Rereading the paper afterward, I found the authors warning that doctors would sometimes have to go farther than just interpreting people’s wishes in order to serve their needs. Wants are fickle. And everyone has what philosophers call “second-order desires”–desires about our desires. We may wish, for instance, to be less impulsive, more healthy, less controlled by primitive desires like fear or hunger, more faithful to larger goals. Doctors who listen to only the momentary, first-order desires may not be serving their patients’ real wishes, after all….At some point, therefore, it becomes not only right but also necessary for a doctor to deliberate with people on their larger goals, to even challenge them to rethink ill-considered priorities and beliefs.
–Atul Gawande, Being Mortal
Dear God, I’m a slow blogger. I’ve just figured out that I’ve posted exactly zero entries for July 2015. All those witty observations and enlightened ruminations I meant to put into blog form (I swear!) tragically never made it onto the computer, and I feel kinda crappy about that. What kind of writer am I if I’m not constantly bombarding the Interwebs with evidence of my existence?
(Yeah, don’t answer that, anybody. Especially certain arrogant representations of certain iconic authors, in action-figure form, currently sitting on my bookshelf.)
Granted, I have been through about a month of trying new meds, flaking out on them, and recovering from the flake-out. Which brings me to today, and this very post about acupuncture and Me Trying It Out. You see, after the fourth medication that amped up my anxiety to the point where I was constantly thinking about how I was going to die, I decided that perhaps I ought to try something for the pain in my hands and feet that didn’t involve changing my body chemistry. (Actually, most of my new meds of recent weeks have been for my exciting, recently diagnosed esssential tremor, but we’ll set that fact aside for the moment.) And since I’m a bit leery of massage therapy after a blood clot grew in my head right above a spot in my neck that a massage therapist in Iowa had earlier pinched the hell out of, I decided to try acupuncture. Other reasons for giving acupuncture a go: 1) I’ve been stuck with so many needles in 17 years that the needle fear center of my brain has withered away to nothing; 2) a few weeks back, when I got an EMG test to see how the nerves in my feet were doing, the doctors gave me little electric shocks through tiny acupuncture-like needles, and after the initial jolt of pain the zapping kinda felt good; and 3) I desperately want someone else to rub or press or stab away the pain in my body.
So this morning, I went to an appointment that I thought would be a regular old intake session but was, in fact, my first foray into Chinese medicine. Two rounds of needles: one with me face down, the other with me lying on my back. A heated bio mat was involved, as well as an eye pillow, which might have been more relaxing than the needles themselves. One thing that struck me as odd was that there wasn’t a lot of activity involved with the process. When you get a massage, obviously the massage therapist is there in the room with you, constantly oiling you down and manipulating your various muscles. With the needle treatment, the acupuncturist sticks you in a few places and leaves the room–I guess because the needles themselves are supposed to be doing all the work.
And it does feel like something was done to my body, something more than the penetration of my skin with sharp metal threads. The sensation is sort of like someone took certain of my muscles on a long marathon. Very specific areas of my body feel energized and sore at the same time. There have also been little itches and twitches throughout the day, little pricks of pain, like my whole body is in the process of bubbling. I don’t know how else to describe it, and I don’t know what the sensations mean. I don’t know what I’m going to feel like tomorrow. Maybe that’s the real point of the process: bringing the present into focus, so you can be mindful of your true reality.
I hope tomorrow I feel a tiny smidge better.