On pins and needles

It was my therapist who first told me to try accupuncture, in the same first-session conversation wherein she had told me to get my hormone levels checked.  We’re covering all our bases, here: maybe my hormones are out of balance, maybe my chakras are out of balance.  And since the definition of this project is to be open to any methods of healing that are suggested to me, when Anabella mentioned that one of her neighbors works in a local accupuncture clinic and did I want to go, of course I had to say yes.

I’d tried accupuncture once before in my life, when a free introductory session was offered through the gym I was going to, and from that, I was left with the following impressions: it doesn’t hurt, it’s relaxing and kind of trippy, and it’s not a miracle drug.  I may have gone into that session asking for help with knee pain, or digestion – either way, I didn’t feel the need to go back at the time.

The place Anabella took me to is not a private clinic; behind the simple lobby is a large room with a lot of recliners, where fully-clothed patients relax for as long as they need to with tiny needles in their faces, hands, and feet.  This allows the accupuncturist to work on many patients at once, on a gently flowing schedule of needles in and needles out, and therefore greatly reduces the cost to the patients.  Anabella, Elena, and I all sat side by side and waited for our turns.

Anabella got her needles put in first, and Elena and I whispered and giggled to each other about how we were going to take a picture of her as soon as no one else was in the room.  Then Elena moved to a different recliner, further from the sunny window, and I sat by myself, watching the accupuncturist work, watching the other women in the room as they lounged around in trances.  (“When you begin to feel restless, or ‘wake up’ – usually after half an hour to an hour – this means you are done,” the paperwork I’d filled out had explained.)

Finally, the accupuncturist, a petite redhead who seemed as though she may always be more comfortable whispering than speaking, told me to meet her in a screened-off corner of the room so we could talk.  As I sat in a plastic folding chair behind the screen and waited for her, I had to close my eyes and tell my heart to stop beating so hard.  I hadn’t even been aware I was nervous.

“What can I help you with today?” the accupuncturist whispered as she sat down across from me.

“Did you read the paperwork?” I whispered back.  I’d filled it out the day before and left it for her, giving her details of all my physical and emotional symptoms, and had even left her the address for this blog.

“No, I haven’t read it yet.  I can read through it right now, or you can just tell me.”

I felt a little hurt that she hadn’t spent the whole previous evening studying and preparing for how best to treat me, but I simply said, “To make a long story short, I have some PTSD symptoms from a miscarriage I had two years ago, and my therapist suggested I try accupuncture, to line up my chakras…”  I faltered.  This sounded stupid.

But the accupuncturist was very gentle and understanding, in the way that only a whisper-spoken person can be, and after getting a few more details about my story and my symptoms, told me, “In times of emotional distress, it’s usually the spleenal chakra that’s first to go off-balance.  I’d like to do some spleen work on you.  Would you be okay if I…?”  She looked at my abdomen, where she was proposing to stick a few needles, and then stopped herself mid-sentence.  “But you’re wearing a dress.”

She went on.  “We provide support in times of grief and emotional distress – we don’t try to change the way you feel, we just support you.  It is very relaxing, though, which can help you cope with some of those emotions.  Do you have any questions?”


Yes.  What about my sex drive, can you help with that?  I wrote it in the paperwork you didn’t read yet.  Then again, I am going to be sleeping on a squeaky air mattress on Anabella’s living room floor, and probably don’t want to be having sex tonight anwyay.  Let’s do this thing.

I went back to my recliner, and the accupuncturist began working on me.  Most of the needles didn’t hurt.  A few did – one in my left hand in particular.  Then she walked away to begin work on Elena, and I began to feel the effect that I most remember from that last time I tried this: my blood, rushing and swirling through my veins.  This time, my hands were particularly affected; it felt as though they were floating, even though when I opened my eyes, I could clearly see that they were resting solidly on the arms of the recliner.

I dozed off for a little while, in that wonderful swirly state, until a man came into the room for treatment, and disrupted the entire feel of the place with his male energy and his gruff (out-loud) voice.  The accupuncturist saw my open eyes, came over and asked if I was ready to get up, or whether I’d like a few more minutes.

“How long have I been sitting here?” I asked her.

“About half an hour.”

“I guess I’m ready, then.”

When I went out into the lobby, Anabella was already there.  Elena came out a few minutes later, and we began walking back to the house.  I felt rested, awake, and happy.

“How many needles did you have?” Elena asked, skipping along beside me.

“I dunno.  Twelve, maybe?  Fourteen?”

“I had 18,” she said.  “How many conditions did you have?”

“Elena!” Anabella snapped.  “You can’t ask people how many conditions they have!”

“I have more conditions than I can count,” I told Elena, grinning.  “I have all the conditions.”

“Oh.  I have…  Well, my knee hurts a little.  Probably because I run so much.”

“So that’s why you had all those needles in your legs.” 

The skipping and the giggling continued the rest of the way home.

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3 Responses to On pins and needles

  1. Adina says:

    My sister in law just had her 3rd miscarriage last night within a year. The first one was at 23 weeks and the little girl lived an hour after delivery. They couldn’t save her because it was before 24 weeks. The second one was at 7 weeks I think, and last night she delivered her baby boy at 21 1/2 weeks. He died shortly after birth. I don’t even know what there is to say to her at this point. It’s been helpful to read your blog because I feel like I get some semblance of what she must be feeling. Hell on Earth it’s gotta be. She’s in the hospital until tomorrow. Any suggestions on what I could do for her? I can’t even imagine…

    • Marie says:

      Oh, Adina…

      Unfortunately, there is nothing helpful I can say, because there is nothing helpful anyone can say. All the “helpful things,” whether spiritual (“God has a plan”) or medical (that after three miscarriages, she’s considered a “chronic aborter” and the doctors will start looking into a cause and actively try to prevent it from happening again), are likely to fall on deaf ears here. There’s no right answer to grief. Just… be there for her – ask her what you & Scott can say or do to be of service to her right now; tell her that all her emotions are valid and deserve to be felt to their full capacity (anything you block will come back to haunt you); invite her to read this blog if you think it will help her to know she is not alone: my story is nothing compared to hers, but I’m sure some of the emotions are the same.

      Good luck. My heart goes out to your family.

  2. Pingback: Getting stuck | Bakery Closed Until Further Notice

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