My first exposure to acupuncture was for anxiety – depression, too, bound up with it, but anxiety was always the bigger threat for me personally. I had tried different medications, with short-term relief but without any particular long-term solution. The particulars of my experience with anxiety were not worse, nor much better, than many. But I had read that acupuncture could help, and so I decided to give it a try. And it did help, more than I expected. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but things that are to last rarely are. I took up meditation and I still maintain that practice diligently. I changed a great deal about my life, to find a different way to live. And I still do have my own struggle with anxiety even today. But acupuncture helped me find an experience of myself, in my body and in my thoughts, that was not overwhelmed by anxiety. The urgency of the anxiety and depression no longer leaves me stranded and alone, crippled emotionally and unable to reach out for help. Acupuncture helped me see my anxiety as a message about what was going on for me, deeply, beneath distraction and chaos, and turn it into a reminder to check in with my body, with my moment-to-moment experience. Acupuncture helped me find my anxiety and its intense and unmanageable waves to be invitations to look closely at what was really happening for me, and helped give me tools to simply be with those chaotic waves, rather than resist them and feel constantly as if drowning. I have heard patients describe in very similar words their experience of acupuncture for other chronic mood dysfunction as well, and have clinically seen the results of lives changed for the better, toward greater freedom and peace.
Acupuncture shifts one’s perception, one’s capacity to experience themselves in a different way, in a way that does not involve at every moment the incessant and unrelenting pressure of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture and herbs over time shift one’s experience of stress, of anxiety, of depression and other similar chronic mood dysfunctions, so that there is an opportunity to be in one’s body, at peace and without fear and distress. Initially this experience may last an evening, even on into the next day, and eventually for weeks and longer. It has been both my personal and clinical experience that over time these effects last longer after an acupuncture session, and as the body becomes more familiar with the sensation of not being constantly distressed, it is able to begin to regulate itself toward stability more and more on its own. As we will likely talk about together during an appointment, I highly recommend taking up a daily meditation or contemplative practice of some kind, simultaneous with treatment. As my tradition of training states, acupuncture engenders awareness. Meditation or contemplative techniques enhance this efficacy, such that the mind and body both together begin to wake up to the possibility of living another way, of being in the world a different way. We can learn to let go of the constant clenched jaw, the twisted guts, the hunched shoulders and neck, and in turn the thoughts that generate these physical responses stop being reciprocally generated by them in their previously relentless and self-perpetuating cycle. As our bodies learn to relax, as our thoughts begin to soften and not drive us, we find that we are more free in little things – in movement, in a breath, in a spontaneous moment of laughter with a friend. And this freedom begins to permeate out and through, until we find ourselves able to live, in each moment, more fully, more freely, and without fear.
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