1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this link: http://go.tmswiki.org/newprogram
    Dismiss Notice

Starting Out

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by Cyclist2020, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. Cyclist2020

    Cyclist2020 Newcomer

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to say hello as I get further into the Structured Educational Program. Today is Day 8 for me. I'd say there have been lots of ups and downs. My intention is to update you all with my progress once or twice a week, in the hope that it may be useful for others. First I'll provide some short background on my situation, and then I'll talk a little about how my experience has been thus far.

    Like many of you, I've been suffering from back pain for years. My first flare-up was in 2009. A few months of PT seemed to fix me, but in 2012 I had another incident. An MRI from that year shows a mildly herniated disc, scoliosis, some other issues. After PT, again, it seemed to resolve, and "back pain" wasn't really on my radar for the next five years. Around 2017/2018 I had consistent stiffness and some immobility, but minor pain, and I just chalked up my lack of flexibility and occasional aches as part of life in your 30s (I'm 37). I did, however, have a nasty flare-up of tingling and numbness in my hands, particularly in my right (typing) hand in 2016--just a few months before I quit my job to start my own business. It's also been with me, off and on, to various degrees of severity, since then.

    In late 2018, a few months after my son was born, I had another back attack--and this one was way worse than the previous two. For the first few months I was completely inflexible and in pretty serious pain, but forcing myself to exercise and some PT helped stabilize things. For most of the year I've been functional, in that I can carry out tasks around the house, attend to my son, etc. without too much pain. And this summer I went on a nine-hour car trip that wasn't too bad. But my hobbies have been sharply curtailed; I used to ride my bike for 20 miles up and down our local mountains, and go on long hikes, but they have been all but eliminated. Between my aching back, hand issues, and weird aches and pains (like numbness on the underside of my foot), this has been a difficult year and a half. Having my new son around has brightened things up a lot--but has also produced some difficult and conflicted feelings, I admit. When I believed that my issues were structural, it was impossible not to associate the physical tasks required to raise a baby/toddler as contributing to my lack of recovery (not that it wouldn't be worth it. It absolutely is.). This was a hard pill to swallow.

    As recently as last fall I had certain days with very little or no pain, but I still felt like I wasn't fully back (no pun intended), and I still couldn't cycle for long without pain, so I pledged to work to get rid of my pain for good. I read Healing Back Pain last Sunday, and I decided to start the Structured Educational Program the next day (last Monday).

    Like I said, there have been ups and downs. At the beginning, after seeing myself--goodist, perfectionist, nonconfrontational, compulsive, impulsive--on almost all the pages of the book, I felt elated, happy to learn that relief is within sight. This past week has been something of a rollercoaster of emotions, and at one point I felt myself nearly having a panic attack. It was strange to feel this out of control--like a blast from the past. I had anxiety back in my mid-20s, and was able to overcome it, so I relied on my old strategies to do this time. The experience didn't freak me out; I took it as a sign that the process is working its strange magic. (On a side note, I'm struck by how similar the process of dealing with anxiety seems to be to the process of dealing with TMS. Basically, I realized I was terrified of having panic attacks. When I decided to not be afraid of them anymore, and resolved that I would simply deal with them if they happened, even if I made a fool out of myself, their threat began to dissipate.)

    But physically, things seem to have gone way downhill since starting the program. Quite honestly, as recently as a month ago I was driving with only minor pain, and exercising with almost no pain. (And a few months ago I went on that nine-hour car trip.) Now even ten minutes in the car is excruciating, and I can really only walk as far as exercise goes. I keep reminding myself this is part of the process, part of the "symptom extinction." I wonder if part of my worry--and I bet others feel the same way--stems from all of the reviews on Healing Back Pain and The Mindbody Prescription that claim the books healed them after simply reading the book, or within a week. Perhaps many of us had the expectation (hope?) of the same. As others know, it's tough to keep the faith when you feel so crummy. But keep the faith I will. I have committed myself to completing the full six-week program. And, for what its worth, my hand/wrist pain seems to have largely dissipated, so I'd like to think that's a good sign.

    So wish me luck. I'll try my best to post semi-frequent updates over the rest of my six-week journey.

    One final thing: I've found that spending too much time reading about TMS and browsing through these forums can be unproductive for me, since it shifts my (by default obsessive) focus to the pain and dealing with it, as opposed to getting on with my life. So I probably won't post too often.

    Yours in healing and patience,

    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Cyclist,

    Your check-in sounds encouraging, and that you're keeping your strength despite some mental challenges re symptoms.

    It is a strange magic, this process! Your ability to not worry about anxiety/panic attacks is very good, strong practice. Yes, these are considered TMS equivalents, and are known to occur when you're treating TMS mindfully. Many here at the Forum have reported increase in anxiety as they engage a deeper TMS process, as you're doing.

    Here is a discussion of this from recent success story re pressuring ourselves to get better you might find interesting.


    Good luck in your journey Cyclist, and keep noticing the small breakthroughs when they happen.

  3. Cyclist2020

    Cyclist2020 Newcomer

    Thanks very much for the support, Andy, and for the relevant posts. It's encouraging to hear that others have had similar insights, and that I may have already cultivated some of the tools to beat this.

  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi @Cyclist2020, and welcome!

    I have to let you know that the number of people who report increasing, worsening, and/or new symptoms at around Day 8 of the SEP is consistently quite high. And that this is good news, because it means that your subconscious fearful brain is desperately trying to fight back against your determination to let go of the fear that it thinks will keep you safe.

    On the subject of children, I listened to the latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts today, in which host Eddy Lindenstein and his guest, Dr Daniel Ratner, discuss parenting (among many other things, of course), and mention how Dr Sarno once said that having children is a major source of TMS symptoms. If you'd like a break, take a listen: https://audioboom.com/channels/4937410 (The Mind and Fitness Podcast)
  5. Cyclist2020

    Cyclist2020 Newcomer

    Thanks for the information and encouragement, Jan. Always good to know that others are having (or have had) similar experiences.
  6. Cyclist2020

    Cyclist2020 Newcomer

    Hi all,

    As promised, here's my next week's check-in. Today is Day 16 of the SEP.

    I had been intending to post yesterday morning, as I usually do my TMS/SEP work after breakfast and before work. A bunch of things messed up my schedule, though, so I pushed the work back to the afternoon. The day wound up getting away from me, and I ended up not doing anything. I'm trying hard not to miss any days, and so far I've only missed one other one. But it happens.

    I'm glad I waited. It feels strange/exciting writing this, but I've experienced an undeniable decrease in lower back pain within the past 24 (maybe even 18) hours.

    When I woke up yesterday I began plotting out my update to this thread. I assumed I would write that I'd made little progress but still remained faithful to completing the SEP. But yesterday afternoon, I noticed that I had been sitting in a chair talking with someone for about an hour with no pain. And then I walked home with increased flexibility (i.e., a longer stride than my usually restricted one). Then I made dinner without feeling aches in my left leg. And then I drove to a friend's house to drop something off and was able to space out long enough to get lost in the radio music, something that hasn't happened in weeks (months?).

    This was an exciting development! In fact, I had a hard time going to sleep last night. I woke up early, eager and nervous to test whether or not this upward trend would continue. Well, it has--when I bent over and picked up my phone off the floor right after getting up, there was no pain. This whole morning, which involved a rigmarole of chasing down a rambunctious 18-month-old and getting him dressed, has been minimally painful.

    I'm trying to keep a cool head, since I'm cautious by nature and I realize there will be some regressions in store for me. But I am very, very pleased with this development, which I take as a sign that the process is working. When we feel so hopeless, and in pain, these signs are absolute lifelines. So to anyone reading this, I'd say: hang in there.

    A few related thoughts:

    I've taken to meditating for about 5 to 10 minutes after each SEP activity, and I've found that it's been helping me deal with unpleasant and intrusive thoughts. By "deal with" I mean stop resisting, stop being afraid of them, not accepting them. My modest success on this front has been a pleasant surprise. As someone with a compulsively obsessive, digressive mind (id?), this is a very welcome development. I do think my experience accepting anxiety/panic symptoms in the past, as I mentioned in an earlier thread, has helped prepare me for this. And probably you just get better at meditating if you do it consistently. The first few days I tried it, the idea that I could clear my mind or keep it from being a sprawling, chaotic jumble of felt ridiculous.

    I've also had a fairly physically strenuous few days. My wife was out of town Sunday - Tuesday, leaving me to care for my little one, no small physical feat. And yesterday (Tuesday) I exercised at the gym (a pretty vigorous treadmill walk and some light dumbbell work). In other words, I've taken Dr. Sarno's advice to keep up physical activity to heart, which may be helping things. Not that I've had much choice! An 18-month-old doesn't care what's happening in your life.

    I've also been doing the SEP (almost) every day. And every night while I'm in bed, I review Healing Back Pain or The Mindbody Connection, even if only for a few minutes. I revisit sections and paragraphs that really speak to me, which I've underlined. For me, it's been so important to reinforce a) that my back is actually strong; b) that I can get better, as so many others have; and c) the mechanism of the mindbody connection--TMS.

    I will say that my tension/RSI in my right hand has come back pretty fiercely within the past few days. But I'm not worried. At the beginning of this program, it was all but gone. (And my neck pain has disappeared and stayed gone.) I know it's just my symptoms jumping around to mess with me. I'll get over it.

    Thanks for reading. I hope to have similarly good news when I check in next week. Now onto Day 16.

    Yours in healing,

    Hayley and JanAtheCPA like this.
  7. Cyclist2020

    Cyclist2020 Newcomer

    Hi all,

    Week 4 update. Unfortunately, my 16 hours of bliss were short-lived. Soon after my last post, my pain and stiffness (which I suffer the most from) returned. They mostly brought me back to baseline, but yesterday was really, really hard. I haven't felt that stiff and pained/fragile since right after my most recent back attack, from which I'm still recovering, in October 2018. On Sunday I took my little one to a gym and chased him around, and then jogged for 2.5 miles with my wife. When she asked if I was up for it, I said, "I'm supposed to tell the pain to f*** off." And I did. I honestly felt pretty good when I was running. But as soon as it was over, it came on more intensely. Sunday night and Monday were rough. Strangely, right after exercising I felt usual muscle soreness, but within minutes it seems to redirect right into my lower back. Usually after exercising, especially if it's been a while, the muscles that were exercised are sore for a day or two.

    I admit I'm getting discouraged. I'm trying my best to remain optimistic. I'm faithfully completing the SEP, I look at success stories every day (a rare moment of inspiration), and every night I read sections of Healing Back Pain and the Mindbody Connection. I'm also meditating. But if I'm honest, my back is in worse shape than it's been since right after my attack. Sitting for a few minutes--much less driving--has become excruciating. This is a pretty steep decline from even December; even a few months before that, I was able to go on a two-day car trip with only moderate pain, and I rode a bike eight miles. Now the idea of both seems preposterous. I can't help but thinking of a contingency plan after the SEP--maybe talking with an TMS therapist, or even getting back into my back exercises. As much as I know it's not the right/ideal solution, the fact is it brought me closest to pain-free this summer that I've been since the attack.

    I think I'm going to buy the audiobook of Healing Back Pain. Maybe hearing Dr. Sarno's thoughts in his own voice will be helpful.

    Bright spots:
    - My neck pain has completely disappeared (and stayed gone)
    - Those blissful 16 pain-free hours last week
    - Reading that it's taken some TMS back pain sufferers months to heal. I'm impatient! (That go-getter personality at work. I throw myself into everything--including fixing myself. Which, I realize, may not be the best approach.)

    I'll keep pushing on. Hopefully next week's report will be more promising.

  8. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Cyclist,

    Reading your posts, I see you as someone who has a steadfast, hopeful approach. This is very supportive of your healing.

    Setbacks are normal, especially when we consider the factor of "needing to distract" or the "symptom imperative." Symptoms often change, increase, shift around as you do this inner work. Continuing your work on the SEP, continuing your regular activity, continuing your meditation practice ---or anything else you're guided to do to support yourself ---including pleasure, movies, friends is important, at this point, I believe.

    Reading a success story every day is also good medicine. If you can't find your symptoms, just read yours into the story. It is all the same stuff.


Share This Page