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Self-punishment with TMS?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by honeybear424, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. honeybear424

    honeybear424 Well known member

    I am very new to this TMS stuff, however not new to the idea of there being an emotional component to my chronic headaches and neck pain (and over the past year now shoulder and arm pain have cropped up...nice!). Last Summer, I finally realized that nothing I tried ever worked because the cause was emotional all along. That's when I started my daily yoga and meditation practice. Thing is, I didn't necessarily label anger as the emotion causing my pain, although I see now how likely it is. Until I found Dr. Sarno's books in February, I blamed it on low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. I don't know. I still think that is a huge part of my problem and wonder how I can ever overcome what seems to be such a monumental issue.

    This morning, I got discouraged after my meditation. Didn't feel any better. Sat and thought about how I have been meditating for 20 minutes a day since August and haven't seen any changes in my life (my mind tells me that I am not doing it right). Had been woken up in the middle of the night by my pain, then woke up again in the morning as usual with the same nagging pain...same as every single day for so long now (lately about a 7 on a pain scale constantly). I just wanted to cry. Every day I want to cry. I try to hide it from my family, but they know. I hadn't even said anything to my husband, but before he left for work, he brought me an ice-pack. I am so tired of this. I don't know what it feels like to NOT be in pain! So after my meditation, I picked up The MindBody Prescription again and decided today was the day to start the journaling. I started listing, as Dr. Sarno suggests, the pressures that I feel in my life...perfectionism at the top of the list. By the end of the page, I was blaming myself for the struggles my teenage daughters are having in their lives with anxiety. Honestly, I think the person I am most angry with is myself. On some level, I think I am punishing myself with pain for all of the failures in my life.
    Lotus likes this.
  2. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Hi Honeybear,

    I think multiple represed feelings can be behind TMS pain...anger, and also sadness, guilt, etc.

    This sounds like a big insight:
    For me, understanding the physiology of TMS was really helpful. I had also suspected that my headaches were related to certain emotions, but had no idea HOW. I still periodically re-read the section in Mindbody Prescription about headaches just to remind myself what's going on.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    :) Veronica
  3. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Wow. This is a pretty heavy statement. Welcome honeybear. I am sorry things are so difficult for you right now. Not making progress IS frustrating. I feel the same way sometimes. I think that my pain is permanently parked in my lower back and yes - I'm the same way with my family - short fused.

    But I don't feel I'm punishing me - I feel I am overwhelmed by taking on the issues of my family and making sure they are fixed. I'm the fixer, the cheerleader, the call maker, the grocery shopper, the Laundry Monitor etc. That's perfectionism. That has gotten me into 11 years of non-stop back pain. It wears you down - I understand.

    One place you might start is with our Structured Educational Program. Many have gotten a lot out of it including me. It was created by peers here with TMS/PPD and the insights are not only really good - they're very compassionate. You do a lot of writing, but in a different way than writing lists. My list was a notebook (I did an outline - perfectionist again).

    Anyway - check it out. Perhaps it's something that will help you in addition to the meditation. Just know you aren't alone when it comes to being in pain here, or frustrated here, or finding small victories here. It's a community of people - a lot like you.

    Welcome again Honeybear. I think you've landed in a good place.

  4. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    There isn't a lot of information about headaches in Sarno's books and this was my main symptom. Like you honeybear I got to a point where I just wanted to cry as I wasn't seeing any progress. I knew that I hadn't done much of the "work", just bits and pieces. Something shifted though. I refused to just give in and worry about when my next migraine was coming, how it was going to affect my speech, how I was going to cope at work, etc. I have had a few headaches since this time but I refused to take my usual medication (am prescribed vasoconstrictors). So far I have been feeling much better. Instead of fearing the pain hitting me at some point, I just relish the time I am free of it. Your words "punishing myself with pain for all the failures in my life" certainly ring true with me too. If we are constantly beating ourselves up in a a psychologically sense, it stands to reason we will get physically hurt.
    Beach-Girl likes this.
  5. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Headaches are my main TMS symptom too. Even mainstream doctors agree 95+% of the time headaches are not a sign of serious illness although they can be really debillitating.

    A few times, when a headache comes on I have been able to sit down and go through the 12 TMS reminders and write for a while and the headache starts to back down. I'm also getting less of them now which is good.
  6. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Perfectionism to compensate for low self-esteem and lack of self-worth is a good recipe for generating and repressing rage, I'd say. I know that I hurt myself quite often in order to recreate the same conditions I experienced as a child when I wanted my mother to come back and comfort and/or heal me. Same goes for asthma and bronchitis. Unmet dependency needs of course are another recipe for generating anger: Mom's dead! It doesn't work like that anymore. But aren't the programmed emotional patterns behind TMS that are the hardest to deconstruct? But you do sound like you're getting closer to the heart of the problem.
  7. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Also, you mentioned:
    My neurologist had me keep a pain journal and rate headaches that way and it was one of the things I dumped early on, along with PT exercies. It keeps you focused on the pain and how bad it is. My TMS doctor agreed--pain jounals and rating pain makes it worse.
  8. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    What I found was instructive/productive, Veronica, was to generate one time line of the sequence of traumatic, stressful events in my life and then below it place another time line of my TMS flare ups. The pain was worse sometimes more than others, but that wasn't so instructive as recognizing the underlying correlation between stressful events and pain episodes. Gave me a meta-overview of the whole TMS process and the programming that generates and perpetuates it.
    veronica73 likes this.
  9. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Morcomm, I like the idea of writing that out--lately I've been thinking of when pain started and what was going on in my life. There was always some big stressor as the pain amped up: buying a house, stressful roommate situation, job loss, etc.
  10. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I never had any TMS pain until after my mother died in 2001, but not when she died in January, rather after July when I inherited my parents' house and had to confront their conflicted relationship that I'd always managed to evade and/or repress for many years. Like a ticking time bomb that went off when the pressure of my own self-imposed repression no longer worked as it had in the past. Like suddenly growing up at 50! I also notice that it was in August when I quit a contract where they were trying to mess with me and shortly after that came the 9/11 attacks. All psychologically destabilizing events I'd say. Then in November I had a massive back attack, accepted the physical diagnosis because my old doctor James Buckley made it, and went into conventional PT with a very strong work ethic. I got much, much better until I didn't think about my back anymore, but realize now that I never addressed the fundamental TMS emotional issues that caused the attack in the first place. It was only maybe 3 years ago that I discovered Sarno and started to really get better. I have to agree, looking back, that my engagement with conventional PT only perpetuated the syndrome. Would have gotten much better, much quicker if I'd known about Sarno 10 years ago. ;)
  11. sewmuch

    sewmuch Member

    Hi Honeybear,

    Sorry you had a rough spot.

    A couple of thoughts. First you said you are new to this. So, give yourself a break, give yourself some time and room. We all want to be better NOW, no make that yesterday or last month...but give yourself time. Be kind to yourself.

    Second try to release a bit about the your physical journey to where you are. As frustrating as it is that things we have all tried be it meditating, yoga, physical therapy etc. in themselves alone have not helped, try to accept a little where you are and focus forward. Once I accepted and truly embraced this, I learned and felt free to start creating my own now and future, something I had not been able to do for a long time and at one time, something I did not think I would do again.

    Next, I agree with Beach Girl. Start the structured program here on the TMS Wiki. And/or get Dr, Schubiner's book, Unlearn Your Pain. Both have tools to enhance Dr. Sarno's writings and theories. These tools can help with a variety of facets of TMS, past, personality, worry/anxiety etc.

    I think embarking on this is a bit like going on a diet, learning a new language, taking up painting, training for a race. You set an intention, you read, you practice and you progress. It does not happen overnight, and it is usually more successful if you are not thinking about it all of the time but incorporate it into your life and patterns.

    Lastly, you hit the nail on the head about punishing yourself and about failures. As I mentioned in a precious post, I think it is essential to forgive yourself, and now. Even if you do not really feel ready or know exactly/specifically what it is. Accepting and acknowledging you are human, you have value, you cannot be perfect, you cannot be all things to all people, life is about learning, not necessarily fixing everything, is so freeing and allows you to let go and be open for healing.

    I hope this does not come across as preachy. I only want to encourage and support and hopefully give some insight into things which have been helpful.
    Beach-Girl likes this.
  12. honeybear424

    honeybear424 Well known member

    Thank you all for the replies. You are all giving good advice and information and I greatly appreciate it.

    Not preachy at all, Sewmuch. :) I know deep down that it is critical for me to forgive myself. That is what I have been working so hard at through my yoga and meditation practice. In fact, I'm not sure if I mentioned this before anywhere, but my mantra is, "I deserve to feel good." I have repeated it hundreds of times over the past 7 1/2 months. I'm still waiting for it to kick in...

    I started the Structured Program on Tuesday night. I want to watch the 20/20 segment again, but I did the writing exercise after watching it then. Today I received The Divided Mind and The Presence Process, but I am thinking on holding off on the latter until after I complete the Structured Program.

    Beach Girl ~ I don't feel like I am short-fused with my family really, but I can tend to be a little irritable when I am trying to put on a happy face and I literally feel like crap. It's frustrating for them, I think, almost as much as for me....especially for my hubby. He tends to want to "fix" everything all the time and feels helpless that he can't "fix" me. Only I can do that, and I know it very well. Also, I could completely relate to how you said that you get overwhelmed by taking on the issues of your family and taking care of everything. I do all of the same things you do and sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed with it all. It makes it all the harder when you don't feel good but have to push yourself to get everything done anyway. Another huge thing that I worry about is my aging mother who is extremely difficult to deal with. I love her, but we have had an extremely strained relationship and have for as long as I can remember. I have to take a step back from her at times to take care of myself because she can be so toxic. She is only 72, but lives alone in a 5000 sq. ft. home filled with nothing but junk. Seriously, you could call her a hoarder. I only have one sibling living in the same city, and he suffers with his own chronic pain (I think it's TMS) and depression/anxiety,and hasn't worked in years (he lives off of SS). My oldest brother has written off my mother forever and then I have a sister who lives in another state. My mother's husband passed away a few years ago so she is all alone and if you can believe this, she knows NOT ONE OTHER SOUL in this whole city whom she can call upon with an emergency. How do you live in a city for 34 years and not have any friends?! When I think of my own pain...my headaches, neck, shoulder, & arm pain...how feel like I have a heavy burden on my shoulders, well...I think you get the point.

    Veronica ~ I've never done a pain journal, but sometimes I do rate my pain, only to determine if I will break down and take a pain killer or not. My head hurts ALL the time. It's not about feeling a headache coming on. It just plain hurts constantly, but the pain can change in its intensity. It's my trapezius, neck and TMJ problems (Sarno says TMS) that I think cause my head to hurt so badly. One of the biggest reasons that I KNOW there is an emotional connection is that I am recovering from a serious mid-life crisis (it ended about a year and a half ago, but lasted 3 1/2 years) and my pain has been worse during this past year and a half than it ever has been since this all started over 18 years ago.

    Okay...I'm rambling now, but thanks for listening. :oops:
  13. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Waiting to do the Presence Process until after you finish up the wiki's program sounds like a good plan. It can be very easy for TMSers to want to do everything all at once, so I like your idea to spread it all out. I do think reading the Divided Mind is something you should do right away. While the educational program has reading in it, nothing can compare to reading Sarno's books.

    I'm not too sure if keeping track of your pain like you mentioned in a journal is necessarily a good idea. It seems like it could keep you focused on your symptoms and thinking physical, instead of psychological. You want to journal about your emotions not your symptoms.
    Endless luke likes this.
  14. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    How about changing it to " I feel good." Or "This too shall pass." Sounds like you've set a bar with your mantra. And that's simply an observation, not a criticism. If it works for you? Continue to use it, but you state it's not "kicking in" yet.

    Ah. Yes. The "Fixers". They make me nuts because sometimes you simply want someone to listen to you - not fix you. I can relate to this. My husband isn't a "fixer", but I have many friends who are.

    This is why they invented caller ID. Or it should be advertised this way. You don't need to take on your mom's life. Let her worry about her. After all, she's not helpless, she's just be trained to know you'll be there if she whistles. You have other siblings and she must know somebody else. My point is, don't stop helping her, but make it clear this will be on your time, not hers. And you have a list of folks who come before her. I have some experience with difficult moms. I understand this one completely. But you have to make boundaries with her and stick to them. Make sure you use this relationship as you go through the program.

    It does get better. My back has been a constant source of pain for many years. But after working two of these programs, getting really honest with myself, and creating boundaries: I see a difference. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting the idea of what I need to do daily in order to rid myself of, well neck pain now. It jumped up into my neck.

    Good luck, keep writing, and continue on slowly with the programs. Forest mentioned diving in too fast and I can certainly attet to TMS burnout from doing just that.

    Endless luke likes this.
  15. honeybear424

    honeybear424 Well known member

    I haven't ever kept a pain journal, Forest. I think someone else here mentioned in this thread that they did that. I only sometimes think of the number in my head in helping me to decide if I am going to take something for the pain or not.

    Beach-Girl ~ It's funny that you mentioned changing the mantra to "I feel good". I actually have been using that mantra for the past year, but not during my designated meditation time. I think I will try your suggestion and use it as I meditate. Thanks! :)
  16. Endless luke

    Endless luke Well known member

    Was changing the mantra helpful?

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