What is Acupuncture?
“Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes. It is used in many NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics and hospices in the UK. Acupuncture is often seen as a form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM).” Taken from the NHS Choices website.
My husband had been going to the Chinese Doctor close to our home for acupuncture for a good few weeks now. There was a poster in the window advertising all the different ailments that traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture could possibly help with. Taken from the Chinese Doctor’s website itself these are;
eczema, psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, herpes, mycosis, vitiligo, hair loss and other skin complaints
Muscular-skeletal and neurological
arthritis, back pain, lumbago, stiff neck, sciatica, stroke, cerebral palsy, rheumatism, neuralgia, frozen shoulder, hemiplegia, sprains, Bel’s palsy, sports injuries, etc.
anxiety, depression, panic attacks, stress, insomnia, fatigue, etc.
Eye, ear, nose and throat
hay fever, sinus infection, earaches, glaucoma, myopia, tinitus, sore throat, dizziness, retinal diseases, macular degeneration
migraine, asthma, palpitation, indigestion, constipation, colitis, diabetes, cold and flu, high blood pressure, ulcer, gastritis, diarrhorea, hypoglycaemia, heartburn, haemorrhoids, bronchitis
quit smoking, weight loss, anti-ageing, enhance immune system, raising energy, improve concentration
So… as you can see; acupuncture claims to help with several different ailments from all over our bodies. And i’ve sure as hell tried everything else… so let’s see…
I went to the Chinese Doctor asking for help with anxiety.
Actually, let’s be honest…. my husband took me with him to his appointment, walked me through the gaudy little doorway with the red and gold Chinese dragon decorations and nodded to the Doctor and gestured to me and then said “This is my wife, she needs help”. I sat in the waiting room whilst Dr Wen (who speaks very limited one-word-only English), looked me over. My husband explained that I have depression and ‘low energy’ (I guess it seemed like the most simple way to describe what I was going through, I don’t think it would have helped if he’d said “My wife gets suddenly , overpoweringly, very sad for absolutely no reason and then panics about this and thinks about ending her life”).
He made a face at me like he was doing Yoga Lions breath and said “tongue” … I showed him my tongue. He then got me to place my wrist onto an oval sponge whilst he felt my pulse.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the body is made up of energy lines called meridians – think of it like a road map of energy around the body, and there is a balance of yin and yang energy flowing through us. By puncturing the skin with tiny thin needles, in the correct places in the body, the doctor hopes to unblock that flow of energy so that you can be more balanced. The idea is that our life force, or Qi (chee), can become blocked and cause us to get sick. Chinese medicine aims to treat the body as a whole, encouraging the body to heal itself. This can apparently take a long time.
Meanwhile, I am sitting opposite an old Chinese man with kind eyes and a warm smile, who can’t possibly understand what’s going on in my head, or the language I speak… but he can tell i’m stressed and exhausted.
He gets the translator on the phone and I tell a disembodied voice over the phone that I have low energy,I’m stressed, anxious, have a tightness in my neck and shoulders, and I have a non existent sex drive. He tells me to hand the phone back to the doctor and they talk for a while. I stare at the posters of naked human bodies covered in lines and points and can’t help but notice that there is a front view of a man, a back view of a man…and then a little cross section that shows the anus and the testicles – and there’s apparently an acupuncture point right on the gooch.
I try not to think of gooch as the Doctor comes back to the waiting room and gestures for me to come through to an impossibly tiny little room. I take off my shoes and socks (is that it???) and get onto the bed.
He says “relax”
I try not to tense my anus and realise I am also holding onto my trapezius muscles. For someone with anxiety – not knowing what the fuck is about to happen is about as scary as it gets.
I can hear him fumbling around on the shelf above my head, he is fetching packets of needles. He starts by putting 4 or 5 (i really can’t tell) needles into the top of my head. So far, so good… they don’t really feel of anything.
I’m doing some deep calming breathes to try to remain on the bed and not bolt.
He says “Okay?” in a heavy accent.
I make my usual Japanese style ‘unn’ noise and nod my head a little to show I have understood – the needles twinge. “Don’t move” I tell myself…. it sucks.
He places a needle in the bridge between my eyebrows (my third eye) and flicks the needle, to tap it into place. This one feels okay. He goes for the side of my neck on the right, and this one hurts – not a stabby pain, but a dull aching, like someone has gotten hold of my neck tendon and is pulling it too far out, or in, or something….god it feels weird. I wince.
He says “Okay?” in a heavy accent. I “umn” in reply …without moving this time. He sticks a needle in the left side of my neck.
My anxiety levels shoot up as I realise I need to keep absolutely still so the needles don’t twinge & twitch little achy pains through me like electric shocks. I start my 4, 7, 8 anxiety breathing technique (in for 4, hold for 7 , out for 8).
The Doctor goes for my left wrist, my heart races, I cannot handle anyone touching my wrist (despite the fact I managed to get a tattoo there as a bit of a life challenge and an homage to my time learning to be an ATS sister studio)… I lose control of my breathing and he flicks a needle into the middle of my wrist.
Immediately my left hand curls up by itself, a shock of energy rushes through me and I am thrown full speed ahead into a panic attack, tears streaming down my face; I nervously lift my right hand up to my forehead as if trying to gesture to him that I’m not coping with this area – I completely forget about the needle in my forehead and it flops over my face as my hand brushes it. I feel helpless and horribly embarrassed and so so sorry for this gentle little Chinese guy who is doing his best.
“Okay” “Okay” he says, “relax” and shows me that he has taken out the wrist needle.
My breathing calms down as I count, 4 breathes in…. hold….
He checks my pulse with my right wrist (oh dear god why does he have to touch my wrist). He waits for me to get myself under control and he carries on with his needle insertion… 1 on each ankle, 1 in the top of each foot – all the while checking in with me – in between every needle he stops to say “Okay?” …followed by “relax”.
When he is finished he says “no pun no gun” and smiles at me.
I realise after a while he means; no pain, no gain.
I lie in the darkness of the little room, on a medical bed, with needles in me, feeling like a museum moth in a display case, unable to move. The only thing I can do is concentrate on my breathing. “It’s like a free meditation pass” I tell myself. I spend the next 25 minutes somewhere between meditation and panic, wavering between the two.
When he returns to remove the needles, I feel a little twinge with each one he removes (it’s the first time I have felt them since he put them in… they don’t hurt unless you move). I breathe a sigh of relief as the last needle is removed.
Then the massage begins.
Now, I’ve had a massage before… this was not your usual massage…. it is never normally anything like what happened in that little room.
The doctor put his hands on my stomach… and began shoving his fingers into my guts… just, pokey pokey shove shove shove, wiggle wiggle… it was STRANGE. After I relaxed into the rhythm of it I realised it was probably doing me the world of good. This massage is to move stuck energy in my stomach and intestines around.
After prodding my stomach like an enthusiastic toddler with play-doh, he grabbed a hold of my eye brow bridge and shunted it up and down vigorously. Then did the same to the back of my skull… both of these felt really good afterwards, like there was a definite release.
Then he ‘massaged’ the top of my head, by violently ramming his fingers back and forth over the sides of my head, pulling out about a 5th of my hair in the process (I really didn’t like this bit). He turned me over to lie face down, and pinched my arms and shoulders… and prodded at the centre of my spine for a bit too. It was all a bit weird… not at all relaxing and I was glad when it was over.
After the treatment I was given some herbs. I’d heard horror stories in the past about herb tea that tastes foul, luckily though, I was given pills to take. The most expensive herbal pills in ALL THE LAND.
I left feeling exhausted from the stress of all the unknown stuff… but something about the kindness in that Chinese man’s eyes had me return for another 5 sessions over the next 3 weeks. I can’t say I’m magically better, but my panic attacks have lessened and I am really really proud of myself for overcoming my fear of needles if anything else. I never did let him insert them into my wrists, but I had some in my stomach and turned my wrists over for him to use the back (top?) of my wrist instead – word of advice… don’t move your hands – one lift of a finger can send a shock wave up your entire forearm.
For more information on acupuncture – watch this video…. because it is funny more than anything else…
I hope that by sharing my experience it will give you a little insight into what its like to have acupuncture when you have anxiety and your doctors speaks no English. Good luck ! xx
Take care little kits, feel free to subscribe to this blog so that you can work through your own anxiety issues along with my blog posts over the next few weeks.
I hope you can find peace and joy today.