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Chapter 7: Pain Rehabilitation Clinic (PRC)

The next day, I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning (which was a complete 180 to my normal nightlife schedule), tape my wounds in medical wrap and force myself out of the door to begin my intake at Mayo Clinic. For the next 10 hours, I would be barraged with questions from nurses about my condition. The days that followed were tough, but to be honest, the course would not have been all that bad if I weren’t in so much pain.

One of the very first things that they did was take me into a bio-feedback room. Well, that and take away all my medication. Fortunately, I had been taking such low doses of Clonazepam that coming off of it wasn’t nearly as bad as coming off of Lexapro. Staying off of it, would be next to impossible. I can only imagine what those who were coming off strong opiates were experiencing in there. More on this later. In the Bio-Feedback room, they hooked me up to electrodes and had me look at a serene picture of a cabin by the mountains, with a nearby creak. After a few minutes the nurse showed me what the computer had recorded. I was not surprised to see that the tension in my body was off the charts. She explained to me that by sitting more upright, with better posture and relaxing my shoulders evenly, I could calm some of the readings that the computer was recording. Additionally, I learned the real way to diaphragmatically breath. By filling my chest and belly with air in a purposeful way, I can slow my heart rate and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digest and recovery. The nurse told me that for the course of my time there, she wanted me to set an alarm and do this type of breathing every hour on the hour, which would help with my nausea. I almost didn’t believe her, but sure enough … after just a few hours of doing this, my nausea started to fade. I recommend looking this up if you are experiencing nausea yourself. Was this my first breakthrough, I thought? I was impressed!

My days at PRC consisted of alternating between gym and classroom. It was very much like high school but with a focus on topics such as CBT, Body Mechanics, Sleep Cycles, Personal Hygiene, Self Esteem, Prescription Drugs, Stress Management, Self-Care, Goal Setting, Anxiety, Depression and dozens more. In total I would attend over 45 classes with students that were… well, nothing like me. While the classes were educational, there was almost nothing that I hadn’t learned already by researching online, or through the multiple online courses that I had purchased, apps, or books that I had listened to and read. It wasn’t bad … but it wasn’t anything new to me. To be quite honest, I think I got a lot more value out of the courses online for a fraction of the $35K price that I had paid to attend Mayo Clinic.

PRC’s students worked on what is called “Rotating Admission”. As I was joining, someone was graduating. The courses that were taught were not taught in an order that mattered to the students. In other words, I was learning something on day 1 where the person graduating on day 15 was learning the same thing. It was a money machine that churned out new graduates daily. And unfortunately, it seemed very impersonal.

My classmates were amazing. So many of them were suffering from painful injuries. They were so tough and such an inspiration. Some would have motor disorders. Some would be in pain from severe tissue damage. However, we were all diagnosed with “Central Sensitization”. That just doesn’t make sense. What was even more odd to me, was that it seemed that everyone knew what was wrong with them except for me. It was tough to tell because the number one rule of fight club … I mean PRC, was not to talk about your pain. You were NEVER allowed to tell anyone what was happening with you. The idea behind this was that if you didn’t pay attention to your pain, it would eventually go away. Oh geez, here we go again… I thought this course was all about curing my central sensitization syndrome… it wasn’t. It was more so about learning how to deal with your pain, which is not something that I was interested in. I was again, back in the same situation where people were telling me how to think differently about my pain. Dr. Sletten would often use the example of someone getting nicked in the yard while gardening. He would explain that you would be so busy doing something that you wouldn’t even notice that you were bleeding until you came back inside and stopped your activity. The problem was… I hadn’t been nicked, I had what felt like my limbs being amputated. It’s one thing to get nicked… it’s another to take a chainsaw to your face, arms, chest and legs. You can’t just NOT think about that, can you? This was the level of pain that I was experiencing daily. It just wasn’t applicable to me.

I started to hate this theory with a passion. “Think about your pain differently and you will get better”. It’s just not a way to live life. Every day was about survival. There was no enjoyment in anything. In my marketing career, I had learned long ago that people will do anything and everything at almost every moment to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Think about it. You are likely reading this right now because you or someone you know is going through a difficult time. You are seeking answers to a problem (avoiding pain), OR you are reading this out of curiosity for enjoyment (seeking pleasure). It is ingrained in us. It is part of human nature. To think differently about pain goes against this in every way. It is not natural. Now don’t get me wrong… I believe that there is science that supports the mind-body syndrome, central sensitization, and neural network pain, and that you can retrain your brain. I just didn’t feel that what was going on with me was this.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect to Mayo Clinic’s message. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work for everyone, it just wasn’t for me. I saw several classmates that were giving it everything that had. They were drinking the cool aide, as was I in the beginning. But nearly everyone that I followed up with over the course of the next 6 months was no better off. It was a one size fits all program that was supposed to reduce your symptoms by avoiding them, and by trying to go on with life dealing with the pain. For me… while the classroom sessions were educational and the gym a nice step down from the level of intensity that I was used to, my symptoms were so severe, there was no way for me to avoid them. I graduated from the program with no reduction in symptoms and not an inkling better than when I started. 

Throughout my time at Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center, I was fighting off daily panic attacks, severe dizziness, room tilting sensations, excruciating pain, tinnitus, blurry vision and several other issues that you can see here. They had taken me off all supplements and medications, which was fine to me as I really wasn’t taking many of them to begin with… just some daily vitamins, and the clonazepam, which I wanted to get off of anyway. I still was not able to take anything that altered my serotonin levels, like SSRI’s or Lexapro due to the feelings of being sliced to pieces by razor blades. Once I graduated from the program, I really wanted to give it a shot without any medication. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. The very next day, I awoke to the feeling of doom and gloom and in a state of panic. It wasn’t an uncommon feeling as this is generally how I felt all day at Mayo… but because of the group setting, I was able to calm myself just enough to get by. It was a survival mechanism, and not something that I was willing to live with daily.

I had been doing some research while I was in Mayo and decided to line up a call with a company called Joyous focused on treating its patients with very low dose Ketamine. Ketamine, like Clonazepam affects Gaba, and not serotonin. Because of it its fast bursts of dopamine it has a much lower liability to be addictive, contrary to Clonazepam or other benzos. It is said to help with anxiety, but primarily helps with depression. I had experimented with Ketamine in my younger years as a club-goer, but not in a professional sense. It intrigued me. And so, I was prescribed 40mg Ketamine troches. As I waited for the medicine to arrive, I decided to get back on very low dose clonazepam… about ¼ of a 0.5mg pill daily. It was just enough to help me survive the severe anxiety that this illness was causing. When the Ketamine arrived, I was very careful to take the smallest doses possible… about 5mg of the 40mg troche. I wasn’t interested in getting high, I just wanted to feel normal for a change. There are tons of companies out there that offer infusions and larger Ketamine doses for anxiety, depression, and pain but with my medication sensitivities, it wasn’t something that I was interested in trying. I tried combining the ketamine with therapy sessions through zoom, meeting with a hypnotherapist, a CBT Therapist, 2 Pain Reprocessing Therapists, an Anxiety Therapist, and a Mind Body Therapist. I even went to an acupuncturist for several months. After 4 months of hard work and not seeing any results, I decided to cut back everything and stick to simplicity. Meeting with all those therapists (many times twice a day), was starting to get to me. At first it was helpful to fill my time, but now, I felt as if it was wearing me down.

I was looking for a new approach when my mother came across an ad for a Dr. Glass who claimed to be able to relieve a lot of the symptoms that I was experiencing. I quickly made a phone appointment with him and told him my story. While he made no promises, he thought he might have some solutions. After I told him that my brain MRI came back normal (except for the incorrect reading from the radiologist), he wanted to get an MRI of my neck / spine. So, I was off the MRI facility. After getting those results back, showing abnormalities at C4 and C5 (anterolisthesis), and C6 (right neural foraminal narrowing), Dr. Glass immediately put me in traction for a couple of months, along with slight spinal adjustments, and laser therapy.

He said that it was possible that these abnormalities could be the cause of my symptoms, but that he wasn’t sure. Although barely able to function, I continued treatment for several weeks, while also doing my due diligence on other treatment options. I lined up several doctors’ appointments with my primary care, I set up another appointment for vertigo testing at my local ENT, a brain core appointment where they would read my brainwaves, and finally a nerve conduction test where they could truly tell if I had nerve damage. And as I explained previously … I had zero nerve damage, contrary to what Thrive Chiropractic misdiagnosed and mistreated me for. The other results came back normal.

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