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Need reassurance and advice for RSI/TMS recovery

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Cats_and_Books, Mar 7, 2023.

  1. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member


    I started my TMS journey officially with the program 24 days ago, and it's been going pretty well! I read a lot of books, have been journaling, and attending the weekly chats (everyone is so helpful there, thank you!). I needed some reassurance because lately I've gotten some pain, and I was hoping to hear some advice or input.

    For my story, I developed pain in my right wrist in 2020 and it eventually spread up my arm to my left hand, shoulders, and upper back, so much so that I had to quit my job (I'm an artist) and move back home. I've effectively been stuck and unemployed since then, save for forcing myself to get back to work in 2021 and not being able to withstand the pain and quitting once more. I had a previous injury in the same right wrist in 2016 that lasted a year, but in hindsight, that was most likely also TMS too that went and came back. I used to think I had tendonitis.

    I need support because I've been having some issues lately. I went through many medical practitioners before being told that there is nothing structurally wrong with me to the extent that it would be causing the amount of pain I'm in. That's when I turned to TMS, and like many, I found myself in every page (perfectionist, goodist, high achiever, etc.).

    I can say upon reading the book, 100% of my shoulder and back pain disappeared. In an instant, actually. The second I recognized it was TMS.

    My hands, on the other hand, have been facing some issues. I've been slowly pushing the envelope, first by journaling. It hurt at the beginning, but eventually I got used to it and there wasn't any pain really when writing. I tried doing some light sketches, and it hurt, but the next day would be gone when I kept reminding myself it was TMS. Sometimes, it wouldn't come. Even before knowing TMS, there were times where I'd sketch on paper and get no pain.

    I tested more by typing. It used to be impossible for me to use a keyboard, but now I can type again! Same with the mouse, and my phone. I tried playing video games, and I would get pain in my right thumb now and then, but I successfully was able to play everyday for a week during my test period. This would've been so painful or impossible before! There's been a lot of progress!

    Then, this is where I'm at. After 24 days, I decided to test "the final boss" and go back to do some digital artwork, which I used to do a lot of. And the pain in my right hand came back! It's unbearable. Specifically, it came in my right thumb. I kept reassuring myself that it's psychosomatic, but I know that unconsciously I must still have some fear and worries, because I catch myself having the thought that it may also be physical at times because of the excruciating pain, though when I think that I remind myself that it's not.

    When I went to see the latest rheumatologist (before I started my TMS work), she told me nothing was visibly wrong, but lightly pointed out that my thumbs on both hands were "way older than my age", meaning that I wore them out/used them a lot. I was prescribed hydroxychloroquine, though I haven't taken it (because I believe in my TMS self-diagnosis). Is it possible that my brain is aware of this comment and hanging up on it to manifest the pain specifically there? I used to get pain in that area before too, but it would be combined with wrist pain, which I don't get much of anymore.

    Interestingly, I wouldn't get the pain really much or at all drawing on paper, but it would strike when drawing on my digital tablet. The time I first developed my TMS pain was when I was extremely pressured by my workload and the lockdown, I was working a LOT on the digital tablet instead of traditional artwork. In a sense, I think I developed a fear of drawing, especially digitally? I recall my thoughts back then, I'd berate my work, compare it to my coworkers, feel frustrated at my slow pace, feel annoyed by my client's reactions at times. I was very hard on myself, I was a complete perfectionist. And, also a people pleaser to my family and friends, and even to clients. I sought their approval and craved it for validation. I was quite a mess!

    I need reassurance, such as if anyone had experience with TMS confused as RSI, because I find that I may be faltering now and then despite knowing deep down that it is for sure TMS depriving that specific area of oxygen and causing this.

    Thank you all for the wonderful support in this forum, and I wish everyone a great day!
  2. Khetu

    Khetu New Member

    Hello Cats_and_Books, I was in your exact situation. The pain in my dominant hand started during 2020 and spread until I could no longer even use either hand and I had to give up all of my hobbies - including my job, which was illustration. I had so many of your worries also, and everything was going to hell in a handbasket during 2020 I'm surprised I didn't put two and two together sooner. Every doctor I saw over 2 years has zero clue what was wrong with me, and when I started my TMS journey the pain got worse as if it were desperate to keep me distracted.

    One user in the success forums who recovered said they put little sticky notes around their work station saying "My arms/hands are strong and healthy", and I did the same. Every time the pain flared up I'd look at those notes and keep on drawing because I knew I was safe, and I wasn't injured. It was just a sensation and my hands were perfectly fine. It took some months, and the journalling really did unearth some things I didn't want to really face - such as my worth as an artist, the pressure to improve, the comparison of my artist peers, etc, not to mention all the other things life has thrown in the way.

    But now the pain has completely gone. I'm drawing again and every time I'm stressed my hands will start to twinge - and I'll say to myself "Nice try, but I can deal with my problems, thank you." And then I spend some time really thinking about why I'm stressed, or perhaps what underneath it all is bothering me. Within minutes the feeling is gone. It doesn't even progress to pain anymore.

    Fear of not being able to draw is causing you pain, so you don't draw - and you got pain by in the first place because it is something that is important to you, and what better way for your brain to distract you from your underlying issues than to forecefully take away the one thing you love to do: draw. It seems super cruel but your brain is just trying to protect you, so keep on digging and find out what exactly it is that your brain is so desperate to keep your attention off of.

    I just want to let you know I was right where you were and I was a mess, and I genuinely thought my life was over. I'm on the other side now and I'm healthier in both mind and body for it. I see myself in you and I want you to know this saga does end, and the steps provided here do work.

    Please don't give up, you will draw again and your pain will go away - don't let your brain call the shots on what you can and can't do!

    Best wishes - I believe in you! You can do this! :happy:
    LoveAfterAll and JanAtheCPA like this.
  3. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member

    Hello Khetu!

    Thank you very much for your very thorough and detailed reply! It's absolutely reassuring to hear from someone who works in the same field who had the same issue around the same time! And to think I got your reply so quickly too, thank you very much, I can't even explain how happy.

    Yes! I do have the sticky notes around my desk actually! I'll try drawing again and following what you did, reassuring myself. I always end up wanting to stop at a certain point because I give in to the fear. As you said, like you (and many in our field), I am extremely critical of my work and felt intense pressure. You hit the nail on the head... completely. The fear of not being able to draw again has been one of the biggest reasons for my pain, and I'd say about 90% of it is gone just knowing I will be able to, and there's nothing structurally wrong with me. Hearing your account of a similar case has made that percentage go even higher for sure. It's the fear of the pain that's causing the pain to happen. Why else would I be able to write and play video games which require my hands but suddenly be incapable of drawing? The TMS is rooted in drawing and its pressure, tied with perfectionism!

    I'm so glad to hear that you made it and recovered, and that you're drawing again! I know for sure I'll be joining you soon and helping reassure others that it's more than possible :)

    Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your reply, Khetu. Thank you for your words of encouragement, it gave me so much courage and reassurance that the future is certainly bright. I will draw again.

    All the best going forward!
    JanAtheCPA and Khetu like this.
  4. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member

    I'm sorry to reply twice, but I also forgot to ask one more thing! You said to do more work and uncover more of the unconscious repressed emotions. I've been wondering this for a while now in general, but would you happen to know if someone has to find out exactly what is the repressed emotion/feeling in the conscious, or does acknowledging the fact that these feelings are there be sufficient? I've been wondering this for a while now. I tend to think negatively at times, and so I sometimes wonder if I might misunderstand and equate the repressed emotion I have with something even worse than it actually is.
  5. michaelg21

    michaelg21 Peer Supporter

    Hi! Just wanted to reply as I went through a 3-4 month spell of RSI (with having had previous episodes a year or two prior but only lasting a few weeks). Doctor diagnosed dequervains, then at a later appointment changes his mind to tendonitis. I had constant, unrelenting pain in both hands, wrists and forearms. Funnily enough though, as painful as it got (unbearable to the point I was having suicidal ideation) my hands could function just fine. I had no real loss of strength, so long as I wasn't focussing on my hand strength. If I focussed on it, I felt weaker, even though I objectively wasn't. I thought I was never going to enjoy playing guitar again - my one true passion. Here I am now, however, with zero pain, typing and mousing all day at work and playing guitar in the evenings.

    The one and only thing I would recommend you focus on is FEAR. Plain and simple, when you lose all fear over your symptoms, they will leave you. I know how simplistic this sounds, but it has been my experience with every episode of psychogenic pain/symptoms. I wouldn't bother getting hung up over the repressed emotions etc. That is not to say I don't think these things are necessarily irrelevant in the process of chronic pain, however I don't think you need to dwell on, focus or "process" emotional turmoil to feel better. All you need to do is overcome the fear of your symptoms, which you can do by really understanding that there is nothing physically wrong with you, and learning to accept your symptoms without trying to push them away. When you get good at practicing this mindset, it gives you space to focus on other things and your symptoms gradually (or rapidly for some) fade away to nothing.
    Khetu likes this.
  6. Khetu

    Khetu New Member

    I'm so glad this was helpful for you! One of the reasons I still visit this forum is because my time before TMS discovery was one of the worst periods of my life, and the idea that other artists out there going through the same thing, thinking that the one thing that defined them to themselves, their pride and joy - "I am an artist" was being ripped away and they felt helpless; I read through so many posts on here and I honestly couldn't have recovered without seeing that other people got through this chaos too. I never want anyone to go through that!

    I remember putting so much pressure on myself, seeing so many people's art online and beating myself up about getting better, not to mention how cut-throat is is out there for people in our field! (Not to mention how people treat art as this throwaway consumable product these days, and baulk at the idea of paying you more than a pittance for 'just a drawing'... but lamenting about the state of our field of work is another subject all together!)
    But yes, I'm so happy you feel encouraged, it really makes a difference having hope and knowing that it's a monster that can be slain!

    This is a good question, one that I know I certainly went through but what exactly it was amongst all the other things is a mystery to me.

    I did the journalling steps in the progam day by day, and by the time I was writing out everything that was bothering me, even stuff that happened when I was a kid, or even 15 years ago, I found the pain was getting less and less. I'm not sure if it was one thing I vented in journalling about that was the source of it, or if it was a giant sludge of everything all piled together that was the cause, but by writing about it and how it made me feel was the thing that pushed me through to recovery.

    I couldn't solve the things on the list - like feeling inadequate about my art, or feeling like unless I did a magnum opus project I'd never be remembered or whatever, but the process of just recognising it was giving me grief was enough for my brain to ease off. Don't think you have to solve these problems, just identify them and go "It's okay, I understand it's making me unhappy, but that's okay."

    My main advice is journalling! No matter how small or big (you can just delete it/throw it away after) just identify what's bothering you, don't fret about fixing it. Just by focus on knowing what all your worries are and your brain will stop trying to distract your from em'. :D
    Sita likes this.
  7. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member

    Thank you for the very helpful reply! I'm glad to hear you're doing much better and can pursue your passion once more!
    I experienced the same thing you have, the idea that when I focus on my hand, I'd have the same loss of strength, and increased pain.

    You're completely right about the fear aspect. I know for certain that the thing keeping me from finishing that last 10% of recovery is the fear! I've feared being unable to get back to work and even function daily with no pain, my fear of the pain never leaving is what caused it to last 3 years now. I know this to be a fact because the second I read Dr. Sarno's book, I never experienced the neck, shoulder, and back pain that so debilitated me before, because I ceased to fear them since I'm aware there's nothing structurally wrong. Now I have to get through the last stretch and get over my fear of drawing and injuring my hand, a fear that, as the previous commentor Khetu noted, is born from the worry that I'll never be able to pursue my passion ever again.

    It's very difficult to ignore the symptoms sometimes. For example, when drawing, I feel the pain so terribly that I can't move my hand anymore. But, as you said, it's probably because I'm still hardwired to think of the fear, the fear that I'm hurting myself, and the fear that it might possibly be physical, even though I'm aware it's not. I'm confident that I'm on the way to a full recovery and this eventually will subside as I keep reminding myself, this is only in my head. After all, I'm typing this reply to you after playing some video games, something I never would have been able to do beforehand. It's like a miracle!

    Thank you very much for your words of advice! I'll definitely be doing some meditating and acknowledging the presence of this "fear" aspect much more consciously now!
  8. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member

    Thank you once again for the reply!
    Journaling has been a lifesaver! It actually works wonders. Letting out all the pent up emotions and stresses also helps put things in perspective, and stuff I catastrophized in my head was not as big of a monster written down on paper.

    I feel like our field has many cases of TMS precisely for the reasons you listed, as I've fallen for the same exact patterns you have. I felt inadequate of my art, my progress, constantly comparing my work, and pushing myself to do more and more to improve. The perfectionism was absolutely wild. I'm pretty sure my brain eventually decided, art is bad because it makes me feel inferior and inadequate, so let me take away art, despite how much I love it. Really puts things into perspective. It helps to hear from you!

    I also greatly appreciate that you're here for people like me and others who need to hear your kind words of reassurance. I actually feel like the pain in my hand lessened reading your replies ;) Thank you so much! I know going forward following my recovery, I want to follow you and others' footsteps and actively try to help as well because, like you said, it is a nightmare. Luckily, it's only a nightmare, and once we wake up we'll finally be able to dream again.

    Thank you again!
    JanAtheCPA and Khetu like this.
  9. Khetu

    Khetu New Member

    I think it'll be much sooner than you think! Just keep on drawing! You can do it! :D
  10. Cats_and_Books

    Cats_and_Books New Member

    Thank you! It's absolutely crazy just how much pain I get from drawing, my hand just feels on fire. To think this is all from my brain is absolutely astounding...
    I really believe you're right, I'm going to keep on journaling, facing drawing, and getting better! Thank you!
  11. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    @Cats_and_Books, as I read your original post I was already thinking about my response regarding journaling, but @Khetu has done a better job than I would :joyful:

    I'll just requote these really key points from @Khetu, but anyone dropping in should be sure to read all the posts, especially anyone who is fearful or resistant about the effectiveness of writing. Plus it's definitely worthwhile to read about the significant progress that @Cats_and_Books has been making!

    I'm bookmarking the whole thread.

    Khetu likes this.
  12. Khetu

    Khetu New Member

    Thanks @JanAtheCPA :happy: I hope this helps people out there!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.

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