Last night I had my first acupuncture appointment. Up until about eight months ago, I was terrified of needles. At my first post-college job, my co-worker Renee, a curly-haired former bike messenger, used to get great enjoyment out of describing her acupuncture sessions in minute detail ("and then she stuck this really long needle right in my third eye--you know, like, my forehead, and left it there for, like, 30 minutes") to the entire proofreading department. There were times when I actually thought I was going to pass out just thinking about it. (As an aside for anthropological purposes, this was back in the mid '90s when there was only one computer shared among our entire department and not a whole lot actually happening on the World Wide Web, so we spent a LOT of time talking and, I'll be completely honest here, flirting when we weren't proofreading--wait for it--computer manuals.) But having to give myself shots in the stomach for a couple weeks a few months ago cured me of my squeamishness.
Anyway, the needles were honestly no big deal. If you've done acupuncture yourself, you know they aren't anything like the type of needle that's used to inoculate or draw blood. Instead, they're small and you can run your finger across them and they just bend, sort of like a grass leaf only a bit sturdier. So, the acupuncturists puts needles in certain points all over my body, most of them, she explains, corresponding with my lungs and kidneys. I'm guessing she inserted about a dozen, and three of them were actually painful but the rest I hardly felt at all. Then she begins to perform a treatment called moxabustion, which consists of burning mugwort on some of the acupuncture points. So there's incense smoke trailing up from my body and pins sticking out everywhere. Strangely enough, when she leaves the room for thirty minutes, I actually manage to drift off to sleep--and literally too, because I start off imagining myself in a small canoe floating upon a lake and then suddenly, even though I have needles from head to toe, I'm asleep. (And, just to be clear, I'm someone who has a hard time falling asleep anywhere besides my bed.)
Upon her return, the acupuncturists removes the needles and then I roll over for what, for me, is the most exciting treatment of the whole session--cupping. (It's like the time a holistic doctor had me taking small doses of arsenic in attempt to cure my allergies. It didn't work, but there was something so historically romantic, so Byronic about it--like smelling salts, consumption, and getting bled. I know I'm sick for thinking that's cool, but I just can't help it.) The glass jars are heated and placed on my back. There's this sucking sound and my skin immediately is suctioned into the glass jar, which is a really strange feeling. Then after a few minutes, she runs the cups up and down my back, which feels a bit like a massage. I must say that I didn't notice a Profound change in my energy level after the treatment, but I did feel a bit more relaxed. The end goal though is to improve the overall health of my respiratory system, so this isn't something that will change overnight. Until then I can take comfort in the fact that as Amy pointed out, Michelle Phieffer's character in Dangerous Liaisons gets cupped right before she dies of a broken heart. I mean how much more romantic can you get?