MBS Blog #27: Joe’s story: A journey towards wisdom

Everyone has a unique story to tell and often the paths that lead to healing are also quite different.  I received the following email the other day, and I was very touched by the authenticity and depth of what Joe had to say. He describes a journey that he has taken and continues to take.  This journey is slow, but steady and it has lead him towards a self-acceptance that is a powerful step towards health, both in mind and in body.  Everyone with MBS should read his story as it will inspire many to persevere despite continued pain.  Through having MBS and by dealing with it over time, Joe has learned to see his pain as a teacher; something that teaches him all he needs to know in this life and all he needs to understand. 

Here’s his story as told in an email to me:

“As far as my pain goes, I cannot report any miraculous change in symptoms; however, I continue to experience a very subtle phenomenon that I have dubbed an “erosion of tension.” Like the tide coming in and out, eroding the beach, it seems like my tight muscles are very, very slowly beginning to loosen. Then they contract again (or feel contracted), but when each time this happens (each time being like one back and forth of the tide), the tension in the muscles seems just the slightest bit less than before – so slight a difference, however, as to seem non-existent for the first few months that this was happening. Now, it has been long enough and steady enough that I believe it is happening, but doubt still lingers because of how subtle it all seems. Nonetheless, I am convinced of the MBS diagnosis. I do think that I am a particularly tough case, though. When I read about people who are totally healed by reading Dr. Sarno’s book one time through, I can get very envious, and also, sometimes, filled with doubt about whether I have MBS at all. But I am beginning to settle into the knowledge that I do. Continue reading

MBS Blog #26–Update on social contagion and Mind Body syndrome

More on the “contagiousness” of Mind Body syndrome:

Over the past couple of years, a new line of research has been developed which documents that certain disorders are socially contagious.  Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler have published articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and in the British Medical Journal documenting that smoking, obesity and happiness all share the ability to be affected by those around us.  The more people you know who are smokers, the more likely it is that you will be a smoker.  The same is true for having contacts who are overweight.  And if you have more friends and relatives who are happy, you are more likely to be happy!  It seems obvious that these issues can be affected by being in close contact because these issues are generally thought to be caused by our values, our thoughts and our behaviors.  That is, we can choose whether we smoke, how much we eat and exercise, and how to respond to the stresses in our lives.

Reading these articles made me think once again about the contagiousness of mind body syndrome.  I wrote a blog about this last year (Blog #6, June 20, 2008), but we now have some data and a way to measure this construct that we call social contagion.  Can physical symptoms be contagious?  We know that the flu or the common cold are contagious, i.e. you can catch it by being in close contact with someone who has it due to being exposed to the virus which causes it.  We would never think that you can catch cancer or heart disease because these are diseases caused by something that goes wrong inside your body, not something you catch from someone else. Continue reading

MBS #25: Jacob’s story: The relationship between OCD and Mind Body syndrome

The relationship between OCD and MBS: Jacob’s story

 

I have learned so many things about the mind and the body over the past 5 years of working with patients with Mind Body syndrome.  One of the most interesting things is that disorders that we considered psychological, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) actually are similar to (dare I say identical to?) Mind Body syndrome.  In other words, these disorders are caused by patterns of neurological response to stress and emotional reactions to stressful situations.  This leads to two conclusions: 1) that psychological disorders such as these occur as part of MBS and typically are exchanged (substituted) with pain and other typical MBS symptoms and 2) we can treat these disorders effectively using the same methods as we use for MBS. 

 

Read the story of Jacob, who had OCD, which morphed into chronic pain.  He learned that he had to deal with the OCD and the pain, but that they were connected by being components of Mind Body syndrome.

 

“About 10 years ago I had back pain for 2-3 years and read Dr Sarno’s book and also had a MRI which showed no problems and my back pain went away.  A couple years ago when having my second child I started getting high anxiety and really bad obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) about things like locking doors, chemicals around house and just about anything else.  Then about a year ago, I had surgery, and the pain after surgery started going away but lingered and then after taking numerous tests and seeing specialists and searching the internet about why the pain was not going away it started getting worse and worse.  Soon I was taking Vicodin for pain and searching for any cure I could find.  I even tried a pain clinic and had a nerve block which did not work and even made my back hurt for a few weeks (the doctor warned me that it was a possible side effect).  I was getting pretty desperate and depressed.  The pain was nearly unbearable.  I was taking sleeping pills at night to sleep and pain killers during the day. 

  Continue reading