Guest Blog Post: Acupuncture happy hour: a pinch of the healthy life

I believe that good health includes not just physical but also mental and spiritual health, so I thought it would be appropriate to introduce all of you to my friend Jess, blogger at In Pursuit of Simple.

Jess

Isn’t she adorable? She’s also talented, innovative, and REAL. Keep reading.

Hello there, sweet Charmed Wellness readers! My name is Jessica, and I’ve lived in Pittsburgh, Pa. for three years. Before that, I attended college with Anna, creator of this fantastic blog. I am a copywriter, my favorite color is yellow, and I like to watch HGTV. And I’ve had OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) since I was five, and was diagnosed with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) this year.

My Introduction to Holistic Health

I chronicle my battle with OCD, which recently resurfaced after years of successful management, on my own blog, In Pursuit of Simple. While the blog is about finding simplicity in life, whatever your story is, my story about OCD and my desire to find natural, healthy ways to manage it, fit nicely with the theme.

If you’re not sure what OCD is, it is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers have internal obsessions or external compulsions. I often hear people make comments like, “I organized my closet by color! I am so OCD!” This is NOT OCD. This is wanting order. But if you’re ever made this comment, be happy that you don’t have OCD! Because OCD involves a lot of fear, shame, depression, anxiety, and panic. PMDD also causes anxiety and depression, usually right before your period.

When my recent OCD episodes started to affect my life, everything from my work schedule to my relationship, I decided that it was time to face it head-on. I got put on a medicine… and then I got switched to a new medicine when the first failed to relieve my symptoms. I saw a neurodevelopmental optometrist. I started going to weekly therapy sessions, where I was told to meditate. I tried it, and it worked.

When I realized that meditation helped me, I started to get more and more interested in holistic health. I went to get a massage. I bought lavender oil and began to put it on my neck and temples when I was feeling anxiety. I studied up on stress relief techniques. I played trial and error with my diet. I even had reiki done in my living room by a reiki master and close friend! For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable focusing a large portion of my life to self-care. And my willingness to try out logical holistic health techniques has led me to some interesting places so far.

But the most interesting place so far? A holistic health center for an Acupuncture Happy Hour.

A New Kind of Happy Hour

A few months ago, a friend told me that she had gone to local acupuncturist Debbie Hardin for her first acupuncture experience. I checked out Debbie’s website and signed up for her newsletter. Debbie had gotten into acupuncture after suffering with anxiety, depression, and physical pain as a result, throughout high school and college. She has been practicing acupuncture for six years, two and a half of them in Pittsburgh.

When I got an email about the Acupuncture Happy Hour, a partnership between Debbie and Embody Natural Health, an organic juice cafe and studio, I signed up right away. It was the fraction of the cost of a full acupuncture treatment, as it only gave a sampling of what acupuncture can do.

photo 1 photo 4

I arrived at Embody early, and was greeted by Debbie. I immediately felt comfortable in her presence, which eased the anxiety of knowing I would soon be stuck with 10 needles. I was handed an energizing juice made from celery, apple, lemon, and carrot, and sipped on it while I filled out a consent for treatment form. As people began to trickle in from the streets of Lawrenceville, we started to talk more about our personal lives and what brought us to the happy hour.

photo 5 photo 2

I shared my struggles with anxiety and depression from my OCD and PMDD and was given so many kind words from those around me. An Embody employee talked about the importance of a support system, and told me about a study on the increased survival rate of cancer patients who had support around them. One woman lived near the studio and had stopped in for healthy juices and was interested in general health.

One girl who I got to know better than others had been given the information by her fiance, who personally felt that the only benefits of acupuncture came from a placebo effect. This launched us into a discussion on the placebo effect, depression, and our ability to heal ourselves when we THINK we have help, or that we SHOULD be calm and cheerful. (I recommend you watch the TED talk, “Depression, the secret we share“ for its exploration on what can “cure” depression and general awesomeness.)

When it was time to begin, we sat in chairs in a circle and Debbie introduced herself. She explained that we would be getting five needles in each ear, and that she would go around once and do everyone’s left ear, then circle again for the right, so that no one person would be without needles for too long. She then told us that she would lead us in a 25-minute meditation, followed by questions. She put music on softly, and then went to wash her hands and get her needles.

photo 3

The Pinch Before the Calm

I started to get a little bit nervous as I watched Debbie put the needles into the first participant. The group was mostly women with one man, and more than half of us were experiencing acupuncture for the first time. I watched Debbie strategically place the needles on the inside of the ear, and then watched her ace the exact same placement on the next few people. When she got to the girl right before me, my palms were sweating. But I reminded myself that I was there to be LESS nervous, not MORE nervous.

Debbie got to me, smiled, and put the first needle in. I felt a pinch, but nothing close to the pain of a shot, or even the pain of someone purposely pinching me. The last needle pinched a little bit harder and I flinched a bit. I would find out later that I may have been sensitive to the needles, or simply dehydrated. By the time Debbie circled back to be to do my right ear, two of my needles had fallen out. Before we started on meditation, I lost a record five needles. Debbie simply placed them back in for me and told me that this was normal, and all of the needles eventually stayed in.

Once all of the needles were in, we shut our eyes and Debbie started the meditation. She and I have a similar meditation style, so it was easy for me to concentrate on her words, which had us focus on different areas of our body and how they felt. After a few minutes, I felt a level of calm that I don’t usually reach during meditation. Debbie had us picture all of the stars in the night sky, but then to focus on the blackness between them. She said:

The sky is not crowded because the stars are there. Your mind is not crowded because your thoughts are there.

I found this idea of working around our thoughts to be very powerful and helpful, and the 25-minute meditation that I thought would be  struggle for me flew by. I found it extremely easy to focus on my breath and not on my racing thoughts. When Debbie came around to take out the needles and I opened my eyes, the world looked bright and fresh. The headache from my workday I’d had when I walked in was even bothering me less.

I went up to Debbie and thanked her for organizing the happy hour. I think that it is PERFECT for someone who is interested in acupuncture, but is either nervous to try it on their entire body or don’t currently have it in the budget to get regular treatments. When I got home and my boyfriend asked how acupuncture had gone, I sighed gently and told him it was great. But that I could use a nap.

Debbie suggested that we drink plenty of water when we got home, so I hydrated up and went to bed easily… well, as easily as you can when your water heater breaks at 10:30 p.m. and you have to call maintenance. And even better – I woke up energized and happy!

Don’t Be Afraid to Try

Acupuncture has been shown to help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Pain Relief
  • Morning Sickness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Drug Addiction
  • Raynaud Syndrome
  • MUCH More

If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, I recommend that you get in touch with Debbie and see how she can help you. If you’re not ready to dive into acupuncture, consider stopping by a happy hour, which is only $25 and WELL worth it.

If you don’t live in Pittsburgh, do some research into the acupuncture options available to you locally. I truly believe that acupuncture can be an extremely helpful step in your journey to the healthiest you. Whether you struggle with anxiety and depression like me, or pain from a chronic illness, you really CAN take your health into your own hands with help from trustworthy and compassionate practitioners like Debbie.

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