Saturday, October 13, 2012

My foray into the world of acupuncture

Some of my test results from the lab work I did yesterday at Kaiser are still coming in, so it looks like I will have to wait until Monday when I go to the Optifast clinic to find out what is going on with the anemia.  In the meantime, I am continuing to deal with back pain, which I have talked about before (I know ... when it rains, it pours).  I have some pretty significant lower back pain that I am continuing to get treatment for with a physical therapist.  However, the physical medicine doctor also wanted me to start acupuncture treatments to see if that helps.  I was actually pretty surprised when she suggested it because the treatments are covered through Kaiser but with an outside provider.  That's pretty progressive for a large hospital group that follows western medicine to support the practice of eastern philosophies.

I have never had acupuncture treatments before and, honestly, didn't know much about it except I knew there were needles involved.  People I know that have had treatments swear by them and say how relaxing the experience is.  As far as I'm concerned, I am open-minded enough to at least give it a try, especially if it is going to help with the pain.  So, I selected a provider from the list Kaiser gave me that was located close to my office, not knowing much about this person at all.  It's hard to know who to pick when you don't have a frame of reference, but I did check out her website and everything seemed fine to me.  One thing that was surprising, and I guess it was a pre-conceived notion of mine, was that she was not Asian, as I just naturally assumed she would be.  Of course that was fine with me.  My ethnic background is that I am Filipino on my mom's side and a whole mix of European ancestry on my dad's side, so I definitely have the non-typical experience.  I just found it fascinating as we typically don't see someone who is non-Asian as an acupuncturist. 

I waited in the reception area while Kelly finished her work with another client and looked around.  Being the geek-a-zoid that  I am sometimes, I snapped this pic when I was alone.  The room was very soothing with exotic smells and soft music.  The artwork on the walls was definitely drawing me in and helping to let any stress I was feeling in the moment leave me.  I sat there and wondered to myself if it was possible to hope that the back pain I have been experiencing would somehow be alleviated through this process.  I always assumed the pain had to do with all the excess weight I was carrying around in the beginning.  After losing nearly 190 pounds, the pain is still there and that's why I knew I needed to seek treatment for it.  This whole experience with weight loss has really shown me that I was not doing a very good job of taking care of my needs.  If I am experiencing pain,  I have to say something.  That's a great thing to do.  Look at my experience with the anemia - had I never said anything about what I was going through, it would have been left undiagnosed.

It was now my turn to go into the main room where Kelly would be working with me to review my medical history before we got started.  When I got in the room, I was immediately concerned because I saw the exam table and wondered if it would support the weight of my body.  In my mind, I often times still see myself as I was when I first started my journey back in February at 417 pounds.  I hated the fact that I let my judgements about myself cloud my experience as I walked into the room, but decided that I needed to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward figuratively, let alone physically.

We went through the paperwork I completed and she asked me a ton of questions.  She was floored when we talked about my weight loss.  It is something that still tickles me when I see the look of absolute shock on someone's face when they find out how much weight I have lost.  Literally, this woman did a double take and her jaw was practically on the floor.  Honestly, it is a very big deal and I really forget that sometimes as I go through my journey.  In fact, as I was describing everything to her, I started to get tears welling in my eyes.  This was not some arbitrary person I was talking about ... it's about me and my life.  I am doing a lot of things to change it and that feels really good.  She did tell me that the main focus of her work with me would be about the back issues, but she would also be helping me in a full-circle way so that we can deal with my light-headedness, inability to get good sleep and more.  First I would start off getting on the table and laying down on my back so that she could start treatments there and then eventually lay on my tummy for the second half.  She left me alone for a few minutes so that I could take off my shoes, socks and watch and then climb on the table while she grabbed some supplies.  Here is the table I found myself fearing.

Is it just me, or does it look little to you, too?  After she came back into the room, she explained what the needles were going to feel like and had me touch one so that I could tell how different they were from a typical needle.  To be honest, I wasn't feeling any concern about the pain.  Last summer, when I had melanoma and was prepping for surgery, the team had to perform some tests using these very large needles that went below the surface of my skin to determine if the cancer had spread to lymph nodes.  They described the feeling of bee stings with each needle insertion, which was a total of eight.  So, really, little acupuncture needles did not have the best of me in comparison.  Kelly briefly explained to me the theories behind acupuncture and finding my chi, describing the sensation I would be feeling at some points when the needles are inserted as something similar to a sort of fireworks coursing through my body.  Oh my gosh, she was so right about that.  When she put a needle in the middle of one of my legs as I was laying on my back, the sensation was felt on the entire right side of my body.  It was so unexpected, but also completely fascinating to me.

The whole experience was lovely, really.  I was utterly relaxed, even fell asleep on the table a couple of times when I was left alone to let the needles do their thing.  When she was done, she finished up with a massage on my back and calming lotion applied to the area where I have the back pain.  I have never had a massage before, not ever.  I always had a hard time with that because I was self-conscientious about being bigger and having someone else touching my body in a non-intimate moment.  I really recognized that so much of my life was spent not living and not being in the moment because of how I felt about the size of my body.  Yet, here I was allowing someone access to all of me and she wasn't turned off by it.  If anything, she was very tender and friendly.  Never did I feel judgement from her and, oh my gosh, I completely needed that.

So, I will be getting acupuncture treatments for a couple of months.  I'm really looking forward to this because, if this one visit was any indication, it is a very loving treatment towards my body and ultimately my soul.  As I allow her to touch my body when she provides treatment, I really am letting go more and more of the iron wall that I had silently built up over the years that kept me in the cocoon of obesity, protecting me from nothing.  This is a very good thing for me.


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