There comes a time in every patient-mystical healer relationship when the patient just can’t take any more bullshit. Today I reached that point in my relationship with the wellness “doctor” that I had been seeing since last August.
One of my New Year’s goals was to be more assertive in my healthcare and my life in general. So I went into my appointment with Carrie (not her real name) today ready to pull the plug on the do-nothing acupuncture sessions I had been attending for the last 5 months. I wouldn’t have even lasted this long if not for my relatives who implored me to see Carrie, and who were the ones footing her bills.
The whole premise of acupuncture is that energy (referred to as qi or chi) flows through the body and controls bodily functions. If you have some sort of ailment, it means that your qi is all out of whack. But fear not! You can get the energy flowing properly again by sticking needles into special points on your body, thereby stimulating the special points and realigning your malfunctioning qi.
If all of this sounds crazy to you, it should. It sure as hell did to me, but because I was told to “keep an open mind” about alternative medicine, I subjected myself to session after session after session. During each session I had about 20 needles lodged in various spots of my body, with the majority of them around my abdomen. I would lie under a heat lamp positioned above my abdomen, presumably to further stimulate the points, for about half an hour. I fell asleep during my first two sessions, but as the weeks went on I got more annoyed with the charade. I felt as though I could be spending my time doing something more productive, like punching myself in the face.
I have a hard time buying the whole premise of bodily energies or any other metaphysical concept. Show me someone’s qi on an x-ray. Show me a CT scan of someone’s chakra. Then we’ll talk. I told all of this to Carrie, and she tried again to explain the gobbledygook about energy flows and how blood carries energy and other purely philosophical items through the body. Then our conversation went something like this:
Carrie: Do you know why Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions?
Me: Because if they get one it’ll make god angry.
Carrie: No, it’s because they believe that the personality and the past of the blood donor will come into their body, and if the donor had bad energy, that energy would enter them.
Carrie: It’s like if a murderer donated blood and that blood went into you during a transfusion, you would be judged as a murderer.
Carrie: I’m Catholic so I don’t know all about their beliefs, but I would not accept blood either.
Me: So wait. If you were having cancer treatment and you needed a blood transfusion, you wouldn’t take it?
Carrie: No I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to receive someone else’s karma through their blood.
Me: (stunned silence)
I did my best to wrap things up at that point. To her credit, Carrie accepted my choice to discontinue the acupuncture treatment quite graciously. She “prescribed” a homeopathic medicine that’s supposed to relieve the pain around my stoma – a complaint I’ve had for months which acupuncture did nothing to alleviate. I will likely give the
placebo homeopathic medicine a try, just for the sake of seeing if it helps. I sincerely doubt it will, but hey, open mind and all that jazz.
For the sake of providing a little balance to the fucked up conversation above, I will say that over the course of the last few months, Carrie has provided a couple of good dietary tips. She recommended a mineral supplement and a plant extract powder that both helped.
However, I compared her dietary ideas – don’t eat eggs, only eat organic everything, gluten is the devil, eat a shitload of kefir (a disgusting yogurt) everyday – with those from a registered dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital. I took more recommendations from the latter, which were more straightforward: increase my salt intake, eat more protein, add olive oil to foods where possible for added calories, dilute Ensure drinks so they’re easier for the body to absorb. While Carrie had some good ideas, I credit more of my recovery’s success (if you can even call it success) to the dietary advice from my doctors and dieticians.
So yeah, no more acupuncture for me, and I don’t plan on ever going back to Carrie for any sort of consultation. I know my relatives who recommended her meant well, but am I seriously supposed to take medical advice from someone who would refuse a blood transfusion out of fear that the blood she received would have bad karma in it?
Fuck right off.
Original, text-free image via NPR