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New here, TMS, whiplash, perfectionist

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Mara, May 20, 2014.

  1. Mara

    Mara Peer Supporter

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post. Thanks to all who contribute to such an informative forum and wiki. LONG post ahead, but it helps me to get it all out in one place.

    About 13 months ago, I got rear-ended while waiting at a stop light. You can already imagine where this is going...I think I fall into the category of people where my pain had a physical trigger/injury. For me to still have some pain a year later makes me think I definitely have TMS. My theory is that this may have been caused by overly perfectionist tendencies in my work as a writer and suppressed anger and grief from having been raised in an alcoholic family. The rest of my life is stable, with a loving husband, good friends and a strong spiritual life. Of course, I could discover things are amiss there too...I am open to anything now.

    I didn't have pain before the accident, and the neck pain began the moment the other car hit the back of my car. (The other driver got a ticket for careless driving.) My car did not sustain damage, and I was wearing a seatbelt, but my neck and head wacked the head rest really hard. I also have pain in my upper left trap muscle. So I always focused just on the physical injury, since it had such a definite beginning and cause. At the ER, I got a cat scan of my head and neck, which were basically normal except for the suggestion of a possible disk bulge. So I definitely filed that away in my mind.

    Over a course of several months, I did some PT that made my pain worse, took NSAIDs, tried conservative chiro (no manipulation but I stopped going to her when she gave me some bogus "subluxation" diagnosis when my x-rays said I had no subluxation). I also tried other PT that helped a little, massage, trigger point therapy and a few other things I'm probably forgetting.

    Finally, after a tingling finger and an ENG/NCS (forgetting exact initials) that showed one nerve response abnormality, I got an MRI. (I had to fight with the car insurance company to get this but was finally approved.) It showed I had a herniated disk C5-C6. Unfortunately I hadn't discovered John Sarno's books at this point, and my pain, which was constant at fluctuating levels from 4-6 or so, seemed to hover on the high end of that range after the herniation diagnosis. My pain was always bearable, but it was there ALL the time and the fear of more pain was even worse.

    Fortunately, most of the doctors I saw did not scare me about the herniation. One did recommend a selective cervical nerve root injection, which I decided not to do because of the modified anesthesia and because I just didn't feel right about it or him. The other doctors were pretty mellow and said my herniation was NOT causing spinal cord compression and that they thought most of my problems were muscular. So that was the first clue there. However, they did write me scrips for PT, which looking back made things worse and kept me in an injured mindset. One doctor eventually did trigger point and steroid injections, which did not help and in fact seemed to make things worse for a few days. Oh yeah, I also tried acupuncture.

    Anyway, as time went on, my pain did seem to slowly go down by itself, getting lowest during the times that I was NOT pursuing treatment, not doing those silly PT exercises, not monitoring my pain levels, etc But I got stuck in this maze of medical/insurance/legal circles, thinking that if I stopped all treatment for too long, then my insurance would never pay for future treatment, not to mention the attorney who said you never want to show too long a gap in medical care. Bleck! (One of the smartest things I did was to stop legal consultation; I went a couple times because a friend had urged me to do so, but that was just one more thing to keep me in a victim mindset.) Meanwhile, I always thought there was that one magical thing "out there," the one treatment I hadn't tried, which would succeed in eliminating the last vestiges of my pain.

    Just writing it now, I realize I had willingly put myself on a hamster wheel that required me to think about my neck and the car accident almost all the time! It didn't help that the first doctor I saw took it upon himself to lie to my insurance company, and admitted as much to me, saying he does that sometimes for his patients' best interests. Needless to stay I stopped going to that doctor. There are many other things I could go into about the ugly side of his practice, but when you are a car insurance/personal injury case, the really good doctors often don't want to deal with your insurance, so you're stuck with less choices. Not that it even matters now...

    I even started psychological therapy help me to deal with the chronic pain (not with a TMS therapist but with one who is very open to the whole idea). In fact, one time she alluded to Dr. Sarno's work, but I shut that conversation down fast, saying, "Well, as long as he's not one of those people who blames the patient for the pain or implies it's all in our heads. Because my pain is from an actual injury, and I have a real disk herniation." (Keep in mind that at this point, I thought I'd never had back or neck pain until the car accident.) The subject was changed and I didn't really think about the mind-body connection until many months later when something very fortuitous happened, which I honestly see as a gift from God, a clue to help me solve my pain mystery...

    I was emailing a friend who has known me since first grade, and she said something like, hmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the neck pain you had when we were little kids.

    I was like, WHAT?! I had neck pain before?! As far I as knew, the car accident was the first time I ever felt bad neck pain. But she had very distinct memories of me coming in to school saying I had been diagnosed with "rye neck" (basically another one word sprained neck) with an expression of pain on my face, holding my arms out as I was walking past the lockers, saying it was very important that nothing hit my neck. She remembered this occurring several times somewhere between first and third grade.

    Holy crap! I had absolutely no memory of this, but she is a good friend, very detail oriented with a great memory, so I'm sure her recollections are true. She said she would have mentioned it earlier, but she figured I would have remembered, since it was such a memorable thing to her. It never occurred to her that I would have suppressed this. My mom didn't remember taking me to the doctor for neck pain, however, my brother did have vague memories of me wearing a heating pad, he thinks on my neck but wasn't sure. When I really concentrate, I have very vague, distant memories of waking up with neck pain, but it feels like a dream.

    So, my friend's recollection of my neck pain was like the Rosetta stone, or the key, that made me finally realize there was something much bigger than physical stuff going on here. I was no longer so quick to scoff at the mind causing pain. If my neck was a place where I stored pain as a child, without having any actual injuries, how much more likely that my brain would choose my neck to store pain when it had a "legitimate" reason, i.e., getting rear-ended. That said, I do think the weeks of pain I had right after the accident were probably caused by the accident and a normal response. But for the pain to linger for months and months, to get WORSE with most treatments, when several doctors including a neurosurgeon assured me that my herniation was not compressing my spinal chord and did not require surgery...well, I now realize something bigger was going on than just getting rear-ended.

    The same weekend that my friend shared this memory, I was reading a review of one of the many posture books I'd ordered in the past, and either a reviewer or commenter mentioned Dr. Sarno's books. At this point, I was willing to consider that angle. I was further convinced when one of the Amazon blurbs for one of his books said something like, If you have pain from an injury that occurred a long time ago but the pain is still there, this book is for you too.

    I ordered the Healing Back Pain and Mind-Body Prescription ebooks, borrowed my library's copy of "Divided Mind" (where it has a whole chapter on structural causes vs. TMS with car accidents in a couple examples). And as most people here already know, he directly addresses those of us who think our disk herniation diagnosis means we have "real" damage.

    After reading and rereading those books, all the bells went off. Perfectionist? Check. Proof: I have been rewriting and revising the same novel for at least two years. Traumatic childhood? Check, adult child of an alcoholic. No physical or sexual abuse, but verbal abuse. I'm also a people pleaser and a chronic worrier. And I have a history of depression and anxiety, although that wasn't in play when I got rear-ended.

    The only trait I don't have is a history of other physical ailments, such as allergies and stomach stuff. But wait, there was my friend saying she remembered me having neck pain! And, I do recall frequent urination one year in high school, but always getting negative results for UTIs and such. When I moved out of the house for college, the frequent urination seemed to sort itself out. At least, I don't recall it being an issue. It probably got better because I was no longer living with a raging, alcoholic father! (Who, incidentally, did eventually become sober thanks to AA.)

    I came across the Sarno book several weeks ago. I'm trying very hard not to remember the exact day, because I don't want to count off the weeks and use that to pressure myself. I still have the pain, but it went from levels 3-5 to around 1-3, fluctuating through the day and week. In November of last year, before reading the Sarno books, I ended physical therapy, finally realizing that for me, it was making things worse. (So as you can see, I was already sort of meandering onto the right path just based on instinct.) In January, I tried acupuncture which did not help, and in early April, I tried trigger point injections which initially made things feel worse, but then seemed to be either neutral or somewhat helpful, I don't even know anymore.

    Almost a year to a day after the car accident, I decided no more! I stopped ALL medical treatment and all PT home exercises, something I was thinking of quitting anyway. I kept two follow-up appts I'd made previously with doctors, and informed then both that I felt quite a bit better and was going to investigate mind/body connections and just let myself heal naturally over time. They were both supportive of this and we parted ways amicably.

    I think the people who unwittingly hurt me most were the PTs. When I informed them that my writing job required lots of sitting, they looked at me with furrowed brows as if I'd just informed them I handled toxic waste at a nuclear power plant. Between their dire warnings about my desk job and their criticisms of my poor posture, I started to think of my career as injury-producing and my posture as spine-crunching. Honestly, I think my absolute favorite part of the TMS diagnosis is to STOP obsessing about posture! Sure, good posture is a worthy goal, but I was walking around like a robot, always aware of my shoulders, neck, thinking, "are my ears over my shoulders? Do I have my lumbar roll?! Do I go by Ester Gokhale's theory to tuck the tail out like a duck or the other theory to tuck it in. What way is right, how the heck am I supposed to sit?!"

    Sitting for long periods of time did seem to make it worse, and between that and the PTs warnings and admonitions, I stopped revising my novel for many months.

    Which now makes me wonder...was the neck/upper shoulder pain a convenient excuse for me to stop sitting at the computer so long as I tried to make my novel perfect? Now I could say to myself, oh, I can't work on my novel, that will hurt my neck.

    What happened was, not working on the novel at all made me feel less like me. I am now finally moving forward with revising the last third, not obsessively redrafting and revising the first two thirds that I already have. The link between perfectionism and pain is huge for me and I'm only just now starting to piece it together.

    I also got back to journaling, something else I had stopped doing because looking down made my neck pain worse and because PTS always said not to look down, but forward. (My favorite form of journaling was handwriting in a notebook.)

    I have now gotten back to journaling, using some of the prompts in the Sarno books and in the TMS Wiki program. Now I journal in an online, private journal software called Penzu, because it is a very simple interface and allows me to lock the journal with passwords. This allows me to REALLY get all the suppressed stuff out, because I don't worry that my husband will stumble across a hard-copy journal if I pass away before he does. (My husband is actually very sweet, and I am usually not mad at him directly, but sometimes I find marriage to be in a bit of a rut and I like to journal about that knowing my words will never be found.)

    To sum up: I am accepting of the TMS diagnosis, journaling and reading. Forgot to mention, I'm also going back to Adult Children of Alcoholics groups. I do still have the pain, but it's lower than before and I have less fear now.

    Of course I made some mistakes after diagnosing myself At first, I was like, "yippy, this is just TMS, I can go back to writing and rewriting for hours on end!" That did not go well and the pain flared up, but it would also go back to lower levels after a good night's sleep. Somehow I must find a balance between working too hard and not working at all. This is an ongoing struggle, and I know my perfectionism and black-and-white thinking are a big part of it.

    I just wish the pain was totally gone by now. Maybe I will consider going to a TMS specialist. However, there are still other books I haven't read, I haven't done the structured educational program, I don't journal as much as I should and so on. But I envy the people who had immediate relief from the pain. However, I must remember how far I have come. Even without any NSAIDS, I sometimes have days where my pain level is only a one or two. Other days it's a three but never higher. That is so much better than previous months.

    Thanks for those who stuck around to read all this. Just writing it is therapeutic.
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  2. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Mara, welcome aboard. Although I'm not a tms doctor, I am a tms author and by reading what you wrote, You have tms. Do the structural education program here. Don't try to over analyze any further than you already have and be at peace with who you are -- love yourself more and be very forgiving to all that have tried to help you.
    Start letting all that's perfect go, cause really perfection is an illusion. You will heal for sure, you have all the traits and then some. Be patient and don't judge your pain whether its a 3 or a 1. Your very blessed that you know the ropes and that your pain is already dissipating. Now you just need get rid of that last 20 percent. You can find some great tms Drs right here at the site if you wish.
    Bless You
  3. Mara

    Mara Peer Supporter

    Thank you. When I look back at my post, and how long it was, analyzing every facet, I realize that type of overthinking and perfectionism is all related to the pain. But our minds are very powerful and I can use my brain to help myself too. I've started the Struct Ed Program.
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  4. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, you did a superb job of journaling out your repressions above. I'm so glad you did that Mara. I just wanted you to see that those repressions above was part of the tms. I look forward to reading your excellent post. I believe you will do a great job here for yourself and for others. Your super.
    I journaled all of my repressions out here at the wiki and it helped me a lot, a lot of times while I was helping others a repression would pop up or if I wrote a post like you did above a repression would pop up and that is simply healing,
    Bless you

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