I originally thought I would wait until my symptoms were completely gone to write about the progress I’ve made lately, but then thought that’s being a little too perfectionist – also I can honestly say I don’t fear TMS any more – I’m not concerned that I’m crowing about success now and somehow TMS will rise out of the ashes or anything. If it did I could deal with it.
Here’s a timeline to put things in perspective:
’94: Started getting RSI pain
(Parent died, changing job, getting married, moving, going back to school, new career, buying house … other than that not much going on)
’94-99: Symptoms spreading, neck, back, leg, arm, head, etc. Alternately diagnosed with carpel tunnel, myofacial pain, and fibromyalgia. X-Rays, MRI, nerve conduction – not much conclusive, though enough to get me worried and fixated on pain
2000: Mother in law lent me “healing back pain” … immediately felt better, put a lot of energy into doing Sarno’s recommendations, and ….. the pain decreased, became “manageable”, but still lingered. For years. In the back of my head I knew Sarno recommended Psychotherapy, I was very reluctant to do this, because of cost, ego (needing “help”), not sure what it would be like, uncomfortable talking about emotional things, etc. I also really couldn’t think of anything that “significant” I’d be repressing from my past – I was fortunate to come from a loving, non abusive family, had good friends … I really couldn’t see what I would get out of it.
2005: Eventually threw in the towel and went to Psychotherapy. After about a few months of therapy had some severe panic attacks. Very unpleasant and scary. Quit drinking – while I was a “controlled” drinker I probably was using it to mask anxiety. After the panic attacks were over I was convinced it was a good sign, mind was trying other strategies to divert attention from emotional issues. Stuck with therapy, though skittish for a while.
2006: Really good progress. My symptoms are small and really laughable compared to what they used to be. If I have a quiet time to think about the things that are bugging me I can make them go away almost completely.
Some things that have helped me this year:
1) Really try to stop focusing on the physical. I stopped discussing “pain” in the forums and to others, just call it my “symptoms”. Also I thought about how much of my waking day I spent dwelling on my symptoms … what would it take to get rid of those thoughts? I thought: what if the thoughts are causing the symptoms, not the other way around? Also I had to admit I was still doing some stretches that helped with the symptoms … I knocked it off.
2) Stopped trying too hard. When I first tried to learn how to play the guitar I threw myself into it, practicing for hours a day for months, got frustrated, and gave up. I then had a period in my life where I was living across the street from some classes I was taking, when class would get out early I would walk across the street, pick up the guitar, and play for 5 minutes or so. After doing this for a few months suddenly somthing “clicked” and I started playing really pretty well. Same thing with TMS – I started doing things like watching 5-10 minutes of Sarno’s video a day, reading just a paragraph or two of Sarno’s book a day, spending 5 minutes here or there to focus on emotional issues. Just in the last week after several months of this something has really “clicked” … TMS symptoms aren’t gone, but I’m in an amazing amount of control and not scared of the symptoms any more. I’m not suggesting this approach will work for everyone but it seemed to fit with my personality that chafes at strict “9:30-10 pm: write in journal”
3) Got “The MindBody Workbook with Patient Panel DVD (Spiral-bound) by David Schechter”. These are helpful, though honestly the symptoms were so trivial by the time they showed up from Amazon I was wondering if it was even fair to the TMS to throw this at it. Neither the DVD or the WorkBook are “polished”, but the content is good and I really resonated with some of the patient’s stories on the DVD. Dr. Schechter has some subtle differences in approach to Sarno I find helpful … Sarno focuses a lot on “rage” and Schechter spreads his focus to other emotions more. One of the most helpful things on the DVD was to hear about people that had had symptoms for many years (like me) and had recovered completely.