A number of people I meet who have regained their lives once they recognised that their symptoms were stress-induced tell me that they are about 95% better. This is because they occasionally experience a ‘relapse’ or another symptom pops up. When speaking with them it’s usually clear that they are living active lives, yet still consider themselves to be someone who suffers from TMS/PPD because occasionally symptoms appear.
Personally I would suggest that this is just ‘life’ and the mind and body working in conjunction with each other to help us deal with whatever is happening in our lives. Symptoms are merely messages from within to let us know that something in our life is out of balance. When someone understands this they can exploring the reason behind the triggering of the symptom and by addressing whatever is the cause of this imbalance they can regain their health and wellbeing.
The whispers of our mind….
Often the communication via the body is initially just a ‘whisper’, for example in the form of aches and pains, a mild headache or fatigue. Sadly if we ignore these, the body can start to ‘shout’ at us to gain our attention, with more severe pain and more serious symptoms and conditions. In a previous blog I explain why symptoms sometimes persist if, due to the worry about a recurrence, people start to focus physically and become caught in a downward spiral due to going back down the conventional medical route, over-analysing and negative thinking.
As a personal example, the past 9 months have been especially stressful for me and my family because of my Mother in Law’s increasing dementia. Trying to organise everything and care for her, alongside trying to maintain our own businesses has become more and more challenging.
Last year I was specifically trying to focus on my own health and wellbeing to boost my resilience in order to cope better with all that was going on, practically and emotionally. Part of this was to take up running again to improve my fitness levels. I remember going running a few times and being absolutely fine, yet one day while standing in my Mother in Law’s house I suddenly experienced a stabbing pain in my ankle! Clearly I hadn’t injured it because I was just standing there, so it was interesting for me to notice what was happening.
My own personal messages
This was the ‘whisper’ and because we were in the middle of a very challenging situation I didn’t actually have any time to myself until the next day, by which time my ankle had also swollen up around the tendon involved and was acutely tender. There was no heat or redness and clearly this was emotionally-induced, yet it was presenting as a condition called peroneal tendonitis. By identifying the underlying cause though and using journaling to acknowledge how I felt, it settled completely within a couple of days. I had already booked myself in for some ‘me-time’ with a relaxing treatment anyway, so this also helped me boost my resilience to continue with the situation as best we could.
Since that day I have used any slight twinge (whisper) in my ‘Mother in Law’ ankle as a barometer for how well I am coping and have been able to prevent any further recurrences.
After a very stressful few months, a few weeks ago my Mother in Law went into respite with a view to going into 24 hour care. This was a very challenging and emotional time, especially for my husband and his sister and we had been trying to put it off, but it became clear that the time had come for her own safety and wellbeing.
The week she went into respite was very challenging for a number of different reasons and just 24 hours after she went in I went down with a chest infection. I had thought I was dealing with things, but realised that the stress of moving her in and trying to ‘be there’ for my husband, while also pushing for her to be accepted into the Care Home she had been going into respite to, meant that I had succumbed to an infection which immediately floored me.
I rested up (I had no choice!), cancelled appointments for the first time in years and focused on me. The turning point for me came when I went to my Mother in Law’s house and journaled because I knew this would help me really ‘feel’ the emotions. I wrote her an unsent letter expressing my own personal guilt and even grief of ‘putting her in a home’ and then moved on to being able to put things back into perspective so I could let go and move on.
Normal mindbody communication?
So, am I 95% better than I was when I came across this work? Personally I consider myself to be pretty normal, or as normal as I ever will be! I am very grateful for having come across this concept which has given me the understanding to be able to hear the ‘whispers’ my body is giving me and the knowledge and skills to act accordingly to prevent the need for my body to ‘shout’ at me. With my typical ‘TMS personality’ I know without a shadow of doubt that I have coped better with what’s been going on than I would have 10 years ago and I dread to think what my health would have been like now without this.
Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Physiotherapist & Founder of SIRPA