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Susan vs. Migraine: One Woman’s Life-Changing Journey With the Curable App

This interview is from the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, on iTunes or Google Play.

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San Francisco attorney Susan Brown battled migraines since junior high. After countless rounds of Botox, a weeklong inpatient hospital stay, nerve blocks, triptans, and just about every other migraine treatment on the market, she had given up hope that anything would work for her. Then one day, during an intense Googling session, she found her way to Curable. This is the story of what happened next. Join Susan for an uncompensated, unfiltered review of using the Curable app for migraines.




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Episode Transcript (listen via links above)

Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story Susan. We are really excited to get the full debrief on what happened for you. We got a sliver of your story in a TechCrunch article that has been going around the Internet. We're so excited to hear from you what actually has happened in your migraine journey and how you were able to overcome them. So why don't you start out by telling me when your migraines began?

I think that I started to have migraines in junior high school... but they were (like for a lot of people) very occasional, and they would last maybe two hours. Usually, if I took something like Advil or Tylenol, it would knock them out enough that after maybe two hours, I could still go about my day.

And then in 2011 (so about six years ago), I had graduated from law school a couple of years before that, and was really at the beginning of my legal career. I was working a ton of hours and doing really exciting and challenging work... but definitely just experiencing a higher intensity workday than I had in the past. I started to get a lot more migraines. They became a lot more frequent, and then off and on.

Between 2011 and four or five months ago, I would have these periods of what the neurologist called "chronic migraine" which is where I think the diagnosis threshold is you have a headache on 15 or more days of the month. And when you reach that level of disability you're WAY out of Advil and Tylenol territory.

And so, particularly because I was trying to maintain this law practice as career of mine, I did a lot of really aggressive interventions. I took an array of prescription drugs in response to migraines. I took an array of supplements and over-the-counter drugs, and then I also took daily medications to try and prevent them. And a few years ago I also started doing an array of different kinds of injections.

So one treatment that's common for chronic migraine is they'll do a roughly 30 injections of Botox all over your head. It's not super fun having a headache all the time, and also getting 30 injections of what's essentially botulism into your head.  I also started to do nerve blocks, which is just where they stay long acting anesthetic into the areas of your head where migraine pain is believed to originate. 

And then a couple years ago, I actually did a week long stay in the hospital at UCSF here in San Francisco, where they put a port in my arm and gave me an I.V. medication every eight hours for five and a half days. So I really tried almost everything that's out there for this.

Were you on disability leave at that point, when you were having this hospital stay?

I wasn't. I used some of my vacation time. The other thing is, I just had an incredibly flexible and understanding employer who was fantastic. I would work odd hours sometimes or I would take breaks when I was really in a lot of pain. But they were really, really fantastic about accommodating my illness, so I was lucky. I think I had about four weeks that I took off a couple years ago. And other than that, I mostly just kind of tried to soldier through the way a lot of people with chronic pain have to do.

So at this point, you're getting a bunch of needles in your head you're spending your vacation time in the hospital... Did you just think that this was your lot in life, and that nothing was going to help you? Because your family has a history of migraines, right?

My mom my sisters. Some of my cousins and I tended to have more severe ones. Certainly nobody else in the family that I knew about had chronic migraine to the extent that I did. Although when I was kind of at the worst of it, these family stories came out of the woodwork that I never heard. I discovered that that I had a great aunt who was bedridden for a period of time with them. So there's definitely a strong family history there.

My husband was so fantastic during this time and was such a great advocate for me. I would say “we” so much that people have at times thought that he had migraines too.

We would hear about new treatments, or we would consult with a new expert and I would get some really partial relief, or I would get relief for a period of time, and then I would have a really bad attack again. And it was like our hope meter would go down and it wouldn't rebound again to as high as it was before. So gradually, over time, we tried more and more aggressive therapies. And I got somewhat better and was, you know, still able to work, but didn't really recover. I definitely had reached a point where it became painful to hope, and kind of resisted imagining what it was like to be fully well.

What kind of toll did that take on just your day to day life? 

Well I think everyone who lives with chronic pain... whatever they fill their days doing has a similar experience in that... you cut out the good stuff first.

So the first thing that happened was I didn't go out as much evenings. Weekends, I would be very very tired. Or when I wasn't sick, I was just trying really hard to keep up with my responsibilities. And then there's this thing - I was going to say it's unique to migraine but I heard a lot with people with fibromyalgia and back pain too - you start trying to avoid your triggers.

So first I wasn't drinking red wine and I wasn't drinking any alcohol.

There was a period of trying no sugar or a period of trying no gluten, so many of the things that were pleasurable and enjoyable in my life. Just the experience of being in pain... you lose a part of yourself.

I read once that people can experience all manner of catastrophic events in life. People who have had amputations. People had really terrible things happen.  And within a number of months to years their happiness usually sort of returns to what its baseline was before. Chronic pain chronic pain is the only exception to that.

That's devastating. 

So do you remember for you what any of the emotional low points that stand out might be? Any specific moments where you just lost hope or were in so much pain you didn't know what to do?

Definitely so. As my migraines got worse, we used to call them the barn burners versus the background headache. You know, when you get that that neurological pain sensitization, you have a certain amount of background pain all the time or most of the time a lot of the time.

But then separate from that I would have attacks and they would often go 72 hours. I had a few really nightmarish ones that lasted a lot longer. I think my record was 16 days.


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Oh my gosh. Well what did you even do during those 16 days?

I don't remember that. Well, I stayed in a dark room. I fretted a lot about not being able to keep up with work. And oh - I'm an obsessive Googler.

There was definitely lying in the dark, with one eye open, on my phone frantically googling a remedy. It's a behavior that doesn't always help... except that eventually it led me to Curable. So I'm not sure that I'm going to dissuade people.

Anyway, in terms of low points... There was something for me about hitting about the 3 day mark with a single attack where I would just kind of run out of insurance. It's filled with despair.

Yeah it was rough.

Yeah I imagine. And I mean you're you're so lucky to have a really supportive spouse in your life because I know that's something not everyone who's going through this kind of thing is able to have. Someone who understands, and can really be there for you and help you research solutions throughout the whole thing.

Yeah definitely. My husband would travel, which he needed to do for work sometimes, and being alone with a bad attack for a few days was much harder.

So tell me a little bit about how you started on your path to recovery from the migraines?

 I was in an online support group of people with chronic migraine, and somebody posted who was very young - like really just devastating, you know, 19 or 21 - and had been struggling with them for years. They said (I don't know if it was a guy or girl) but they said "my doctor has suggested that maybe I don't actually have migraines in the traditional sense that these headaches might be tied to my anxiety." They were asking for resources. So "if it's anxiety what can I do?" And I thought "oh - I remember years ago when I was that age, a little bit older... I had a bout of pain in my hands and wrists and that I thought was repetitive strain injury from typing." I didn't know if it was Google back then I was I was early 20s at the time so maybe it was like Ask Jeeves or something.

But at any rate I stumbled across Dr. Sarno’s ideas.

Back then, I was one of those cases of someone who was in pain got exposed to the idea that the brain could be causing pain and "poof" it went away.

And so I had already had some exposure to these ideas, but because it resolved so quickly and completely, and because I was in my early 20s, and really focused on  other stuff that was going on in my life... I literally thought "wow, that was really weird." And then I kind of put it on a shelf. And this kid. whoever they are, God bless them, said "my doctor thinks it's anxiety."

I went back and I started to Google to see if there had been any updates to Dr. Sarno's work, or just looking for a link or something for this this poor kid. But I sort of thought "you know, there's probably something there for them."

And I saw a Google ad for Curable, and started working with it that day. And I think that was July or August of this year.

And at the time when you clicked through, did you even think “oh maybe this is something that could work for me too” or you are still just purely trying to find something that would be useful to this stranger who had posted on this group?

So when I initially clicked through, I thought "this is interesting." Maybe this will be helpful for someone. And the thing that made a really big difference for me was some video testimonials from women who had a similar migraine experience to mine, in that they were getting them multiple times a week.

They had tried giving up every kind of food that's pleasurable. I t was clearly real people who had been as sick as I was, or had been quite sick, who are now better. That made me think "oh maybe this could work for me."  I'm not sure, but I even think at some point between say 2011 and this year, I had kind of looked into whether these ideas - Dr. Sarno's ideas - could work for my migraines, but there wasn't a ton out there. And I was just so sick that it didn't it didn't seem possible that I could be as ill as I was and that something like this could work. So it really wasn't until I saw those video testimonials on your site that I thought "maybe this could work. Maybe this will work for me."

And so once you started going through the program, what was that experience like... you had maybe maybe a little bit of hope, probably tempered hope because you had hoped on different solutions in the past that didn't work out. But what was that process like kind of getting into it?

So it's funny. I have some memory gaps.

That's a bit too strong of a phrase, but I definitely don't have as clear of a memory timeline for the years when I was really sick as I do for kind of the rest of my life.

So I don't know exactly what my initial kind of first experience of working with Curable was. I remember I was in the dark room with the ice pack on the head and that peppermint oil out. Anything that would bring any relief.

I think what happened was I listened to those introductory little lessons that focused a lot on the neuroscience of how this works. And that's when I really started to feel hopeful and like there could be a real solution here. I think one of the things that you guys have done that that is most important is bringing together the modern brain science around this stuff like we all. Anyone who has had a previous recovery experience because of these ideas is very grateful to Dr. Sarno, but his knowledge was kind of rooted in an earlier time.

He had lots of Freudian ideas about how emotions were driving the whole thing. And as soon as I started to learn about the role of the sympathetic nervous system and the neurotransmitter cascades and the amygdala - that really frustrating little spot in the brain - that's when it kind of started to come together.

And what's the first time that you can remember feeling any relief or feeling like maybe a migraine wasn't right around the corner or like you could potentially make it a little bit shorter?

My first experience of relief... there is a button on the app that you can hit that I think you guys called the panic button. It's a little lightning bolt. You hit it when you get into pain and Clara, the face and voice of curable, delivers a message that reminds you that you're going to be OK and that recovery is not a straight line and encourages you to do some deep breathing exercises. I think that was the first time I thought “Oh - oh I'm actually in less pain now.”

Wow.

And I know I used that panic button many times in the early weeks that I was using Curable, and it really worked to decondition the problem that we have in chronic pain, where something triggers pain. And you have a very natural - very, in fact, logical - very physical fear reaction to it, because your past experience tells you " This could be a three day or god forbid 16 day nightmare."

And so the panic button helped to retrain myself, to keep calm and not trigger that whole sympathetic nervous system when the pain started. That was the beginning of getting better for me.

"I don’t want to pretend that it will be a panacea for every chronic pain sufferer. It won’t. But I can tell you that in the two months since my wife started using [Curable], she has gone from 18-20 migraine days a month to one or two. Yes, you read that correctly."


So once you started seeing some progress I'm guessing you got excited and maybe started making some time to go into the app on a regular basis.

How did that fit into the rest of your life and kind of how often did you go in to work on things?

So as is probably already apparent I'm a pretty big nerd, and if there's something to be researched or homework to do, then I'm studying for the gold star. And if the gold star is less pain, then I am going all out. And so I definitely did that at first. I probably did like six hours or something, lying in a dark room to begin with. Like, "Let's do it. Let's do it let's do it. Yeah."

Because I'm also pretty impulse driven, I started to get the reward. I was in less pain and then the amount that I used it radically dropped immediately. Like “oh I feel better.”

Something that's been really neat to observe...  one of my sisters who also has migraines, she tested it out, too. And she's a big nerd too. And is really driven, and is much more methodical than I am. So she uses the program quite diligently and consistently, whereas I drop in and out based on whether or not I'm experiencing pain. And we're both seeing really positive results with really different amounts of time or ways of using it which is fascinating to me.

Yeah yeah I mean I think I think that's one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to people because everyone when they start to use the program wants us to tell them exactly what to do. And then they want to make a decision on whether or not they have time for that. But it's actually just like you said - it's extremely fluid and as long as you are willing to invest a baseline amount of time in it it can work for you whether you do three hours all in a row and then don't pick it up again for two weeks or it can work for you. If you do it 10 minutes a day everyday for the rest of your life. So it's really interesting how the approach almost works best in the way that people want to use.

However that works for them yeah.

And it's really important because of how much…. because chronic pain robs you of a lot of time.

And so it's actually quite terrible to be sick all the time and be given these crazy regimens of, you know, "the CDC says do 120 minutes of brisk cardio exercise a week, and 260 human expressions of strength training, and you should be eating like... kale and quinoa that you grow in your yard," and you're like... just trying to get out of bed. Like, I'm eating boxed macaroni and cheese in the dark. Very distressing to be told stuff that is totally unrealistic for the state of health that you're in.

And I have really enjoyed being able to say to people who aren't sure about Curable, "Three minutes here five minutes there maybe 10 minutes when you get into the meditations."

But it's not an on off switch where it's only going to work if you follow some rigid and really taxing schedule.

Absolutely.

So from that time where you started experiencing to relief to the time where you started getting really excited, and maybe even started getting some more free time back in your life, what was that process like?

There was a lot of disbelief. My husband and I would text each other during the day when I really started to feel better - which was for me I think it was a couple of weeks... but by that time, I sort of say a 75 percent reduction.

Wow.

Yeah, I would say two to four weeks to hit about 75 percent. And I say that just because I'm acutely aware that people have different timelines for this. Like, when I had that pain that I thought was repetitive stress injury years ago, it literally vanished when I learned this theory of what could be causing it.

And I suspect if I had known that sometimes pain takes longer to condition, I might have figured this out about my migraines a bit sooner. So I really want people out there to know it's highly variable how long it takes. Anyway... you were asking you what and I started to feel good.

So once I really started to feel better, my husband and I would text each other during the day and say “Can you believe this is happening?”

And then whoever responded would reply and say like “really… no!”

And so there was a lot of disbelief, and and then I actually felt like Rip Van Winkle. I actually felt like I was waking up from a really long sleep. I remember coming in the door from a business trip, and I unpacked my suitcase, and I put it in a closet, and I emptied and filled the dishwasher, and I took out the recycling, and I called my mom, and then I thought "that volume of activity would have taken me a week at my low point."

Yeah it was like waking up. It still feels like waking up.

That's incredible. So what is what has now returned to your life that was once in migraine exile?

So one of the non-Curable things that really helped me that I'm really grateful for is I have this neurologist here in San Francisco who has just been so kind and so helpful.

I mean, someone was giving me all these injections right? And he's probably part of the reason why I didn't need to go on disability, because I could call him and go in and get a nerve block or get a different or you know this or that kind of treatment. I actually had gone in and gotten injections sometimes on my way to appear in court.

That's how fantastic he was about treating me.

And we went to see him, my husband and I together, when I started to feel better And I felt a bit sheepish.

I was like this…. "This thing has happened... " I was worried he would think I was crazy.

But there's so much good science about this stuff out there right now that he said “Yes, absolutely. This makes sense. It does sound like this program is particularly good. Give me the information. I would like to take a look at it and start recommending it to my clients.”

And so that was really great to have. There was something about his seal of approval that really helped. Yeah. And then the next thing he said to me that was an absolute game changer was he said "I want you to go out into the world now and start to reintroduce the things you have become afraid to do." And having the doctor's sign off to do it... Huge. Huge.

So I had a glass of red wine, and nothing bad happened. And I hadn't had one of those in I think at least three years. I started to push harder when I exercised... You know people can get migraine triggers or exercise triggered migraines.

Oh yeah you can get migraines from exercising too much or not exercising enough...

Well you know, or another way to look at it, is so they say. But the weird thing about trying to find your pain triggers is... who knows? It may be that a lot of us are avoiding a bunch of things because of dumb or coincidences or that phenomenon where "if you get pain while you're doing activity X then that lizard brain, the amygdala, triggers pain the next time you do activity X" and maybe it was never that activity, right?

So basically, I started running, I started lifting weights again. Eating chocolate.

I had started to keep a really rigid bedtime schedule, because there are a lot of theories about sleep and migraine. I stayed up late to watch a movie... I'm sleeping in on the weekend. I take a long nap on a Sunday, and it all just sort of came back. It was pretty wonderful. My whole life.

What advice would you offer for anyone who's out there listening to that saying there is no way her migraines who are “real migraines”?

Oh well there are two answers to that. Before I give you advice I guess let's just say this. They don't actually let you check yourself into a hospital for a week unless you're pretty sick.

I had nausea and vomiting that could only be controlled by a drug that started out as a chemotherapy drug. I had visual aura... so I would not lose vision as and it goes black, but I would have visual disturbances that made it hard to see. I used to be very nervous that one would come on when I was driving. I had aphasia, which is a common migraine symptom, where at the beginning of the headache you have trouble finding your words. Your speech might get slurred or you can't think of the right words. I had a really low point I remember actually texting my husband who was sitting across from me to be like "mayday," because I couldn't I felt like I couldn't make the words with my mouth.

So yeah I had real migraines.

In terms of advice: The thing is I can't say for sure that this is going to work for anyone. None of us can. But it is an incredibly low investment low effort thing to try. I mean I just can't see a reason not to give it a shot, right? It's certainly a lot easier than getting 31 or 36 injections all over your head. A nd probably a lot less painful and disruptive to your day. Although I'm a little sad that I'm so much better because I have had this beautifully smooth and youthful forehead for a few years and the Botox train left the station.

Back to looking my age.

You know you can get Botox in the places that are actually supposed to be for your forehead, not the migraine locations because it's different needle landing points rate for those two different things?

It's actually the same.

Oh really?

Yeah it is that's how they found it. Like so many migraine treatments it was not developed for migraine. People were getting it in their foreheads for cosmetic purposes and they noticed that it diminished their pain.

So you get it in a whole bunch of sites that are not the cosmetic sites but across the forehead you also get the cosmetic side.

Well I guess I would apologize and say sorry you don't have that perk anymore but I think you have the better end of the deal now.

So I think it's a trade off.  Yes I would say it's a pretty good trade off. 

Looking back on it now that you have done some of the work to try and connect your own dots on how your body got conditioned this way…. What do you think actually was the source of the start of your migraines or the perpetuation of your migraines or the cause of them getting worse?

What do I think was the source?

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Yeah. What do you think was the actual underlying cause?

You know what. When I was reintroducing wine into my life, we were at a wedding and we were sitting with friends, and one of them is a neurologist. And I was kind of sheepishly explaining to him that I was feeling so much better because of this program, and it's an app, and I know how weird that sounds. I was sort of expecting him to roll his eyes at me, and he said very matter of factly "that makes perfect sense to me. A lot of these techniques make sense and also the brain is kind of a black box." And so my answer Laura is I have no idea. I have no idea.

Is migraine really prevalent in a particular family because of kind of some shared genetic trait that means that the way that you express stress or a certain sort of sympathetic nervous system fight or flight reactions is through this neurological phenomenon? Does it run in a particular family the way that Sarno thought about back pain and other pain that there could be kind of a social contagion theory?

So in the 80s there were a lot of executives with lower back pain, and then for our generation tons of us had pain in our hands and wrist from typing.

I don't know, I have no idea, but the neat thing is it turns out I don't need to know. I get curious about it and never find the answer to that and I'm still out of pain.

Yeah and that's that's saying a lot coming from someone who likes to research research research on every single topic and just read all the literature available.

But the truth is we don't have the entire brain mapped so there are some answers you can't totally find completely. But it's amazing how much more we know than we used to. Like for people who've listened to other episodes of your podcast and then neuroscience that has been uncovered even just in the years in between when I was a recent college kid who who discovered Sarno’s ideas from a library book up until now... it's incredible how much more we know about about the brain generally and about the kind of the evolved parts of the brain you know that the amygdala is really ancient and is there to protect us from predators but is not super helpful necessarily in a modern urban context where it's triggering a pain signal when you really don't need it to tell you to run away from.

I'm kind of rambling but the point is we it's amazing what we do know.

So there's this interesting phenomenon that tends to happen when someone was in an immense amount of chronic pain and now the burden is lifted and you just want to tell everyone about and you want to help the whole world and you just assume that everyone's going to listen to you.

That is how this company got started. That is how a lot of doctors who are practicing this actually got started by their own journeys with chronic pain and finding their own recoveries before bringing this into their medical practice.

You had the courage to share your story very publicly in an article that your husband wrote for TechCrunch. So has the experience of sharing your story and getting feedback from the world on that been like?

Well first of all I think I was really lucky. I think if I did what I had wanted to do which was running out into the street shouting “Eureka! I have a cure!” Very few people would have with me and many people here on the streets of San Francisco would have been alarmed and I'm just not sure how can I'm not sure how convincing it would have been.

My husband is, he's a software engineer. He is a journalist. He has also published several novels and he is unquestionably a skeptic. So the fact that I got my story shared by somebody who is not in who is not known for being sort of effusive and ravening off after the next great idea (the way that I am)... I think I think helped a lot people. Jon has some cred is what I'm trying to say. And so people took it really seriously and that was really, really gratifying.

And then I guess the the the big thing is I have had the pleasure of having people that we know and people that we don't know.

Having people come back to us and say I read that article and now I feel better... really really really great.

And I'm sure you guys feel like that around the office often. But it's been… It's been really wonderful to hear from other people especially people similar to me you know who are other women really struggling with chronic migraine.

It's been tremendously gratifying.

What's been the most impactful story that you've heard from someone so far?

You know that's a really good question.

I think probably the stories that have been most impactful to me are naturally the ones from people who were just in a really similar boat to me. So the wife of a friend of mine who had we had kind of shared migraine tips or tricks back and forth over the years... he told me recently how much better she was doing. And because I had known for some years what a hard time she was having, i t was really thrilling to hear that she was having the same experience. 

There was someone who reached out to us on social media the other day who is similar kind of job pressures to what I do, and had gotten a lot of relief and so I really identified with that.

But then also a thing that's been very gratifying and exciting...  It's really thrilling to hear people who are experiencing a different kind of chronic pain.

I feel like it's reasonable for migraine sufferers for only migraine sufferers to think “OK what worked for this Susan person might work for me” and it's reasonable for someone with a whole other condition to say “well that you know that's great for her that has nothing to do with me.”

So when a friend said to me that some lower back pain that she honestly thought was going to just be debilitating for the rest of her life had gone away... that was really exciting.

I think it's harder for people who suffer from a different condition to say “oh yeah that might work for me.”

Absolutely. And what has your husband's response to your recovery?

So at the beginning of the TechCrunch piece he says that he thinks this will be the most personal of the hundreds of articles he's written during that time that he's had a column with TechCrunch. He's a really private guy, and he doesn't talk about his feelings a lot.

And I guess I would say that that my sense of of how it's been for him can be encapsulated in this one moment. I was doing something, no doubt very silly, I was laughing a lot in the kitchen. I think I was kind of teasing him about something. Possibly trolling a little bit and kind of jumping around.

And he looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said he said “it's really good to have you back.” 

I think I was gone for a while you know? I was gone.

That's just... it's so gratifying for us to hear how much better you are feeling because you know the reason this company was started is because all three of us who started it suffered from chronic pain ourselves and me in particular. I was in the migraine boat right there with you. And to hear and relate to what you went through and just to see that lifting for someone else to see that complete fog over your life just start to lift is just the most amazing feeling. And I know that you know the bravery you have in sharing your own story when when you especially know that to some people it doesn't sound. It sounds too good to be true.

It is distinctly implausible. And so I think one thing that is probably really helpful for people to know is I don't feel miraculously cured like I am a person who never had migraines. Instead what I'm finding now that I'm doing so much better is the kinds of things I think you talked about this on a recent podcast episode... I will start to get pain in my head.  And because it is nowhere near as severe or debilitating as full-blown migraines and I don't have all the neurological symptoms with vision in the speech and the vomiting, I now just think of it as pain in the head when I am super stressed out super busy.

Usually it's a work thing that seems to be a big thing for me. When my stress levels hit the pitch where I've got pain in the head, if I pause and take some time and do one or two of the exercises from Curable I can almost always nip it in the bud and it completely goes away.

If I decide to ignore it completely and soldier on and keep doing what I'm doing I can still get a headache. At last the entire next day they're not as bad as they used to be but I have definitely had about once a month a day when I just I guess I mean it's sort of just like not taking care of yourself, right?

I decide to just put it on the shelf or put the stress on the back burner, and keep trucking along. And I can definitely still get into pain when I do that. And I think I just want people to know that so they won't think that we are selling some some miracle snake oil here.

Does that make sense?

Absolutely yeah yeah. It's not about it's not about flipping a switch.

It is like you say about retraining these neural pathways that we know exist and we don't fully understand everything that made them the way that they are or the extent to which genetics contribute to their sensitivity or how easily they're conditioned but it is a retraining process. It doesn't mean they will never ever in your life be triggered again. But that being said I don't need to be afraid of them… you have the tools to understand what's going on and be able to get them under control to get your body working for you again.

That's exactly right. And in fact when people say “oh I don't see how this could have a psychological cure” might my answer here see that it's not really psychological.

It's more like physical therapy for your brain and your nervous system.

Yeah I think that's a good way to think about it.

Yeah and I feel like I'm someone who needs to keep up with some of those exercises. And I don't know how long it'll be for. But definitely there's there's still some work to do with it. And I just want people to know about.

Yeah absolutely. I mean I'm in your same boat. From the future. I continue to decrease it. And when it does come up it is just a really clear message from my body that there is something I'm not paying attention to or something I am not making time for and that I need to stop whatever it is that I am doing, and figure that out before I can proceed. I just look at it as like a big flashing stop sign from my body. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's like this almost sort of friendly message that's telling me I'm a little off track.

And when you see when you feel that stop sign, you don't have to bring your life to a grinding halt and do something super intense thing you know you don't have to sit down and meditate for two hours, or do a big sort of psychotherapy session with yourself.

If I give it five and 15 minutes, those nerves they chill out again. That's all it takes for me at this point.

And I am not some Zen Meister calm person like you can probably tell.

Was this your first time trying any sort of meditation?

No actually this is going to get a little sheepish again. I have done two 10 day no talking silent retreats.

Wow.

I started more than ten years ago. I had done the mindfulness based stress reduction program which has an eight week course that doctors usually teach or health care professionals to learn how to meditate.

And I had learned about meditation and learned how to use meditation but the idea the idea that something my brain was doing was making me sick and that meditation could work to stop it. Still, you know what you guys? I don't know exactly how to describe it. Maybe I just needed to hear... I don't know. I don't know.

I had used meditation off and on for a number of years, but was not open to the idea that it could resolve a physical illness. I guess that's the short answer.

It's a radical idea in the west!

This is a really interesting topic because it's a question we get all the time. People will say “oh well I've meditated for 20 years and it didn't help my chronic pain. It just helped me be less stressed. It helped other areas of my life but it didn't help my pain. So I don't see what this is going to do for me.” And it's sort of hard to explain why it's so different in this context because I had the same experience you did. I meditated before. I found my way to this approach and I still got migraines all through my meditations. They maybe made me less nervous about my migraines, but they didn't do anything to stop them or alleviate the physical pain until I made the specific connection about neurologically what was going on in my system.

And I think again this is this is all kind of unexplored territory that neurologists are looking into and really trying to figure out what's happening. I think my theory on what's happening for me is your brain can't know what to correct until you believe that it can be corrected. Your body has this internal pharmacy and your brain is like the control mechanism for it and if you're not telling your brain to release whatever chemicals it needs to release or direct attention to whatever areas it needs to pay attention to, it's not going to just do it on its own if it's already kind of misaligned. So it's almost like reading a control manual for your brain rather than just pushing a bunch of buttons and hoping it works.

I think that makes perfect sense. It occurred to me listening to that that the other big difference is...You don't just get a control manual went when you work with Curable you know ?

I almost want to say like “People no one who works for this company is paying me any money!”

Yeah we probably should be for the first rate PR. But you are correct… We have not paid you anything.

No no money has exchanged hands.

Anyway, It's not just a control manual. I think the difference for me compared to conventional meditation is that Curable as designed to guide you through the symptoms you're experiencing in the moment, and the different kinds of activities and steps you can take to retrain your brain in order to feel better. Working with the visual and audio content of the app was a radically different experience for me. 

It's like "Do you want to try something else?" or "Now we're going to do these five things." That guided part of it definitely reached me in a way that more self directed techniques could not.

Yeah cause that's part of what we had in mind when we were going through this.... because I remember feeling that way. I remember thinking like "I feel so awful. Please don't make me make any decisions about what to do next."

Yeah, just tell me what to do I'm so tired. And give it to me in small chunks. Three minutes five minutes ten minutes. That is so much more realistic.

And if you have three hours to binge them great and if you don't you don't have to at all.

I think one other thing that might be really helpful for your listeners to know is if you if you start with the app and you come across from exercises that you try, and they don't resonate for you or for whatever reason..  there are a bunch of different tools and you can move onto the next one, and you may well find a different technique or approach that is more appropriate for your pain. So there's a thing in the app where you can favorite the exercises that you found the most helpful. First pass through the program is just identifying the tools that work best for you. So if you start out one of the early ones just kind of isn't your jam, keep going.

Yeah. So what's your favorite in the app, what's your go to?

It has changed with the reduction in the amount of pain that I've had. I started out being really really into those initial… I keep wanting to call them lectures but they're actually way too short to be lectures. Audio lessons. Yeah I listen to those a bunch of times to convince my rational brain that there is science here that works and it can work for me. I listen to them in the car. I listen to them at the gym or activities that I keep coming back to. So I really like the meditations and I will I will go back and replay those.

And then there are ones that I felt like I only needed to do once or twice to get the benefit of them of writing. I don't think I'll ever make expressive writing a regular part of my life. But as a way of taking an inventory of what you know what stressors might have been contributing to my pain. It was super useful to do that for like a week.

Yeah yeah. And I think that's another interesting misconception is people get worried. “Am I going to have to meditate and journal every day for the rest of my life?” And it's like, absolutely not.

Yep yep definitely. And some of them... actually some of the exercises you learn a different way of responding to pain or thinking and talking about pain and you can integrate that without ever having to do a formal exercise around it again. So like I said, I think about pain in my head, and I don't think of it as like an "attack" or a "migraine."

Learning to use less catastrophic language when come up. I started to do that after just listening to that lesson once, and you know I don't really need to do anything formally to keep that going.

Yeah. It's just like an easy tip to integrate into your daily life. You don't have to bring the Curable app up to remember what it was. You can always listen to the last and again if you need to brush up on it. But yeah that's kind of the point. So I'm glad you're using it that way because that's how we intended to.

Yeah. Fantastic.

Yeah. So is there any other corner of your life that this has reached that we haven't covered?

You know, I think one thing that I would say is and I've seen this in comments we've gotten on John's article... I feel a lot of people feel more control over their pain condition even before. It starts to really dissipate, and the feeling of having some control back is huge in chronic illness of any kind. I think one of the hardest things is feeling like you are not in the driver's seat of your life anymore.

Absolutely.

So last question how many people on your holiday gift list this year are getting Curable subscriptions?

Well that's a tricky one because you want to make sure that people are receptive to it, right? So I definitely have some friends who are really interested in giving it a try and for whatever reason, money's a little tight for them right now. Some of them because being in pain all the time makes it hard to earn some dough right. I've definitely got a handful of people that are that and giving gifts subscriptions to.

Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much for not only sharing your story with us here today but sharing it with your husband and with the entire readership of TechCrunch and really being our hype woman and putting yourself out there. Just in order to help other people for no other motivation than to encourage other people to just try this and see if it works for them and see if they can have the same kind of life changing results that you've seen.

You know I'm glad to do it to help people but I also realized hearing you say that that at some point, I started to think about pain as a big grey monster that's on the earth and that by telling other people about this I might be just reducing it.

Like I feel like this pain is this big thing and anything I can do to help kind of kill it off... as that is the enemy. Does that make sense?

Yeah like killing the boogeyman together. Yeah. Yeah.

Doing our best and really but thanks. All flows the other direction. I've said this I've said this to John Gribbin in many emails... you guys really gave me my life back.

That is just the best thing that anyone can hear. We are so happy at how you're feeling and how successful you have been with the program and most happy that you have your life back and that as your husband said You're back.

I'm back.

Thank you so much Susan.



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