My actual adventure with acupuncture

Just about a year ago I had an almost adventure with acupuncture. I say ‘almost’ since the practitioner refused to actually give me treatment because of my feeding tube. I always intended to find another practitioner and try it again, but then I got too sick to put time or energy into anything other than survival and it just never happened.

In an effort to get rid of this stubborn headache that’s been hanging around since December I decided it was time to try acupuncture again. I was recommended to a clinic that ended up being less than five minutes from my house. Hoping to avoid a repeat experience, I laid everything out beforehand…my medical history, my feeding tube, my central line…and after talking with one of the naturopaths over the phone I had a really good feeling about it. He said that I definitely need western medicine in my life, but that he thought he would be able to help with the headaches and just my overall energy level and quality of life. And there was no expectation that just because we spoke on the phone I had to make an appointment.

Awesome! Sign me up.

So last Wednesday I went for acupuncture round one. After three hours at the hospital on Monday for an iron infusion, and just an all around bad day on Tuesday, my week was not off to a great start but I was feeling really positive about this appointment. Perhaps it would be just what I needed!

Long story short: it was really bad.

And now for the long story…

The naturopath himself was great; he was very knowledgeable and kind. He did his traditional Chinese medicine evaluation thing, no problem. Then he put the needles in, no problem. Then he dimmed the lights, put on the nature sounds music thing and left the room so I could just relax, telling me he would be back in about 15 minutes. No problem.

Oh wait, problem.

A few minutes after he left I started to feel kind of weird. And then the weird got worse and I started to feel just plain old awful. I was nauseous and despite the fact that I didn’t feel anxious, my heart was racing and pounding my chest. It was as if someone had injected me with epinephrine (a feeling I am familiar with because it has happened before). I just kept breathing deeply, listening to the nature sounds and trying to ignore how sick I felt. I wanted to curl up on my side but seeing as there were needles in the side of my head I figured that would be a bad idea. I tried closing my eyes but that just made the dizziness worse. All I kept thinking was that 15 minutes must have gone by, it must be almost over, he must be coming back any moment now.

Side note: There was a needle right in between my eyes that I could clearly see and in between the feeling sick and feeling even more sick, I kept thinking of this YouTube video that you should watch because it’s funny.

Finally he came back in and he was quite concerned by how awful I was feeling. Beforehand he had warned me that a lot of people experience significant blood pressure drops following treatment, but my blood pressure afterwards was really elevated compared to my normal. I was so happy to get out of there, but when I got back to my car I still felt so sick so I had to wait a while before I could actually drive myself home.

Yikes. That did not exactly go as well as I had hoped! And for the next four days I felt particularly symptomatic. I can’t say for sure that the acupuncture made me feel worse, but it definitely didn’t make me feel better!

So then I had to decide whether or not to go back this week for round two. On the one hand, I feel like I should give everything at least two strikes, if not three, before I rule it out. In chronic illness the two or three strikes rule is pretty common. Our bodies are so inconsistent and hard to understand even when we aren’t changing things up, so a few tries is usually necessary to untangle what’s causing what. But on the other hand, I had a really bad experience and I don’t particularly want to put myself through that again.

I hummed and hawed over this for a few days and then I remembered that my word for February is trust. Trust my gut.

The irony here is that just last week I actually had the thought “Hm. Perhaps my February word is all for naught. I don’t think I’m going to be in a situation where I need to apply it.”

Anyway, I decided to trust my gut and cancel my acupuncture appointment for this week. Maybe it would be better this week, or maybe it would be worse. I will never know, but my gut is telling me that acupuncture is not the answer for me right now and I’m going to listen. This is not to say that I won’t ever try it again, but I think my health right now is a little too unstable and I need to wait until I’ve seen the right doctors who can help me get things under control before I give it another go.

So there you have it. My actual adventure with acupuncture. It was not a positive experience but hey, at least I tried it. Plus, I got a chance to put my February word to good use.

Silver linings.

Moral of the story? Trying new things doesn’t always work out well, but I still say it’s worth a shot because sometimes it works out better than expected, instead.

And hopefully my next post about acupuncture won’t be about an ‘almost’ or an ‘actual’ adventure, but an amazing one. Or awesome. Astounding. Awe-inspiring.

Thank you

My almost adventure with acupuncture

Before I begin, I just want to make it clear that when it comes to treating health conditions, I don’t take sides between western medicine and alternative treatments. I think that appropriate medical intervention is necessary, but that it can be very beneficial to complement it with other forms of intervention, whether that be naturopathy, acupuncture, herbs, diet modifications, meditation, etc. To reference Bernie Siegel (again), if a patient believes in a treatment and believes that it will benefit their body, chances are it will.

In the last year and a half since my stomach launched a formal protest against food and gave strike notice (consultations are underway to resolve this issue), my main focus has been medical treatment. I’ve done what I can on my own to help promote healing in my body, including yoga and practicing the relaxation response, but until the medical side of things was under control I wasn’t ready to actually seek alternative treatment. For years now people have been suggesting I try acupuncture and I’ve read about a lot of success stories from patients with gastroparesis who have tried it. I have kept it in the back of mind, but I haven’t been too keen on having a bunch of needles poked into me, even though people say you can barely feel it.

It’s not that I have a needle aversion; vaccinations and blood tests have never bothered me. However, just because I don’t mind being poked does not mean that I would willingly choose to do so. Well, a couple of weeks in the hospital changed that. Between IVs, morphine injections, daily blood draws, twice daily heparin shots, not to mention my recent ER visits to have my tube stitched back in, I have been poked a lot! Having direct access to my small intestine has also somewhat changed the boundaries of my body. Every couple hours throughout the day I turn a valve and push a syringe full of water through my tube and all night long I sleep while a machine pumps nutrition into me. When I stop to think about it, it’s really very weird. Basically, my body is not entirely my own.

As it turns out, I am now ready to willingly have a bunch of needles stuck into me. Okay, time to look into acupuncture. My hesitation was that I didn’t know where to go as there are so many acupuncturists out there. You hear success stories and horror stories, so you want to make sure you are putting yourself in good hands.

I think anyone with ongoing health problems can understand that there comes a point when you just don’t know what to do anymore. You want to advocate for yourself and seek out anything and everything to make yourself better, but there is a fine line before you start to get overwhelmed and maybe do more damage than good. I’ve been there. In the last four years I have put castor oil on my stomach (yeah, ew), seen two naturopaths, done two elimination diets, taken various herbal or natural remedies, read a ton of books and various other things. So recently, I made a deal with the universe. I’m going to advocate for myself as best as I can, and then when I don’t know what step to take next the universe is going to send me signs for which I always be on the look out. We spit and shook on it so I’m pretty sure it’s a done deal.

On Sunday evening our church bulletin was sitting on the counter and lo and behold on the back of it is an advertisement for a local acupuncture and physiotherapy clinic. Thanks, universe! I contacted the clinic and explained my situation. Since I don’t have a musculoskeletal issue they couldn’t take on my case, but happily referred me to a local acupuncturist with almost 30 years of experience. Perfect. I called and made a consult appointment for this morning.

Going to see any new person for a health care concern is always a bit stressful because I am a very unique case and some people can’t quite wrap their head around it. After explaining my condition, my symptoms and my feeding tube, all to which the acupuncturist was very sympathetic, she looked at my tongue and concluded that my problem is that I don’t drink enough. Again, let me say that I don’t discredit alternative medicine. I am sure that she can tell a lot about people from simple observations, including looking at one’s tongue. With that said, she wasn’t very willing to adjust her beliefs and advice to fit my needs. I tried to explain that it’s very hard for me to drink and eat enough because of my slow stomach but that I am sure to keep myself hydrated by flushing water through my tube throughout the day. Again, she said that my stomach is too hot inside and needs fluid. She also was very against my feeding tube and said that if I eat and drink slowly enough then I shouldn’t need it. I tried further explaining my situation, saying that I had spent over a year trying to eat and drink enough while my body starved and I slowly wasted away, and that right now I wouldn’t be able to survive without my tube, but she just didn’t come around to the concept. Apparently I don’t need acupuncture right now and instead I just need to drink more, including some herbal tea.

I completely understand that a tube is not a natural solution. However, at this moment in time it is my only solution. My poor body has been through so much and getting this tube was not an easy step to take. There was a lot of anguish, doubt, second guessing and stress involved in this step, so when someone suggests that I made the wrong decision I get pretty defensive. Needless to say, this acupuncturist and I are not a good fit.

Well thanks, universe, for sending me on a wild goose chase down a dead end road. This was not our agreement!

At least that’s what I thought. I now realize that I was in fact the one who broke the agreement by not looking for the sign. I think the universe actually sent me a very clear sign that it’s not the right time for me to try acupuncture but I was just too defensive in the moment to realize it.

So there it is: my almost adventure with acupuncture. This is not to say that I will never attempt to try it again but for right now I just don’t think it’s for me. If I can take anything away from this it is that the universe is always talking to me, even if I don’t like what it has to say, or in this case how it says it!