“You need to fall in love with your future”

If you are not one of the millions of people who developed chronic pain during the pandemic, that is awesome. I’m so happy for you! If, however, you have something going on with your knee, your back, your stomach, your head, eczema, psoriasis–i.e., if you have any stress-triggered physical malady that has lasted for more than a month–I hope you find the following helpful.

Several years ago, I had back pain and sciatica for a few years, then I solved it in 1 day. (You can read about it here.) My overnight healing made me cocky! I thought I would never deal with chronic pain again.

What a laugh!

I’ve now had acid reflux for two years. I was sure I’d get rid of it by eating a low-acid diet for 30 days. But it made zero difference. 

So, I started doing some “emotional clearing”—i.e., feeling my suppressed feelings. But even after dredging up every single thing that could possibly be bothering me, I kept having stressful thoughts about the future. Like, every day, for months, I was obsessively thinking about end-of-the-world scenarios due to climate change. 

As Julia Roberts said to the mean salesgirls in Pretty Women, “Big mistake. Big. Huge!”

If you research new info on chronic pain, or if you listen to some of the talks on the Curable app, everyone seems to be saying the same thing now:

Chronic pain has an emotional component to it. Suppressed emotions (such as unprocessed anger, sadness or fear) or negative thought patterns such as “catastrophizing” and ruminating.

The solution to chronic pain is to stop triggering your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight-or-freeze stress response. 

Somatic tracking, or relaxing your body–consciously releasing tension held in your stomach, your shoulders, your neck, your face, etc.–stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system response. Which is the key to healing.

Other ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system:

Slow down your breathing and inhale deeply. Your stomach or waist should actually expand and contract.

Soothe yourself by telling yourself you are safe and okay. This may sound pathetic. But truly it is very helpful. Literally ask yourself, “Am I safe?” Most of the time, the answer is yes. Reassure yourself that that is the case.

Let pain symptoms come up. Don’t fear them. Don’t try to suppress them. Don’t try to solve them. Just let them arise. Acknowledge them, and let them be. 

If you keep activating the parasympathetic nervous system, you retrain the brain to believe you are safe. And it will start to activate the parasympathetic nervous response again on its own. And you will heal. 

Probably lots of people heal from chronic pain without consciously doing anything to address it. Maybe they just naturally start having more positive thoughts, or at least stop having super stressful thoughts. And they either forget about or ignore pain symptoms they’re experiencing. Then one day, they realize the chronic pain is gone and they are healed. 

Ever since I have been consciously catching myself worrying, ruminating and catastrophizing, and consciously activating the parasympathetic response (which I’ve been doing for about 2 weeks now), I’ve seen a major reduction of symptoms.

There’s a short video that my friend Juli sent me, from a physical therapist in San Diego named Jim Prussack, that has made all the difference to me. It’s what I have listened to repeatedly, to remind myself of the only thing I need to do: RELAX. Prussack has several great videos (all of which center around the same message, which is reassuring—I don’t want to have lots of goals, I like having just the one: Relax!).

The other thing that is making a huge difference to me is listening to the “Tell Me About Your Pain” podcast from Alan Gordon and Alon Ziv. I love these guys. They went to high school together, they have a good rapport, and their dedication to helping people with chronic pain is awesome. They’re coming out with a book, called, “The Way Out,” and I can’t wait to receive my copy. This is one of their best podcast episodes, but all are great.

There’s a guy named Tariq whose chronic leg pain was so bad, he started using a cane. After he began healing, he burned his cane (!) in a video shared on Curable’s FB page. You can listen to his healing journey here. It’s really inspiring. He shared the following quote from Joe Dispenza:

“You need to fall in love with your future.” (Yes! Getting excited about your future helps you stop being depressed and it helps curb rumination on possible catastrophe, right? Right! I’m working on it!)

If you have experience with chronic pain or have any insights about healing from it, please let me know. I’d love to hear your story or thoughts. 

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xo, Courtney