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Recovery from back pain, foot pain, stomach pain, intolerances, possible severe autoimmune disease

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by theacrobat, Mar 29, 2023.

  1. theacrobat

    theacrobat Peer Supporter

    I was never officially diagnosed by an NHS Rheumatologist, but several doctors and healthcare professionals thought I had Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease or Ankylosing Spondylitis. I was ill to some extent with chronic fatigue, back pain and a steadily growing list of intolerances for about 9 years, of which 15 months were extremely bad. When I was 15, an osteopath told me I had lordosis (curved spine) and that before I was 30, I’d be crippled with back pain, if I didn’t sort my posture out. Well, I did sort my posture out, but my severe symptoms began at age 27, so I guess she was right (even if it was in a self-fulfilling kind of way, not unlike a hex). When my back ‘went’ terribly in February 2019, I went to see another osteo. This osteo told me I might have the catchily named Ankylosing Spondylitis. I was relieved to have a label to put on my premature physical decline, but really, this was the start of my descent into hell. I believed the pain would not go away, because I had a degenerative disease, and it persisted and got worse. One functional medicine doctor told me I was ‘the worst autoimmune patient’ he had ever seen. Whatever it was, at my worst, I needed a wheelchair to travel more than 200 feet. I couldn’t sit for more than 50 minutes, and could only sleep in a sun lounger. I was offered PPI’s by doctors and there was talk of steroids, but I knew that wouldn’t work for me, because (ironically enough) even paracetamol caused me pain. So I turned my back on mainstream medicine (a decision I do not regret) and went down the autoimmune paleo diet route (not the best idea). I had terrible back pain and reacted so badly to all food and drink except mushrooms and almond milk that for 4 months I only consumed 900-1100 calories per day. After my functional medicine doctor prescribed HCL, I could manage 1500 calories a day, including some organic beef. So I adhered to this extreme diet for many more months and it kept me alive, even if I had visible ribs and looked like a prisoner of war. In hindsight, the whole autoimmune paleo approach led to an unhealthy obsession with avoiding certain foods that exacerbated my symptoms. However, if I wasn’t distracted by trying to avoid starch, gluten etc, I would have been distracted by something else (steroid side effects, perhaps) as long as the root psychological cause of the illness remained unaddressed. I tried every alternative medicine remedy I could think of (including various herbs and supplements), but nothing worked. In the end, I couldn’t take the suffering anymore and decided I had to recover.

    Then I had a dream. I had recently bought a book by Dr John Sarno called Healing Back Pain, but it was left unread on my nightstand because I thought Sarno was just talking about bad backs, not the autoimmune symptoms I thought I had. And I couldn’t accept that my pain was solely psychogenic. In the dream I was on a podcast, holding up Sarno’s book and saying, ‘diet is ok, but this is better.’

    After that dream, I read Sarno and a few other TMS books and began to slowly recover. The idea was that there was an inner personality or psychological ‘factor’ trying to keep me distracted from repressed emotions, and that if I just wrote, thought, and talked about those unconscious emotions, the decoy strategy would be defeated, and the pain would diminish. This idea was a lifesaver. John Sarno may be the greatest physician in recorded history. My pain decreased by 40% even from merely reading the books. It was so beneficial I read them all three times, to re-condition my brain and ditch all the harmful medical misinformation I’d picked up over the years. I talked about repressed anger (which all my symptoms had sought to distract me from) and was able to walk 3.5 miles one day with little pain. Then I hit a plateau and my foot swelled to almost twice it’s normal size. This was weird and quite alarming. I realised it was what Sarno would call the symptom imperative, a reaction to the progress I’d been making on my back pain and digestive problems. So I resisted the temptation to call the doctor, ignored it and started journaling. This is where I made some really profound progress. I journaled about everything in the darkest possible terms, plumbed the depths of the psyche, opened every can of worms and really let all the rage and grief out. I’d write 1-3 pages at night, then re-read it in the morning. Some days I’d stare into this abyss for 90 minutes. I’d usually come away with less pain and, strangely, more hunger. This way, I didn’t have to parade my feelings in public (one of the main fears of men with TMS, since we’re taught from an early age by our lovely schoolmates that any show of weakness is generally exploited) and rarely did I actually shed tears; merely acknowledging them in private was enough. My foot deflated inside about 10 minutes one night whilst journaling. I did it every morning when I woke up and every night before sleep because I was semi-conscious and more suggestible at those times. Every week I walked a little farther and ate a little more. I went to Austria and the change of scenery helped; my house had become associated via conditioning with pain; every chair had pain-memories attached. Over the course of a year, I progressed from eating a lot of beef and rice to bread, chocolate, cheese, pizzas, pastas and finally milk. When it came time for me to eat some new food, or perform a new activity like bending or running, I would ambush myself, by not speaking about my plans (the unconscious is always listening), and then just doing it impulsively, without any warning, preferably on a day when I’d slept well the night before. After a year I could finally sleep in a bed without pain, eat and drink anything humanly edible, do 60 consecutive pushups, hike 18 miles, climb mountains and run a 10k in 40 minutes.

    But that wasn’t all. There have been other weird benefits from the Sarno method. My hair isn’t as grey as it was when I was ill. I’ve had bug bites that became pretty badly swollen and infected (the entire back of my calf), which have deflated entirely within minutes, just by ignoring them. Even before I was severely ill, I was overweight from merely eating 2100 calories a day (and paleo calories at that). Now I eat more calories, and a lot of it is junk food, and I’m much leaner and energetic than I was in 2018. It could just be because I exercise more, but I only run or life weights once or twice a week. Make of that what you will.

    My work productivity has also skyrocketed now I’m no longer so distracted by pain, worries, etc. I’m an author. For the 15 months I was ill, I didn’t write much. From September 2021 to September 2022 I wrote and finished 2 novels. From mid-September 2022 I have begun and completed another two novels (82,000 words and 64,000 words) and have a rough draft of a third (103,000 words). I know I'm bragging here, and that's taboo here in England, but I do it only so that people can understand what is possible. By the way, the stiff upper lip explains a lot of our problems in England. It would be cool if we could all waltz through life's ordeals as stoic as Wellington, but that's not how it works. Repression always carries a price.

    I don’t automatically listen to authority figures or accept ‘received wisdom/common sense’ the way most people do. In a time of high conformity, this trait hasn’t exactly made me popular, but it helped to save my life.

    In hindsight, all the doctors and osteopaths I saw did more harm than good. After every appointment, my symptoms got worse. I don’t regret not seeing an NHS Rheumatologist. I’m glad I cancelled my X-ray appointment, especially after reading Sarno. If they’d found an abnormality, I could have got diagnosed with god-knows-what, spiralled even further into hell, and found it even harder to believe in a psychological cause, even though as Sarno has established, many spinal abnormalities don’t necessarily cause pain. The provisional diagnoses and prognoses I received, though they may have been correct, became self-fulfilling prophecies and made things even harder to shake off. They made me think what I had was incurable and yet, whatever it was, it is now cured. That was my experience, anyway, and that’s all I can talk about. Of course, you must make your own decisions based on your own case. Don’t do it just because I did. Sometimes a doctor is necessary.

    I have written a novel, Ego’s Odyssey, which explores the idea of using the unconscious mind to heal. It is a fantasy inspired by Greek myth and the ideas of John Sarno and Carl Jung. The book is available on Amazon at the following link:



    It’s 77p on kindle and £6.35 for the paperback. Amazon won’t let me sell it any cheaper; there’s almost no profit margin. I wrote the book to help raise awareness of mind-body concepts. It can also be taken as an entertaining fantasy, in the vein of Game of Thrones.

    Best of luck to all TMS (and equivalents) sufferers. For anyone on the fence, I encourage you to think about the timing of your symptoms; did their origin coincide with some stressful time or life event? I don't really believe in coincidences. In the words of Marc Sopher, ‘you can’t get side effects from reading a book.’ Actually, you might be able to, but not from reading Sarno’s books. You have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain. Think out of the box!

    Ultimately, it comes down to willpower and desperation. Where there's a will there's a way, and Sarno is the way for TMS and equivalents.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2023
    kai123, sleepyjay, Booble and 7 others like this.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    @theacrobat. Wow.

    I am blown away by your story. I don't have time right now to say more, but later I will definitely check out your book and tell you about another member who wrote and self-published her story. I also need make sure this post is seen by some specific folks here. Awesome.
    patrickj likes this.
  3. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Another wow from me! Congratulations!
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Such an inspiring story. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it up and post it here. It will inspire others.
  5. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    TG957 likes this.
  6. theacrobat

    theacrobat Peer Supporter

    Thank you all for your kind words. I really think there's more to Sarno's core principle than even many of his acolytes realise.

    I've checked out Tamara's book. It looks good and I am glad to see she has been successful with it. These kind of TMS books are life-savers. There seems to be quite a few commonalities with my own situation.

    My book takes the TMS paradigm as a launching off point. Sarno for me was just the beginning of the rabbit hole. Ego's Odyssey is for those who want to see where the rabbit hole leads...
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2023
  7. theacrobat

    theacrobat Peer Supporter

    Hi Tamara, I have recently bought your book and will post a review when I'm finished. Yours is a very inspiring story; I wish I'd encountered it while I was recovering! I write my books faster than I can promote them and I see you've been successful in that regard. Do you have any tips for book promotion on a limited budget?
  8. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you, Robert! I didn't do any promotions, it was the word of mouth that spread through the TMS community. It also helped that I have been active on this forum answering questions long before publishing the book, so people knew me well. I am just about to depart for a month-long trip, but will be happy to answer in more details when I am back in May. I bought your book and will take a look at it.
  9. theacrobat

    theacrobat Peer Supporter

    Thanks. I'm about halfway through yours. Very thought provoking. Have a good trip!

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