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Overachiever, Likely TMS, Advice

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by cellochess, Nov 16, 2020.

  1. cellochess

    cellochess Newcomer

    Hello, sorry for a long post, want some feedback, what do you guys think, I thin its PPD but Ive also been told my joint laxity (EDS type III, Im more flexible than 99% of males around my age according to Beighton scores) may be a structural cause but Im skeptical because I wasnt always in chronic pain.

    I've been having chronic, light sensitive migraines (5 to 6 days a week) since 2016 and chronic joint pain (DeQuairvains syndrome, pain under my wrist, pain in between my fingers, pain at the medial epicondyle along the ulnar nerve, exacerbated by typing, clicking the mouse, or writing) since fall of 2018. I have also had chronic pain in my right ankle (“extensor tendinitis”) and my right knee (“IT band syndrome”) since summer 2019, although the ankle pain has mostly resolved.

    I’ve been perfectionistic and an overachiever my whole life (gifted ed, aced the ACT in middle school, went to college 3 years early and studied engineering, worked at a top aerospace company, about to begin a PhD in computer science). My extended family is full of overachieving individuals: an ex-CEO of a foreign investment bank, a doctor, and the founder of a foreign skincare chain. There is a lot of pressure to do well, and comparison in the family (my sister goes to a PhD program in a well known Ivy League school).

    My immediate family however is full of dysfunction. My father got cancer twice, and is currently terminal but is still quite stable for several years. My mother suffers from a chronic untreated depression my whole childhood. There was a lot of verbal abuse between my parents, constant daily fighting, and I remember frequently hiding upstairs or under my bed. My mother took me out of the household at 15 because I was scared of my Dad and keeping scissors under my pillow at night as I was occasionally woken up by him yelling. I was blamed for their divorce by my mother, at the same time that I went to college. I couldn’t stand living with my depressed mother who expected me to console her so at age 15 I lived on my own during the weekdays in an apartment my the college campus. I had trouble fitting in socially at college because I was, well, 15 so I often felt alone and ostracized.

    Timeline of Possible PPD Symptoms:

    2009: Mother filed protection order and divorce when I was in 5th grade, we lived in a family friends house for a few months and then an apartment. They eventually reconciled.

    2012: Father got cancer, was treated. Became irritable and aggressive, frequent road rage, would get out of the car to bang on someones window occasionally. I believe around this time I got TMJ pain syndrome. I also got a concussion from a mild head hit, and post concussive headaches for several months.

    2013: Father was cured and then got another form of cancer, became more aggressive, especially verbally.

    2014: I entered college early. Mother removed me from the house. We lived at a family friend’s, and then I lived alone during the week at a college apartment.

    2015: I broke up with a long term relationship, was a major support, so had a hard time getting over. I lived at the college dorms for a few months, a fraternity for a few months, but had a hard time fitting in so started commuting from home. Reconciled with my father, his aggression calmed down after the divorce.

    2016: I joined a business fraternity, but had a lot of social anxiety and hard time fitting in. Around this time got my first major depressive episode. Began living with some friends in the fall, but they were not very inclusive and I felt left out, depression worsened, began to try meds. Also experienced a second concussion, and post concussive migraine syndrome that has lasted till this day.

    2017: Got in my second major relationship, very supportive and helpful about my mood struggles, but I became dependent and followed her to work to study and used her as a crux for my depression. Became withdrawn from some friendships due to depression. Changed majors and had less friends as a result. Had frequent communication issues though.

    2018: Got into my college major of engineering, and didn’t know many people, still depressed. Struggled to find an internship, when I did began having pain in my right index finger using the mouse. Had bad job prospects so struggled to join an engineering team, which required even more work after classes and less free time. Saw several doctors and PT, arm pain “spread” over a month when I went home to see extended family I hadn’t seen over most of college. Then had pain in my finger, thumb, elbow, and other hand.

    2019: Pain stayed, and I became depressed and anxious about it. Had to quit the engineering team joined and get help from my girlfriend to write out assignments I dictated. I did start to make friendships at school, and engage in more hobbies like swimming and skiing though. Around summer right before I graduated, I started getting bad foot pain in my ankle, thought it might have been from swimming but it progressed and soon I could barely walk around campus and had trouble driving.
    I took a month off before I started my first job in aerospace to “heal” my RSI. Got a dog and thought he was making my RSI worse by pulling. Work began and the hand pain got worse, couldn’t take as many breaks or get help dictating assignments.

    2020: Doctor told me to try taking a couple month leave of absence to heal my RSI. It was unpaid so it was very financially stressful, but one of my parents helped. Didn’t get any better with rest. Well I did, and then as soon as I used my hands to type, write, navigate the computer, or even scroll my phone it got wore again. Became very depressed. Got the vertigo episode. Some family members were very unsupportive.

    Got diagnosed with hypermobility of my thumb, fingers, and spine. Got surgery to correct my thumb, and ankle collapsing (flat foot). Hand surgery helped a bit and I got back to work, but then the DQ in my thumb got worse again. Foot surgery took a long time to rehab. Also got botox shots for ulnar nerve entrapment (thoracic outlet) and a lot of ergonomic improvements (posture braces, standing desk, mechanical split keyboard, vertical mouse) Got back to wrok with 75% hours, and struggled through some pain and managed to make it work (WFH covid also helped).

    Found out about TMS/PPD on an RSI forum in mid last month, personality seems to describe me well. Some things were striking about how my pain spread and bounced around, but it always was a small localized area wherever it was. Forced myself to type more and surprisingly worked up my way to 3 or 4 hours per day, some days it hurts worse but sometimes I notice after a while the pain goes away. Also forced myself to bike through knee pain and noticed that sometimes, after a while (20 min) it would go away. Some inconsistencies in my pain. Headaches got worse (I also was so confident in PPD that I stopped one of my migraine meds and tried my best not to take NSAIDs).

    I spend about 40 minutes each day on chronic pain and TMS techniques, like journaling and rereading the books and CBT, some meditating. Stopped PT, postponed my next surgery, and noticed my pain didn’t get worse. Have been able to exercise more, even walk my dogs sometimes. It feels like Im getting better but I worry my progress will plateau, or that I wont be able to handle 50 hour weeks or a rigorous top engineering PhD versus my current 30 hour schedule, also got laid off from covid so grad school is my only option now (the pay at the end is very, very good though). Trying to focus less on the pain, and not use the word pain to describe it, got a appt with Dr Schecter later this month, going to try rTMS for my depression. Been focusing on my hobbies more and not being all work focused, took up chess, car racing games, board games, and meditation. I really want improvements to stay and continue and not get any new pain areas though, and I really want to not let paint come back and get in the way of my PhD.
    Balsa11 likes this.
  2. hecate105

    hecate105 Well known member

    You sound like you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself - do u want to do the phd ? or just feel you should because you are clever...? What do you really want to spend your days doing? Usually most of our time is spent working - so it really should be something that we enjoy, that we get satisfaction from, that we would want to do - even if it wasn;t paid! Or - if that is not possible - a job that pays us well but doesn't take up all our time... You are young so you can still alter your course in life... make sure you live a life that does not put too much stress on you - life should be savoured and enjoyed - use your cleverness to suss it out...!
    Balsa11 likes this.
  3. cellochess

    cellochess Newcomer

    Thanks for your reply,

    I definitely agree that I put too much pressure on myself. Even just day to day, I'm so focused on my recovery and getting better. In October I set 3 goals for myself to achieve by January: To be able to code 4 hours a day/ write 1 hour a day pain free, to walk up to 2 miles pain free, and to get my Beck Depression inventory from a mid 20s to right under subclinical (10). Everyday I feel I am pushing myself towards that goal- 20 minutes of excercise, 20 minutes of journaling or CBT, 20 minutes reading PPD or pain research, meditation, and I try to track and push the number of hours I work at the computer. I realize that might be self defeating but it gives me an internal locus of control. I guess I worry that if I'm not detailed and meticulous about my recovery, that I will never get better, given how chronic these problems have become. I was out of work in so much pain from Dec 2019 to June 2020, so I really feel my #1 priority in life is fixing my chronic pain or getting it to a manageable level.

    I do want to do the PhD, I find that I'm bored in a job easily. In my previous job, it was mind numbing and I didn't feel like I was growing. I want to create, and to work on meaningful technologies. Part of it is pay based too. I live in a major tech city in the US so the cost of living is very high, even working as an aerospace engineer it felt like I barely made enough to save up money each month and live comfortably, and there werent a lot of growth prospects in that field. Having a father that is terminally ill, and a mother without a significant retirement, I feel pressured to make enough so I can take good care of them (Asian values). The degree would double or triple my salary, and it seems like it would require 50 hour weeks on average, not too much more than my current job (40). I think you make a good point that I really should focus my research on what I truly enjoy, not just what would make the most money though.

    A lot of jobs are stressful though, no? Particularly, healthcare related such as nursing or Doctor, businessman, even retail jobs with mean customers. I hate to think that I'm limited in what career I can pick because my stress becomes expressed somatically. I'd like to think Ill learn to express the emotions so they don't get repressed.

    I want to spend my days creating, I guess, making things that make people's lives better (intelligent prosthetics, brain computer interfaces), having work that challenges me (but doesn't pressure me excessively), and making a good living so I dont have to worry about money anymore.
    Balsa11 likes this.
  4. cellochess

    cellochess Newcomer

    I should add, Ive made a priority of rediscovering hobbies lately, such as playing chess (hence the name), racing simulator games, playing/ walking my dog, reading books about new subjects, and investing. Maybe Ill add art and sculpting soon too. I am very type A though, and find I often feel guilty for indulging in "nonproductive" time- TV, video games, etc. I guess that's just how I was raised, sigh...
    Balsa11 likes this.
  5. hecate105

    hecate105 Well known member

    So could you prioritise not putting pressure on yourself as part of your treatment plan...?! If you transfer the same behaviour that has made you ill to trying to get better... it is counter productive... It is hard when it is at the core of our being - but - the most important thing is for you to be healthy in body and mind and live a happy life... So to get better - you need to not try so hard to get better...!! Counter-intuitive yes - but spot on too!
    I think if you are setting time aside to enjoy your hobbies - especially outdoor ones - you will gain strength/vitality from that and be able to overcome the perfectionism part - its not that you don't want to do things perfectly - its just not putting pressure on yourself to do them perfectly..... It sounds like you will end up doing something very worthwhile with your time/career - so less stress and more appreciation of what a great person you are!!!
    Balsa11 likes this.
  6. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I don't know how familiar you are with the text of "Healing Back Pain" by Sarno, BUT you are matching one of the stereotypes. Without naming names, Sarno pointed out that some people come from cultures where there is extreme pressure to succeed, or be responsible for things that are inconsistent with our modern culture. I am not saying they are wrong or bad, just that the attainment of them creates so many conflicts that the person doesn't realize how much rage they are generating constantly.

    Far and away FAMILY and responsibilities to them is for me the number one TMS maker. Sarno said when we had a symptom that seemed to come out of nowhere, to look REALLY close... well, that's almost always gonna be family or our partner...occasionally a best friend.

    I was reading your post thinking to myself "wow... I am a bum" seeing how hard you stick your own feet to the fire for the ones you care about. That isn't something you need to change, BUT You definitely need to raise your awareness about how much anger that generates.... Your Dad? You are furious with him for all of the rage he brought into your world and now for having the audacity to be weak and die right in front of you and there is nothing you can do about it. Mortality is enraging..other people's and our own.

    "The price of genius will be paid in the coin of alienation"... so you have a little steeper hill to climb, that's all. From reading your post , I get the feeling that you are looking for exterior bench marks to examine your interior self and I can assure you your search is in vain. Getting under a certain score on a test doesn't relieve you from the anguish of depression anymore than those dumb 'rate your pain' charts are a true indicator of the significance of pain in someone's life.

    My father had a degree in engineering from Stanford with a masters in business from Harvard... he worked for foreign governments on economics and probably for the spooks in our own as well...and he had TMS to his dying day. ....which was self inflicted and young. But he he took care of his mom...until he couldn't.

    That made a big impression on me, obviously. I too was a 'high achiever' and marked as 'special'...first they thought I was retarded...than they changed their mind and decided I was gifted. I didn't give a fuck. I just wanted to be OK. I was good at taking tests. I can still remember vast quantities of totally useless information. I always thought I could turn that tool around and use it to figure out the world and myself....and that is INCORRECT. Thought and reason will not save you. They will bury you...it's like appealing to a criminal organization to clean up crime.

    There is something inside of you beneath the journals and the depression tests and the Phd and the intelligence. In fact it's knees are buckling under the weight of all of that exterior 'stuff'. as soon as you can get in there, all of that will be revealed as 'stuff' to be played with, or not, but it will be exposed as not authentically you.

    ...and then all of your TMS , anxiety and depression will go away.
    Balsa11, linnyc87 and backhand like this.
  7. Aimee88

    Aimee88 Well known member

    With all you have shared, I am most touched by your self-awareness, because this will serve you well.

    And you spelled out very achievable expectations here, I think:
    If you do the work, I am confident you will discover how to feel your emotions, and be amazed at how temporary they can be, and how you can go about your life doing what you are inspired to do without concern for pain. We learn to take the pain as a message, and reading this today and responding to you is a brilliant chance for me to realign and just keep putting it all into practice for myself. Welcome to your healing.
    Balsa11 likes this.
  8. cellochess

    cellochess Newcomer

    Thank you all, I will continue to work on uncovering deeper emotions and trauma, treating myself lighter, and avoiding fearing the pain. Ive started to work with Alan Gordon's center too.
    Balsa11, Lizzy and Aimee88 like this.
  9. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Hi @cellochess, I'm in my fourth year of undergrad for EE and still have 2 more years to go, hopefully! Thanks for sharing your story.

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