Thursday, September 29, 2011


So,  one of the things that I have available to me through my (wonderful) new job is this health flex account. I can use it to cover medical co-pays and my dental co-pays (ginormous) and I can also use it to cover the costs for massage therapy at my chiropractor and acupuncture. If you've never had a therapeutic massage or acupuncture treatment, you have no idea how huge this is for me. For years, struggling with migraines, nothing seemed to help until I started getting regular chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage.

In July, I went for my first massage in nearly four years, and it was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it. But the first thing that the massage therapist said to me as we started was that I needed to get grounded - she said that she could sense my energies swinging back and forth, which was totally on the mark and a little frightening because it was as if she were reading my thoughts as I tried to relax and follow my breath.

This morning I had another much-needed massage to try to help with this lower back pain and the digestive issues I've been having since August. Both of these things have caused a lot of stress for me (and Tom and Colden, naturally) and I finally decided that while going to the doctor and following her recommendations for treatments was a good thing, I needed to do something else to get myself grounded and relaxed so that I could deal with all of this.

It was a rough morning. Colden hasn't been sleeping well for the last three nights - he's been awake about every forty-five minutes, asking for milk and juice and then yanking the crap out of my hair as he tries to go back to sleep - and Tom and I are feeling stressed out and not well-rested at all. I was late dropping Colden off at Oma and Opa's house, and feeling more than a little wound up and strung out when I got to the chiropractor's office. Well, as soon as Dawn, the massage therapist, took me into the room, she gave me a new relaxation technique to try that involved a series of counted breaths and a position holding your arms out, palms up.

After two breaths this way, I could feel the tension starting to drain from my head and my neck. A few seconds later, I remembered her recommendation to me to get myself grounded, picturing myself as a giant tree with roots going deep into the Earth, my arms and my torso being the trunk and beautiful branches reaching up to the sky. As I did this, she said quietly, "Now, imagine yourself as a tree and get grounded again."

Mind-reading? Maybe not. My sister-in-law, who has been to massage school, has said that this particular type of massage is like "reading minds" because you need to be in tune with the energies of the person you are working with. And Dawn is very, very, very good at that. She can zero in on what is hurting me or causing me distress, and she can make it go away.

So as I was lying there this morning, focusing on my breathing and relaxing each part of my body as she worked, I came to the realization that my body works a little differently than other people that I know. I'm very sensitive to Western medical treatments - if there's a side effect associated with a drug, chances are that I'll get it. I bruise easily when it comes to drawing blood, and I have a wicked gag reflex that makes things like throat cultures and routine dental work horrific for both myself and the doctor or dentist trying to perform the procedures. But what I have noticed is that my body responds to things like massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, and it responds very well.

Now, I'm not poo-pooing Western medicine. It works very well in some cases. If we hadn't had the option of having a c-section when I was in labor with Colden, we both would probably have ended up being statistics. And I am deeply grateful for antibiotics for the times that Colden and I both had pneumonia. But I just wish that there were more doctors (like mine) who recommended "alternative" therapies like massage and acupuncture, or at least who wouldn't scare the crap out of patients when they ask about them.

The doctor who is the owner of the practice where I go is pretty much clueless when it comes to things like vegetarian diets, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, so I do my best to avoid seeing him if at all possible. But on those occasions when he is the care provider on duty and I have no other choice, I'll go to let him make sure that there's nothing seriously wrong with me (because he is a good doctor, even if his bedside manner is horrible) and then I'll work with my acupuncturist or massage therapist to come up with an alternate plan of treatment.

Maybe it's just because I'm more comfortable with a less medically aggressive treatment option. Maybe it's because 99% of my problem is that I've never been very good at handling stress. Or maybe it's because these things actually WORK. These therapies have, after all, been around for thousands of years. We can't pinpoint exactly how they work in a laboratory, but they work.

I walked out of that chiropractor's office feeling better than I've felt in WEEKS. I was relaxed, refreshed, my sore back wasn't sore anymore, my stomach wasn't rumbling or queasy, and I felt ready to tackle the rest of my day. It wasn't just my physical self that felt better, my mental state was vastly improved, too.

So, tomorrow I go back to my regular physician to talk about the next steps in figuring out what's going on with my poor digestive system and what kinds of diagnostic tests we'll do and when. But after I'm finished there, I'll be stopping at the acupuncturist's office and setting up my next series of appointments.

So this is what I learned about myself today. Funny that I never really thought about it like this before, but there it is.

Oh, and the grounding part? Dawn is right on with that. She knows her stuff, let me tell you. I think as an artist and a writer, it becomes very easy for me to get lost, off in the clouds with my thoughts or my ideas. Working online just sort of adds to that ethereal ditziness, too. I need to make more of an effort to be present in my life when I'm not dreaming up ideas or writing or dreaming about what to write next. And it won't happen overnight, but that's what I need to do. I think all artists need to make that effort to become more grounded - otherwise, we'll all become the hazy, shadowy, absent-minded artist-figures that everyone thinks we are!

More on my Bead Riffs project later. I finished the latest project, and am gearing up for something bigger now...

No comments: