As a child, I wasn't very active. I lived in fear of dodgeball, I despised running, and to this day I still don't know whether I throw with my left or right hand. As a result, I didn't suffer many of the injuries that plagued the athletic kids; I never broke or twisted anything, and was fortunate enough to never need hospitalization. My most painful memory is dropping an xylophone on my toe. It hurt like hell, but I wouldn't exactly call it a devastating event. You would think that such a trauma-free childhood would leave me feeling fearless about pain. Unfortunately, the opposite became true. My lack of exposure to physical pain meant that I had no experience facing it, dealing with it, and moving on. Pain became this great mystery to me, something awful and overwhelming, but unknown. Just the thought of being in pain became painful to me; I lived in terror of the day that I would finally have to face it. Because, really, how could I avoid it? Pain is a necessary part of life, and at some point we will all feel it, like it or not.
My fear of pain did not diminish with age; in fact, it grew stronger over time. My mother has had countless surgeries; my sister spent years in a wheelchair after her hip literally came out of its socket. I only had the xylophone incident to remind me what pain could be; watching my mother and sister suffer, I wondered how it was possible to go on in the wake of such agony. And the longer I went without, the more my fear grew.
I'm pretty sure I ended up becoming an acupuncturist just to maintain some sense of control over these illogical fears. Knowledge is power, right? Knowing that I have the ability to lessen suffering eases my own mind, because it grants me at least the illusion of control.
The more painful conditions I see, the more I realize that pain is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole slew of icky stuff that starts happening once debilitating pain sets in. Fear, of course. Hopelessness. Stress. Depression. Anger and resentment. All of these emotions, while warranted, only serve to increase the perceived intensity of the pain. Negative emotions cause fixation on the pain; the fixation increases the perception of it; the more pain someone perceives themselves to be in, the more angry/stressed/depressed/fearful they become. The body tightens in response, the pain grows worse...it's a vicious cycle.
The beauty of this medicine is that is can treat the entire cycle of pain: the pain itself, and all of the emotions that stem from it. These magical needles loosen and lighten and relax, allowing things to flow smoothly and regularly. The way you feel about your pain is half the battle. Try finding something else out there that can ease your spirit along with your physical discomfort, without any side-effects except for relief. I so love what I do.