May 1, 2021
Ash and Deb chat about faer participation in the original 4 week
Fear Brain & Chronic Pain Program. (now 8 weeks)
One of my favorite parts of my chronic pain recovery program is how much of it is about co-creation. Here's Ash and I talking about hopes and fears about enrolling in this course and the personal coaching experience.
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Thanks always for listening!
Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50]Welcome to Move With Deb, the podcast we're doing episode number 12. And in this episode, I replay an interview that I did with one of my clients, Ash, who went through the original four week pain recovery program. And then we worked together for another four weeks after that. Ash had a lot of benefit, both physiologically and emotionally from going through this program. So I thought this would be a great interview to share, to help other people understand the power of how learning about pain can change your pain experience and also the benefit of doing, one-on-one coaching in this style. So thank you for listening and enjoy this interview between me and Ash.
[00:01:42] Deb: So my first question is why did you sign up for my chronic pain recovery program?
[00:01:50]Ash: It was the right time and I knew that, um, I was, I was ready to, uh, try to address it. With help again. Um, because I know you, and I know you through your activist work and have been following your, your Instagram and seeing your body work and seeing how much it was helping you. Um, you were really generous with sharing pieces of it that made it easy for me to get a sense of what it was going to be.
[00:02:22] Um, and something about the way that you were talking about the mind body connection? Um, I think I was, I was ready to make those connections and have that, that transformative epiphany and, and was looking for that. I was looking for that piece. I could tell that there was something, something else missing in my current understanding and my current approach.
[00:02:48] Deb: How long have you been in back pain?
[00:02:51]Ash: Really the really bad pain, uh, started with an injury about three years ago. Um, but there was already, uh, I was already getting, you know, I would, I would throw my back out or, you know, my back was sore. Um, I was getting that already leading up into the, the injury that really, um, kind of condensed all of it. So, yeah, probably five or six years.
[00:03:23] Deb: That's a long time to be in pain.
[00:03:26] Ash: Yeah.
[00:03:28]Deb: What were you hoping to get out of this program?
[00:03:34]Ash: I mean, the, the easy answer is I wanted to get out of chronic pain, but I think I was actually not even able to hope that that was going to happen when I started. I don't think that that's something that I was hoping to get out of it nearly as much as I have for sure. Um, I was hoping to get, honestly, I think I was hoping to get, uh, at the very least an alternative perspective from the, the medical model explanation that I had gotten thus far.
[00:04:10] And I mean, as you know, I got that and I got pain relief and I got a whole new way of engaging with my, uh, my emotions on a somatic level that I had just never really clicked together, despite being a really like, uh, dramatic and embodied person. Uh, there were some connecting threads that were missing. Um, The question is what I hope to get out of it. I'm answering what I actually got out of it. But, um, it's uh, yeah, I, uh, I hoped for so much less than I ended up getting. I mean, I didn't, I didn't know. I could hope for so much.
[00:04:50]Deb: So what was your experience going through the program materials?
[00:04:59]Ash: I really enjoyed it because it, um, I was able to go at my own pace and you made it very clear that, you know, here are videos that pertain to what we're going to be talking about, but this isn't like required homework. Here's a worksheet, but you don't have to do it. And that was just repeated regularly. Like, whatever I showed up with was fine. Um, and so some weeks, like I devoured all of the videos and then other weeks I got kind of stuck and was like, okay, I've gotten sort of halfway through or whatever. Um, and that was really, really good. Uh, I think also, um, with the things that I know you're already doing to change the structure of it, I think that there will be even more space for that, which is really cool.
[00:05:43] Um, and I'm looking forward to like, possibly doing kind of like, a review the second time around. Um, so, you know, having gone through it once and kind of been like, oh, I have to do the four and four and now I can kind of go back and like catch the pieces that I missed. So that's going to be really nice.
[00:06:00] Deb: How did the one-on-one coaching component, um, influence your life or influence, understanding this material.
[00:06:09] Ash: I appreciated the back and forth between like self guided study and learning and then structured and scaffolded kind of applied methodology with you where we would talk about, um, okay. So here are the things that really caught my interest. Here are the things that that connects with for me. And then the questions and suggestions that you were able to give me. One-on-one, were able to, then I could take that into the next week and be like, okay, so this week, Deb and I talked about, I'm going to, you know, work on doing this, or I'm gonna, you know, focus on this and bring mindfulness to that. And so it was just a, a little anchor to kind of remind me of what it was that I was working on. Um, with again, without any, like, I didn't feel a pressure to, um, Achieve standards with you. It really was just, uh, a shared exploration that we were doing of, you know, you sharing the resources and information with me. And then you curiously coming along with me as I kind of showed you my territory and said like, here's where I've found, you know, on, on my vast and, and fruited estate to put these new, interesting ornaments that you've given me. Um, and here's like kind of how they look with my other stuff. And you, you know, you absolutely came along. I'm like, I'm still kind of miss, like this doesn't work. And we would talk together. This metaphor has gotten very, very elaborate, but like, you know, you would come in and you would, you would sort of help me redecorate you didn't come in with, with like the bulldozer.
[00:07:37]Deb: Nice. And you know, me, I like. I love to work a good metaphor.
[00:07:42] Ash: I like to work until it doesn't work anymore.
[00:07:45] Deb: So what's your like pain, physical experience, like now after being in this program and, and we only did, you were in the initial run, which was only four weeks.
[00:08:03] Ash: Lightning bolt, transformation change, where what had felt like just pretty much constant and really intolerable chronic pain transformed. And it has not, it has not come back in that form. Um, it has, it has changed my relationship with it, I think is the biggest thing that has changed is my ability to commune with my body's signals and sit with them and, and actually be mindful and present and not, uh, catastrophizing or fleeing away from the present moment into some kind of, you know, imaginary space that makes things a lot worse. And the realization of not only, oh, this is applicable to emotional or psychological pain. Because it's a similar skill. Like, no, these are the same skills. Um, and that part is fascinating to me. And it's, it's baffling to me that I got through an entire counseling, psychology training and clinical practicum without finding other people talking about this overtly. When I think more about it, I realized that a lot of people kind of have like the near touch of it, but I haven't seen anybody really link these together and say like, no, this is the same picture.
[00:09:23] Deb: Right, so to go and put it in like a pain scale box, if you have like a pre-program number of pain and like a post-program number of pain, what would your answer be?
[00:09:35]Ash: Yeah, pre-program I was hanging out around, um, around like a seven. Pretty consistently and then periods of of eight or nine. And post-program, I'm hanging out around like a two, you know, uh, again, it's, it's, uh, a piece of it is the shift in my relationship with the signals that are coming in from my body. And. The way that I re I re-examine and take some time to consciously engage in conversation with the pain and ask it some questions about, okay, so there you are. You're sharp, you're dull, you're aching or whatever. Okay. I see you. And I hear you. I'm not going to freak out about you, but I'm not going to withdraw from whatever is, is. Causing you to, to speak up either. Like I'm going to just hold where I am. And that's been really, really interesting cause that that boundary and being able to explore that has been very valuable for me. It, what, what it is given me among many other things is a realization that I am more resilient than I habitually allow myself to believe. I have a higher tolerance for discomfort than I habitually allow myself to believe, and I can be functional through discomfort. Um, it doesn't have to reinforce feelings of helplessness and a weakness. There's a lot of, uh, I discovered that there was a lot of meaning that I was making about the sensation that really doesn't need to be there.
[00:11:28]Deb: Trying to word this without being like, we all wanna, we all want to walk more. We all want to move more. We all want to, you know, achieve these like physical feats. So I'm trying to like word it, not with that assumption. So let me figure out how to say that. Um, I guess, so around physical movement and activity, how do you imagine applying this work? What has shifted for you in your feelings of what's possible for you and maybe what you'd like to invite into your life that you didn't think you could do before?
[00:12:09]Ash: I've noticed myself considering, because my goals around this were not necessarily well weren't at all related to, um, picking up large, new types of movement or, uh, or, uh, embodied exertion, you know, um, however, as I've become more confident and comfortable in.
[00:12:35] My ability to trust my body and, and for it to trust me. And like, we can, we can do more than I thought we could. Uh, I have noticed that I've been thinking about that, like, huh, I wonder if I could figure out how to start running or how to take hikes and not just walks or, or, uh, you know, start doing more intensive bicycling or like, you know, I've just noticed that like, those thoughts have been coming up.
[00:13:05] Um, and not, not as concrete goals, but just as things that feel within the realm of possibility. And don't immediately make me feel shut down and ashamed and sad, which, I mean, whether or not I ever go after any of them, the, the shift in my conceptualization of what I can do with my body. Um, Has been tremendous. And so I think that that is the current shift that I'm really being mindful around is just the shift in perceived possibility
[00:13:44]Deb: You mentioned in that last piece, about having a different reaction to a thought about movement.
[00:13:54] Ash: Yeah.
[00:13:55] Deb: The shift in your perception also sounds like kind of a shift in, um, releasing self judgment or releasing kind of a previous negative, um, experience. You talked about feeling shut down. Is that something you want to can say a little more about,
[00:14:21] Ash: For sure. I think one of the things that, uh, that working through this program with you has helped me confront internally and begin to, uh, kind of make friends with is, um, some pretty, long-term limiting beliefs about what my body can and can't do. Um, and a lot of that has to do with, uh, a lifetime of, of fat-based oppression and, uh, and anti-fat messaging, um. That then when there was an injury and a loss of, you know, a temporary loss of mobility and things, those just became, well, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And so it just, it just really compounded in on itself where the, uh, the mental and emotional blocks got reinforced into preventing me from being able to see that, you know, this is, this is an imposed limitation. The real benefit for me isn't necessarily that I am going to, uh, you know, suddenly become, uh, a world-class snowboarder or whatever. It's that the thought of that does not feel laden with impossibility and shame. You know, there's, there's potential for that. Uh, if, you know, if I wanted to start figuring out how to do these various physical things, it doesn't, it doesn't feel as emotionally insurmountable now.
[00:15:59]Deb: I know when we work together, we talk about kind of the sensation experience of a thought.
[00:16:05] Ash: Yeah.
[00:16:07] Deb: Right. So when you talk about the shame that you have, when a thought kind of flows by like, oh, I could be, you know, whatever, if my body were different, I could be a snowboarder. Okay, but then there's that somatic experience right of that thought.
[00:16:29] Ash: Yeah.
[00:16:30]Deb: So that's kind of what you're saying has, has shifted.
[00:16:35] Ash: Yeah. Is there's um, with this greater sense of ownership and sovereignty over the sensations of my body and how I engage with them, how I allow those to change my thoughts and feelings. Um, there's, there's a greater, just a sense of physical mastery that I've really never had before.
[00:17:04]Deb: Yeah. Those are the potent words. Tell me more about physical mastery with your thoughts and feelings.
[00:17:14]Ash: I think I've, I've always conceptualized myself based on messaging from the outside. And then also, uh, just, you know, particular kind of proclivities about myself. I, uh, I was a very, um, I was a pretty hyper-sensitive kid, uh, emotionally and physically. And that got reinforced back to me, as a deficit. And so I internalized that these were weaknesses that I had. Um, and something that this program has really helped me see is that I actually have a pretty, I mean, I've been, I've been surviving at chronic pain of like a seven for years. I'm incredibly strong. And very resilient and once the relationship between the signals and my interpretation of them changed, that made space for me to realize that, um, it's within my capacity to tolerate these things,. Which means that I can also, I can tolerate other discomforts. I can, you know, I can push myself in these ways that I had been. I realized kind of over time, just withdrawing from, out of a fear of bad feelings, you know, either physical pain or emotional suffering.
[00:18:38]Deb: So you're telling me that physical pain and emotional suffering are not things that you feel like you need to withdraw from or protect yourself against in the same way.
[00:18:52] Ash: Yeah. Yeah, I don't fear them as much. And that allows me to, uh, you know, to confront them with compassion and curiosity, as opposed to either avoidance or, uh, kind of internalized aggression. Um, And it also affords me the possibility of considering trying things that might invite more of those in. You know, try something a little more emotionally risky, but with a higher reward or, uh, try a new physical activity or, you know, push my, my sense of, you know, like, okay, I'm gonna, I'm just gonna try it a little bit harder on this or whatever. And not be, not be as afraid that I won't be able to tolerate whatever sensations result from that. Yeah.
[00:19:45]Deb: Okay. I'm overwhelming myself with, with words in my head. Um, what would you say to somebody who's like, hanging out with my fear, sounds like a really terrible idea.
[00:20:04]Ash: I would say that you're already hanging out with your fear. You know, it it's, it's already present and you're already, you're already engaging with it, even if that engagement is repression and, and denial, you know, but I, I guess maybe think about it in the same way that I was thinking about why I was willing to hang out with my pain.
[00:20:30] Was that it was already, it was already present and nothing else had really helped. And so, you know, I figured at the very least I would be learning more about, uh, the physiological processes of pain. At the very least I would be engaging in, uh, you know, a program of applied self care with a compassionate mentor.
[00:20:58]Um, at the very least, you know, I would have those things and I hoped that other things would emerge and they did.
[00:21:07] Deb: I really, really, really, really appreciate your willingness.
[00:21:11] Ash: Yeah.
[00:21:12] Deb: You know that, I know that it comes from a genuine experience of having gone through this and received a transformative experience. That's based on your desires and terms and interests and your relationship with your body.
[00:21:31] Ash: Yeah.
[00:21:32]Deb: That's not my agenda about what I think you should be doing.
[00:21:36] Ash: No, it's never been. Yeah. It's, it's always felt very, um, very directed by what I, what I brought in, what I'm looking for, for sure.