In the Summer of 2001, while pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, Tom Seaman noticed a problem with the muscles of his neck. His head would involuntarily flop from left to right when moving from seated to walking. After seeking treatment for painful muscle spasms and contractions from chiropractors, MD’s, an internist, a massage therapist, and physical therapist…the pain worsened and nothing helped. Exhaustive online research lead Tom to learn everything he could about Cervical Dystonia (CD), also known as Spasmodic Torticollis. His own research revealed many of the treatments he received were ill advised for cervical dystonia…and his own research lead him to the movement disorder neurologist who would officially diagnosis him and develop a treatment plan to begin managing this chronic pain condition.
Tom’s pursuit of clear and thorough information from initial symptoms to diagnosis and treatment demonstrates the PVI Principle of Information. Read Tom’s story below to see how his drive to take ownership of his whole body health demonstrates the PVI Principle of Empowerment.
From Severe Chronic Pain & Morbid Obesity to Joyful Bike Rider
By Tom Seaman, Patient, Author, BS, CPC
When you look at this picture, you see a regular guy riding a bicycle; and that would be correct. I am pretty much just a regular guy doing a regular, everyday activity. However, this wasn’t always the case. What you don’t see in this picture is a former morbidly obese, depressed, angry guy in severe, chronic pain.
When dystonia entered my life, everything stopped, or seemed to stop, as everything I did was no longer possible for me to continue. Work couldn’t be done. My masters degree that I was pursuing at the time quickly became a lost dream, I couldn’t travel…heck, I could barely sit or stand without crying pain.
Because of my sedentary lifestyle with disabling pain, a terrible diet, and medicating myself with alcohol, I gained a lot of weight. I was well over 300 pounds, a long way from the 190 pounds I weighed when dystonia began. I was a recluse, holing myself up in my house for years, embarrassed and ashamed at what my life had become.
Five years after my diagnosis, I reached a point where I was afraid I might die from the punitive lifestyle I chose for myself; all done for the purpose of avoiding my physical and emotional pain, but my escape actually made me worse so it was a fruitless endeavor. A decision had to be made; continue this destructive lifestyle and suffer the consequences, or make a change a get busy living. I chose to live. I wanted a different life and would do anything to make it happen. Each day I took baby steps by exercising and changing my diet. Each day I added more things to lose weight and also gain greater control of my dystonia symptoms. I am proud to say that I have lost around 150 pounds and kept it off!
Unfortunately, I developed some problems in my back that made walking uncomfortable (my main form of exercise), so I took to riding a bike to get around the neighborhood. I felt like a kid again so I began to ride further. Wow it felt good! While I don’t go very far, maybe a few miles, I do enough to get my heart rate up and break a sweat. Some days I will really push it and get in a good workout, while other days I will roll around and just enjoy the scenery, something I missed out on for way too many years.
To everyone who sees me riding a bike that doesn’t know my story of pain, obesity, and on the verge of suicide, I am just another person out getting some exercise. This is true, but what they don’t know is that this is a guy who almost wasn’t even here at all. Most importantly, they don’t see the immense internal joy I now feel just to be able to sit on the bike again, let alone ride it!
So grateful to be alive, I love riding around and seeing a fox run by or a rabbit staring at me from the bushes thinking it is camouflaged and I can’t see it. I love seeing the colors of the sky change in the evening as I ride. I love feeling the wind on my face, the way the bike banks on turns, and how my heart feels beating through my chest; things I never thought I would experience again after my diagnosis…ever!!
To anyone looking at this picture it appears that I am just a guy out enjoying a bike ride…and you are absolutely correct. Even though I still have pain and muscle contractions/spasms from dystonia, for the first time in years, without worry or fear, I am finally just a guy out enjoying the ride…the ride of his life!
Tom Seaman is a chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone living with any life challenge. He is also a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness. To learn more about Tom visit his blog Dystonia Living and follow him on Twitter: @Dystoniabook1