Today I tried acupuncture for the first time.
All I can say is: it was incredible.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been on my mind to try it for some time, and the idea of acupuncture has intrigued me for years. In fact, Eastern medicine in general has been on my peripheral vision for a long time and today my time to try it first hand finally came.
I’ve been working for a couple months now at a wellness-center and float tank hub called The Float Shoppe. One of the amazing people I work with is Ryan Gauthier, soon to be a Ryan Gauthier, PhD in acupuncture.
In the past months I have experienced a pretty intense amount of anxiety and depression (more on that later), and since I’ve been interested in acupuncture for a while, this seemed like the perfect time and place to take advantage of this new modality. Although I feel like I’m coming out of that low-energy phase, this definitely felt like an appropriate and helpful step in the right direction for me.
Ryan was amazing. For the first part of our session, we talked about my medical history. Unlike floating and massage, acupuncture is an actual medical procedure. Unlike going to the doctor, I actually felt like I was being listened to and heard. I wasn’t rushed, and Ryan made sure to thoroughly ask and talk through all concerns I had.
From what we talked about, he made his assessment and decided where it was best for me to have needles placed. I was nervous when it was time for the needles to go in, but Ryan assured me that it (mostly) wouldn’t hurt, and what helped me most was that he had me inhale and exhale with him as he inserted the needle. Knowing the prick was coming, to expect it on the exhale, and being guided by my knowledgeable friend made it a comfortable experience.
I had needles placed in the tops of my feet, my calves, my hands, wrists, arms, ears, and scalp. The only one that hurt was my left foot, but Ryan adjusted it and that too dissipated.
Lying on the massage table, heated from the inside, covered by a blanket, and with the air conditioner softly cooling from above, I found my first 20 minutes by myself really relaxing. Before Ryan left me alone, I asked him–“What should I think about?”
“Just listen to the music, and if you want something to focus on as you breathe, imagine sending light to the spot two inches below your belly button.”
“Is it ok if I fall asleep?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s fine.”
And with that, he was off. I felt comforted by the cool air, and after a full day working at the Float Shoppe, it was a stark contrast from activity to relaxation. I had taken off my glasses, and so my eyes too could relax. I watched the light bounce in through the yellow curtains and onto the ceiling. I looked at the Buddha painting to my right from the corner of my eye. I listened to the elevator music. The cliches of my Portlandian situation didn’t pass me by, but they also didn’t bother me. I quite enjoyed them, in fact.
I mostly felt grateful during that time. I felt grateful for the situation I was in that allowed me affordable access to this healing process. I felt grateful for Ryan taking the time. I felt grateful to my bosses for including me on this amazing team. I felt grateful for my coworkers for being who they are–lovely, inspiring people to be around. I felt grateful for my past, my parents, and the ability and opportunity to move past hurt and trauma. I thought about how my ancestors just two generations away laid on similar tables in the Holocaust and had completely opposite experiences to the comforting one I was given the opportunity to experience. I thought about one of my students in art class who confided in me that their home was an abusive environment–how grateful I was that he trusted me enough to tell me, and for the opportunity to get him the help he needs. I wasn’t expecting to think about any of this, and I was happy that my mind and heart were open to it. Ryan told me before he left that feelings might come up, or that it might just be relaxing, and to be open to all of them. That was incredibly helpful.
Ryan came in to check on me and asked if I could do twenty more minutes lying still with the needles in. I said yes.
At that point I got a little bored and a little ancy, but I managed to relax again. I thought about nothing, I listened to my breathing, and then I started getting ideas for art I want to make, and for artist friends I’d like to see have their work inside the shop. I got excited.
After another 20 minutes, Ryan came back in and applied some essential oils to certain points on my body. He’d dab some on both his index fingers, apply them to symmetrical points on my body, and have me inhale and exhale deeply three times. I don’t know what happened but I started to feel really relaxed and zen-ed out, and I hardly replied when he told me he’d let me sit for another 10 minutes with the oils.
Right before he left, I laughed at something he did, though I can’t remember what it was, and after he closed the door I had a giant smile on my face. That smile turned into a giggle, which turned into a laughing fit that lasted a good 3 or 4 solid minutes. I realized I couldn’t really breathe so, in between giggles, I sucked in some air and slowly faded back from giggles into zen mode. I felt blissed out.
Ryan came back in and I felt giddy. He pulled the needles out, which hardly hurt or felt like anything. I bled very lightly from only a few of the needles. The only ones that hurt then were my ears. I was extremely giggly and really just wanted to stay in the bed and nap!
I told Ryan about my giggling fit. He said it was an emotional release. I said I could dig it. He said it might turn into tears. I said I’d be okay with that–crying feels good.
Returning to “the real world” felt surreal. I was in total giggle mode for half an hour afterwards, and a trip to the sushi restaurant across the street may have been the most fun I’ve ever had. I walked in and found to my delight that it was a rotating sushi place–one where the plates go around the whole place on a giant conveyer belt. All the brightly colored plates and ridiculousness of the situation made me laugh like hell. I imagine the waiter thought I was high, but I was having too much fun to care.
I felt overwhelmed with positive emotion.
Looking forward to seeing what’s next, and trying it again.
Have you had acupuncture and how was your experience?