Working in a pioneering field can be frustrating at times because we are so often challenging people’s belief’s about the cause of their chronic pain. As you will also see though, some patients have to overcome much more than just a belief in order to recover.
Sometimes people are just ready to accept that their pain might not actually be due to a physical cause as they begin to clearly see the links between their pain onset and pattern and their past and present life experiences. Some of my patients have come across this concept months, or even years before, yet they just weren’t ready then. It’s often about sowing seeds and gradually these seeds begin to flourish and grow as they experience life, until they do come across it again, when it often just makes sense.
It’s the same when any of our beliefs are challenged though, but everything begins with just a thought, an idea. e.g. that we would ever be able to fly, speak to someone on the other side of the world, have tablets that kill bacteria which would save millions of lives etc etc
Too challenging to accept 8 years earlier
One patient of mine was told about ‘Healing Back Pain’ by John E Sarno MD in 2001. She bought it, but didn’t actually read it! She persisted through years of chronic back pain trying various therapies, at times spending months unable to work and bedbound for 5 months, yet she then went on to have 3 years without pain.
The seeds had been sown
In 2009 the back pain returned and this time she read the book and following the advice was pain free for 9 months, although at the time she wasn’t sure whether it was this approach or the medication she was on.
In 2010 the back pain returned with a vengeance after lifting a sofa bed and she was sucked back into the conventional medical world of seeing therapists, nutritionist, Neurosurgeons etc. Tests showed that she did have two prolapsed discs, yet nothing they could offer her seemed to help. In time she was able to work and look after her son, but it was a daily struggle with such severe pain.
More help needed and her recovery journey began
She decided to read the book again, but had no relief this time, so she decided to call Dr Sarno. Dr Sarno recommended she contact me and her journey to full recovery from her pain began in earnest then.
What is interesting with this lady is that she is Spanish, spoke very little English and we have never met! Initially we used google translate and then I suggested she speak with another Spanish lady, let’s call her Sienna, who speaks excellent English. I had worked with Sienna the year before and she had progressed from being virtually housebound in a 3rd floor flat with severe back pain to being able to drive, dance, go to concerts, work and travel abroad. It all took time, but she persisted and succeeded.
Sienna agreed to translate the assessment forms and the required medical disclaimer form for ‘Maria’ and she also translated all the medical tests in order for me to be sure we had ruled anything more serious out, such as cancer, infection or an auto-immune disorder or even a serious psychiatric disorder. Sienna then acted as her translator during her SIRPA assessment, which we did via an on-line webinar provider. I had realised the session would take longer, but I hadn’t realised it would take 3 hours! It was hard work for us all, but we managed and I was able to help Maria begin to gain a much deeper understanding of the underlying causes, links and triggers for her pain, which she was then able to begin addressing.
Maria used google translate in order to understand everything on the programme and we met weekly online to help her progress, plus we kept in touch via email for support and guidance. Rather than continue to expect Sienna to help, we roped in my daughter to translate because she was in Peru volunteering at a children’s home during her gap year and spoke very good Spanish by then. We therefore had a 3-way conversation with me in England, Maria in Spain and my daughter in Peru. The wonders of modern technology!
I can’t say it was the easiest of undertakings for any of us, but Maria was determined to take responsibility for her recovery. The aim initially was that Maria would come to England for a Summer holiday (in 2012) and we would at last meet and she would be able to complete her programme face to face. This actually never happened because Maria became pregnant, after trying for many years, so rather than risk a flight in the early weeks, she successfully completed her final consultations using the on-line webinar facility.
It is now 12 months since Maria completed the SIRPA Recovery programme and both she and Sienna are still in touch with me and send the odd photo. This blog today is a result of an email she sent me this morning in which she told me, “As you can see, I'm great, I've never been so happy. Who would have told me a year before? It's amazing how time flies and things that have happened in a year ... Everything is possible!”
Not only is she now fit and well, even her English is much better! If you want to read Maria’s own account of her journey, you can read it here.
What challenges have you overcome in order to recover?