1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Recent TMS Relapse Experience

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Ellen, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I thought I'd share my recent experience of a severe TMS relapse in hopes that what I have to share may help someone else going through something similar.

    I recovered a few years ago from fibromyalgia, migraines, and a host of other TMS symptoms. Since my recovery I have occasionally had a relapse of fibromyalgia pain, though I am usually able to identify it as TMS quickly, find the trigger, and get back to pain free within a few days.

    A few weeks ago I started having a severe flare-up of pain and insomnia. I knew right away that it was TMS, but I couldn't figure out the trigger. I am retired, have no complicated relationships in my life, and generally lead a pretty low-stress life. I searched and searched for a possible trigger and couldn't identify anything out of the ordinary that had happened that might have triggered this relapse.

    So I decided I needed to start journaling, and by the second day I had figured it out. I had received a letter recently from my primary care physician of 6 years that he was retiring at the end of the month. The letter stated that I would need to find a new doctor by then, and if I hadn't identified anyone by then, they would send all my records to Dr. X and I could see her when needed. This occurrence is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary for most people, but I knew this was what triggered my relapse. My TMS symptoms immediately started to disappear once I had this realization.

    As is the case for many of us TMSers, I had a very dysfunctional childhood and have a high ACE score (6). I have done a lot of exploration of these issues and know I have major issues with attachment and fears of abandonment related to my early childhood. I realized that my unconscious had interpreted my doctor's letter as abandonment, which raised all my alarm signals, and which I immediately repressed. Hence, my not having a clue why I was having a relapse.

    I am reading Dr. Schubiner's and Dr. Abbass' book for TMS practitioners called Hidden from View. There is a section about the psychological phenomenon of transference. I quote "The complex feelings related to attachment trauma are triggered in a person's current relationships, especially in relationship to healthcare professionals. Why? As a healthcare provider, you are a caring person, offering a potential attachment and expressing positive regard for your patient. You, looking into her eyes, remind her of her early attachments and the feelings about the ultimate fate of those attachments."

    I was shocked to learn the truth and power of this phenomenon. I only met with my doctor for 10-15 minutes a couple of times of year. He was my age, and didn't even wear a white coat. But I realize that those 15 minutes are the only time in my life when someone is focused solely on my concerns and needs. I have quality friendships and close family, but those relationships are all reciprocal. The relationship with a healthcare provider or therapist is uniquely different, as it mimics very early childhood in that it is a one-way relationship, and is therefore set up for transference to occur.

    So what I learned from this experience and hope to pass on is:
    • If you are having difficulty finding the psychological trigger for your current TMS, it may be something that is quite ordinary and benign to most people, but could set off alarm bells in your unconscious if you are someone with a traumatic and dysfunctional childhood
    • Transference is a very real phenomenon that can occur with anyone you perceive in a position of authority who exhibits a caring manner
    • Despite all my knowledge of TMS and all the work I have done to uncover my psychological issues, I can still be surprised by the repressed material that is going on in my unconscious
    So this experience has been rather humbling for me. Because I learned repression at a very young age, I am very skilled at hiding things from myself and others. But I am so very grateful to have the knowledge and the tools to ultimately uncover these issues that are hidden from view and get back to a pain-free state.
  2. GetBusyLiving

    GetBusyLiving New Member

    Wow - so very interesting. Thanks for sharing!
  3. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Ellen, don't be humbled. Be proud of your success in stopping the flareup and, more important, of the skill you have developed in thinking psychologically. Even Sarno struggled at times to discover what triggered episodes of his TMS-equivalent of heartburn. See Healing Back Pain p. 45 and The Divided Mind pp. 125-26. In my view, you are one of the rare people who really "gets it."

    As you no doubt are aware, ISTDP psychiatrist Dr. Abbass wrote the passage you quoted above. I believe the ISTDP focus on attachment trauma and its impact on our current relationship experiences (what Abbass called transference in Hidden from View) is critically important. In thinking psychologically, the task is not to re-expereince childhood attachment trauma (perhaps a mistake made by people to say journaling makes their pain worse), but instead the task is to use the past--as you did--to understand and evaluate the current experience. What is hard about the process of thinking psychologically is that the subcortical unconscious part of one's brain can treat a current relationship experience as equivalent to a similar childhood/caregiver relationship traumatic experience when the similarity is only superficial and the two experiences are really very different--as was true in your case, where "abandonment" by your doctor was not at all as dangerous to your well being as parental abandonment was in childhood.

    In my opinion, the best way to correct unconscious transference when it is maladaptive is to become consciously aware of it so the cortical part of your brain can process that and decide the current relationship experience is nowhere near as dangerous as the childhood one was and override the subcortical response. I think this in essence was Sarno's approach when he got heartburn, even though he used different terminology in his books.
    StarCluster, Ellen and plum like this.
  4. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    That is awesome. I am glad to read stories of other veterans continuing to get results. I have gotten so much freedom from such a simple process .
    It is always amazing to me how the answer is hidden in plain sight. My ego is usually the problem. It thinks "oh... it can't be that simple or obvious" but it always is.
    MWsunin12 and Ellen like this.
  5. NicoleB34

    NicoleB34 Well known member

    i started developing a pain in the back of my calf. Since i'm a cyclist, things like this are a common injury so it wasnt surprising that i might have strained something. however, since i'm prone to "tendinitis", i told myself not to freak out. Since i didnt let myself freak out, the pain never went above mild/moderate. The pain has been lingering over 2 months now. When people hear this, they say "omg, you need to go see somebody!". I'm pretty sure it's TMS at this point. What are my clues? Well, it comes and goes at this point, usually with no physical strain. Also, advil doesnt touch it, which leads me to believe it's coming from the central nervous system (as we all know, advil doesnt touch TMS pain). And my final clue, it seems that when the calf pain starts raging, the pelvic pain takes a bit of a back seat. That's one thing i notice about TMS pain. one area of the body will tug and pull on another area. The same thing happened when my stomach decided to hurt really bad for a month. it was a great month for my pelvis! However, anyone with pelvic pain will tell you that it takes a huge emotional toll on you (anything that affects going to the bathroom or your sex life or sitting life is stressful) so that's why i find it very hard to ignore. Leg pain is easier for me to ignore so it has a tendency to fade when i give it no attention.
  6. MWsunin12

    MWsunin12 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for this post, Ellen. It seems that our brains want to distract us in the quickest manner with symptoms.

    I always appreciate your posts, Ellen. You've been a healing presence for me.

    Ellen likes this.
  7. elephantfan

    elephantfan New Member

    Thank you for sharing, Ellen. As someone in the early stages of my TMS journey, it's heartening to come across testimonials showing that flare-ups are not always (1) the end of the world (2) mysterious (3) irreversible.
    Ellen likes this.
  8. StarCluster

    StarCluster New Member

    Thank you for sharing! I never thought about the effects of having to switch doctors as a trigger. This post has perfect timing, because I am also going through this transition.
    *mind blown*

Share This Page