Admittedly, I’m a procrastinator.
Ok, I kind of brag about my innate abilities to put off til tomorrow what any reasonably responsible adult would do today. And I am fairly reasonable and I am responsible…
Yet, here I am.
In my own defense, the impetus for this blog entry is something I’ve avoided for some time: acupuncture.
A very reasonable friend and former colleague of mine – I think I blog-named her Linda Belcher – has been after me for at least 18 months to make the leap from western medicine to this mystically eastern form of treatment for my back pain. Her husband – who, I suppose we must extrapolate the blog-naming paradigm and call Bob Belcher – is a student at OCOM, the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and is studying acupuncture, so she’s got a pretty unique frame of reference here.
But do I go?
No, no I don’t.
Lord, no reason. My grandfather had acupuncture once. I think it was literally once. He’s 94. None of my other grandparents ever had acupuncture. They’re all dead. You do the math.
For back pain, in case you were curious.
Why would I put this off? I told you, there’s no reasonable reason.
Linda Belcher even sweetened the pot for me and put me on the Friends & Family list. I can go for $15 instead of the regular and extremely reasonable price of $30 (maybe $35, I’m old, I forget things) per visit.
So, there I am, finally making an appointment. My intake appointment day arrives and I’m filling out all of these forms about my health history. Just like a real doctor’s office. Hehe. I go in for my session and my practioner and the student observer and I talk for about 20 minutes about my health.
Not just my back pain. All of it. 20 minutes! My real doctor’s appointments don’t even last 20 minutes in total! Show up, complain. Prescribe. GTFO.
I must admit that a good five minutes of that talk was me doing my stand up schtick for the pretty girls, but my wise cracks always answered the question at hand.
Well, I did tell them the story about my grandfather. But they did ask if anyone in my family had ever had acupuncture.
“How did he respond to it?”
As you can see, I think answering that with, “Well, he’s 94 and my other grandparents never had acupuncture and are all dead. Can you guarantee the same results from this session?” is a fairly reasonable question in this case. I mean, if I don’t throw out my expectations, how will they ever know if they are meeting them?
So, they stab me 13 times and I don’t die: three in each foot, six in the back and one in my bald spot.
They check in and ask how it feels and I tell them I’m aware of the needles, but they don’t hurt. My practioner assures me that’s exactly what they want, which I interpret as a favorable response to all of my wise-cracking…assuming they could make it hurt if they didn’t enjoy my colorful responses.
Then they turn off the lights and abandon me for about a half hour.
As soon as the door shuts, my mind immediately goes to, “But how do I get your attention if I need anything?” mode. That precedes a couple of the needles starting to fire in whatever nerve/tissue cluster they’re stabbed into. My mind is an interesting place. Simultaneously, I’m visualizing the needles twitching like the hole flags in Caddyshack right before Mr Gopher pulls them underground and also mentally shouting “Help. Help.” over and over again in a calm monotone as I lay there, facedown in an open backed hospital gown with 13 needles swaying in the breeze…
But externally, I play it cool, while thinking about whether or not the number 13 is bad luck or not in Asian cultures.
I don’t die.
They eventually return, pull the pins out of me, get me dressed and I set out for home feeling friggin’ fantastic!
I can’t believe I put this off for so long. I’m actually a little bummed since they recommended weekly visits and are closed for holiday break for the next two weeks. I manage my disappointment and book six sessions following the break. My nice practitioner isn’t coming back after the break so I book with a guy that she gives high marks to in skeleto-muscular techniques.
Plus, maybe he’s cute.
That’s important, right?
Perfectly reasonable thought to entertain, in my estimation.
I start to feel a little discomfort in my back between appointments, but I’m not worried that it didn’t work. I’m more just logging the length of the results since one of their level-sets was around minimizing my pain versus eliminating it. They told me that my back may hurt daily right now, so maybe a reasonable result would be to go 2-3 days without pain. Perhaps after a few more sessions that becomes a week without pain andbthen maybe I only come in every other week for maintenance.
I liked it. Sounded so reasonable.
I’m acknowledging those results goals which live in the back of my mind while my inner child is clapping giddily and singing “Maybe your bald spot will grow hair back”, which is admittedly…less reasonable.
My second visit starts about the same – 20 minute chat as my needle man and I get to know each other. He’s asking about all the same history stuff and then segues into “How is your digestion?”
“You’re kinda cute, I think I don’t know if I want to discuss poop with you” I think.
And then I discuss my poop with him at great length, starting with me saying “Stuff goes in one end and comes out the other totally unrecognizable. Except corn, of course!” and ending with him saying, “Well, if it were me, I’d probably want to have that looked at, but I can definitely at least help!” There was other stuff in the middle of that conversation.
I was also in the middle of or at the end of – who knows with these things? – a particularly heinous cold. But while he kind of wants to treat my back pain – based on the results from the last session – using radial points as I lie face up, his supervisor recommends delaying that and using direct access treatment in my back.
He sticks 21 needles in me. There’s needles fucking everywhere. He discusses holiday preference to use more needles as long as the patient can handle it. “Y’know…as long as they don’t get light headed when they stand up or show any signs of needle fatigue” he says.
“Uh huh”, I say while mentally tracking the proximity of his lab coat brushing against my skin in relationship to the needle he placed there, the third in the series of the 21. “Just out of curiosity, why wouldn’t you put that needle on the outside of my hand closest to you in last to avoid snagging it on your coat?” I can’t resist asking while picturing the yoga it must be taking for him to skirt what I assume is basically a knitting needle sticking out of my hand.
“Oh, don’t worry”, he says, “I rarely catch myself on the needles, they’re really short.”
Turns out, the needles he was using were only about an inch long. I feel relieved and cheated at the same time. I’ve never heard of these short needles. Hollywood has programmed me to expect otherwise.
Ok, then. Curing and learning!
I feel so good afterward that I tell The Silver Fox he simply must try it for his knee recovery…remember, from when he fell through that deck? I’m sure I told that story. The end result of the ensuing doctor’s visits being this gem: as you age, it takes about three weeks per decade lived to really recover from injuries. Basically, his doctor told him he was gonna die with that knee pain.
He went in that Friday and has felt sustained relief over the last week.
When I go back the following week for my next session, I’m asked how my back pain is and I tell him it’s a 0 on a scale of 1-10. He looks up in surprise and confirms that it was a 6-7 the week before. Yeah, let’s do that again!
He decides to focus on treating the back using the aforementioned radial points and add in some points for my knee.
When he comes in to check on me, I tell him I’m really glad I’m on my back because I think my cold from the prior week has just morphed into a sinus infection and that even though it’s just one pressure point, bending forward or laying on my face feels like there’s a spike being driven through my left cheek.
He expresses genuine-yet-geeky concern that I hadn’t mentioned that before verbally shrugging and saying I’ve got 30 minutes left and he’s gonna throw a couple pins in me to help.
I’m skeptical…but in for 23, in for 25, right?
He sticks one in my face under my left eye and then tells me he’s going to place the other one under my skin, parallel to my nose.
It’s ok, it’s just a little one he says and then it’s in. I wrinkle my nose and I can feel it, just lying there, stabbing me. Naturally, I feel a sneeze coming on and mentally go into full freak out mode.
This is it. Death by sneezing, compounded by acupuncture as the needle is somehow driven into my brain if I sneeze.
Who knows, maybe there’s a pin he can stick in me to shut off the weird neurotic manner in which my brain works; always entertaining the worst case scenario.
Nah, where’s the fun in that?
He comes back in and starts pulling pins like a disgruntled employee in a grenade factory. I’m mentally starting a count with each pin he pulls, but he’s moving so adeptly that I never get to “Three”. However, when he gets to my nasal piercing, my face explodes in relief.
Literally no pressure!
I’m amazed. I sit up quickly when he leaves and get dressed. I open the door as I’m sitting to put my shoes on and invite him in as I gush about how fantastic I feel. I ask him for a card to give to a work friend who has fibromyalgia and he gives me one, then somehow I end up with all of his cards. I have one left. That’s how excitedly I’ve been talking about how great the results are.
Plus, now I feel safe taking out a mortgage. I was pretty on the fence about taking out a 30 year loan at my age after selling my condo in Seattle, but now…
Since, obviously I’m gonna live to 94 and then some…