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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2013 :  09:05:12  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I began to fall ill in the spring of 2005. It hit me out of the blue, beginning as a suspicion in my mind that something wasn't right. I just knew I had a health crisis looming. I was struggling to get out of bed. I had bowel problems, occasional migraine headaches, and I was overweight and overextended at work with two little kids at home, ages 5 and 2. My life consisted entirely of going to work and coming home. We did nothing else. I was too tired and tense from all the nonsense at work. Kids were cute, but wore me down from the crying and meal preparation, diapers, cleaning up messes. On and on. I was being asked to do things at work that were contrary to my values. I had also been exposed to some business secrets that didn't sit well with me and often visited my consciousness at the wrong time. I dropped out of the back office and took a job in a local branch for less money, less responsibility, and less visibility. I wanted to hide out for a while until I could figure out my next move. But nothing was forthcoming. Everything seemed a dead end. Trapped. Health concerns, future concerns, money concerns, baby concerns, marriage concerns, reputational concerns began to pile up. I was ripe for the fall.

I reached the cliff on April 26, 2005, the day after my seventh wedding anniversary. I took my blood pressure on a cuff my father-in-law had under his TV. I don't remember the numbers, but my wife began to get a concerned look on her face. My FIL shared it. “You need to see a doctor,” she said. And voila, nervous illness was born. The next few hours were spent looking for confirmation of my impending death. I went to a drug store and confirmed the number was high, and went into overdrive. I came home and began searching the internet for symptoms of heart problems. My father had died of CV disease in 1999. I was convinced that I was dying. My shoulder around my scapula that had been tight for weeks went into spasm, and I had trouble moving my neck. I couldn't find peace, couldn't find comfort. All my internal worry had manifested itself in my body. Despite all this, I sought the help of physical therapy. I saw my GP, who prescribed an SSRI, referred me to counseling, and told me to see a PT for help with my shoulder. That was pathetically uninformed medical advice, but I complied. Adding PT visits to an already overflowing schedule had the opposite effect. It intensified the problem, and I had to get less sleep to meet their hours prior to work. I was accelerating when my body wanted the brakes applied.

It was two days later during a difficult period at work when my trapezius muscle on the top of my right shoulder went into spasm and would not release. I also began to see things spinning around. I stood up gingerly as my legs felt jelly-like, and the rush of adrenaline kept coming. I had to get out of there and go to the hospital. I phoned my wife on my way to the hospital. The docs there checked me over, gave me an EKG, and counseled me to reduce my stress. I left with a prescription for Ativan and a sore back. Life had finally cornered me. There was no way out. I couldn't work because I was sick and in pain, but if I didn't, people would wonder what on earth was wrong with me when doctors told me I was fine. We had bills coming in every month that required the mill keep turning. I spent every waking moment searching for answers online. I bookmarked sites that had hopeful messages. I visited forums. I asked questions. I was calming down a bit, but every once in a while a new symptom would hit, and the cycle would begin again. I wrote down a list once of 65 different symptoms that I had. Back and shoulder pain were but one. They certainly caused me the greatest challenge minute-to-minute, but the other neurological symptoms were the most frightening. I now knew beyond doubt that I had an anxiety problem. My experience was too similar to others for it not to be so. But the physical nature of the symptoms told me a different story, and so I stayed in a state of limbo: one minute convinced and determined, the next cowering and worried and checking the internet for symptom explanations.

The chronology of all this is lost upon me, but I saw three counselors through the employee assistance plan at work. These bastards were awful. That's all I can say. Sorry to sound like Holden Caulfield, but they were abysmal. I got a no-fault divorce from them. I was sitting in church one Sunday and talking to a guy I'd known for a couple of years and just said, “Man, I feel like crap.” He laughed. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him all my symptoms. The shoulder pain was the worst at that time, but I was sleeping one out of three nights, couldn't eat, had lost 30 lbs., couldn't concentrate, spent much of my time alone, was losing my grip on life completely. He said he understood perfectly well. He said he read a book that helped him get over his problems. I drove to his house and picked up a well-worn copy of “Hope and Help For Your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes. My life changed immediately that day. I was far, far, far from normal, but I understood the process. I understood the way out. I understood my nervous system. I lacked the courage to implement the proposed cure, though, so I sought reassurance. I had to hear from more people, which is the very reason forums like this one and the many others that deal with these problems are so popular. I wanted to hear that someone with the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS IN THE EXACT SAME AREA could get better using the approach outlined in her book. But there weren't any that satisfied my doubts.

Since my most perplexing and chronic symptom was stiffness and pain in my upper trapezius and right hip, I went looking at things on a symptom-by-symptom basis, instead of looking at the condition as a systemic problem. I did not fully understand yet that the entire nervous system was in a state of upset and therefore I attached danger to all these symptoms and somehow thought they had to be unraveled individually. This led me to find a book about stress and back pain, which landed me in a bookstore in Pennsylvania after a business meeting staring at a copy of Healing Back Pain by John Sarno. I bought the book and took it back to my room. I read into the night and finished the book back at home. I remember after reading the book and then the letters in the back that I had more confusion than clarity as to what I needed to do next. So back I went to the internet and found tmshelp. I lurked for a few days and then began asking questions. I was met almost immediately by what I call the cult of Sarno. You know, the kind of answers a fellow sufferer has to a question that says stop thinking and just do what Sarno says and you'll be fine. There was even a specific language spoken only by visitors to this site, with odd phrases like "my unconscious sure is tricky," and "I talked to my inner child and told it to calm down." I stayed on the site because there was promise, and away I went journaling, talking to my brain, pasting the 12 daily reminders in my car and on my computer. Daily I would faithfully follow the program, but I was waiting, per the instructions, until my pain eased to get back into activity. This went on for several months. At this point, had I been in the NYU program, I would've been invited to surrender my life savings for a psychotherapy program that I had read studies on that had limited at best outcomes. This was later confirmed in The Divided Mind. I reached a few conclusions: I was a resistant SOB, a serial repressor, intractable anger stuffer. I simply had so much baggage in my unconscious that I had to have my pain protect me from it spilling out. Thanks, pain. I appreciate it. I pondered this circumstance noon and night.

A few weeks passed in which I walked through the motions of living. At night, suffering from terrible insomnia, I would ponder the things I'd read that gave me hope. I got out a pad and paper and began to write down the things that I wasn't doing that I knew I needed to. This was an epiphany for me. I wasn't following the simplest advice of all, which was to let the pain come and go or stay or whatever it chose to do, which both Weekes and Sarno prescribed. The problem was that I was still allowing my symptoms to control me. I wasn't in control at all in my life. I made room for rest, avoidance, paced myself too much. I decided I needed one thing, and that was courage to push through the pain and doubt and go back to living again. I took a break from all forums, all internet searches, and decided on one goal: I would live fully again, and I would be stronger and more resolute than before. I didn't need a hero. I needed to find the inner strength for MY journey.

I was introduced to a lady who had gone through what I had through a mutual friend. She agreed to take me on as a pet project. She told me to buy a book called “Mental Health Through Will Training” by Dr. Abraham Low. I began to read the book in the two weeks before I met with her the first time. I got the feeling that I was listening to a football coach while reading Dr. Low rise above the complaints and whines of his patients and calmly, assertively tell them they were wrong. They were simply giving in to their stress symptoms. Even though none of them mentioned back pain specifically, I knew what he was saying spoke directly to the way I was behaving, overthinking, avoiding, mentally manifesting tumors and bleeds where there were none. TMS? Schmee Em Ess. Broken will and cowardice was my diagnosis.

When I met with my therapist, she was always so sure of what she was telling me was correct. That was impressive. It was also a stark contrast to those on forums I used to listen to give advice even though I knew from their own accounts that they were unable to find their own solutions, they could advise me on mine. She gave me homework. Some of it was strange, like washing my wife's feet, but some things were just plain, everyday activities that I didn't do because of my symptoms like going for a walk with my daughter. But it all made sense in retrospect. This was living in which you took chances and impacted the people in your life. No more hiding. I increased my chores around the house tenfold. Within weeks I stood on a ladder for three days and stained my deck. I went to ballgames and sat on bleachers and talked to people around me. I was not ever comfortable, but I was OK and began to feel human again. This is the main point. You have to behave like a person who is healthy because in reality you are. You only think there is something wrong because of how you feel. One evening after cleaning up our dinner I went outside to build a fire in our firepit. I was bending over and over to pick up wood and sort of noticed that my back was moving freely and easily. It was the last I heard from my pain. It has been several years now.

You are going to get better. You will restore your health to normalcy. There will be times that you will feel reluctant to do something, pressured, conflicted, but you will experience no more than normal fight or flight reactions that every human being on the planet experiences.

After reading the above, you either had one reaction or another. You either believed it or you didn't. The dividing line between those who recover from nervous illness (which TMS assuredly is) and those who don't is what they actually believe. You can write or chant affirmations until you are purple in the face, journal your life's story colored with lots of offensive words about your parents or ex-spouses or children, do yoga with eastern gurus, sit in sweat lodges, beat pillows with mini baseball bats, or many, many other interventions people have undertaken to overcome their problem, but until you do absolutely nothing except understand what you are doing wrong and fix it, nothing will improve.

What you are likely doing wrong is avoiding life. Specifically, you are avoiding discomfort. You've probably had this discomfort since childhood, but that isn't important. You were born sensitive, and you have little resistance to stress in your nervous system. You get powerful symptoms when stressed. You have difficulty concentrating, can't organize your life well, avoid social interaction, avoid any activity you think might cause embarrassment, avoid doing the most basic chores or daily living because they are boring. Instead you fill your time with things that command your attentive energy. More probably you do more than one. The biggest one I see is staying on this forum or another, posting your thoughts or those of others, getting into arguments about things that don't matter to anyone, including you. If you are an adult, you need to work. That is what adults do. Even if you don't do it for money, volunteer. Read some Thomas Carlyle. He'll inspire you.

Meanwhile, there are people who love you who are watching you do this, have probably sought many times to encourage you to get back to living, but have met with such resistance that they have stopped altogether. The choice to stop is yours. You are no different in that respect than a drug addict. The decision has to come from inside you. It is a simple act of the will. It is not complicated and does not require the intervention of a counselor or guru. You have to be so tired of being miserable that you decide once and for all to fix this, to live courageously, and to stop coddling your precious feelings. Everyone alive suffers embarrassment at one time or another, and you are not so important that you can't accept it. It angers you, perhaps to the point of temper tantrums, that there are demands upon your time. You must stop seeing your failures or upsets as anything more than normal, average occurrences. Because objectively, that's what they are. Ask a few people what they've struggled through, and you're likely to be surprised. Then think to yourself, “Wow, if that person can do all this after going through what he has, I should be able to also.” You can, of course, if you believe it.

Lastly, there are many people who offer advice on this forum. Many of them are well-intended when they offer their advice, but their advice is limited to their own reading, life experience, and ability to understand. Mine is no different. I was terribly excited about helping others and for several years worked with those whose problems couldn't be seen on an MRI but wouldn't resolve. The ones that got better stopped excusing themselves and went about their lives. Those that didn't continued to malinger, blame childhood trauma and look ubiquitously for treatment programs and methods that were expensive and untested.

Here are the most common pitfalls I see with recovery:

1) Believing that you must do or not do something because it was written by a doctor, especially Dr. Sarno. I've read scores of threads here that make me shake my head because people actually erect mental barriers of warning that if they were to stretch to relieve their pain that they "send a message to their unconscious that there is a structural problem." Really? If this is a benign condition, how can you hurt yourself? Stop worrying. That's the real issue.

2) I have read the advice of those who advocate psychotherapy (Freudian, Jungian, etc.) for dealing with these problems. Trace those statements back to their origins, and you will find someone with a financial interest in those practices with 100% certainty. If a person has labored through what I call getting their Freud patch at psychology camp, they're damn well gonna make it worth their while. Avoid these people and their advice and please, please, please stop buying their books and DVD's. You have a shelf loaded down with them already and here you sit reading the words of an educated moron.

3) You and your experience are unique, but not exceptional. In other words, stop seeing impediments to your happiness in every act of life. Expect and accept discomfort, disappointment, even grief. It won't kill you. Fear is the jailer of your life. You might even be fearful of your own anger with yourself or someone else. That's OK too, just stay determined to get the things done you need to in order to feel like a productive adult. If you can stop letting your "feelings" influence your life in any way, you will recover fully and not look back.

4) Finally, although it is not a requirement here or elsewhere, you need to understand and even ask for the experience of someone who offers advice. Never ask for or accept advice on finances from a homeless beggar. Use the same reasoning when getting advice for treating your anxiety or TMS as it is called here from someone who tells you with firm conviction what to do who meanwhile is suffering away, avoiding their own issues, especially those who spend the most time here. If you spend your time here, there is a tradeoff that you can't get back. Thank them kindly for their time and thoughtful offer, then ignore them completely.

Edited by - Hillbilly on 05/29/2013 14:05:14

Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2013 :  13:32:52  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
oops, duplicated!

Edited by - Hillbilly on 05/16/2013 13:54:07
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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2013 :  13:44:52  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I will be more specific about some of the things counselor said to me if anyone would think it helpful. Otherwise, I will check this thread (if one develops) periodically until it slides away.
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plum

United Kingdom
641 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2013 :  16:39:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
How quietly you slipped this in.
Believe I'm ripe to hear exactly this.
Thank you so very much.
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bryan3000

USA
513 Posts

Posted - 05/18/2013 :  17:04:41  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What a blessing to read this. Huge thanks for taking the time to post your story Hillbilly.
You've helped so many people here and will continue to do so with this post. I'll be posting a few questions soon. Thanks again!
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sue1012

USA
31 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2013 :  13:36:34  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you for sharing, Hillbilly. What you wrote really resonates with me and is very helpful. It makes sooo much sense! All the best to you.
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Sylvia

199 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2013 :  13:45:11  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I LOVE the Hillbilly!

Thanks for coming back to do this
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bryan3000

USA
513 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2013 :  19:49:29  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hillbilly,

I would love to hear in more detail what you and the therapist worked on to get you over the initial humps, mainly... anything that you really think helped change your mindset from victim to activist, so to speak. Thanks again!
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lesley

New Zealand
18 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2013 :  20:47:02  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've just read your success story Hillbilly and I would really like to have the details of what you worked with, with your counseller that helped the healing. You mention in your story that even grief shouldn't be doing to me what I think it is.
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RageSootheRatio

Canada
430 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2013 :  21:29:10  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
THANKS, Hillbilly!

quote:

I will be more specific about some of the things counselor said to me if anyone would think it helpful.


I too would be very interested in this!

RSR
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balto

839 Posts

Posted - 05/23/2013 :  08:03:26  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for sharing Hillbilly, you've just enriched my mind with lots of useful information.

------------------------
No, I don't know everything. I'm just here to share my experience.
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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 05/23/2013 :  10:49:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi, everyone. Just wanted to say that I will be glad to post some of the things we discussed and even the "homework assignments" I was given. The first one was to do the dishes the next time I was sitting around and crying about my pain. The ABC's of life are cleanliness/orderliness of self and surroundings, tasks of daily life enumerated and done (shopping, mowing, trash removal), and welcoming people into your life. If any of these three is lacking, you have to take steps to get them in order and watch your thoughts as you do. Take note of these thoughts as they are the main reason you suffer. These are the basics. Master them. Do them without complaint or hesitation. They never go away, so accept them. Your life will improve overnight.

More to come.
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bryan3000

USA
513 Posts

Posted - 05/23/2013 :  13:43:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hillbilly,

Can you give an example of a thought process as it would come up during our tasks, and how you eventually shifted perspective? Or did you?

Also, "they may never go away...."

Do you mean the negative thoughts?
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apace41

USA
15 Posts

Posted - 05/24/2013 :  10:24:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Incredibly well-written, direct and insightful, Hillbilly. There is an awful lot on this forum that is easily ignored -- this is not.

Andy
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Sylvia

199 Posts

Posted - 05/25/2013 :  07:07:17  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hillbilly I want to know about you!

Where do you live? Are you involved with Abraham Low and Recovery Inc? Did you go to meetings or only take the book to heart and act on it?

Are there any thoughts that pop into your head automatically now that you think keeps entrenched symptoms at bay?

Do you ever "look deep and FEEL your emotions" or do you ignore all that and command your muscles?

I have gotten NOWHERE at all with cfs (tms). I'm ever the same now for 25 years. From baseline I can be somewhat worse, somewhat better, yet ever the same.


Edited by - Sylvia on 05/28/2013 05:45:29
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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 05/28/2013 :  15:04:15  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
All,

Thanks for responding and letting me know what you would like to hear more about. I already wrote a lot just to tell the story, and I didn't want it to look like a novella. I have a second section nearly ready. I just have to look it over for relevance and put it out there. Be patient with me, as I am quite busy the next two weeks and possibly beyond as I try to finish a project. But I want to make this point over and over and over: reading and reading and reading, even success stories, can serve as a way for you to excuse yourself from your responsibilities. Be your own guide and hero. Make it happen. Your symptoms are nothing but a reflection of your boredom and lack of confidence. It has to be built back, a little at a time.

Edited by - Hillbilly on 05/28/2013 15:05:08
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dgreen97

122 Posts

Posted - 06/01/2013 :  12:27:44  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
can absolutely identify with everything you're saying here hillbilly. i too saw the connections with weekes and sarno, anxiety and TMS, being pretty much the same thing. can't wait to read your second posting of info on here thanks for sharing your success story with us
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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 06/04/2013 :  11:49:37  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sylvia,

I don't work with Recovery Inc. I did some small-group stuff through a local church for a couple of years and corresponded with people via this and other websites. Some of them got 100% better. Others either went back to their excuses or didn't really want to make necessary changes. The counselor I worked with agreed to meet with me one-on-one because I didn't feel like a part of the local Recovery group. Sad, now that I think about it, but I didn't think I was nearly so bad off as those in the meetings. Some were fresh from extended hospitalizations and heavily medicated. One was out of jail for a year for the first time in his adult life. I didn't feel like I could open up and relax there, so I asked for and received personal guidance.

Another thing that served as an obstruction to me was the thought reminders. These are statements that are chanted like mantras to overlay our temperamental thinking when we get worked up. I didn't want to be robotic, so I asked her to cut to the chase with me. She was doubtful of the outcome in the beginning but could sense my enthusiasm, so she obliged. I will forever be in her debt. She passed away 10 months ago at age 82. Her own story was harrowing, but she overcame a nervous breakdown and two separate hospitalizations and built herself back up to marry, raise two children, lead a group for 22 years, and help her husband with the books of their family business.

This is why I have posted so little on this forum. I wish people would get out of here and get some inspiration. Reading just today's list of postings left me sad for those who visit here because they want to believe they will get well, are assured so loudly, proudly, and continuously by at least one regular, but there aren't any regulars who are cured. I wonder why that is? Perhaps you should ask the vicar of Sarno himself.

Edited by - Hillbilly on 06/04/2013 11:51:54
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bryan3000

USA
513 Posts

Posted - 06/04/2013 :  15:24:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hillbilly, can you expand a bit on the thought reminders section? Maybe an example or two of what you mean? I'm a little unclear on what you meant there.
Thanks!
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Hillbilly

USA
384 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2013 :  08:38:09  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bryan,

The "tools" of recovery, as they are called, are reminders that counter the thinking and behaviors that make us sick and keep us sick. There is a four-part example on the self-help systems website that explains how all this works. Ultimately, it is the act of humility, or acceptance, that saves us. We give up the fight to win outwardly and look inwardly for our strength to carry on. We cannot increase our stature with others, and this is often at the core of the problems we face. We can seek self-acceptance and accomplish what we need to in order to be productive members of a group (work, family, team, community), and that is the great wisdom of this approach. Accept yourself as no better or worse than anyone else, just a dude trying to get by. The stuff that breaks your back is almost certain to be outside your control.

The ironic thing about this is that the wisdom of the ancients has all revolved around self-control and discipline. The world is crazy, society is corrupt, but with training and discovery of our inner strength, we don't have to play along. We don't have to rail and rant, just decide yes or no. That is a powerful tool. The will says yes or no. Choose. Wisely.

Examples of the "tools" are below:
Treat mental health as a business and not as a game.
Humor is our best friend, temper is our worst enemy.
If you can't change a situation, you can change your attitude towards it.
Be self-led, not symptom-led.
Nervous symptoms and sensations are distressing but not dangerous.
Temper is, among other things, blindness to the other side of the story.
Comfort is a want, not a need.
There is no right or wrong in the trivialities of every day life.
Calm begets calm, temper begets temper.
Don't take our own dear selves too seriously.
Feelings should be expressed and temper suppressed.
Helplessness is not hopelessness.
Some people have a passion for self-distrust.
Temper maintains and intensifies symptoms.
Do things in part acts.
Endorse yourself for the effort, not only for the performance.
Have the courage to make a mistake.
Feelings are not facts.
Do the things you fear and hate to do.
Fear is a belief—beliefs can be changed.
Every act of self-control leads to a sense of self-respect.

Edited by - Hillbilly on 06/07/2013 18:05:43
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MichaelB

USA
79 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2013 :  21:46:02  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hillbilly, you basically got it. I recognize it all and just have to completly accept it. It's
coming, but not all the way yet. Thanks for sharing.
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