Well here I am and if I'm truthful it's not where I thought I would be when I started the SEP. I assumed I'd be pain free, or at the very least, have the back broken, pun intended, of my back pain. But I think it's fair to say the pain in general is worse than when I began. I know I'm not meant to think physically, but before I started this course I used to do stretches and exercises each week (not religiously, as they get SO boring) and that kept my pain at a certain level. Note, however, I was NEVER pain free, which is why I finally resorted to getting a cortisone injection in January which turned out to be a fateful decision. Immediately afterwards I met someone who recommended Sarno's book and this SEP course. I love the way fate works like that, and it seems quite a common thing to read that so-and-so was just about to go and have surgery when someone recommended this book. (For the record, the injection worked until the day I returned to work). The level of pain that I'm feeling now isn't new, but it's pretty much constant, at least while I'm sitting, plus some new pains have emerged when I'm not sitting (which I see as a good thing). The other thing I do now is not attempt to sit up straight and sit how I want. And if I go to pick up something or lift something heavy, or even sneeze, I don't brace myself like I used to for the possibility of putting my back out. I also don't hesitate to help someone move something or request we sit at the higher tables in a bar to save my back. So that's something. Another thing I'm proud of is that I abandoned the exercises and stretches overnight on learning they are bad for recovery for TMS. You wouldn't believe how much I've wanted to do them knowing the relief it would provide, but I know that would be playing into the hands of TMS and reinforcing the idea that the pain is physical and structurally caused. I've also held out a lot more against using pain killers. I've said this before, but usually at the end of the working week when I'm tired, I give in and take them as I don't have the mental strength to keep fighting without my work suffering. Each day I meditate on Dr Sarno's 12 daily reminders - I would strongly recommend it as the bare minimum on days you can't devote anything else to the SEP - plus on the days you can. The idea was inspired by this rather aggressive post that I found after a google search for the 12 reminders. I say aggressive because at first I thought the poster's tone was a bit sarcastic and admonishing. But after my ego got over that, I realised there was a lot of truth in it. So thank you Baseball65 for your directness. So now I set aside 18 minutes of quiet time each day to ponder the 12 reminders. I hope I don't sound too jaded to any newbies reading this. I don't think I am. I've just become less excited and perhaps more realistic about how this journey plays out. As far as my conscious mind goes, I believe fully in the idea that this pain is psychological and that it comes from painful repressed emotions. This was never hard for me to accept - I've always intuitively believed that illness is psychosomatic, plus I'd already had evidence in medical imaging that there was nothing wrong with my back (luckily the radiologist who I saw didn't think a slightly misshapen disc was that important). I have also suffered depression on and off for the past 25 years, the same time that I've had back pain (what a coincidence!). My point is that it was never shameful for me to admit that this was an emotional and psychological problem - which must be hard to swallow if you've never thought of yourself as a depressive. I'm reminded of an album by Funkadelic called Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow. My mind has been freed, it's just taking a while for the 'ass' (which isn't that far from the lower back!) to follow. I do have a habit of not giving myself credit where it's due, but I'm thinking that a lot of the early successes I had at the start of the course were false positives. For example, I was convinced early on after saying one of Monte Huple's aphorisms "Wouldn't it be nice to have a body that was open and free" and watching the pain disappear, that there was a causal relationship. However, I had just gotten up from my desk after excruciating pain, finding it difficult to even walk, and then the pain seemed to go after I'd said this. Since then I've noticed that maybe 30 seconds to a minute after getting up, the pain drops dramatically. So the pessimistic side of me sees this past success as coincidence. Funny, writing this now I'm seeing that this could be another part of conditioning. That TMS is again wielding doubt just to discredit my early success just so it stays in business. Could be something in that. I'm happy to be finishing this course as I've gotten a bit sick of it hanging over my head. I've stopped a lot of things to do this. I'm a closet muso and I used to play music and write music a lot before I started this. I've barely picked up a guitar or sat at the piano for the past three or four months. And I've stopped my swimming too, which I'm not sure was such a great thing. So I think I'm going to return to those things and hopefully I will approach them with a different mindset. One that isn't so bullying. I used to really get upset with myself if I didn't swim as many sessions a week as I'd planned. Or if I felt unfit. Or if someone overtook me. It goes back to when I was a kid and I did swimming training. Hopefully I'll just enjoy it and accept it if I'm unfit and enjoy seeing someone swim past me. And the music - I had this thing in me that I must finish each song and they must be perfect. No wonder I got such pain when I sat at the computer that I did all the mixing and recording at. This is where I readily saw the perfectionist in me, though I've since realised this perfectionism was much more pervasive. Anyway, when I start again, I'm going to move on to new projects or ideas when I feel like I'm not making progress. I thought it was such a sin to abandon something. Nothing is ever wasted, as they say in the country. Finally, I wanted to report a strange improvement last night when I was sitting in pain at work. I was in a good mood because I'd spoken to someone about the possibility of a new job. But I noticed that it was same old same old with the pain - i.e. very intense. I can't remember what led my thoughts to this, but I suddenly started thinking about when I was dumped by my first serious girlfriend when I was 20. I hadn't even put this in my list of painful events to journal about. But I noticed my pain diminish when I started exploring this. I was so excited, I thought I was cured. But the pain came back and I couldn't remember whether the pain disappeared because I'd gotten up and broken the length of time sitting or not. (That old doubt). But it makes sense that that would be meaningful because that's when the black dog started visiting - they say major depression is triggered by loss. I think I've always been so ashamed to admit it affected me so much. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens when I journal about it. Did I say finally? Well one more thing. For newbies who don't like studying (like me) if you're going to read one book on TMS (after Dr Sarno, which is compulsory reading) read Steve Ozanich's The Great Pain Deception. I got it because I happened onto a thread where people were listing the best TMS books. Lots of people weighed in usually with at least 5 books. Then there was one post who said something like: "This is the only book you need, Steve Ozanich..." That's my kind of recommendation. And after getting the book, it did not disappoint. It's like an encyclopaedia of pain and psychosomatic illnesses. It has answered so many of my questions. Did I say one more thing? Here's another. I'd like to finish by thanking the designers of this course not to mention this wiki (I believe Forest is the one responsible?) Plus anyone who's ever responded to my posts, with special mentions of the following in no particular order: Walt Oleksy - for your tireless encouragement and helpful ideas Andy B - for your obvious deep knowledge about TMS Plum - for your warmth and very sage-like advice. I'd often read your responses twice, not because they weren't clear, but because it was like a profound meaning was buried in there. MindbodyPT - if only there were more people like you - physios and medical people who understand and practice TMS. You gave me a valuable advice about the body. Eric "Herbie" Watson - for advising me not to get hung up on the body and focus on feeling Ellen - your advice was always helpful and calm, plus you helped put me on to Steve O by providing links to his posts. Maybe it's your avatar, but I felt like there was a serenity about you! JanAtTheCPA - for your great advice about negative messages from the brain.