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Healed from chronic back pain

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by kylehuisman, Jan 24, 2022.

  1. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

    Hi all. I overcome debilitating back pain several years ago, but I want to post my experience in overcoming it so that I may help others experiencing the same confusing dilemma that is chronic pain. My back pain started at about 18 years of age, and was about a 3 year, highly stressful ordeal. my family and I spent thousands on all kinds of treatments in an effort to treat this back pain problem I suddenly had. I got Mri's, went to chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture, had surgical consultations, got massage, got pain medication, bought electric shock pads, special braces, shoes and on and on and on. The Mri's showed concerning "abnormalities" in my spine, and so my fear skyrocketed, and the situation got so much worse. MY physical activity decreased dramatically, I was living in fear of pain and hurting myself and "causing more damage". I could barely sit in chairs, sit in vehicles for long, I stopped living life and doing normal everyday things. I became obsessed with this "problem" I had, and my life was just getting smaller and smaller and smaller. So you know, my spine has scoliosis, bone spuring, disc bulging, herniations and I was even told I have an "extra" vertebrae that didnt fuse properly to my sacrum (highly distressing). These scary things the doctors showed and told me ended up having no real relevance to the pain I was experiencing, and now have zero limitations in my physical activity and only slight irritations of pain in my back nowadays. I now know how to deal with these flare ups since I understand it is simply a reflection of stress and tension, it is NOT a physical problem.

    So, how did I heal? I can remember one night laying on my bed crying in desperation, wondering if this would be my life forever. I surfed the net in hopes of finding ANYTHING that might help. I came across a blogpost of a girl who said "I healed my back pain naturally" and she mentioned Dr. Sarno. Intrigued I followed up on it, bought the book Healing Back Pain, and my life was revolutionized and changed forever almost over night. I read the book and experienced the typical cliche "I saw myself on every page". I was perfectionistic, high achieving, undergoing a lot of family stress, and overall putting myself under a TONNE of pressure. I had just entered university, I broke up with my high school girlfriend, my parents were going through a divorce, I was rowing competitively and training at a high level, getting up at 4:30 every morning to do workouts, and I was pressuring myself to get A's in my classes. On top of this, Up to this point in my life, I didnt feel or channel my emotions very well, like at all. I always suppressed them and pretended I simply didnt have them, I also didnt meet my own needs very well. I always was trying to be the nice guy, and appear perfect. However, this simply isn't real, and I realized that these behaviours were generating a tonne of pressure and tension. After reading the first few chapters of Sarno book, to my amazement, I remember going to a 3 hour lecture and sitting through the entire thing. I was excited and eager to keep going. I started to feel fine sitting again, so I could get in cars again, and I started running again and resuming my usual physical activity. I finally started enjoying myself again.

    However, the path to healing is full of setbacks and I want to share what I remember being key pieces of information that I had to decipher and apply to my situation so that I could heal.

    - I Stopped obsessing that I had a problem, and adopted the mindset that nothing was wrong with me, I resumed all physical activity, and stopped talking about my pain with friends and family.
    - I allowed the pain to be there when it did come, I simply said to my brain, this is TMS, not a physical problem, and took my mind off it. I didnt let it grab me.
    - I told myself that it didn't make any sense how the pain would come and go, and wasn't always consistent, so it had to be TMS. how could it be physical if it wasn't hurting all the time right? it had to do with the mind and attention being either on or off it.
    - I started journalling out my emotions and any pressures and finding expression for them. I exercised, screamed into pillows, punched pillows, and channelled the internal anger I knew was inside any way I could. I played a lot of guitar and channeled my emotions into music.
    - I started to relax and make this a priority in my life.
    - Any thoughts that were related to the pain I simply ignored. any what if thoughts, or any future projections or worrying or planning ahead for how I was going to deal with my pain in such and such situation.
    - I ignored people who were fixated on their own chronic pain and stopped trying to fix and argue with them if they didnt share the mindset I was trying to develop in relation to Sarno's ideas.
    - I resumed all physical activity and payed no mind to the perceived limitations my brain was telling me. Ie, "you can't run on concrete", or "your doing more damage to your back by doing this"
    - Once I lost the fear of the pain, and actively did things in spite of the pain, everything changed. the pain disappeared quickly.
    - I told myself the human spine is very rugged structure, built over millennia to be strong, durable and flexible to handle a vast array of physical stress and activity. MY spine was normally abnormal, or perfectly imperfect, however you want to say it. it made no sense to be in physical pain and therefore it had to be emotional.
    - sometimes I got odd pains not related to my back that seem plausible or have a physical cause. like my knee or something. I simply payed these pains no mind and wrote it off as emotions and stress.
    - Go out there and live life, take your mind off your pain, for me it was about taking control back from my subconscious mind. I talked to my brain and told it that I am in control. I even did the inner child talks where I talked to the little me inside where I tried to understand my emotions and what I was feeling. I simply said I hear you, but we don't need this physical pain anymore.
    - I also realized I didnt have to fully understand the process of mind body pain and how it works or be able to perfectly explain it. Sarno says it is oxygen deprivation caused by the brain to divert attention away from emotional stress so as to not deal with it. for many that's hard to grasp, but this truly does work I knew I just needed to stop seeing it as a physical problem and that there was nothing to fear.

    As I implemented Sarno's protocols and did the daily reminders, it was an amazing feeling as my life was opening up again and I could do all kinds of things I thought I couldn't do. It truly is wonderful knowledge, especially living in a society constantly creating fear that something is wrong with you when you have pain, and then providing solutions to that fear, like products and services you pay for or medications to take to remedy your "problem". It seemed to become clear to me that chronic pain was a call for help from our bodies that we are overdoing things, or not taking proper care of ourselves, and nothing more than that. When I started to see the results I saw that this pain I was experiencing was actually a blessing, there to expand my awareness about myself, and therefor move me forward in my life. I hope this helps!

    Whenever I get flare ups of pain now, I simply pay it no mind since I understand the fear of it is not required. What I experience now is nothing physical, but I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety. I am still figuring this out and how to cope with this. I get obsessive thoughts and can get caught in ruminative cycles, and I experience a lot of anxiety in response to this. I think this is OCD? From what I understand, anxiety is prolonged mental stress and that stress manifests in different ways for different people, I don't get panic attacks, but I get obsessive thoughts and then compulsively try to "solve" them to no end, I don't have typical OCD compulsions like hand washing or anything like that, my OCD seems to be purely mental obsessions and compulsions. Im not sure yet how much of anxiety is a mind body disorder and can therefor be treated like TMS (a distraction from emotions), or if anxiety is its own thing that needs to be dealt with in a different way other than Sarno. Any insight would be great if anyones experienced anxiety post chronic pain (ive heard this is common). Claire Weekes has been helpful for sure, and learning to let anxious thoughts pass without grabbing onto them, thus allowing the nervous system to desensitize, and allow the anxious thoughts and feelings to ultimately dissolve and disappear, at least that's the idea.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2022
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  2. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    Awesome success story - thanks for posting this! I'm printing it out. Hopefully I will get there some day too.

    As regards anxiety, other people can weigh in, but if it makes you feel better I also have pretty much what you describe and it came about at the same time as the physical discomfort, so for me it seems to be all part of the same nervous system issue. The obsessive thoughts get way better after hard exercise (for a few hours). I think Claire Weekes and time will be your good friends in this regard. Thanks again for sharing your encouraging story.
  3. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

    So glad it was helpful, keep at it.
  4. m8888888

    m8888888 Peer Supporter

    @kylehuisman Regarding your anxiety, I’d recommend a book called ‘At Last a Life’ by Paul David.

    I only say this because his advice is pretty much identical to how you overcame your pain, so it may be helpful to see how it translates to anxiety recovery.
    kylehuisman likes this.
  5. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

    @m8888888 Thanks a lot, I'll check it out. I am currently reading "Letting Go" by David Hawkins. Its been really helpful. Its interesting you say that because I often think about how chronic pain and anxiety could be the same mind body process and thus treated the same. At first it seems anxiety is different because for me its more of a mental process with negative thoughts and obsessions with certain thoughts, unlike the pain which was a strictly physical symptom . The idea behind Letting Go is to release your resistance to whatever your feeling, much like Claire Weekes, where through acceptance of your current state you are essentially letting go of resistance. It is this letting go of resistance to whatever your feeling that seems to be the key. When I had my chronic back pain, the turning point towards recovery was this no longer fearing of the pain, I had let go of resistance and carried on with life, without mentally fighting it and reacting to it. I was no longer fuelling the pain condition with resistance because I was no longer afraid of it. From Sarno's perspective, without fearing the symptoms due to the realization that there is nothing to fear, there is a letting go of massive negative energy and resistance toward the pain, the brain then learns that there is no problem and therefor ceases to perpetuate the chronic pain condition.

    what's interesting in Letting Go, is he makes the point that it is our negative emotions that create our negative thoughts, not the other way around. One single emotion trapped in the body IS what is creating the negative thoughts. He says that one emotion can be responsible for thousands of negative thoughts we have, therefor, taking our thoughts seriously is essentially fruitless, because once the emotion is dealt with, the thoughts disappear. The dilemma I have been "struggling" with is I had a dramatic event happen to me that triggered this massive anxiety in the first place. I have gotten caught in endless cycle of rumination about the event - "could have done this" "if only" etc. I have been constantly arguing with the anxious thoughts and feelings surrounding the event because they are always arising in my consciousness and body. The inclination is to try and solve and come to some final verdict about the event, but this has been getting me no where. What im learning is it is this arguing and engagement with the anxious thoughts and feelings IS THE RESISTANCE that has been perpetuating my overall anxiety...Did I just answer my own question?
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2022
    Ellen likes this.
  6. Pietro Carloni

    Pietro Carloni Peer Supporter

    the only thing I can tell you is that if I try to avoid anxiety, the pain returns (at least in my case) if instead I propose to welcome these feelings related to anxiety (as happens with a guest who sometimes comes to visit you) I can better overcome the moment of discomfort and everything goes back into place
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  7. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

    @Pietro Carloni Check out my last comment, that seems to be inline with what I was talking about. It seems that you let go of resistance to the anxiety through a welcoming of it, you then overcome it.
  8. fridaynotes

    fridaynotes Well known member

    this is a great story~ thank you! i found some very inspirational nuggets that have given me new energy!
    kylehuisman likes this.
  9. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great post and follow ups here kylehuisman

    Congratulations on your success. Your list of what has worked is great. I especially like:

    And this might lead me into the anxiety piece... Howard Schubiner writes a TMS workbook called Unlearning Your Anxiety and Depression, using the basic "Sarno" approach. He sees these "emotions" as TMS equivalents. So I think you're right-on treating your current symptoms as TMS. What might that mean?

    Well, your understanding here I think is supportive:

    As you suggest, just like pain, the anxiety and obsessive thoughts actually distract from a deeper feeling and awareness. Your experience is not uncommon. Many people find after conquering the pain, that anxiety comes up.

    In addition to witnessing it ---and developing a daily mindfulness practice may be very important for you here--- not going along with the string of thoughts, just like not going along or believing the pain, is probably a good tactic. Probably could be life-changing, since most of us are run by an endless array of thoughts about the past and future, fixing things, improving things, controlling outcomes, etc.

    The other piece here to mention is that as you do more emotional work, journaling, etc, (and perhaps you might consider counseling) the more likely that you'll be able to feel and not repress the underlying material, if you follow my drift. I think this deeper work is often indicated in your type of case.

    The reason I mentioned the goal of relaxing is that in some ways, the pain kept you from that, your personality keeps you from that (by habit), and now the thinking probably obstructs this. I think that it is a central piece which, once practiced, brings up the personality stuff to maintain that it isn't OK to relax. In other words, parts of you don't feel safe relaxing, so the "show" continues with a new scary variant.

    Good luck in your work and take heart that you're a strong, able, aware person who will digest this next phase, and come out stronger! I hope some of things I mention might ring true. It is all essentially guess-work, even from the inside. You're making the important connections.

  10. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I have listened to several podcasts by a young Irish presenter. She has many interesting guests speaking about different topics. I enjoyed the one on exercise with Kelly McGonigal who is a health psychologist and author of several books. She admits to her own challenges with both chronic pain and anxiety.

    https://www.podcastandradio.co.uk/podcast/owning-it-the-anxiety-podcast/ (Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast - Listen on Podcast & Radio)

    I can relate to the OCD of thought you mention. It’s so tiring to run around that hamster wheel and never reach a destination.
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I have a note up in a conspicuous place that says "Don't analyze". I have come to understand that this is my ego trying to assert control by making the world understandable. But my analysis is never Truth. I'm trying, instead, to become comfortable with not knowing--just experience being and let go. It requires a level of trust that is hard to cultivate, as we live in a culture that encourages intellectual analysis.

    Thanks for your Success Story. Well done.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2022
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  12. m8888888

    m8888888 Peer Supporter

    I absolutely believe anxiety and TMS symptoms fall under the same umbrella. The people who fully recover from both tend to have the one thing in common: they let go of resistance and lost the fear they once had.

    I’m still not out of this whole thing yet but I think what has set my progress back all these years has been separating the two and treating them as two separate issues, when in reality they’re all just anxious symptoms perpetuated by my constant need to solve myself.

    Came across a poster from the previous TMS forum a while ago who shares the same opinion - might be of interest to you:

    http://www.tmshelp.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=8059 (TMSHelp Forum - Hillbilly - Words and actions)
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  13. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    @m8888888: I'm glad to see you post this thread from the user Hillbilly. And I agree with you completely about anxiety and pain. There was actually a post by Hillbilly that is not in this thread that I am copying and pasting the most pertinent parts of below (and itself was reposted by user Dorado, who himself is a kind of legend). I keep telling myself "just do what Hillbilly did and you will get better" but somehow I am not quite there yet. But it is beautiful in its simplicity:

    Hillbilly wrote:
    "...I walked through the motions of living. At night, suffering from terrible insomnia, I would ponder the things I'd read that gave me hope. I got out a pad and paper and began to write down the things that I wasn't doing that I knew I needed to. This was an epiphany for me. I wasn't following the simplest advice of all, which was to let the pain come and go or stay or whatever it chose to do, which both Weekes and Sarno prescribed. The problem was that I was still allowing my symptoms to control me. I wasn't in control at all in my life. I made room for rest, avoidance, paced myself too much. I decided I needed one thing, and that was courage to push through the pain and doubt and go back to living again. I took a break from all forums, all internet searches, and decided on one goal: I would live fully again, and I would be stronger and more resolute than before. I didn't need a hero. I needed to find the inner strength for MY journey.

    ...No more hiding. I increased my chores around the house tenfold. Within weeks I stood on a ladder for three days and stained my deck. I went to ballgames and sat on bleachers and talked to people around me. I was not ever comfortable, but I was OK and began to feel human again. This is the main point. You have to behave like a person who is healthy because in reality you are. You only think there is something wrong because of how you feel. One evening after cleaning up our dinner I went outside to build a fire in our firepit. I was bending over and over to pick up wood and sort of noticed that my back was moving freely and easily. It was the last I heard from my pain. It has been several years now.

    You are going to get better. You will restore your health to normalcy."

    https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/how-i-healed-from-a-myriad-of-symptoms.18723/ (How I healed from a myriad of symptoms)
    (expand the post from Dorado about 1/2 way down the page)
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  14. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you @hawaii_five0
    I’m having a very hard time. A little pain, mostly bizarre or “scary” symptoms. I ramp up, do more (still careful, always vigilant) get more confidence (less vigilant) and then back come symptoms, fear, anxiety.
    I know what I need to do, fear keeps me hostage. I needed hope today. Thanks for re-posting Hillbilly’s post.
    hawaii_five0 likes this.
  15. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    hang in there @Cactusflower. Here were also some words from Dorado on that same page about how he healed, and I think about sometimes, and that maybe "doing nothing" is a better way to go for some people:

    Dorado wrote:
    "Nope, I did not follow any particular treatment/recovery plan. I'm not saying these types of methods are incapable of helping anyone, but there are a number of us who simply don't respond to them positively, and I think it's so easy for people to get way too caught up in trying to heal or viewing "TMS" as a separate condition with more permanent affects. Trying to heal can be incredibly counterproductive, creating more fear and obsession. For me, it was far more effective to simply manage my fear and emotions, accept what was happening as emotionally driven, and live life fully again."
  16. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

    @Andy Bayliss I sincerely thank you for your reply, I think this idea that anxiety is TMS has to be the case. Im going to explain further what I think below. Also, @m8888888 Thank you as well, I am glad we are both going through the same kind of thing so we can offer each other the support. I read that post what Hillbilly said and I took this to heart "I was sick of suffering. If you are sick of it, then you have to go back to living, let the pain or whatever be there, and just keep going."

    After your reply and @Andy Bayliss reply, I started to see the new approach I must take, and I practiced it today with success. For most of the day today at work I was in a state of overwhelm with the anxiety. MY anxiety takes the form of my usual obsession where it triggers the strong negative emotions, and then I get involved with it, or I ruminate over anything else like social interactions I had throughout the day, or how im being perceived by others. Its not fun. This has been my daily life for so long, just going through the motions mainly spending the day in fight flight, on high alert, not really living at all. In a moment of realization today, amidst high anxiety, what HillBilly said really resonated... it is a choice. I stopped myself from the negative thinking and downwards spiral of how shitty I was feeling and just thought, im so done with these negative thoughts and feeling this way and I decided to pay it all no mind, it has to be TMS and I have to approach is that way. As I did this my day made a turn around, it reflected in my mood and the interactions I had with others which became more meaningful and I wasn't so closed off. The thoughts and sensations were still there I just kept catching myself grabbing for them and made the choice not to. Ill keep practicing this and being less preoccupied with myself, in my own world. I got some evidence and proof today that I can see that is simply a choice to get better and live life how you want, and I will do this by not letting anxiety/TMS hold me back. It cannot be in a negative forceful way that is negative towards yourself or draining, but in a way where you realize the reality that nothing really is wrong, and so nothing needs to be forced, I can do things in a way with minimal resistance because there really is nothing to fear.

    @Andy Bayliss From what you say it makes sense that this very process of my obsessive thinking IS "TMSing". I was a bit blind to this before, but it really is in parallel with the way I would obsess over the back pain... its the same damn thing, the same obsessing, just it not so much physical apart from the tension in my body, but I obsess mainly over some silly event that happened to me, or it morphs to any other thing I can anxiously obsess about. I then obsess over this whole process of obsessing.. What ive noticed is, I am OBSESSING ALL THE TIME. Ha. It is this obsessive thinking, or attachment to it, and preoccupation with it that is what has been keeping me in this state. I also notice how compulsive I am to try to fix it, or do things like reach for my phone... its all this one big series of obsessive compulsive actions to deal with the anxiety "problem". Anxiety has become the focal point of my whole life, from waking up in the morning like "oh yeah, I have this anxiety" and so ensues the day of anxiety.... sounds a lot like TMS to me.

    This is what I experienced with the back pain. Its all the same ingredients, the obsessing about the symptoms (anxiety, OCD/ Body sensations), the story making about me and my "condition", the trying to "fix" my condition, even surfing the net or writing here on this forum to a degree. Its all reinforcing that I have this problem, but what is this problem anyway? Because whatever choices I have been making have been in line with keeping the anxiety going. All these obsessions and little compulsions, they are keeping anxiety switched on. I realized a key piece to this puzzle today, it is that im never going to solve this anxiety im experiencing, ive been trying to do this for a year and a half. The only thing that is going to work is I have to teach my brain that there's no problem through action... this seems to be the ticket to everyones TMS healing, no matter what they are experiencing and I proved this to myself today when I decided to not pay attention to the anxious thoughts and feelings, but act in spite of them without resisting them. This is what Chris writes about at http://nothingworks.weebly.com (NOTHING WORKS) FANTASTIC resource if you haven't read it relating to how to overcome anxiety. Its this idea that you have to actively do rest/digest behaviours instead of fight flight behaviours, its the only way the brain learns to shut off anxiety. It reminds me of that quote by Patch Adams "If you focus on the problem, you cannot see the solution, never focus on the problem."

    This has turned out to be a great thread that I think has touched on some important points, thank you everyone for your input.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
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  17. kylehuisman

    kylehuisman New Member

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  18. m8888888

    m8888888 Peer Supporter

    Seen all these posts at my lowest haha, but thanks for posting as they may help others on their road to recovery!

    I’m almost certain that being comfortable with being uncomfortable is the way out of this (as I’m sure you are by the sounds of it) but it’s much easier said than done. We’ll both get their one day!
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  19. m8888888

    m8888888 Peer Supporter

    So glad to hear your making progress. I’m also at the stage where I feel I know exactly what to do (or stop doing to be more exact…) but keep falling back into the cycle of obsessing/overthinking etc. And then even obsessing about not obsessing When you’ve been running around in your head trying to solve anxiety/TMS symptoms, breaking that habit really isn’t easy!

    But yeah, as someone who suffers from anxiety and back pain, your story was comforting to hear. Coming to the realisation that both were interlinked was a massive turning point for me, but also lead to more obsession as I was now not only trying to solve the pain but my entire existence ha.

    Brains eh?
    hawaii_five0 likes this.
  20. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    @hawaii_five0 , thank you. I have not done the best following treatment plans. I have tried, but saw them as a way to take the skills that serve you best and apply them. Learning not to obsess is a choice I am now making (but I am still doing it, especially symptom flares).

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