At age 19 I was diagnosed with glandular fever which I was not able to recover from within 3 months. This led to a further diagnosis of Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (a synonym for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and ME). From age 19 to 32 I was so chronically ill I could barely walk a 100m without severe pain in my legs. I also had a ridiculous number of food allergies and chemical allergies. My planned legal career was in tatters and all attempts at living scuppered by this debilitating illness. I tried numerous therapies from healers, to cold baths and anti candida diets but nothing I tried could provide me a sustained and full recovery.
A shed of light.
At age 32 I was fortunate enough to come across a therapy called the Lightning Process. This was an NLP based stress management system aimed at challenging beliefs that I had developed about my health problems. For the first time in 2007 after 14 years I fully recovered and was able to return to full time work. The only problem was that my pain symptoms seemed to return at moments of high stress. Especially if a desire was thwarted, such as wanting a particular job or falling in love and not having a positive outcome. It seemed the Lightning Process had got me on the right track by showing me that beliefs around my health problems were a major part of the picture around creating symptoms. However, I feel there was one part of the jigsaw left undiscovered. During times of extreme stress or pressure, debilitating symptoms could return to a particular area of my body such as RSI in my fingers, neck pain or pains in the eyes. In all cases organic medical explanations for these symptoms were ruled out by tests. I was left wondering why sometimes I could be free of these symptoms and sometimes they came back.
TMS and Dr Sarno.
It was during a flare up of RSI type symptoms in 2010 that I first read the work of Dr Sarno. His explanation that emotions our psyche did not wish to come to the surface could be covered up by pain. He said this pain was physical in that it was caused by a temporary oxygen deprivation to certain parts of the body giving rise to symptoms and pain. I remember ten years ago seeing work by a Dr Costa which showed that in CFS patients there was reduced blood flow to the brain. His explanation seemed persuasive, but I set it aside, as I got through the RSI through a slow process of seeing my GP to rule out organic causes and using an ergonomic keyboard. As I later discovered this was only patching up a wider problem which would return later.
It was in December 2012 I began to experience a flare up of career threatening symptoms. This was at a time of extreme stress. I was working in a challenging legal job as well as trying to study at law school. On top of this an on/off romance with a girl I really loved (even though she wasn’t good for me) finally fell apart. On this occasion the symptoms were in my eyes. This was initially diagnosed as Computer Vision Syndrome or eye strain. I was given all kinds of suggestions to work around this, from new glasses, to being told to look into the distance, having breaks but none of this worked. As I have since learned trying to negotiate with these symptoms is like trying to negotiate with terrorists. Once you let it back into your life it will come back and not let you go.
Feb 2013 Legal career postponed, looking for answers to my pain.
I had to leave my job at the law firm and defer my law school studies while I tried to find answers for this most recent flare up of symptoms. I floundered around looking for physical explanations for my supposed eye strain but these offered no relief to the pain. Then I remembered TMS and I found Louise Levy via Google as a UK practitioner who combined Dr Sarno’s therapeutic approach to pain syndromes as well as using hypnotherapy. We agreed a 5 session plan following the SIRPA program. This is a treatment methodology based (as I understand it) on Dr Sarno’s work.
The first big step was reading a book which Louse recommended to me – ‘The Great Pain Deception’ by Steven Ray Ozanich. This was a man who had struggled with a myriad of debilitating pain syndromes, everything from back pain, to a cough that wouldn’t go away and all manner of weird and not so wonderful painful conditions. The book describes his battle with these debilitating pains. His determination to have a life and most importantly of all making the link between the emotional events in his life and his debilitating symptoms. Every month I have been free of chronic pain since 2007 is firmly rooted in an approach in which there is zero tolerance for pain. Hearing this man’s long, painful but ultimately successful journey to a pain free life can be an inspiration for all.
The most important thing was the work me and Louise did together in our sessions. There was a big emotional block in my life relating to my failed wayward romance the previous year. I was furious with my ex, hating her and refusing to speak to her (which was a bit awkward as we worked together!). I was exhibiting classic TMS personality traits such as failing to assert myself and my boundaries. Also expecting the rest of the world to be psychic and know what I wanted and how I felt without ever actually saying what I wanted and how I felt!
The incident at work that led to me not talking to my ex was a classic example of suppressed emotion and the TMS personality. Despite the break up we had got on passably well for a couple of months, but then one day she opined about how wonderful her new boyfriend was and how she loved to cook him these wonderful meals she spent hours learning how to cook. In classic TMS style, instead of stopping her there and then and telling her straight I was not comfortable with this kind of conversation, I just held in all the pain and anger her words had generated and walked away. Walk away, don’t make a fuss, don’t cause a scene = repressed negative emotions = debilitating pain.
Louise skilfully helped me to uncover all of this. With Louise there is no hiding place or fobbing her off. She made me work to get to the root of what was really bothering me, the painful stuff that I was refusing to face, refusing to see.
As Louise and I worked together my chronic pain gradually receded. I returned to law school and got a good score in a very difficult exam, which I had previously failed. In relation to my ex, we began talk. This produced some fiery and highly charged conversations but the result of this has been I no longer feel any animosity towards her and we respect one another’s boundaries.
I also think the hypnotherapy helped in giving me some spine to face my ex and assertively, but not aggressively, express my feelings to her.
Thanks to my work with Louise, the SIRPA program and Dr Sarno’s pioneering work I have my life back again. Chronic pain is no longer an issue. I do of course have to vigilant. Pain does of course come up from time to time but I am no longer looking in the wrong places for its cause. Instead of seeing a collection of physiotherapists, doctors and alternative practitioners, I look instead to my own life. What is being left unsaid? What is being left unexpressed? For me, this is where the answers are.