On my first visit, I fill out a form on an eco-friendly laminated chart. The practitioner makes notes of my fatigue, anxiety and depression symptoms, suggests some Chinese Herbs (Xiao Yao). I grab a blanket and head behind the screen.
About six people, of all ages and colors, are quietly cradled in the chairs, face up, eyes closed. With the “needle station” at the center, the chairs form a rather neat oval pattern: although I don’t look too closely, I imagine each person has small needles sticking out of ears, hands, shins and toes. The room is nearly silent except for the tranquil music and the occasional thump of a rumbling furnace.
Only one Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) is on duty each time, although there seem to be six different practitioners. I fear the LAcs might notice my irritation when they run late for my appointment; impatient and worried I will get a parking ticket, I already feel like an acupuncture failure. Jason, the one I like best, is nearly always on time.
Jason quietly prepares at the supply station in the center of the room. It is rather mysterious high table, much like a butcher-block island in the kitchen, but rather than cooking implements, this one contains hand sanitizer, needles and a large thermos-type device that must sterilize the used needles.
Jason glides over toward me on an armless office-style stool. Rather than hover above me, the stool brings him level to my face and body where (I imagine) it is easier for him to access the left ear, a wrist or the inside of my right shin. The needles are placed rather quickly, often with a slight tap or push. Once the fifteen or so needles are in place, Jason asks. “Are you comfortable?” I think I am but I also still worry if I am doing it right. “The only thing required of you in acupuncture is stillness,” Jason says.
I close my eyes and feel the congestion and anxiety drain away from my brain. My fingertips tingle; often my face starts to feel a bit flushed. I imagine I am losing my pallor and re-gaining the color that could have come from a morning’s walk in the sun.
I relax but I have yet to sleep; I often wonder why it is so difficult for me to be still? Why am I so hyper-vigilant, needing to watch the clock while enviously wishing that I could be one of the serene folks who are napping, even snoring? Jason says it will get easier to relax the more I do acupuncture.
As the 45-minute session ends, I quietly clear my throat and Jason comes over to remove the needles. As he drops the used acupuncture needles into the metal case, the sound reminds me of the comforting patter of raindrops on a window.
Acupuncture is helping, and my home life is much improved. And yet, as a drizzly March opens with promise, I am still on pins and needles.