First Post! Avoiding a "TMS relapse"
Updated: Jan 29
Hello and thanks for coming to check out my new Blog! I'm hoping this can become, eventually, an interactive Blog, so please post a comment with your thoughts. I only ask that we keep things to messages of recovery, lest it become a cycle of pain stories and the like.
So I thought I'd start by sharing something interesting I just experienced. Two days ago I awoke and upon getting out of bed, I immediately noticed tightness and pain in my lower back. I thought to myself "oh, what is this? I haven't felt anything like this in years", which was then followed by an old familiar voice "OH NO! A TMS RELAPSE!". Then the fear started to come on, strong for a moment, slowly making its way to my chest and throat, like venom taking hold after being stung by a scorpion. "But how could this be? I've not had back issues for nearly 5 years!", I told myself. But then, like muscle memory, another voice appeared: "you know what to do Kevin, remember the practices". Of course! I wrote a book about this! TMS stuff can be so powerful, so distracting (its primary purpose), that it can even trick an author and TMS coach - that coupled with the luxury problem of simply being-out-of-practice with active TMS stuff.
So I paused, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths, centering myself. I accepted that there was some pain and fear in that moment by telling myself, compassionately: "ok, so there's some pain in the back and I detect some pressure in my chest and throat, it feels like fear. I also note quite a bit of tension in my shoulders". A few more deep breaths, then I quickly scanned the past few days and asked myself a few questions: Had I been in any accidents? No. Had I done anything incredibly strenuous or out-of-the-ordinary? Negative. How was the rest of my body feeling, i.e., did I have a fever or any other symptoms that could suggest an infection or anything like that? Nope. Ok, so I had gone to bed the night before, physically fine, but awoke with a "back ache". So unless I was abducted during the night and injected in my back with something by malevolent extraterrestrials, there must be something internal going on, i.e., TMS.
By this point, perhaps a mere 2-3 minutes later, the fear subsided, which is the primary driver of a TMS episode. By looking at the situation objectively, with compassion and ease, maybe even a bit playfully, fear has nothing to feed on. I then set the intention to simply get on with my morning and day, which I did. Throughout the day I detected some tightness there in the back, nothing alarming, but each time I did, I smiled and told myself "aha, there it is, some pain in the back. It's ok, we'll just leave it there. But you're ok Kev, you're healthy", then I'd get on with whatever I was doing.
The next day, which was yesterday, I awoke fine, went about my routine, including a great (and heavy) workout at the gym. But when I got home and started getting the kids ready for a family outing to the MET in Manhattan, an intense pain in the back struck while putting on my shoes (this is a common occurrence for us TMSers who deal with back stuff, the dreaded tying of the shoes....). So I internally fed myself the same message as the day before, but again I detected some anxiety and fear lurking just behind the sensation of pain. So I took a few minutes to go get quiet before we left. I went to my office, did some deep breathing, a few affirmations, and some body scans to try and get relaxed (active the parasympathetic nervous system). The pain and accompanying panic was easing, but because this happened again, day two, I thought it'd be worth while to take a moment and see what might be going on "behind the curtains", as it were (heavy emphasis on might here - remember, it's virtually impossible, but luckily unnecessary, to get at precisely what's going on in the unconscious mind in order to assuage TMS). I simply posed the question to myself: "what's been going on the past few days / weeks / months?" We had just returned from a funeral the previous week - my wife's 98 y/o grandma passed away - there probably some stuff from that... death in general can trigger things about our own mortality, loved ones' mortality, etc. What else? I have a 6 year old and 4 year year old - beautiful, but very challenging. Ok, I think I'm probably getting at some of the stuff..... What else? Ah yes, the news...
I had been reading lots of news lately, way more than I typically do, all very negative stuff - war, disease, social unrest, political scandals, societal division... blah, blah, blah - you know what I mean. When I hit on that fact, I kid you not, I felt a rush of tension exit my body like a tidal wave. It felt like I flushed an internal toilet and all of the negativity and tension when out of my body like it was going down the drain. Swoosh! I smiled, returned to my family, and we went and had a great time in the City, pain and worry free.
So what happened here? Well I think it was just a good old classic case of being a bit overwhelmed, harboring some "frightening" feelings, and simply not checking in with myself enough over the past while. Was it exactly the funeral, the stress of parenthood, and the news that made my unconscious mind try to initiate TMS? No - there was certainly more going on, as there always is, underneath our very limited access to that realm. But those things likely added to the level of "unacceptable feelings" in the unconscious to such an extent that there was risk of a "breach", as it were, resulting in a diversion tactic, i.e., back pain. The point is this: it isn't necessary to unearth the precise reasons for TMS; yet reflecting on our life and what's going on with us often helps to see things clearer, which can then give way to a sense of ease because we realize that we're only human and we got a lot going on inside... so we acknowledge that, and see what happens next.
Anyhow, I thought it might be helpful to share this experience as it could potentially help YOU in the future. Feel free to share your thoughts / experience in the comments below.