Migraines for 9 years - My Success Story When I was a teen, I remember saying “Thank God I don’t get headaches like my mother!" Little did I know that the child in my head was listening. I was working as a teacher 9 years ago when I got my first bad migraine. I later realized that this coincided with the year my youngest child left for college. The headaches quickly became a daily problem but they always stopped when the sun set. My friends wanted me to get a scan of my brain to be sure it wasn’t a tumor but I said, “If it was a tumor, would it stop when the sun went down?” I tried closing the blinds, wearing sunglasses (sometimes 2 pairs!), keeping the lights off, never sitting facing a window, but these things didn’t work. I would ride in the car with a dark c jacket or sweater over my head! If I was in a department store where I could not see the sun set, the headache would still go away. This baffled me but it was only the beginning of a long list of odd things that did not make sense with my headaches. One day, after the sun had set, I realized that my headache did not go away, and in fact, it was worse. I had entered a new realm in migraine pain. They were now every day and every night. I had scans done and they showed no abnormalities. I saw multiple neurologists, saw a TMJ specialist, tried a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, homeopathic doctor, audiologist and an ENT specialist.. I had an appliance made for my mouth. Some things worked, but only temporarily. Around this time, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The pain escalated as our lives fell apart. When he died, my migraines grew far worse again. The pain would begin 10 minutes after standing and when I lay down it took at least 30 minutes for the migraine to subside somewhat. Even strong pain medication did not work well. My only relief was sleeping but there were actually a few times that I was awakened from my sleep with the pain. Now the pain began to move around from my ear to my crown to my jaw, and then to my temple. When I woke up, it was always in the left hemisphere but would move to the right after a minute and stay there the rest of the day. Eventually, the pain moved to wherever I touched my scalp and even the pillow under my head was causing me horrible pain! Could I manage to lay on the pillow with only half my head touching it? The left hemisphere? It wasn’t easy! I had less pain with my legs raised and I wondered how I could possibly spend my entire life in this position. Were there wheel chairs for such situations? Then once in a while, the pain actually increased when my legs were raised! These were all clues I did not yet recognize. I researched the many possible cures on the internet thinking that the answer would eventually materialize. I gave up soy, eggs, carbs, caffeine, alcohol, hot sauce, animal protein and many fruits, vegetables and dairy. This often helped but only for a week which I later learned is the "placebo effect”. This was another clue. The migraines were aggravated by the vibrations when driving, and I often had to pull over to raise my legs above my head and wrap my entire head in my jacket. When driving, I now sat on pillows and put more pillows behind my back in the car. I remember reading about a young man in pain like me who had actually built a box for his head for driving. He sketched the plans for the box and posted them on the internet. I understood him. I considered flying to my niece’s wedding and absurdly envisioned myself on the plane, lying on my seat and putting my legs on my headrest. I could say to the person next to me, “Don’t mind me, I have a headache thing”. It is laughable now but I wasn’t laughing then. It hurt to laugh. I went to a prestigious headache clinic that was touted to be the best in the world with a 3 month wait list. They told me I had a low pressure headache and they could do nothing for me. I heard about a procedure at another famous hospital in which radioactive fluid was injected into the spinal fluid around the brain to search for a possible leak. That would be my absolute last resort! A nurse at a holistic practice whispered to me that BOTOX had helped her. I made the appointment. I told everyone that I was optimistic. I had to wait several months for the appointment. This was my low point. When the 30 injections of nerve toxin injected into my scalp did nothing to help my pain, I knew I was giving up. Maybe someday I would try the radioactive fluid, but not now. By then, the pain was so terrible I had trouble caring for myself. I rarely went out and I trembled so much from the pain that walking was difficult. My hands shook so much I had trouble drinking, eating and using my phone or laptop. I had to hold my hands on my head tightly as possible when I coughed or sneezed due to the pain and eventually wrapped my arms around my head and squeezed hard which worked better. If I dropped something I could not pick it up. I could not use lower cabinets or the low part of the refrigerator. I had several small stools I would use so I would still be upright if I had to get down to do something. I had to kick these from room to room! When I took off my clothes, I would kick them in the air and catch them! My daughter said to me, “Mom, I read an article that said the only people who have headaches every day, all day, like you, are widows”. This made me angry. But this was a clue. I now realize that all these things I had been doing to get well were ensuring that the pain would continue. The pain was a constant distraction— a distraction from loss, loneliness and anger and a lot of other unconscious rage of which I am not even aware. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 my sister told me that her husband heard Howard Stern talking about a doctor named Dr. John Sarno who had cured him of back pain. She also said that this doctor had cured himself of migraines using the same technique. I was not interested and had given up at this point but, being the “goodist" that I later learned that I am, I pretended to be interested. I remember telling her that night, “Sometimes I feel like there is another person living in my head who is going to ruin all my efforts to get better. It’s always there, always tricking me!” My sister sent me the link to the 20/20 video. I didn’t see this until early evening the next day. It was a cold rainy night and I was laying down with my feet raised in extreme pain After watching the 20/20 video, I was intrigued. When it was over, another video started playing and it happened to be Dr. Sarno teaching a lesson on TMS. When I started to watch the video, it was like a part of the universe I never knew existed was being exposed! I knew it was going to help me! I actually started laughing! I could actually feel the pain subsiding! I got off the couch, grabbed my purse and headed for the nearest bookstore. I bought The Mindbody Prescription by John E. Sarno that night and as I read it all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. All my “clues" were in the book! I felt better and better. All the frustration I had been feeling for nine years suddenly made sense! I was about 65% better in only a few days. Although I still had several headaches a day, I had long periods of feeling good. I had my life back! I continued to show steady improvement and hit a plateau at about 90% in April. By early May I had made use of the TMSwiki.org site and this made me realize I was trying too hard and needed to relax. It is mid-May and I am at about 95% pain free. I did as the book suggested. I read the book over and over. I wrote in a journal and tried to include all past things that angered me as well as daily problems. I tried talking to my inner self and said things like, “Stop it now!” or “When I bend over, DO NOT HURT!”. This eventually became effective. When I was in pain, I tried to stop and think about what was upsetting me. If I could not figure it out, I would think hard about a person who angered me in my past. This was done to send a message to the inner child that her pain strategy would no longer work on me. Sometimes, if my pain was too distracting for me to think of something “angry”, I would pull out my journal and read aloud. Dr. Sarno says to think psychologically (What’s making you angry/ scared?) and remember that you have a healthy body! Big improvements often seemed to happen the next day. For example, after reading the journal aloud the first time I felt great the next day. I stopped all drugs, cancelled my doctor appointment (BOTOX), stopped rubbing my temple or my neck when in pain. I poured my pain medication into the trash can staring hard, hoping that my "other self" was watching. I started eating and drinking normally again. I stopped squeezing my head when I laughed or sneezed which was very difficult for me and started bending over to pick things up, trying not to hesitate. I took on projects, visited people and even went on a couple of dates. I bought new clothes. I got a part time job. I stopped sitting on the couch where I spent so much time, realizing it was definitely a “trigger” and started sleeping on the other side of the bed for the same reason. I planted a vegetable garden, and flower gardens, started a winemaking project with my son and I am learning to play the guitar. I walk regularly, go for hikes and occasionally run and I am increasing my physical activities every day. I do have occasional setbacks. Sadly, spending time with many friends and family, my favorite thing to do, is my biggest trigger, but I have noticed a big improvement lately. Another trigger is when I am overtired. I have lots of weekend guests and I am careful not to try as hard as I once did to be a great host. Meditation is helpful for some people and not for others. I knew that I would focus too much on my physical self if I meditated so I waited until my confidence in my “healthy body” was firmly established before meditating. When I meditate, I always reassure myself that my body is strong and resilient. Reading success stories was wonderful for me and the tmswiki.org site has really helped me along, especially when I watch the videos and read the “Ask a TMS Therapist" section. I actually need to be careful not to become obsessed with TMS. I know that the teacher in me is showing here but I want to add this. For people who do not like to read, and about 20% of us do not, the video has all the information that the book has, although not in as much detail. It was probably made in the 1980’s and the biggest complaint I have heard is that the audience asks Dr. Sarno questions that are obviously staged. This is most certainly done to be sure the person watching is getting all the information. All I have to say is, if it’s going to change a lifetime of pain into a normal life, “Who cares?” I found it to be very powerful! There is also the option of buying an audio CD of the book. This would be convenient to play in the car but it was more expensive than the video. The SEP program on this site would also be an excellent tool for someone who does not like to read. Drop-in Chat and Call-in Discussions might also work well for you. There are youtube videos of Dr. Sarno that are very informative. Some are copyrighted and are only on youtube briefly which is what I assume happened when I saw his lesson video. I now realize I had TMS, off and on, most of my life, from stuttering as a small child, then asthma later. As an adult, I had tinnitis, heartburn, vertigo, insomnia, and plantar fasciitis. The only thing I still have is asthma and I am determined to conquer this next! I started a new job last week and on the morning of my first day of work, I woke up and realized I had extreme pain in both legs below the knees and, as I rolled over, I had a terrible pain in my back. What had I done the day before to cause this? I realized I had done nothing to cause it! I actually laughed and said aloud, ”You have got to be kidding! This is not going to work! Sorry, but I am onto you!” The pain was instantly gone. If, instead, I had worried and seen a doctor, I might still have leg and back pain! My confidence is not as strong when it involves migraines. It is because this pain has brought me to my knees! I still struggle with the memory of the pain as though I have PTSD and for a while I would sob when I read my journal entries related to this time period. I would also cry when reading other people’s success stories because they were so like mine. But just as time heals all wounds, it also helps the fear to fade and this is where I am now. The fear is fading into the past. "I am confident, I am empowered, and I am strong!" I taped this message to my bathroom mirror. I still think about the young man who built the box for his head. If I mentioned TMS to him in a blog would he look into it? Sadly, probably not. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr Sarno!!! You are truly a healer!!