My life today could not be more different than when I first met Georgie and started the online SIRPA programme in November 2013. At that time, I struggled with moderate-severe chronic pain (pelvic and lower back) on a daily basis and was living my life in a very limited way: I couldn’t sit down for even short periods (like 5 minutes!), couldn’t exercise, had to cancel so many social arrangements which affected friendships, could only work standing up, and couldn’t even begin to think about starting a family – my greatest dream. The pain was just so debilitating. I spent so many hours lying in the bath or on the couch with an ice-pack or hot water bottle strapped to me, trying to numb the endless, awful pain.
Looking back, I can see that my personality set me up perfectly for TMS. I am a people-pleaser, perfectionist and massive worrier. I have been through some tough experiences but never let people see me with anything but a smile on my face. In fact, I was known for my smile and stoicism. I have always hated conflict and put other people’s needs and wishes before my own, scared to speak up for myself for fear of upsetting someone or giving them a bad impression of me. Living my life in this way created a lot of hidden resentment – that reservoir of rage Dr Sarno talks about.
When I first met Georgie, I wasn’t sure whether a mind-body approach could work for me but I was certain of one thing: there was nothing else left to try. No treatment or medication my doctors and physios had ever offered had worked. So I had nothing to lose in trying the SIRPA approach. Plus the TMS-personality was so very me: I just had to give it a try.
It took time for the programme to work but I saw small improvements within about 2 months, which gave me huge hope and spurred me on.
Here’s what I did:
– read as much as possible about the TMS/mindbody/SIRPA approach to convince myself of the methodology
– journaled at length every day to get my emotions out onto the page, digging really deep and thinking about my past and present stresses along with the burdens I heaped on myself due to my perfectionist, people-pleasing, stressful-worrier personality
– whenever I felt pain, I told it that I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me, that it was just TMS. I would chastise the pain, tell it go away, tell it I didn’t believe it and it had no power over me.
– whenever I felt pain, I would think about what might be wrong emotionally rather than physically – and journal as soon as I could
– I stopped researching in fear any kind of physical condition or possible other treatment (this was essential)
– I stopped worrying (easier said than done!) that anything was physically wrong and believed whole-heartedly that my issue was TMS
– Slowly but slowly I resumed all the activities I thought I couldn’t do because they would cause me more pain
Belief is critical. TMS thrives on fear and uncertainty. You have to fully believe that there is nothing physically wrong and that the TMS approach will work.
There have been set-backs along the way for me, generally when I stopped journalling or allowed any doubt to creep in about my diagnosis. When that happened, I would resume the approach described above with gusto and the pain would always abate, even if this took time (a few weeks).
My life now
Today I can do all the things I once feared I never would again: exercising (hard, even), socialising, sitting for as long as I like, fully embracing life without fear of pain. And I am finally a mummy to an amazing little boy.
I hope my story inspires other TMS sufferers. You can get well. You will get well. You have to believe.