In recent years, I’ve become much more interested in taking a natural approach to my health. I love making my own beauty products out of pure, natural ingredients and have found myself reading the label of every product I buy – whether it be food, makeup, hair products, etc. – making sure I understand exactly what it is that I’m putting into and onto my body.
I‘ve been intrigued by acupuncture for as long as I can remember. The fact that it came about in ancient China and is still practiced today leads me to believe that there must be something to it. I had always wanted to try it, but never really thought I had a solid reason – until now.
I’ve been having issues with my stomach for a little over a year. The issues have evolved over the months, leaving me with ever-changing symptoms. When I first noticed the problem, I went and saw multiple gastrointestinologists. I had test upon test performed with no clear answer. I was prescribed a couple of different medicines. None of them worked. I kept meaning to make follow up appointments, would always put it off. Before I knew it, an entire year had gone by and I hadn’t seen a doctor.
Finally I decided that something had to be done. After one insightful conversation with my aunt (who, as well as my uncle, does acupuncture regularly), I decided it was time to go for it. I decided it was time to try acupuncture. I have faith in my decision to use this type of medicine; I really have a good feeling about this. That’s why I’ve decided to share my experiences with you guys on a weekly basis. Please follow along if you like. If you’ve gone through something similar, please share your experience in the comments!
Since this is the first post of the series, it’s quite a long one. Be warned!
Week 1, session 1: My Very First Time
Every couple of weeks, an acupuncturist comes down to the Navy Yard (where the FP home office is located) and offers discounted acupuncture sessions. I chose to do a community session with two of my coworkers, which was significantly cheaper than a private session. The only difference is that you don’t get a private room, but who needs a private room anyway? This didn’t phase us.
We met Vashni in a home-like building in the Navy Yard. She took us to a room upstairs, where there was a bed, a cot, and a reclining chair. I chose the cot. Vashni sat next to me and asked what was bothering me. I explained that my stomach always feels off; it feels as if I’m hungry or thirsty, but it’s not something that can be fixed by eating or drinking. I constantly feel bloated, and this seems to drain the energy from me. I showed her my discolored (orange) tongue, mentioned the acidic taste that seems to come along with it, and explained that these issues are much more intense when I’m anxious, which happens more often than I feel it should.
I laid face up and Vashni talked to me while she took my pulses. She explained that in Chinese medicine it would be said that my stomach qi (or “life energy”) is flowing the wrong way.
Then came the needles. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are afraid of needles, YOU CAN STILL DO THIS. These are the tiniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I could barely feel them in my body. The only spot that was even remotely uncomfortable was on the back my hand, right below that webbed space between my thumb and pointer finger. It was just a very slight feeling of discomfort – I wouldn’t even call it pain. The needles were inserted right through my clothes – I only needed to remove my shoes and socks.
After all 12 or so needles were in my body, I laid on the cot with my eyes closed for about a half hour. A background soundtrack of wind chimes and birds played faintly as I drifted off into a dreamlike state, with images of pleasant childhood summers flooding my mind.
Vashni reentered the room after a half hour and removed all of the needles. I didn’t notice an improvement in my ailments right then, as that would be rare for just one session, but I felt relaxed and happy.
I explained to the Vashni that I would love to be treated regularly but that I just don’t have the money to be paying around $100 per session, as many clinics charge. It was at that moment that I first heard of the Barefoot Doctor – an awesome clinic in Fishtown that charges patients on a sliding scale between $15-$35 per session. You know what you can afford; you decide what you pay.
Week 1, session 2: Checking out the Barefoot Doctor
Per Vashni’s tip, I decided to visit the Barefoot Doctor in Fishtown. I was able to make an appointment online, which was an automatic bonus from the start. I entered a small reception area where Jenny (the owner and acupuncturist) asked me to fill out some forms about my health – the type of forms you fill out when visiting any doctor for the first time.
When I was done, Jenny came and sat beside me and went through the entire thing with me. She asked lots of questions, not just about my physical health, but about things I’ve been through emotionally, as well. She seemed to really be listening to everything I said and made me feel extremely comfortable from the start.
Jenny told me that she believes it is an issue not just with my stomach, but with my liver, as well. She explained that in Chinese medicine, it would be said that I have an excess of heat in my body. She explained this a little more deeply and then told me to find an empty seat in the back.
I walked around a corner into the back of the room where there were 5 reclining chairs, 4 of them taken. I took off my shoes and socks, placed them in a cubby along with my purse, and sat in the empty seat.
In a few minutes, Jenny appeared. She reclined my seat and inserted the tiny needles, all-the-while talking to me about my issues, acupuncture, and life in general. She mentioned that my acne (which I’ve been battling for 13 years) is probably linked to these stomach/liver issues – a thought that had never even crossed my mind. When all (26 or so) needles were in place, she left me to relax, telling me that I could stay there as long as I like. Soft, soothing music played in the background. I felt quite relaxed, but had a harder time keeping my eyes closed than last time. Maybe I wanted to be aware of who was coming or going; maybe I was feeling anxious about being in a new environment.
Every 10 minutes or so, Jenny would enter the area to see if anyone was ready to have their needles removed. After about 30 or 40 minutes, I gave her the nod, and she removed my needles, disposing of them in a medical waste bin.
I met her in the reception area, where she showed me an herbal supplement that she thought would benefit me. She listed all of the benefits off to me and I was sold. The tablets are made of coptis, phellodendron, scute, evodia, peony, saussurea, licorice, and jujube – mostly cooling herbs to counteract my overly heated insides.
She told me to start with a small dose and work up to the recommended dose of 2 tablets three times a day. She recommended that I try taking them right before I eat and see how I felt.
I wrote my name on an itty bitty envelope (to be reused forever!) and slipped in some bills: $10 for the initial paperwork, $14 for the herbs, and then my appointment cost, which (as I mentioned before) can be anywhere between $15 and $35 on a sliding scale, depending on what you can afford. I inserted the little envelope into a box on the reception desk, thanked Jenny, and was on my way!
I left feeling relaxed, content, and very optimistic about what my acupuncture-filled future holds for me. Full of positive, new experiences and lots of hope, I’d say week 1 was a success. Make sure you check back next week to follow along my acupuncture journey with me!
Photos by Brigette.