This is the first piece in a series on my experience with acupuncture treatment.
“Nothing helped. I’m over it.”
I sat across from Ashley, lamenting about my state. “I need something that is going to actually fix the problem not just deal with the symptoms”. I looked at her over the high-top table we shared at a local coffee shop, sunken from disappointment and desperate for relief. “Yeah I hear ya,” she said, empathy lighting her face. “I think acupuncture can really help with what you’ve told me is bothering you.”
Two years. For two years I had been dealing with a chronic case of eczema that had spread across my whole body, even in unmentionable areas. I had gotten some flares before but never this severe for this long. Around when I had my first child is when it went from annoying to bad. Once I started working full time again, it complete exploded. The level of discomfort, irritation, and infection I was exposing my skin to was ridiculous. At the same time I was dealing with an excessive amount of stress at my job, which spilled over into my home…my life was on a stress loop. I had tried the dermatologist and my primary care doctor to no avail. Some creams and pills that worked temporarily never made it go AWAY. When you typically only deal with minor eczema flare-ups during season changes, having it on every area of your body over the course of 2 years is akin to torture.
I’d known Ashley was an acupuncturist, trained in Florida and working her way to becoming licensed to practice in Georgia(which, from what she tells me is a ridiculously cyclical process). I’d written a paper in 8th grade about acupuncture and of all the papers I wrote, that is the one that stands out — well, and the one about composting toilets from university but that’s another post entirely. I have always been impressed by the wisdom of so many eastern practices, including medicine. And I finally had a reason to seriously consider it for myself.
“I’d love any recommendations you have. I really don’t know where to start, but I’m wide open.” Ashley promised to do a little research for me, focusing on someone who does not only acupuncture but herbal medicine as well. We shared some gratitude for each other, hugged, and were on our way. A few weeks later, I’d scheduled a consultation with one of Ashley’s recommendations.
While many of the offices were almost 30 minutes from me, one acupuncturist had office hours one day a week in a building 5 minutes from where I lived. She was also an herbalist and worked in a fairly traditional style of acupuncture. Yes to all of that. Acupuncture tends to not be covered by insurance, so many of the practitioners have their out-of-pocket rates posted: typically around $100 per session. Yikes! That was not in the budget, but I needed to see if I could find any answers going this route. My husband and I decided my health was worth make the financial commitment, and I pressed on.
I got there and was greeted by my acupuncturist (AC). She was so warm and kind, gave me instructions for the paperwork, and then brought me to a room. I described what was going on, taking off some layers to show her the extent of the eczema. I’d also put on my paperwork notes about my stress, my history of anxiety and depression, but I really made it a point to focus on the eczema. That’s what I was there for. Cure me, please, and in one session if possible. She examined me, asking if I was having stomach issues(nope, it’s really just the eczema) and if I had acid reflux(also no. again, just eczema). She checked my abdomen, noting areas that were particularly tender, alerting her to some underlying issues. She basically explained the eczema itself was a symptom of some other internal issues that we’re all tied up in — wait for it — stress and exhaustion. I started weeping.
She was right. And I knew she was right. My job had driven me to my breaking point months earlier and was threatening to take me there again. My sleep, mood, and clarity of mind were being affected by my employment. I had tried various things to get it under control, put up boundaries, and create space for the part of my existence that does not include work; inevitably work would always bleed in. My boundaries we’re worthless, almost a joke, and the expectation was to sacrifice myself and my family for the job. I was exhausted, angry, frustrated, violated, burnt out, and tired. I told my husband I felt like I was in an abusive relationship with my job; I got beat up, got apologies and some small “changes”, but when the job came knocking, nothing else could matter. Not even me.
I had had enough and I knew I’d had enough but what was I going to do? Well, first of all I was going to get these acupuncture treatments. My AC ran my insurance, revealing they do cover a portion of the cost(#winning). I also realized there was a part of the treatment plan that only I could control. There was no space for negotiation and knowing stress is a silent killer, my life literally depended on it. I didn’t have a back up plan, but ultimately, to really get the most from what we were investing in, I had to quit my job.
Join me in Part II, publishing soon.