The verb to needle took on a whole new meaning as I lay on the table with 14 needles standing erect in my skin at various meridian points on my body. Its true, what the acupuncturist told me. It doesnt hurt. It was just weird. But I was willing to try anything to relieve the pain from my sciatica. The acupuncturist’s name is Melanie, and she is obviously familiar with sciatic nerve pain, because she put her finger exactly on the spot from where the pain radiated, as if I had drawn a map for her. As I lay there, letting the needles do whatever it is they do, I prayed that this would not be yet another waste of my money.
During the intake interview, Melanie asked me about my pain, my lifestyle, and of course, my blindness. Even though my blindness had nothing to do with the reason I was there, I gave her the abbreviated version of my story, that I had normal vision until I was 8, then showed symptoms of a genetic retinal disease. Fortunately, she didn’t needle me with curiosity-driven questions. For this I was grateful. I was there for severe leg pain, due to a pinched sciatic nerve, and that’s what she treated. However, she did ask a question that gave me pause for consideration. How was my stress level? Well, frankly, there is quite a lot of stress in my life right now. The first thing that comes to mind is the situation of my being the primary care-giver for my 96-year-old mother. Even though she lives in assisted living, it is up to me to provide her with all the things that an institution does not. I bring her food to keep in her apartment; I make her at least one home-cooked meal a week; I visit her 3 to 4 times a week, making sure she goes to social events in the home; I play Scrabble with her and listen to music with her; I do her laundry; and I pay her bills. I worry about how were going to pay the outrageous rent they charge, once my life savings are depleted. I spend hours every week, either arranging for rides or waiting for rides to show up. I have to figure out how I’m going to get errands done, get my dog to the vet for her checkup, get my hair cut, get the furnace filter changed, and a hundred other things, including how Im going to get to the next acupuncture treatment. In other words, I rarely think of my blindness as a stress-inducer, but in reality, it is. Technology is a wonderful enhancement of life, but it can be a source of frustration for anyone. For example, I know a sighted person who is having a devil of a time trying to send a photo to me to add to my website. it can destroy a morning for me, when I can’t fill out a medical form on line, because the site isn’t accessible, or the sender can only provide it in a read only format. Then there’s the opposite end of the technology spectrum, dropping something like a piece of paper and having it float silently to somewhere in the room, making it virtually impossible to retrieve. And if its that refund check I’ve been waiting for for days, it’s doubly maddening. Stress? Oh yes, on a scale from 1 to 10, as the medical profession is so fond of using these days? Sometimes its right up there around 10. So, okay, stick another needle in for stress. It couldnt hurt. And while you’re at it, stick one in that will make me not want to eat chocolate. To my surprise, there actually is a chocolate point. Now I have 2 things to watch to see if acupuncture really works. One will be easy to detect. My pain is very real, and it is still very there. My desire for chocolate? Well, I did without it for an afternoon. The jury is still out on both counts.