In 2012, I got off all the PTSD meds I’d been on for twenty-five years.
I didn’t do it to be virtuous! They just didn’t work anymore — hadn’t for a few years – so it was like throwing money out the window.
Because I lowered my dose slowly over time with impunity, I was shocked to find all the symptoms I had in my twenties rush back when I got off the drugs completely. The worst of it was physical pain.
For me, the physical pain turned out to be buried emotional and/or trauma energy and I tried all sorts of things to get rid of it (which I wrote about in my book PTSD: FROZEN IN TIME Adventures in Releasing Energy). I pretty much cried the pain away over the course of three years. Trauma Releasing Exercises were vital in helping me jumpstart the tears since I’d been unable to cry for decades.
Not long after publishing my book, I downloaded Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. He explains how he came to the conclusion that unexpressed emotion, particularly anger and anxiety, was usually the cause of his patients’ chronic pain. He called it Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). This kind of pain primarily manifests in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back and buttocks. Sometimes arms and legs are effected and the patient feels pins and needles, tingling and/or numbness and weakness. 88% of his patients also had histories of migraine, heartburn, ulcers, IBS, eczema and other conditions. He even tied chest pain to TMS.
He noticed that when one area seemed to heal, pain showed up in another because the brain continued its conditioned method of finding physical areas to manifest emotional pain.
I was blown away by this book. His description of the neck, back, butt and leg pain was almost exactly like what I experienced. Even the weakness, numbness, and pins and needles feelings. I haven’t often come across an M.D. acknowledging that diverted, blocked or buried emotional energy can cause severe, disabling physical pain and debilitating conditions. (According to his theory, pain is caused by a lack of oxygen in the trouble area.)
He said that with 95% of his patients, simple awareness that the physical pain was actually anger or anxiety was enough to get rid of it.
I guess I’m in the 5% he acknowledged might need additional help. Awareness alone did not make my pain go away. I had to find a way to release the emotional energy.
Anyhoo, back in January, I’d just come out of four months of major stress, caretaking three family members in crises — and this was after a summer of stomach pain so intense, I could barely put two hours of sleep together in any twenty-four hour period.
I was pretty burned out. It had been only a few weeks since my husband had heart surgery, so I was still doing most of the domestic work and all outside errands. Late one cold, dark winter afternoon, I was on my way to Whole Foods and felt pain in my lower back. It was just in one tiny area, but still – who needed it?
It wasn’t disabling, though, so I went about my business. But I did take note in the days that followed when the pain came and when it went away to see if there was any pattern.
To my surprise, I discovered it came when I had to do something I didn’t want to do and it disappeared when I did something enjoyable.
I couldn’t believe it.
My body was actually telling me what made me happy and what didn’t.
The next time I felt that back pain (on the way to the laundry room), I said to my body, “The jig is up. I know you don’t want to do laundry right now, but we gotta do it. I promise we’ll do something fun later.”
That little pain in my back went away.
This is the only experience I’ve had where awareness alone was enough to get rid of the pain, but it did no good whatsoever in the three previous years when I suffered from sciatica, butt pain, back pain, foot pain, and neck pain.
All that pain did go away, thank God, but it took a lot of work to release it.
PTSD pain buries deep.