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My Story: Life with/out Papa

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by BruceMC, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    From reading Levine's Waking the Tiger, I can see now that my TMS pain originated in the trauma of a horrendous fall I took out bouldering one night just after I took a new technical writing job at Tektronix Corp. in 1989. I recall being really mad that night about getting suckered out of my old job into a new position and finding out it was really a step down in the world, so after work I went out climbing when the rock was still wet (subconsciously looking for trouble?). At the top of a problem, my foot slipped on a wet patch and I fell 25 ft onto hard rock, fracturing the occipital lobe of my skull and breaking my nose when I pitched forward after shattering the calcaneous (heel) in my left leg into hundreds of pieces. Well, the pain, as you might imagine was excruciating, but I recovered after 6 months of physical therapy and returned to full activity via a rigorous program of bicycle riding. About two years later, I didn't have any pain, could hike and climb again. In fact, I went on to new heights of athletic and professional achievement, motivated no doubt by my intense desire to overcome my injuries. However, I realize now that the trauma of this horrendous accident remained programmed into the pain pathways on the left side of my body. But I was very self-reliant, crawled through the rain 200 yards to my car and drove myself to Stanford U. ER and did a self-admit. Just remember: It's not going to be a good day if you can look into the rear view mirror and see you skull in the reflection!

    Then, in January 2001, my mother, who had always served as my emotional support, died after I had been taking care of her in an retirement home, working two jobs and managing a host of wrongful death lawsuits associated with my tyrannical father's death from mesothelioma in March 1997. Well, to make a long story short, about six months after my mother's death, when I inherited my parent's house and assets in Belmont, California, I started to experience sciatica while out running. Every day it got worse, but I thought it was a hamstring pull and just kept running and stretching my leg. Well, one night I came back home from running and started stretching in the jacuzzi in the backyard (the same one I had bought for my mother when she came home to visit from the retirement home on weekends - a psychologically loaded object no doubt!). Then, I experienced what Dr. Sarno describes as a massive back attack in my lower left lumbar region and what my old family doctor, James Buckley, diagnosed as a "herniated disk" between L3 and L4. At the time, I accepted the conventional physical diagnosis and went into PT for over a year, at the end of which the pain began to subside. I never stopped to think that the pain was on the same side as my old injury or that it released its hold on me shortly after a large check arrived as part of the settlement from my father's wrongful death lawsuit. Well, I bought a new titanium road bike and started rigorous training again in the climbing gym thinking my back pain problems were a thing of the past. Occasionally, there would be a twinges in the lower lumbar region, but I never stopped to consider that they occurred when I was under some kind of psychological stress, like having to go to an author's party in Berkeley to celebrate an article I published in Bay Nature magazine, or when I was offered a position teaching at a junior college, but had to make a long trip for the interview. Then, the back pain would start up mysteriously, preventing me from taking the drive up to the far north of California.

    Then, sometime in 2007, after breaking up with a ballet dancer (my father had always worshiped ballet dancers) in San Francisco, I took a fall out running on the game preserve near my house, flying through the air and landing after 20 ft on my left butt cheek. Well, I dusted myself off and ran in 1.5 miles, so I assumed I wasn't hurt. However, about three days later, while out hiking, I started to notice a little stinging in my sciatic nerve, which spread day by day until it enveloped my whole left side. When I couldn't stand on that side anymore, I went into Dr. Buckley who diagnosed hematoma and gave me a prescription for pain pills. However, there was no swelling, no redness, no bruise although I was in such intense pain I couldn't stand up, sit down or put on my socks. Well, about a year into conventional PT that also included Pilates on the reformer and cadillac machines, I discovered Healing Back Pain by Dr. John E. Sarno. In the three years since then, I have gradually come back from complete immobility to a full range of physical activities again. I guess I'm a slow learner, but looking back over these three years I can see an amazing improvement. My pain level is down at least 85%. I'm weight lifting, bouldering and road biking with more and more weight, for longer periods of time, and for greater distances. That's not to say that it's been really easy and without a lot of mental and physical anguish. Working my way through the structured program on this Wiki resulted in another level of improvement too. But I still I can feel at the back of my mind the fear of another relapse, so I guess I'm not completely cured yet and have to keep working at it?

    Of course, I was picked on in elementary school and high school by the hoods and under-achieving bullies who didn't like me for being bookish, introverted and smart. And my parent's relationship was conflicted, even macho-sadistic, in the extreme. And as a child and adolescent, not surprisingly, I had a host of TMS-equivalent disorders like allergies, asthma and various rashes. As a result of the tremendous pressure put on by my tyrannical, belittling father, I have the classic TMS personality traits of over-achieving compulsive perfectionism. I can even recall back when I was 6 years old, my father paraphrasing for me the whole doctrine of the Nietzschean Superman, indicating that this was my approved path. Of course, this was also tinged with his own sense of inferiority and intense hatred of his own mother for placing him in a Catholic orphanage in Denver in 1934 during the Great Depression. When he disapproved of anything I did he said I was being worthless and stupid like my mother. Too much to note down here without writing a triple-decker autobiography, but this is a pretty good beginning sketch of my background.

    However, when I look back over this biographical sketch, I find there is one important detail I have left out (traumatic aphasia/amnesia?). Certainly, that fall I took in 1989/90 activitated a lot of nerve pain pathways and traumatized me as any catastrophic accident would. But back in 1979, when I returned "home" to live in my parent's house, the conflict I had with my father undoubtedly left me with unresolved emotional problems. My late father, who had been looking into corruption in the local union where he was an officer, lost an election where he was trying to kick out the bad apples with his own slate of candidates. Well, to teach him a lesson, a group of goons beat him up in a local bar. I still remember him laying in bed with two black eyes and broken ribs. Well, he took matters into his own hands, got a gun and went down to settle affairs. My mother called the police and they disarmed him en route, so nothing happened. But his rivals busted him and demoted him and made sure he never worked again as a foreman or union officer. It was in the aftermath of this terrible beating that we started fighting one night when my mother was away visiting relatives. Well, he pulled the gun on me, threw me out of the house, and made me justify my existence out on the front porch. I took off and lived on the streets in my car until I caught a cold and came down with pneumonia. My mother found me, took me back into the family home, got me a doctor, and nursed me back to health. But the father-son thing, needless to say, was never the same. I recollect now that the first time I ever had any sciatic pain in my left leg was not after my climbing accident, but when I took a 35 mile run in 1981, and on the way back my left knee went numb in very much the same way as it did in 2001 after the death of my mother. Then, in 1987, when I was on a long 8-day climb in Yosemite, after standing on my left leg for hours to drill a bolt, the next day my left whole left leg went numb for a couple of hours. I regarded both the 35-mile run and the super climb on Mt Watkins as attempts to restore my damaged masculine self-esteem. It sounds as though the unresolved emotional issues standing behind my TMS pain on the left side were already in place long before the catastrophic accident of 1989/90 and really emanated from self-esteem issues involving my ambivalent relationship with my abusive father that I'd repressed with varying degrees of success for years and years until they boiled over following my mother's death in January 2001. Can't quite understand why my TMS pain always occurred on the left side though, but it's interesting to note that all of my accidents and aches and pains have always been on that side: torn rotator cuff - left arm, dislocated shoulder - left shoulder, herniated disk - left lower lumbar between L3/L4, sciatica - left leg and knee, broken heel - left foot, skinned knee in bicycle accident - left knee with road rash, numbness - in left knee on ultra marathon. What it suggests to me is that I have some kind of left brain/right brain imbalance brought on by an internalized conflict between my maternal and paternal halves. Too, too many coincidences for there not to be something real behind that analysis! What Levine says about traumatic reenactment also seems very true in my case. The original traumatic confrontation with my late father produced a ripple effect throughout my life of subsequent traumatic reenactments in an effort to resolve the original emotions left over from the original traumatic event. Quite interesting if you can look at the whole sequence from a detached perspective.
    linnyc87, Celayne, thech1mp and 6 others like this.
  2. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    MorComm, thank you so much for sharing this. It is a testament to this approach that you were able to go from severe pain to being very active now. While it is sad to hear that you had such a tough upbringing, I am glad to hear that you have been able to connect past events and emotions to your TMS symptoms. This is a major part of recovering from TMS and it sounds like you no longer have fear of your symptoms. To me that is what recovery really is: no longer being limited or afraid of our symptoms. Your story shows that we regain our lives back and be active again.

    Thanks for sharing
    3rdCoast likes this.
  3. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Forest,when I put on a new pair of shoes yesterday, and they pinched my heel where I broke it and started a sequence of pain on my left side, I just said to myself, "BS. You can't fool me!" And today it's gone overnight. But it sure takes a lot of mental work to get to the point that you recognize the trickery and not fall for it and be able to say, "Sure it hurts but it's going to go away because it's baloney".
  4. patrickelvin

    patrickelvin New Member

    wow what a story ! newly arrived in these fora I feel far too normal to be able to identify with this sort of traumatic past , although I have very similar pain symptoms . At least in your case it has been easy to identify the tensions and traumas of your past to help you combat the TMS . Best of luck in th e future
  5. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    When I look at this today through the lens of TMS healing, I see that my sciatica and lower back pain all had a simple explanation: Ambivalent feelings about my dominating parents that came uncorked after they died. While they were alive I was able to keep using the same emotionally repressive strategies I had used to deal with my relationship with them from the time I was a little kid. But when they died, those old repressed emotions started to surface and rather than deal with them I unconsciously elected to have TMS pain instead. What is that Dr Sarno says about TMS pain being a distraction from overwhelming emotions you'd rather not confront directly? It seems that one way of understanding and curing your TMS is being able to make a very simplified statement about your emotional situation. Might take you years of over-analysis though! That is, unless you find a very perceptive therapist like Alan Gordon or Howard Schubiner who can cut through all the over-intellectual self-analysis.
    Saoirse likes this.
  6. 3rdCoast

    3rdCoast Peer Supporter

    BruceMC, this is a masterfully written story that grants a lot of inspiration. Stepping back from your life to gain the perspective you've achieved is not easily done. You bring up a lot of interesting points. Glad you're on the other side of so much.

    The idea I'll call amplified injury is especially on topic for me today. I rolled my ankle. Not super-bad. But yes, rolled it. Pre-TMS I probably would've blown it off. Hobbled if necessary and moved on, expecting to heal in a few days or so. But with TMS, I started monitoring the ankle area, expecting significant pain, which I now have. Plus I was furious since I'd just rolled it more severely four months ago. Neural links must be there. Now I'm worried about re-injury and a long slog recovery. Is my body overreacting? It must be. Low back is my main pain area but I wonder if others notice smaller day-to-day injuries getting amped up by TMS to a ridiculous degree? The way you were able to shut down your heel pain was great!

    Also, it's reassuring to hear from someone for whom it took a while to overcome TMS. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the milestones you continue to achieve.
  7. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well, if you accept Dr Sarno's theory about TMS symptoms being caused by ischemia (lowered oxygen), it seems that anyone with TMS can have episodes of lowered oxygen supply during which it's a lot easier to get really physically injured. A couple of days ago I went for a longish up and downhill hike on a game preserve near here and afterwards - although I did very, very well on the hike itself - my TMS symptoms went up a notch. Well, yesterday in the gym I pulled or slightly tore a rotator cuff tendon on my left side (the same side I always get my TMS symptoms). Sounds like the TMS flare up could have been accompanied by a reduction in oxygen to my tendons, ligaments, nerves, which could have made it easier for me to pull or tear my rotator cuff while doing pull ups. Since that's my pattern, I always suspect that any new ache or pain or rash on that side is probably TMS in its origin. Wish someone could design an experiment to test my hypothesis!
    Markus likes this.
  8. lexylucy

    lexylucy Well known member

    What a wonderful story!!! My first time reading!! :)

    I like the connection you made - how your father was trying to "protect you" from landing in an orphanage by becoming perfect. A superman.

    It is those "protective" instincts that can cause the most harm-- in our parents and loved ones...but also from our own brains..

    Isn't that what TMS is?? A form of "protection?"

    Protecting us from feeling our feelings by driving us mad and causing intense pain and physical suffering.

    Today for me it is a daily practice of telling myself---I can handle my feelings...it's ok to feel...

    Thanks for your help on the chat today,

    Miss Lucy
    linnyc87 and BruceMC like this.
  9. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi BruceMC,

    Great to read your story. I love the quote above. When the actual "objects" --which you represented in your inner relationships-- died, it was harder to continue these old inner relationships in the same old way. Fascinating insight.

    You address a lot of history, which you have connected to TMS. To me, the more pertinent part is "How do I treat myself in the present moment?" which you touched on some. I guess your help from Alan and Howard have helped you see more, and treat yourself better over time.

    Thanks for your in-depth story. It was a good read, and an inspiration to many, I'm sure. Good luck with your TMS work. Gosh, you are a trooper.

    Andy B.
    BruceMC and lexylucy like this.
  10. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    "unconsciously elected" - So much deeply buried in that choice of words!
    lexylucy likes this.
  11. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    You sure hit the nail on the head, Miss Lucy!
  12. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for sharing your story and insights Bruce. I miss hearing your wise and melodious tones, when I used to dial into the book reviews.
  13. RChandler

    RChandler Newcomer

    Bruce, fantastic story and analysis. It really helps me know what aspects of my life to focus on, especially the comment about "being able to make a very simplified statement about your emotional situation."

    To your and Lucy's discussion on the body "protecting" itself, after I read my first book by Dr. Sarno, I had the idea that this actually makes perfect sense as an evolutionary trait that would increase survivability in groups. Humans are social animals, and really can only survive in groups. Before language and culture developed to the point where you could "express your feelings", especially far into the past where there may not have been any complex language at all, you only had 2 choices if you were upset - fight, or run away. Neither of those is useful if you want to stay in your group and survive.

    Let's say you become extremely angry at the Alpha-Male in your group. You can fight him and most likely die of injuries, you can leave the group and most likely die trying to survive alone, or you can repress the emotions.

    Besides surviving longer (and passing down this tendency to your children), another added benefit of repressing emotions is that you become "sick" and get sympathy from the rest of your group. The Alpha-Male you wanted to fight with now has to help take care of you, and perhaps even act kindly towards you. It's not only a way to avoid a fight and stay with your tribe, it's always a way to make the object of your anger be in service to you, thus in a round-about way, usurping their power and making you "feel" good.

    Also interesting that this effects the perfectionist personality type from the perspective of survival. Perfectionists will be much more useful to a group if they are out there trying to achieve better and better results in hunting, building, etc. (in things that help the entire group), than if they were trying to take down the alpha-male and lead the group themselves. No one likes to be lead by a perfectionist since their tendency to put their perfect expectations on others can lead to exasperation and a lack of group cohesion.

    So at one point, this was probably an emotional strategy that helped humans survive much better. Now of course, it is not only useless, but harmful to individual survival.

    You could even try thanking your body for trying to help you survive, but then tell it, "No thanks, I don't need that strategy any more. It doesn't work."
    Lizzy and Saoirse like this.
  14. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    You might want to glance at what Robert Sapolsky has to say about the development of hierarchy in baboon society:

  15. Saoirse

    Saoirse Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much for this post, it has made so much sense from my own perspective .I feel like a mirror of many of your issues, childhood bullying , asthma, allergies , a father in my case who never cared enough about us to talk to or get to know and who worked in a different country coming home with a bleak week of misery and fear every 6 weeks. My mum was I think bi polar diagnosed with prescription drug issues back from the 60's and was violent and enotionally abusive but loved us and we loved her; she was amazing or dreadful we just never knew which until it happened. Your sentence about after they dies really struck a chord , my Mam dies 3 years ago and my TMS escalated and I started to remember lots of awful stuff from childhood and became angry with her and missed her at the same time. When she was alive I bottled all the emotions up and dedicated myself to making her happy I repressed my feelings and never looked to my emotional health . When she died 15 years after my Dad all the repressed emotions started to shift and my TMS took the brunt with the increase in pain . Thanks you so much your story is inspirational and I hope to have your success one day like you I know it will take a while as there is a lot of stuff but thats ok I will get there. God Bless xx
    BruceMC likes this.
  16. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Saoirse, I'm afraid "daddy punishes" - "mommy forgives" is a pervasive archetype in Western (and perhaps all?) cultures. One response to that paradigm is certainly TMS and pain symptoms. Even after my Ah Hah moment, understanding what was causing my symptoms, there still remains much psychological work to do, especially now that I've been getting ready to sell my parents' old house. Confronting the past and emotionally charged objects is never easy. However, I notice that my TMS symptoms have continued to subside after the moment of perception I chronicled in my story about life without dad. Healing does work, but it's always an ongoing process you have to pay close attention to so that you don't regress.
    Saoirse likes this.
  17. thech1mp

    thech1mp New Member

    Amazing story Bruce. You have been through so much, really inspirational.

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