Another Halloween-Inspired Acupuncture Horror Story

I've really been in the Halloween spirit lately, and this dreary weather has given me further inspiration to post a spooky blog today. This is a repost of a blog I wrote a while back about a creepy experience with a patient who had multiple personality disorder: I know I've expended a good deal of time and energy explaining that acupuncture is a science, and that we are medically trained professionals who spend years learning about theories that are thousands of years old and whose efficacy has been proven, over and over. This is all very true. And when you come into my office for a visit you will see that. But I can't deny that acupuncture can have a sort of spooky side as well. After all, we are dealing with energy, and in certain situations, the effects can be...well, unpredictable. Throughout my years of study and observation, I have seen a lot of weirdness.

Now, before I begin, I should clarify that there are as many styles of acupuncturists as there are styles of artists. Most practitioners focus on one set of theories and form their entire practice based on that. In one of my blogs I mentioned that there is no chanting or smudging in my office, but many acupuncturists are into this type of treatment. I don't dispute the effectiveness of a more spiritual style (in fact I don't know enough about it to base an opinion), but it is just not the type of thing I incorporate in my practice. This being the case, I don't usually think of ghosts or spirits, or evil energy while I am with patients. The concept of evil energy pervading the body always seemed way too out there for me (at least, until I had a VERY strange treatment one day-but that's a story for another day!)

One day, however, I met a patient who really screwed with my sense of perspective. Let me backtrack a bit. I should first explain that at the time I treated this patient, I had just gotten over a bug, and was still feeling kind of weak and tired. The cough was gone and my nose had dried up, but you know how you feel a few days after an illness-just kind of exhausted and out of it? They say you shouldn't treat patients while you're sick-not just out of fear of infecting them with whatever plague you're carrying, but because you are exchanging energy during treatment, which can have unpredictable outcomes. Getting back to my patient, she had been coming in for a while, but it was my first time treating her. She had multiple personality disorder. There were, I believe, 17 personalities within her, and most of them were teeangers.

I put the first needle in, and her eye rolled back into her head. Yes, just one eye. Up until that point I hadn't known it was possible to roll one eye back like that. Her eyes then bugged out and she started speaking in a slow growl. She said that the treatment was bringing out her other personalities, and to get the supervisor. I don't scare easily, but she was scaring the crap out of me. I grabbed my supervisor, who had the most calm affect I had ever come across in a human being, and together, we went back into the room. My supervisor held my patient's arm gently, while I prepared to put another needle in.

The moment the needle went into her skin, it felt as if someone had taken a load of dust and blown it forcefully down my throat. I began coughing, so forcefully that I was almost vomiting. I had to leave the room and go down the hall to the bathroom, where I coughed for the next 10 minutes. My face was purple and I was actually having a hard time breathing, the coughing was so violent. By the time I came back, my supervisor had finished treating her. She asked me if I was okay, then whispered that something strange was going on. She later told me that while she was holding the patient's arm, her own hand had begun to get warm and tingle, and then started to ache. This ache became painful and began to travel all the way up her arm, past the elbow, and once it reached her elbow she let go of the patient's arm. The sensation stopped spreading, but the pain remained for the rest of the day. Weird, right? When I talked about it with a few other classmates, some said that a possession had taken place. That sounds way too Satanic for my comfort level. However, it is clear that SOMETHING happened, something both powerful and frightening. I had been taught in school to guard my own energy, to find ways to protect it from mingling with the energy of my patients, but I never fully understood the importance of this until that day.