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is this TMS?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Melissa E, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. Melissa E

    Melissa E New Member

    Hello everyone --

    I just want to say first I'm so grateful for this forum - it's one of the few forums related to pain that doesn't leave me feeling completely hopeless!

    I'm trying to figure out if my symptoms are TMS as it's a little complicated. I got a small, 1 x 1 inch tattoo on my left ankle about six weeks ago. It was a very painful process, which I expected from an ankle tattoo, but it felt like it was almost TOO painful at times, the tattoo artist didn't make me feel super comfortable about it (I got pushed into getting it on my ankle by the artist and my boyfriend - I wanted it on my shoulder because I was afraid of how bad it would hurt on my ankle).

    Following the tattoo, I immediately had some mild aching/throbbing pain right in the arch of my foot. My tattoo also had trouble healing - it was red a lot around the edges and would dry out easily. Fear of it being infected, I took some antibiotics orally and topically. The antibiotics seemed to help a little bit not really, and the pain returned right after.

    Six weeks later, I'm having pain throughout the entire bottom of my left foot - feel likes an aching, throbbing, burning pain and it's pretty awful. It's there all the time, doesn't matter what I'm doing. It actually seems to feel a little better when I put pressure on it/when I walk, it feels worse when I'm laying down or not moving it.

    I've been to three doctors now, and returned to the tattoo artist and tattoo owner, none of which think it looks infected -- although the center of the tattoo doesn't look like it's healing properly - it looks a bit scarred and the color is faded, almost like the skin is missing there, so I'm not sure why they keep saying that.

    I've had a really bad experience with the tattoo shop over the last six weeks - someone got on their review site and posted some negative reviews about my artist saying she was unsanitary and rude, etc. although I didn't see her being unsanitary - it put me into a fear spiral for weeks that I had HIV/Hep C. I recently was tested for the HIV and it was negative as was Hep, although the Hep won't show up for months. The owner of the shop thought it was me posting the negative reviews because I was complaining of pain and poor healing, and somehow thought it would be appropriate to post my contact information in response to each of the reviews along with a copy of my driver's license. I spent weeks calling and e-mailing the shop demanding my info to be taken down, they just kept posting it, calling me names in the review, etc. I had to finally consult with a lawyer who said they were breaking the law and they took everything down finally. This was a week ago.

    The tattoo itself was traumatic. The aftermath of the tattoo with the pain, fear of having infection and emotional abuse from the tattoo shop was also traumatic in alot of ways. I have pre-existing OCD so believing the tattoo wasn't properly applied and wasn't sanitary because of those reviews left me in horrible fear the last several weeks. Although they have stopped posting my info now, my tattoo artist showed me her health certification and that the reviews were probably fake, and doctors don't think it's infected, I'm still skeptical. It still hasn't completely healed 6 weeks later and the pain in my foot is about a 10/10 now, it feels a lot like CRPS.

    My question is could any of this be TMS? Can slow wound healing be TMS? Could the pain be unrelated? Everyone keeps telling me that a tattoo shouldn't cause pain like this, unless it's infected. I still think the center looks infected because it's reddish and looks like the skin hasn't regenerated, but none of the doctors or tattoo artist seems to think so. I'm not sure if I should get a 4th doctor's opinion on whether it's infected, but I know it's hard to accept anything other than a structural cause right now.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Melissa, I'm horrified by your experience, and glad that you found our site - because I've firmly believed for a long time that TMS knowledge and belief can help to relieve all kinds of suffering, even when they are the result of injury and illness.

    Not only that, there is a growing body of evidence that a mental and emotional focus on healing, rather than on suffering and worrying, can result in a faster recovery from all kinds of conditions. The most stunning study I ever read about this was focused on serious burn victims. Burn victims who had a positive outlook, who focused their energies on what they could do to help their own recovery, did much better, faster, than patients who maintained a negative outlook, who focused their energies on victimhood and blame. Fascinating and inspiring!

    So - the good news, of course, is that you've seen three medical doctors who are certain that the tattoo site is not infected, even though they can't figure out why you're having pain. Generally speaking, that is the definition of what we conveniently call TMS. I would put your situation well beyond the typical long-term pain and other conditions that were originally described by Dr. Sarno. I'm thinking more about what I learned by reading a book called "When The Body Says No", by another MD, Dr. Gabor Mate. Dr. Mate describes, in technical terms that I can't actually follow (I'm a tax accountant, and I barely passed "Physiology for non-majors" when I was in school decades ago) how all kinds of emotional stress can negatively affect every system in our bodies.

    Infection aside, since the docs reject that - what do you think of the possibility that the tattoo site isn't healing normally due to some kind of physiological abnormality, brought on by stress? Is there any danger if you assume that this might be the case? That's something that only you can decide - but it's not like you're being offered any other choices at this point. So you might as well plunge in and go at it from a completely different point of view.

    I don't need to advise you to keep an eye on the tattoo - you're doing so right now, to the point of very stressful obsession, as you well know. As long as you're doing that, I think that additionally learning about TMS can't hurt - and most of us have discovered that TMS knowledge affects a lot more than the particular issue we arrived with - it turns into life-long knowledge that is incredibly beneficial now and far into the future.

    So, as you look around our site, and consider doing one of the free programs, how about some immediate self-soothing and healing visualization with a home remedy? I'm thinking about hot compresses. Is there any reason why that would be contra-indicated on the tattoo? I've used hot compresses or hot soaking for all kinds of things that could become infected, mostly ingrown nails and paper cuts (as an accountant, paper cuts are inevitable, but you wouldn't believe how red and irritated a paper cut can become if it's ignored!) Last summer, a friend and I were on a trip, and she was really worried that her heel was infected - it had been overly-exfoliated during a pedicure the day before, and it was raw and getting more painful by the minute. I had her soak her heel several times during the evening in hot water (it should be hot, but of course not at the risk of burns). Her heel was immensely better the next morning, and never became infected.

    I'm not sure why this works - it may have similar properties for healing as using a hot pad for sore muscles - stimulating blood flow, which is always good for healing. I think that the heat might also kill possible bacteria, so it's helping your immune system to fight off infection. And, it just plain feels good, which is where the self-soothing comes in. And by doing something for yourself, you're helping to visualize yourself healing, which is what this work is all about - using your mind to help heal yourself.

    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    I found the post I made about the burn victims - interestingly, there was a follow-up comment by a member about forgiveness. Which led me to wonder how much of your experience has to do with your feelings about your boyfriend's role? The mechanism of TMS could be giving you all of this pain rather than face some negative emotions about what happened and how he let it happen - as well as his role afterwards (since you don't mention that at all).

    That's just a wild guess, of course. It's certainly an example of how TMS might work.

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/awesome-new-article-on-salon-about-the-power-of-the-mind.9565/#post-50855 (Awesome new article on Salon about the power of the mind)
  4. birder

    birder Well known member

    Melissa, I'm a new member too, but not new to tattoos. You've done everything right by having the tattoo site thoroughly checked for infection or other complications. Six weeks is still pretty new in the life of a tattoo. It can (and usually does) take even longer to settle down, and even then it's not considered fully healed for six months or more, depending on the design and complexity. Tattoos go through many stages during the healing process and it's normal for them to look dull or dry. Mine were red around the edges for a long time.
    You're absolutely right that the ankle can be a painful site to tattoo, simply because there's not a lot of meat there - and the area, as you've discovered, has a ton of nerve endings. Plus gravity and the rubbing of pants and socks can keep things "live" when you just want to forget about it and be DONE with it. But that's been tough given all the drama surrounding your artist (never, never go there again, lol).
    I believe you'll turn the corner very soon and put this behind you - especially if you're able to stop focusing on it. C'mon, tell the truth now, you check it multiple times a day, right? Google it? Lie awake at night thinking about it? Show it to people to get their opinion? Been there, done that.
    Once it's healed, get yourself a kickass tat on your shoulder that looks just the way you dreamed it would. At a different shop.
  5. birder

    birder Well known member

    Oh, and what art did you go with? Pic?
  6. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Haha - shows how much I know about tattoos - which is zero. But wow, the people at the shop should know enough to be able to explain this. Dang.

    So, a lot less worry about the tattoo site itself, which is a relief. But Birder, what about Melissa's foot pain? I'm thinking it's likely to be TMS.
  7. birder

    birder Well known member

    I agree with you, Jan. Under the circumstances - which were over-the-top stressful - seems like TMS would move right in.
  8. Melissa E

    Melissa E New Member

    Thank you all for your responses and support :) It was really comforting! It's funny because my foot pain stopped for a few days when I was vacationing in Denver over the weekend and came back with a vengeance when I got back to work, and now I have a ton of other symptoms too! Burning/tingling in hands, feet, and legs - muscle pain and soreness literally throughout my entire body it seems, chest tightness, trouble breathing, headache, digestion issues - what is this madness?! My brain of course is like did this tattoo trigger an autoimmune response or something? It's so many symptoms at once!
  9. birder

    birder Well known member

    I'm going to let the more experienced TMSers weigh in on this, and just say - ouch! If you've spent some time on this site, especially in the Success Stories, you'll notice that multiple symptoms are the norm, not the exception. I'll match your digestion issues - and raise you jaw pain, haha. Better on vacation, then bam, worse when you're back at work? Stress can do exactly that to you. Sounds like you're in "fight or flight" mode. What do you do for relaxation?
  10. Melissa E

    Melissa E New Member

    Hey guys- I just wanted to update you guys on how things have been. My pain stopped completely in March, minus a little ache in the arch when I bent it. For the next couple of months after I rock climbed, wore heels, ran on a treadmill, everything was fine. But then beginning of May, I was walking to a training and I wore some somewhat painful heels and felt almost like it pulled a muscle in the left arch of my foot. It's been a month and the pain is getting worse and has been feeling like it did before. I'm trying to think TMS because the pain stopped for a few months, but I can't shake that I did something wrong to my foot when I wore those heels. I'm curious as to anyone's thoughts? Thank you!
  11. birder

    birder Well known member

    That's a great update, Melissa! Sounds like you're really on the right track, and that this latest symptom is just your brain saying, "Hey, remember me?" If you haven't tried journaling, that may really help. Sometimes releasing those dark inner emotions on paper and then tearing them up can be incredibly beneficial.
    Lainey likes this.

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