Play her episode at the bottom of the page
Meet Debra Dennison
from Carstairs, Alberta, Canada
*Married for almost 30 years to a Police Officer *Two daughters – both are recently engaged, yikes! 🙂
*Worked in the field of Family Support/Crisis Intervention for several years.
*Recovered from chronic pain by having a daily movement practice (Clinical Somatics, aka Hanna Somatics). Education – recognition of how the nervous system is responsible for pain.
*Currently studying and training to be certified Clinical Somatic Educator.
*Lifelong learner. I’m fascinated by pain, movement, the brain and nervous system.
Tell me about your life while you were at the height of your pain experience.
I had been living with chronic pain since I was 27 years old that included short episodes of being bedridden, but I always managed to come out of those kind of flare ups within a few days (nerve pain free).
At the age of 43 things took a dramatic turn for the worse, though. Pain changed quickly and I was left disabled, using a cane/crutches everyday and a wheelchair when needed. I was unable to walk, work, cook, clean, grocery shop, or socialize. I relied on my family for everything. Brian, my husband, made me a bed on the main floor so I could spend time away from the bedroom. He
made me laugh about something almost everyday, he never complained, he made the best of a very difficult situation. My girls hung out with me in my room, grocery shopped and helped prepare meals. Approx every six weeks my mom would come for 7-14 days to cook and freeze meals, clean, and keep me company. I’m so grateful for the support of my folks and family. I lost friendships during this time as well, though. I still grieve these losses.
During this time I was seeing a PT 3x a week, I had several Prolotherapy sessions, rolfing Docs/Specialists appointments (constant appointments) , cortisone shots, changed my diet, and I travelled twice to the USA seeking the opinion of other PTs and a Surgeon. My first visit to the States to see a highly recommended PT (good marketing in my opinion) was a gong show. I was told I would probably need a VERY expensive Si joint fusion surgery, however, the PT and the Ortho surgeon were not in agreement about the hardware that would be needed to “stabilize” my pelvis. This was a redflag. The Surgeons office also lost all my paperwork that I sent weeks before I arrived, it was very disorganized which left me feeling unsettled about the whole thing.
My second visit to the States I went to see Jerry Hesch (Hesch Institute) He was smart, through, kind and straightforward. He was very confident that I did not have SIJD, in the most accurate sense, and therefore I absolutely did NOT need a SI fusion. He talked to me about function and how that seemed to be the root of my problem. I became obsessed with figuring out how to restore function.
What finally changed?
Learning a little about clinical somatics/brain/nervous system initiated my decision to head in a different direction. I never fully appreciated or understood the extent to which how the NS plays a role in issues of strength, coordination and pain. This was a paradigm shift to say the least.
Over time I stopped chasing “pain generators” ie. piriformis syndrome, pubic joint dysfunction,, SI joints, bulging discs, etc. My brain was the issue. I had habits, functional habits, thought habits (in a chronic state of catastrophizing) around pain and movement (neural pathways that were deeply habituated). I was holding/moving my muscles in ways that were not coordinated and efficient.
My muscles also stayed in a constant state of contraction, exhausting and painful!! No wonder people with chronic pain are tired all the time.
When I started to understand (really understand) that muscles only do what the brain tells them to do I related to my pain/dysfunction in a completely different way.This understanding did not happen overnight, it was a evolving process.
I was first introduced to Lorimer Moseley and Thomas Hanna by my Somatic Movement Teacher back in Jan 2015. She had a history of significant chronic pain as well. She was knowledgeable and patient. She opened me up to a world that I didn’t know existed.
If you could share one thing that changed in your thinking and headed you in a new direction, what was it?
One thing that changed my thinking – learning the brain controls everything!
What does your life look like now?
Life now looks pretty normal 🙂 I’m no longer consumed with pain and or a schedule of appointments to see practitioners/doctors. I socialize, volunteer at my church, spend time with my family, walk the dog, go to costco, you get the picture…. My energy is also spent learning, working with clients that have movement limitations/pain. I continue to grow in my knowledge of movement and the brain/NS. I think I might be obsessed. 🙂
I still avoid running, not because it hurts but because it scares me. Currently working on that….the fear of it. I’ve started to imagine (motor planning/visualization) what it would feel like to run without the fear that something bad (pain) is going to happen to me.
In the height of my pain experience just walking down the stairs to the main floor of my house or having a shower felt terrifying. There wasn’t a movement activity that I didn’t “pay for” for almost 20 years! This is not the case anymore.
Am pain free? Most days, yes! When I do have episodes of pain/tension/discomfort I know what to do about it now, I’ve got tools. It’s short lived and the episode doesn’t consume my life.
Sometimes I can create pain just by catastrophizing a particular event, so crazy that your brain can do that but it can! Several weeks ago I was knocked down by a large dog, my foot got caught up in the leash and I fell pretty hard…. My mind went berserk thinking about all the terrible things that were going to happen to me. In less than a minute I had myself bedridden. It didn’t take long for me to realize what I was doing (catastrophizing), so I stopped, gave myself a “pep talk” and moved on with my day. I did NOT go and lie down and cancel my life (historically this is what I would have done). The next day I noticed a couple of bruises….that was it. A few years ago It would have taken me weeks to recover. I’m not exaggerating.
What do you want others experiencing pain to know?
That there is hope, it’s totally possible to recover….at the very least you can have better than what you’ve got right now. However, recovery requires discipline and education. You must become your own advocate, exercise your intelligence and do not rely solely on the “experts” to make you well. I acknowledge this is not a popular opinion.
Things mentioned in the show:
Jerry Hesch DPT https://www.heschinstitute.com
Clinical Somatics – https://somatics.org/training/cse/about-cse
One of my favorites Lorimer Mosely “Why things Hurt”