Three years of pain, cured in one day

This is my stupid back pain story. “Stupid” because I suffered for three years, spent a small fortune on various practitioners, lost a lot of time running around town to see those practitioners, and in the end, all it took to cure myself was $10 and a few hours of thinking.

The reason I’m going to tell you this story is that I hope you find it useful. If you don’t have back pain but have other difficult maladies, such as migraines, IBS, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, allergies, tendonitis or planter fasciitis, please keep reading.

The author of the bestselling book above, Dr. John Sarno, says most back pain, as well as the conditions listed above, plus a lot of other random physical issues, are caused by TMS–Tension Myositis Syndrome.

In a nutshell: Emotional tension causes a temporary constriction of blood vessels in the muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments–i.e., not enough oxygen gets to these parts of the body–which causes physical symptoms.

From the book: “The word ‘tension’ used here refers to emotions that are generated in the unconscious mind and that, to a large extent, remain there. Many of them are either unpleasant, painful or embarrassing, in some way unacceptable to us and/or society, and so we repress them. The kinds of feelings referred to are anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem (feelings of inferiority).”

The important thing to know is that although the pain or discomfort caused by TMS is very real, there is nothing structurally wrong with you. Even herniated disks and other issues that are visible on X-rays are rarely the actual cause of pain.

Dr. Sarno theorizes that physical pain is the brain’s protective measure, distracting you from looking at an upsetting emotional issue. I think it’s the opposite: the pain is flagging you that something’s amiss. It’s urging you to pay attention to yourself, to take take stock of what’s going on inside.

Anyway. When a friend recommended Sarno’s original bestseller, “Healing Back Pain,” to me, it didn’t immediately register. I guess I thought there was no way this little paperback book could help me. Although my friend had told me a compelling anecdote: An actor friend of his was hours away from having to go on stage, but his back went out and he was sure he wouldn’t be able to perform that night. He got the gist of Sarno’s premise, he followed his advice, and the show went on. But my problems were serious! So, I continued making appointments with naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and musclework specialists. After each appointment, I felt amazing. And then a day or two later, the pain would return.

The pinched nerve in my neck caused vertigo and I often would fall down from dizziness and I even threw up a few times. My sciatica was so bad that my left leg throbbed with pain then went completely numb. My lower back pain was so intense that I couldn’t sit in a movie theater seat for the length of a film, and on long car rides, I would have to take turns leaning on one side of my butt or the other, to shift pressure on my spine. I even started to get anxious when backing out of parking spaces, because I was so afraid of further injuring my neck. In short, the list of things I couldn’t do kept getting longer, and my world kept getting smaller. What finally inspired me to stop the insanity of seeking treatments that weren’t “sticking” was this:

I was at my physical therapist’s office, getting my muscles worked on, and he was telling me about his own back pain. He said his musclework guy had told him his pain was caused by repressed emotions, and that he “must look at whatever he was not willing to look at.” As soon as my guy repeated his guy’s words, a stressful personal issue I had been hiding from flashed in my mind. And I immediately thought, “Hell no. I am not going to look at that.”

But… now that it had popped into my consciousness, I suspected the reckoning was coming.

I went home and finally ordered “Healing Back Pain.” Maybe I was hoping it would have some miracle cure that did not involve my having to face what I was refusing to face! When the book arrived two days later, I sat down on our living room couch and sped through it. Then I set it aside, walked into our kitchen, and told my husband Jimmy its premise and what I thought was the source of the emotional stress causing my physical pain. It did not pertain to him, it pertained to something that’s too private to go into, but suffice to say, it was scary to face it and it was really scary to say it aloud. But the cliche you always hear turned out to be true: Your fears (and dark secrets) lose their power when you finally voice them. (According to Sarno, you don’t even have to talk about your repressed feelings. You just have to THINK about them.) I told Jimmy some of my worst-nightmare scenarios and followed them to their logical conclusions aloud. Then I told him I was going to keep thinking quietly about anything I could dredge up around this fear. And I did. I spent the next couple of hours privately peeling back layers of the onion, following each scary thought all the way to the “end.”

That night, I realized my neck and back pain were gone.

I have not had back pain, neck pain, or sciatica since then. It’s now been about 5 years.

If you get the book—and I do recommend it, because it has more information and helpful tips than I’ve included here—and you try his advice, please comment. I am curious to hear how it goes for you!

Courtney

p.s. When thinking about the source of your emotional tension, here’s one more thing to consider–well, two more things. My dad, who is a great student of human behavior, having worked in Human Resources for 30-plus years and garnering a reputation as an expert in the topic, says the two biggest causes of stress are:

  1. Not making a decision. He says Americans put a lot of pressure on themselves to be successful and thus they are afraid of making a wrong decision. But he pointed out that we rarely get confirmation we’ve made the wrong decision and we have no way of knowing for sure that things would’ve gone any better if we’d taken a different path. He says it’s important to just make a decision and commit.
  2. Poor time management. (This might be the only life we get. So, it IS stressful when we know we are wasting time, right?)

My new motto

I think this holiday season really snuck up on people, because so far we’ve only received one card. From Dr. Bernard Markowitz. (A cosmetic surgeon who told me, in a consult, that my face is asymmetrical. Happy Hanukkah to you, too, Dr. Markowitz.)

Recently, I was sitting on my couch, fixated on the sensation of acid creeping up into my throat, because apparently I have GERD, and I thought about how stress was likely the cause. And it occurred to me, for the millionth time, that there’s really no good reason to feel stress. Because if times are good, you should be happy, and if times aren’t good, you’re undoubtedly growing. Suffering always leads to greater wisdom and compassion. “Pain is the gift no one wants”! In fact, some of the most memorably beautiful moments of my life have occurred when I was going through some kind of hell.

Anyway, while having these thoughts, I stumbled upon a new life philosophy. A new motto! And this motto is so good, it makes me wish I were a player in the jam-packed Online Motivational Coaching Space. Because any life coach worth their salt has a sticky tagline. But enough preamble, I’m gonna lay it on you:

Look forward to EVERYTHING. Even the “bad.”

Right?! I mean, how much better would life be if we didn’t worry about the future, didn’t dread anything, and instead eagerly anticipated EVERYTHING, even the bad, knowing that the bad, especially, will lead to awesome insights, connection to others, and our personal development?!

Excited, I wrote this new motto on an index card, and I look at it occasionally. Has it stopped me from experiencing stress? Fuck no. But maybe it’s because I don’t look at it often enough. I need to move it to my nightstand.

If you find this motto–“Look forward to EVERYTHING. (Even the “bad.”)–comforting, I’d be thrilled. Because that’s what I really care about: “Adding value,” as people in the Online Motivational Coaching Space say!

If you think a friend would find this comforting or helpful, please consider sharing it. Thanks!

Do we want kids to be consumers or creators?

Most kids are “basic.” Trend followers who buy what everyone else is buying, watch what everyone else is watching, and look at what all the popular people are posting. Same with a lot of adults, obviously. It’s natural to have tastes that are similar to your peers and to want to fit in. But should we support kids’ urge to simply be consumers of culture rather than creators of culture?

Instead of challenging them to make or do cool things, we often just agree to take them to cool locations so that they can take endless pics of themselves. Which will lead to what, exactly?

Creating worthwhile things and leading others forces kids to think. And encouraging them to do this forces us to think. Because in order to lure them out of their culture-consuming zombie state, we gotta be really clever. We gotta inspire and motivate them.

Or maybe we don’t?!

Maybe we just have to ban screen time for an hour or two and let them get bored. Give them drawing supplies. A musical instrument. A cookbook. Or even a little creative assignment.

“Invent a new recipe.”

“Create a vision board.”

“Write a 2-page screenplay and shoot it with your phone.”

“Compose some music on GarageBand.”

“Draw your dream bedroom.”

“Come up with 2 minutes of standup comedy material.”

“Think of a problem lots of people deal with and come up with a solution.”

“Think of a business you’d like to start.”

“Think of a change you’d like to see happen and how to get people on board.”

I have often mindlessly indulged kids. Either because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to deal with pushback, or because I relate to their desire for status (thus, IG posts that telegraph “My life is dope and I do dope shit”). But starting now, I am going to challenge myself to challenge kids more. They are worth the effort.

kids creativity good parenting parting tips parenting advicecreativity 

What type of work should you be doing?

I like career tests almost as much as I like personality quizzes*. And yesterday I stumbled on a really good one! The Sparketype Test.

The guy who created it, Jonathan Fields, has a podcast called the Good Life Project. He has interviewed all the usual suspects (another Brene Brown/Seth Godin/Elizabeth Gilbert interview, anyone? Sure. Why not? I always learn something new). I like his gentle, seemingly ego-free personality and the questions he asks guests. He always ends with, “When you hear the phrase ‘good life’–‘live a good life’–what does that mean to you?” GOOD QUESTION!

He’s worked with tons of people on finding meaning and purpose, particularly as it pertains to work, and after seeing patterns emerge again and again, he came up with a test for helping people identify the type of work that “lights them up” (thus, “Sparketype”).

I already know what kind of work I love. The reason I know, for sure, is because each time I finish shooting something, I make a list of other things I like to do that would be easier and likely more profitable, but I never can commit to doing any of them, so I suck it up and start writing the next script. But I can’t resist a self-test, so I took it. And I found the questions really interesting, and sort of surprising.

He has categorized types of work in a unique way, that I’d never thought about til I saw the phrasing of the questions on the self-test.

Before you take it, he tells you to answer honestly–don’t pick responses that reflect how you’d like to be, or how you think you should be. I was glad he said this, because I might’ve been tempted to side with some of the more altruistic statements in the test. Even though I of course like helping others, it turns out this is not my driver regarding work. In his follow-up “Sparketype Mastery Guide”–which I bought, because I’m a schmuck–he explains why this is not something to feel bad about.

If you take the free quiz, let me know what Sparketype you are. Mine is “The Maker” (making ideas manifest) and my secondary/shadow Sparketype is “The Maven” (driven to learn). Your secondary Sparketype is not necessarily a type of work you should pursue but instead an activity you probably perform “in service to” your primary Sparketype (i.e., I learn about a particular topic so that I can make better things).

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Sparketype – The Test

*The two best personality tests ever:

  • Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” (apparently, most people are either a Questioner or an Obliger. The rarer types are Upholders and Rebels. Rubin has figured out how to work around the challenges you face, depending on your type, so that you can attain any goal, finishing whatever you start): https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/four-tendencies-quiz/

3 things that have been a surprise to me

Over the last two years that I’ve been shooting without a crew, I’ve been surprised by three things:

  1. If there is anything you really wish you knew how to do, it is possible to learn it. I spent almost the last two decades thinking I was not the kind of person who could learn how to operate a camera, light a scene, record sound and edit footage. I’ve never been a tech-y person. When I was in my 20s, my then 8yo sister sat down with a new digital watch and changed all of the settings herself, and I was amazed. But the cliche is true. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
  2. The dread I felt about learning new, “difficult” things was unfounded. Going outside of your comfort zone, taking the risk of looking dumb, being willing to suck at something when you are in that icky-feeling “just getting started” phase–it’s unnerving but it’s also exhilarating. You feel ALIVE. Like anything is possible. You suddenly have a vehicle to get you from here to THERE.
  3. Another thing that has surprised me is that, when you are completely immersed in learning something new or having fun using your newfound skills, it crowds out a lot of your bad habits. You don’t spend nearly as much time worrying, looking at your phone, being concerned about what others think, and otherwise wasting precious time.
  4. Okay, wait, there’s a 4th thing, and it’s the most surprising of all:  There comes a day when you look up and all of these activities that used to intimidate the hell out of you have become part of your daily routine.

Currently, I’m in a comfort zone again, somewhat. And once again, I don’t want to stretch and feel the discomfort of trying new things, to get to the next level.

!!!

I guess that’s just a testament to how hard it is to fight inertia.

When you think of the times in which you learned a new skill or pushed yourself to do something challenging, is it gratifying? Do you feel proud?

There’s a saying: “All happiness is growth.”

Maybe not ALL happiness is growth. But arguably progress is one of the most gratifying things we can experience, including observing it in others. For example, it’s really great to see a child you love overcome some difficulty or learn something new.

 

 

People who say “No, thanks” to reality

After experiencing a major setback early in life, why do some people scale back their expectations or even shrink from life while others go for broke?

The other night we watched the documentary above, about the Broadway production of the musical, “Merrily We Roll Along,” by Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince, in the early 80s. I had read that it was about “how we frame success and failure,” which is what made me want to see it.

In the film, director Lonny Price talks about how, growing up, he was not good at sports and did not fit in at school. When he took drama class, he found his place. At summer camp, he played the original cast recording of the Broadway musical, “Company,” so incessantly that everyone in his cabin memorized it. He remarked, “Somewhere in America there’s a 55-year-old divorce lawyer who can sing every verse of ‘Another Hundred People’ flawlessly. Whether he wants to or not.”

The idea of these 14-year-old boys at camp being subjected to a showtunes album just because Lonny loved it so much killed me.

Also, people who look at regular, normal life and say, “No, thanks” and immerse themselves in a world that is more to their liking, like musical theater (playing dress-up and make-believe)–that fascinates me.

We also watched the new documentary, “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” In it, Jerry says that when he was young, he bought all the hit comedy albums, and when he graduated high school and learned from friends that there was a growing comedy club scene in New York, he said, “Oh, I want to be in that world. I don’t want to be in the real world.”

I just realized that my way of opting out of the real world, when I was young, was to read books. Now it’s making movies and web series with friends. And I want to do that–“be in that world”–as often as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Lose yourself in Bruce Springsteen’s memoir

A book you can’t put down! A critic observed that Bruce could become a full-time novelist if he wanted, because he’s that good a writer. Which his fans already know, because his lyrics are great. What you learn in the book is that he realized, early on, that writing was his strength. And he applied a blue collar work ethic to becoming a rock star.

He is really good at describing feelings that are hard to articulate. He captures the full range of human experience. And you find out all kinds of interesting things, like about how when he finally had huge success, he walked into a therapist’s office and burst into tears, because he was hurting so much at that time of his life. It’s a great read and a nice escape for a while–it’s thick! Takes time to read it. Toward the end, I kept putting off finishing it, because I didn’t want it to be over.

If you develop full Bruce mania, which you will when you read this, you gotta watch the documentary, “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.” At one point in the film he says, “More than rich, more than famous, more than happy–” (he gives a short, tight laugh) “–I wanted to be great.” Fuck yeah, you did, Bruce!

Here’s a great song from the album (“Darkness on the Edge of Town”). Play it full blast while lying in a hot bath, and just think about life, man.

 

Can’t get that rush without music!

You know that feeling you get when you’re watching a great scene in one of your favorite movies–the sudden intense thrill or euphoria, or “the chills,” or however you describe that pulse quickening and wave of emotion you experience? Well, if you think about it, it’s probably really rare to have that experience without music accompanying the scene. I am probably the last person to realize this, but I have to keep reminding myself of it occasionally so that I make music a priority in my work.

I think the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan” is great, even if the writing is arguably a little thin sometimes. But there’s this moment at which the score, by Thomas Newman (cousin of Randy Newman), makes all the difference–it just takes the movie to another level, and it’s awesome. The scene is of Madonna and Rosanna Arquette’s characters in NYC, during the day, and here’s the score. See if it doesn’t give you chills:

My friend Denise sent me this. She is always up on everything and finds the best stuff. She found this pic @ultravioletkids. Her IG account is private–@anapamu–but if you ask, she’ll probably say yes.

https://sugarinsixtyseconds.com/uncategorized/adorable-pic/

Eliminate these 5 foods to live your best life

5 Foods That Can Cause Depression

What if your depression, anxiety, flatness and/or brain fog are not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but instead by blood sugar imbalance and inflammation?

Dr. Kelly Brogan says that if people were willing to avoid gluten, dairy and sugar and eat a diet high in natural fats (seeds, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.), get some B vitamins (eggs, seafood, red meat and/or nutritional yeast) and a little sun and exercise, they wouldn’t need meds.

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT MEDS

In an interview with Marie Forleo, Brogan says a “37yo psychotic woman” who was found to have a sensitivity to wheat stopped eating it and is now okay. I find that amazing.

In her holistic psychiatric practice, she asks patients to try her 30-day diet and, assuming they find it beneficial, she helps them taper off of meds.

If you want to factor in a lot of dissenting opinions on why people shouldn’t get off meds, read the Comments section under this video on YouTube. Some people maintain that certain issues can only be solved with meds.

Seems like people should not get off meds if they’re not able or willing to eat a diet that reduces inflammation, which understandably, a lot of people aren’t. Like Brogan says, most people’s attitude is, “you’ll have to pry wheat and dairy out of my cold dead hands.”

I WANT TO READ “THE GRAIN BRAIN” BUT IT LOOKS SO BORING

When I mentioned this inflammation-mental health connection to a friend, she said all of this is covered in the bestselling book, “The Grain Brain.” I have the book but haven’t read it and I still am not interested. I figure I don’t need to read it since I already don’t eat wheat and barely ever eat other grains. But because I’ve never read the book, I don’t know why so many people are intolerant to wheat/bread now, when years ago they didn’t used to be. My friends says it’s because it’s made differently now. It’s not as digestible as it once was, because wheat is harvested too quickly now, to increase production/profits, and now bromide is added, which is bad for us.

YOU’LL GAIN MORE WEIGHT FROM SKIPPING BREAKFAST THAN YOU WOULD IF YOU ATE TWO BREAKFASTS, RESEARCH SAYS

Dr. Brogan says that a simple way to start to make a change is by eating a healthier breakfast, because it can significantly affect your performance the rest of the day. She says when you eat a bagel, it causes the body to oversecrete insulin (to deal with the sugar in the bloodstream) and then you crash and then you’re “hangry”–hungry and angry. This word has stuck with me.

I WAS A HANDFUL IN MY 20S

I ate a ton of sugar and white flour when I was young. I remember being angry a lot. For example, I was always flipping off other drivers. For a while, I went to a good therapist, but I wish I could’ve gone to Dr. Brogan.

I WISH THE FUTURE WOULD HURRY UP AND GET HERE

Maybe years from now, solving mental health issues by implementing an anti-inflammatory diet will be the norm. That would be awesome.

And maybe in the future there will be a pill specifically designed to eliminate inflammation. For people who can’t or won’t stop eating junk.