The story you’re about to read is a story of survival, a story of truth. I thank our contributor for sharing it with us.
“In May of 2013, I started experiencing extreme soreness in/on my hips. At this point in my life I was happily married, the mother of a wonderful 8 year old girl, I had my own business in organic skincare and was a daily practice yogi of about 8 years. I also had a history of anxiety and depression, a traumatic childhood, I was a perfectionist, a people pleaser, a worrier, a self loather and I was in the midst of my third estrangement from my narcissistic mother.
I remember having my first panic attack at 12, on the heels of my parents divorce. As a child I was responsible for my younger brother most days and on this day I was staying home from school with him while he was sick. During my panic attack that day, I lost all vision and was taken to the Dr. while I screamed and cried in terror. I was given a sedative and when I woke I had a headache and since then I have learned it was called “hysterical blindness*” I continued to struggle with panic and vision disturbance for the next 30 years. As a child, teen and adult I also had depression, numbness, stomach upset, back pain, knee pain, wrist pain, insomnia, ringing ears…all TMS**. I treated these symptoms physically, always. Doctors, medications, rest, physical therapy, chiropractors, massage, braces etc.
In 2013 I was at the height of both personal pressure (motherhood, small business, marriage, family problems) and I was at the top of my game physically due to my very intense daily yoga practice. As my pain increased, I became more and more terrified of losing my practice as this had become my most effective method of controlling my emotional and physical symptoms. At the peak of the estrangement with my mother we had a screaming phone call and I woke up the next morning with my back “out.” I had what I called “my knife,” a stabbing pain mostly in my left SI joint. I never correlated it to our relationship or our fight. For the next two years I was in agony. I became so debilitated I lost almost everything I found important to me. I could not sit, drive, bike, exercise, cook, clean, work, dance or hardly move. I wore braces, took pills, my business closed briefly, I had insomnia, my hair fell out, I lost 25 pounds, lost friends, and I was bedridden in between Doctors’ appointments. We spent about $25K trying to “fix” me. I had a million diagnoses, nothing worked. I couldn’t hold my daughter, I couldn’t play with her, I was dependent on everyone, I was shattered. My world was a very small circle of those who stayed and cared for me and my family. Everyone else left. I was suicidal and I would beg my husband to take our child and leave. During that time my mother and I reconciled and she relished taking care of (and taking over) my life. I was too sick to do anything. I wasn’t living, I was existing.
In 2015 an friend gave me “Healing Back Pain” by Dr. Sarno. How dare she! How in the world would a book cure my back pain? I read a few pages and threw it across the room in disgust. During this time I had started listening to a lot of meditations for pain relief and attending workshops and meeting with a group about raising consciousness and healing your childhood.
It was during one workshop that I had physically thrashed and tantrumed with no pain during and after that I started to notice patterns. Certain people, places, experiences had an effect on my pain.
I decided to read the book from a different perspective. I had nothing else to lose or try anyway. I read the book in about 10 hours and hysterically cried, cheered, underlined, read aloud to my husband and generally freaked out. It all made sense. This was it. This was my diagnosis. This what what I had! After reading the book I had about a 50% decrease in my pain. If it didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t believe it. But it did. I now know I had a “book cure”.
So now I was on cloud 9 and OBSESSED with all things TMS because I want this gone and NOW. Well that’s not the way it works and I really had a whole lot ahead of me. I got hooked up with The Pain Psychology Center of Los Angeles and began sessions with my fantastic therapist, Christie. For the next two years I fired all my doctors who didn’t believe my diagnosis, threw out my braces, got off my medications, started moving again. If I thought my two years of pain were hard, I would have to say the first two of my recovery were harder. But they were so much better because I learned so much and I had so many wins.
I began speaking my truth, setting limits, actually healing my traumas emotionally rather than physically. I was like a child learning how to do everything again but with gentleness, slowness and kindness. I re-parented myself.
I can finally say at the age of 40 I learned how to love myself for the first time in my life. Little by little, my pain decreased. And it was slow. And I had flares. I still do. Of course there is one person who was not supportive of my process. I had to say goodbye to her 2 years ago to save myself. It is more painful emotionally than any physical pain I endured, but it is my truth.
It’s been about 4 years in my recovery. The last year or so, I have either 10% of pain or no pain depending on my life circumstances. No life is pain free, but I am CHRONIC pain free. I live again! I dance, travel, drive, eat, bike, work, cook, clean, exercise, and I have the best friends and family in the world. I run around with my now teenage daughter who knows all about TMS. My husband never left.
The next part of my recovery story is helping others and spreading the message. I talk very openly about my story with my community and now I’m starting to share it more globally. Expression vs. suppression. Love vs. fear.
My pain has taught me so much. It is my alarm signal. It is trying to keep me safe. It did keep me safe as a child, and now as an adult, I can keep myself safe. Thank you, pain. “
👩🏫 *Hysterical Blindness is now referred to as Conversion disorder or functional neurologic symptom disorder. According to Wikipedia “The term “conversion” has its origins in Freud’s doctrine that anxiety is “converted” into physical symptoms.”
📖 **The term TMS (or Mindbody Syndrome) has been coined by Dr John E. Sarno in his books Healing Back Pain and The Mindbody Prescription. The core concept of TMS is that repressed emotions (more specifically rage because it’s not acceptable in society to express it) is the underlying cause of most chronic illnesses. Reading her story and all the trauma that our contributor went through, we can understand why she would carry a tremendous amount of anger.
👨🏻⚕️👩🏿⚕️There is strong scientific evidence that supports the Mindbody connection and a growing number of health practitioners in the field. If you’re looking for a health professional who understands the influence of psychological factors on physical health, the following organisations may be of interest: Pain Psychology Center, SIRPA, PPDA, TMS wiki