I get asked this question all the time. Over the years the way I answer has changed a lot. You see, in school we are taught to keep our personal lives private- to maintain professional boundaries with our patients. And this is a very personal question. But after some time in clinical practice I realize that patients connect best when they can relate to you. So while I will not disclose ALL of the details of my personal life, I feel comfortable talking about this. Acupuncture changed my life for the better at a time when I desperately needed a change. It was a miracle to me. And I wanted to be able to create that miracle for others.
I have Crohn’s Disease. I started to get sick when I was in college. And like many people, my symptoms got worse under stress. So for the next 7 years I struggled with illness as I tried to navigate college, graduation and my first (and second) careers out of school. For a stretch of time I was so sick that I spent every single vacation and personal day in the hospital. I vomited my dinner every night for years. In those 7 years, I had been on 17 different medications, had countless endoscopies, colonoscopies, small bowel series exams, biopsies, test after test after test. I was referred out for second and third opinions all because no matter what I tried, I could not get my symptoms under control. My job was stressful on its own but also required travel; which meant irregular sleep and meal patterns, too much caffeine and frequent alcohol use (Hello, “business dinners”). I tried to maintain the appearance that I was fine but literally felt like I was dying on the inside. One fateful day, in between back to back meetings, I went to the restroom and had an intestinal prolapse. If you don’t know what that is, you may NOT want to google it. But that was the moment I knew something had to give. I had been considering going to Medical School anyway and this was just the push I needed to make the change. I wanted to learn more about health and wellness and desperately wanted to be able to understand why I felt the way I did.
When I was released from the hospital, I scheduled my first actual vacation. I wasn’t going to travel. I was just going to spend the week taking care of myself. And thinking about my future. I scheduled my Medical College Admission Test, booked a facial, made an acupuncture appointment, met with a new dietician, ate home cooked food and just tried to catch up on rest.
My first acupuncture treatment was interesting and I spent most of it overthinking…
What the heck IS this doing? How did I get here? Is there something in these needles? How long has it been? What if I have to pee? Or poop? Can I afford this?
But after my second treatment, something happened. I didn’t feel drastically better. When you are in chronic pain it can be hard to pinpoint when things STOP hurting. You are so used to pushing through and trying not to focus on the discomfort. But, my symptoms subsided A LOT. Enough that I was able to stop taking medication. It only took 2 acupuncture treatments to do what 7 years of specialists and 17 medications could not. I felt better. That created a mental shift for me. I wondered why I wanted to practice conventional medicine when it hadn’t been that helpful to me. I immediately started to explore acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine programs. I still fully believe in Western Medicine and have great relationships with my physicians. But, I also believe in treating the body as a whole and not just treating a symptom or a disease. I felt called to help others in the way that acupuncture had helped me. And while I still have Crohn’s disease, it has been 13 years since I started acupuncture. I am mainly symptom free and still have never needed medication again.
My story is not typical. Most people need much more acupuncture to overcome a chronic illness. But it is a testament to how powerful acupuncture can be. And hopefully it can serve as an example that trying something new may just be the light at the end of the tunnel for you.