Tag Archives: tendonitis

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 6: #vulnerability #TMS #courage #Sarno #suffering #innovation


Welcome to Day 6 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I’m relating, on my blog here, to each quote as determined by Goodreads.

Here is today’s quote:

 Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
― Brené Brown

Today, I’m taking a risk of vulnerability to tell you about the physical pain we create in ourselves without knowing it.

Any volunteers? Oh. Me. Ok.

Never in my life have two people (until now), whose clinical work I admire, crossed jet trails: Dr. John Sarno’s and Brené Brown’s. Brown writes compulsively about vulnerability, emotional freedom, courage and the harm of perfectionism. Sarno just puts it all in a different framework:

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits - click on link for the complete online list

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits – click on link for the complete online list

That chart. That was basically my FBI profile. I’ve dialed way back on my people pleasing, legalistic and perfectionism stuff. Check out that chart… if you see yourself on it (and you will), high-five me.

On Day 1, Brown said something about the challenges in owning our stories versus running from them and that when we own them, when we step into the darkness we can come to know the power of our light.

Today, we’re here to talk about how vulnerability drives change. I owe it to myself to really do this right.

But first: I can’t tell my big life story on this blog because it keeps coming out in chunks. I need to sit and compose it in one place. I remember a friend saying last year, “Why would you write your memoir? You’re not famous.” The resultant shame I felt inside, burning and humiliating and basic resignation was unbearable; I remember my stomach immediately sinking. Sometimes friends suck at being friends.

Indeed, I thought, who would want to hear my story? Who the hell am I to think that anyone would give a damn? I don’t know who, but but I do know this: Keeping it inside breaks down my body, joint by joint and ligament by ligament. Maybe the best thing which comes from telling your story –once and for all– is that you can finally put it to bed.

This putting it to bed is something I have never done. Instead, I have repressed a bunch of heavy duty emotions to the tune which Sarno would determine as the catalysts for all manner of -itises on my elbows, knees, shoulders, stomach stuff, food allergies I ignore and some freakin’ sciatica that I want to heave.

The good news: is that I live my life despite these ailments, as many of us do. I’m dependable, I’m not a social mess, I’m physically active, and I do my best to be honest with myself. The other great news is that like a lot of people out there, I’m emotionally balanced, I’ve been married almost 20 years, I’ve got three great kids and my friends like me. I really try not to be a burden.


Ok. Vulnerability leads to change.

In 2009, a relative told me about Dr. John Sarno’s book The MindBody Prescription. This relative plays her cards close to the vest and thus seldom recommends anything, so when she told me about this one, I had to believe it. She sent it to me, actually, as a gift.

Anyway, the book changed my life. I read it in three weeks (I’m a diligent, deliberate reader) with all manner of annotations and highlights. When I was finished, my gastric stuff cleared up completely. I mean… goneski for the entire season. Then it returned, but I understand it better and it’s under control.

Sarno’s other books, The Divided Mind, and Healing Back Pain talk about the same issues; The MindBody Prescription is his most recent book. He has a theory, to which I subscribe completely, that all these ailments I mention, AND some others including (I’m wincing, don’t get mad at me) such as migraines, fibromyalgia, Epstein-Barre, chronic fatigue, IBS, TMJ and allergies (yes!) are all symptoms of our mind’s ability to repress negative emotions until our bodies can’t take it anymore and then we have these issues.

He’s a medical doctor. He’s a pariah in his community. He has changed lives. His books piss people off.

These fruitless pursuits: invulnerability, perfectionism, people pleasing, rigidity/stoicism, “legalist” (being right) … and so many more all work against us. Our bodies simply can’t take it and the longer we fight it, the weaker we get, just from “trying to keep it together, man!” and we burst either by our muscles giving out, our bellies blowing out (sorry), our brains shutting down with migraines, or our bodies saying “fuck it” with fibromyalgia.

According to Sarno, the culprits (hang on to your hats) are unexpressed, unattended, pent-up, repressed, suppressed, denied, projected and completely ignored hidden narcissistic rage from our childhoods — stay with me — which can come from a shitty childhood, a horrific childhood, or a completely normal childhood.

Just because you had a normal childhood doesn’t mean you weren’t pissed when you didn’t get the red lollipop instead of the orange one and that when your little sister got the red one you wanted to smash it into her face. Admit it. You wanted to grind that red lollipop into her stupid sweet, smiling, ugly perfect, little face. (I feel better already and I don’t have a sister!)

Feeling those feelings is normal. Acting them out is frowned upon. Even (especially) in polite company we don’t share such feelings, but man… that’s where we done screwed up.

I’ve read The MindBody Prescription three times. Each time I do, I am relieved in one form or another. The crap I’m going through right now, this stupid sciatica, is bullshit. Plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with me physically, it’s in my head. You should hear me talk to my ailments, I’m like a cyber bully: “You’re nothing, useless, you don’t exist. You have no value… You suck…”

I discovered this morning on my walk with The Murph, that I have put off reading it this time because I said, “I don’t want to read nonfiction; I’m tired of it.”

Well, how urbane and smart I sound.

The bottom line, as I admitted to myself, is that reading nonfiction means reading reality and reading reality means I have to live in my reality and living in my reality means I need to admit and allow some feelings and allowing some feelings means I have to … see? I can’t even go there.

Oof! Butt pain!

Because I subscribe to all things woo-woo (Western medicine is so far from having everything figured out) I also know that the sides of our bodies have distinct messages to share with us.

The right side is the masculine side.
The left side is the feminine side.

All my pain, for most of my life, has been on my right side.  Since four months before Mom died, I’ve had this nagging sciatic stuff on my right. It’s mostly been nagging, nothing too major. But the last three weeks? Get me a gurney. It must be the holidays.

The joint and ligament stuff, it’s a bear. I really hate it. The fact that it’s on my right side is telling me that it’s about the masculine energy in my life. The fact that it’s been bugging me since spring, when my father stopped speaking to me because I made demands about my mother’s care, tells me that it’s likely about him and that I need to do some Work, emotionally, to truly give the pain the heave ho.

It means I have to let go. Let go of the resentment and the control. After all these years — decades upon decades of my life — I suspect I will feel lost. Is it better to hang on to the resentment that I knew forged me or let go and float down?

Letting go for me means have to live in the now and the reality of Mom never coming back and my never being able to fix her and the fucking frustration I have had inside me all my life about wanting her well. Phuuuuck. It’s acting up again. My right hamstring is howling at me; it feels like it’s about to snap and I’m just sitting here.

To me, a lot of what is causing our sadness, our Sarno issues, is that people are afraid to admit their fragility. We are gossamer, but we have limits.

We have an attachment to brawn, to guts, to bravery, to courage and strength and all attachments lead to suffering. This attachment concept is more than metaphorical: in the case of my elbow tendonitis — the grasping mechanism, I was told lonnnnng ago by my acupuncturist, “Sometimes we hold on to things too tightly.”

NnnnNnnn. What did he know?

I was “holding on” to Mom then, she was making headway, but it was elusive. The codependence was at an all-time high: it was as though she did it for me to witness it for her to do it for me to see her be well for me to see her do it… get it? There is no way to keep that up; it results in disappointment. We must pursue our health for ourselves; if we hinge it on anyone else, it’s too much — there will always be missteps. We are human; we make mistakes.

Brawn, guts, our modern attachment to them, they are all façades for the real action of vulnerability: it takes guts to admit flaws and sensitivities, to put ourselves (myself) out there.

The things I do for you people… 😉

So here’s the finalé of this post: if you’re suffering physically and you suspect you’re repressing emotionally, do yourself a favor and get one of Sarno’s books. Check it out on the cheap: read Mark’s Daily Apple about the physical effects of repressing negative emotions. Go to the TMS / PDD wiki website and learn more.

You don’t have to suffer. All attachments cause suffering. That’s your first truth.

For me, I hope this step into vulnerability will usher my innovation and change in the form of freedom from lies I’ve been hearing all these years.

Thank you.

ps – apologies for the length of this one; combining two writers in one post is bound to be verbose.

When Tennis Elbow is (%$#**& Hilarious


I have had tennis elbow in my left arm since January. I am left handed.

Tennis elbow is a condition which totally hurts like you can’t believe. It’s a condition which directly affects any motion in the hand that requires grasping and lifting. As a parent of a toddler donned in overalls, envision grasping and then lifting the toddler from behind.

With tennis elbow, you can’t do that. The toddler runs off to the lion’s den at the zoo and you writhe in pain grasping your arm. Oh sure, everyone go after the kid!

I don’t play tennis. I mean, I can, I just don’t. (Sounds frighteningly a lot like an addict who says, “Ay ken quid anyzime I wantew, if I haz a prblm, I wouldquit. Ay juzdon haf a prblm annAy donwanta. Quid, thadis.”) I used to play tennis. Just like I used to go away for weekends with friends and I used to have a job and I used to travel to England. Having kids, whom I love, has changed all that.

Now because of the tennis elbow, even if I wanted to play tennis, I wouldn’t be able to. The kids are in school now, so I have the time (not to travel to England) but I could play tennis again.

I digress.

I got a cortisone shot for the elbow in March. I waited so long because I’m a glutton for punishment AND I wanted to see if it would go away on its own. Oh, and because I also hate (un)loading the dishwasher. After two months of shitty dishwasher experiences, I decided it was time to get the shot.

Shot didn’t work.

I met someone, in the health biz, last week (five months after the shot) while on vacation who told me that if the first shot doesn’t work then another one won’t. And if I continued getting the shots I’d just do irreparable damage to the tendons and ligaments and joint.

I don’t want to do that. I like my tendons et. al.

Since he was in the biz, I asked him what TO do.

“Yeah, since you’re so smart, tell me what to do. Should we shoot him now or wait until we get home?”

I digressed again – forgive me, I have a chip in my brain that activates a line from “Rabbit Seasoning” anytime I get remotely close to saying any lines from it.

He said to “use cross-fiber constriction for three minutes and then ice for five minutes every other day.”

I said, “So use a vertical and then a horizontal band at pressure for three minutes then ice?”

He said, “No. Just one band, opposing the line of the tendon [wrap] at high pressure for three minutes, then the ice for five. Do that every other day until it goes away.”

This was something similar to what I’d heard days before, on this got-tendonitis video, but there was no mention of the ice, nor did the man I spoke with mention the “distracting movements” (whatever the what that means) nor were there the sounds of weights slamming on the floor behind me. I tried the approach twice as shown in the video. It did nothing for me and the “distracting movements” bruised my arm a bit, making it look weird.

When I got home from my eight-hour drive from that vacation, my elbow was pretty sore. I asked my husband to wrap my arm in some very wide elastic bands, the “TheraBands” I have from physical therapy that I got last summer after hurting my back while rowing. (Back’s better, thanks for asking.)

The process of wrapping me was hilarious. Maybe, now as I type this, it’s one of those “you had to be there” moments, but it was funny because we couldn’t get the elastic to stay put. When it finally did stay put, then we had to pull away from each other to increase the tension. Then he had to leave enough slack but keep it tight enough to wrap the wrap into itself so it wouldn’t slip.

Three minutes of that at this pressure:

The first two minutes are uncomfortable. The last minute is pretty unbearable. Then, ice for five minutes. Thing 3 gets photo credit.

Does the blood rush out of your limb? Yes.

Does the constriction hurt? Yes.

How much does it hurt? A lot.

Does the constriction hurt more than the ice? No.

Five minutes of an ice wrap around possibly the least-fatty part of the body, the elbow joint, is INSANE. Five minutes is like childbirth. Five minutes hurts.

So then what? 600mg ibuprofen (advil, motrin – same thing) once and then wait 48 hours. The ibuprofen is my idea, it’s an anti-imflammatory, I figure it can’t hurt because that’s what my orthopedist said to take three times a day when I first got the condition.

Is it working? I have to say… yes. Slowly and surely, it is.

My pain was a 6 or 7 after the shot when it was a 22 before the shot. I have a high threshold for pain however, and so I often push through things that are physically difficult.  Now the pain is a 3 or 4, depending on the movement.

Why am I doing this? I tend to be a whole-person athlete/exerciser. If I experience pain in one part of my body, I tend to shut down and not do anything. That doesn’t work for me because I’ve got more energy at times than a nuclear bomb and so I have to do something. The yoga I most enjoy is vinyasa which is flow yoga or yin yoga which is slower where you hold the poses and cry for mommy. The aerobic work I most enjoy is strenuous rowing or interval hard running / sprinting followed by jog or walking then repeated about six more times. I enjoy shoveling snow in the winter because I build squats into it. I’m not normal. I add push-ups into my yoga vinyasa or sun salutes because it’s too wimpy for me otherwise. I actually like burpees. I like to do mountain climbers. They are hard to do and they kick my ass, but they are awesome. I like to work.

I have a punching bag in the basement (and pink 14oz Everlast gloves – they’re so cute!) but I don’t use it because of the tennis elbow thing. The push-ups in yoga are hard because of the tennis elbow thing. The rowing is hard because of the feathering which aggravates the tennis elbow thing. The running is pushed to the wayside because I have to hold my arms at 90˚ angles and that aggravates the tennis elbow thing. So then I don’t do anything. But I do actually… I just do it with pain. But I’m tired of the pain and waiting doesn’t do anything but bore me.

So I need to do something and the cortisone shots don’t work and I want to start sculling or sweep rowing again, but the elbow hurts, so I’m going all out – going compression then freeze and it seems to be working. I’m feeling better today and that’s the proof I’m looking for.

Thing 1, who’s 14, had to put the band on me yesterday and he was terrified he was hurting me. I assured him he was, but that it wasn’t his fault and that if he didn’t help hurt me then I’d have to wait until his dad got home and I didn’t want to do that. So he did it and we laughed about it. Then the timer went off and we unraveled it and then the ice. I had to leave the house to get the mail to distract myself.

We laughed. He laughed and I winced.

That’s about the only time tennis elbow is hilarious.

Thank you.