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My Story So Far

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by David85, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. David85

    David85 Peer Supporter

    I just finished up writing my story and thought I'd repost it here from my profile page. Thanks for reading!

    One spring day while I was in my mid-twenties I came down with back pain. After a few days I began to try treating it with stretching exercises my parents suggested. Finally, after about 3 weeks, I went to the doctor. They referred my to physical therapy. At PT they recommended a new stretch, much like the cobra in yoga, that I was to do something like 70 times per day. When I didn't see any change in my pain, I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life. She was a wonderful lady, but unfortunately the treatments did nothing for my pain. By this point I was starting to get confused and discouraged. I had also developed neck pain and was using lumbar supports while driving and at work. I was doing some research on my own and stumbled across John's Sarno's book Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, written in 1991. Some of the books points started to resonate with me and I wondered if there could be some connection between psychological issues & the pain. I contacted a therapist I had seen in the past and she recommended a clinic that takes a holistic approach to pain. I began going there in early summer for more physical therapy coupled with visits with a psychologist. I didn't find much relief. While the psychologist was trained in mind-body medicine, looking back I don't believe his personality & approach to therapy was a good stylistic fit for me. Over the second half of summer I actually did seem to find my pain tempering- I don't attribute it so much to the work I was doing at the clinic but instead being fed up with the time & money I had spent at the clinic & elsewhere. I remember almost being exhausted trying to treat my back, and strangely at this point the pain started to subside as well. It's almost as if needed to believe I was getting better so that I could discontinue my sessions at the pain clinic.

    That fall I visited a physical therapy clinic that I had scheduled back in July because it had a two-month waiting list. This place was recommended by multiple friends as a "miracle worker". They are highly regarded and do work for a number of Olympic and other high class athletes. While I appreciated the quality of the care, by that point my pain had mostly subsided, and the adjustments I received didn't seem to make much of a difference. Since it was September my mind became occupied with fantasy football, and I had become pain free and put the episode behind me.

    However, early the next year the back pain returned. I decided to see an orthopedic clinic who order an MRI of my back. They found nothing major. They did point out a couple of issues (most likely a bulging or degenerating disc) but for whatever reason I can't recall their diagnosis, only that it didn't seem too serious. They referred me to a new physical therapist. I also started going to a new chiropractor. In addition, I used my Employee Assistance Program to find a therapist to help me cope with the pain. I tried acupuncture as well. Despite all these treatments, I found no relief, and felt frustrated and hopeless. At some point during the spring I also revisited the book I had by Sarno and began to look more deeply into his work, finding the TMS Wiki. I showed my wife (then girlfriend) the 20-20 video and asked if she thought it seemed reasonable based on what I'd told her about my experience. She noted that it seemed like I'd tried almost everything and that it was probably worth a shot. So I took a leap of faith and began to try looking at psychological issues as the root and only cause. I quit going to physical therapy and the chiropractor. I found a therapist who specialized in psychoanalysis, since the one I had been going to was focused on CBT. I also was fortunate enough to receive additional counseling services via the church I attended at the time. I bought The Mindbody Prescription & The Divided Mind & plowed through them. After reading Sarno's books I also read Rapid Recovery From Back and Neck Pain by Fred Amir and Pain Free for Life by Scott Brady. I read The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom, who didn't actually end up accepting Sarno's diagnosis, but I thought did a wonderful job capturing the experience of being in chronic pain. As I learned about TMS I realized that many of the personality traits common to TMS patients were present in my life: Perfectionism, People Pleasing, Stoicism, Anxiety & Fear, & Low Self-Esteem.

    I recall this being an especially frightening & difficult time in my life. Trying to treat my pain this way was daunting- I was so used to relying on the expertise of a medical professional. And while I had ruled out anything serious on the physical side, navigating this new form of treatment was uncharted waters for me. Yes, I had Sarno's books and the TMS Wiki as resources, but without an official diagnosis & a doctor monitoring my progress, I felt a bit like I was stumbling around in the dark. I had tried to setup an appointment with the nearest TMS doctor, who was 3 hours away, but was told he wasn't accepting patients at the time. I was close to taking a day to see the next closest TMS doctor at 4+ hours away, but decided to stick it out with my self-diagnosis & therapeutic treatment for awhile and see what happened. If not for the 2 counselors I was seeing at the time, I would have felt incredibly alone and directionless in my treatment. I also began to follow the Structured Educational Program on the TMS Wiki, which, while not professional advice, was helpful simply because I am a person who likes structure, and had found that lacking in my treatment of TMS so far.

    Despite the support system & practices I now had in place, I continued to find myself in great physical pain while also anxious or depressed. I was frustrated because it seemed like I was doing a lot of work with no results. Then, one day, I recall reading this success story about wrist pain. In a strange turn of events, I quickly began to develop a strange sensation in my own wrist. This feeling began to consume my thoughts and invoke great fear in me about my ability to stay at my job. It also seemed to coincide with a regression of the back pain I had experienced for so long. Looking back, this is so very clearly a symptom substitution, but at the time it was such a strange and scary phenomenon to me that I had trouble remaining calm. I created a thread here to ask for feedback about my experience with reading the success story and subsequent wrist pain and eventually was able to realize that the shift in pain was a great indicator that I was indeed dealing with TMS, and that while the pain in a new area was scary, it was also a good thing. Initially though, the wrist numbness stayed with me almost every second of the day and continued to affect my quality of life by consuming my thoughts. I recall going over to my girlfriend's apartment to watch a movie, normally one of my favorite and most relaxing things to do. But that evening, I remember feeling sick to my stomach while we watched. It's difficult to describe the magnitude of what I was feeling, but I was devastated to find that even something like watching a movie, which normally would take my mind of everything else, was not immune to TMS. I continued to do work on treating my TMS (beyond therapy I did writing, mediation, reading, and recited affirmations) but remained unsure about what exactly was helping and what wasn't so I kept doing it all. I shared my frustrations with my therapist who helped me to stop trying to look at TMS like a math problem that needed to be solved with the perfect formula. Instead, she helped me to realize that good things were coming out of my journey as I tried to figure out what was going on that caused this pain. I had become more in-tune with my feelings and had re-prioritized my life. I was eating better, working out more, and putting more time & honesty into the relationships that mattered most to me. Through psychoanalysis I was able to uncover memories that had been buried in my unconscious since I was a child. Nothing terribly traumatic, but these things had been buried out of shame, embarrassment, or fear. In addition, I found myself humbled by the realization that perhaps I couldn't fix all my problems on my own, and become more open to asking other people for help.

    What happened next sound too simplistic or good to be true, and yet it is the truth. While I was gaining a bit of perspective by seeing what good had come from the pain, often the discomfort was still getting the better of me and I found myself envying other people as I passed by them- "if only I could be that person- at least they aren't in pain like this". But one day, sitting at my desk at work I said to myself, "what if I truly did treat this wrist issue as something to be grateful for?" And I must have really believed I could, because I immediately noticed that the sensation lessened. Then, in my next session, my therapist helped me process what was happening even further. I began to think of myself as a real life super hero- sure, these characters often have traits that are different from what's considered normal. They are likely even seen as flawed. by themselves and/or others. But what makes them heroes is their ability to take these differences or flaws and turn them into strengths. I started to see that I could in fact do the same thing with my pain & numbness. Instead of fighting against it, I could somehow use it to help others who were experiencing pain of their own. With this shift in thinking, my symptoms basically disappeared. And so, in a matter of a few days, I had overcome what had tortured me for the past year and a half.

    I was over the moon. I continued therapy for a few months afterwards, but found that I seemed to be on solid ground. In few years following, I have had "flare ups" of back pain or wrist numbness, and have been treating those as a signal to take an inventory of the stressors in my life. If my symptoms are not easily resolved I resume therapy.

    My journey with TMS is not over. As an active person who enjoys running, cycling, and weight lifting, I deal with injuries from time to time, and occasionally struggle with differentiating between an acute structural injury and a manifestation of TMS. In addition, I recently became a father, and the responsibilities of parenthood have brought on a new set of demands and challenges to the psyche. In fact, I am now struggling with symptoms to the point where I find that I may need to do more work on myself than just an hour of therapy every week. Nevertheless, my success in the past helps me to stay confident that I can overcome the challenges of TMS again. And I hope that in some small way this story may resonate with someone else, and inspire them to recognize & believe in their own super powers.
    yoyo12, David88, Ellen and 2 others like this.
  2. star child

    star child New Member

    Thank you David for sharing your story. As someone new to TMS I really appreciated reading other people's journeys.
  3. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi David,

    I hope many people read your story and come to this epiphany of yours, your personal turning point. To have a completely different take on the pain than the one we've been living with for years ---this is an important element in everyone's journey I think. The shift might be from "physical" to "emotionally-based," or from "dangerous" to "harmless," or "something to fix" to "no need to fix." Thanks for putting a spotlight on this important element in Dr. Sarno's approach.

    I also think that individuation (from our history, roles, in our relationships) plays a role, and it is interesting to me that you found your own novel twist on a basic feature of working through TMS. You found your own perfect path.

    Andy B
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  4. Ines

    Ines Well known member

    Thank you for sharing your story. That's incredible that you were able to shift your thinking that way.
  5. hoolie

    hoolie Peer Supporter

    This is great, and congratulations on becoming a father too!

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