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Nicholas' Success Story

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by Nicholas34, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Forgive me in advance, this is going to be fairly long. Reading these stories (and, in particular, finding similarities with others who had successfully conquered TMS) has been immensely instrumental in helping me through my own recovery. I want to pay that forward so I’m going to try to be be thorough.
    In January 2009 I had a minor weight lifting injury. Around that same time I had an accident which partially tore a couple ligaments in my wrist. It wasn’t a big deal, I was back in the gym the next day. But a couple weeks later I started practicing law which required spending 12 hours a day behind a computer. I had done that through law school so it shouldn’t have been any different, but within a month, the soreness in my wrist spread to debilitating tendinitis-like symptoms in my left elbow. I couldn’t open a door, I could barely drive. With each day, it only got worse. I saw doctors, physical therapists, acupuncturists. I took x-rays, MRIs, multiple cortisone shots. No results. The pain just got worse and worse. At one point my left wrist actually turned blue and swelled up like a football.
    Numerous orthopedists told me I had RSI and needed to slow down the typing. That was an impossibility so I just stopped typing with my left arm. At this point I’m driving with my right arm, typing 10 hours a day with my right arm, and using it to ice my left arm over seven times a day (at the suggestion of some doctor, I saw way too many to remember). Of course, within a month, my right forearm began to exhibit painful constricting symptoms. I chalked it up to excessive use. More PT followed, more cortisone, more orthopedic surgeons. I could no longer even sit so I was literally standing at my desk every day. Manifestations of symptoms in both arms also meant that it could be in my back (or so I thought) so I saw back specialists, took MRIs of my neck and my spine. More useless therapy that only seemed to increase the pain.
    Seeking a cure (and dealing with the depression that came with the pain) became a full-time job and obviously that conflicted with my actual full-time job, which just created more stress. My life was literally falling apart. I didn’t go out. I didn’t have a social life to speak of. I went to work and suffered through the pain, and in the evenings, I dipped my arms in ice buckets and whatever remedy I had read about that given week. I recall one night in particular, rubbing “tendon lotion” on my forearm with the vain hope of alleviating the inflammation. I have a fairly high threshold for pain but as soon as I touched my arm that night I recall screaming so loud the entire neighborhood must’ve heard. It felt like someone was scraping apart my tendons, the pain was unimaginable.
    And so it went for almost 16 months. Then one day I went to the office and realized I could not even lift a piece of paper. I was done. I saw one of the top orthopedic surgeons on the West Coast and he told me about voice software, and explained I should not be using a computer anymore. Thank God for that guy. While he didn’t have the cure, at least he gave me some relief. We scheduled a couple surgeries thereafter – I had a carpal tunnel release on my left arm which seemed to lift some of the pain. Based on its success, I had a radial tunnel release on my right arm. From that I woke up in a state of merciless pain, it was flat-out scary. I was told at one point that I might have RSD. Hint for the doctors out there: please don’t tell a TMS patient that they have RSD. We are not the best personalities to handle that info. :)
    Naturally I lost it, I thought life was over. Fortunately, I did a round of steroids which brought the pain to a manageable level. Still, I could not type. I had given up any hope of ever working out again. I could not lift anything (no matter how light) for longer than 10 seconds without pain coming to the surface. Playing guitar, which I had done for 15 years, was of course out of the question. In the subsequent months, I left my job and decided to travel the world a bit, mostly in pursuit of a new career that would accommodate my disability.
    During my travels, a friend of mine recommended I read Dr. Sarno’s book. At first, I’ll admit, I devoured that thing. I saw myself on almost every page. But the book consistently speaks to back pain, which I could not reconcile with my own condition. So ultimately I dismissed it.
    I went on with life. I took a new career, I made use of voice software, and by coupling it with a foot pedal and a standing mouse stand, I was able to work successfully in my new job. I dealt with pain every day but c’est la vie. that’s how I assumed that life would go. And to be frank, I was more than okay with that. I had learned an immense amount about myself and life through the experience and I had come to terms with perpetual pain and losing most use of my arms. I considered myself fortunate just to have them physically attached.
    As many can probably relate, after so many years of fighting against it, I also found a certain comfort in acceptance. It made going on possible. Still, at the insistence of loved ones, I continued to see doctors here and there along the way. One extremely well-qualified neurosurgeon was certain that I had fibromyalgia. I think it was an easy diagnosis for him – by this time pain had spread to my neck and upper back. My arm pain would quite inexplicably shoot up in severity even when I would just do a little cardio with my legs. He told me I would likely feel like this forever. He prescribed antidepressants with a level of confidence that made me think I had to take them. So I took them. Those are not fun. I stayed on them for three days and ran for the hills. Moving through life with no arms was a preferable solution, so I moved on.
    And so life went. Then in early 2014, as I was preparing for a business trip overseas, my stomach inexplicably grew in distention. Within a couple days, I could not eat anything. I was dizzy and faint just walking to the kitchen. Doctor visits and tests followed over the next couple months.. $1000 here, $2000 there. I was hemorrhaging money in medical bills without the slightest hint of an explanation of what was wrong. Stress naturally followed. They found symptom after symptom (acute gastritis, constipation, bloating, distention), prescribed drug after drug (Linzess, Miralax, Amitiza), nothing worked and not a single cause could be uncovered.
    And that’s when I remembered Dr Sarno’s book. While most of it centered on back pain, he made several mentions of both arm pain and gastrointestinal issues. It was clear the coincidences were just too prevalent to ignore.
    I hopped on the first flight to Los Angeles to meet Dr David Schechter, a protégé of Dr. Sarno’s. By this point I had lost almost 20 pounds in just under eight weeks. My stomach was going haywire, I could barely walk up to his office. After 10 minutes of speaking with me, Dr Schechter told me I might as well be a poster child for TMS. Evidently my personality characteristics were lining up pretty well. He recommended I speak with Alan Gordon. Alan was gracious enough to speak with me and put me in touch with Forest, and eventually with Daniel Lyman, who in the course of eight weeks taught me to recondition my conditioned responses.
    With the help of Daniel, a number of epiphanies followed. I’ll never forget the day I was walking in the park sometime before our second session, somewhat frustrated because my stomach problem had re-flared up (primarily because I was terrified that it might reflareup). But somehow that day I had a moment of relief, and no sooner did I recognize the relief that a sore throat which had seemingly left me days earlier popped up with a vengeance in my throat. At that moment, the pain had overplayed its hand. I saw it for what it really was. A ridiculous little distraction. It wasn’t real. I finished walking through the park with a pretty big smile that day. My stomach problems began to deteriorate thereafter, and were gone within a week.
    Now it took me a while to muster up the courage to apply that same attitude toward the problem in my arms. But with Daniel’s assistance, and quite a bit of meditation along the way, I was able to do just that. I actually began to have playful conversations with the pain, laughing at it when it came about. This was huge, by the way, and I would strongly recommend it. Within three weeks, I was typing for the first time in five years. In week four, I went out and bought a guitar, which I didn’t put down for days.
    I’ve since gained back my 20 lost pounds, and put on 10 more at the gym. I’m not 100% pain-free, and I may not be for a while. But I’m 90% there, which is 90% more than I thought would ever be possible. It only comes up with stress, and in that way it’s a nice little reminder to take it easy. More important, any pain that remains is devoid of the previous violence. It’s little more than a sensation – something that can certainly catch my attention, but I’m no longer running afraid of it. Indeed, I like to laugh and joke around with it. It may sound crazy but treating it like the little joker that it is has been instrumental in putting it to sleep. Good riddance. :)
    I want to send special thanks to Dr. David Schechter, Forest, Alan Gordon and Daniel Lyman – the TMS heroes that made this (and thousands of other recoveries) possible. Dr Schechter, you saw my TMS jumping off the page and put me on the path to recovery - I owe you big time.
    Forest, talking to you was like talking to a mirror. After years of not finding anyone that could explain what I had suffered through, seeing it in another was pivotal in my ability to have faith in this process. We all owe you a debt of gratitude for the platform you’ve created here to help others.
    Alan, you have skills sir. I broke down for an hour after talking to you. You gave me the gift of hope. And for the first time in years, I knew it was real.
    And most especially, sincere thanks to Daniel Lyman. You showed me the way. As I said before, there is not a favor in the world you could ask me that I would not do. You have made a friend for life my man.
    mm718, speedysel, Laudisco and 8 others like this.
  2. AnitaV

    AnitaV Peer Supporter

    Congratulations, Nicholas!!! What a wonderful story! It reminded my so much of my own recovery (textbook tms personality, endless doctors, antidepressants, rsd and fibromyalgia diagnoses, etc...). I am so happy for you. Congratulations on getting your life back, and on seeing the world in a new light.
    Laudisco likes this.
  3. blake

    blake Well known member

    Thank you for your story. So well written and so inspirational! I'm sure you know just how helpful a story like yours can be. I'm still struggling with my pain and when I read an account like yours, it reignites my sense of hope. I like your idea of joking around with the pain. I'll give it a go
    MissShamrocks and Laudisco like this.
  4. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thank you, Anita! Wow, what an inspirational story you have of your own. I couldn't be happier for you. You persevered in the face of some serious symptoms, I am thoroughly impressed. Thank you so much for the kind words, and congratulations yourself! We deserve it. :)
  5. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thank you, Blake. I would write this 100 times if it would help one person so it means a lot that it has reignited your sense of hope. Don't ever lose that, this stuff is not invincible, believe me. I was very skeptical at first but as I got better the evidence just became insurmountable. I don't know where in the process it occurred but somewhere it just became painfully obvious that it was FAR more likely TMS was the problem than any possible physical explanation. And once that happens, healing is inevitable. It really helped me to laugh at the pain so please try it. It's not always easy, but very effective. Because let's face it, in the early and middle stages of your recovery, you're going to get constant constant reminders of it, shooting here, igniting there, etc. And when it came up, I would literally just laugh internally and say "hi you little prankster." That was my name for it. :) It wouldn't stick around long after that. Stay at it!!
    Ellen likes this.
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Such a great success story, Nicholas! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us. It will inspire and motivate a lot of people.
  7. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Oh wow, Nicholas. That's some success story. I agree with Ellen. It's sure to motivate so many people.
  8. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thanks so much!
  9. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thanks, Ellen! I couldn't agree with you more about the value of mindfulness meditation. That played a HUGE part in expediting my recovery.
    speedysel likes this.
  10. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Your success story is wonderful, Nicholas. I, too, find it helpful to laugh at my pain or my anxiety or whatever is
    troubling or weighing on me. I only need to laugh for a minute or less and I feel better. Last night I couldn't fall asleep,
    even with deep breathing and my calming mantras, so I laughed. I don't remember what happened after that,
    because I was asleep. Haha.
    Laudisco likes this.
  11. Sandrine

    Sandrine New Member

    Thank you for your great story, Nicholas! It is so inspiring for those who are still on their journey!

    Walt, this seems really a nice idea, falling asleep while laughing. Hahaha, great :)
  12. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thanks, Walt. I like it!
  13. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thanks, Sandrine!
  14. danielle

    danielle Peer Supporter

    Ellen, I'm so glad I read this. I really needed to hear it. Newly inspired....
  15. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Every day is a gift. We need to be thankful for it.
    I'm even thankful for the back pain I got two years ago.
    It led me to learning about TMS and this forum and the help from people here who have become my friends.
  16. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    Hi! Great to hear such a wonderful story of hope! A question or two...can you possibly expand a little on how you reconditioned your conditioned responses? I would love to know more! Also, when you say your stomach problems had re-flared up because you were terrified that they might flare up...I can totally relate! I have pain in my calf and before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I'm terrified and dread living another day with this pain. My leg doesn't actually hurt until after a few minutes of walking...then I can physically feel myself tightening muscles fearing that it's going to hurt again. Thanks again for posting! I wish you continued success!
  17. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Sure thing, SSG. Believe it or not, you’ve already answered your own question. The fact that your pain surfaces before your feet hit the floor tells you all you need to know.
    As mentioned above, I was working with a TMS counselor, and through some helpful guidance we really tried to slow down the process to identify when pain would arise. At one point I actually put a keyboard in front of me, closed my eyes, and realized that the onslaught of tenseness and constriction would begin as soon as my fingers started reaching for the keyboard. Before I would even touch a key. What does that tell you? It’s not real! Well, at least not physically-based. My response to a keyboard had been so ingrained and conditioned to associate with pain, that it actually triggered painful symptoms. Your calves sound very much the same.
    But through time and self-examination, and a continuous process of collecting this and other evidence, it became clear that TMS was the culprit. That gave me the confidence to recondition my responses, i.e., rather than panicking when pain would surface, I would laugh at it.
    More successful evidence followed. It was not a straight line by any means, but after time the evidence becomes too strong to ignore. It was clear I had TMS. And great news! TMS is curable. You can read 1000 cases on this forum testifying to that very fact, and I did just that. Every time I would get sidetracked or doubt the veracity, and believe me your mind will find ways to sidetrack you, just do a breathing exercise (check out mindfulness meditation), read your lists of evidence, or come on here and read a success story. It will put you back on the path. Continue doing that and your conditioned responses (i.e., my foot hurts, I can’t put it on the floor) will be reconditioned (to let’s put these bad boys on the ground and go sprinting!). Stay strong, and keep at it! :)
    mm718 and Ellen like this.
  18. Sheree

    Sheree Well known member

    Loved hearing your story Nicholas. Thanks so much for going to the trouble of describing it in such clear detail. To have your life back must be wonderful. Enjoy every minute!!
  19. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    Thank you Nicholas! You have been very helpful! I'm so glad you were able to work with a TMS therapist...did you do this mostly in person or over skype (or something similar)? I've noticed that many don't accept insurance, so I fear the cost will be too much as the present time. Also, just out of curiousity, was there one particular book that really resonated with you? I have ready MindBody Prescription...but only once, and I'm currently working through Unlearn Your Pain. One final question...you say "it was not a straight line by any means;" does this mean that you would have one good day followed by a few that weren't so good? It seems I am experiencing that. I have never had a pain free day, but definitely a few that have been a lot less pain than others. As much as I LOVE having those days...I find myself being fearful that the next day will not be as good. Again, I really appreciate you writing in such detail! Blessings!
  20. Nicholas34

    Nicholas34 New Member

    Thanks, Sheree!

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