I’m a big believer in getting regular acupuncture … or “acupuncturing” as my mother-in-law calls it. She also calls beautifully-slowly-falling snow “tranquilizing.” I should advise that English is at least her third language, and I find these slight mistakes to be heart-warmingly endearing. But I digress … this post is going to be about me going “under the needle.” There will probably be instances of TMI. Consider yourself warned, and turn back now. (wink)
Back in 2009, a number of events happened simultaneously that caused me a great deal of stress, anxiety, and sadness. Insomnia was one of the side effects I suffered … and, interestingly, so were hemorrhoids (?!?!?) No Western doctor could explain why I suddenly developed hemorrhoids and insisted that my diet must have changed, despite my assurances that it hadn’t … and I would know, right? Or that I was straining during my daily constitutional, despite my assurances that I wasn’t … and, again, I would know, right?
Frustrated … and in pain … I complained to my friends Elizabeth & Chris during dinner one night. These friends happened to both be in school to become acupuncturists, and when they heard my tale … about my tail … they shared a knowing look and said matter-of-factly, “Oh! Your kidney qi fell!” Shaking my head, sure that I had misunderstood, I asked, “My what fell?” They repeated, “Your kidney qi fell … it caused your hemorrhoids. Acupuncture can help.” They recommended I try the local community acupuncture clinic where Elizabeth was volunteering as a receptionist because she highly respected the clinic owner/practitioner and wanted the exposure, for the clinic she hoped to open one day.
So with nothing to lose since I was getting nowhere with my Western doctors, I made an appointment and tried acupuncturing. I wouldn’t say I was optimistic, nor was I skeptical. I was just willing.
Ninah Hoffman of Community Acupuncture Works in San Francisco treated me during that initial appointment, and it is no exaggeration to say that my life has never been the same. She is warm and compassionate, with the ability to empathize with a seemingly endless number of situations and symptoms. When I told her of my maladies, she said, “Oh! Your kidney qi fell!” with a slight shrug of her shoulders, as if to say, “Ah! An easy explanation!” And with that, she inserted the needles in places to raise that qi back up. After two sessions, believe it or not, the hemorrhoids went AWAY!
I was genuinely surprised … and most pleased … so I went back for more of this acupuncturing. She addressed my insomnia next, which promptly improved. I’ll never forget her asking one day if there was anything else she could help with — if there were any way I would describe myself, for which she could help. I responded, “I feel like I’m one sentence away from a panic attack. And that one sentence is different variations of, ‘You didn’t do it perfectly’ and/or ‘You’ve disappointed me.'” I’d never really thought of this as anxiety. Nor had I thought of it in such simple summary-statements. But that day, I realized that at the base of my fears, was the worry that — as much of a perfectionist as I was — that I was not going to do something perfectly, which would ultimately let someone (and myself) down.
And so began my regular, weekly visits with the lovely Ninah, when she worked her magic to help me with anxiety. Throughout those first few months, she would address my worrying and anxiety — and other issues, as well: lower back pain from sitting all day in my office job, tight neck & shoulders from all that worrying, boosting my immunity to help avoid colds and viruses (or at least shorten their lifespans). At one point, I was in a bad bicycle accident, resulting in 2 broken teeth and 2 fractured & sprained fingers, and bruising to high heaven. Her treatments helped me recover much more quickly and helped ease the pain.
One time I remember being just furious with a situation and turning to my journal to vent my frustrations. I found myself, instead, making a list of everything I adore about Mr. Batch, who was fairly new on the scene at that time. By the time I was finished with that list, I was grinning and giggling to myself, and in a much better place to journal about the situation that had hurt my feelings. When I recounted this to Ninah, she beamed and said, “That’s what we find with people who get regular acupuncture — after a few months, their body chemistry starts to change and they can begin to heal themselves differently and more quickly.” I tend to think of the grooves on a record … almost like the acupuncture helps the needle of the record-player find a new groove … a new song. (I also love the record player needle / acupuncture needle reference … hahaha!) I started to reflect back on the 6 months since I had started getting regular acupuncture, and realized that I had undergone a metamorphosis! I had started to go through anxiety-producing situations much more easily than I had in the past … with more grace … in a place of more acceptance rather than resistance. What a relief! With refreshed dedication, each week saw me in the recliners of Community Acupuncture Works, being treated by Ninah and the other practitioners. Friends would sometimes join me, after I proselytized the virtues of this type of healing, in a community setting … a place where many come to heal … together.
Mr. Batch and I moved to Rochester, NY in the summer of 2012, for a job he accepted at the University of Rochester. One of my most tearful goodbyes was to the lovely Ninah. After my final appointment with her, I cried all the way down 24th Street in the Mission. I choke-up now as I write this, thinking of all the topics we covered in my sessions, and all of the symptoms that she — and the needles — addressed. Ninah was my primary caregiver at the clinic, where I had over 100 treatments over the course of 2.5 years. She saw me through a very painful break-up, the mortgage crisis that impacted me personally, my parents’ declining health, a very high-pressure job, the exit of a few friends, and my decision to depart a friendship. She also shared joys with me. I’ll never forget excitedly telling her at the beginning of one of my appointments, “I have a date!” which was the evening of my first date with Mr. Batch!
I count myself extremely lucky that there is a community acupuncture clinic in Rochester, and so I have continued to get my weekly acupuncturing to this day. I am treated by three talented “punks” as they call themselves: Dani, Angela & Janeane. I still proselytize to my new Rochester friends, as I do now in this Reflection. Metamorphosis via acupuncturing, and that ever-flowing qi.