A is for Acupuncture. Try it. The needles aren't that bad. It worked for me.
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My first experience with acupuncture was about five years ago. I did not go gently toward the idea as a medical solution. I forced myself (kicking, screaming and panicking) to embrace ancient Chinese healing practices…something that up until that time I had equated with chai tea toting yuppies wearing organically grown cotton clothing.
OK. Don’t get all offended. I’m just telling you how I felt at the time. And I like chai tea. And organic cotton. So there.
I had gone through an ovectomy that February on an emergency basis and ended up a total physical mess. That surgery set off a debilitating spiral of extreme physical problems that specialist after specialist had been unable to fix.
I was desperate. We spent a ton of money and time going from one recommended medical center to another. And specialist after specialist had added even more suffering to the mess I was already trying to deal with. I had been having a severe headache daily for over four months, was covered in hives, was experiencing hot flashes and panic attacks from he**, combined with chills that cracked my molars and made me beg Mr. Jenny to smother me.
The day my fate collided with all those needles was actually Mr. Jenny’s Birthday. “Yea, Happy Birthday to you…now who cares what day it is, can you smother me now please?” was probably not what he wanted to hear, but he is a really great guy.
Which is why, instead of freaking out when I had a total melt-down in his office telling him that if someone didn’t help me soon I was going to crawl out into the desert to die, he and my Mom found an acupuncture place close by the house. I called them. I had a little difficulty with the language but I didn’t take any offense that the guy kept calling me “Yenny”. Hey, Yenny, Penny, Zenny, Jenny…. I could care less what you call me, if you might be able to help me. I don’t know if it was my hysteria, begging or weeping but they agreed to see me in an hour.
Then it hit me. Wait. What was I thinking? Acupuncture? Me? Needles? One hour? Holy cow… but shortly after that thought, more hot flashes, panic attacks and scratching frenzies made me rethink the whole process ! Acupuncture ! Of course ! Who cares if there are needles as long as I get one iota of relief ! An hour? Heck with that, I’m leaving now! Mr. Jenny, (God Bless this long suffering man) moved his schedule around and escorted me there…. warned me vehemently in advance that he refused to watch the treatment, and graciously accepted my pathetic and weepy Happy Birthday wishes.
We drove a short distance to a strip mall. I hadn’t written down a suite number so we just went into the little office closest to the car. Uh oh. It was fairly dark in there with sort of weird music playing and what appeared to be small, dark windows on three sides of the space. It wasn’t too clean. There were kind of scummy looking signs scotch-taped to the walls about how much it costs to get a massage. Hmmm…. I tell Steve I am leaving. He says “maybe we have the wrong place” and I think, “gee, no wonder I love him, he is definitely a genius”. I stand by the car, and he goes to the next office and then motions me over. Definitely better. This is a very, clean white space with a glass display area neatly merchandised with unknown potions, pills and bottles. A tiny oriental woman sits behind a long counter. She looks up. She is fifty or sixty years old with beautiful and kind eyes. I immediately start crying.
She walks around the counter and says to Mr. Jenny, “You are too fat,” and then she tells me, “You are too fat, too, but you have bigger problems and we will deal with fat later.” For some reason neither one of us is offended by this statement of the obvious. Mr. Jenny tells her we had gone to the next office by mistake and she replied, “Oh, massage place…very, very bad.”
I tell her I am Jenny….. “Oh,” she says, “Yenny…” and hands me a clipboard and a pen and instructs me to complete the forms. They are sort of standard but perhaps a little more vague then traditional medical forms. I write. I cry. I have several hot flashes. I write and cry some more. I attempt to pound my head on the wall to relieve the headache but Mr. Jenny pats my leg. I tell him I am sooo sorry for being such a burden and cry some more. I tell him “Happy Birthday” in a sniffly whine.
The nice lady comes over and goes over my information. She is the doctor…. Or puncturer or whatever they call it. The language is a little difficult but after some time I think we have most of the facts basically straight, more or less. She says “OK, we begin” and with great trepidation I follow her into a square, spare, austere white room with white shelves close to the ceiling. Mr. Jenny comes too. There are two white gurney-type beds in the room covered with tightly tucked in white sheets. She motions to me to lie down. Gulp. I do.
She comes and shows me some very thin, very long needles in sterile wrap. She tells me about the sensations I may feel: small pinching when the needles go in, a feeling of pressure in the muscle, heaviness in the limb and the tingle of electricity. Why am I doing this again? Another hard hot flash reminds me. OK, I take a deep breath.
The nice puncturer lady starts on my right side and sort of “taps” each needle in. It doesn’t hurt. Some of them give me a sensation of a small electric shock. I have my eyes tightly closed but I feel her walk by my right side. Then she inserts needles into my right hand, I feel a strange shock run into my fingers and they immediately start twitching. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels very odd. 7 or 8 needles are inserted between my right thigh and the heel of my right foot. Then she starts down my left side. It is very quiet in the white room. She doesn’t talk at all…. but makes a tiny humming noise. I find myself babbling…. She whispers “hush” to me. Mr. Jenny is awfully quiet. My head is throbbing and I feel another hot flash starting. My left side is more sensitive…. No pain, just odd sensations and when she gets to my left foot I feel something like a bolt of lightening fire out of the bottom of my foot. It hurts and I cry out very loudly. She explains something about “energy release” and does something to the same needle and another jolt shocks me…. I cry out again.
I am a bit stunned. After I catch my breath for a moment, I realize my headache is gone. I wait a few seconds to see if this is my imagination. No, it is not. My long time nasty companion has left the building, my headache is no more. I am astonished. I tell the puncturer lady, I tell Mr. Jenny…. I am definitely babbling. She tells me to “hush” again and to not move. I don’t listen and try to scratch my eye and a very weird, unpleasant sensation goes up my hand into my bicep. I decide to just let my eye itch.
Then she pulls my shirt up to examine the hives and leaves the room, humming softly under her breath. She returns in a few moments and starts rubbing some kind of ointment on the hives on my stomach. The ointment burns briefly but then it stops burning and stops itching. Mr. Jenny is sitting beside me and he says something like “wow, the red is fading”. I couldn’t actually see so I tried moving again and again got that unpleasant sensation.
The nice puncturer lady turned out the lights then. She told me to close my eyes and not move. I wiggle a little bit (because I’m that kind of a rebel) and look around the room. I try to tip my head to see what’s on the shelves, but they are too high. I look at the white painted ceiling and the white drapes she has pulled partially closed around my white sheeted bed. There is no noise in the room. I realize I am cold. I realize I have stopped having hot flashes. My headache is still gone. After some time goes by, even my feeling of anxiety starts fading away. It is gradual, but I suddenly realize I am not feeling panic and not feeling any pain.
I lay in the white room for what feels to be a short time, but Mr. Jenny tells me later it has been a little over an hour. The nice puncturer lady returns and starts removing the needles. Two of them feel very sensitive and the one in my left foot makes me cry out again, but much more softly. I lay on the white bed feeling very drained. My muscles feel very heavy, but my limbs feel very light. It is just a very odd sensation. The lady massages one specific spot on my skull and then takes my hand and places it there. She tells me to massage that spot during the day. I feel very different.
After I sit up and get my bearings, we return to the little waiting room. On the counter are several little bags of something and a little bottle full of something and a tube of ointment. She explains what I am to do with each one. She talks about releasing all the poisons from my body. We make an appointment for the next afternoon. I am still feeling a little like I am not really present, but I am definitely feeling much, much better…. No pain, the itching where she has rubbed the ointment is gone but the itching on my back where she did not rub the ointment is driving me crazy.
I shake her hand and thank her. We go out to the car and Mr. Jenny just keeps saying how different I seem. He says he can tell a lot of the pain is gone. He says he has been feeling horrible for me going through such torture. He says “boy, those needles sure seemed long coming out” but I decide that is enough detail and I really don’t want to know anything else about needle specifics.
On the drive home I keep tapping my head to see if I am just imagining that there is no headache. I pay close attention to the fact that I am not having any hot flashes. My anxiety is greatly reduced and I have stopped crying. We get home and I apply the rest of the ointment to the hives that the doctor missed. I line up my little teabags and potions on the counter and try to figure out what they are.
It has been months since I have felt so little misery. I feel almost reborn even though I shallowly continue to wonder how far those needles are actually inserted.
I’m afraid if I don’t find a way to make up for my previous misconception about acupuncture being only for chai tea toting yuppies wearing organically grown cotton clothing, that the magic will somehow stop working.
I’m willing to celebrate this healing in a ritual of burying the needles in the center of some vortex while celebrating the karma of healing? Or something.
But for that moment, I was just exhausted. Rituals could wait. I definitely needed a nap.
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