This is a story of using needles to heal an injured body. But it's more than that. It's about transformation. This is also about change, attitude adjustment, and gaining a new outlook on the world around us. This is a story about allowing oneself to find happiness and enjoy life. Acupuncture wasn't the sole contributor in these powerful life lessons, but undoubtedly it was the catalyst to look within and begin to discover my Self.
I first tried acupuncture in early 2010 for headaches that would routinely launch an assault to take over half my head as if a spear was being stuck in the base of my skull. My husband was having success with individual treatments at an acupuncturist near work. He found an advertisement for a local community center that was more affordable and wanted to check it out. As for most people, needles aren't one of my favorites, but I agreed to go with him and give it a try. I was so nervous the first session, but it wasn't so bad once the needles were in. The second session was easier because I knew what to expect. I went to a few sessions and had some success, but due to work and everything thing else that seemed important at the time, it was just one more thing to try to squeeze in and I stopped going. My husband, on the other hand, continued to go at least monthly.
Until January 2011 when life as I knew it changed. I had an accident that left me with two broken feet and sprained ankles, as well as lower back pain and severe nerve pain in my left leg caused by a bulging disc. Ultimately I was out of work for four and a half months. I was couch-bound day and night for the first 4 weeks with dual casts. I couldn't work; I couldn't cook; I couldn't clean... I had to rely on others. To me, it was torture. After the casts came off and I became a bit more mobile, my husband urged me to try acupuncture again to help with the pain. With nothing but time and my trusty laptop, I was already Google searching every potential cure for broken feet out there. Maybe this could speed up the process and get me back to normal.
You see, at the time I was obsessed with healing as quickly as possible. Not for myself, but to get back to work. I only knew how to work and stay busy. Genetically pre-disposed, I had always told myself. Relaxation? Yes, I had heard of it. My preferred method was cleaning and obsessively keeping order. And naps? Forget about it! What a waste of time. There was so much I could miss if I allowed myself to sleep during daylight hours. That was for lazy people, who clearly didn't have self-imposed chores to cross off an ever increasing and organized list.
So I went back to the local community acupuncture center. I knew what to expect this time. Take a soft blanket or two from the bin and pick a chair. Wait for the friendly acupuncturist to make his or her way over to ask me about my chief complaints. Needles inserted; rest begins. Due to my injuries, the recommendation was to have sessions on three consecutive days to jump start the healing. I had little else to do and was fortunate to have family members willing to drive me to appointments, so I agreed to give it a whirl.
To be honest, acupuncture has just been one facet of the healing process. Eventually once I stopped obsessing about being out of work (around the 3 month mark!), I realized that I needed to be an active participant in getting better, rather than waiting for the doctors to "make me better" with medicines and physical therapy. I had to learn to change my body dynamics, pay attention to my posture and adjust the way I did normal tasks. I had to be patient. My mind had to have one primary focus: allow yourself to heal. I credit acupuncture with helping me get to this state of understanding because it forced me to stop and listen to my body. It took several sessions to get there, but I tend to be stubborn.
109. That's how many consecutive days of pain I endured before I began to experience entire days without. Until I got to glorious Day 110, it seemed my only reprieve was the time spent in the recliner at the community acupuncture center. Once I could drive myself and didn't rely on family members to tote me everywhere, I increased my appointments. It was the first place I drove myself actually. There were weeks when I went 5 days to acupuncture. Sure, I could sleep on the couch at home, and did. But my pain didn't subside when I woke up. There was something about those needles.
Those little needles, usually between 12-20 based on my compulsive count and seemingly placed haphazardly in different locations each visit, actually did reduce the pain in my feet and ankles. I felt the most relief in my lower back. I didn't mind the needles in my scalp, which I've come to associate with calm relaxation and peaceful sleep, regardless of why the acupuncturist places them there. That's where they went on the visits when I quietly sobbed upon sitting in the recliner. Or when I had anxiety. Or was dealing with depression. There were a lot of ups and downs on the roller coaster ride that was my life those four and a half long months. However, I could walk into the treatment session out of sorts, take a needle nap, and wake up refreshed, ready to battle another day with a smile on my face. It was like hitting an emotional reset button.
My nightly slumbers have always been filled with detailed and often strange dreams, but my needle naps are wonderfully and restfully dreamless. Unlike an individual acupuncture appointment, there wasn't a strict time limit for sessions at the community center. One to 1 ½ hours became the norm. On bad days when the pain was getting the best of me I would sleep 2 to 2 ½ hours. Or three. My body needed it. I craved it. Fortunately, those wonderful souls with the needles let me sleep as long as I needed. On more than one occasion when I had evening appointments, I'd be the last one in the room that had been filled with 10 or so other patients before I dove under into my Zen-like rest. When it was time to close shop or my husband had been waiting in reception long enough after his session had been long over, I'd be woken up to go home. With less pain or anguish than I went in with.
Thankfully the Universe brought me back to acupuncture. It changed my life. Forever. I truly believe it saved my sanity during the seemingly endless recuperation. It taught me to open up to strangers and allow someone else, who I barely knew, to help and care about me. If they could do it, I could too. Acupuncture didn't just help me to heal physically, but more importantly, it led me to a path where I learned to find balance in life. I'm a work in progress and just beginning down this new path in the journey of life. I understand now that while work is a necessary part of life for most of us, it sure isn't the only part. The old adage of "Take time to stop and smell the roses."? I can actually appreciate that now and, wow, the fragrance is intoxicating. And naps? What a powerful healing mechanism! So worth making the time for.
Joanna Ferraro, frequent recliner @ MAS