I'm no stranger to pain.
As you may or may not know, I tend to fall and often cannot get back up. I've broken lots of bones and torn many bodily tissues that ought to remain intact. I once chipped a tooth on a bathroom stall door trying to pry it open. My first stage-kiss resulted in a split lip when his teeth encountered my lip. I uttered the last line of the play with a swollen, bleeding lip.
Not to mention the fact that as an adolescent I spent many an hour parked in front of the TV watching 90210 and driving safety pins through the superficial layers of my skin. Beats doing math homework.
So when a friend of mine suggested acupuncture to combat all the chronic pain I've accumulated over the years, I was almost giddy with interest. Needles? Strategically stuck all over my body? TO MAKE THE BAD PAIN GO AWAY?! Sign me up!
I entered my first session rather nonchalantly. I'm a pain pro, I can handle this. Besides, I was assured by many long time acupuncture enthusiasts that it was relaxing and mostly painless.
"Just a few little pinches or maybe a little pressure, but nothing bad." (Incidentally this is EXACTLY the same description I was given before getting my IUD put in, and THAT was a total fucking LIE. If anybody ever describes a procedure to me this way ever again, mark my words, I am going to slap them in their lying face.)
Maybe I'm extra sensitive, but when my acupuncturist put that first needle in just the right spot on my leg, then twisted it, it took all my peaceful, crunchy yoga-powers not to kick her. Then she did it again on my knee ("I need to get this one UNDER your knee cap."), then my foot, then my ass. I have to admit, afterward I felt pretty damn good. A lot of my pain was dulled, and I slept like a voodoo doll baby that night.
I've been going back ever since. And here's a confession: I keep going back both for the pain relief, as well as the occasional sharp jolt of pain. I'm kind of starting to dig it.
It thrills me when my dear, gentle acupuncturist finds a sweet spot, and there's a split second, dual pay-off -- a stab of almost electrical pain in say, my wrist, while at the same time I feel my neck soften and my head clear. I find it intensely therapeutic -- focusing on pain, then letting it go and feeling it all melt away.
I don't fully understand acupuncture. I know that it deals with meridians in the body and how pain and energy is conducted through said body. It also isn't seemingly sensical.
For example when your back hurts, your acupuncturist may put needles in your legs or butt or neck. If you have acid reflux (shocker, I have that, too) she may go for your toes. It's all connected. I really have almost no idea what I'm talking about right now, so I'm going to stop trying to sound acupuncture-educated, and just be happy that it works for me.
What all this adds up to is that acupuncture can make you feel pretty damn good. How good, I had no idea, until recently. (No, not THAT good, get your mind out of the damn gutter, but I bet it's possible. Anybody? Is it?)
Here's how the deal went down:
My back has been totally jacked lately. I keep getting stuck in weird positions just doing something as utterly insane as turning my head or sleeping. So I made an appointment with my acupuncturist to work on my back.
I arrive at my acupuncturist's office. It is bright and airy. It is high up on a rise that overlooks Diamond Head and southern O'ahu. Sunny, breezy, picturesque. Let's stick some needles in me!
After chatting for a few minutes about what ails me -- I've been coming to this same woman for over a year now and she knows my banged up body quite well -- we go to the therapy room. Dressed in yoga clothes, I lie on a massage table, face up, and she decides -- by palpating certain spots on my chest, neck, stomach and legs -- where she is going to put the needles.
Have you ever seen "Hellraiser"? With Pinhead in it? Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you and Pinhead hooked up and it turned out he not only had pins all over his face, but he also had pins all over his body? Maybe if you had children with Pinhead, your kids would have pin-bodies, too. That's what I looked like. Child of Pinhead and You.
I have needles EVERYWHERE. From my feet to my neck. She warns me, as she is working, that this is going to be a more intense session as I am in some serious pain. About two thirds of the way through her needle-sticking, I realize I am sweating pretty profusely and my jaw is feeling kind of numb but soft. Then come the giggles.
Dude. I am feeling GOOD. My head is feeling both light and heavy at the same time, my eyes feel slow (???), and I have this uncontrollable urge to giggle every time she asks me a question.
"Are you OK?" my acupuncturist asks.
(giggle, giggle, giggle) "I am…GREAT!" (giggle, giggle -- and the following is a direct quote) "I feel like, uh…ya know…when you're at the hospital…and the doctor…they give you that pain stuff…or they give you pills….and you take them….VICODIN!"
I think she laughs then sticks another needle in my neck. "Oh, well, I'm releasing a lot of endorphins right now. Euphoria isn't uncommon."
I am experiencing some major couch lock. Uh, table lock.
Then the tracers start.
"All right, I'm going to leave you now. Just close your eyes and get some rest. I'll be back in a bit."
My acupuncturist closes the door behind her and my eyes fly open. I giggle. The slowly turning ceiling fan is soooooo cooooooolllll. Each blade looks like it is blurring as it moves through the air. I look around the room, and everything has a little drag to it.
My body feels like it is pulsing.
Nothing hurts, everything feels light and marshmallowy, and though I count close to 20 needles stuck in my body, nothing aches, stings or pinches.
My acupuncturist comes back. By this time I've "come down" a bit and can conduct myself with less giggling and smirking. She removes the needles and turns me on my stomach. She then proceeds to put needles in my back, legs and shoulders.
Though I feel a sense of calm and residual loopiness from the first batch of needles, I feel myself returning to a more normal state. All good things.
After another short resting period and removing the needles from my back, legs and shoulders, I am needle free and ready to go on my merry way. I am a bit thirsty, but aside from that, I feel really, really, ridiculously good, better than I ever have, following a session. I feel clear and have no left over fogginess. There's no sobering up!
So there you have it. If it didn't happen to me, I wouldn't have believed it.
I honestly feel a little silly recounting this. I've heard people talking about a "natural high" or something being "such a rush," but I've always assumed that they were exaggerating or deluded. I'm a little less skeptical now.
And because I'm essentially an 8-year-old and have to know the hows and whys of everything, I've been trolling the interweb trying to find out if this kind of thing is normal, if it has happened to anybody else. Nobody's giving up the gory details.
So I have to know: Has this happened to you? Are you an acupuncturist? Is this a thing? Somebody validate me.