Jun 22, 2021
I've been on the struggle bus my dears and my mindbody symptoms have been flaring and freaking me out. It took me a few days to tango with my fear brain and here's my story about it all.
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] Hi fam, welcome to Move With Deb episode 19. I'm so sorry this has been so late. Dropping on Tuesday when I usually try for Friday or Saturday. And real talk, it has been hard in this body of mine the last few days. My intense stress symptoms that I had last year have revisited me since I've come back from being on a lovely vacation out of town with a friend. So this has included headaches, neck pain, hot flashes, back pain, stomach aches, full body pain and insomnia.
[00:01:29]And I've been in a bit of a struggle trying to remember that I had all these symptoms last year, and then I got tested for a bunch of stuff. And all of that was normal. So my brain really wants to think, Nope, this is an exception. This isn't the same stuff as last year. And so what, that it came on when you got back from being away. Coming back to a place that I don't want to be. Even when I'm like typing those words and saying those words, I can feel the lump in my throat pulse. And if that is not the entire bag of evidence that I need to remind myself that this is my body's stress response to my thoughts and feelings. I don't know what it is.
[00:02:14] I don't want to go into the particulars about my life at the moment. But I'm in a caretaking role. And it's a place of great emotional conflict for me.
[00:02:25] I'm having a hard time balancing my own needs and someone else's needs and it's a work in progress. I'm untangling the subconscious habits and beliefs that I've developed over the years. Putting my own needs second is a common theme of mine and that's a common theme of people with TMS.
[00:02:45] And that conflict is felt in the body. Dr. Sarno's books talk about the threat of an internal conflict to the self and how the body responds to that threat through the development of symptoms in the body.
[00:02:59]Our embodied experiences are not separate from our thoughts or our emotions. So just like when we're nervous before public speaking, we might get butterflies in our tummy. Or when we see someone we like across a room and they make eye contact, we might blush. Our body is the modern dance interpreter of our internal conversation.
[00:03:24] So I've been witnessing my harsh internal critic and my avoidant self duking it out lately. My arm pain after my tattoo brought me back to some intense fear about my health. And that calmed down. But it was a rough go.
[00:03:43]Then when I was away, I did some walking and gentle hiking with a friend for a few days, three days in a row. It felt amazing to walk after healing from my bad ankle sprain. The first day of a walk was a half mile to the store and back at a leisurely pace. Midway there, I could feel my left leg was having some issues. Like it was having a hard time finding a walking rhythm.
[00:04:12]And I could feel my inner freak out, wanting to emerge. I knew that there was nothing wrong. I had been walking just fine before. But just shorter distances. So I told him my leg, hey, you. I see that you're having a hard time. That's okay. You know that you're fine. Right? But I got you. I'm right here with you. You can relax. I promise that I will not try to force you and push through anything.
[00:04:46] And a block later, my leg relaxed and the rest of the walk was easy. I focused on relaxing any tension I was carrying due to fear. I took some slow, deep breaths. And the next day we had a great hike that had some ground variation and elevation, and the total distance was a mile a half, maybe two miles. And we opted for the loop. And the second half of that loop coming back had stairs. And they're those like grassy, rocky, stairs that are created with a piece of wood. And so they're all different sizes. They're not uniform stairs. And I'm short. And I had no hiking poles. So, that's a lot of like, best guesses, my brain had to work really hard to be like, okay, how are we getting down this stair safely? Looking down the hill and saying, oh, a whole bunch more stairs, looking up the hill and seeing, oh, well these are all the stairs that we came down. Knowing that I could turn around and make a different choice, but also I could just keep going.
[00:05:55] There was definitely some fear, and lots and lots of glute and quad intensity. When we were done, it felt awesome to do that. And later that day and the next day, my legs were ridiculously sore. Like more sore than I had been in a long time. And the following day we did a gentle creek side nature walk that was maybe three miles. It was pretty easy. There were a few spots where you had to like walk across a creek, but we just took it slow. We stopped when we needed to stop or when we wanted to stop, we looked at the water. It was such a beautiful day. And while I was walking all felt well and wonderful. I could feel that my legs had worked. But it did not feel distressing. But at the times, that I wasn't walking, like when we got back to the cabin, when it was time to transition from a chair or get up from a bed, my legs were screaming at me.
[00:07:00]It only lasted a few days. Actually three days later, we were staying on the third floor of an Airbnb that had no elevator and I could go up and down the stairs. But while I was hurting, I could tell that my thinking rational brain didn't want to believe that my muscle soreness was normal. I would comfort myself and tell myself that it was normal and then a new doubt would pop up.
[00:07:29]I had no sense of time. The pain felt endless at times when it was only a day or two. And that fear and hypervigilance is not my friend. It feels like a friend, like a skill created to keep me safe from harm. But in fact it was really me telling my own nervous system to keep ringing the bell because this toast that I was toasting was really a giant fire. I don't trust myself. It doesn't matter how many times I can go through this, watching symptoms arise and disappear. I can have absolutely normal physiological responses like muscle soreness. And I can hear my brain offer to me. Well, it must be because you're fat. You have lipedema. Your body is different.
[00:08:20]In those moments, I forget how to lean in to neutral or pleasant sensations. How to remember that I've been through all of this before. And I have all the proof I need that this is TMS. Especially because the onset directly coincided with fixation, stress and fear.
[00:08:41]I teach my clients to build their belief bank. Mine is overflowing. And when fear shows up, my brain goes offline a little bit. I could feel myself wanting to avoid the thought, "this is my fault." What if it's my fault? If these symptoms are a physiological experience of my thoughts and fears, then it's my fault, right?
[00:09:05] But that's not how it works. We have a body. And a mind. And they're the same thing. They work in concert. So to not have a physiological embodied experience, I would need to not be human. It's just that my brain has learned some habits and patterns and it can take time to rewire them. The fear of my pain being my fault is directly traced back to all the anti-fat messaging I experienced through my lifetime. So many shame memories of moving slower than others. Getting stuck in a pool at club med, cause there were no stairs in the pool. Like. WTF. Not fitting into seats on airplanes or theaters and more. So many doctor visits that have been terrible, full of fat shaming and negative predictions about my early demise.
[00:09:59]Soon, I'm going to do a series of podcasts on the nocebo effects of weight stigma, and the anti-fat messaging. So keep your eye out for that. And, I know in my body, the quiet, fearful drum beat of "you did this to yourself, this is your fault". I can feel it arise and I can't get away fast enough from that thought. But avoiding it is only increasing the power of the suppression of the emotion and creating a louder alarm.
[00:10:31]So finally yesterday morning, I pulled out my journal. I use a rocket book so I can write and erase with ease and expressive writing is one of the best mind body tools. I do a version I call a thought dump. It's like Nicole Sachs's Journal Speak and my coaching tradition practice of doing a thought download. A thought dump is the biological version of a getting out old metabolized waste from the body. I'm getting it out of my brain.
[00:11:02] Avoiding these thoughts only creates more unwellness. The goal isn't to do anything other than see what is pinging around in my head. I just poop it all out onto the page and then erase it. Maybe I'll look to see if there's a theme that I want to explore more deeply in my self coaching practice. Often there's a single thought that's helpful to work through.
[00:11:27]But the long narrative. That's not important. What happened in the past? That's not important. What's important is to teach my brain and nervous system, that having unpleasant sentences and feelings is safe. I write out all the gunk, knowing that it's human to have gunk inside of us that needs getting out.
[00:11:48] I was able to admit to myself, my current resistance and just let me know that it's okay to feel that way. It's okay to feel conflicted. Ambivalent. And frustrated. Making it safe to have any thought and feeling is an important process of healing the body mind, symptom creation and amplification.
[00:12:09]Just because we have a thought doesn't mean, we need to believe it or do anything other than notice that you're having it. Here's a great Susan David quote, she's the author of Emotional Agility. "Your thoughts are not inevitable outcomes or pronouncements of the truth."
[00:12:27]As Mark Freeman, my beloved mental health educator and author of You Are Not A Rock would probably say "they're unicorn farts". I have been scared to do this podcast. Even writing it out has been so helpful. I am human. I feel things just like you. Feeling things is what body minds do.
[00:12:51]If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to reach out for curiosity call. Or sign up on my email list and get a free PDF of all the best mind body pain recovery resources out there. And I'm open for new clients in my eight week pain recovery program, called Fear Brain and Chronic Pain where I teach you the new science of pain. We do one-on-one coaching to explore what you're making any unwanted physical sensation mean about your potential for healing and how to rewire the brain and nervous system to no pain.
[00:13:25]I want to give you an update. I went to bed last night. Not even early. But I went to bed leaning into the belief that my brain is just working through some fear. And that I'm safe and that I'm okay. And then I know how to take care of myself. I had a good night's sleep. I did not have pain all night. I did not have hot flashes all night. And I woke up feeling rested and well. Thank you body. Thank you brain. Thank you listeners. for listening to what happens when hard times happen.