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Why are things not getting better? What do I need to do?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Darcy, Sep 16, 2022.

  1. Darcy

    Darcy New Member


    Some of the stories and people here are inspiring. I wonder what strategies you (others) have used to overcome the pain/symptoms. Lately, the pain/muscle and neurological symptoms have been getting much worse (preliminary tests show the structure/blood markers are fine), and I can't seem to unlearn the pain. Years ago after an ongoing traumatic experience, I went into horrible joint pain and swelling, IBS, all sorts of weird body problems and horrible back pain and sciatica attributed to herniated discs. It was absolute shit for a young healthy person like me (I was a 21 college student and athlete at the time), and spending months on a voyage with the medical system was also absolute shit (with shitty medicinal side effects; with the exceptions of a few great doctors/physical therapists who were very well-intentioned and caring, albeit I ultimately figured out the answer does not lie with them). Very luckily for me, 6 months later I landed on Dr Sarno's book by chance just before my back surgery, and within a few months, I went back to resuming most sports (with very manageable levels of pain; I was (still) an athlete, at college level back then). I have had severe ups and downs and flare-ups of other symptoms during the next years.

    In the last couple of months, I have seen the emergence of debilitating pain/tingling/tightness in my legs that cannot be explained by anything medical (along with extreme fatigue and tiredness). In the past, one of the things that worked for me is to push through the pain (when doable). However, this has been becoming increasingly hard. I know we are supposed not to get caught up with pain, but that is bloody darn hard when it wakes you up multiple times and is present with every step you take. What approaches would you recommend to get out of the state? How do I tell my body it is safe? I am not sure shall I not acknowledge the pain and keep pushing through. Shall I assure my brain like a baby everything is fine? Shall I tackle the emotional and stressful issues in the past? Because I have read that mere acknowledgement and the realization that emotions cause pain should suffice in Sarno's book, (and some things in my life cannot be changed, at least not instantly).

    I am very fortunate to have (kind of) gotten significantly better by reading Sarno's book in the past, so I (almost always) don't get caught up with the medical voyage of trying to figure out what wrong things are with me with the medical system (for many, complex reasons, including my experience with TMS but also other reasons I don't particularly like doctors now), and I try to be optimistic, but I just can't seem to recover lately and things have only been getting worse despite me trying the best I can to lead a productive life (which is what partially helped last time).

    I am not sure what triggered all of this. I have been leading a stressful life with work, family, housemate relationships... etc due to circumstances out of my own but I also like what I do and don't want to quit. I am not the person who puts his life on a halt to fix things (except in rare needed cases), as I have seen others around me do that and it is not something that resonates with me and I know I would feel even worse if I quit. The symptoms started after a traumatic experience for me involving non-consensual sexual infringement, and associated feelings of shame/guilt/anger/weakness/denial. I recognize this might have led to the initiation of symptoms, but I am not sure if the best approach is to get hung up on the experience and I have tried (and to great terms succeeded in getting over it). But I am also dealing with ongoing things, including coming to terms with my sexual identity, which has been really difficult given my religious identity, and I finally confronting that part of myself to liberate myself, working with an amazing therapist who has helped me embark on a gradual journey of self-acceptance and leading a functional life. However, this debilitating pain, to be honest, has been standing in my way of reclaiming myself, as well as in the way of my work and relationships. I have been told that while people think they need to get rid of chronic pain to get their lives better, sometimes they need to get their lives better to get rid of the pain. While I believe there is a great deal of truth in that, I don't believe it is 100% true (egg or chicken type of things), as things would be much easier (possible) to fix in real life without the myriad of symptoms, at least I think that's the case for me.

    I am not sure what is it that I am doing/not doing that keeps that pain present/getting worse even though I know it's 100% TMS. Any tactics/insights/strategies would be much appreciated.
  2. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    I'm in a similar situation as I was just getting better but recently have been dealing with stronger symptoms after a cold. The only thing that has been helping is meditating, forgiving myself, and interrupting fear and excuses with gratitude and human connection to stop the stress cycle. I feel like I caused the numbness, muscle spasms, nerve pain, and anxiety on myself honestly. So many people have helped me and I want to pay it forward. So being kind to my body and changing my inner dialogue and how I show up in the world is key at the moment. Hope you feel better soon!
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hello @Darcy, welcome and thanks for posting this, because it's an important topic.

    You've clearly come a long way and accomplished so much! Whatever you do, don't forget that, and give yourself a ton of credit and and self-compassion. @Balsa11 is right on with that advice.

    Believe me, you are not alone. A lot of people have been finding themselves in this situation in the last couple of years - and as someone who has been around here since 2011, I feel like the number of people we see with TMS/MBS/PPD has been growing more rapidly in the last six years or so, and it's been getting much worse in the last 2-1/2 years. That would be since about March 2020?

    It has got to be a sign of the times. It's well-known by now that the entire human race is suffering a massive mental health crisis. It feels like civilization and nature are both falling apart, for reasons over which we as individuals have ZERO control. "Climate change anxiety" is now a diagnosis. On top of this we are dealing with massive technology and information overload.

    It's a world-wide existential crisis, with no end in sight, and no place to escape. To me, this is a really big deal that I think about all the time. Yet I feel like I see little if any acknowledgement about how current affairs are affecting people who post here with distress over recent recurrence of symptoms. They aren't making the connection. I think that it has to be good old Sarno-style repression. Because as we know, where there's repression, there are symptoms.

    So if someone like you has been doing a good job working through and facing early trauma and repressed emotions, what's your poor primitive brain supposed to do? Its job is to keep you in fear so you stay alert and don't get eaten by a sabre-tooth tiger. You and I and all other TMSers know about the Symptom Imperative, where our brains come up with new symptoms to fool us into thinking that we're not making progress - but most of us who have experienced any amount of success are on to that.

    So you're onto all of that, and you're doing great work, and in the meantime the state of the world is deteriorating all around you. While this is certainly in your consciousness, my theory is that unconsciously, your brain may be working hard to keep you from thinking about it too much. Your brain no longer has your earlier trauma to repress, so the scary state of the world is a decent substitute. And a lot of TMSers sometimes don't give outside stressors enough attention. But we should.

    I will add one more thing, which is that I think we also have to be honest with ourselves and admit we are addicted to our screens - whether phones, computers, or television. We know this, and we know it's not healthy (guilty) and I think this adds to our stress, which increases our symptoms.

    It sounds like you have a good therapist. Are they specifically tuned in to mindbody theory and techniques and are they aware of your basis in TMS theory? The Divided Mind by Sarno is the book I always recommend because it has six chapters by other professionals, but it's already well over ten years old, and there's been a lot of new neuroscience. If your therapist only has time to read one book, perhaps The Way Out, by Alan Gordon, would be a better choice.

    Good luck, and keep the faith - you can do this!


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