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The Short Version: Although a dystonia diagnosis kept him from fulfilling his academic goals, Tom Seaman didn’t let it hold him back long term. Now, through TomSeamanCoaching.com, he uses the knowledge he has gained in dealing with his illness to help his clients overcome the same types of setbacks in their lives. His strategies can help clients work through past issues and propel themselves forward in all areas of their lives, including their relationships.
“Believe in yourself and never give up, always trusting the strength you have within.”
That’s the motto that Tom Seaman lives by — and what he teaches his clients. But that motto is easier to live by some days than others, as Tom himself deals with chronic pain caused by cervical dystonia.
He has suffered from this neurological movement disorder for nearly 20 years and has overcome many obstacles associated with it — including losing 150 pounds to help manage the disorder. Now, Tom aims to help other people live their best lives, which includes developing and maintaining positive relationships.
When Tom was first diagnosed in 2001, his life changed completely in an instant. He had to discontinue his studies toward a Masters Degree in Counseling due to the limitations the illness put on his body. He was also unable to work and lost most of his social connections.
“It was devastating. I was lost in helplessness and hopelessness,” he said. “In addition to gaining 150 pounds, I suffered from severe, mind-numbing pain, as well as anxiety and depression which left me homebound for years.”
Years of unsuccessful treatments led him to realize that if he couldn’t find a cure, he might as well learn how to manage the pain and other symptoms so he could enjoy life rather than just surviving it.
After finding a variety of methods that helped alleviate much of the physical and mental pain, his quality of life improved dramatically. That is when he realized the transformative value of his techniques and set out to help other people improve their lives through life coaching.
Most of Tom’s clients suffer from chronic illnesses, which add various layers of complexity to their lives. Since he does one-on-one coaching, Tom meets each person where they’re at and gives them the specific tools they need. He compares his role to that of a teacher because there’s no single teaching method to use with an entire class, but he embraces that reality.
“This is the beauty of one-on-one coaching; I get to focus on the needs of one individual at a time,” he said. “My process puts clients on a path that leads them towards their unique goals and aspirations, so they can have more peace, joy, harmony, and fulfillment in their lives. What I stress to clients is that every step along the way to their goal is just as important as the goal itself. Even the goal is not the endpoint. It is the first step on the path to their next goal.”
“People don’t want to be ‘fixed.’ We want to be admired, accepted, and loved just the way we are. This is for all relationships. It is not just reserved for people with health conditions.” — Coach Tom Seaman
Although clients come to him with different needs, Tom often finds himself helping them deal with relationships — both social and romantic. He states, “as enjoyable as dating can be, for those with a chronic illness it can be difficult. Fear and anxiety exist because we don’t know how a person will react to our illness. Vulnerability is frightening, especially if we have been rejected in the past.”
“Often times, how willing a person is to accept us along with our health condition depends on how much we accept it and not let it define us.”
Tom helps clients focus more on what they can do and not what they find limiting. He said the people who are meant to be in our lives will accept us for who we are because they see us as valuable individuals independent of our health status.
“Your disorder/illness is just something that you have. Not something you are. We all have something we deal with that must be accepted for any relationship to be successful,” he said.
It’s very important for those with a chronic health condition to not sell themselves or other people short. “Don’t let limitations or differences convince you that you are anything but worthy of love,” Tom advises. “There are lots of wonderful people who don’t care that we have a health condition. If you put yourself out there, you will find that person… or they will find you. Ideally, as they say, you will find each other.”
Tom tries to dispel the notion that getting into a relationship will make a person happy. “Don’t go into a relationship looking for someone to make you happy,” he said. “No one can make us happy or sad. Other people and things only enhance our inner joy, which is an attitude and a choice we make for ourselves based on our outlook on life.”
When it comes to dating, he suggests being open with your partner. If they have questions, encourage discussing how your health condition will impact the relationship, if at all.
“Remember that it is a partnership. Both of your needs are important,” Tom said. “Our job is to love our partner the way they are, with no expectations of what they would or should be or become, no different than what we want from them. People don’t want to be ‘fixed.’ We want to be admired, accepted, and loved just the way we are. This is for all relationships. It is not just reserved for people with health conditions.”
While anyone can benefit from Tom’s coaching, he has a special resource for those who suffer from the same disorder he does: his book, “Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey.” It’s the only book on this disorder recognized by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which includes the title on its list of suggested resources. But don’t let the title fool you. This book is applicable to any health condition or other life challenges.
He has plans to write another book that appeals to a broader audience and isn’t as focused on illness. In that book, he will help people navigate life challenges; from physical and social to vocational and relational.
The blog on Tom’s website provides encouragement and practical advice on a variety of topics he often sees while working with clients. Some recent posts deal with finding opportunities within problems, strategies for coping with physical and emotional pain, and how to navigate health challenges in a judgmental world. He also has a YouTube channel where he shares tips and tools for dealing with dystonia.
Tom posts a number of client testimonials to show potential clients the type of transformations they might achieve through his coaching and involvement in their lives.
One client shares that Tom “made some excellent suggestions that led me to understand how I could move forward in my newly upturned world. He is compassionate and understanding, extremely positive, open-minded, and very intuitive.”
Along with writing a new book, Tom also plans to begin doing educational and motivational talks to a variety of audiences which include patients, doctors, medical students, corporations, clubs, high school and college students, and educators.
“My goal is to get in front of audiences to inspire and educate them how to navigate the challenges and hurdles they either will face in life, or that they are currently facing, and give them strategies for working through them,” he said.