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Retirement as TMS Trigger

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by ReadingJunkie, Sep 9, 2023.

  1. ReadingJunkie

    ReadingJunkie Newcomer

    Hi, I'm new here. I've had migraines since childhood, but now that I'm retired (for two years) they have become chronic. I have migraine pain 3-4 days per week. Without the structure and busyness of work, I've found all of my repressed emotions coming to the surface. I do JournalSpeak to help process my emotions, but I'm looking for suggestions from others who have retired and faced a bubbling sea of emotions rising to the surface. I should say that I didn't have any big T trauma growing up, but quite a bit of little T trauma because my father was in the Navy and we moved around a lot. My husband and I are planning to move overseas in about 6 months, so that has stirred up repressed childhood emotions as well. Thanks!
    MWsunin12 likes this.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi there @ReadingJunkie and welcome!

    Let me tell you, retirement and aging combine to create the perfect breeding ground for TMS. When I discovered this work in 2011, I realized that I'd had anxiety and TMS symptoms off and on since I was very young, in spite of having a stable and nurturing childhood - not even the trauma of moving frequently! My lifelong TMS symptoms were very erratic, and not as seriously disruptive as migraines - not for many decades, anyway. But things came to a crisis in 2011 when I found myself single, and suddenly facing 60. I was happy to be single, but I'm pretty sure that the dysfunction of my marriage provided a distraction during the last five years as I approached the end of middle age and faced becoming a "senior". I was seriously on the path of becoming housebound with multiple different TMS symptoms when I stumbled across The Divided Mind almost exactly twelve years ago. One of authors who shared the book with Dr. Sarno wrote about the rage of aging - and a big ol' lightbulb went on in my head. I found this forum, worked the Structured Educational Program, listened to Alan Gordon, did the writing exercises, discovered other resources like Claire Weekes and Gabor Mate and Nicole Sachs, and got my life back.

    HOWEVER! Since then, we've had the pandemic, which was a huge emotional setback for almost everyone around the globe, and even with the shutdown essentially over, it appears that many aspects of life and of living in this society and on this planet have become many times more dysfunctional than my marriage ever was. So I urge you not to discount the effect of stresses that are outside of your control - they are there, and they must be acknowledged.

    On top of all that, I finally fully retired, and even though I had found significant relief and recovery from my childhood anxieties and the many debilitating symptoms I had twelve years prior, I nonetheless find myself struggling again, partly due to existential world stresses, but also with questions about meaning and purpose - never mind mortality - as I deal with physical aging issues (which might have their basis in lifelong stress, but which have reached a point where I can't simply dismiss them as TMS and not do anything about them).

    There is a field of therapy called Existential Psychotherapy which is super-easy to understand, and which I have found incredibly useful to get into the deeper emotions underlying surface stresses. It's based on four key issues for humans:
    Isolation (and/or Abandonment)

    That's it. You start with the current stress of any situation, and see where it might fit into those four issues, more deeply contemplating them as sources of the kind of rage that our brains need to repress. You can write down some quick thoughts for each one, then go back and do your JournalSpeak (or expressive writing as Dr. Hanscom calls it) in more detail.

    Not all situations will hit all four of the key issues (for example, when I lost two different important people within months of each other in 2012, Freedom was not in the mix. Isolation and Abandonment, Meaning, and Mortality were the issues).

    Currently, I have come up with the following sources of fear and rage:

    Isolation/Abandonment: inevitably being abandoned by my loved ones if I don't die first; becoming isolated if I live independently longer than I should;
    Freedom: inevitably losing freedom through physical and/or mental disability if I live long enough;
    Meaning: wondering if my generation are allowing ourselves to be kept alive longer than was intended by nature? existentially, what's the point of all this anyway?
    Mortality: inevitable. duh.

    Well, there's a reason it's called Existential Psychotherapy. These are the BIG existential issues. And the questions they raise against the prospect of aging and death are pretty enraging.

    All this might seem like a huge downer, but as you know since you follow Nicole's teachings, you gotta be willing to get down and dirty with the emotional shit, be willing to embrace it, and love yourself for having the bravery to do so.

    Good luck,

    Tomi, Cap'n Spanky, Ellen and 2 others like this.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    My thoughts on this topic is that as long as we are alive, we will have stress and anxiety. And if we are prone to use the defense mechanism of TMS to cope with our fears, then we will always have reasons to do so. Each stage of human life has its stresses. I thought when I retired that things would be easier since I no longer had the stress of raising a family and/or dealing with work. But, as Jan points out, I then found I had the stress and fears associated with an aging body, loss of social status, and facing mortality. So I'm still fighting the tendency my mind has to use TMS to not have to face these issues. It's a lifelong struggle for most of us.
    Tomi and JanAtheCPA like this.
  4. Elise88

    Elise88 New Member

    I can so relate. I turned 70 in December, and my TMS symptoms of anxiety and low back pain have escalated to the point that I cannot sit or stand for very long without severe pain, aching, burning, radiating pain from my back into my hips, pelvis, ribs. I have to lay down on my side until it calms down. I am so anxious about getting old and nonfunctional. I want to be there for my daughter and grandbabies to help but feel so inadequate. It is very depressing when we cannot meet the expectations of ourselves and others. I've read all Saro books and others and have got better in the past, but cannot seem to get rid of this current bout of severe pain. I feel desperate at times.
    Ellen likes this.
  5. Sita

    Sita Well known member

    Working out helps. For the body to increase muscle mass and for the mind to decrease anxiety. Especially after a certain age.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  6. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm with Sita. In fact, I just came across this article today, from NPR, (no paywall) and although it contains advice we've all heard before, it bears repeating!

    IMO, you really can't expect to recover from TMS-induced symptoms if, in the back of your mind, you know that you are not also doing everything you can to take better care of your mind and body.

    You have to reduce stress and get control over anxiety. Improve your diet and sleep, figure out how to exercise and socialize to your best abilities, obviously don't smoke/vape or abuse substances, be mindful about breathing, be mindful of your negative mental dialogue, and don't make excuses for not being able to accomplish any of this. Because this is what it takes.

    The only thing standing between you (whoever you are, reading this right now) and success is your negative fearful brain.

    I know that this is easier to say than to put into practice. But people manage to make this mind shift all the time.
  7. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    I’m right there with you! Younger than you but retired for many years.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about this.
    TMS-era have to break away from some of the medical “crap” we’ve been fed.. but it’s the same folks who feed us crap about aging and our expectations. Why am I reading about marathon runners who begin at 75 and are still going at 90?
    Why in my Mom’s retirement community are people still sailing, playing tennis, swimming, dancing, walking and biking daily? I think in much part because the believe they can, that it’s healthy and that there is no reason they can’t! I have been doing EFT, and I am working towards using it along with visualization to make a change. To work towards changing my limiting beliefs.
    Somedays and for some periods of time it’s hard.. but I made myself a mini bucket list a few years ago of things I want to do. I’m even starting to add to the list even though I’m in the same boat as you physically. I began my list before I was ready to make that shift

    It’s all part of that negative, fearful brain and making the shift.
    I began my list before I was ready to make that shift.
    Cap'n Spanky likes this.
  8. SSS

    SSS Peer Supporter

    I think retirement is a factor for me. I've had what I now recognize as TMS symptoms for most of my life but really started having issues once my son was ready to leave home and I had a job change. I was just at the point that I could enjoy life more and instead got sick with Interstial Cystitis. Through TMS work and therapy I've mostly resolved the IC, but the symptom imperative is real and new stuff has popped up.

    I retired earlier this year and again I felt like this should be such a good time in my life but pain and anxiety keep interfering.

    Right now I'm away from home visiting my family and while I'm having a good time and even some of my tingling symptoms are almost gone, I'm suddenly having severe stomach issues and I'm freaking out because I think they are a new TMS symptom and my mother has the same IBS like stuff and I don't want this happening to me....

    So yes, retirement can be great but also leave you with too much time to obsess about your health and body.

    I have been trying to make sure I am busy enough with both exercise and activities and I think that helps some.
    Ellen, JanAtheCPA and Cap'n Spanky like this.
  9. Syl

    Syl Peer Supporter

    Wow! Reading some of these posts has really hit home for me! After a life full of trauma, I've always had health issues that unbeknownst to me were pretty much always TMS. My younger years consisted of IBS, headaches, and painful bladder syndrome, to name a few. Somehow, however, I managed to keep going. Then, at age 47, I developed pudendal neuralgia, which really wrecked my life and sent the evil-ex running off so he wouldn't be stuck with a wife who had such a painful condition. He did me a favour by running away, except that he left me with very little of our savings, and of course I lost my home. As if this was not enough, I couldn't work anymore, except for a few years when I was lucky enough to get some consulting work via a couple of ex-bosses of mine. If it weren't for them, I don't know what I would've done. But by 2015 the consulting work dried up and I could no longer commute and go to work. By this time, I developed fibromyalgia, LPR (silent reflux), plus I still grappled with pudendal neuralgia, IBS, and bladder problems. So this is how my 50s were spent. Now I'm 61 and due to dwindling financials and other issues I had to make a difficult decision if I wished to have a roof over my head, and this was to go and live in an 0ver-55s village (as buying in Sydney, Australia is almost impossible and rentals have gone through the roof). So I've been living here for over a year now and where I live it is really beautiful, near national parks full of gorgeous animals and only a 10-min drive from the beach. When I first got here I thought this was great. I was one of the youngest residents and I came to live here due to financial issues rather than age. But slowly, slowly, I began to spiral into a depression vortex as I met the residents who live here. The average age-range 70s to 80s (and some are in their 90s), and many of them struggle so much with health issues that are not TMS but simply ageing. This is terrible to see and I really feel for them, but at the same time this affects me too.

    So being surrounded by a gorgeous environment, but seeing people being taken away by ambulance (sometimes never to return) really took a toll on me. I'm already hypervigilant with anxiety, and have lived with anxiety all my life, but suddenly I'm being faced with death and decay all around me--especially decay--and this had a terrible impact on my health, so much so that all of a sudden I ended up with ear problems. I have three different types of tinnitus now, and I also developed patulous eustachian tube (PET) which is a rare condition, and though much is written about it no one seems to know what causes it and there is no cure. But I saw that anxiety/stress was listed as one of the possible causes, and so straight away I emailed Dr Schubiner to ask him if PET is considered to be TMS, a 'lo and behold! I get a reply from him a few days later, telling me that only these past couple of weeks he's seen some patients with PET. Aha! I was right, but in any case I'm also exhausted--exhausted with always having to deal with a TMS conditions. Right now I'm not in a good place and I wish I could move away from this kind of environment, for I'm sure being surrounded by this kind of reality reminds me of the horrible way both my parents aged and died.

    I know where I live now is just "geography", but being in this environment has reminded me that I'm now aging, my past skills are not needed by anyone, plus I'm alone as my brother is my only family and he's too busy with his wife and a young child, so I don't see them often. I don't have close friends, either, not after being used by two so-called close friend which in the end I've had to let go. This caused much anguish on my part, and I've been left with a huge sense of abandonment.

    As for ageing and death, I certainly struggle with all the anxieties of the mess of our planet plus losing my power because I'm no longer considered young. I used to think it would be great to not have to work a stressful corporate job, and I couldn't wait until I retired and my plan was to move overseas with my then husband. But all that disappeared when pudendal neuralgia reared its ugly head and everything fell apart.

    So now all I'm left with is my cat, Mia, who treats me like a slave but loves me anyway, plus she shares a birthday with my lifelong idol, David Bowie! (What are the chances of that happening, right?). But in terms of health, well, I still think 99.9% of what I have is TMS-derived, but sometimes I feel too tired to keep doing the work of neuroplasticity. I often find myself hoping that when my time comes to leave this planet (and I'm not afraid of leaving it) I hope it's quick and painless.

    Apologies if my post depresses anyone here :sorry:
  10. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    My suggestion is to seek some sort of mental healthcare to deal with some of the issues causing you internal stress. Like the whole aging thing along with your tms. There is an Australian ISDTP therapist who deals with TMS. It’s worth considering if healthcare will cover it: https://www.istdpgoldcoast.com.au/
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  11. Syl

    Syl Peer Supporter

    Hello, thank you for your reply. Medicare does not cover any form of mental health costs. I found an ISDTP therapist based in Sydney (where I live), but he charges around $300 per hour. I cannot believe just how expensive mental health is, and our system doesn't cover it (or rather, the practitioner has a choice to get rebates from Medicare, but they don't get a lot and so they simply charge private fees). Anyway, in the past I've tried some counselling and had some sessions with different psychologists on/off. Unfortunately, I found no help at all from this end. I find writing about my feelings helps more than any kind of psychotherapy. At this point, this is what I'm doing.

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