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I do believe, but help me in my unbelief - need mentors, please

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by I_do_believe, May 22, 2020.

  1. I_do_believe

    I_do_believe New Member

    Good afternoon everyone,

    It is nice to introduce myself and thank you for having me among you. I am new here, but not to TMS, which I have suffered from, from time-to-time, for the past 25 years. Please excuse me if I am posting this in the wrong forum.

    I am here to throw out a lifeline and ask for help. If anyone (or many) would be willing to take me under their wing, and mentor me a little, that would be wonderful. Honestly, I’m pretty scared.

    I hurt my back 25 years ago with an acute injury that morphed into TMS. I tried “everything” for a very long time, until I found Dr. Sarno’s books. I studied them thoroughly, and like many of you, I felt as if he was writing a book specifically about me.

    I had the privilege of email conversation with him back then – and diagnosed myself with TMS. As soon as I did that, the problems in my back quickly resolved. Past that point, any time I had some kind of pains, specifically musculoskeletal, I would simply remind myself it was TMS, get on with life, and the symptoms would soon vanish.

    This said, the years from 2007-2018 were absolutely atrocious for me: Job loss, financial wipeout, false accusations that led to charges and litigation (all dropped, I was totally vindicated, and won the lawsuit as well), relationship destruction, repeated family court battles, persistent unemployment, rearing small children with little support, and working any and all possible jobs, gigs and schemes to try and support 5 people in an ultra-expensive city. My family was also baselessly attacked by an ultra-aggressive and greedy landlord who tried to jack up our rent (unlawfully) by hundreds of dollars a month, and throw our family out on the street when we wouldn’t comply (we won that one, too, but it traumatized us for over a year).

    There were a number of times I was pushed to the absolute brink of mental and physical health. The echoes of monstrous and inescapable childhood traumas and military service-related PTSD, as well as a massive physical toll on my body (due to working brutal heavy labor jobs) took its toll on me. I was crushed, underweight, suffering from sore joints, gut pains, dermatitis and eczema. During this period, I sacrificed everything I had. I wore (and wore out) the same clothes for a decade, ate whatever I could find, had no dentistry, took no self care, had no fun and simply lived to work and support others, some of whom, who quite honestly, could have done a lot more to help, but had little interest in doing much about it (talk about a way to build repressed rage!)

    I blew out my knee at work (2016) while working as a landscape laborer, but took almost no time off work, because I needed the money and wanted to do the right thing. I also completely cooked my hands carrying cumulative hundreds of thousands of pounds shoveling, chopping, push-pull-and-dragging, carrying paving stones, lumber, etc. At the end of each day, I would have a hard time closing my hands. Each joint hurt, and my hands would snap-shut like lobster claws, rather than close in a normal, fluid fashion. But I kept working because I had mouths to feed and I wanted to be a good father and husband.

    At the end of this dark period, I began to break down. I was medicalized, psych-med prescribed, and on the precipice of being completely broken. I thank God daily that this decennium horribilis came to a close recently and my family and I have finally found some traction, and are heading in the right direction.

    This said, the pain in my knee and my hands never got fully better. It felt weird and clunky when I walked, especially climbing stairs. I tried to TMS coach myself out of it, but couldn’t and was so “medicalized” by this point. I have done physio for my knee, surgery, etc. and still have intermittent pain and a restricted range of motion. Any time I go into deep flexion, it kills me. But I can walk ok on flat ground, so I can live with it.

    But my chief concern is my hands. After the brutal work ended, and I landed a sedentary job, they slowly got mostly better, but never fully improved. I have been attacked by bouts of joint pain in almost all the digits and there is noticeable point tenderness when touching them. Some days are better than others, but generally, I feel like I am on a downward slope of decreasing function. I have all the classic signs of pervasive hand osteoarthritis (in both hands) and have been diagnosed as such by a number of doctors. I have no X-rays yet, but each physician I see tells me there’s really no point. I just have to take meds and live with it, for the rest of my life, but I am still relatively young (in my mid 40s) and have a number of small children. The family’s fortunes and future success still rely on an un-ending supply of labor from me, and pretty much every cent I now earn (thankfully I now have a good job) goes to support others.

    I am very scared about my future. I can’t imagine how I am going to get through the rest of my life with the hands of a retired 80 year old machinist, while I am still changing diapers and caring for small children. The pain in my hands tends to mover around, or be there some days, but others not, and rarely, if ever do I experience pain in more than one part of my body – it moves around – a classic TMS sign. But still, it is so hard for me to consider this as TMS because I know what kind of torture I put my body through over the years, working like a Kamikazi Stakhanovite.

    The whole thing is psychologically brutal and demoralizing. Just as I thought I was about to finally regain some kind of a life and health, I am now facing daily grinding pain, and stiffness in my hands that won’t go away. Worst of all, I feel like I did this to myself. I can’t stop beating myself up for destroying my body for a few dollars an hour, and naturally, I carry a deep abiding rage for those who made my life harder and traumatized my family during this period. I also carry great rage towards my spouse, who did very little to help me through this period, and doesn’t do much to this day. If I show any sign of weakness or pain, I am given the cold shoulder and completely cut off from warmth and affection – the daily gossip on the smartphone is just so much more interesting. There isn’t much of a relationship at all, but I stick with it because others need me, and I swore an oath under God and in front of everyone. I would never cheat on or leave my wife, but the loneliness and verbal and physical abuse I suffer, on a regular basis are beyond demoralizing. I don’t even know what to say or how to approach her anymore.

    I never quit, and will never quit or give up, which is how I carried my family this far, but I feel my life is about to crumble again. I can’t get over the pain and visible osteophytes and boxer’s knuckles on my hands. Maybe I really just did destroy them, and in doing so, destroyed my life.

    I can’t seem to find anyone who has been diagnosed with hand OA and had symptoms resolve through following Sarno’s steps…it seems to be mostly back, neck, etc. If I were to see that, find a mentor who had been through this, it might give me some hope.

    I will not whine or complain about this further, but if there’s anyone out there who’s willing to lend a beat-up old veteran some guidance on this, I would be eternally grateful. Whether you believe or not, God bless you all, and thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

    Kind regards,

    Zach B.
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  2. Kittyruns

    Kittyruns Peer Supporter

    Hello @I_do_believe. I read your story with interest. I am also a relative newcomer to this forum but it sounds like you have such a wonderful background with Dr. Sarno and the healing that his methodology has brought to so many of us here. Since the majority of my issues have been with jaw, tooth and facial pain as well as foot pain and sciatica and add in a couple of good episodes of bursitis, migraine and tennis elbow, I don't really know about OA of the hands. But, to me, it sounds like classic TMS. Do you get outside and just have some time relaxing and practicing Sarno's 12 daily reminders about the hand pain? I know that anything with "itis" is most always TMS and I definitely don't think you have ruined your hands . I would imagine that someone with similar symptoms will come along and speak directly to your issues. Keep the faith, friend! You have come to a wonderful, healing place. As someone said on this Forum, TMS likes to be scary." I keep that in mind because it does...it wants to make you think that you are all alone and there is no one with your certain symptoms and you will be stuck this way for life. That is JUST NOT TRUE. Sending hugs your way!

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  3. Kittyruns

    Kittyruns Peer Supporter

    BTW, the amazing posts of @Baseball65 were the genesis for "TMS likes to be scary." Part of the scary is what if it's only me.....
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  4. Northwood

    Northwood Well known member


    Welcome. I'm fairly new as well. As Kittyruns said, sounds like you got a good basic handle on what TMS is which will be valuable to you, along with your determination to get better. I'll share an insight I had recently that's been helpful to me (dealing with decades of low back pain). When I was "talking to my brain" as Sarno advises, I forgot about the brain part and would talk to the pain which seemed a place to focus. But then I shifted attention to my brain, the unconscious part (which I've found a way to visualize in a "felt" way) and do my talking there. I practice not worrying about the pain. When I have a good talking to, I tend to have good results with my pain. But the focus on my "emotionality" is what matters: towering rage and fear, noting the extent of it and allowing it to be, like a tight ball of plastic wrap slowly expanding on my open palm. Letting the feelings BE eases my whole body. In your determination I hope you can find space to be kind to yourself, however that may look for you. You're in a good place. I'm glad you've written in. I'm wishing you well.
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  5. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Zach, your situation sounds like a perfect storm. No surprise that both your body and your mind took a beating.

    I have not been diagnosed with OA in my hands, but I learned from my own experience and from many posts on this forum that official diagnosis means very little in the world of TMS. It is a label that doctors put on us in order to classify us into some medical boxes. I had some really bad symptoms in my hands (neuropathic pain, swelling and stiffness) and a slew of diagnoses (all proved to be TMS) after some rough times in my life. I fully recovered and am doing much better now than before my illness. My success story, recommendations and advice are scattered around this forum, but I put the whole thing together in a more concise form in a small book, if you feel that it could help you.

    I have to point out right away that I did not have osteophytes and OA diagnosis should be taken seriously. But here is a story which may help you change your outlook. I was visiting an older friend of mine in the nursing home some years ago. As we were walking through the hallway, his wife stopped by a nice elderly lady to say hi. Then she told me that the lady came to the nursing home with OA so bad that she could not live independently anymore. Nursing home enrolled her in a jewelry class. In couple years, the entire population of the nursing home, plus the staff, plus the relatives of the residents had received jewelry made by her as gifts, while her OA pain was gone and dexterity returned. I used exercise and movement to heal myself, too.

    Many things are reversible. Our bodies can heal if we give our minds proper healing.

    People on this forum are incredibly generous with advice and support, which means that you can ask questions and they will answer. Best of luck to you!
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  6. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I used to believe a lot of the stuff you have down here. All I can say is Bon Apetit. When You have had enough, give me a PM and we can chat. I too used to cling to that "But I made a vow... I am indestructo ethical superhero" But... there was a lot more in that vow than just YOUR portion. In american law, when one side doesn't fulfill it's portion of a contract, the contract is null and void.

    I went through a lot of what You have .... got laid off in 2009 or so... lost my stuff, my money, everything I had worked for and my wife left me in 2011. Ended up sleeping on couches and in my van. No spite, no cheating, no violence, or serious problems other than our income was lowered.... I guess she didn't really listen to that "for richer, for poorer" part very seriously?

    BUT this is a TMS forum. I had many attempted TMS attacks during that time as it was enraging to every fiber of my being BUT none of them ever got any purchase because I kept doing the work.... kept writing, and any time any symptom showed up , it was dealt with squarely and was not allowed to move in. I have all sorts of 'anomalies' and still manage to live a painfree and, to me, worthwhile life. I have all sorts of uglies from being a grunt most of my life... fingers squared off from being in Lime (mortar)... perma swollen ugly knee from using it as a pad....sometimes my hands are so swollen I can't play guitar well for a few days after a job... but no pain.

    I am always a little confused when I read a story like yours... You say "I do believe" ? You had some respite from Back pain and then immediately 'believed' all of these other maladies? I got well reading the book, but when other stuff came along, I recognized from what I had learned that it was filling the same purpose... shoulder, knee, hands, skin problems, Anxiety and OCD like symptoms, chronic illness's (colds and flu type)...all of it was filling the same 'slot' in my mind as the pain. The usual giveaway was, it was scary, distracting and the TIMING was precious!

    I have met a few people like you.... their backs got better but then there shoulder or knee was "real" and they went off and had surgery. Virtually every one of them was in a really painful relationship (like yours) that they did not have the ability to break out of or confront. Sarno wrote about several of these in his books... too many for me to list right here.

    I will give you time, and my ear if you want to PM me, but Be warned! I am not a fluffy kitty and if you have a booger in your nose, I will tell you about it.... that's what REAL friends do for each other.
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  7. Northwood

    Northwood Well known member

    About eight years ago I began to get strange stiffness in both of my hands. I wound up seeing a Rheumatologist and was diagnosed with RA. I went on meds for a while, then went off of them when the condition curiously went away (and didn't return). The rheumatologist was puzzled and amazed. As I consider this through what I know now about TMS, I think what I was experiencing was a manifestation of this syndrome, along with migraines during that time. The "RA" went away after the diagnosis just as the migraines diminished with therapy. Meanwhile, my TMA go-to (my "drug" of choice) has persisted: a continual experience of pain shifting through the postural muscles and (I hope) enduring nerve pain in my right foot which for years has dialed up and down unaccountably. At the time of my RA episode I was much more athletic and very focused on the limitations and pain in my body. (I could call that stretch of my life my "PT Years.") Maybe all the back pain was enough to fit the bill and RA was merely unprofitable overkill for my TMS. My point is, as I've begun to look at my health through a mindbody perspective, I'm beginning to recognize connections I hadn't been able to see before. Much of my physical misery has its roots in a profound sense of inadequacy and bottomless unconscious rage about carrying around that sense for most of my life. It's so true what Steve O says about the unconscious being UN-conscious: we just can't see the extent to which our repressed emotions are being transmogrified into crippling physical pain. That's what makes undoing TMS such a big project. On the way to retiring my pain, I'm having to do a lot of soul work through the back door.
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  8. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for this post, @Northwood, and a big thank you to @TG957 for finding your post for me, which I really needed right now!

    I experienced sudden joint pain and swelling in my hands and wrists, plus flaring bunions on my feet, in mid-April. I can see now that I should have been much more alarmed at the severity of the pain and symptoms, but I figured it was TMS and brushed it off. All I was doing was writing for about ten minutes every night, and doing the Daily Calm on the Calm meditation app most mornings. I really assumed that my belief in and knowledge of TMS would allow it to go away. (side note - TG recently mentioned to me how us old-time TMSers may be guilty of a somewhat cavalier attitude when it comes to our own symptoms - and I think she hit the nail on the head).

    But the pain and disability kept getting worse at each flare-up, which was every few days. After a month of this I realized it had to be an inflammatory stress response, obviously resulting from the pandemic, and that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to try to ignore it - which was getting hard to do - I was finally becoming alarmed. So I did two things: 1) I made a serious commitment to meditation, and 2) I called my doctor - just to be sure, as we always recommend. She took my symptoms VERY seriously and had me go in for a bunch of blood tests and x-rays of my hands.

    The good news is there is no sign of joint damage - yet - which confirms my belief that this is recent. The bad news is that I've got several markers indicating an inflammatory and auto-immune response, which mean that I'm well on my way to full-blown RA - UNLESS... unless I can put a stop to it. I have read that there are remissions - apparently only about 10%, but I don't see why I can't be one of the 10%, right? This was sudden, and the timing along with COVID simply can't be coincidental. I had a really stressful month in April due to a volunteer project related to COVID logistics, and my nervous system is kind of trashed.

    The connection between stress and inflammation is well-known, so I'm going to work on it and visualize it and do my damnedest to beat this. I already re-read @TG957's book, I've decided to up my meditation game with a subscription to Ten Percent Happier (with some really awesome teachers and COVID-specific content) and, well, we'll see, right?

    Wishing peace for us all,

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  9. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Love you, @JanAtheCPA ! You are always looking at the brighter side of things! Fingers crossed - hope this will be behind you as another TMS tale to tell!
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  10. LaughingKat

    LaughingKat Peer Supporter

    Thank you for sharing that story, @JanAtheCPA. I believe in you -- if anyone can do this, you can! You also have some seriously good karma in your favor, based on all the help you have given others here. I'll be sending you healing wishes.
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  11. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

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  12. Northwood

    Northwood Well known member

    I've been one of those 10%, for I had the RA markers. I can't explain why the RA I was experiencing went into remission. I can only conjecture (as I did in my earlier post); let's say, for sure, more grace than enlightenment. My mother has RA--and she is a highly stressed person who suffered an abusive marriage and has fallen into profound depression -- so that background has likely been a factor in exacerbating her disease. Through my parents, I have watched what emotionally painful lives can do to people's bodies. I've seen that play out in both my parents, notably my father who just died after a period of excruciating pain brought on by living a largely unconscious life (a life unwilling to look inward). By contrast, you're a person who looks inward and knows her own landscape. That is so encouraging. You have momentum with your intuition. That's a powerful healing tool in your favor.
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