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Shamanic journeying through acupuncture? Yes, yes, YES!

18 Sep

11:43 am

Wow. Another KUH-RAZY experience during my acupuncture session yesterday!

(Warning: Psychobabble ahead.)

So, I’ve been to acupuncture three times now (with a new, and highly trained, it seems, therapist). Each time, I noticed an near-instantaneous buzzing feeling all over my body, and an immediate “delving” into self — the physiologic calm that acupuncture provides turns on my brain and makes me able to think deeper, more profound thoughts. Thoughts I’ve been putting off — or dreading, and therefore, TURNING OFF.

Yesterday, I realized that I’m a trauma survivor. I know, I know. WHATchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis? Come ON, DDG, give me a buh-reak! Seriously. I grew up within a very volatile, ugly marriage. My parents would yell and scream and sometimes even wield knives (true story). Everyone knew. They’d often tell us to go outside and “play,” which was code for, We’re going to shut the windows and scream at each other now. It was usually my mom screaming at my dad, and it usually happened when we were in bed, “sleeping.” It usually ended with her thrusting our living room doors closed with a loud BANG, and going to bed alone while my dad slept on the couch.

This went on for as long as I can remember (from about 5 to when they finally separated at 14). It was ugly. I would often and regularly hear things like, “Go fuck yourself if you even know how.” When they’d fight at night, I would weep in my bed. Silently. I learned how to cry really hard without making a sound. I was afraid, and I was also ashamed — my brothers slept in the same room (we had no doors on our two-bedroom upstairs), and I never heard them make a sound, so how horrible would it be if I did? Repression was the name of the game.

(I often wonder why kids blame themselves, or at least, internalize their parents’ anger and guilt and sadness when it comes to divorce? Here’s what I now think (thanks to my acupuncture “meditation”): kids KNOW that they represent the connection between their biological (and perhaps even nonbiological) parents. They know that they somehow make up each, and are (or were, LOL) the union between them. Thus, if there is a schism between the two, it’s somehow their fault. Somehow, it comes back to them, and they feel/take on the responsibility to “fix it.” It’s hard to explain, but I definitely KNOW that this is true, on an emotional level, even though intellectually — even as a kid, when we were told again and again that it wasn’t our fault — I might not believe it.)

As you can imagine, this kind of environment came with a lot of not-talking-about-the-elephant-in-the-room, tiptoeing around landmines, and (guessed at) battle lines not being crossed. I spent a good part of my teens feeling VERY ashamed and full of self-loathing (I had entire notebooks of hate poems to myself), and I wonder if that isn’t related to other, deeper trauma, but anyway… The trauma was never properly dealt with, I now believe. It was never confronted, handled, resolved, on the level that I needed it to be. So, I think I’ve spent my entire life putting up that early-learned stance, the one of me crouched, gut clenched, breath held, arms covering my face — ready for the punch. I was never physically abused, but I think emotional and psychological abuse — however inadvertant — can be just as bad. I know it was for me.

As I lay on the table, I realized that perhaps I have been hiding from this trauma my whole life, as a way to “make it” or “live my life,” never realizing that I hadn’t fully embraced it. And, without having fully accepted what happened to me, I was never able to let it go. Like, it now seems that ALL of my jobs, ALL of my romantic relationships have been situations that have helped SERVE my denial, my hiding from the trauma. (Hiding from being overly sensitive? Find a partner who doesn’t seem to notice anything! Not wanting to deal with feeling unloved? Become an overachiever and work yourself to the bone!) And, drinking has not only been a way of hiding from it when it bubbled up too close to the surface, but also a way to *experience* it. Too bad I was digging in the wrong hole.

Digging in the wrong hole? There came a point toward the end (last two or three years) of my blackouts where I was wanting the release, the unguarded expression of what I thought were authentic feelings. I wanted to express my trauma, but I was using booze to do it and that only served to hide myself from it further. On the table, I saw how traumatized I was as little girl. I saw myself on the table, and I saw the little girl (almost as a dream, but more real). I wanted to go and hug her and tell her she had nothing to be afraid of, that she was protected. I felt sorry for her. Which made me see clearly that, for some reason, as a little girl I think I just never felt protected. And I never realized this could have trickled down into every corner of the rest of my life. Yet, it has. Hence, the panic stance that I’ve been carrying myself in my entire life.

It was then that I realized that the “soul retrieval” aspect to shamanic journeying is not such the load of bullshit that I thought it was! Like, I honestly felt that I had been living in two “pieces” my whole life, one being myself, the person who works and lives and loves and tries to make it through life; and the other, the little girl self, the one who has been stuck back there, living in that trauma day in and day out for the past 33 years! In journeying, they say that soul retrieval is about picking up a part of your lost self and fusing/fixing the splintered whole, or schism, within. I need to subsume that girl and make us whole again, I thought. (Have you ever seen “Insidious?” Astral travel? Along those lines.) By doing so, I realized that yes, my trauma can be ended, that it IS over, that I don’t have to keep trying to find it OR hide from it via booze and blacking out.

I felt really sad, very emotional (cried all afternoon), and well, tired. I went to bed at 9 pm and finally dragged myself out 12 hours later. I woke up with a huge headache (that may be a caffeine headache, though). In essence, I felt hung over. BUT, I felt like I really did have a powerful experience of healing that has MADE ME WANT TO DRINK TO BLACKOUT LESS.

This is profound, to me. It makes me see that rehabilitation surrounding booze IS real and CAN work. It flies in the face of “rational recovery,” which basically says that there is nothing behind your drinking besides your selfish, overindulgent hand. NOT THE CASE. I honestly believe, at this moment, that drinking to excess would NOT be preferable to me now, mainly because I no longer need to dig deep to bring out that trauma; I’ve recognized it, and now, I can let it go. Wishful thinking?

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to drink — or even want to — but it does mean that I’ve finally begun feeling the real, authentic shit behind my desire to black out, which in essence, means that I won’t be striving — secretly wanting to simultaneously fill AND empty the void — to black out when I drink. Which means, this desire may have nothing to do with the substance itself. Which may mean that in a few months, or years, from now, I WILL be able to pick up a glass of wine and put it down. Wishful thinking? Maybe. Maybe not.

Emotional healing through acupuncture? Yes, yes, YES.

10 Sep

3:47 pm

Wow, is all I can say. I just got back from an acupuncture (and tui na) session with a well-regarded therapist here, and I’m… Drained? Changed? Blown away? Scolding myself for not having done it sooner along in my recovery (I’m on day 24 the second time around; it would have been day 90 today if I hadn’t drunk a couple times in August), AND for not having kept up with my health — mental and emotional — while drinkin’ that I let it get this bad.

The first thing he did, that all acupuncturists do, is “feel your pulse” (along your wrists) to take a read on you — your physical, emotional, and mental health. Mind is body, body is mind, and fixing one without the other doesn’t make sense to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. My back pain started 10 years ago, and I knew pretty early on that it was connected to my other problems: former bulimia, self-esteem issues, childhood trauma. (I store my reaction to stress and/or LIFE, considering the amount of pain I feel, almost entirely in my left shoulder). Today’s session told me that it is almost 100% related, as far as how severe it gets and how constant it is.

I told him all about my separate pains (sciatica, iliotibial band syndrome, and generalized pain along my left spine/left shoulder). He mentioned that the pain I was feeling running along my groin and down my hamstring is associated with the liver (energy) channel. HUH. SHIT, I thought. Better tell him. I gulped and admitted it out loud: I’m getting sober, it’s been almost 90 days (minus 2) and well, yeah, it’s been bad. How bad? Oh, I was blacking out about 5 nights of every 7 on a regular basis. Oh, for about 2 years. I’ve been drinking to excess for the past 5-10, I said. That makes a huge difference, thanks for telling me, he said. Not a big deal on his part, but a huge one on mine (I’m sure he sees a LOT of people with mood problems and substance issues. Although, I hope that what he was secretly thinking wasn’t, Wow, she’s seriously fucked UP.).

We then went to work. First, he performed tui na. THAT was awesome. Tui na is a push/pull massage technique; the main goal is to release energy, not so much to massage muscle tension out. Whew, his hands felt like STEEL! He knows his stuff, I thought, grimacing a few times as he dug in and “wrung” out the areas that were in near-splitting pain.

Then, I turned over (I was clothed the entire time; tui na is performed through the clothes) and he stuck two needles in me. That’s it. After my reaction to the first, he said he didn’t want to traumatize me. WHOA. I’ve had acupuncture before, and I’ve cried before from the emotional release it provides, but this was some next-level, out-of-my-world shit. He did some tweaking around both my lower left and right arms — of course, they hurt from typing all the time — and that somehow triggered me. I feel helpless against this pain, and it reminds me of work and stress and my job(s) over the years that helped drill it into me. Then, when he put the needle into my lower right arm and twisted it a bit, he hit a nerve. Literally and figuratively.

I felt a particular sensation of release, of warmth, immediately traveling throughout my right arm and creeping over my entire upper body. It literally felt like warm liquid, and — paradoxically, in this case — both calming and agitating. The twisting of the needle hit a nerve; and along with that raw, shooting pain, I felt emotionally unblocked. It was as if he had also opened up my “emotions” channel, and that started to flow. Boy, did it flow.

I just started bawling. Weeping, actually. I covered my eyes, as I never cry in front of people and in this case, I just COULD NOT STOP. It wasn’t sadness that I was feeling, it was pure GRIEF. Deep and raw and very personal. He told me to let it out, and I did. I told him that I felt so much pain, and croaked out how I felt so much guilt over what I had done while drunk — I feel like a failure, I said.

I continued to shake and cry when he left the room, for about the first 15 minutes of my 25-minute session. When it finally subsided, I felt deeply calm, quite heavy, and ready to sleep. When I got up to leave, I felt dizzy. I stumbled to the front desk, paid him, and looked sheepishly into his unflinching eyes and said, Thank you.

What were the biggest lessons I learned? One, that mind and body are so interrelated it’s sad that it takes us all so damn long to open up to this reality. Yes, reality.

Two, as I was lying on the table, I thought, The day will come when I will be able to shed this body and this brain, and man, I am actually looking forward to that day! Fucking pain in the ass, this life shit! Which, ironically, put me at ease: for the first time, I grasped the concept of three’s, one and two being my body and brian, three being something/someone over or outside each and both. Could it be that there IS something — tangible, present, real — beyond the body and brain?

Three, it became apparent to me that — at least toward the last 2 years, and possibly throughout at times — I drank not to numb myself, but to actually FEEL. I hold a lot of feelings in, repress them. Drinking was my way of expressing the sadness and anger that I wouldn’t and often, couldn’t let out. Sure, it was artificial — why am I crying my eyes out after two glasses of red wine? — and exaggerated — why am I screaming bloody murder at a complete stranger? — but it allowed me to express some version of the real sadness and anger that I felt.

I’m still recovering, and feel sadder than ever today. But, it’s a good sadness, a grief that isn’t artificial. I felt the real thing today. As my mom so eloquently pointed out to me after the one and only time I blacked out in front of her (Christmas, 2011) and dissolved into a teary, confused, sociopathic mess: I truly hope that you can start bringing out some of these feelings when you’re sober. Duh. I didn’t quite get what she meant, but it’s clear to me now.

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