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Need help deciding how to move forward...

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by BigBlueWolf, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. BigBlueWolf

    BigBlueWolf Peer Supporter

    I am in a bit of a conundrum.

    Back in February I found this forum while suffering from months of chronic pain in my hands that was started by overuse (lots of computer work and videogaming) and eventually morphed into TMS. Three weeks of study and I was 100% pain-free and happy to have my life back.

    But that only lasted about a month before I experienced a relapse. The pain returned to my hands, but presenting differently than the first time. Of course I look a few weeks of resting my hands first to make sure I hadn't overused again. But when the pain began shifting position I was pretty much convinced I was back to dealing with TMS again.

    It's been about three months now since this latest flare-up started.

    This time around, I've had to carefully examine an aspect that directly relates to how much I use my hands on a daily basis. For a long time I used gaming to deal with anxiety. Starting back in 2015 I was going through so much external personal and work-related stress (it lasted nearly a year) that coming home and gaming allowed me to zone out and forget about my problems. This filled up a lot of my leisure time. But by 2017 I was seeing someone, and gaming had become more habitual than fun. It was during this time that my hand pain first started.

    So after my recovery and then relapse in March/April, I did a lot of work confronting my feelings about gaming. My conclusion was that while some games gave me a lot of enjoyment, there was absolutely no reason for me to play games that leave me feeling upset about how I was using my leisure time. So I resolved to limit myself only play games I had a serious interest in and do it on a more casual basis. Plus it's summer and I really want to be finding other activities to get out of the apartment.

    But habits can be hard to break, so I've struggled with this a bit. Gaming becomes something that is easy to do if I don't have anything else immediately interesting to grab my attention.

    Perhaps this is part of why my TMS is being very "manipulative", for lack of a better word.

    When I find myself gaming (basically telling the pain to f-- off), the pain subsides quite a bit on a day-to-day basis, sometimes even completely for hours at a time. But in it's place (usually starting the next morning) I get long-lasting sensations in my hands where they were in contact with the controller or mouse. This phantom sensation of still being in contact with the device is almost as annoying as the pain. I also deal with the frustration of thinking I'm wasting a lot of valuable time if my gaming sessions aren't going well.

    On the flip side of that, when I take days off from doing anything with my computer, the phantom sensations subside but the pain starts creeping back, getting worse day-by-day to the point of my hands experiencing low-level aching most of the time and will get sharp pains when I do something a little more strenuous like pick up and move a bag of laundry.

    Of course it's occurred to me that the pain during inactivity might be a type of extinction burst?

    If anyone has any advice, I could sure use a pointer. :banghead:
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wolf, it doesn't surprise me that you had some success, followed now by a more difficult setback.

    I hope others will jump in as well, but here's my take on your situation, which is that your original work and study were based on a vital misconception, which is that your pain "... was started by overuse..." that "eventually morphed into TMS."

    This is not what Dr. Sarno taught us! If you re-read Dr. Sarno (I assume you have read him at least once?) your pain was always TMS. I remember that he was very clear about this - he pointed how, before the advent of the electric typewriter, typists would bang away for 8 hours a day in so-called "typing pools" yet they weren't reporting pain.

    You might read the Profile Story of our founder, Forest - his pain was all about RSI, and he recovered, thanks to Dr. Sarno.

    Your negative fearful brain is more than happy to keep you obsessing over how much you use your hands, but believe me, this is just a negative distraction, designed to keep you from the real stuff that is being repressed. You're aware enough that you're somewhat able to initially relieve your pain with rest, but you're not yet aware enough to realize that your pain really has nothing to do with rest vs. activity.

    Your brain is a tricksy devil - becoming mindful of its negativity and the influence it has on your thoughts is your next goal. I just made this recommendation to someone else today, but it's a great resource for learning how our brains are wired to keep us negative - it's an audio program called Meditations To Change Your Brain, by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius, MD.

    Ellen, Lainey and Pietro Carloni like this.
  3. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi BigBlueWolf. Just a few thoughts from reading your post. First of all, I would feel encouraged because it seems very clear you are suffering from TMS and with a little more patience and persistence you will be feeling much better. I would read more on outcome independence. You are on the right track when you are thinking about your feelings and what brings you happiness. Whenever you find yourself tracking physical activities, gaming, and how it may or may not be effecting your pain levels, you are distracting yourself with the pain. Instead, work with Alan Gordon's program on this site, or Dr Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain. Its hard to force yourself not to think about the pain, but the more you can think about what is going on in your life and how you feel about it(without adding a lot of judgement and pressure), the better. As you write, listen to yourself, relax, you will make discoveries and feel relief.
    JanAtheCPA, Ellen and Lainey like this.
  4. Time2be

    Time2be Well known member

    I agree with Jan and Anne. Have you considered that you feel guilty about your gaming activities? And maybe also why you play these games in an excessive manner - not that I can judge this but you seem yourself to be considered about gaming too much. Usuallly all excessive behavior has a psychological reason.
    Anne Walker and JanAtheCPA like this.
  5. BigBlueWolf

    BigBlueWolf Peer Supporter

    This observation I think goes to the heart of the matter. Thank you for posting! (Both to Jan and Anne as well)

    Yes, I do feel guilty about it.

    I didn't used to. There was a turning point (sometime last year) when I began to feel like it was too excessive but I kept playing a lot anyway (my story above). When the pain began to impact other activities I stopped gaming completely, following the normal pattern of fear that only made the TMS worse. Upon learning about TMS, my first success came when after three months of staying away from gaming, I forced myself to play despite my fear that I would be hurting myself. I was ecstatic to find that the pain resolved in a few shorts weeks, and I had no guilt over playing a lot because I was so damn happy my hands were back to normal.

    It took about a month for the pain to start creeping back as my guilt about playing too much began to return. I've been struggling with it ever since.

    So this is the crux of the problem: I am fearful that too much activity will cause pain and fearful that stopping normal activity will cause pain. Gaming is the activity most sensitive to this see-saw effect due to added the guilt factor and associating it as the primary activity that led to chronic pain to begin with.

    Case in point, last night I gave myself about an hour of time to play a game I really like. It's been a over three weeks since I played it, so I shouldn't feel guilty about it. My hands had been doing OK for a few days. But there was a sense of foreboding mixed with some guilt that interfered with my enjoyment as I held the controller. And while I only experienced mild discomfort while playing, this morning my hands began hurting as I woke up, which led to the recriminations about how I shouldn't have played last night.

    This is all so frustrating. My mind is getting in the way of my recovery. I can't seem to find the right balance of how to approach this.
  6. Time2be

    Time2be Well known member

    Maybe you should have a closer look at this fear-guilt issue. The strategy to give you one time of pleasure with gaming seems to me very reasonable. Nothing to feel guilty about. This is not excessive. Your brain might not think so, though . Or let’s call it your subconscious. Do you write down your emotions? Sometimes involuntary writing helps .. it brings out all associations you have in mind.

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