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Introduction (long post)

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by gitch, Jun 3, 2016.

  1. gitch

    gitch Peer Supporter

    Hi all

    I thought I'd write a post here to introduce myself. I'm a 37 year-old male from New Zealand, and have very recently read Dr Sarno's book Healing Back Pain. It absolutely is me.

    For a bit of background... In 2012, I found out that my wife at the time had been having an affair. That was completely devastating, and caused all sorts of emotional turmoil. Not too long after that, I began to notice pain in my thoracic spine after sleeping, and when sitting. I decided it must be because of the fact I work in a desk job, and made a conscious effort to become more active. I joined a gym, and had a fitness assessment done, which determined my posture wasn't great. So I focused my training around flexibility and posture correction, rather than weights or cardio. Over time, the pain subsided. Guess what I thought had fixed it? :)

    Fast forward to the beginning of 2015, when I discovered that the affair in 2012 was far from her last. Long story short, we separated in early February 2015. She took half of the possessions, leaving me with no bed. So I bought a secondhand bed which had a very hard mattress. I was fine on that for just over a week, then came the back pain again. I tried everything I could to soften that bed. In the end, I bought a new mattress, which wasn't cheap either. It took a long time for my pain to improve, but it did. Although it never went away.

    In about June last year, I decided I'd had enough, so went to see a physiotherapist. She had a pretty good idea about back pain, but just didn't connect the dots. A couple of things she said to me stood out. First, that pain can be caused by stress and life-changing events. And secondly, she said they have done studies about pain and have found that it all originates in the brain - even when you have an injury, the source of the pain is entirely in the brain. I can see now she was gently trying to get my mind to flirt with the idea that my pain may not be structural at all. But of course, she gave me some exercises to do. They helped. At the follow up visit, she gave me more, they helped too. Until I went through a period of high stress, and the pain came back. It was at that point that I began to put two and two together, and began to question how even though I was doing all the right exercises and stretches, I was suddenly experiencing pain. Nonetheless, I still saw my pain as something physical, that was somehow aggravated by stress.

    Over time, it got better again. But it reared its ugly head again just before Christmas 2015. I was also seeing my doctor for what was later diagnosed as Ulcerative Colitis (I've read it is unrelated to TMS, although the jury is still out for me as the timing coincides with everything else I went through last year). No matter which doctors I told about my back, none seemed particularly interested.

    The pain when sitting was a right nuisance, but the more debilitating pain was what I felt at night. I was waking up most nights at about 3 or 4am in pain, and when I'd move in certain ways, it would literally make me scream it was that bad. Get up, walk around, and within a couple of hours, it was all but gone (provided I didn't sit).

    My GP eventually referred me for an x-ray, which found no abnormalities. I 'conquered' the nighttime issues and subsequent sleep deprivation when I discovered I could sleep on the sofa without any issues. Of course, I then decided it had to be my mattress. Overall, the underlying issue was still there. Too long sitting, or too many consecutive nights on the wrong bed, and it was back with a vengeance. I tried exercises, massage, a more supportive pillow, deep tissue massage, softer mattress toppers, standing desks, adjusting my workstation. Nothing seemed to help. I couldn't sit for longer than about 20 minutes without feeling pain, and when I sleep on anything other than my sofa, I will experience varying amounts of pain. It's been thoracic back pain, and also pain in and around the ribs, with the latter only rearing its ugly head on particularly bad days.

    I only this week discovered Dr Sarno's book, which made the whole thing make sense. The physio said it, and I've seen it - it's mental. There's been a historic link between stress and my back pain. I've tried practically everything physical there is to try, and none of it helps, so it simply has to be TMS.

    I've been doing some experiments over the past few days, trying sitting while I feel the pain, and observing how my thoughts can make the pain go away almost entirely. How can this be a physical ailment? It's not. We all know that - that's why we're here. I listened to Alan Gordon's session with Christie (on the recovery program page) last night and really like his attitude. I've been adopting some of it. My attitude is a bit like Lieutenant Dan on Forrest Gump in the scene where they are on the shrimp boat in the heavy storm and he's screaming at God, patronising the apparently weak storm.. "You call this a storm!?!?!?! Show me your worst!!". I basically say to the pain "come on... show me what you've got. Is that the best you can do?". When I am about to face situations that would previously have caused pain (such as a long meeting where I sit down) I say to it beforehand "come on pain.... I dare you... I ******* dare you.". Since showing it I am no longer intimidated by it, I've found I am making great progress. For the last two nights, I've sat down on the sofa all evening, just to prove the point. It's been improving gradually each night. In weeks gone by, I would have been lying down after 30-60 minutes of sitting, so as "not to aggravate the fragile structure of my spine and give my physical ailment a chance to heal".

    My emotional changes haven't all been to do with conquering and not fearing the pain, though. I unearthed a pretty heavy issue the night I had read Dr Sarno's book, to the point that I broke down in tears like a child for a while. I think the anger I was secretly feeling was probably a big contributor to my TMS. But I didn't want to acknowledge that anger, because of what it implied. So the pain came on as a distraction. I do think that each time I've had an episode of TMS, it has come about for different reasons, so the repeat pattern is clearly a failure to connect with my emotions, and a disturbing tendency to sweep them under the rug and quite happily live in denial.

    The biggest challenge is going to be shaking the night-time pain. I'm finding the daytime pain to be far more manageable, because I can employ the more conscious, emotional approach. What my brain chooses to do while I'm asleep is completely outside my conscious control, so training my subconscious is what's going to take the time I suspect.

    This has been a very long post, I know, but I thought it would be useful to tell the story.

    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Richard,

    Welcome to the Forum! I enjoyed reading your story. One thing that strikes me is that your "beds" (including sofa) are like my shoes were for awhile: some hurt much more than others. These kind of patterns are so believable, and yet only based on conditioning.

    Everything you write sounds like a classic TMS story, including the stressful events leading to new bouts of pain. In some ways you are lucky because you can see such a clear pattern. And you're connecting a lot of this back to your physiotherapist's words. Like so many before you, you're finding all the pieces of evidence that are personal to you, and which fit Dr. Sarno's understanding. May this understanding be more and more your personal understanding! And with this understanding, less and less pain.

    Andy B
    Ellen likes this.
  3. gitch

    gitch Peer Supporter

    Thanks Andy

    It's absolutely TMS, with no doubt in my mind whatsoever. The giveaway for me has been not so much the fact that my pain when sitting has faded to no more than a background hum (since reading Dr Sarno's book), but the fact that I feel the pain come on, even when I'm standing, at exactly the same time as I start thinking negatively about certain subjects or worrying about them. There's a direct 1:1 correlation, which puts the whole thing beyond debate.

    I'm a very self-aware person, and have had an interest in psychology, stress, and anxiety for the last 15 years or so, so in many respects I feel like a duck in water in dealing with this. I've battled anxiety in many different forms over the years, and have had a fairly high success rate in getting myself to a point where things are very manageable.

    You are right that certain beds or shoes or whatever are believable patterns, but are in fact based on our own conditioning. I've pushed through the 'sitting' barrier, and am getting my mind to the point where it doesn't protest anywhere near as much about that. What I think I need is a strategy for how I will start transitioning back to sleeping in the bed again.

    I have two sons, who live with me on weekends. For the remaining five days, I have generally been sleeping on the sofa. Last weekend was actually what drove me to find and read Dr Sarno's book. The pattern went like this:

    Friday - Slept in bed. Pain was marginal
    Saturday - Slept in bed. Started on softer side of bed (with additional foam mattress toppers) but felt that it was too soft, so moved to the 'harder' (normal) side. Slept the rest of the night there, and it was the best night's sleep I'd had in ages. Woke up pain free, and enjoyed the free movement and lack of stiffness all day.
    Sunday - After Saturday night's success, I once again slept on the harder side of the bed. Pain was ok, but not brilliant
    Monday - A disaster. Woke up at 4am in agony. Stayed in bed for a while hoping the pain would go, but once I realised it wouldn't, I moved to the sofa. I couldn't sleep, so browsed the Internet on my phone looking for comments in forums about back pain when lying down. I found a post from one person suggesting Dr Sarno's work, and the rest was history.

    This weekend had a similarly stupid pattern:

    Friday - Slept in bed, pain was marginal
    Saturday - Slept in bed. Pain was barely apparent. Woke up at 6am to visit bathroom, and noticed at the time how little pain there was. Went back to sleep, and had one semi-bad dream, then woke up later at 8am, in pain.

    So I made it all the way through the night without any pain, but lost it after two hours. This makes a mockery of my old belief that pain was a product of how long I had been lying down for.

    I'm just not sure how and when I'm going to transition myself back to the bed on a permanent basis. With sitting, it was much easier, because I could rationalise the stupidity of the pain from a conscious state. I can't do that when I'm asleep, and also, when it fails, I ruin my sleep, which consequently affects me all day the next day. It's hard not to live in fear of the pain at nights during the week as a result. Maybe this is why I'm getting stuck during the weeks while being largely fine on weekends.
  4. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hello Richard,

    Don't worry about the long post because the backstory makes it easier for folk to share constructive thoughts. Interesting to note you have a healthy interest in psychology. I have a degree in the subject so the tms theory was pretty much a no-brainer...however it is a slippery little beggar with a penchant for mind******. It makes fools out of sages, sages out of fools.

    I've found that once pain becomes random, you're locking horns with tms. You've busted its strategy of a=a so it moves onto a=b. You'll lose all reason before it's halfway through the alphabet. I know you want it to make sense so you can make headway. I'm just saying you can literally waste years with that approach.

    Far and away the best thing I have found is to employ the rage to soothe ratio. I engage in pleasurable activities regardless of my pain levels. Some people seem able to fight through and force themselves through the tough times but I can't. I have to gentle and soothe and treat myself nicely. I've had enough hard times, now I nurture myself.

    I do like the fighting talk you use to engage your pain. I favour that too. Mostly though try to relax the monitoring of your pain. I've found that reinforces the association game of a=a. For example at the moment my pain is flaring and has been for a while but I couldn't tell you how long. It'll calm again. And doubtless this cycle will bob around for a bit before it calms yet more. I treat it lightly and when I can't, I don't.

    Hope some of this helps and makes sense. I've not been awake very long :)

  5. gitch

    gitch Peer Supporter

    It does make sense. Can you explain a bit more about the a=a association? Are you basically saying that, once we start to make headway over TMS, all logic goes out the window?

    I've been trying to live frugally since the start of this year. This might sound unrelated, but I do think that the way I'm running my finances isn't helping my situation. The words 'treat myself nicely' in your post struck a bit of a chord with me. Today I was doing a few things around the house aimed at making it more efficient to heat, and I noticed whenever I thought about how much it might save, or how much a particular modification might cost, I'd get a trace of pain. I think I've been putting so much pressure on myself to save save save, that it's become implied that spending is somehow a failure, and yet if I don't reduce my costs, then that too is a failure.

    Interesting little observations. First, the affair. Then the adaptation of getting used to life as a single, part-time solo parent, then stress from work... and now, the other pressure of trying to save as much as I can. The point I'm making is, there's far more than one issue here, which usually means I have to look deeper to find the root cause. Maybe the root cause is that I'm just trying too hard at life, and not taking time to just be, and to just enjoy.
  6. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'd say that's a definite yes.

    And I'd also add that I'm guessing you're an all round great bloke who does his best by his family, friends and colleagues. A classic people-pleaser. Honestly Richard a huge measure of healing comes when you recognise this in yourself and then start to (nicely) please yourself more. You don't need to change who you are or your personality, but it helps to get good with erecting boundaries.

    Look at it this way, you've been betrayed, which in itself is crap but it also entails a loss of those dreams of the future (getting old together...), you've had to move house, spend less...it's just rotten. All of it. I wish I had a magic wand and could change it overnight for you and yet weirdly this may bloom into the most amazing life possible. No manure. No pretty flowers.

    Do what you need to get through it. You've always got a shoulder to cry and a friendly ear at this place. There's also a thread on coping with tms when you have financial issues, I'll find it later for you.

    As for a=a. Yes logic goes out the window as one becomes increasingly 'superstitious'. It starts rationally enough; it's cold and my pain worsens. I haven't slept well and my pain worsens. I drink lots of wine and my pain is better. Before you know you're living in a nutshell with a list as long as your arm of things you 'simply must not do' and that's before tms gets wiggy.

    If you're a fighter; fight.
    If not, go to pleasure...go to pleasure...go to pleasure.

  7. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    mike2014 likes this.
  8. gitch

    gitch Peer Supporter

    I may have given the wrong impression with my financial situation. I'm actually not badly off at all. Apart from the fact I had to refinance my mortgage to settle the separation agreement so my ex got half of the equity on the house, I'm actually doing far better financially than I ever was while we were still married and she was spending money like it was going out of fashion. What happened was that after we separated, I WAS broke. I was genuinely that way from February 2015 until June 2015. I knew this would be the case, however, as I'd employed some pretty clever techniques to project my future balances and could see exactly when I would have things like lawyers bills and credit card debt paid off. Once I saw what I was capable of by putting my mind to it, living frugally, and saving, it kind of stuck. Since then, I have become obsessed with the idea of living very tightly, and saving as much as I can. As you said, what I went through sucked, but created so many new possibilities. I think I got a little carried away by that, and put too much effort into trying to achieve too much in a short space of time, in order to maximise my newfound freedom.

    I still believe living well within your means is the best way to be, but also think I had taken it a bit far in terms of what it meant. I saw spending ANY money as a failure.

    You're very right with the character assessment. I am all those things. That was one reason the betrayal hurt so much. I sometimes treat people better than I treat myself, and yet struggled to grasp how someone else could have so little respect for my feelings. I've since come to realise my ex is a sociopath. Realising this is what slowly helped to rationalise everything bad that had gone on in our marriage.
  9. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm so pleased you're financially sound. It's one less fish to fry as it were.

    Healing from a relationship with a sociopath takes the focus a little more from being nice to yourself through to a full on recovery of your very sense of self. Only you know how far down that road you've gone. I've experienced a long and deeply entangled relationship with a narcissist so I know well enough that it is hell on toast.

    I pretty much recovered from it by myself but in the latter stages found a couple of resources that confirmed what I'd endured and helped resolve the last bit of healing.

    Involvement with such people can be deeply traumatic and can disregulate your physiology, the hpa axis in particular (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal). This can lead to the development of a particular kind of trauma called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or cptsd.

    A survivor and now therapist and author on this is Pete Walker. I highly recommend his site. There are some very interesting articles.

    http://www.pete-walker.com/ (Pete Walker, M.A. Psychotherapy)

    And another site started by a victim of sociopathy:

    https://www.psychopathfree.com/ (Psychopath Free)

    Don't let the psychopath part bother you. It's more an umbrella term for such personality types and the discussion embraces sociopathy too.

    I don't much care for the terms victim or survivor but you understand where they're coming from. As I said, delving into this for a time helped me find 'closure'. Another expression I don't particularly like but what to do.

    Take what you want, leave the rest.

    mike2014 likes this.
  10. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    This seems like an important insight to me. Then the trick may be to see this inner activity, connect it with your symptoms as 'when I pressure myself then my Inner Child probably feels______________, and that is difficult to tolerate, so the symptoms __________ are created to distract me."

    I write all this out like A + B = C because if you can observe and inquire, and make suppositions about the real cause of your pain kind of matter of factly, then you may be less apt to pressure yourself to stop pressuring yourself! You're seeing the real cause of the pain, which can undo the pain, without having to change your personality. And, as you become more aware of the pressuring, you will do less of it in time, naturally, because it is not a pleasant inner relationship.
    mike2014 likes this.
  11. gitch

    gitch Peer Supporter

    I haven't yet worked out how to quote on here, so I'll have to just mention names.

    Plum, without even looking at either of those sites, I can almost say for certain that Complex PTSD is what I'm dealing with. I have thought on and off over the past year how what I'm going through almost feels like PTSD, but couldn't explain it due to a lack of 'trauma'. And yet some of the time, I've had symptoms of very mild depression - where things that once excited me and lit me up just don't. Where I find myself saying "you know, I spent so long in that terrible marriage, literally having dreams about the days when I lived alone, was responsible for my own money and life etc, and now I have it and I'm happy... right? I am happy aren't I? Yeah... I guess I am". Sometimes it feels genuine, but certainly not all the time.

    I know that the 'real' me is far happier with the situation now. But when I'm having a low patch, nothing put in front of me seems appealing. I'll definitely have a good read through when I have a chance. I'm not bothered by the Psychopath vs Sociopath thing. I do understand the relationship between those disorders (and even NPD) in terms of how they impact others anyway.

    After my fourth consecutive night sleeping on the bed, I once again had a painful night last night. I find it really interesting how, as was the case last week, my Ulcerative Colitis flared again this morning. A while back I noticed a correlation between a 'bad back night' and a 'bad UC morning'. And for a while, I thought the back pain was a symptom of the UC. Once again, I should mention that I know UC is reportedly unrelated to TMS, but there certainly appears to be a strong correlation between the two.

    Andy, I did a lot of inner child work when I was trying to become a better person and husband. I discovered the root of a lot of my hangups when I did that. The answer to the first question is "not quite good enough", which sums up a lot of my inner child issues right there. Pressuring myself is something I do because I don't quite think I measure up to others a lot of the time. For most of my life, I had everyone else on a pedestal, and thought of myself as a second-class citizen. It wasn't until I realised I thought that way that things began to change. But it's definitely one of my demons that will always try and find ways of creeping back.

    Pressure is effectively me forcing myself to 'fake it, despite not being all that I claim to be'. If that makes sense.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  12. MicheleRenee

    MicheleRenee Peer Supporter

    Sorry to Hijack this old thread but I just wanted to thank @plum about the whole a=a a=b approach. I've known this for my journey but sometimes on the tougher days its nice to read it and have it put in a way that is so easy to understand. I know I have TMS on the run as it's showing new symptoms, jumping around, old symptoms are barely noticeable, and all in all going biserk but when those symptoms hurt it's easy to slip into old thinking for a bit... I'm getting better with that though! and am truly proud of myself. No more 3 day wallow sessions. more like 3 minutes. Man, retraining the brain can be difficult, but I know it will be worth it in so many more ways than just pain relief. Thank you Plum, you put things so elloquently! you should write a TMS handbook haha:)
    plum likes this.
  13. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks so much for your appreciative words. I'm truly heartened to hear I've helped you make some sense of the madness because as you've noticed, being able to call time on the endless ways TMS plays its games is a great way of gifting yourself with a higher perspective, which in turn lends you a birds-eye view of the maze. TMS loses a lot of its power once you gain clarity. This insight comes and goes and comes and goes and then one day it moves in and never leaves you. That is a damn fine day.

    Well done on achieving the gains thus far. Keep your faith and keep on keeping on. You will beat this thing.

    My best to you,

    Plum x
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  14. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle


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