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Crippling back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme, vertigo and more all healed

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by Ann Miller, Sep 24, 2021.

  1. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    In July of 2017, I woke up one Saturday morning, rolled over and my back completely seized up, paralyzing my legs and torso. On a pain scale of one to ten, it was a twenty… worse than anything I had ever felt, including childbirth. I was terrified as I tried in vain to move or get up. I called my husband, barely able to talk from pain, telling him that I was paralyzed, that I might need the fire department or an ambulance and that this time, unlike all the other previous episodes of back pain, this time there would be no recovery. I knew that something critical had happened. I braced for surgery, or lifelong debilitation.

    I was no stranger to pain. I had suffered from intermittent back pain since my early twenties, seeing this chiropractor or that one, knowing that my scoliosis probably would lead to “the chiropractic lifestyle.” In my early thirties, along with the back pain, I developed a stomach disorder that included painful bouts any time I ate anything other than completely clean food. In my forties and early fifties, I had the following diagnoses: fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme, mold allergies, migraines, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, TMJ, bite misalignment, L4-L5 compression, bulging disc, disc degeneration, leg length discrepancy, benign positional vertigo, phantosmia (smelling smoke when there is none) and my personal favorite…. not enough fatty deposits on the heels of my feet. Through the years, I had seen countless doctors and specialists. I had toured all routes to get out of pain including, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory meds, physical therapy, chiropractors beyond number, acupuncture, supplements, bite protectors, lifts in my shoe, countless apparatus for the back, special diets such as gluten free or anti-inflammatory, round after round of antibiotics (for the “Lyme”), sitting in hot saunas, head position exercises, traction devices, and TENS stimulation. So, when my back refused to work in July of 2017, it was simply the latest problem in what I considered to be my broken body, only far more serious than anything before.

    What followed this nightmare of pain was another year of orthopedic visits, MRIs, and chiropractic care. I had pain every day, but it did recede enough for me to work and function. Because of the fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme symptoms, I had already reduced the expectations I had on my body and my life, including a variety of coping mechanisms, resting for a day after any strenuous social engagement or travel, avoiding certain kinds of chairs, beds, shoes, avoiding some exercises, doing others …the list was endless. Now with this severe back event, I took on only the most basic responsibilities, resting whenever possible during the day, and turning down all invitations for social gatherings because I just didn’t know if I’d feel well enough to attend. My small careful life became even more fear based and even more diminutive. Then in July 2018, I collapsed again, back to square one, and it was this event that led me to ask…why always in July? Was there something about July? This was a watershed moment for me because I could indeed admit that there were a few things about July that made me very sad. So, laying in bed, with nothing better to do, I googled “back pain with sadness.” Glory be! Turns out there is a huge link between sadness and pain, and anger and pain, and trauma and pain. My mind was opened. I was ready to learn.

    Over the course of the summer of 2018, I read books, listened to podcasts, studied detailed scientific papers, and totally immersed myself in a possibility that I hadn’t considered before…that my pain was serving as a distraction for my mind in order to protect me from painful emotions. The pain was very much real, had always been real, God was it real, but the cause was not structural or dietary or a spirochete that evades antibiotic treatment or any of the many other causes that those well-meaning but mistaken specialists had told me. The pain was caused by my suppressed emotions and the neural pathways they activated.

    I know, I know. It sounds crazy. I thought so, too. In fact, ten years previously, a physician I had seen for the fibromyalgia had recommended an antidepressant as treatment. I remember being highly offended, thinking she was not taking my affliction as “real,” looking her in the eye and saying, “This pain is not in my head. I am not in pain because I’m sad, I am sad because I am in pain.” Sigh. This attitude would cost me ten more years of needless suffering and I don’t even want to think about how much money! But “when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” and I was desperate enough in 2018 to open my mind. The concept that emotions can cause physical symptoms is backed up by solid, concrete science. Emotions can send danger signals to the amygdala which then activates our sympathetic nervous system, also known as our fight or flight response. This, in turn, electrifies all sorts of physical responses such as muscle tension, quick, shallow breathing, gastrointestinal constriction, blood flow constriction, and a whole host of chemical changes through neurotransmitters and hormones. These are the exact mechanisms at play when we blush. An emotion causes a physical response. Chronic suppression of emotions can evoke chronic danger signals to the amygdala creating conditioned pain responses via learned neural pathways. Our sympathetic nervous system operates automatically and subconsciously. This is helpful in the case of immediate danger like being chased by a bear; however, it turns out that our bodies are not great at figuring out whether the threat we face is immediate. As the sayings goes, “it’s better to assume the stick is a snake than the other way around.” Except that my poor body had assumed that every emotion that I deemed “unacceptable” was a snake in the grass…for years. And I had no real coping methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, that system of rest and repair. It was time to get to work.

    My recovery out of chronic pain was uneven, irregular, and enlightening. For me it was a combination of journaling, meditation, and rerouting my neural pathways away from old pain pathways into new avenues. It was part excruciating emotional excavation and part epiphany. I entered this work fairly convinced that I knew myself well, knew that I was a calm and peaceful person, knew that I was good in a crisis and that I didn’t experience extremes in emotion. Somewhere in my quest to be “good” and “do good things” and have it all together, I lost myself and lost touch with all the glorious emotions that course through me minute by minute. (See further stories in the Blog section of this website) Recovery from chronic pain required me to suspend disbelief, to be willing to face the fear of my emotions and of my symptoms, to learn to send my brain messages of safety, and to change old patterns of thinking. I nibbled away at doing this work deliberately and with commitment. I also consulted with a mind/body coach along the way when I became stuck in my thinking. Happily, I physically began to feel better and better. I started exercising again, working longer hours, taking fewer times to lay down during the day, and began enjoying traveling again. Not only did my back pain ebb away, but so did all the chronic muscle pains, dizziness, and other bizarre symptoms that I had learned to just tolerate. The fear pain cycle was unraveling. Surprisingly, and as a bonus, I began to authentically heal old hurts and forgive old emotional wounds. It was tough, tough work, and I kept at it. Little by little, month by month, I gained my life back.

    Today I am an active and joyful 58-year-old. I routinely walk five or more miles a day for the simple reason that I love it, I have excess energy, and I can. It’s not uncommon for me to break out in song as I walk, and I make no apologies to my neighbors who might overhear. I work at both my business and as a regional director for a national nonprofit that I care about deeply. I still journal regularly, feeling profoundly an array of emotions that are perfect just as they are. I meditate most every day, filling myself with compassion for the very real and flawed and beautiful human that I am. I love to sit on the floor and play with my grandson, to garden, to hike, to go boating, and I love to dance like no one is watching. My life is small no longer. I have even started my own TMS consulting business so that I can help others wade through all the resources and find the one that best matches their learning style and lifestyle.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Love your Success Story, Ann! Congratulations and thanks for sharing it here where it will inspire others.
  3. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    Thank you!
  4. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    OMG this is a wonderful story. Thank you for posting. It is so great to know people have cured themselves, and even though there are plenty of success stories on here, this one rings strongly with me. Can you give more info on how you went about journaling - was it basically expressive writing, whatever came to your mind 1x per day for x minutes or so, or specifically examining past or present emotions, or something else?

    It seems like accepting yourself for who you are, warts and all, is an important part of this. Not trying per se to "fix yourself", but rather simply acknowledging that suppressed emotions exist and recognizing them?

    Do you have more info on your TMS consulting? Just curious. Thanks so much
  5. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    Aww. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I was very devoted to my journaling practice for many months. You know how us little perfectionists are...we want to do it correctly. lol. For me it worked really well because I like to write and have no qualms about writing as an expressive tool. Other clients of mine, I have not recommended this path for because they loathe writing or have extreme trauma etc. If you want to try the expressive writing here is how I do it: I make sure I have uninterrupted time. I lock the door to whatever room I am in, or go get completely private some other way, such as in my car etc. I set a timer for 20 mins and I write and write and write. I don't care about punctuation or where the writing goes. I just write. I do try to focus on emotions, not just storytelling, but sometimes I slip into story mode. Its okay. Just write and write and write. I keep going the whole 20 mins. Even if it seems like I'm done, I keep going. Sometimes there's gold at the 18 or so minute mark. Sometimes there's no gold at all. It's all okay. I did my work. Then I soothe myself in a way that I enjoy. It might be a guided meditation, it might be a walk in nature, it might be a warm bath or a quick nap. Some of it depends on time and place. Some of it depends on my instinct of what I need. I repeat the next day. Try to do it most days. Don't become obsessive with it, but do keep at it. If your symptoms move around, get intense or change in any way this is a REALLY GOOD SIGN! Keep going.

    I have a whole bunch of info on my website in you want to visit that including a free private Facebook group and Instagram handle. www.pathsbeyondpain.com
    Best of luck!
    hawaii_five0 likes this.
  6. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    Thanks a lot! Very helpful info about how you journaled.

    I actually printed out your success story above. Again, blessings to you for posting it. There are definitely some days where remembering someone's success story is a kind of oxygen that keeps me going.

    fridaynotes likes this.
  7. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    Oxygen indeed!
  8. yvettemariabetancourt

    yvettemariabetancourt Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much for sharing. I cut out certain sentences that resonated. Very beautifully written. I needed this.
  9. JoySeeker

    JoySeeker New Member

    Hi @Ann Miller, thank you so much for sharing your story. I share multiple symptoms on your list and reading your success story really gives me hope. I do have one question and it would be great if you can elaborate on it. You mentioned for journaling you're trying to focus on writing emotions rather than storytelling. I have started journaling but couldn't quite get what/how to write about emotions. I'm more of describing what has happened and as to emotions I don't have many words to write in addition to "I'm angry, I'm sad". I can't imagine writing about emotions for 20 minutes. Do you mind give a concrete example of what you mean by writing about emotions? Thanks again!
  10. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    So, I too, start out in with the surface emotions. I'm feeling sad(mad, fearful) about---------------------. This will usually turn into a story and I will no doubt indulge myself in this storytelling because it just seems to need to come out before I can move on. After a few minutes though, I then try to dig deeper. how do I feel about being sad? Then how does THAT make me feel? Then what? So. I'm going for the LAYERS of emotions. Layer upon layer upon layer. This is where I get to the more repressed emotions...Oh look, I'm mad at myself, I'm resentful, I'm jealous. Whatever is discovered is a gift. It really is. I also ALWAYS try to feel where in my body the emotion is causing sensations. Is my heart pounding? Are my shoulders up by my ears? Am I about to snap the pen in half? Does my heart hurt? You get the idea. And how do these sensations change and flow as I journal. I'm literally somatic tracking in the journal. Tracking my emotions and the feelings in my body they evoke. Does that make sense?
    Kellso likes this.
  11. JoySeeker

    JoySeeker New Member

    Thank you @Ann Miller. "Layers of emotions" is eye-opening for me. No idea how many layers I am able to peel off but I'm going to try. I highly appreciate your reply.
  12. Kittyruns

    Kittyruns Peer Supporter

    What a beautiful, positive story! Thanks for sharing!
  13. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    You’re very welcome.
  14. jameseyswife1

    jameseyswife1 New Member

    Thank you for taking the time to write your amazing success story down! I'm starting a journey for myself. I'm 45 years old and suffer with TMJ, IBS, acid reflux, migraines, allergies, eczema and severe hypnic jerks that have destroyed my sleep and sent me into a deep despair. I've seen a lot of doctors had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, and now I'm scheduled for CT scan of my stomach to see what is causing some of these issues. Soon I will be seeing a sleep doctor and I'm on the waiting list to see a neurologist. I've always been fearful and repressed a lot of my emotions, but I never correlated the health issues and my emotions. I hope to start this journey and find some relief, with the hopes that I might get a resemblance of my life back.
  15. fridaynotes

    fridaynotes Well known member

    How are you doing now?
  16. Ann Miller

    Ann Miller Well known member

    Hi Jameseyswife,
    I so remember the days of running to this doc and that one, having countless tests and other. If they all come back with no serious cause (infection, cancer) you can bet it's TMS. The fact that you have so many widespread issues is pretty classic TMS. Feel free to reach out with questions.
    My very best to you,
  17. jameseyswife1

    jameseyswife1 New Member

    I'm doing better with my stomach pain, which is wonderful! I'm still having a lot of my other symptoms, but I'm hoping to resolve them through journaling and trying to deal with my inner emotions etc...
  18. jameseyswife1

    jameseyswife1 New Member

    Thank you for your kind reply. I'm looking forward to moving towards a less painful existence!
    Ann Miller likes this.
  19. jameseyswife1

    jameseyswife1 New Member

    One thing I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around is how it the pain can cause issues like my hypnic jerks that I get every time I try and fall asleep and spasms that I get periodically throughout the day in my fingers and legs. It makes perfect sense that we could store pain in our muscles, but the nervous system is still boggling my mind. Maybe that's why I haven't seen any improvement in those areas. This whole TMS journey is helping me fear them less though, which is great. Also, do you have a guideline of what you write about? Usually I just write about whatever comes to mind that's bugging me, but I don't know if I'm really getting down to the emotions that need to come out.
  20. jameseyswife1

    jameseyswife1 New Member

    One thing I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around is how it the pain can cause issues like my hypnic jerks that I get every time I try and fall asleep and spasms that I get periodically throughout the day in my fingers and legs. It makes perfect sense that we could store pain in our muscles, but the nervous system is still boggling my mind. Maybe that's why I haven't seen any improvement in those areas. This whole TMS journey is helping me fear them less though, which is great. Also, do you have a guideline of what you write about? Usually I just write about whatever comes to mind that's bugging me, but I don't know if I'm really getting down to the emotions that need to come out.

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