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My Success Story - Keep on keepin on

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by Painfreefuture, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. Painfreefuture

    Painfreefuture Peer Supporter

    Wow! I'm here to write my success story. My journey began almost three years ago and I never believed I would be writing my story to share with others. I'm writing for those of you who doubt, who are stuck, who are frightened and confused and who are not healing like everyone else seems to be healing. I have been at mindbody healing for over two years. I want to tell you, do not give up, keep on keepin on.

    I had back pain. It started with a pop and for context the pop occurred while bending down to change my 1 year old's diaper, while my 3 year old was in the tub and my husband was out of town. I was finishing up a research fellowship and we were packing to move back to our home town. I had decided the best thing to do for our family was to take a break from work and stay home with the kids. My husband and I were stressed beyond what we could handle and had begun taking it out on each other. I felt scared, alone, devastated, overwhelmed, furious, and exhausted, but of course I was completely unaware of all of this as I was an expert repressor.

    Then the pop, which led to pain that wouldn't go away and got progressively worse as time went by and my movement became more and more restricted. I tried it all, everything made it worse: physical therapy, chiropractor, massage, acupuncture, movement therapy, pilates. I also tried steroid shots with no relief. I saw 5 different doctors over a 6 month period and was given all the usual diaganoses, disc degeneration, facet arthritis, spondylolisthesis, tear etc… Thankfully one doctor actually told me I was fine. Ha! I had been in bed for a month. I was in tears and terrible pain, I could barely move and had asked to be escorted immediately back to a room because sitting in the waiting room was too excruciating. This doctor performed the most thorough exam of them all and spent the most time with me. After his exam he told me nothing was wrong, I wanted to strangle him. How dare he?! I was frightened and enraged. But now I am so grateful. He gave me a diagnosis of central pain sensitization. He knew I was a scientist, and told me to look it up. I did. That was December of 2013.

    Winter 2014, I first read about pain and learned about what pain truly is. I read articles and watched videos by Lorimer Moseley and Peter O’Sullivan. I began to question everything I thought I knew about my body. I should not have had such terrible back pain. I was told my spine looked typical for my age. I was a fit 120lbs and had a strong core. My experience did not make sense. What these professors were saying did. Then I came across Dr. Sarno’s The Mindbody Prescription. I was shocked, excited, and terrified. I knew what he was saying was true, but I was not relieved, in fact, I think when I read his theory and learned my pain was not caused by something physical, but my brain doing something to me unconsciously, I kind of freaked out even more. I can get a shot for a disc, what the hell can I do if my mind begins taking over without my permission? Sarno was not a quick fix and now looking back I wish I wouldn’t have found him first. I did not heal the way Sarno’s patients heal. Maybe my emotional wounds were deeper or my life situation more triggering. But Sarno became another way to shame myself because I couldn’t “get it” the way everyone else was.

    Spring 2014, But I kept on keepin on. I read every TMS book I could get my hand on, every Sarno book, David Hanscom, Steve Ozanich, Nicole Sachs, Howard Schubiner, Stephen Conenna, I had the audio books and even bought Sarno’s old video. I started talking to a fantastic TMS psychologist. I had minor improvements, very very minor.

    Summer 2014, I then encountered Peter Levine, Ronald Siegel, and Jon-Kabat Zinn. I became fascinated with mediation and the research that’s being done on the effects on the brain and the body. I practiced mindfulness. I improved and regained more of my life back.

    Spring 2015, I was still having terrible pain, anxiety, and fatigue, but I kept on keepin on. I hired a mindbody coach who recommended Abigail Stiedley and her Kindness Community. I read Elaine Aron’s Highly Sensitive Person and began to finally understand myself. I read Pema Chodron, Brene Brown, and Kristen Neff and began to have compassion for myself. I began to stop feeling ashamed for who I am and started to honor me. My life began to change.

    Spring 2016, Here I am now, a year later, and I still have some pain. I still have some anxiety. I also have an incredible awareness of myself and this truly beautiful and genuine compassion for myself and others. I have had TMS my entire life and I will have TMS for the rest of my life. I now know this is not a curse. It is a blessing. My sensitivity helps guide me and keep me true to myself. I see the pain, the anxiety, the fatigue, the perfectionism, the insatiable hunger, the ruminating, the obsessing (YES! It's all the same) as energy, that’s all. I'm mindful of the message and the opportunity to be curious and compassionate.

    I have learned so much over the last three years. My heart has opened. I’m grateful to everyone out there with the courage to share their story and help others dealing with mindbody concerns.

    Heartfelt hugs to all!
    Amelia537, sarah555uk, Abbo and 8 others like this.
  2. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    This is fantastic. Thank you for gifting us with this. I have been told I am a "HSP" and that book is on my list. I have also had TMS my whole life, in the form of chronic colds and tummy aches as a kid, IBS, pelvic pain and allergies in my 20's, anxiety and depression in my 30's and currently, upper back, neck and shoulder pain. I too, went the physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, route and it only made it worse. I am just coming to know my true self through TMS. The hardest thing for me is that my pain is affecting my profession. My biggest love is photography. I've done many things in my life, and had many careers, from advertising to the medical field, acting to writing, and beyond, but it is photography that I have decided to devote the rest of my life to. Ironically, it is when I decided this, that my right shoulder, neck and arm began to hurt, the very same areas I need to shoot. I've had this current pain since 2013, after a VERY stressful and traumatic family trip. I feel like I'm still on that trip!

    I am trying to come to grips with the fact that I just have to "shoot through the pain". Lots of anger, self-hatred and obsessive thoughts. I will read more of the books you recommend. One question, I have a hard time "feeling" (anything but the pain) and I am all "above the neck" in terms of intellectualizing and over-thinking EVERYTHING. I have never particularly enjoyed being IN my body, even as a child. I would love to hear your input on how to keep learning about TMS (knowledge) while not allowing myself to get so caught up in the trees, I cannot see the forest. Thank you again, you give hope to many, me included, and I needed that so badly today.
  3. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wonderful way you have expressed the concept of TMS having no end but viewing it as an opportunity rather than a threat. The pressure is off when you no longer expect a complete and permanent cure. Well done, PFF!
  4. Painfreefuture

    Painfreefuture Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much for your post. I experienced many of the same TMS equivalents as you. I had severe leg cramps or "growing pains" as a child, TMJ as an adolescent, severe social anxiety (I didn't know that was what it was until a year ago), endometriosis, GERD, hiatal hernia, IBS, recurrent sinus infections, depression, and general anxiety. I lived my entire life as if disaster was about to strike at any moment, constantly in fear. My parents were very young and emotionally neglectful. It took me a long time to understand and accept that the emotional neglect and disregard for anything I felt or believed was as damaging as physical abuse, which I did not experience. My nervous system was trained to shut down any emotion, even the "happy" ones. A life changing piece of information for me was understanding that emotions are experienced through the body, not the mind. I learned that shutting down emotions requires tremendous energy and the body generates tension to try to stop the physical sensations of the emotion (which I believe can be more intense in HSPs). My healing really began when I learned to actually feel my feelings and stop intellectualizing or trying to figure out my feelings. This took time for me to learn and this is where I got tripped up with Sarno. I spent a year trying to figure out what was causing my pain, digging for that emotion, which generated a lot of pressure. Once I put the pen down, got out of my head and into my body to truly feel my feelings, huge shifts occurred. Now please know that like you, I could never be IN my body before. I was an expert at distraction and had the habit of keeping myself terribly busy. Being still was torture. This was where Kristen Neff and my mindbody coach really helped. I listened to both of their meditations when I was having an overwhelming experience and now I have an automatic compassionate response that arises in response to any distressing experience, whether it be pain, anxiety, or even self-hatred or obsessive thoughts (which I still have, but much much less frequently).

    Mindfulness and compassion were truly the keys for my healing and are practices I will continue for the rest of my life. I learned to become the watcher of my mind and my experience and not always get caught up in it.

    I would absolutely recommend reading Elaine Aron, this book changed my life. Learning that people have different nervous systems and that there might even be an evolutionary purpose to having a subset of the population as HSPs was incredible. I was taught by my mother and our culture that my sensitivity was a weakness. In response I put up a tough girl defense that pretended she didn't need anything or anyone. How sad this makes me now. I am fortunate to have a very sensitive daughter who is now four. It is a challenge for me because so much is triggered by watching the expression of her sensitivities and I don't think it is a coincidence that a new TMS symptom developed when she came into my life. But I now have this glorious awareness. I am aware that she is sensitive and I am aware that this triggers me, but I am also aware that this brings such great beauty to my life. She is amazing. She sees everything, she notices everything, she's incredibly curious and asks questions beyond her young years. She is gentle and full of compassion. She has the most contagious laugh. She is also afraid, terrified, to be alone, gets very upset when she feels she has done something wrong, hates being embarrassed, eats a limited number of foods, hates feeling hot, cold, hungry, tired, etc… and can throw an incredibly violent temper tantrum. I have a living breathing miniature example of myself. I love her dearly for her perfectly imperfect sensitivities and this has helped me love myself. She doesn't need to change. I can help the world adapt to her and she adapt to the world when necessary, which sometimes it is. She does not have to force herself to fit in with the fast-paced, high-pressured, do-it all, materialistic and shallow aspects of our society, and neither do I!!

    I would also highly recommend Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You. Becoming a Bodhisattva warrior was not something I thought I would ever aspire to, but it’s exactly what I have become. I can be with myself without judgement and see it all, the good the bad the ugly. I am even aware of my old habits to repress when they come up and respond with compassion.

    Another important sideline I took was reading Carl Jung and understanding the shadow (Meeting the Shadow). Growing up Catholic we are taught to be ashamed of anything sinful, even if it is just a thought. I learned to let go of that belief and understand the nature of the mind.

    And I can’t believe I forgot this invaluable resource above, Dr. John Stracks from Northwestern. He has a monthly patient panel you can view remotely. Two patients of his speak about their recovery from TMS. It helped me to surround myself with people and literature that supports the mindbody philosophy.

    I also needed empirical support to solidify my beliefs, I am cynical and suspicious by nature and I am a scientist. Thankfully, we are in an amazing time of scientific exploration that is turning many old beliefs on their head. I read all of the studies that support a psychological rather than physical cause to back pain, studies on the placebo effect, studies on meditation and fMRI scans of the amygdala, and brain plasticity.

    I am surprised I had so much to say. I hope that this helps Donavan. I am so happy to hear you have found a passion in photography. Remember the pain is not signalling a physical injury, it helped me to remind myself over and over the pain is nonpathogenic pain. It hurts but it can't hurt me. But ignoring isn't the right answer either. Listen to it with compassion. Find supportive people and surround yourself with supportive literature. When I have a challenging experience I still read articles on HSPs to help me feel connected.

    Here are some free meditations I found that helped me learn to be with my experience without judgement.
    Simplicity and westb like this.
  5. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    Did you see Ron Seagal as a patient? Btw great story and congratulations on being pain free
  6. Painfreefuture

    Painfreefuture Peer Supporter

    Thank you!! I was not a patient of Ronald Siegel. I read and referred to his books over and over again, Back Sense and The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems.
  7. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    This is some of the most incredible information I've ever received and I saw myself so much in your words. Thank you so much for the generous reply! I love Pema Chodron! And Jung. I will re-visit them and have a look at all the links you sent, thank you for them. And you reminded me, I too had "growing pains" as a kid. Wow. My childhood was very loving, but VERY strange, very over permissive and overprotective parents who treated me like a "little adult" and also a baby. Confusing. In fact, I did not even receive a name till I was 5 years old, my legal NAME was "Baby Boy Frebrg"! My late parents both had a hard time expressing anger. My current rage is like a monster in a cage I'm afraid to even begin to let out, and when I do, it is intellectually. I'm afraid of my shadow. I'm currently working through Dr. Schubiner's book, and it is helping. Thank you, so much, for your kind reply. One question, you mentioned, "Once I put the pen down, got out of my head and into my body to truly feel my feelings, huge shifts occurred." Does this mean you don't recommend journaling? Because it seems to help me. How did you get into your body? I would love to get into mine. Much like you, I struggle with feeling ANYTHING in my body, probably because I associate my body with pain and symptoms, not pleasure and joy. It is why exercise is such a trigger. Thank you again, I am printing out your reply and I am going to keep reading it when I get discouraged. You have helped me tremendously with your kindness.
    Painfreefuture and MWsunin12 like this.
  8. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    Oh thx I will look into it
    Painfreefuture likes this.
  9. westb

    westb Well known member

    What a great story and just what I needed to read. Thank you. And thank you too for the helpful recommendations.
    Painfreefuture likes this.
  10. tgirl

    tgirl Well known member

    Great story painfreefuture. Thanks for writing it. I am sure it will give many of us hope that we too can be pain free.
    Painfreefuture likes this.
  11. Painfreefuture

    Painfreefuture Peer Supporter

    I think journaling is very useful. For me journaling helped me organize the thoughts that had been going around in my head. I began to understand why I responsed and reacted to life from a place of fear. But I also think for myself, journaling kept me in the story. If you have read Pema Chodron you know what I mean. And also, speaking for myself, journaling was an intellectual activity rather than an emotional one, and at times prevented me from truly feeling because I was caught up in the story or the figuring out. When I first began formal meditation, I can look back and see that I was also using it as another way to escape my emotional experience by holding on so tightly to my breath, in the same way that journaling for me became a way for me to hold on very tightly to my story. It's tough to explain and not something I could see a year ago. But I think this is the process of learning something new, until we can let go and allow it to become natural.

    The TMSwiki (while incredibly helpful in other ways) and Sarno did not prepare me for what it's like to be a feeling person without defenses. It sucks, it's painful, it can be lonely at times, and it's also beautiful. I learned to get into my body and feel my emotions from Abigail Stiedley's community and mind body toolbox, which I would highly recommend. My coach and Pema Chodron also helped me. I think it begins small with feeling your toes and works up to feeling the emotions ( for me it's a clenched throat, heavy chest, heat, shallow breath). It helped me to constantly remind myself hat we experience emotions through physical sensations, not the story we tell about them. A thought or judgment might come up, watch it and return to a sensation in the body. I will put my hand on my heart and comfort myself for having this difficult experience.

    Understanding the fight or flight response and how to soothe the nervous system is also useful here. It does all begin with 100% certainty that what you are feeling is emotional and not physical. Now thoughts might still come up saying it has to be something physically wrong, but you watch and comfort those thoughts. Think of the thoughts as a scared child. Try to have compassion for their origin. I have read the term reparenting before, and I think this applies to my experience. I was never comforted for anything. I'm giving that to myself now, which soothes my nervous system, I can then drop out of fight or flight and respond to the world from a place of curiosity and compassion rather than fear.

    I hope this helps. Abigail says be like a dog with a bone, gentle and persistent. I promise it will shift.

    Hugs :)
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  12. Simplicity

    Simplicity Guest

    What an inspiring success story, @Painfreefuture. Thank you for sharing!
    Painfreefuture likes this.
  13. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Painfreefuture,
    Thanks so much for the detailed sharing in your experience. How very, very wonderful to read your journey.
    Andy B

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