After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??
I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.
Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?
Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.
So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!
But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??
It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!
He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.
Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.
I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.
I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!
So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.
And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.
I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.
Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.
So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!
Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!