day, I will be 100% PAIN-FREE, but it's taking a long time. (Going on 5 years) :eek:
  6. Lydia

    Lydia Peer Supporter

    Thanks for sharing! Yes, you are truly a king. Amazing and interesting how strong the mechanism can be. Hope you'll find your key to step out of this mechanism that kind of 'rules' your life, and be free again. Free from fear, pain and the need to see physicians (-:
  7. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for telling your story. It's weird how we KNOW that it's just another symptom imperative, but then spend time worrying that it's not. Reading your post will be helpful to people.
    Lunarlass66 likes this.

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