If you were expecting this to be a list of horrendous complications and scary new symptoms - relax, it's all good. Well, once I got through the ugly bits, it was! I hope you find some inspiration from this list.
When I first found Nicole Sachs' work - JournalSpeak - and learned that she had worked alongside the mastermind behind TMS - Dr Sarno, something inside me knew that this sweet lady on the internet was the answer to my chronic back pain.
However, when I began to learn that the act of emotional excavation via expressive writing in a journal was going to be my prescription of getting out of years of chronic back pain, I was scared, and I resisted like a motherfucker. I was surprised to learn that an emotional exercise could sure physical symptoms, but Sarno's books were like the holy grail to me so the trust was definitely already there.
With the help of the JournalSpeak Facebook support group and its incredibly kind community, I quickly learned that resistance to journalling (or any emotional work that requires you to look within) is completely normal and expected (more about what to expect here). But what it did to my body and brain (and life), ontop of getting me out of chronic pain, is nothing short of a complete overhaul, the pain leaving was just one mini part of the transformative effects I'm experiencing. Read on...
A lot worse. But I now know this is also expected, my symptoms went wild and my mood was all over the place. But it only lasted for a while as I started to face really difficult things that I had hidden inside for so long. You can't brush so much under the carpet and expect it to go away...it doesn't. It festers and turns into pain and other delightful symptoms...of which I had MANY. So no wonder digging into that stuff was going to feel like shit for a while. My symptoms flared and I felt pretty depressed for a while.
I used to THINK my feelings, I intellectualised them and procrastinated over them, even the good ones. I actually had no idea that feelings were supposed to be physically felt, I assumed they were just thoughts. LIGHTBULB NUMBER ONE - Discovering what I ACTUALLY FEEL about something rather than what I THINK I feel. Utterly game-changing. Click here to read a short tutorial on how to do this.
I finally had an outlet to download all my difficult stuff onto. I could rage on the page and nobody would know and I would feel such an immense amount of relief in just having that tool to use as and when I needed it. But also the incredible relief I started to feel from finally listening to myself, addressing my memories and my traumas. Finally really hearing that voice inside that had become so quiet and numbed-out. She was finally allowed to speak freely.
This was huge for me. I have always got annoyed or angry with certain things, certain people or scenarios. Even certain sounds or scenarios really get me fired up. By unravelling my thoughts and feelings onto the page to frequently, I could figure out what the feeling was underneath these triggers, so I could properly address them and have the opportunity to heal them.
I've always had a fairly strong gut feeling about stuff. I read people well before they even speak - that kind of thing. I know when something feels 'off'. But now I understood why and really started to fully rely on it 100% of the time for any decisions I need to make. Journalspeak showed me that my intuition was more than just a flukey hunch.
I have learned more about myself in the last year than I have in the whole 41 years of my life. It feels like it's just getting started. I know what I like and don't like. I know how to ask for what I want and dismiss what I don't. I've stopped people-pleasing. I know myself better than I ever have and it's still going... Even when I became pain-free, I kept going, this was too good to stop. The amount of bullshit layers I've removed is incredible honestly. I now live from a place of complete authenticity. I even stopped colouring my hair! Crazy stuff, but so incredibly freeing.
This is MASSIVE. I wouldn't say I used to hate myself, because it was much more neutral and BLEH than that. I hated the way I looked FOR SURE. But I knew I was a good person even if I picked and poked every inch of myself every day, nothing was ever good enough. JournalSpeak showed me that I mattered and that I am worthy. Offloading my emotion tore off the layers of armour and obliterated the walls I had built around myself to protect me (that kinda worked but also stopped me from really experiencing life to the fullest). This is only a really recent thing, but I can actually honestly say now that I DO love myself, and that for me is enormous. I used to think self-love was total bullshit. I have made a pact with myself that I will take care of myself. This has quite possibly been the biggest side-effect of all. Losing pain was nothing in comparison to how much self-compassion has changed me - or rather, just brought me home to myself, back to who I always was, underneath all the self-protective layers of crap.
I used to hate most people. No, honestly! I would be such a homebody I would only go out if it meant getting wrecked and partying for days. I do neither of those things anymore. I now understand that I was just giving the wrong type of people my energy. I see people for what they are now, which means I can be more understanding, forgiving but also more dismissive if something just doesn't sit right...which in some cases is worse as my bullshit-ometer is also way stronger. This work has allowed me to see other people's real selves and not just think they're a twat now - big difference.
Not that long ago, stressful things would knock the life out of me for days, even weeks. I mean, they gave me TMS after all and I was practically bend-bound for 2 years! Now I have these tools on hand, I can let feelings flow through me, no matter how hard they are I don't resist or repress anymore. Which, granted, is really bloody hard and there are some triggers I have that I'm still working through that knock me over, but not for long. And my god they move much faster if you just allow them to be expressed.
I can stand up for myself now, which I have never been able to do. I can stand up for others too. I can speak my mind and not freak out about what people will think. It's weird because I can jump out of a plane and not feel an ounce of fear, but faced with the notion of having to tell someone something difficult? I would have rather cut my own eyes out. Not an exaggeration.
I went and got my Yoga teacher training certification in India, before this work I would have NEVER in a million years had the courage to do something like that. No way!
And Boundaries OH MY DAYS - FUCKING BOUNDARIES!!! Thank you Nicole, for this piece alone! What a motherfucking revelation. Here's the thing: Guess what? Don't like something? You DON'T HAVE TO DO IT. Miraculous. Really difficult, REALLLLLY DIFFICULT. But YEY for boundaries, WOW. You get to choose who gets your time and energy - mind blown.
Anxiety used to be my default state. I was in constant fight or flight, shaky 100mph ball of nerves coated in a gregarious fun-loving 'everything is fantastic' exterior. I had to do everything at light speed, and it had to be fucking perfect. Not any more! I take my time with things now, and carefully assess whether it's worth my energy or not. I challenge myself by doing things half-arsed sometimes, I leave mistakes where they are because they don't matter. My sanity matters. End of.
I have never slept better, I get bouts of it from time to time, but like anything in TMS recovery, symptoms are a guidepost to what needs addressing, so if I feel like I can't sleep - I journal and meditate. Zzzz.
Since learning all of this, and coming through this work, I now teach sleep yoga and meditation for heaven's sake, what's calmer than that? I've found a soft squishy interior of myself that I didn't know was there. My confidence used to be brash and made up before, cocky even, sometimes intimidating (even to myself). A big fat self-protective barrier of loveless nonsense. All gone.
I've found that I can relate to people more, and really see all of life in general. I discovered that knowing and showing my real self isn't something to be ashamed of. That my battle-scars are kinda like my trophies, I've overcome a lot and so what if I wobble because of it. I'm human. I hurt, I bleed, I feel deeply and now I know I can also OVERCOME. It's brought me closer to certain people, further from some too, it's lead to better friendships, better connectedness, more real human connections and community. Sometimes unexpectedly with complete strangers on the internet, in fact, some of the best people I've ever met have been through this community.
This was huge, OK all the points here were HUGE! But this one taught me how to approach difficult things with more grace, things I cannot change or things I have no power over. For example: other people's actions, the pace of my own recovery, the frustration of flare ups, other's reactions to my boundaries, the shit on the news, the state of the world, politics. You get the idea!
I unfollowed so many bullshit accounts on Instagram that I was following, I now only fill my feed with honest stuff, authentic people, people doing good things and spreading hope and wisdom.
I found hope and belief in self-healing, better and clearer overall awareness, the realisation of my real self, and much more balance - I can now feel it ALL - good and bad and feel them both completely.
And I now have the ability to pass this knowledge and learning onto others - what a fucking gift.
THANK YOU JOURNALSPEAK, THANK YOU NICOLE SACHS, THANK YOU DR SARNO. I WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL!!
Find out more about Nicole's work in the links below. If you'd like more insight into my personal journey out of years of chronic pain to complete healing using journalling and only emotional / mindset work, check out my Recovery Journey Roadmap and let's connect on social media, I'm on Facebook or Instagram and post daily insight and inspiration over there.
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