Our Goodwill Drive for POCA Tech is complete! We raised over $5,000 and collected a slew of beautiful answers to the question: what is the meaningfulness of making acupuncture affordable? Big thanks to April and Annie and everyone else who volunteered to help post them. You can read them here.
One particular answer deserves, I think, its own blog post, because it speaks to so many of the aspects of community acupuncture that POCA believes are important. Thank you so much to the person who gave us this answer, and to all our patients who contributed. Your stories keep us inspired.
“I am the type of patient doctors dread to see come in their office. I am also a community acupuncture success story. For the last 14 years I have suffered from a chronic pain syndrome. When it started I was a young fairly fit 25 year old. I had been active with athletics most of my life and was trim and slim. The pain started benign enough. I had just been through several traumatic events including losing my mom fairly suddenly and helping my dad through 2 heart attacks and open heart surgery all in 18 months time. I was also a new critical care nurse. The pain was first in my joints and was just a mild annoyance. I saw many doctors who couldn’t find a source for the pain. The pain continued to get worse though. Quickly I was put “it’s all in your head” category and was told to see a psychiatrist. I was quickly put on a slew of medications which seemed to only worsen the symptoms. I also gained 100 lbs and was in bed 12-13 hours a day. For 14 years I went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out how to get the pain under control. I was put on every medication known to Western Medicine to try to help the now diagnosis of “fibromyalgia” and depression with post traumatic stress syndrome. By the fall of 2013 I was on a chronic opiate patch but that didn’t even seem to touch the severe pain that was now everywhere. I knew all the advice about “Fibro” such as exercise, eat healthy, moderate your activity and use good sleep hygiene. Most of my doctors and care providers just assumed I didn’t want to do this. What they didn’t realize is I couldn’t do this. I could barely make it out of bed some days let alone exercise. Food was simply for survival so I just ate what was easiest. All this was worsened by the fact I was a nurse. As a nurse you are supposed to have it all together. Furthermore to be a nurse on a chronic pain medicine was a chronic source of shame. Addiction is a major concern in the nursing world. I had tried traditional western acupuncture but it did little for my pain. It did help my anxiety immensely though. Then one day when I was seeing my pain specialist he put a couple needles in my ear. He has had some training in acupuncture and when he did this results were amazing for my anxiety. We discussed trying acupuncture again for pain and he recommended community acupuncture, specifically Working Class Acupuncture. The concept was not new to me but I always had reasons not to try it. I think though somehow I thought it must be a stripped down version of the real thing. At that point though, I was willing to try anything.
I have to say what probably got me there was just the fact I could make an appointment online. I was so low spiritually and mentally at that point that even talking to someone seemed out of reach. I didn’t want to have to tell my story over and over. My first appointment went well. My acupuncturist was very kind and caring. She didn’t ask me a ton of questions and I didn’t have to review every single painful fact. She didn’t try to push any herbs or other alternative things on me. She let the needles do the work. She encouraged me to come often but didn’t push it. So I started on my community acupuncture trek. At that appointment I was in the least amount of pain I had been in for years. Sadly though, it didn’t last. I had faith in the process though. I did research. I read “Acupuncture is like Noodles” and most of all I kept coming. On the bad weeks I’d come 5-7 days and on good weeks maybe only 2-3 days. Over the winter I had a bad kidney infection so I used it for that too. I think that acupuncture was the only thing that kept me out of the hospital for that. Within 4 months, I was able to cut the pain patch by half. I kept letting the needles do their work and by 6 months, I stopped by pain patch all together. My acupuncturists made some recommendations to help the healing process but never made that the focus of our appointment and never pushed it. They kept letting the needles do their work. Now almost a year later, there are days I am pain free. I still have my bad days but they are much less frequent. I had been missing work 3-4 days a month. I went a whole 4 months without missing any. Also my depression and anxiety are under the best control in years. Last month, I started going to Jazzercise. I am also eating healthier because I now have the strength and desire to. I am also sleeping better than I have ever in my life.
So what makes it worthwhile? For me it gave me my life back. Furthermore, my improvement has helped my friends and even my patients. I have referred several friends to community acupuncture and they have also had great results. I am able to be there for my patients now both physically and mentally. I didn’t need all the lifestyle recommendations or herbs. I had tried them all before and knew them all. I just needed the needles to do their work. For me that meant going somewhere I could afford to go frequently. I also needed what people don’t mention often. I needed to feel safe in a place with little judgment. I needed people who were there not to “fix” me by talking a lot or giving me lots of advice. I know my life is not completely fixed. I know that I am going to have good times and bad times. The most important thing though is I have something I know will help and somewhere I feel safe to be the “broken” me when I need to be. I need somewhere I can let the needles do the work.”