On pins and needles
I arrived at Providence Community Acupuncture yesterday, not knowing what to expect. I wasn’t scared. Needles don’t freak me out as long as my eyes are closed and I can’t see them. And I have a ginormous threshold for pain. (I am descended from such folk: my mother can stick her bare hands into a 500-degree oven and pull a pan out, without flinching; and I once watched my physician father try to sew part of his finger back on after an unfortunate hedge-clipping incident.)
Why am I doing this? Because I’m sick of feeling like shit. I am feeling much better since taking up Pilates again. And I met with a nutritionist last week and am going dairy-free (and pretty much meat-free) for the next couple of weeks to see how I feel. After only five days of the diet, I feel pretty damn good, even though I desperately miss my best friend Mr. Cheese.
So I’m on a good path. But I eventually want to stop taking Klonopin and maybe scale back on some of the other meds. I want to have a good mind/body connection. And pretty soon I’m going to start making hemp clothing, become a freegan and join a commune. Yeah, right.
Anyway, back to yesterday. First, I filled out some paperwork, asking me about my every ache, pain, malady and medication, and then I paid the fee (sliding scale – very reasonable). Anna, my acupuncturist led me into a back room, where she asked me what I hoped to achieve from acupuncture (for me: relief of anxiety, depression and headaches, relaxation) and gave me a brief overview of this ancient Chinese alternative medical technique. She checked my pulse (which I guess was slow, because she asked me if I typically had low blood pressure). She also checked my tongue to determine the shape and color. I guess my tongue is tongue-shaped? As for the color, she said it was purple, which means my liver and spleen are all out of whack.
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised about the liver. Although I am alcohol-free now, I’ve done some heavy drinking over the past 20 years, in a futile attempt to self-medicate my anxiety and depression. I had labs done two weeks ago and my liver enzymes were fine, but I attribute those healthy numbers to my hearty Irish liver. I come from a long line of fair-haired, freckled, blue-eyed drinkers whose livers kept ticking to the bitter end. Cancer was what got the best (and worst) of them, not cirrhosis.
After the interview, Anna took me into a large room filled with 10 comfy-looking recliners. Providence Community Acupuncture is just that: it’s community-based, so clients sit on recliners in a large room with up to four other people. In addition to the large room, two small rooms are available, with fewer recliners.
I headed toward the back of the large room, toward the recliner situated in the darkest corner. I spied two other people in the smaller rooms; I had the main room to myself. I shed my cardigan and rolled up my pants, leaving my arms and legs bare. And then I closed my eyes.
Anna gently started to insert the needles. Other than a slight pin-prick feeling, I could barely tell she was doing anything to me. She put three needles in my forehead, two in each ear lobe, one in each shoulder, one on both sides of my neck… then my wrists, my calves, my feet. And finally, the crowning needle was inserted into the space between my eyebrows. She gently whispered “relax, we want you stay at least 40 minutes, and if you fall asleep – like most people do – I’ll wake you up.” And that was that.
At first my mind spun out of control like a whirling dervish. Needles? Many needles in MY body? Really? What am I supposed to be feeling? Am I doing this right? Wasn’t this supposed to help with my anxiety, not make it worse? Blahblahblahblah. The elves in my head, as my sister calls them, would not shut the fuck up. As I was just starting to loosen up, another client entered the room and plopped down next to me, making a racket. It sounded like he was disrobing – I could hear him removing his belt and what sounded like him shimmying out of his pants. I only knew it was a “he” because he asked Anna a bunch of questions before she inserted the needles. I willed myself to keep my eyes closed.
And then, it got quiet. The dude next to me had been needle-ized and the elves finally shut their pie holes.
One minute I was smiling, the next minute tears sprung from my eyes like a leaky pipe, making their way down my freckled face and forming a tide pool in the hollow of my neck. I floated on a wave of unconscious self-awareness, thinking about my past relationships, my writing, my job hunt… and then I just let go.
I’m going to take the needles out now, said Anna.
I opened my eyes, startled.
How long have I been here? Fifteen minutes? I asked.
Over an hour, she said. Did you fall asleep?
No. But I definitely checked out, I said.
I never fell asleep, I am sure of that. It felt more like an acid trip, a crossing over to some other place of thought and reality. At times, I felt like I was looking down at my own body and anointing it with peace and some much-needed love. My close friends know I’m a skeptic, a pessimist. (I like to call myself a realist not a pessimist, though.) I don’t buy into hippy-dippy shit, and I tend to see things in black and white. But today, as I sit here relaxed with no tension in my neck after one of my best non-Klonopin-induced night’s sleep in a long time, color me a believer.
Such a believer, in fact, that I’m going back on Tuesday afternoon after my first job interview since the lay-off. (YES! A job interview! It’s a Christmas miracle!! And I promise I won’t crawl out the window mid-interview.) I am hoping Anna’s carefully placed needles will chill me out after being on pins and needles about the interview. Now I’m off to weave some hemp bracelets and tend to my compost pile.