BusinessFeaturesLatest
Trending

How to Persevere Through Pain – Richard Hanbury

Shana: 

Hello, and welcome to this episode of Man Alive. I’m your host Shana James. I’m so excited to be here today with Richard Hanbury. Richard, thank you so much for being with us. Today we’re going to talk about the topic of pain and enduring pain and finding hope or, you know, like, the reality Richard’s been through a journey of intense amounts of pain, mostly, I was going to say it started physically, but I’m sure then, you know, there was the emotional pain as well. And so, I really wanted to have a conversation with you about how you got through it. You know, what kept you going. I think about the book, A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and how, you know, gut-wrenching and moving that is on so many levels that he was a Holocaust survivor and how he kept himself going. You know, you were given only a couple of years to live because of the intensity of your nerve pain. So maybe can you take us back to some of those first moments and share a little bit about what was going on, so men have a context for this?

 

Richard: 

Certainly, yes. I’d say, um, you know, I had a pretty traditional English private school background, with a messy parental divorce and too much alcohol drunk by the age of 19, but generally speaking, you know, life overall, pretty good. And then I was driving down, I ended up in Yemen on holiday. I was living in Egypt at the time as part of my undergraduate degree learning Arabic and no one in Egypt wanted to learn, wanted to help us learn Arabic, they all wanted us to learn English better, because tourism was such an important part of the economy. So, we thought, “Hey, let’s get somewhere where there’s nobody wanting to speak English so we can learn some Arabic. So, we went up to Yemen, and I was driving a Jeep down the road near the Capitol center, when I had an instantaneous, I had a split-second choice between a head on collision, next to a petrol truck, or to go off a bridge. In that split second, I had an image of my dad wandering around the country trying to find my remains well. I figured we were dead either way, but if I went off the bridge, there will be remains to find, and if I hit the petrol truck, there wouldn’t be anything left to find. So, off the bridge; 60 foot down. Basically, my passenger had a lot of more broken bones than me, but nothing permanent. I had a spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury, and an aortic tear. I bled internally for three days; lost 40% of my body weight. By the time they got me back to the UK, was clinically dead for eight minutes; back from that into a coma, and back from that. A good portion of the clinically dead bit was kind of a get out of jail free card. And in many ways, because I experienced extraordinary levels of comfort and bliss during that. I remember every split second. I was wired up to the EEG, and the EKG and 10 other pieces of equipment at the same time. I had no brain activity while this consciousness was going on. I was above my body for about 15, 20 seconds before I was in whatever the other place was. I think there are a category of people who have the same kind of experience as me where it feels more like a holding pattern. After about seven minutes, I thought, “Shit, I’ve felt this before. It was when I was not dead. I’m not dead yet. I got a job to do. I’m going back.” So, I chose to be alive, either in some kind of reality or delusion, depending on which side of the neurological debate you are. Either a very strong delusion or a very strong experience of choosing to be alive. That was definitely a very good start. Then there’s sort of chronic pain and how bad the pain was becoming obvious over the next few months.

 

Shana: 

I don’t want to skip over that part because you had nerve damage. You said that was so extraordinary. Can you describe that a little bit?

 

Richard: 

Yeah, so Christopher Reeve is the best-known example of somebody who had a higher neck injury; mine was back, his was neck, but same level of pain. Essentially, when you’re over a certain threshold of pain, you’re permanently in fight or flight, so your body is never able to repair anything. With my level of spinal cord injury, it’s typically pressure injuries, so that a thing that can kill you; with Christopher Reeve, it’s either lung or pressure injuries, and his was pressure injuries was the final thing. He died in just under six years. The reality is, I wouldn’t have lasted anywhere close to that long because I didn’t have any quality of life. I would have said goodbye to my parents and then checked out. I mean, there’s just no way. In hospital, even back then, they were teaching meditation as suicide mitigation prevention. It’s a really dumb idea.

 

Shana: 

I remember reading an article where you were like, “Well, you’re right. Then you actually have to sit and feel the pain, as opposed to getting away from it.”

 

Richard: 

Yeah, when you’re in episodic pain, and your pain is sometimes less, sometimes more; the same with anxiety. If you’re in chronic anxiety, it’s really bad idea to learn to meditate. But if you get breaks, when you’re in better shape, and you use those breaks, to learn those skills, then you can remember that that’s not a bad idea. Yeah, it’s not a real solution. But it helps, is useful. But when you’re in chronic constant pain or chronic anxiety, it’s a bad idea. You just become more present of the moment; aware of how much pain you’re in. I mean, the number of times that people talk to me about being more in my body when back then it was like, “Yeah, do I really want to do that?” Then my big aha moment on the device came watching a movie. It was Hudson Hawk. Bruce Willis did literally save my life with that crappy movie. It was because it was really good, funny, fast paced set pieces, and then really bad dialogue and scripts in-between; not bad, but just weird. It put me in and out of that flow state the whole way through the movie. At the end of the movie, I thought, “Hang on a minute. That Changed my pain levels more than morphine.” The bits of the movie that made me feel less pain made me feel like I used to when I was skiing. We call it a flow state. Back then, this was 1992 and 93, some of these terms had been coined, but they weren’t in common knowledge. My next thought was, “So if I had meditated all of my life by now, I would be able to switch in and out of the state. So well, that’d be useful.” Then the thought was, “Okay, well, if I had meditated all my life, how would that have changed my brain?” It turns out that meditation really gives you two quite different and discrete categories of benefit. One is wisdom. You can’t shortcut that.

 

Shana: 

How do you define wisdom? What aspects of wisdom?

 

Richard: 

Well, if you’re sitting in your own psychological crap, and figuring your craft out, bit by bit, that’s the wisdom that you can’t shortcut that you can’t you can’t do in less hours.

 

Shana: 

You have to actually go through the terrain and be able to witness it and discover along the way, the lessons learned; that kind of wisdom.

 

Richard: 

Yeah, I mean, I think you can shortcut that, obviously, with therapy; if you’re doing therapy and meditation. I also did a really interesting meditation, an MDMA assisted meditation thing, which was an eight-hour process, and in that eight hours, I think I probably did about as much as, at least six months and probably more of therapy. Just by meditating, that bit you can’t fix, but the other benefit you get from meditating is hardware changes in the brain, and the how your brain is hard-wired, and the frequency patterns your brain produces. It turns out, you can absolutely shortcut that. bet.

 

Shana: 

And that’s what you’ve created. What do you call it? It’s like a device to actually help people.

 

Richard: 

I have it right here. This is the latest version. This is the version that is going through an FDA pivotal trial at the moment. Basically, you’re putting it on with eyes close. You’re seeing pulses of light through closed eyes and hearing sound through headphones. Those pulses of light and sound are putting your brain into specific frequency patterns. If you go into a nightclub, you’re getting strobed by bright lights and music at particular frequencies, and that’s getting you into a particular state. This is just a medical version of that.

 

Shana: 

Okay, so I want to ask you questions about that, but I want to go back. At the time where you had not created this device, and you had this insight, this, “Aha! Pain can change; not just in the ways that we have thought. There’s something else going on here.” Is that part of what kept you going and kept you alive? How did you stay in that sense of hope or possibility?

 

Richard: 

If I left the hospital without having watched that movie, and having had that aha moment, I realistically would have checked out not long after leaving. It was a reach, but I did believe that there was a way I could fix it. I totally believed it was possible to find some relief, and that was enough.

 

Shana: 

That gave you a window into, “Okay, something else is possible here.”

 

Richard: 

And that was aside from the pain stuff. There is something else that someone told me in hospital, which so far in my experience has always been true with everyone I’ve ever told it to, which is, there is a two-year rule, to any kind of grief. That two year rule says, if you have something go wrong, when you leave something; wife, a marriage, job, physical disability, whatever it is, wherever you are; at two years after that event, you always get a bump, you always get an improvement. Now, you could be doing really badly and that’d be a small bump, but you’re still going to notice it, or you can be doing really well and get a bump, but everyone gets it. It’s a rule. Everyone gets improvement at two years. When someone told me this, I was like, “Oh, I’ve been in the hospital for a year, so that’s great.” You get your bump when you’re back to life. The reason why is, it’s because the first holiday, the first birthday, the first Valentine’s Day, the first all of those things, the first time around; really hard. The second time is a lot easier, and the third time around, “I’ve done this twice already.” I didn’t believe it at the time, but I wrote it in my diary. Exactly two years to the month after I left the hospital, I was like, “Things feel a lot easier. I don’t know why.” I remember this person back to when they said it. I think it is always true. I think that helps. You’re basically telling anybody, whatever position they’re in, “You’re going to get an improvement. I don’t know how big it is, I don’t know where you will be, what your baseline will be, but you will get it.”

 

Shana: 

So for men who, you know, who either are experiencing intense pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, and they’re maybe not yet back into life, or they’re starting to get back into life, we know, in a couple years that there is going to be some improvement. That’s a long time to wait. I’m curious what else helped you through that time?

 

Richard: 

Journaling is really key. It helps you separate out the physical, from the emotional, from the situational. It’s very easy to intellectually understand, ”Oh, I’m in pain, and therefore it’s hitting my mood.” It took me three months of writing a diary every single day, and writing a happiness score, and the painkiller score, every single day, and that happiness score is literally like, “Okay, this feels like it’s a six out of 10 day or seven out of a 10 day or a three out of 10 day,” and the pain curve score of how many painkillers I was taking. It took three months of seeing those figures every single day to go, “Oh, okay. It’s actually nothing in my external environment, but changing my mood is all internal.” That’s the same whether it’s a psychological stress or a physiological stress, because inside your brain, the brain doesn’t differentiate between psychological and physiological strain and pain is exactly the same chemical pathways and electrical properties that have been triggered. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in psychological pain or physical pain, they work the same way. They are always dehydrating. They always chew up sugar. A lot of people’s alcoholism comes from a sugar addiction, because of the impact or pain requiring extra sugar and you’re getting a hit when you eat your sugar and therefore you feel better. So, you know, that then does feed into, you know, some of America’s large obesity problems. All those patterns and things are linked. The big thing for me was journaling every single day and putting a number on it, and then going, “Okay, so all this external shit in my world hasn’t changed from yesterday to today; yesterday I was at a six out of 10, and now I’m at a 3, and the only thing that’s different is that I’m in more physical pain.

 

Shana: 

So, then I imagine a man listening who’s like, “Yeah, so it is all internal. How does that help me?”  I mean, you and I both know, we’ve been around personal growth, and coaching, and therapy, and all those things, we know there are ways to work with the internal pain, but I’m wondering, what did it do for you to see, “Oh, this is all internal. It doesn’t have to do with the outside.”

 

Richard: 

I think I think one of the most important thing it did was go, “Okay, well, then how do I change my internal?” I mean, right now I get coaching help from two different people in two very different areas. In terms of improvement in my quality of life and my abilities to do my job and everything else (both incredibly important) it’s to know you can do some things yourself, and there are other times when you just need an external perspective. The more you get an external perspective saying the same thing every single time. One of my people is essentially a witch Her predictive ability is really scary. She goes, “Oh, well, this is how things are going to pan out in your personal life,” and I’m like, “No, that’s never going to happen. Yeah, the other party is never going to agree to that.” Two weeks later it is happening fast. So yeah, everyone needs that kind of cheerleader.

 

Shana: 

Guidance and belief in you, or just like not having to hold it alone.

 

Richard: 

Yeah, and as guys, I think, within relationships, the other person is relying on us to be strong; great, that might be how the dynamic is, but that doesn’t help you figure any of this stuff out.

 

Shana: 

You’ve got to have a place. I feel really strongly that you can be strong, and you can be the rock for someone, but you can’t hold that role forever, for your whole life. You’ve got to also have support, and whether it’s community or coaching or therapy, like there’s got to be somewhere where you can vent and you can vision, and you can see what’s possible. You actually get to be you and you get to receive.

 

Richard: 

I definitely made a lot of mistakes about believing those silver bullets. So specifically, on the pain side, it was chasing one solution after another solution after another solution. It’s never true. I think this is the same psychologically as well. It’s a question of toolkits. It’s a question of, “Okay, well, this thing over here helps me in this way. How does that fit with this thing over here? That helped me a little bit over here,” and you just literally bit by bit, assemble the toolkit; all the people support. It’s not support or coaching, or therapy, it’s is do all of it.

 

Shana: 

I remember when I was going through my divorce, I had someone I went to for acupuncture, I had a business coach, I had a relationship coach, I had therapy, I had a spiritual person, and thankfully I had the resources and those people in my community and my networks, but so many people, especially men, try to go it alone and think it means something about their masculinity if they can’t do it on their own.

 

Richard: 

Yeah, it’s very easy to get singular focused. The nerve damage problem; the original prototype device completely fixed, in three months, that problem. That never came back. That was because the brain could produce enough neuroplasticity that it could figure out how to wire around the problem.

 

Shana: 

Wow. Okay, so for men who don’t know or can’t see, you’re in a you’re in a wheelchair. You have the use of the upper part of your body; you can use your arms, torso, neck head, but not your legs.

 

Richard: 

That’s right. The pain that I originally had was phantom limb pain. You don’t actually have a pain signal, you have a corrupted data stream and if the brain can generate enough neuroplasticity, the brain can figure out how to solve that problem. I then have had 10 years of really bad neck pain on top of that. Turns out that actually, ibuprofen was one of the things that was keeping me in pain. Ibuprofen is evil; people should not be taking it. I discovered that because it damaged the lining of my stomach and I was forced to stop taking it. Within a couple of days, a couple of other things just started to improve quite quickly. I read a book I picked up at an airport about stupid myths that athletes follow. It was called something like that. Yeah. They had the research that showed that ibuprofen damages, muscle cartilage and bone repair. So, if you’re going to physio to improve something that’s hurting, and you then when you undo the damage, you don’t do the work that you’ve just done. acetaminophen doesn’t do that.

 

Shana: 

So many things like that blow me away. I’ve had all kinds of digestion problems and things where the western medicine has a solution, that actually is kind of the anti-solution. Actually, learning more about Ayurveda, ancient techniques and just realizing, “Oh my god. There’s a lot of backwards information.”

 

Richard: 

I had a flare up in my neck pain issues because of stress, work, relationship stuff, and the wheelchair cushion that I’m sitting on every day developed a slow puncture, so it was changing my posture every day, continuously, and I couldn’t get a replacement. It took my coach saying, “Okay, when we get off this call, I’m expecting a text message from you within the hour, confirming that you booked an acupuncture appointment.” After I did it, I was like, “Oh, wow. Why on earth didn’t I do that?” It was a tool in the toolkit. I think men have a tendency to get tunnel vision on what is the particular problem in front of me, and what am I going to do after? As a CEO, I started looking at 90-day goals. What are my goals most days? As a CEO, none of the important masters in the company are actually on my plate. I have to support everyone and everyone’s goals, but I can’t directly impact any of them. I was like, “Okay, well, what can I directly impact? What should be my 90-day goals?” I actually wear one of these, which you can’t see; a WHOOP, which measures how well you recover, and how well you sleep, as well as how much exercise you’re doing during the day. So, for example, they’ve got great data on you know, which vaccine had more impact on slowing down people’s recovery, post vaccine, and all this kind of stuff. Individually, you wake up in the morning, and it will tell you how much you can push that day based on how well you’ve recovered from the previous day. And it gives you a heart rate variability measure. An average for my age is actually 40. Heart rate variability is milliseconds. Heart rate variability has to do with the tiny changes between every single heartbeat, essentially, the more changes you have, the healthier you are and the longer you going to live. It’s also very good metric for mental health. So, the higher that is, physically, mentally, the better off you are. So, it’s like okay, my 90 Day Challenge is getting to the average for my age because I’m a long way below. That started me going, “Okay, what can I take care of myself more physically.”

 

Shana: 

I love that. Taking care of your company, and your work, and your business, and helping more people being out of pain in the world; you actually had to come back and take care of your own self physically and emotionally and spiritually.

 

Richard: 

Yeah. Our own physical health is the only thing that is in our control without anybody else having a say in it. You get to decide what time you’re going to bed. I mean, maybe you know, some nights you have a kid that’s going to keep you up or whatever, but on average, you have control of when you go to sleep. You might not have control of when you get up, but you have control of when you go to sleep, for how many hours you have, you have control of whether you watch any TV right before you go to bed, or you’re reading a book, or reading it reading off a tablet. Alcohol trashes my heart rate variability. When my neck pain got really bad, I had one opioid pill, because I can break the cycle on my device. My device is really good on anything. It’s an acute muscular pain where you’ve got a muscle spasm. The device won’t get that to unwind. It’ll help a bit, but it doesn’t. So, I still have to, I hit that with one API pill, and it trashed my heart rate variability for that night. Everything else in my in my health and wellness drops because of one pill.

 

Shana: 

Wow, to be able to track that is incredible. I’ve had a Fitbit for a while, but it sounds like the whoop actually checks way more.

 

Richard: 

Yeah, the WHOOP is a bit more expensive. The other one that is similar in quality of data is the O-Ring. Yeah, so Fitbit is kind of basic level stuff; good actionable stuff. And then we’ve been ordering the sort of, next level up in terms of data that you can use to help figure out. I think sort of like anybody in any kind of trouble, or pain, physical or mental, it’s through measuring every day, everything, and noting what improves and what doesn’t, and then assembling your brain. Trust the people that are helping you and the physical stuff that you’re doing every day that’s supporting you. You know, because when you’re in pain, physical and emotional, junk food is a really easy way of getting a very quick fix, right? And then you’ll pay for it. Most people are aware, “All I got is a little bump, and now I’m feeling like crap again.”

 

Shana: 

Thank you so much for being an inspiration. We met, I think we said, like 13 or 15 years ago, and I remember you. I feel so proud of you, because I remember you coming in with these machines, and you know, doing the biofeedback or neurofeedback, and, you know, you were still figuring this out. It’s amazing that you now have a device that is going through FDA trials, right? You know, that’s helping people not be in pain and you solved your own pain problem or a lot of the pain that you’ve been through. I feel totally amazed and inspired. For men listening, I think it gives a sense of hope and that there are, you know, things possible that most of us never experience the amount of physical pain and emotional pain as a result that you have been through. So, thank you for being an inspiration. And I’m wondering if we could wrap up with, what are some of the things that you still struggle with or that you’re still going through? Because I think, again, that, you know, it humanizes. You’ve come all this way, and you’re also still human, and for men to hear that part feels important as well.

 

Richard: 

General levels of exhaustion; definitely. Again, this sort of de-prioritizing of the self-care. It makes sense why we do it in a very short time. Yeah. And then the short term becomes a long term and then it smacks you in the face because then you can’t do even the basic things that you were doing, because you’re not set. So that kind of continual focus on sharpening the blade, I can’t remember who said it, but I think it was a previous American president who said, “If I have 12 hours to cut down a tree, I spend 11 hours sharpening the blade.” I still struggle with that. I need other people to just tell me, “Hey, you’re going to book that and then you’re going to text me and tell me you booked it.” There’s always this, whatever, whatever, whatever jam you’re in; there’s always a way out. That has to do with incremental time and incremental effort. The tunnel vision on what’s immediately in front, and what’s usually urgent, usually cries out; the important needs to be reminded and course corrected.

 

Shana: 

Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Is there anything you want to leave men with?

 

Richard: 

I guess I really strongly say to everyone going through any amount of difficulty – journal, and putting numbers on each day, and put the thing that made the day a good day or a bad day. It helps you. It helps you see what’s important in your life. It helps you see what actually gives you pleasure and meaning. No one else can do that for you. I always start the first line with what I am grateful for. That’s certainly something I started about a year ago. What it does is, it makes it much easier to get the discipline of writing every day. When it comes to that end of the day, you just start thinking, “Okay, what is it that I’m most grateful for this day? What happened this day? What did someone do?” It gets you focused on that one or two things that made the day more valued, more livable when things are tough. Journal and start your journal with what you are grateful for. You could be feeling like shit all day and someone made you feel slightly less shit. That’s still what goes in there.

 

Shana: 

No matter how shitty one thinks their day was, there is still something to be grateful for. Yeah. Thank you, and where can people find you, and what do you need? I know you’re in FDA trials. Can people buy the device? Who needs the device? Are you raising money? Like can we also support you?

 

Richard: 

Well, thank you. It’s very kind. So, we are on market as a wellness device; the same device that is in clinical trials. We are about to launch a 1000-person Fibromyalgia study in about six weeks’ time. Fibromyalgia is 85% women. Almost everyone who has Fibromyalgia has trauma. It’s PTSD or undiagnosed PTSD.

 

Shana: 

I read article where you were saying that people with fibromyalgia had a45%. pain decrease? Is that right?

 

Richard: 

Quality of life improvement. Because pain, what happens is you get people to do more stuff, enable people to do more stuff, they will initially go and do more stuff. Yeah. And so, pain will initially sometimes rise, but they’re happier anyway because they can do more stuff. So, pain is not a good measure, but quality of life covers pain, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. So overall, how is your life better or worse? So, we’re getting the word out on that Fibromyalgia study for people who are going for pleasure. Most of the guys with fibromyalgia are people who are military, or there’s a lot of high incidence of road traffic accidents that people have had a little bit of trauma, physical and PTSD from accidents. With women, it’s that plus it’s childhood sexual trauma, plus, plus, plus. It’s getting that awareness out of, you know, pain, mental health and sleep issues, all combine with each other. What we are is an emergency toolkit to give you anxiety relief on demand.

 

Shana: 

This actually works for anxiety and sleep issues as well?

 

Richard: 

So, anxiety, we’ve got a clinical trial coming up, basically, that we will go for an FDA indication once we’ve got clinical data for it. Stress Relief is what we’re currently allowed to market for; stress relief and sleep improvement. There are FDA regulators so fibromyalgia will be our first FDA application; neuropathic pain is likely to go second, and then anxiety and PTSD will be the trials that we’re doing. If anybody wants stress relief now…

 

Shana: 

Where do we find it? What is it called?

 

Richard: 

www.sana.io. And anybody listening to this, if they want to use the code, FAM30, that will get them a 30% discount.

 

Shana: 

Thank you. We’ll put the link in the show notes too. Thank you so much for being here today. And thank you for you know, choosing to come back, and to commit to creating something that’s, you know, helping and serving so many people. I feel grateful for you.

 

Richard: 

Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

Even men at the top of their game find themselves wanting more from life. Whether it’s more meaning, a bigger impact, unshakable confidence, a hotter sex life, more money, deeper love, solid friendships or a powerful legacy: how can a man actually reach the end of his life and look back without regret?

Man Alive is a series of bold, raw and gritty conversations with experts on success, power, sex, love and legacy. For the past 15 years, host Shana James, a love and leadership coach, has worked with thousands of men and women around the world and collaborated with hundreds of teachers and coaches. Shana doesn’t buy into the need for rules, games or limitations. She works with men individually to find their unique power and keep them from settling for less than amazing.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button