Don't Throw the Baby Out with the TMS Bathwater
Updated: Aug 6, 2022
I awoke from my pre-knowledge of TMS slumber, more than a little angry, disillusioned, and disoriented. I had tried everything; "traditional", conventional, holistic, or otherwise. Prior to pain levels reaching their peak highs; I was in great shape, I ate by any normal standards a very healthy diet, and had been fully dedicated—or at least mostly dedicated—to a spiritual path for the better part of a decade. In my mind, I did not deserve to be in chronic pain. It didn't make any logical sense. Only through my subsequent discovery of TMS, was I able to gain a vantage point that allowed me to begin to see how much sense the pain actually did make. I recently discovered a journal entry from a couple of months after learning that TMS was the cause of my chronic pain, I had it under the heading Trying to Heal, and it reads...
August 14, 2019
I don't know if this is a new insight or what or why this is my current focus, but I realize I have tried absolutely everything to heal. I have done it all. I've ate like shit, I've eaten perfectly, I stopped forms of physical treatment, I've done physical treatment, I've quite drinking, I've sat quietly, I've meditated, I've written down all the shit that pisses me off, I've learned about TMS thoroughly, I've read Sarno's books, I've read all of Ozanich's books several times, and I have read other TMS books. Whether or not I have TMS is no longer the question. I've watched my symptoms shift, come, and go; the "hallmark" of TMS they say. I've observed that my personality type is the type that gets the syndrome. I have talked with friends and family and also observed this happening in so many. I have tried and tried to convince myself and others to no avail. I've done everything except give up. I've done everything there possibly is to do. I have exercised my ass off. Haha. It's time to let it all go. No more books about this stuff. No more convincing. Just live. Just do whatever you want Tyson. And if it's nothing, do nothing. When I put my focus on healing and doing all sorts of stuff to work on it, I am only putting off healing. Even this note is another thing I am doing, but this feels natural, as did everything else I tried... Don't try.
And welcome to the mind of a TMS sufferer. In all honesty, the above list doesn't even do the reality of the situation justice. A few noteworthy additions to the no-man's-land I found myself in, that was the period of time between fleeing the conventional medical establishment, but yet to be all in on the TMS path, include: a visit to a naturopath (three day liquid fast and a whole gamut of supplements included); trips to an acupuncture co-op; several deep (and I mean deep) tissue massages from an ex-military vet who had opened his own parlor; a variety of different physical therapists, one of which who specialized in craniosacral therapy, and another angel of a lady who was actually willing to put her fingers up my butt, in order to help me; and finally, a handful of EMDR counseling sessions. Oh and don't let me forget to mention, I also consumed about a half ounce of Psilocybin mushrooms, and tossed in a couple of tabs of acid for good measure, over the short period of a month and a half. Good times right?!
The last significant side road I took a stroll down, before really getting sincere about healing, was a several month-long courtship with a little plant named Kratom; a supposedly "harmless and non-addictive" botanical, that effectively mimics a strong opioid, when taken in extremely large doses, and acts upon the exact same receptor sites within the brain. I quickly proved that this substance could become quite addictive and harmful, when left in a special enough pair of hands; and discovered the end of this particular road with a tenaciousness and addictive zeal second-to-none. This short detour came to a decisive and abrupt end, with me, cutting open and throwing a kilogram package of some high quality Kratom I had recently purchased online—it literally resembled a brick of finely powdered cocaine, but this one happened to be lime green—into the dumpster and going "cold turkey", a process that left me sleepless and skin-crawling for three or four days. Another painful, yet necessary episode on my journey towards healing and wholeness. When we are suffering greatly, there is little we won't try if it promises hope for our seemingly hopeless situation. As time has gone on, things have smoothed out and my thinking isn't nearly as erratic as it once was, but to this day, I have to stay aware of the tendency to overthink and analyze every move that is being made on the journey.
This blog is called Don't Throw the Baby Out with the TMS Bathwater, because I am all too aware of the tendency to assume that everything we were doing before learning about TMS, was "wrong". Personally, I became very resentful towards my earlier behaviors, and their inability to prevent me from falling prey to chronic pain. For awhile, I felt it necessary to go the other way completely. "Why should I even bother to eat healthy?" "Why should I give a shit about how much I drink?" "Why all the effort to stay in good shape?" "Why bother with spirituality and self-improvement?" It's like I needed to take a break from these things in order to prove to my subconscious mind that they were in no way the causes of, nor the cures for, the chronic pain I was experiencing. I wasn't able to keep this up for long though, because as it turns out, some of these things were an integral part of who I truly am—they were and are aspects of my truest nature being revealed. Over and over again I have to remind myself that, the main problem was my beliefs about chronic pain. Rather than following my heart when I did not want to go to the doctors and surgeons for help, I did so anyways, because that is what was recommended by basically everyone, my own limited-self included. There are essentially no other options provided in our society and culture. And so, without realizing what I was doing, I dove down a rabbit hole that would deliver me straight to the depths of hell. Being told that you have a chronic condition that will likely last the rest of your life... fucking sucks. But, it wasn't true...
I want to make it abundantly clear: healthy eating itself will not cure chronic pain, and poor diet and nutrition themselves, are not the causes of chronic pain; exercise itself, along with physical fitness of any kind, is not the cause of, nor the cure for, chronic pain; and sobriety itself will not cure chronic pain, nor is drug and alcohol abuse itself the cause of chronic pain. These are topics I have considered a great deal, and assume are troubling aspects of healing for many folks out there. I will likely write more about each of these independently, as their subject matter can become complicated, but for now it is important to understand that simply manipulating these factors, will not necessarily heal chronic pain. What is more important is discovering what is true for you, regarding these matters.
See, anything you specifically do as a remedy for the physical pain, is destined to fail in the long run. You very well may experience temporary results in the form a placebo response, but the primary cause of the pain will have gone unaddressed, and the pain will inevitably return. This is not to say that any of the above mentioned factors will not be altered or changed altogether throughout the course of your healing—as a result of your healing. Ozanich writes in his book, Dr. John Sarno's Top 10 Healing Discoveries, "People sometimes get confused and believe they should stop everything. But the only things that need to be stopped are those intended to heal the body." I have noticed that as I have progressed in healing, I have just felt like eating a healthy diet. I realize that I love physical activity, and the way it makes me feel. I practice and enjoy meditation, relaxation, writing, and solitude, simply for their own sake. When I engage in these activities, it is clear to me, that it is just what I need to be doing. As I have continued in my healing, addictions seem to drop away of their own accord; no matter how much I fight, resist, kick or scream along the way. At times, it has been quite helpful to address the unconscious beliefs upholding the addictions, but experience has shown that they are on their way out either way. I have a hard time wanting to numb out as much anymore, because I now fully and irreversibly understand the consequences. It can be difficult to say whether what seem to be positive and healthy life changes, are the causes of healing, or, are the results of healing... the chicken or the egg?
One of the many things that both conventional and holistic medicine almost ruined for me, was stretching. At some point, I was indoctrinated into this belief that if you spend every waking moment of your day stretching, your pain will eventually go away. So that's just what I did, I TMSed about it like no other (see "Beating a Dead Horse" blog). By the time I found my way to TMS healing, I was pretty damn sure that I was never going to stretch again in my life. But, as time went on, I found that I wanted to do things like yoga, I wanted to be able to just get a good stretch in every so often, without it being such a big freaking ordeal. Even dogs love stretching, they invented the ubiquitous up and down dog yoga positions for heavens sake! Now, do you think your dog is doing their morning stretches thinking, "oh ya, this is definitely going to be the cure for my back pain!"? The answer is no, I actually asked my dog Jane and she promptly informed me that she, "just digs it."
Another example I have noticed that could go in the category of, "things that seem healthy, yet may be working against you", is taking supplements; such as vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, fish oil, CBD, etc.. I am not saying that there is no place for supplements, or that a person should absolutely never take them, I am only cautioning you to the fact that this may just be another thing you are doing to avoid facing reality. These things can have the effect of reinforcing the unconscious belief within you, that the cause of your unwanted experience is somehow either pathological, structural, or chemical in nature. If you are like me, and have spent your entire life looking towards something outside of yourself to save you, taking supplements isn't as benign as it may seem. To illustrate my point, I have had times in the not so distant past, like this last winter, when I was feeling depressed. Must be a lack of vitamin D right?! I then become consumed with thinking about what kind of vitamin D supplement to take, how much it's going to cost, where I should go to buy it from, and so on and so on. Meanwhile, what am I distracting myself from? I then remind myself that I have been depressed, and tan, at the same time... A quick fix would be great, but that just doesn't seem to be how things work in reality.
You have to un-brainwash yourself to the notion that every single thing you do in your life has to produce a specific result, whether it be happiness, fulfillment, or the alleviation of pain—be it physical or emotional. If these things do occur, it is a much deserved reward for following your heart; it lets you know that you are on the right path. The things we do to relieve our pain are typically "physical" before we are introduced to TMS, but after learning about TMS, you will notice that there are many other things we will do, secretly hoping they will be the magic ticket out of pain. Throughout my healing I have often caught myself taking some necessary action, hoping that this is "the one" that will end my pain once and for all; whether it was having that long dreaded difficult conversation, leaving the job that I could no longer stand, taking that solo retreat, learning to record my own music, or writing this blog. When I become aware that I am thinking in this manner, I remind myself that regardless of if this makes the pain go away, it is something I must do. Even if the pain did not go away, it wouldn't matter, I would do it anyways. Paraphrasing from Dr. John Sarno's Top 10 Healing Discoveries, "As long as these things are done for their own sake, and for a feeling of overall wellness, they can be continued. The deeper self knows exactly why an activity is being performed; it can't be fooled. Therefore, stop all body-focused healing modalities, but don't stop living, relaxing, laughing, learning, moving, and freeing yourself from fear."
The heart of the matter is this, we need to be aware of, and honest about, our intentions. This is the the best we can do. There have been times when it has served me to dig my heels in and resist, and other times when it has been best to relent. This reminds me of a story I once heard recounted by a TMS physician. He was on his way to give a lecture about TMS, and as he was walking into the building in which he was giving the lecture, he noticed a sharp pain in the bottom of his foot. Knowing the nature of TMS, he momentarily shrugged it off and continued on his merry way. When he arrived at his destination, he checked his foot out of curiosity, and discovered that there was indeed a shard of glass! By all means, if you have glass in your foot, remove it! We all have to decide for ourselves what is most likely a physical expression of an internal conflict, and, what is not. We can stay open-minded enough to "not throw the baby out with the bathwater", but also not fool ourselves about why we are doing what we are doing. Flexibility is a great attribute to have throughout the healing process, as our stances are subject to change as we deepen our knowledge and understanding. It is so important that we fully understand that the primary causes of chronic pain and mental illness, are psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually rooted, letting this be our guiding light.
Love your struggle and remain free,