This is a followup letter from a woman who emailed me about four years ago. I had never met her and she shared a remarkable story of recovery. Her story is one that has led me to believe that essentially anyone can learn to rewire their brain around any pain circuits regardless of the severity, source, or the length of time suffering from pain.
Chronic pain is solvable using your own tools
I have since met her and have stayed in contact with her. She did slide back into fairly severe chronic pain for almost a year. We began to work together over the phone, and she reconnected with the tools that pulled her out of The Abyss the first time. Over the last year, she has thrived, reconnected with her friends and family and it has been inspiring watching her persistence in spite of many odds against her.
The most difficult challenge I face is convincing the world that chronic pain is not a problem just to be managed. It is predictably solvable by learning and using tools to calm down and redirect your nervous system. These skills are not difficult to master and they allow you to feel safe, which has a dramatic effect on your body’s chemistry and improves the function of all your organ systems. One is that the speed of nerve conduction is slowed and pain diminishes or disappears. (1)
I was given the “gift” of suffering, although I would choose not to go through it over again. I essentially lost 15 years of my life. The benefit, however, is that I am able to thrive at a level I never knew was possible. That is also the experience of most people who break loose from chronic pain. They are able to experience more joy, which is truly unexpected. So, I am happy and honored that my story is able to help many people living in so much misery.
Her recent letter
I’ve been trying to figure out what about your book changed my life in coping with chronic pain and many other things forever. When a doctor, (pain specialist at Group Health at the time) handed me a prescription with Back in Control written on it and said, “Buy this book.” I thought it was strange. But why not, what did I have to lose? I’d tried everything else under the sun. I shudder when I see the opioid overdoses and epidemic ads on TV because at one time I was taking several of those drugs simultaneously even though they barely took the edge off. I worked, drove a car, lived and didn’t kill anyone. I have that, and so much more, for which I am very grateful. I am proud that I weaned myself off all those heavy narcotics and am grateful I never stopped searching for answers or lost my persistence in the face of such pain.
What was it about your book that was different? After all I had read hundreds of self-help books covering everything from secular advice to spiritual guidance and nothing worked beyond the time I was reading it. The first thing that comes to my mind is; this is the first book I ever read that validated me. This book talked about all the symptoms I had and more. I didn’t have to explain my pain and frustration, because you already knew what I was hopelessly suffering through every day. The book was written from the same perception I had, by someone who had suffered in many of the same ways I did, AND the writer is a surgeon. How can this be? Someone, a doctor was saying my pain was real! I was reading a book that not only acknowledged my pain was real; it gave me real hope that I could get better (not cured) because you had already paved the road for me with your own experiences and research.
Your book has taught me how to deal with many wonderful things beyond the physical pain. Because of your bravery to be open and honest about your own abyss, I have trusted you enough to open up my journey into the abyss and look at things which I have been in denial about all my life. You have written about Anger repeatedly. I did not want to hear that anger could be a problem for me, but you provided enough trust for me to accept that this was probably my biggest problem, and has stood my way to achieving peace all my life. Thank you. The moment I accepted the Anger, the pain and the emotional scars started melting away like magic.
I look forward to Mondays, as I know I will have your newest blog to inspire me. As I have said many times, I love your ‘blue words’ (I know they are links) I just like to refer to them as the blue words. The bonuses in your blue words make me feel as if I can open them and dig deeper and deeper into more knowledge, with every new blue word I click. Thanks for including Dr. Schubiner’s Lecture #8 in your latest blog.
Lastly, but not the least by any means, your generosity in sharing your own experiences and the endless amount of research you have done makes a big difference in what you teach. I can never say thank you enough.
You can use any part or all of this thank you note for shared stories if you feel it could benefit. I just wanted to say thank you. God bless you and your work, Carol
People look at me now and can’t fathom the depth of despair I was in. I am not only free of pain but I am deeply connected to life and enjoying myself. I did suffer for over 15 years with severe chronic pain that included over a dozen physical symptoms. The last seven years bordered on intolerable. I came out of it by accident and did not understand what happened for several years. Gradually, I was able to put it together and the recent neuroscience research has clearly delineated the problem along with the solutions.
From my perspective, the reason why the DOC process has been so effective, is because I did figure it out on my own through trial and error (and truly mostly error). I know clearly what was not effective and that each person is unique with a different pathway out of pain.
This book will organize your thinking around pain, figure out your own solutions, and will allow you to connect to your own capacity to heal. There is no beginning or end and I am still on a daily ongoing journey, which includes ongoing coaching. It is by bringing the concepts into the many specific aspects of your life, that will change and rewire your brain.
Open Question and Answer session–Weekdays at noon (Pacific Time)
So, I hold an open question and answer session every Tuesday and Thursday at noon Pacific Time for about an hour. It is helpful to hear other people’s stories and what approaches have helped. You can just click on this link and you will directly enter the meeting. Feel free to ask questions and share, but there is also a lot of benefit from just listening. Like Carol pointed out, hope is a big factor in healing and has also been validated in research. (2)
- Chen X, et al. “Stress enhances muscle nociceptor activity in the rat.” Neuroscience (2011); 185: 166–173.
- Meevissen YMC, et al. Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: Effects of a two week intervention. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat (2011); 42: 371-378.