A moment to breath...
Articles on acupuncture, health, life, and some actionable steps we can take...
Chronic illness and pain deal with a unique set of challenges. To wake up day after day, and often throughout the night, and be immediately faced with one's own limitations, pain, and vulnerability is, simply put, exhausting.
I have so much respect for my patients that deal with chronic illness and pain. It is my desire to assist them, not just with decreasing pain and stimulating deep healing, but with recognizing the tremendous work they are doing day after day. I want them to have patience and compassion with themselves, and to know that even when they fall off their program of healing, that's OK and human. It's OK to be human! With compassion, they can get back on track to feeling better. With harsh self-criticism, their pain and illness often worsen.
Chronic illness, especially severe illnesses like autoimmune and Lyme disease, require a delicate balance of determination and perseverance with kindness and compassion for self. The negative self-talk we often get taught as kids ("Don't be a slob!" "Why are you so lazy?!") is only going to devastate their energy and worsen their pain. I want my patients to speak to themselves as if they were their own child- someone to protect, nurture, love, inspire, and see beauty in.
We live in a time and place that values individuals only by their contributions and resources. Society demands that you prove your value to have a place within it. This value system forgets that all life has value, and people bring value just by existing! All life deserves basic respect and care, including plants and animals and fungi!
When individuals are in a state of need, needing help or assistance, and are not in a place of being able to do or accomplish much, they still serve a very important service to their communities- they bring us together. They become the glue that reminds us that we're all in this together. They often become the wise ones that remind us about what really matters, and how we have so much to be grateful for. And that's a lesson we could all be reminded of a little more frequently! I try to remember to tell myself what I often tell my son: "A happy heart is a grateful heart!" Gratitude is the greatest wealth a person can hold.
One of the hardest positions to ever be in is to be in a position of needing help. How to maintain self-respect and autonomy when relying on others? How to ask for help and not feel personally rejected when the answer is "I can't" or "no"? How to keep asking, again and again, without bitterness and resentment? Those are some harsh, compounded thought/feeling monsters built from self-loathing! If you are angry at yourself for not being able to meet your own needs, and you force yourself to uncomfortably ask for help, only to be seemingly rejected... that self-anger becomes anger at others. Patience and kindness and the realization that you have inherent value simply because you exist are the powerful allies in navigating such a situation.
I have been so fortunate to get to work with so many inspiring patients, many of whom have dealt with chronic pain and illness for decades, seeking help with numerous doctors, healers, neurologists, immunologists, counselors... some helping, some not, some kind, some judgemental... patchworking treatment plans together to navigate the choppy, ever-changing waters of chronic illness. And they laugh, and smile, and cry, and share their stories with me like the warriors they are.
My patients often tell me that acupuncture is a necessary part of their healing process, and that it is something they look forward to during their weeks and months and years of difficulty and doctors appointments. Acupuncture certainly can help! It effectively reduces pain (both physical and emotional). It can even reverse the physiological changes that occur in the brain with PTSD [acupuncture can reverse the growth of the amygdala and it can bring growth back to the hippocampus].
Somehow, acupuncture seems to make all the difficulties of life seem not so big and overwhelming. My patients often find that they leave their treatment feeling much better, almost floating in a bubble or a cloud, and ready to charge on and face their week ahead.
I often say that people already know what they need to do to feel better. Sometimes I can give some insight into other changes that can help, like celery juice for inflammation or Chinese herbal formulas for various issues, but changes that are needed like quitting smoking or avoiding sugar and alcohol are things that people already know and already desire to do. Many times they know those are the single most impactful variables contributing to their illnesses. One of the biggest ways in which acupuncture can help, in my opinion, is by decreasing overwhelm. Then people can make the changes they already have been wanting to do.
I find acupuncture enormously beneficial, even when no words are spoken, but I also wonder how much benefit comes from entering a judgement-free zone of healing care. This begins a headlong dive into psychoneuroimmunology! For more on this subject matter, check back later! Until then, listen to your body, and give it all the love you can.