Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Needles and Pins: What Acupuncture Has Done for Me

Wherever we go, there we are.
I was having a conversation one day with the director of the Bellefonte Art Museum, Pat House, and we were talking about health. Toward the end of 2015, the year my daughter died, I found myself struggling with pneumonia for several weeks, and Pat mentioned that sometimes pneumonia can be related to grief. "Ask your doctor about it," she suggested.

So of course when I got home I searched on the internet, and was very surprised to find tons of information on pneumonia as it relates to grief, and along with that I discovered that the ancient practice of acupuncture has specific meridians associated with grief therapy. Wow, who knew?

Mannequin showing acupuncture meridians
I had seen my conventional primary practitioner, who prescribed antibiotics and turned me over to a pulminary specialist. Went through a bunch of tests with the pulminary specialist who gave me more antibiotics and turned me over to a thoracic surgery specialist. Went through a bunch more tests and got yet more antibiotics, which were working, but very slowly. All tests came out well - the x-rays and CT scans and PET scans confirmed that my lungs were full of infection from the pneumonia. I'd never been so sick in my life. After 4 rounds of antibiotics I still felt pretty lousy, with very low energy and residual congestion. "You'll be spitting out all kinds of junk in all kinds of colors for a couple more months," said the docs, "No worries."

So when I discovered this new insight about pneumonia being related to grief AND there being other, ancient ways of bringing the body back into balance I decided to see if I could find a good acupuncturist.

Balance feels good.
Our bodies are composed of several different types of energy, and when we get a big "knock" in life, it can throw us off balance. With the death of my daughter, I had to restore all the different aspects of myself, including my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual bodies. 

Time is a great healer for the mental body, and I think that's the one that recovered the fastest for me - my ability to focus on work and to continue to function by handling necessary, sort of factual or active things (computer work, laundry, house chores, etc.) returned the quickest. 

Psychological therapy is great to help the emotional body recover. Connie Powell at Centre Psychology had real tools and exercises she shared with me over a period of time so I could direct my emotional body, not by denying grief, but by integrating the emotions surrounding it into my life in healthy ways.

The spiritual part of myself has always been strong, and it upheld me through the hardest parts of the first year of recovery. Keeping our spiritual connections strong helps tremendously, though of course it doesn't "remove" the pain and other emotions associated with deep grief.

We are so much more than just our physical bodies.
But the poor little physical part of myself was still quite askew, regardless of the antibiotics to relieve the "symptoms." There was more work to be done to restore health to my physical vehicle. It was just exhausted on very deep levels.

Sometimes we need help to get back to health so we can dance again.
And that's where Dr. Heather Ferlitch, of Fusion Chiropractic and Acupuncture, came in. After talking with her on the phone, I made my first appointment. And wow, it was powerful. 

When you walk into her office, it's almost like entering another world. You open the door, and you can feel your troubles rolling off your back as you enter a place of quiet, soft, flowing energy and peace. A small water fountain welcomes you, along with inspirational plaques and gorgeous stained glass torchiere lamps. These lamps have dragonflies on them, a fairly archetypal symbol for transmutation/breaking the illusion. The view outside the windows is calming, and the waiting room is full of light. You can flip through a copy of Humans of New York while you're waiting - it's the perfect book because the wait is never long. And her right-hand person, Eileen is friendly and always willing to pop out and chat.

We can blossom again.
During my first appointment Heather spent time talking with me to ascertain where my struggles were and how she could help. While we were talking, she made me feel like I was the only person in the universe and she had as much time as needed to get a clear picture. 

After we'd talked I got to experience my first session. She led me to a small treatment room, my little sanctuary, where she proceeded to insert about 27 needles, in various parts of my body. It did not hurt, and she explained to me that when a doctor gives us a shot with a large needle, it punctures the skin, but when an acupuncturist inserts these tiny, restorative needles, they "part" the skin. They really are tiny, like a hair, and I don't feel them while they're in. She uses new needles each time, so I know they're sterile, which I like.

After all my needles were inserted, she gave me some tissues, ("Do people cry sometimes?" I asked, and she replied that sometimes they do as they release emotion), and a little bell I could ring if I wanted anything. Then she left the room. 

I was reclining on one of the wonderful tables she has - this is the one that has heat radiating from it under your back. It felt so relaxing to my overtaxed lungs and helped to loosen the congestion. It felt so comforting. She also directed soft waves of heat onto my feet by turning on a little machine I'd never seen before, it looks like a lamp but emits heat instead of light. I wiggled my toes and stretched into relaxation.  I listened to the quiet sounds of another little machine that makes "white noise." 

There I was on the table alone, with my Self front and center. I was scared for a minute - as the traumatic images of cleaning out my beautiful daughter's home trooped through my mind, and the ceremonies scattering her ashes, and a million other events we'd been through. I wasn't sure I could lie there and let them come, I wasn't sure I could feel the emotions behind them yet again. 

But I took a deep breath and decided to let the needles do their work. Took another deep breath and relaxed, and that's when the colors and swirling energies and shapes started to appear on my internal movie screen. As I relaxed into a trancelike state while the needles did their work, I began to see beautiful magenta and purple colors and geometric shapes (mostly hexagonal) and softly swirling energies on the "movie screen" behind my forehead. It was very much like meditation, though I didn't consciously guide myself into that. I felt the vastness of the universe and the peace of eternal unity and love. I felt a "part of something much larger than myself." I did not feel all alone. It was like the "bad" emotions were being drawn out of me and into a distance the likes of which I'd never even imagined - like they were being absorbed into some vast source that knew how to transmute them. Globs of lime green and brown waves of something like energy just swished their way up my body and out into the ethers and it felt really good.

When Heather came back 40 minutes later, with a soft knock on the door, she asked how I was doing and I told her I'd never felt so relaxed in my life! It was rather a miracle in itself that this was the first time I'd been able to be alone without a book or the TV or some distracting thing streaming into or out of (journaling) my mind. 

Sure, I'd cried, and used the soft tissues to mop up the tears. I wished I could do this marvelous acupuncture experience for and with my daughter, she'd have loved it. I missed her. But what I found when I arrived back home was that instead of going to sit on my little couch and read or watch TV, I wanted to do some beadwork, so I did. And later that week, when I worked on the laundry, which is downstairs in our basement area, I noticed that my knees didn't hurt when I came back up the stairs. Hm, that acupuncture had unblocked something and not only did I feel better physically, but emotionally I did not feel it necessary to "shut down" my feelings. 

So several weeks and sessions later (I'm not giving them up any time soon, I LOVE them) I'm able to listen to all kinds of music again. After my daughter died, I could only listen to instrumental music like jazz or big band or Native American or David Arkenstone because music with words sent me into emotional tailspins and made me cry.  My productivity levels have increased tremendously, and I can enjoy beadwork as well as painting. I had been fairly unable to paint for many months because there's a lot of emotion in that and I couldn't go there. But now I can, comfortably. I haven't needed any additional antibiotics and the residual congestion from the pneumonia has departed. My energy levels are much better too. 

So I'm not exactly sure how this works, but I know that it has worked amazing magic on my system. We've graduated from targeting "grief therapy" to general overall well-being, working on digestion, and keeping the overall system calm and fluid. And pretty soon we'll focus on quitting smoking. Yep, acupuncture can target that too.

I wanted to write about my experiences with acupuncture because though we sometimes need the intervention of conventional medicine, it isn't always enough, and can be greatly enhanced by alternative methods of healing. I have a lot of respect for ancient systems of healing that have been effective for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Each individual's experience of an acupuncture session is as unique as they are - and what I've found is that though I experience the benefits of acupuncture each time, my own sessions are often different, always relaxing, but "different" from each other in various ways. The only way to really find out is to try it.

Thanks Dr. Ferlitch for your wonderful skills and talents! I'll see you next week.

Note - all images courtesy of



  1. I have a huge fear of needles. Although I have heard that acupuncture does not hurt and that it can be so very helpful with many physical and emotional issues, I have been too frightened to try it. The way you describe your experience makes me want to try and push myself past my fear. It sounds like I could benefit from acupuncture.

    1. Hi Leonardo, I highly recommend it. I think the secret is in finding a practitioner you can relate with, someone you respect and trust. I found it to be a magical experience, with unexpected, wonderful results.

  2. You did an amazing job on this!Thank you so much for sharing your talents..At Dr. Park Acupuncture we not only treat the symptoms, but also work with you to identify and treat the root cause of the symptoms.Acupuncture in Ellicott City

    1. Hi Jockson, so glad to hear you're working in this field. I agree that finding the root causes of dis-ease helps us to work through it to healing. Keep up the good work!