Needles and Golden Pills: A Month of Alternative Therapy (a Mulan GIF Presentation)

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere in order to be a more functional person on Earth. I’ve told you all before that I have a chronic illness that is not entirely under control at the moment, and it was time to do something about it.

Okay, maybe not this dramatic.

I’ll premise my past by saying that medication of any kind does not work for me. For starters, I am allergic to basically everything. Its hard to weigh the benefits when your airways are rapidly becoming smaller. The (very) few pills that don’t cause anaphalactic shock just have zero effect on me. Its like taking sugar pills. Really horrible sugar pills.

When I was in Minnesota to visit the Mayo Clinic last year, I found doctors who understood that a prescription was never going to solve my problems. It was the first time that an M.D. really discussed the different types of alternative therapies. Sure, I had doctors recommend other things before (i.e. yoga, tai chi), but never truly approached the idea of secondary medicine. Sorry doctor, but sometimes diet and exercise just isn’t going to cut it.

I was told to slowly incorporate many different forms of treatment. One of the top recommendations? Acupuncture.

Basically.

I hate needles. Most people do. When my mom was working in a hospital, she even met heroin addicts who were terrified of needles. Go figure! Because of my rather extensive medical history, the majority of my life has been spent as a test subject. Between injections, IVs, and blood tests, I have had quite a bit of experience with pokey objects. I’ve had some pretty awful situations that have deterred me from needles completely.

My immediate family has been wanting me to try acupuncture for about two years. My grandfather has also been actively pushing me to go for a solid three.  Once the  doctor demanded it last September, my fate was solidified. I may be a legal adult, but I knew I wasn’t going to have much choice in the matter. It would only be a matter of time before I was dragged taken to the acupuncturist.

That time came about three weeks ago. The patience of my mother was at a low point, while the pain in my neck was at a high point. When you are in an excessive amount of pain, you’re willing to do pretty much anything to make it better.

To be completely honest, the first thing I thought about after making the appointment was the “Ancestors Awakening” scene from Mulan.

“My children never caused such trouble. They all became acupuncturists!”

The second was this:

I feel ya, Ping.

But sometimes, you have to suck it up. If there was a possibility that this could make me feel better, I had to at least try. My neck was in excruciating pain and I was desperate. As for the fear? I was just going to have to get over it.

The day of my first appointment made me anxious. On one hand, I really wanted to go. I wanted to feel better. If this is what was going to help, awesome. On the other hand, I wanted to hide under a blanket, call in sick, and unlearn (is that a word?) the meaning of acupuncture.

My sentiments exactly.

But when I make a commitment, I make a commitment. My plan was to go into that office pretending I had no reservations whatsoever. I was a praised actress in drama club, I could certainly pull off the “no fear” act. The acupuncturist would never know I was practically crying on the inside.

After filling out some paperwork and being thoroughly questioned on my reasons for being there, it was time. She started my session by giving me some Chinese herbs “to relax.” They were in pill form and very strange looking. It was oddly shaped and golden in color. I don’t know about you, but I have never taken pills that looked like they were coated in gold leaf. I had no idea what the herbs were, but took them anyways. When my mom was in college, her roommate’s mother used to send Chinese herbs from Taiwan. This roommate would always give her some, and the effects were apparently wonderful. I think there’s a rule to Chinese herbs. You’re not supposed to know what they are, you just take them. I then removed my shirt and waited for the inevitable. She brought out a scary-looking electric massager. It probably looked scary to me because I HATE massages. I don’t have anything against other people touching me, I’m just very sensitive. Most are really into the whole “deep tissue” thing, but it is incredibly painful for me. She could tell I was not enjoying this particular therapy, as could my mother who was situated in the corner of the room, but she continued. I didn’t know at the time, but it was going to make me feel much better. I don’t know what it is about acupuncturists, but they just know what you need. You’re hurting, but they just smile knowing that you won’t be soon. No pain, no gain, right?

After torturing my back and neck in the kindest possible way, it was the moment of truth. I heard her opening the package of sterile needles and started to calmly panic. She had told me in the beginning that she would start slow, as to not send my body (and my psyche) into overdrive. She tapped on my back three times and placed the needle into the upper part of my right shoulder blade. I felt it for a few seconds and then- nothing. Seriously. It was a very anticlimactic moment. I had protested and procrastinated for years to avoid absolutely nothing. I’ve felt more pain from a paper cut.

I now have appointments twice a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I look forward to going in for the most relaxing hours of my life. I can tell that it is working because these massages hurt less and less each time. I’m like a completely different person. Today, I actually liked the massage.

I would highly recommend acupuncture to anyone. I can certainly say that acupuncture no longer scares me. I enter the building confident and ready.

Stick ’em in, doctor.

When I leave, I am so relaxed. After my appointment today, I told my lovely acupuncturist that I had never felt so calm in my life. The world’s problems melt away when I’m there. It feels good to not only have less pain, but to have conquered a major fear of mine. I’m still scared of needles and will avoid them in any other situation. With acupuncture, though, I will happily make an exception.

xx Courtney

Have you ever gotten acupuncture? Would you consider trying it?

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