15 Mar The Magic of Acupuncture
Life has rough patches for everyone, no-one escapes them and they are, with hindsight, the very thing that shapes us into the beautiful, unique people we are today, but boy, they don’t half feel bad when you are in the thick of them.
From an early age things started to feel ‘bad’ for me. Without wanting to go into too much detail in this particular article, the break-up of my family home and an upbringing by a very unwell individual left me feeling ‘bad’ and the worst thing was I couldn’t define what ‘bad’ was. I just knew I didn’t want to feel the way I did and without any tools I turned to escapism of every form that, in turn, had immense consequences in my life.
Today I have practices or, as I prefer to call them, tools. Some of these are daily maintenance tools like yoga and meditation practices, and some of them are weekly or monthly tools like bodywork and self-enquiry. And some of them are the emergency tools – the ones that need to be taken out of my first aid kit when life’s perceived threats and disappointments have loomed larger than what my maintenance practices can apparently handle.
I turned to acupuncture for the first time in 2011 following the suicide of my best friend. I had sunk into a deep depression and was suffering from survivor’s guilt with all the usual questions that the people who get left behind ask after someone takes their own life. “Could I have done more?”; “Why didn’t I react faster?”; “What if the ambulance had got there sooner?” – Questions that you can’t answer and the mind becomes obsessed with the unanswerable, torturing you with the possibilities. I don’t really remember those months following the event but I do know that bit by bit whatever was delivered to me by means of therapeutic nutrition, yoga and acupuncture, I got through that period with far more ease, and far less consequences from escapism, than I did earlier tragedies. It was by no means a demonstration of an enlightened individual sitting comfortably with her pain, but it was at least a little less consuming for me and those around me.
However, last year, a dream I had held for 12 years came to an end. It was the dream of a relationship with a boy. I lived the dream and then the dream went up in a puff of smoke. It sounds flippant as I write about it but in actual fact, this has been my greatest challenge to sit with yet – and I have run from, and sat with, some of the big ones. It was so personal, so deeply linked with self-acceptance, gentleness, kindness to myself, trust, hope, survival and the lack of all of those, that there were moments that I thought I would combust with the pain in my heart; and the stories my mind would wake me up with at 2am, 3am, 4am of betrayal, loss and rejection were the worst it had come up with yet. If you have loved and lost, you know the indescribable self-doubt I am talking about. Several months on from the break-up and the pain wasn’t shifting, number plates were still spelling out his initials, airport duty free outlets still smelt of him and every ping of the What’s App inspired a time check on “last seen” . The fear and the loss had created a mind obsession, an addiction. Worst of all I couldn’t kill the hope that we would one day reconcile and I could feel the familiar signals that my body, specifically my adrenals, were tiring. It was time to reach into the emergency kit for acupuncture and I sought out a friend of a friend who I knew practiced it locally – Philly Gammell.
I went to see Philly and told her the nature of the madness that was ruling my life and my mind, and that there was no amount of mindfulness, yoga or serotonin producing foods that seemed to be able to meet and match these demons. I explained the physical symptoms of night sweats, broken sleep, anxiety, irritability, and a resistance to looking after myself especially of an evening. I needed the big guns. Philly listened to me for an hour or more and with kind eyes insisted that she would see me out the other side. She has been true to her word.
At this point, I must make a confession. Despite being a holistic health practitioner, and therapist to others, I am at my core a sceptic. My father’s voice is the overriding influence on this subject: “a load of hippy nonsense”. So, when Philly would lie me up like a pin cushion on a weekly basis, I was amazed at the physical sensations in my body when she hit the spot and not logically in the place where the needle had been inserted. There was undeniably something going on. Following treatments I would often feel exhausted but calm and sleep like a log the night following. I kept trying to explain these happy coincidences away but the pattern continued.
Several months on from my first appointment with Philly, I was indeed in a different place and I don’t believe, even with a strong inner sceptic, that it was simply a matter of time. I felt the distance between me and what I perceived to be the greatest loss of my life to date, widening and with that came glimpses of freedom from a grief I was so deeply attached to.
The principle behind acupuncture is that the body and all its organs and systems are a direct reflection of the spiritual and emotional state of the individual. The lungs are linked to grief and acceptance; the kidneys to fear and safety; the liver to anger and compassion; the heart to agitation and calm; and the spleen to worry and trust. In twelve step support groups you will often hear the phrase “it’s the honey and the money that hurt the most” and the reason for this goes back to exactly what I described earlier – they are fundamentally linked to our personal perception of our own survival – material sustenance and emotional sustenance. Without both we suffer in poverty of one form or another and slowly descend into states of grief, non-acceptance, fear, anger until we have got ourselves to a place that no amount of jump starting can get us out of. That is where wellness practices step in by physically leading the body, its organs and complex systems out first, and gently pulling the mind behind it.
It feels like magic, but it is just science we don’t understand fully yet.
To find out more about Philly Gammell or to make an appointment visit her website at www.phillygammell.com