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Holding Patterns, Tension, Doubt & The Big Freeze

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by donavanf, Feb 25, 2016.

  1. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    Hi all, just a progress report here.

    I've been dealing with TMS since 2013. Well, that's when it became chronic (right) shoulder and neck pain and pain between my shoulder blades. Chronic, unrelenting TENSION in my upper back muscles. Before that, it was a LAUNDRY LIST of things, from IBS to skin rashes, allergies to chronic sore throats, panic attacks, lower back pain, migraines and beyond.

    I am a patient of Dr. David Schechter's, who fully confirmed my TMS diagnosis. I've seen him several times and he always says, "Your job is to BELIEVE the diagnosis".

    It's obvious what is going on.


    I keep taking three steps forward and two steps back. No matter how much I try, I get STUCK in thinking "there MUST be something wrong with my shoulder". Dr. Schechter did not do an MRI (he said it was costly as I don't have insurance and he believed, not necessary) but he gave me a very thorough physical exam, reviewed some notes on x-rays I had done by a chiropractor and told me, "I am 107% CERTAIN you have TMS". He then went on to say that I didn't really need to do any more "research". What I needed was to believe (as he does) that I have TMS. I need to believe it "107%". I need to stop researching and obsessing over it, and get on with my life. He also suggested an anti-depressant with OCD helping qualities (lexapro) which I am on, in addition to a small nightly dose of Klonipin, which I know I will eventually need to wean from. I feel guilty I have to use meds a crutch. I'm not very good at self-care, or self-soothing. I am also terrified to get off the Klonipin, despite my Psychiatrist doctor telling me we would wean off very slowly and it would be a very easy process, if done gently. He doesn't think it's the right time to come off yet and Dr. Schechter thinks I should stay on the Lexapro, as it is helping me.

    If it isn't totally obvious, I have OCD and have since my early teens. My brain gets "stuck" in a groove and it feels like a broken record player. I've read all of Sarno's books twice, listened to the audible versions (twice), read Steven Ozanich (LOVED that book, read it THREE times), and currently, I am in the middle of Dr. Schubiner's workbook. I want to do the Structured Educational Program next. It's like I'm a junky of the information, but I am not putting it into practice.

    I can COMPLETELY grasp the fact that I have TMS on a purely INTELLECTUAL basis. But there is a part of me that says, "No, there MUST be structural problems". I know this cannot be true because I've seen my pain go from a 10 to a 5, after listening to audio on outcome independence. I've seen my pain in my right shoulder move to my neck, back again and then become GERD or IBS and when it does that, my shoulder pain VANISHES. Heck, even if I get a simple cold my shoulder pain damn near goes completely away!

    But here is the rub. My pain never FULLY disappears. It NEARLY does. It goes and comes, goes and comes. There seems to always be SOMETHING wrong. Here is an example. I'm a photographer. A year ago, I could barely hold up my camera. Now, I can shoot with very little pain. I did a big shoot for very little money a few days ago. I'm having terrible financial problems at the moment. During the shoot, I barely felt a twinge. In my shoulder. But I felt angry that I had to work my tail off for pennies. The next day it felt like my upper back, neck and right shoulder were in a vice. I spent three days resting it, doing all kinds of TMS affirmations, and lo and behold, today it is nearly gone. But I awoke with a skin rash. It's as if the symptom MUST express somewhere. I know I need to exercise but even the slightest upper body exercise makes it terribly worse. Schechter suggested walking, to take the focus off my upper back. He also suggested completely forgetting all PT exercises or yoga aimed at my shoulder, or postural fixes, which sometimes 'feel' like they may be helping but always greatly exacerbate the issue, like pouring gasoline on a fire.

    I have been working on just accepting the pain and becoming "outcome independent" and this seems to help the most. But when I notice the pain, I can always see that I am holding my shoulders, neck and upper back in terrible tension. For a full year, before finding St. Sarno, I blamed it all (with the help of a PT) on posture and "too much time on my computer". Now, I know that posture is not the problem. But I will say this, when I get into a state of MENTAL tension, I notice my BODY becomes tense. This constant state of tension makes my body HURT by the end of the day. I have the kind of pain that never wakes me at night. When I awake, it seems to nearly be gone, and by mid-day I have "frozen" myself into a state of terrible upper body tension. Then the doubts creep up, I think, "something just MUST be wrong!" and I get into a loop. My shoulders, neck and upper back get right back into pain.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Is posture a result of tension or vice-versa?

    How do I melt this frozen body?

    Lastly, there is this. The last fourteen years have become a psychological "freeze pattern" for me. My mom tried to commit suicide in 2001, I saved her life, my dad abandoned the family completely within a month of her death, and I was left in a state of horrible loss, penniless and parentless. I literally spent 13 years in shock. TMS awoke me from the shock. It said, "HEY! Your life is broken! You need to move forward and get on with your dreams! Enough of this, WAKE UP!". So in that way, I am grateful for TMS. But, ironically, now that I am working to ACTUALIZE my dreams...working full time on a photography business (I'm a full time photographer now) and I'm slowly doing well with it, my TMS is saying, "Not so fast, we've been stuck for over a decade. You're too broken to be a photographer! You're gonna end up homeless!". My TMS is a bully and I and TERRIBLY hard on myself.

    The TMS literally feels like a gargoyle on my shoulder, a bully, strangling me, keeping me in a straight jacket of fear, saying, "I won't let you be happy".

    Just reading that made me cry. I'm NOT trying to throw a "pity party" here, but why is it that the closer I get to letting this go, the harder and harder it hangs on. Do I just say, "The hell with it, I'm doing this anyway, you can stick around all you like, but I am getting on with my life!" (outcome independence) or do I fight like hell and give that bully a taste of its own medicine? For me, it seems like the outcome independence may be key, but I am a survivor so I am not used to not fighting! The irony is that I was bullied terribly as a child and I am terrified of standing up for myself. Pressure makes my TMS go into hyperdrive, because I have a wicked time setting boundaries and saying no to people. It's my #1 handicap.

    All thoughts, mantras, affirmations, and ideas appreciated.

    I am SICK AND TIRED of this damn thing RUNNING my life!

    But I feel FROZEN when my TMS rears it's hydra head and I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I'm so ready to let this go, but it seems NOT ready to let go of me!
    silentflutes likes this.
  2. sjcy

    sjcy New Member

    I have no solutions for you but I admire the amount of insight you have into your situation. However, as you're finding out, insight isn't enough, dang it! :confused:

    Learning to have compassion for myself has been key for me in overcoming various similar issues. I had a moment of insight 25 years ago during my therapy. I was in the middle of mentally berating myself for some mostly-imaginary fault and I had a sudden thought: "Waitaminute. I am nice to everybody else in the g.d. world, why do I think it's ok to talk to myself like this?" And from that moment on, I started to get better. Of course, unfortunately, it's a lifelong project.

    When my sons were little kids, they used to try to trick me into arguing pointlessly with them when we disagreed, in order to wear me down and get me to give in. I finally caught on and just refused to argue. It sounds like maybe your TMS is doing the same thing with you. If you could visualize it as an obnoxious small child that is tugging at your shoulder (or whatever part of your body it's bothering at the time) and screaming for attention, maybe that would help you smile and ignore it.

    Good luck! :cat:
    donavanf and yb44 like this.
  3. silentflutes

    silentflutes Peer Supporter

    @donavanf excellent observations,write up and loved question you asked in your writing. i am also in same boat with you. i have felt and been through all those you have written....

    For me, its since 2015 and exactly at same spot you are pointing to. Yeah chronic unrelenting tension in that upper back muscle. then before that my LAUNDRY LIST of things is skin rashes, chronic sore throat(all my life),panic attack, depression, frustration, gastric, acid reflux....headache...

    i never had any diagnosis since i am in rural country. i went on reading tms. i realized thats it and tore up and threw all medical papers.

    yeah, i read many many books. once you understood few ideas here and there..keep reading as a hobby. the intense need to read everything and just find magic answer is again fueling tms. reading all there is to TMS is not solution of TMS. I suggest you to write dairy or practice meditation. To be aware of what is happening resolves the issue. A lot more is happening inside you, tms is just small coping way, when you realize all the shits you are doing to yourself, you will have compassion for yourself. But understanding it (as you have read) is basement for awareness.

    TMS is outcome of way you are living your life. Things you are doing to yourself internally. Head towards direction of living happy joyous life. Strive towards that direction. TMS goes away on its own.

    there is a self sustaining loop that fuels itselfs and goes round and round creating tms pain on and on..cycle goes on and on.. write dairy. meditate. slowly when you accept what is happening you will realize. now, when i have intense tension i tend to forgive myself and feel awww for myself...

    reading this i realize, every human being has problems,suffering and we tend to make our problem as most painful. but i can relate to that psychological freeze pattern and that freeze pattern in me is expressed for last 20 years as STAMMER. now you may think all your life story and be hard on yourself, but keep yourself in my shoes when someone asks your name its takes 5 minutes for you to say..so imagine how much HARD i have been to myself all these years..dying inside myself of not able to speak... i am trying to say that, tms is gift for me. it help me realize what i was doing all these years to myself.

    the more you try to get rid of it, more it gets intense. more you try to fight it, more it gets stronger. because, when you try to fight it, you have to create someone, that someone(TMS) is created by you, so the moment you begin fight, you fuel it first...its kind of crazy..but..all i have realized is tms is outcome..let it be there..but work on happy joyous happy..resolve issues blocking that..slowly tms fades..

    however worst this may seem, it is there for good reason. it is there to take you back to your home inside you, make you better person. as everything else, it will pass and by then you will have been a better person who doesn't need tms as way of living.
    donavanf likes this.
  4. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Both options sound like a fight to me. Pressure, strain, force or whatever word you want to describe it will only serve the purpose of keeping the pain/fear/rage/[insert any other emotion here]/loop going. I prefer the soothe option personally. I've been fighting that creature on my shoulders all my life and it only brought me pain and unhappiness. What can you do to calm down?
    donavanf likes this.
  5. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    @silentflutes this just brought tears to my eyes "but keep yourself in my shoes when someone asks your name itstakes 5 minutesfor you to say..so imagine how much HARD i have been to myself all these years..dying inside myself of not able to speak..." Are you working with a therapist? I hope so. It sounds as though you have an inner child that needs some loving and a critic that needs to be put to rest.

    @donavanf I can relate to shoulder and neck pain as it is the pain that opened my eyes to TMS. You can go to my profile to read my story...so let's go to yours regarding posture.
    I have been teaching Pilates for the past 6 years. It is all about biomechanicly correct movement proper alignment and aiding in creating good posture! When my pain started I believed it was postural gee even the PT said so!!! But you know what it's not!!!! I see clients whoes posture would make you hurt looking at them and you know what they're not in pain! Really!
    Do I work on creating better balance in my body indeed I do but I have now through TMS been able to correlate my pain with my thoughts most of all my 'inner 'critic' I have taken a journey into me....
    What has helped me is therapy, journalling and now 4-7-8 breathing.
    I'm no longer in constant pain, my neck is a bit stiff perhaps with more time it will release even more. The muscles in my upper back are releasing and the twinge I get in my upper trapezoid is less often. When I do get it I do 4-7-8 breathing and think about what my inner critic has to say now and jot it down. If I get a twinge while exercising I keep on with what I was doing. I don't allow it to stop me.

    Most of all show yourself compassion learn to love yourself...

    Warmly, Susan
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Donavan,

    I can relate to what you've written, as I'm sure most people on this Forum can. I had great success getting rid of my chronic pain syndromes using TMS techniques, but am still struggling with insomnia and affective symptoms.

    What is currently most helpful to me, in addition to practicing outcome independence, is to look at the issue through the framework of neuroscience. It's easy for me to become lost and fall into despair if I spend too much time in dredging up and examining the past. (Schubiner's book weaves both together nicely, and places some structure and time limits on it all to keep us from getting too lost, so if you're reading that now, you know what I mean.) I see that I have many automatic responses to stress and conflict that were adaptive and functional when I was a child, but do not serve me well as an adult. These childhood responses became hardwired into my brain through the laying down of neural pathways. My job now is to 1) recognize when I am engaging in an old automatic pattern that is no longer useful, and 2) choose a different more functional response. Through repetition of this, we "unlearn" the old pattern and build new neural pathways for a healthier way of being in the world. This is slow, hard work and requires persistence and fortitude. It's important to not beat ourselves over all the times we engage in the old automatic behaviors without awareness, but rather to savor and celebrate the times we make new, better choices in how we respond to situations and people in our life. Developing our self-awareness is critical in this process, which is why I believe the practice of mindfulness is so helpful in recovery from TMS.

    But it is critical in all the work on TMS to spend only around an hour a day or so on it, and then move into practicing outcome independence, and just living your life. Too much introspection is TMSing. After your hour or so of work examining your inner life, move your attention outside yourself.

    Wishing you the best....
    anasutana and sjcy like this.

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