The moment a precisely placed needle pricks my skin, I know relief and relaxation are just minutes away. I’m an addict and yes, it’s a something I will never quit…acupuncture.
Determined to fight a diagnosis of Complex-PTSD without the help of a pill, I choose a homeopathic approach.
In the past, I had tried medicine for depression and anxiety. It offered little result and unpleasant side effects. From this experience, I came to prefer natural remedies.
Meditation, yoga, exercise, talk-therapy, herbal teas, essential oils, hot baths…I tried them all. Nothing helped enough. I began to feel hopeless and defeated.
Finally, at the sincere urging of my therapist and steps away from being hospitalized, I agreed to once again consider traditional medication.
Nothing worked. I tried medicine after medicine. Every pill came with side effect after side effect. Some drugs even caused life threatening allergic reactions to my highly sensitive system.
Rashes, headaches, extreme fatigue, brain fog, heightened anxiety, increased depression, restlessness, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, sexual side effects, hyperactive behavior…the list goes on.
A very small dose of sedative medication was the only drug that my body tolerated. It was the only medicine that took the edge off agonizing symptoms.
Months of trial and error with a psychiatric nurse practitioner yielded no results. My therapist eventually referred me to a highly recommended psycho-pharmacologist/psychiatrist. Even she could do no better.
The psychiatrist prescribed a new drug which introduced sleepless nights, intense anxiety and finally, a fainting episode in my pharmacy parking lot. I decided enough was enough.
Time for a New Approach
“Exquisitely sensitive” was the term my psychiatrist used. C-PTSD had put my body in a hyper-vigilant, fight or flight mode with no off switch. My body over-reacted and attacked anything new that was introduced to its’ system.
This response was not limited to medication. Noises, lights, quick movements, pain or any external stimulation that overwhelmed my “exquisitely sensitive” nature caused extreme anxiety. (“Exquisitely sensitive” was a dressed up, but unique way of saying “living in terror.”) My brain deemed everything as “danger.”
And then…I found acupuncture.
I had previously researched this treatment with regards to anxiety and depression. My sister gave me positive feedback as she had undergone acupuncture therapy for her own health issues. I decided to try it.
Skeptical? Sure, but at this point (no pun intended), what did I have to lose?
After the first treatment, I was hooked. A relief I had never felt washed over my body. The experience is hard to describe. I laid there for an hour, floating in a dreamlike state.
My doctors encouraged me to keep going and I faithfully agreed to keep every appointment.
Now, once a week, I arrive, ready for the little needles, the heated table, the soft music and the hour of relaxation. Every visit is different and each treatment is based on what symptom I am struggling with the most. This list is long, but includes Gastrointestinal Issues, Migraines, Low BMI, Severe Anxiety, Fatigue, Depression, Rosacea Flare-Ups, Loss of Menstrual Cycle, etc.
Due to low BMI, my menstrual cycle had stopped for over 7 months! After two specialized acupuncture treatments pertaining to this issue…voila! The “curse” returned! This was a huge step in getting my hormones back on track and feeling better. Yes, I was a woman jumping for joy to get her period!
I didn’t need any more convincing that there was something very real in this ancient, Eastern technique.
Herbal Therapy, Benefits, Time
My acupuncturist eventually started me on an herbal therapy to reduce anxiety. Dietary recommendations were made to help me gain weight and clear my skin.
It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, with time, I noticed a loosening of misery, a slight dialing back of anxiety, and more restful sleeping.
The benefits of each visit started to extend beyond my hour on the table and carry gently over into everyday life.
My psychiatrist explained that it can take years to begin healing from an illness like C-PTSD. It’s a slow process and sometimes I feel deflated at the long term prospect of this journey. I try to remember I’m the tortoise in this race and not the hare. One day, one breath, one precise little needle at a time.
This treatment has NOT been a cure. Acupuncture helps to better manage my symptoms in a way that SSRIs, mood stabilizers and certain benzodiazepines have not. I am a believer in Western AND Alternative medicine. In fact, I am still on the small dose of sedatives, but now they seem to work more effectively in conjunction with regular acupuncture treatments. I go to therapy twice a week, continue light exercise, practice meditation and no longer work. There are many factors contributing to my path of healing.
Acupuncture is expensive. I pay out-of-pocket as my insurance company does not cover any cost for this type of treatment. That’s a soapbox rant for another blog post.
Currently, I spend $70 a treatment for a once a week visit. This price includes a discount for buying a 10 visit package rather than paying per visit.
I am fortunate to be able to cover this expense, in part, because I live a frugal life-style and make intentional decisions on where to spend my money. Manicures, shopping sprees or expensive restaurant dinners do not make the budget.
At this time, acupuncture adds more value than cash accumulating in my bank account. As a frugalist, it’s a tough spend but I’ve realized health comes first. I want to gain financial freedom, however, there is no point in achieving this goal if I’m not well enough to enjoy it.
Do Your Research
Make sure you work with an acupuncturist who maintains proper licensing and credentials. Check out this link to better understand how you can find the best practitioner for you. http://www.wikihow.com/Find-a-Licensed-Acupuncturist
A good acupuncturist will begin your first visit with a health consultation or questionnaire. They will ask about current medications, primary complaints and work with you in creating a treatment plan.
When starting acupuncture, consistent visits over a period of time are suggested. As symptoms improve, your acupuncturist will recommend “maintenance visits,” are are less often.
Consulting with doctors about new treatment, herbs and diet changes is an important step in preventing possible interactions with other medications. Remember to tell your doctor before you try anything new.
I am certainly not telling anyone to stop their medication or disregard traditional Western treatment. I am encouraging people to keep looking for answers, keep having discussions with your doctor and keep trying things you may not have considered.
Little Needle, Big Possibilities
A non-invasive form of therapy, acupuncture is a holistic approach to health and well-being. Believers and dis-believers in the medical field debate over the authenticity of acupuncture’s healing claims. However, emerging research is beginning to prove the benefits behind this ancient Eastern technique.
Consequently, this approach is another tool in my toolkit, another arrow in my quiver, against a battle I fight from the moment I open my eyes each morning.
Combined with other life-style changes, acupuncture has augmented my path to healing.
Who knows…the needle could be your healthy addiction too.
**Check out my post about medication and irritable bowel syndrome.