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TMS Flare-Up Directly Following Significant Improvement

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by donavanf, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    A few months ago, my TMS was doing so well, I thought it was almost gone. But then it came right back. Recent months have brought some significant life stresses, from issues with money, to roommate issues, girlfriend issues and many other things. All this stress culminated the other day when I had to spend about four days in a row with my older sister. I love my sister and she is a very important part of my life, but she is a MAJOR trigger for my TMS. In fact, when I first developed the current TMS I struggle with (pain in neck, chronic unrelenting tension between shoulder blades and pain in my right arm), it happened after a trip to NYC with her. I say "current TMS" because after working through "Unlearn Your Pain", I realized that I have had TMS since childhood, when it began as stomach aches from not wanting to go to school and continued my whole life as "IBS". In my 40's, it became pain in my back and neck. I am a somatizer, as was my mother and father and as is my sister. I learned it. My parents have passed away, so my sister is my most immediate family now and she has unbelievable TMS, and is in denial about it. She thinks it's totally structural, despite tests showing her otherwise. She has anxiety disorder, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, agoraphobia, and for much of my life I have been one of her "safe" people. In other words, whenever she is having a meltdown, she calls her baby brother. She recently had a mild fall and twisted her ankle. Luckily, she was not badly injured, but I had to go to her house and take care of her for 4 days like she was an invalid. I felt trapped, pressured and resentful, which for me, is the deadly triad of TMS. Ironically, when she is with me, she says she feels "Safe and Calm". When I am with her, I feel the polar opposite. I am a patient of Dr. David Schechter's, and he told me I had to set very firm boundaries with her. I am not good at boundaries in GENERAL but with her, it seems almost impossible. Anyway, to make a long story short, from the moment I arrived at her house and ever since I got back a week or so ago, my TMS has been hurting something awful. My shoulders feel like they have the weight of the world on them, my neck feels like it is in a vice and my arm hurts. I'm a photographer who recently left his "day job" to go full time with my creative passion, so this is unnacceptable. I have to get better to make a living. So far, it is going ok. A year ago, I could barely hold my camera. Now, I can shoot with barely any soreness at all, or mild tension at worst. But this week, I feel like giving up. I tend to catastrophize things *like my sister* and today alone, I have had a doozy of a day worrying about every ache and pain, constantly re-evaluating, etc... I awoke and read a story about a man with pain in his back from lung cancer and spent half the day convincing myself I have lung cancer. Ridiculous. I have no signs of lung cancer. The only part of my day when my pain nearly disappeared was when I was babying myself by not carrying a heavy bag of groceries and I got angry and said, "OK, TMS. I don't care if you are there. I have Mind Body Syndrome. I don't have cancer. I'm carrying these groceries to my car, even if my damn arm falls off, so just get off my back!!!!". Then I carried the bag. Pain went from a 9 to a 4 in 5 minutes. By the time I got to the car, it was even better. I thought, "This must not be structural, or carrying groceries would make it worse, not better. This is a mental game and I am going to beat this thing." TMS is a bully and for me, the times it seems to back off most is when I stand up to it. Interestingly, I was bullied terribly as a child in school, which is when much of all this began. Even writing that brings tears to my eyes.

    I would love ANY thoughts on this. Also, I hear a LOT about lower back pain TMS, but not a lot of shoulder and neck stuff. I tend to question the diagnosis, especially when I get in pain, even though I have one of the best TMS doctors in the world (Schechter) and he told me "I am 110% CERTAIN you have TMS and I believe fully that you can cure it, but you have to stop overthinking it and ignore it". I intellectualize everything. My OCD brain runs amok, I think the worst, and my TMS follows the lead. I know I can cure it, but I still can't seem to get out of my own way. So, I suffer and have for years. And most frustrating of all, the moment I start to feel like I am ALMOST all better, WHAM, it comes back full force. It INFURIATES me!!! I appreciate any advice, thoughts, etc...I am really sick of this and want it GONE.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  2. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    Good Morning you're not alone in neck and shoulder pain nor a sister creating even more tension within you. In fact I have two sisters whom I see only once a year (I live in NYC, one is in Paris the other Oregon) and that once a year visit has become too much for me. I was starting to feel some relief and their visit to NY in Oct put me over the edge and into therapy. So I get what you're feeling. Frustrated with TMS, me too. I feel as though I've spent a lifetime with tension and I so badly want to know what it feels like to not have a tight neck or the weight of the world on my shoulders.

    The confirmed TMS diagnosis was made by Dr Rauchbaum here in NYC. So like you I believe it to be true. As for what I do I continue my Pilates Practice with no fear that I'm hurting my neck or aggravating an injury I've started to journal which I find helpful, I'm also making attempts at mindfulness meditation... That is most difficult for me.
    Something else I did in reference to my sisters is I wrote letters to them I will never send. Letter number one told them why they are poison to me and about their unacceptable behavior. Letter two is a form of forgiveness and acknowledging that all though they've done the wrong thing it's about who they are and not me! Letter three is the hardest but most spiritual as it's understanding that everyone is in your life for a reason for lessons to learn. Each letter has a few days in between.
    Perhaps doing something like this will help you with your sister relationship.

    I wish you an easy pain free day.
  3. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Donavanf,

    Your post made me smile. I know it is not at all funny, its just that I think a lot of us could recognize many our own thought processes and patterns in the way you are thinking. You are a very good writer. You pretty much know all the answers to your questions and you have every right to feel frustrated and impatient. We all want this to just go away!!! What saves us is developing the knowledge and awareness of what is really going on and then developing strategies for not only how to cope but how to not continually get tricked by our very powerful and creative brains. Clearly your pain is not structural! I have not only had excruciating neck and shoulder pain, but combined with occipital neuralgia and strange numbness all over the right side of my face. Doctors found bulging cervical disks on my MRI and recommended surgery. And yet, I am fine. With all that you know about yourself and your diagnosis, how is it that you are questioning whether it is TMS caused or not? I know when you are in pain how much more challenging it is, but this is precisely the time we need to be most resolute on not letting the doubt creep in. I also absorb whatever medical condition I encounter. Sometimes I can even sense that it is going to be something that I will be particularly prone to, and yet still, a day or two later, the symptoms surface from an encounter or story I recently heard. And since I now have a business taking care of the elderly and people with MS, ALS, Parkinson's and dementia, this is a constant challenge for me. The thing that gets me is that even when I can see what is going on and don't have a doubt in the world that I don't really have a heart problem or whatever, it can take days for the symptoms to wear off. This Christmas my older brother came to visit for Xmas. I have not seen him in six years and he is the only brother out of three that I still have contact with. My 80 year old mother lives in a little house on our property. He arrived the day before Xmas out of the blue(he tells us he driving to Texas so often that we don't really believe him anymore). In any case, I felt ill in a very strange way. Nothing really gets me in the same way it used to and so my subconscious came up with symptoms so strange that I am not even sure how to describe them. Perhaps just imagine the worst hang over you can possibly imagine with every voice and footstep resonating across the room. I couldn't concentrate or have a relaxed moment the entire week my brother was here. What is even more amusing to me is that I did not completely connect this TMS episode until after my brother left. There is obviously a lot there to explore with my brothers and childhood. So you have some work to do in your relationship with your sister and it is complicated by all sorts of factors that I am sure you are already aware of. It is one thing to say you need to create clear boundaries but it is also very difficult, sometimes confusing and scary. Creating true and positive change in close family relationships I bet is at the heart of what many of us are struggling with. I have seen you make tremendous progress over this last year and have every confidence that this is just a temporary set back that you are going to learn a lot from.

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