Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

You know you're a writer when... can turn any experience, no matter how wondrous or horrific or banal, and think, "I can use this in my writing someday!" This is a good thing. It keeps things in perspective in a "Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You" kind of way. Such was the case two days ago with my maiden voyage into the world of acupuncture.

Being married to a karate instructor who studied abroad and sister to a holistic, natropath-savvy PhD, I know more than a little about Eastern medicine. I have been offered vitamin elixir for my greying hair, Japanese Miracle water for vitality, advised to add more "red" to balance my diet, and have tried everything from Tai Chi to Somatics so it's not like I'd never heard of the benefits of acupuncture, I'd just never had a want to try it. Early on it was my complete terror of needles, abruptly cured after two drug-free pregnancies requiring post-drugs due to complications. These little follicles of steel? No problem. But given my history of being the perennial "exception to the rule" for anything medical, I shied away from messing with my already-touchy nervous system. The words "almost never happens" or "it's rarely the case" is an immediate red flag that I'm about to undergo some bizarre life change ala Jekyll and Hyde with my health. No, thank you very much.

This time it was a sneak attack: I wasn't even prepared for the possibility of acupuncture as I was visiting my chiropractor to continue making adjustments to my neck and lower back after the WWE incident. He asked me what I thought about acupuncture. I said I'd never tried it. Before I knew it, I had needles going into my neck and shoulders and two more in my wrists and being told to lie flat and relax. Honestly, the needles didn't hurt. It was a flick and then a sort of pinching sensation. I'd heard of others who had fallen asleep during their acupuncture sessions so I concentrated on relaxing my shoulder and letting myself drift.

But I was failing to drift.

In fact, I was becoming more and more aware of the little pinches and, having a slight cold, my head was slowly filling with snot and it was becoming harder to breathe through my nose. Lifting my head brought a sharp reminder that there were many tiny, sharp things in my neck and not to do that. I let my head fall back down and tried breathing through my mouth against the bubble of paper that made the air stale and warm. It was uncomfortable and irritating and I had no idea how much time was passing, but I figured I'd just wait it out and then it would be over and hopefully some of the pain would miraculously disappear under this pincushion treatment. I waited. And waited. And waited. And then the spasms began.

What had begun as pinching had graduated into full-blown twisting and throbbing with sharp knocking reminders behind my ears that there were *needles* sticking into knots in my body. I gave an involuntary, "Ow ow ow ow!" and then hushed myself for being such a baby. Moving my head moved the needles. The spasms increased. I began to twitch. Hearing the doctor off in another room, I chanced to call out, "Can we please take these out now?" but it was too far away or my voice was too muffled int he paper because there was no answer. Even when he was out in the hall. Even when the secretary passed my door. I called out, even lifting my head against the sharp pains, muttering "ows" and "Please take these out!" But no one heard me. My foot started to kick. My lower back complained.. I started to whimper and swallowed it down--ideas of getting help or ripping them out and not stupidly lying here like an idiot warred with my socialized need to be polite and not make a fuss and do what the nice doctor said. I had no idea what time it was, but it kept ticking. I was alone with pain and pins and my own berrating thoughts. But there was this moment, feeling helpless and stupid for enduring something I clearly didn't like and no one listening to my now less-than-polite calls for help, that I had a Clockwork Orange revelation that I did this to myself and now there was nothing else to do but endure it, nowhere else to go, no one was going to come and there was no escape.

I started to cry.

This did not improve my stuffed-nose, warm-breath paper prison that quickly got soaked and stuck to my cheeks. Tears turned the white paper grey. I tried moving my hands which twinged around the pins in my wrist. No go. My pinky started to burn. The third finger of each hand felt like there was a stinger in the pad. My cell phone started ringing. That did it. I carefully reached across the table, slipped my phone out of my coat pocket, thumbed the button on and placed it next to my face. It was my husband looking for his keys. He could tell I was crying. I told him that I'd been stuck in the room for now 28 minutes and no one seemed to know that I was there. He told me to hang up and he called the office, telling the secretary to go back to my room and take the needles out. Not one minute later, she appeared to check on me then ask the doctor if she could remove the needles. Then did so quickly. I snuffled and thanked her and apologized and felt embarrassed and small. My husband appeared ten minutes later, having driven over with the spare key, and stayed with me until the doctor came to listen to what had happened. I left soon after still feeling the ghost of needles in my neck. It was a humbling, mildly torturous head-game experiment that is not something I'm ever eager to repeat...

...but I'll use it in a story someday. Just see if I don't.


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