Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

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

 Mishpacha image

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.

Related Stories

Bibi Rebranded

Yossi Elituv and Shimon Breitkopf

What happened at the off-the-record sit-down between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the chare...

Quiet the Inner Critic

C. Rosenberg

Elul is a time for introspection, self-examination, and renewed commitments. A new approach, Min¬¬df...

Here Comes the Judge

Barbara Bensoussan

It’s a long road from Bais Yaakov to the bench. In January, Ruchie Freier becomes the first chassidi...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without