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Chapter 6: Mind Body Syndrome & Central Sensitization

I would take long painful walks around my neighborhood while listening to audio books like “The Way Out”, which is very similar to Re-Origin in the sense that it requires you to retrain your brain to think differently about your condition. In this book, it is called the Mind-Body Syndrome. I would soon come to find that just about everyone who teaches these methods, (and can earn an income from doing so), has their own name for it. Some call it Hypersensitization, others call it Neural Network Pain, Neural Circuit Dizziness, and of course there’s the famous Central Sensitization, which we’ll get into shortly.  All in all, my take on it is that it’s just a fancy way of saying that “since we can’t figure out (or explain) what’s going on with you, we’ll give it a name and tell you to think differently about it in hopes that it will eventually go away”. Of course, the authors of all the books would describe it differently.

It didn’t sit well with me AT ALL. I am the type of guy who spent my entire life coming up with solutions for very real problems. You could almost say that it’s what I did for a living. I built several multi-million-dollar company’s finding problems in a given market and then came up with solutions to solve those problems. So, to tell me that the only way out of this is to think differently about it is like telling me that my pain is not real while I am getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. NO!… there’s a very real problem, and I want a very real solution / treatment!

But what choice did I have? If this is what the neurologist suggested it was, I would need to learn to think differently. So that’s what I did. I spent months on end reading books like “Unlearn your pain”, and “Chronic Dizziness Is Curable” while listening to audio books like “The Mindbody Prescription, and “Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 weeks”, while taking online courses like “Re-Origin” and “Curable”, and watching endless YouTube videos on Functional Neurological Disorder, dizziness and just about every other symptom that I was experiencing. On top of that, I would schedule sessions with Pain Reprocessing Therapists, Anxiety coaches, Hypnotherapists, CBT Physicians, and so much more. I literally immersed myself in these teachings and lived them every second of the day.

To summarize and oversimplify hundreds of hours of research, it all comes down to telling yourself that you are safe, that the pain cannot hurt me and that it is only temporary. There’s something called somatic tracking where you look at the symptom as a curious observer, not judging it, but watching it like fish in a fish tank. You see that it is there, but you don’t have any emotion towards it. You are thinking differently about it. Additionally, you should learn to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and what Re-Origin taught, as I explained in the 4-step process previously.

Many of my therapist would tell me to “stop doing research, stop trying to find answers to the problem”. “If you don’t believe that what you have is Mind-body syndrome, then you won’t get better”, they said. They would have me create what is called an evidence list. On this list, you are to provide evidence (such as medical test results) proving that what you are experiencing is in fact the Mind Body Syndrome. You can see an example of one of my lists here. The only problem… I had questions and concerns that the evidence list didn’t explain.

My anxiety coach would tell me that what I was going through was anxiety, and that anxiety was causing all the symptoms. I wanted to believe them all. They were all very convincing, and very nice people. I wanted to believe that they had the answer, but nothing could stop me from trying to figure it out. There had to be a solution, I said. I just couldn’t stop researching. Heck, I even convinced myself that a wisdom tooth that I had coming in was pressing on nerves that was causing my vertigo. And so, I scheduled oral surgery to get it removed, which was not fun with all of my debilitating symptoms and heightened anxiety. Sure enough, it wasn’t the issue. 

Right around this same time, my mother mentioned to my younger sister the hell that I was going through daily. My sister, Julie works at Mayo Clinic. Funny enough, she works in a department of Mayo called PRC: Pain Rehabilitation Center. The center states that they focus on healing people with chronic pain. They try to help them return to a more active lifestyle, using a rehabilitation approach that incorporates behavioral, physical, and occupational therapies. My mother thought that it was a sign from God. People from all over the world travel to Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic to attend this 3-week intensive, and I just happened to live a couple of miles away from the hospital. To add icing to the cake my sister, Julie just so happened to work in the very department that could potentially cure me. My sister swore by the program as she had seen so many patients come out of the program completely changed. She lined up an interview for me to meet with the lead phycologist at PRC, Dr. Sletten. We met for about an hour, and he diagnosed me with “Central Sensitization”, without any testing. He guaranteed me that he would get me back to work and functioning again. I broke down crying in his office at the thought of recovering. But how?! I didn’t fully understand what they did there. I would ask the doctor (and eventually my sister) repeatedly to explain to me what would be going on there. And repeatedly, they would tell me that I would just need to attend in order to fully understand. I tried searching on their website to see if I could gather any more information. Everything that I watched and heard seemed so incredibly cryptic. Nothing was straight forward. Even the testimonial videos on YouTube seemed as if the patients were cured by magic.

I had already been through the brain retraining. I studied just about every course you could imagine when it came to CBT, mind body syndrome and pain reprocessing. Although I could barely keep my balance, I was still biking 20 miles a day and forcing myself to workout through all of the nausea and sickness. I begged my sister to please ensure that it was not some course that would teach me to think differently about my pain. I had been through it and seen zero results. Being in a group setting (while surely can be beneficial for some), has never in my life helped me more than getting something done on my own. I am very self-disciplined. Mayo Clinic didn’t accept my insurance so it would cost me $35,000.00 out of pocket to go. Which, at the time, I really didn’t care about. The way I saw it … if I didn’t find a cure, I was dead anyway. What’s money if you can’t enjoy it, right?

Keep in mind that I was at the lowest point of my illness. I had zero enjoyment in my life. From the moment that I woke up to the moment that I went to sleep, absolutely everything was painful, nauseas, dizzy and sickening. I had no appetite, I had lost 20 pounds, and my anxiety and stress levels were 5 times off the charts. Nothing was enjoyable. I couldn’t drink the things that I loved like coffee in morning, because the caffeine from it would make my body start convulsing. I couldn’t eat because nothing tasted good, and it would make me sick. I couldn’t work or attend social events because … well, self-explanatory. Not only was I experiencing numbness and slicing feelings throughout my body, but now everything was super sensitized. If I were to go outside when it was drizzling, rain drops on my skin would feel like acid burning through me. Touching door handles, picking up bottled water or a cool soda can would feel so cold that it would be as if I had dipped my hands in liquid nitrogen, and that the slightest touch to them would feel as if every bone were shattering. I remember going to the grocery store and walking past the frigerated section. The cool air was so intense that it was as if my face had been frost-bitten. My mother noticed this as it not only burned, but you could actually see the burn under my eyes. It was so odd, especially because I use to the cold weather.

After several weeks, I heard back from Mayo Clinic. And after several calls back and forth, they took my $35,000.00 payment through a wire transfer and accepted me into the Pain Rehabilitation Center, without any testing. The date was set for me to begin treatment on Tuesday, July 25th, 2023. Until then I would keep up with my normal routine of taking walks, ruminating for hours while doing my best not to, meeting with therapists and taking long bike rides. I was still taking clonazepam, which barely helped me get through the day, and also made me very clumsy. On the day before being admitted I took my usual long ride. Wouldn’t you guess it, on my return, just about a mile from my home, I took a nasty spill that skinned my arms, elbows, hands, and knees. There are no words for the level of pain that I experienced this day. As I may have previously mentioned… I was used to breaking bones as a skateboarder in my younger years. I was used to scrapes, cuts and bruises. This fall on the other hand, was if I was constantly being stabbed and then getting alcohol poured on my wounds, repeatedly. It was agonizing.

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