Back in the last downturn from 2001-2003 I had incredible back pain. I couldn’t sit for very long, and my legs were going numb. Doctors told me I had sciatica, a pinched nerve down my spine that spread to the tips of my toes. Even the process of driving wore me out so I decided to stop driving altogether. One day, my colleague and I were walking towards a restaurant to meet a client and he collapsed. Apparently, he was suffering from the same symptoms I was going through. However, in his case, he had a family to take care of with his newborn child, and he was losing much more than me in the downturn.
I was the junior guy. When rumors came along that our compensation was going to be slashed in half, I hoped out loud that I would outperform since I didn’t make much in the first place. Half of nothing is still nothing I reasoned. When my bonus was slashed in half like everybody else, I was not a happy camper and asked my mentor how pitiful was I? I didn’t complain too loudly due to the rounds of layoffs, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.
He explained to me in a funny way I will never forget. He said, “Sam don’t worry. You don’t make much so it doesn’t matter anyways!” He went on to say, “Look at me. I have a big mortgage, a new family to support, got cut in half too and I make A LOT more than you do!” Gee thanks! At the time, I didn’t really appreciate his brutal honesty, but fast forward seven years later, I know exactly what he’s talking about. My mentor’s absolute income likely declined 10X my amount, and he was so stressed out with his newborn child that his fear and anger manifested itself into debilitating back pain.
About two months after his collapse, he told me he was entirely pain free. The markets still weren’t great, and I remember having to fork out $700 bucks for a brand new Herman Miller Aeron chair because I couldn’t sit. He gave me a copy of “Healing Back Pain,” by Dr. Sarno. There was NO WAY after seeing him crumble to the cement pavement that day, and limping around for weeks after that his back pain was healed. I was skeptical that an easy-to-read, 180-page paper back book could do wonders and get him to go out golfing with clients again. None of the massages or chiropractic visits did anything to help my pain so what’s a fluff book going to do for me?
THE SECRET, THE SOLUTION
I want to share with you the simple premise here, if you promise to go buy the book below, check it out at the library, or at least read most of it next time you’re at Barnes & Nobles or Borders Books.
“Healing Back Pain” asks us why is there such an epidemic of chronic back pain in society, when there was none before. The answer is that in such a fast paced high-pressured world, our minds get stressed out to extreme overload. In order to cope, our minds manifest physical chronic pain to help with the fear, anger, and anxiety we face everyday. “Stress kills” is the truth. By going to physical therapists or chiropractors, we are accepting into our lives our mind’s manifested chronic pain. What’s even worse is attempting back surgery.
When I read the book, I had nothing left to lose. I already spent $700 on a comfortable ergonomic chair, and around $800 already in chiropractor visits. I love the chiropractor and insurance by the way, but that’s a different story. For 15 bucks, I figured why not get Dr. Sarno’s book and see if it helps.
I read the book in two days and started to adopt its recommended therapy. The therapy is to be mindful of what is making you upset. It may be that your firm is going through major rounds of layoffs, or your child is sick. It may be that your boss is treating you unfairly, and that you got passed over for that raise and promotion. Whatever it is, just be mindful of what is bothering you.
The next step, is to tell yourself to simply stop manifesting this coping pain, because you already know what it is, and you will solve the problem yourself. Bring the disturbance to the forefront, and just accept it for what it is. On the more painful days, just be more forceful. Feel free to shout at yourself for creating this pain, and just be mindful again.
I remember keenly what was bothering me for those two years. I had just joined my company so I had something extra to prove. A client fired me and asked to be covered by my senior boss because I was so green. My pay was disappearing. I was living in a new city without many friends and no family. 9/11 happened and I was absolutely devastated. I used to go to conferences at The Windows of The World restaurant at the very top floor of the World Trade Center and started to develop a phobia of heights.
Finally, I was thinking every day that I would be let go due to the LIFO method of layoffs. I also remember back in college biology lab, I couldn’t sit for more than one minute on a stool because of my back pain. That was the year something really horrible happened to a friend, and I had just broken up with my two-year girlfriend at the time. Thank goodness I met my wife just a couple years later.
I practiced Dr. Sarno’s “therapy” for just over a month and then I forgot about it for a couple weeks. I realized after driving to work one day and getting to my desk, that I had just experienced a painless commute. That was seven years ago, and I have NEVER had chronic back pain or numbness in my arms again! I do have the occasional numb bum, but that’s because of my poor posture and typing too much on the computer.
Healing my pain through a month of mindfulness changed my life forever. The pain made me less productive at work, grouchy, and unsociable at times. Instead of going to a client outing, I made excuses why I couldn’t go. It was pathetic. By not developing my relationships, I ultimately hurt my business and my income. Not spending the $15 bucks on “Healing Back Pain” would have been an even worse career move.
Readers, if you have any type of chronic pain, including TMJ which affects your face/jaw, I recommend giving this book a read. Give it a couple months, and let me know if you feel better. I believe you will, and I promise I do after all these years and frightful downturns. Please feel free to share your stories of healing here. No amount of money can ever replace our health!
Buy The Book Here: Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection
Update 6/17/2016: I am still completely back pain free and it’s been 13 years now.
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Updated for 2016 and beyond.