Little Miracles

Little miracles happen between us every day. Did you know that?

I'm always fine.

Even when I'm not fine, I'm "fine."

Ninety percent of the time, I'm genuinely fine, without the quotation marks. But a few months ago, I was not fine.

I was going through some things. I was struggling. 

But healing is healing. And every time I became engaged in an acupuncture or hypnotherapy session and quietly told a patient to breathe, I would breathe along with them. As I did, my racing heart would calm, my racing mind would still, the jagged edges of my self-control would smooth over for a while.

I LOVE my client base, but there are a number that I have a special connection with. One night, one of these clients came in. She took one look in my eyes and knew that I was not fine.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm fine," I said automatically.

"You're not fine. Go home. You need to take care of yourself. I don't need a session tonight."

"I want you to have your session," I said. "You're my last. After you, I promise I will go home and take care of myself."

"Okay," she said, "but here's how it's going to work. I want YOU to have this treatment. It's my gift to you. I want you to pretend that you are lying on the table, treating yourself, and I want you to give me every needle that you need."

She got on the table and closed her eyes, smiling. I started my work, choosing exactly what I would want for myself. As I needled, I felt my eyes fill up with emotion. With every acupuncture needle I inserted, I felt lighter, calmer, more centered. I hadn't known what I needed, or why I needed it, until this gift was presented to me.

I left the room and curled up in my cozy chair in the waiting room. My eyelids felt heavy, and a warm blanket of peace stole over me as I rested there. For the first time all day, my heart was plodding along in its normal rhythm, and my breath was deep and slow.

How lucky am I to have these amazing connections with my clients?

Positive Truths

Some of you know that I used to be an English teacher.

I hated every moment of it. My students were dreadful. They were so used to torturing their teachers that it was the norm to sit on me, lock me in closets, and walk out of class while I was lecturing.

During this time, I was subject to unexpected evaluations. Teaching advocates would show up without warning to sit in the back of the class and watch me.

It was always a nightmare.

The kids were already out of control, but they TOTALLY got off on disrupting the class when they knew we were being watched. So, every time the class was evaluated, all hell would break loose. One day, I had the kids do a five minute presentation on a significant experience in their lives. The first volunteer prompted began to go into great detail about his sexual exploits. Another day, all of the kids began to walk out, one by one, waving goodbye to me cheerfully as the advocate frantically scribbled notes in the background.

It was bad.

I had three advocates. One of them simply dismissed me, saying that I was a hopeless case and that I should never have gotten the job. The second one was a psychopath who told me stories about how she used to control her students by stalking them at their places of work and harassing them to let them know what it felt like to be disrespected.

The third one was a shining light in my hellhole of darkness.

He was in his 60's, the perfect grandfatherly figure. Soft-spoken and sweet, there was something about him that commanded respect. He ROCKED at his job. Even though I hated everything about teaching, the only times I felt good about myself were after a visit with him. He would give me careful feedback about how to promote changes in the classroom, and he never gave up on me. Each time he evaluated me I left feeling inspired, hopeful, and full of ideas about how to be better and do better. Every time I lamented how useless I was in the classroom, he'd give me a sharp rebuke and tell me that my passion and desire to really make a difference was the source of my frustration, not my lack of skill. He never failed to build me up. I like a lot of people, but it's very hard to earn my respect. I had more respect for this guy than anyone I had ever known.

I still ended up quitting teaching, but he stayed in my mind for a long time.

One day, years later, I was waiting tables on a warm spring day. I wandered outside to see if the waitress who had the outside tables was doing okay. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face. It was him.

I went back in to do sidework and contemplated approaching him. I was rather embarrassed to be seen waiting tables after my foray into teaching, since he had given me so much encouragement. After some mental back and forth, I opted to go back out there.

I went up to his table and asked, "Hi, remember me?"

He lit up. "Marisa! Long time no see! How are you?"

"I'm good," I replied. "I just felt compelled to tell you something. You've stayed in my mind for a long time. I have to say that you made the biggest difference in my life and attitude back then. Teaching wasn't for me, but you were such an inspiration to me. You are SO GOOD at your job. I have so much respect for you. You never gave up on me and that school system is so lucky to have you. You were like my hero back then. I so appreciate all that you did for me, and for the other educators in that system."

He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well," he said, "This is certainly odd timing. I've been having a hard time lately. Thinking that no matter what I do, it's never enough, I'm not really making a difference or doing anything significant in the schools. Feeling like nothing I do there really matters. I've been vacillating over the idea of just throwing in the towel. This is REALLY bizarre timing."

"You have no idea how many lives you've probably changed, including mine," I responded.

He reached out and grabbed my hand. "Thank you. THANK YOU. You don't have the slightest idea of what you've done for me today."

So often we hesitate to reach out, to be open, to share positive truths. You never know what effect you can have on someone when you surprise them with a positive truth.

How awesome would it be if we all reached out today, in some shape or form, to thank someone who has helped us along our journey?

Faking It

Warning: potentially triggering story ahead.

A few years ago I had a high-performing entrepreneur come to see me for hypnosis to deal with lack of confidence and a pile of random fears (most of them based on social situations).

"Well, you certainly don't come across that way," I said. "You seem very outgoing and confident."

"Yes, I know. It's all on the inside, but I hide it well."

We all need to learn to hide it well. Whether we are business owners who are defining our value, employees dealing with monstrous bosses who are constantly digging to find weakness, or navigating the world of dating...I don't believe that most people feel the way they portray themselves on the outside. I myself often hear, "Oh man, I'd NEVER mess with you," a LOT, and I find myself wondering what it is about me that comes across that way. Yes, I'm profoundly confident, but I'm also...well...kind of a wuss. I hate confrontation, I'm scared of pain, and my worst fear is saying no and being hated for it. The truth is, I'm a mix of strength and weakness, as we all are. I show my strengths on the outside, though.

Anyone can fake it. And faking it is POWERFUL. It's a tool we all need to learn to use.

Years ago, I worked as a cocktail waitress at a bar on the water. Our clientele was a mix of obscenely rich men who would pull up in their yachts and drink all day, and plastic blondes vying for the attention of the aforementioned men.

These guys were pretentious, entitled nightmares who attempted to make up for their insecurities with the size of their wallets. They'd grab us, demean us, and basically attempt to bribe us for sex. I held my own, because I can be funny and cutting, and have a way of deflecting unwanted attention without setting someone off...but the situation was wearing on me. There was one guy, Jeff, who also owned a boat but wasn't nearly of their financial caliber. He was down to earth, fun, and very protective of the waitresses. More than once, he told off men who were getting too touchy with me. He was a good guy.

Or so I thought.

On my last night working there, I was stuck there past 3am and was leaving to walk out to my car. The waitstaff parked about a quarter mile from the bar, under a bridge with no lights. It was scary as hell. It was a pitch-dark walk through those tall weeds that grow by the water, and the underpass looked like a murder scene waiting to happen. We girls always walked out together, but for some reason I was left alone that night. As I set out, Jeff saw me leaving and told me he didn't want me walking to the underpass alone, and that he'd drop me off.

Although I liked him, I got a sudden rush of fear when I thought about him driving me. I had no idea why.

"I'm fine," I babbled. "I like the night air."

"Oh man, that's crazy, I'm NOT going to let you walk alone. I'd feel horrible about myself letting a woman walk out there by herself. Hold on, I need to grab my coat."

I was physically shaking by this point, and again, had no idea why. He had always been more than awesome to me, and he was the least intimidating guy ever. He returned with a big smile and guided me to the stairs that led down into this underground parking lot where people stored their boats. Again, I resisted.

"I'd really like to get some air," I said.

"No way," he answered. "It's way too scary for you to be alone out there." And he gestured toward the stairs.

I descended the stairs, my throat thick with dread. It was so dark down there, and the space was filled with massive boats. His car was parked beneath one of the boats, and he unlocked the door for me. I got in. He went to the driver's door and opened it, slid in, and started the engine, locking both of our doors. And then he turned the engine off.

"Oh no," I thought.

He was staring into space, smiling, breathing heavily. I pulled at my door, testing it, but nope...he had locked me in. I felt like I was in a horror movie as he slowly turned his head toward me, his eyes totally blank and that weird smile on his face.

"Are you scared?" he asked. "You are, aren't you? I can SMELL it. I can literally smell your terror right now and I'll be honest...I'm getting SO excited seeing the fear in your eyes."

My heart skipped so many beats, it felt like it would never start up again. I wanted to cry and scream and vomit all at once, and all I could think about was how I had never thought this last day of work would be my actual last day, ever.

I took a deep breath, and within three seconds several thoughts rushed through my head.

One, that I was being a perfect victim right now, shrinking into my seat, frozen with terror.

Two: that was exactly what he wanted.

And three...he was feeding off my fear; it was empowering him. Although I was almost shaking myself to pieces, taking my power back might be the only thing that could save me from getting raped...or worse.

So instead of crying or whimpering or screaming for help (as I REALLY wanted to do), I sat up straight, looked at him, and snapped, "Listen, mother*****r. I don't know what the f*** kind of game you're playing here, but you are f***ing with the wrong person. I've been working since three, I'm starving, and I'm not in the mood to deal with any bull****."

The second the words came out of my mouth, he shifted completely. The smile left his face, and he sat silent for a moment, thinking. I waited for a few moments, and then burst out, "WHAT THE F***? Drive or let me out, I am F***ING done with this stupid game, whatever it is."

He started up the car, and drove me to the underpass. As we drove, I frantically thought about how to gouge out an eye and a tear off a testicle when he inevitably tried to strangle me there. But he didn't. He stopped the car and didn't say a word as I got out, then peeled off. I shook all the way home.

I'm convinced that faking it saved me that night.

And if I can fend off a potential rapist/murderer by faking bravado when I have never felt more cowardly in my life, you can all at least PRETEND to be comfortable with putting out the vibe that you are incredible and amazing and so much more than enough....even if you don't believe it. Yet.

The End.

Anxiety and Acupuncture

Back in the day, before I started specializing in anxiety and insomnia in my practice, I noticed something interesting. I would consistently hear the same things from my patients, no matter what I was treating them for. Whether I was treating back pain, infertility, tennis elbow, you name it, many of my patients would give me some variation of the following feedback:

"It's so weird, ever since I had a session with you I feel like I popped a Xanax."

"Did you do something to my brain? Because I feel like it's hard for me to get stressed about things since my session with you."

"It's like I have an extra layer of SOMETHING between myself and the things that usually get me riled up. It's like I have to make an actual effort to get worked up or angry. I just don't feel like it."

Acupuncture has a profound effect on balancing out the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. For people with anxiety, it can be life-changing. I often describe acupuncture as "shifting you into a lower, slower gear."

Think about your system and stress response as a transmission. If you are riding along in the appropriate gear, the ride is smooth and you move at the right pace. If you crank that gearshift up into a higher gear, you're revved up. You might be moving faster, but you are also seriously damaging your engine (and if you do this for long enough, you might even blow it up!) 

People with anxiety are always running in a slightly higher gear. Their heart is usually beating a little faster than the average person. They are typically on high alert. Their response time for stressful situations is quicker. If you are in a constant state of hypervigilance, your engine is cranking even though you're not going anywhere. So what happens then? At the end of the day, you've worn out your engine. You're exhausted and have burnt out your adrenals.

Come to me, oh anxious ones :) I can downshift your engine for you with acupuncture, and can train your brain with hypnosis to help you bring yourself out of that constant, low-grade fight-or-flight mode!

 

Acupuncture and Depression

In the world of acupuncture, there are five major organ systems, each of which is connected to an emotion and season. During that season, the corresponding organ is at its most vulnerable and the emotion tends to show up more prominently.

Fall is Lung season. And the emotion associated with Lung is grief. From an acupuncture perspective, it makes perfect sense that there is a heightened sense of melancholy this time of year.

Depression due to Lung imbalance

In Western medicine, depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. That’s pretty broad. In acupuncture land, there is a wide range of imbalances that manifest as depression. Each case of depression is unique, and appropriate treatment is determined based on which system(s) are out of balance.

When I treat patients with Lung weaknesses, I often perceive a pervasive, gentle sadness that lingers and haunts. These are not the patients who rail loudly about their misfortunes. They are the ones who quietly suffer and can’t seem to let go of old pain. Often, patients who have experienced unresolved grief also display physical Lung symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and frequent colds.

Case study: Lung-related depression

Years ago, I saw a woman who was at her wit’s end with an uncontrollable cough that had lasted eight months. She had been through several doctors and a multitude of tests that revealed nothing. As she coughed her way through her health intake, I asked her if she had any traumas, losses, or painful events over the last year. She couldn’t recall anything. As we moved to the treatment table, we somehow got on the topic of owning pets. She began to reminisce about her dog who had passed away. Guess when? Eight months ago.

I gently inserted a few needles into acupuncture points that addressed the emotional aspect of the Lung system, points that I often needle on those who are grieving. One hour later, her cough was gone, never to return.

Other forms of depression from an acupuncture perspective

Heart

If Lung-based depression is silent, lingering suffering, the Heart is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Heart energy is all about extremes—wild joy, and crushing lows. When someone with a Heart imbalance is happy, the entire world knows it. But when they crash—and they always do, eventually—they hit hard.

With Heart-related depression, there is no middle ground. These people feel emotions, both positive and negative, much more intensely than others. They often vacillate between states of delirious happiness and deep depression. Manic-depressive patients would fall into this category.

Spleen

The Spleen is all about nurturing and giving. Patients with Spleen imbalances tend to give—and give, and give—until they are completely drained and have nothing left. These types can also tend to gravitate toward obsession and compulsion. They are over-thinkers who ruminate and exhaust themselves with worry.

When these patients come to my clinic complaining of depression, they often describe themselves as feeling emotionally “heavy” or “stagnant.” They feel stuck, as if they are plodding through cement and everything is so difficult. They can’t even begin to fathom moving toward something better.

Liver

The Liver is the organ associated with anger, and this anger can be directed either inward or outward. A “Livery” person who projects externally might be impatient or have an explosive temper. They are rigid and structured, and might be prone to outbursts when they don’t get their way. Frequently, their depression is centered around a lack of control.

For the Liver types who internalize their anger, it is often self-directed. It may come across as high expectations for oneself, an inability to cope with failure, or in its extreme, self-loathing. Liver-type depression would exhibit as depression combined with irritability and/or anxiety (think PMS).

Kidney

The Kidney, in many ways, rules all. The Kidney is our base drive for survival. It is the gas tank, the reserve of energy that we dip into throughout the course of our lives to keep us running. A person’s lifespan and the quality of life that she is given spring from the Kidney energy.

The Kidney creates the will to create our own path in life. When the Kidney system is compromised, we are left adrift and lost. In my opinion, this system is responsible for the type of depression that is so deep and boundless that all seems hopeless.

As an acupuncturist, my first responsibility to my patients is to ensure their safety. Therapy and counseling is paramount for those suffering from depression. I find acupuncture to be an immeasurably beneficial adjunct in keeping these patients healthy. Where there is balance, there is peace.

Spending Wisely

The energy that we possess is our most valuable asset, so it needs to be guarded and doled out wisely. We wake up every morning filled with this energy; imagine waking up every day with a wallet full of cash. As we move through our days, there are certain things that we HAVE to use this cash for, such as food. When we use our money for necessities, it doesn't hurt or feel like a loss; it's simply us using our money for our needs. When we use our energy on our regularly scheduled life activities, it's akin to spending that energetic cash on food, gas, etc.

When we walk by a store and decide to buy something that we want, something that makes us happy, it feels good. It makes us feel like we're getting our money's worth. Likewise, when we use our energy on things that feel good to us: having fun, expressing love, doing things that empower us, we're getting good value for this energetic cash. It's a wise spend.

Throughout the course of the day, there are tons of ways to waste this energetic cash and throw it away haphazardly. Examples: worrying about things that we can't change, ruminating over the past, obsessing over mistakes, getting pissed off over small things. Every time we stew in negativity, spend time marinating in fear of failure, or do things that fall outside of our boundaries, we're leaking this energy all over the place. We might as well be opening our wallets on a windy day and letting fate take its course.

And this is why so many of us face burnout and exhaustion. We have emptied our energetic wallets on things that we don't value, and now our pockets are empty and we have nothing to show for it.

This week I'm going to follow my own words of advice and ask myself every day: How can I spend my energetic cash wisely? What am I allowing to drain me unnecessarily? Which people are picking my pockets? And conversely, what am I spending my energetic cash on that feels good, what are the things that I value so much, I'm happy to spend my energy on them?