Yesterday, I was talking with my friend Melinda Whitehead about the chronic pain I've been having with my throat for the last year. I'm no stranger to chronic pain. I've managed Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder so I've learned a thing or two over the last twenty years for how to deal with it. This problem with my throat though has got the better of me. No matter what I've tried, researched or been tested for, nothing has helped to a great extent. So yesterday when Melinda suggested I look into Dr. David Hanscom, a former spinal surgeon who quit his practice to help people manage chronic pain from a neuroplastic, holistic point of view, I was intrigued.
After checking out his website www.backincontrol.com, and then watching a handful of videos, I realized that while I was familiar with some of the strategies, there was one scientific concept that I didn't know.
He shared that anxiety is NOT a psychological problem. It's a physiological symptom of stress...NOT a diagnosis in its own right. Whether the stress is real, like someone threatening your life, or perceived like the scary thoughts that you tell yourself, your body reacts the same. It thinks there's a danger and your mind and body go on alert. So your body is in a state of anxiety but the anxiety is not the diagnosis.
I'm still wrapping my head around this concept but it lit off a huge light bulb for me. I've never handled stress well but I didn't really get the connection. I thought anxiety was the problem, that I was an anxious person. I didn't realize that I'm simply a normal person having an intense, chronic physical reaction to stress; that my body is expressing discomfort, pain and anger over constant assault, fear of threat and not feeling safe. In my case, my thoughts are the stressor causing a very physical response, just like a real physical attack.
So, when I stress about the physical sensations in my body, it reinforces more stress and more pain. And the more stress and pain, the more those reactions get hard-wired into my brain. It's a vicious cycle and difficult to break.
The way to eliminate chronic pain then (pain that cannot be fixed structurally or functionally) is to identify and work on being more adaptable to stress. There's obviously a lot more to learn but that is the idea.
My take-away today is this: anxiety is NOT who I am. It is not a diagnosis. It is not psychological, although it can express itself in the mind.
Anxiety a stress symptom, plain and simple yet so complex.
I'm sure I haven't done justice to this so please check out this link to learn more.