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Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Just Want Clarity and Organization and Consistency

Dear A.B Curtiss,

My friend J_______ introduced me to your wonderful memoir. He also helped me get off of the Cymbalta that I had been on for four years. That one book helped me through one of the most trying times in my life. I can't even say thank you enough for what you wrote in those pages. The pain you went through to give hope to so many people astounds me.

When I realized the importance of higher mind principles and the idea that my thoughts were thinking me rather than me thinking them I felt much more at home. It all felt so right. I realized that although I have this pain of mind it does not have to have me. Those ideas along with the many others pulled me up into clearer thinking.

I am writing you now because I have been bothered lately by what I call confusion, but not in the regular sense. It feels like my thoughts never finish, and they don't mesh together. It feels disjointed. Could it be the constant chronic back pain that I am in? I feel like I have gotten through one hurdle only to come to another.

I just want clarity and organization and consistency. What I have right now is confusion, forgetfulness and disjointedness. My fear is that if I am confused and forgetful, how will I remember or even know to tell myself those things that I learned in your book. They calm me and give hope. How can I make sense of things? If this is to many questions I will be happy with a generalized answer. Thanks for your help! –T_________

Dear T________

Physical pain is very enervating and causes confusion. What is causing your chronic back pain? Have you had an MRI? I had terrible back pain that was diagnosed as a slipped or ruptured disk by Kaiser but after two weeks of agony,where I could not lie down, only sit up, and consequently couldn't sleep much, I got an MRI .

They found the pain was caused by a synovial cyst between my 4th and 5th vertebra. I didn't opt for meds or surgery (they suggested removing the cyst but then they would have to fuse the 4th and 5th vertebra.) I asked them to explain what the problem was. They explained that a small flap of skin fills up with synovial fluid and impinges on the nerve causing the pain. Since it was a cyst that formed by a flap of skin filling up with fluid from the spinal cord, I figured that the treatment they offered before (for a supposedly ruptured disc), to remain immobile, was counter-productive. I figured if the flap filled up with fluid little by little, and I exercised perhaps I could force the fluid back out, little by little. I decided to do yoga and swim, and I was out of pain in a week. It worked. It hasn't come back but I do yoga and swim every day.

But not all pain can be dealt with so quickly and easily. You must know the source of the pain. If it is fixable, like mine, then take care of it. But if it is not fixable then you will have to do pain management before you can get clarity, organization and consistency. I suggest for chronic pain you read the book A Whole New Life by Reynolds Price. He had radiation treatments for cancer of the spine. His cancer was cured but it left him with excruciating chronic pain. After trying pain medicine, he opted for hypnosis.

Mind exercises can distract you from chronic pain the same way they can distract you from depression, but physical pain is much harder to distract yourself from than psychic pain. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A.B. Curtiss,

Thank you so much for your response. I have been to quite a few doctors and have gotten nothing conclusive. Some said it was disk degeneration disease. At the age of 25? cmon. They didn't know what else to tell me I guess. Then I found out that one of my ribs was loose and they said that could cause quite a bit of discomfort.

I finally decided to go to the University of Utah and have them do x-rays and what not. Previous to this I have had MRI's as well. This time they did a Firescan. Apparently it's supposed to fuse two pictures together to get even better results. The doctor I went to is world renowned. He came into my room for our visit. Looked over the scan and then looked at me and said that there is nothing wrong. That's the good news.

But... Why do I hurt? He put it this way. "You look like a pretty tense person." I agreed that I did. Then he went on to say that a person that wasn't as stressed as I might feel a slight sense of discomfort at times but that my tense state of body was contributing greatly to the distress my back was in constantly.

Right now I am in pain more than usual because I am at school and working and am a little more stressed than I normally would be. Your advice is very good advice. I have thought about yoga but the most interesting thing happens when my back starts to hurt less. I forget about it. I don't deal with it because it isn’t bothering me as much.

Right now I don't know that I can do yoga but in my less painful state I know I could. I just tell myself that I don't need it. It takes to much time. Whatever! IF I don't feel like doing it I think I’m going to take that as a sign that I should. So, You really do think that the constant pain is making me feel confused and scattered? Its not repressed emotions or things that I haven't dealt with or something else? Sorry for all the questions. Thank you so much for responding. –T_______

Dear T_________

It's a vicious cycle. Repressed fear also could be a problem. If you are having physical pain and there is no physical reason for it, you probably have a lot of repressed fear that causes body rigidity, and needs to be dealt with. You can deal with both depression and pain with mind exercises to take the edge off the pain in order to enable you to get on with your day, your work, etc.

However, that said, you can't have a successful life on top of repressed fear. If you don't know you are afraid, you won't call up your courage to deal with the trials and errors of the day. You will get more and more tense. A tense body is not a healthy body. Everything will seem difficult. You will retreat into distractions like physical pain, or blaming your bad luck, or criticizing others around you. Blame is the way we avoid fear. Read Chapter Ten again in my book Depression is a Choice. You said you had the book.

Take a yoga class or just get a tape and do some of the simple exercises. Don’t overdo it because if you are dealing with a lot of repressed fear, your body is starting to tense and get very rigid as a way of protecting yourself.

Look up some anti-stress exercises on my website or in Brainswitch out of Depression. Trancendental Meditation helps to relieve stress until you can address more of your fear. You don't have to take a course, look it up on the Web, read about it, then do it yourself. It's easy both simple and easy.

Read Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People to help with social skills and social anxiety.

Kaiser gave me a great book on back’s called Treat Your Own Back by Robin A. McKenzie.

When I was a young woman I wore one of those neck collars for two years to help me with my neck pain. Twice a week I went to a chiropractor and he relieved the pain. One day he said to me, Mrs. Curtiss I can get your neck in alignment, like we've been doing, and the pain subsists for a few days, but have you ever asked yourself why your neck keeps getting out of alignment? WOW.

The light dawned. I had something to do with this. It wasn't just foisted upon me. My problem was anxiety and repressed fear (well, I got the idea about repressed fear much later) I don't think I ever went back to him. I started on my journey of self-discovery, meditation, etc. I think I started with Trancendental Meditation first. This is a great way to get some idea of relaxation. It also got me more familiar with my brain and helped me to some idea of how one might be a less anxious and self-focused person. It's takes time. Don't give up. You can be completely well and whole.

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A.B. Curtiss,

Wow. You are good! I've been hampered by fear my whole life. The most interesting thing has been happening lately. I went back to school after 7 years of being afraid I couldn't do it. I'm doing it right now. There is fear. Fear that I will fail and fail miserably just like I have before. I'd remember instances when I was fearful. They were childhood memories that I had forgotten. I couldn't believe it. I have been fearing my whole life. All of a sudden I am realizing what that phrase " you have nothing to fear but fear itself" means. Fear is awful!! Ok ok not completely because you wouldn't function if you didn't have fear , but fear that is not taken into some action, That's awful. Fear paralyzes. It makes more sense now that I have been a very tight and tense person my entire life. I'm just beginning to see now that it really isn't me. My fear isn't me. Yep, Thank goodness Jacob told me about your book.

I've actually noticed that I've started to blame lately. I stop it when I notice it though because I read what an hindrance it is in your book. I've coupled your book with some writings by Jon Kabat zinn. Something in your book bothered me though. You mentioned that you weren't at the point yet to be able to just watch your thoughts while meditating. If you can't do that yet (maybe now you can) I hesitate to start meditating again because that is what I was doing up until recently. Does meditation make it more difficult to deal with emotions? What is transcendental? Also your book brainswitch has interested me a lot but I guess I fear (yuck!) that It won't be like your memoir. I'm sure it wont be because it's an exercise book. right?

I truly appreciate your time! Thank you again for the responses you have sent. Major enlightenment! Didn't you quote something along the lines that enlightenment is the realization that there is no problem? I love that. Thanks! –T_______

Dear T_________

You misunderstand me. I didn't say I wasn't ready to do meditation. I said I wasn't ready to meditate upon my depression, to use my depression as a meditation. I just get rid of it as soon as it rears it's ugly head. Maybe some day I'll just accept it, and meditate on it. I've even started to do that on occasion but I usually just give it up as a time waster, and do a dumb little exercise.

Read a little bit about Trancendental Meditation, it's a simple idea, easy to do. You'll catch on in a hurry.

My book Brainswitch out of Depression is more of a how-to book that gives you an education on your brain. Depression is a Choice is the philosophy of getting out of depression, Brainswitch is the neuroscience of getting out of depression.
A. B. Curtiss

Dear A.B. Curtiss,

Thanks for clarifying what I read. I understand why depression is not the best object of meditation. I will read about the Transcendental Meditation. I've already started looking at chapter 10 in your memoir. I have the better part of that chapter marked up and underlined. I'm going to go through it again. Also, I tried to find your book Brainswitch Out of Depression at the library but they don't have it so I'll look into ordering it. I did find How to Win Friends and Influence People at the library. Im comfortable with being social though so maybe I don't need to read it? Thank you for your fast responses! -T_________

Dear T_________

Dale Carnegie's book is unusual in that he understands deeply that your relationship with people should be based on what you give or share with them, not what you can get from them or manipulate them into thinking.

I'll be glad to answer any questions you have along the way. A. B. Curtiss

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