Fifteen years ago I reached a pinnacle in an emotional breakdown due to childhood issues unresolved, marriage issues, personality traits, and traumatic life experiences (see recovery video below). I was having strange symptoms all over my body and kept going to the Doctors for tests, but nothing significant came up. My anxiety was through the roof. I had a young child to look after and was repressing a lot. I had no one to talk to that could relate to what I was going through. I started to get severe nerve pain in my hip for a few days and one night it was so severe I passed out. The next day I went for an MRI scan and they said I had herniated discs in my back at L4/L5 and L5/S1. They put me on painkillers and anti-inflammatories. I now I see that the pain came to protect me from intolerable emotions and was set off by the constant fear I was in. My mind was sending the pain as a danger signal.
And so I started the merry-go-round. I tried healing on my own initially but after eight months realised the back pain was not resolving and so got referred to an orthopaedic surgeon, who looked at my scans and suggested a physio to look after me. She just got me to walk more. That didn't solve anything. A year later I went to see another orthopaedic surgeon who also did not want to operate and sent me to a neurosurgeon who couldn't see anything wrong with the nerves and so referred me on to another physio. Then the trouble really started! They told me not to sit, even on the toilet, as they said I had Degenerative Disc Disease and it would only get worse and I would have to protect my back for the rest of my life. She suggested a clinical pilates session twice a week and more walking and taping of my back to prevent me from bending over when I was having a flare up. She also suggested sleeping with a pillow between my legs and also always have a pillow behind my back when sitting, but to try not to sit at all! All this was very scary and strange and brainwashed me into fearing normal movements and postures.
For the next six years my life got smaller and the pain got worse. I stopped doing anything that involved sitting, dinner, movies, holidays, driving, and socialising. The pain was severe. These normal activities were now associated with significant anxiety.
The physio sold her business to another physio who took over my care and they didn't care to reassess me, just kept the same programme running. It was about this time we realised none of this was working and it was time to try something else. I went back to the gym and tried a few personal trainers who put me on workout routines that worked around my back and didn't actually exercise it. At that point I could drive ten minutes to the gym do a workout for about forty five minutes, drive home and have to lie down for a couple of hours. In fact my life was mainly lying down at that time with small outings to the shops and back.
I was walking about fifteen minutes in the morning for exercise. I tried one more personal trainer who got frustrated with my back stiffness and sat on my knees to push them into my chest to stretch my back and I nearly fainted! This was because it had been previously stressed to me that, that could rupture a disc and was very dangerous in my case. It put me into a major flare up for several months. This was about 2012. Next, we started researching back pain cures on the internet (and there are hundreds!)
We got hold of Stuart McGill in Canada who is a physiologist who researches chronic back pain. Didn't work after six months. At this point I had it in my mind that my stiffness from not moving normally was the cause of my pain. I had another MRI scan which showed a normal spine. I started to think that I had chronic pain, not back pain.
I started looking for "I cured my chronic pain" on the internet. I came up with Dr Sarno, bought his book and started reading it, and threw it across the room in disgust, because it told me my pain was psychological. I didn't get it then. I went to a Pain Management Clinic but I was managing the pain myself, what I really wanted was a cure. However I tried it for six months, it too did not help but I realise now that that was because of the frustration caused by the ineffective treatment. Back to the internet and I found physiotherapists (Lorimer Moseley and co.) who were researching brain induced chronic pain. I looked up a practitioner and flew down to see him. Tried his methods for six months but no results. But it helped me to look at my chronic pain as coming from my brain and not my back.
I picked up Healing Back Pain again a couple of years later. I watched a youtube video of someone who cured their pain and it turned out to be Dr Sarno again and he referenced tmswiki.org. I started with Alan Gordons Recovery programme and got excited for the first time in fifteen years as it strongly resonated with me. Straight after listening I was able to sit in the car for an hour without pain which I will never forget. That was the first time in fifteen years for a moment in time, I had no pain. That was the turning point and established my faith in this treatment. I went on to the Structured Educational Programme and after the six weeks my pain was about 40% gone. Alan Gordon referred me to a TMS therapist. Her coaching was the best thing I have ever done for myself and solidified my recovery.
I still had the stiffness which felt like strong pain to me because of how my fight or flight was now so triggered, so I was still quite disabled. I spoke to Dr Howard Schubiner and he reassured me that the stiffness was just another TMS symptom and I could let it go.
My first challenge was to sit for more than ten minutes, walk more than fifteen minutes and do any workout at all. Thats where I started. I had to find a way back into my life without too much pressure initially. I was able to do this because I believed that the pain came from my mind and that I was not doing any damage to myself when the pain came.
With the therapists help over the last year (2015) I have gone on an emotional journey of growth, setting boundaries with my primary relationships, going towards my triggers with courage and knowing that they cannot damage me. I have read Claire Weekes which helped me accept fears and anxiety about the pain so that it lost its’ power. I also challenged myself physically. I do not give into the pain. I do what I want to do anyway. I do not give the pain any power. I workout like a normal person now. It helps the pain. I feel empowered more that I ever have in my life. I do an hours yoga twice a week, Tracy Anderson workout videos and walk thirty minutes a day.
Now my life is amazing. I go to the movies, out for dinner, and travel. I drove my daughter to her Uni an hour away. I feel free. I am not fully back in my life yet but I know I will be. I can feel the new pain-free pathways strengthening everyday and I am about ninety percent pain free. I am enjoying the journey with great faith and gratitude.