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Lifelines: Inside-Out Healing

C. Saphir

I wasn’t excited about the prospect of going gluten-free, but it was less frightening than the prospect of chronic pain and progressive debilitation

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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STRANGE BUT TRUE In the beginning, I felt awkward doing this, but I recognized that it was critical not just for my emotional health, but for my physical health as well. (Images: Shutterstock)

The day I walked into the Barnes & Noble bookstore was one of the most depressing days of my life.

I had just been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a degenerative disease that causes the bones to gradually fuse together, causing severe pain and disability. I was only 25, but already my body had become stiff, brittle, and wracked with pain, and the symptoms I could look forward to as the disease progressed included blindness, heart problems, and difficulty breathing.

After receiving this devastating diagnosis, I had done some of my own research and discovered that some studies had found a correlation between AS and irritable bowel syndrome, and that a gluten-free diet could be beneficial for both conditions.

I wasn’t excited about the prospect of eliminating all hamotzi and mezonos from my menu, but it was less frightening than the prospect of chronic pain and progressive debilitation.

I headed to Barnes & Noble in search of a book about the gluten-free diet, but the particular title I asked for was out of stock. I was about to leave the store, when a book called The Divided Mind, by Dr. John Sarno, caught my eye.

I had heard of Dr. Sarno years earlier, when I had attended a session by a distinguished lecturer who disseminates Dr. Sarno’s mind-body approach to healing chronic pain. Back then, I had been suffering from foot pain, and the pain had disappeared after I tried Dr. Sarno’s approach, telling myself repeatedly that the source of the pain I was experiencing was emotional, not physical.

Foot pain was child’s play compared to AS. But the book’s index of ailments that Dr. Sarno’s method works for listed “spondylosis,” and I assumed that meant AS. So there was hope for me, after all.


My parents divorced when I was a kid. Although the family dynamics had been difficult even beforehand, the divorce brought with it a whole new slew of problems.

Despite growing up in a broken home, I was a basically normal kid. I did well in school, I had friends, I was happy-go-lucky and inquisitive.

That easygoing nature disappeared, however, any time I felt threatened or bullied. If someone would start up with me, I’d lash out verbally, using harsh, sharp words to ward off the would-be aggressor.

In high school, I decided to take control of my behavior by working on my middos. I began to study mussar seforim intensively, by myself, and I reached the conclusion that it was forbidden to feel anger or speak negatively about anyone, ever.

I also became very serious about my learning. In elementary school, I had spent a lot of time playing sports — tennis and hockey were two of my favorite pastimes — but now, I felt that it was no longer appropriate for me to waste time on these activities. Only Torah is important, I told myself.

Goodbye, orthotics. Goodbye, orthopedic mattress. Goodbye, sneakers. For the first time in close to five years, I was pain free

Article 2 truth… it sounds like a cliché, right? Like the coach who instructs the hitter to ‘hit That’s truth, and if with that, you work backward.

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