rest now

clink crackle sschwipp hum

 These are the small noises of my acupuncture clinic. They are the sounds of care, the sounds of someone watching over me.

When I come here, they seat me in a fuzzy recliner. I roll up my sleeves and the legs of my jeans and settle in. The acupuncturist drapes me in soft fleece blankets, folding them just so. He crouches next to me and gently takes my pulse. I feel like a small, sick child, in the best possible way—I am tucked in and a grown up has come to check on me. 

He asks a few questions in a soft whisper. How am I feeling? How is my mood? Am I sleeping okay? I stick out my tongue, and am told that it is a little puffy, or a little red, or looks good. Then comes the clink of a jar lid and the crackle of the plastic coming off a new needle. The tiny pinch goes into my foot, and I hear the sschwipp of the plastic sheath sliding away, leaving the needle in place. Six in my legs, four in my arms, and one between my brows, which I always ask for because it makes me sleepy. Then the best part—an electric heat lamp over my bare toes. Hum. 

“Rest now,” he says. And I do. But half asleep, I like to listen to the sounds in the room. Another patient rustling in. The soft, sibilant conversation assessing today’s aches and pains. Clink, crackle, sschwipp, hum. Care is being given. Somebody cares.

* * * * * *

I first crawled into the acupuncture clinic fourteen months ago. I walked in actually, but emotionally-speaking I was on my hands and knees. Depression runs in both sides of my family, and for several months I’d had an eagle-eye on that nearly indiscernible line between it and grief. I’d been fighting hard for every little bit of serotonin I could scrape together: long hot showers, daily chocolate brownies, stupid comedies on DVD, a few, barely tolerable minutes outdoors with sunshine on my face. This was the first six months after losing her. This was pure survival.

Then one August morning I woke up and knew I was over the line. I couldn’t fight on my own any more. I was tired, pissed off, and scared. We talked about antidepressants, and decided to try acupuncture first – I had a friend who was studying it, and he recommended a clinic where I could be treated in a group setting, in a comfy recliner, and pay just twenty dollars.

So I crawled in, and I told the acupuncturist everything—this perfect stranger. He listened so quietly and didn’t turn away. There were very specific questions about my moods and the care I received during and after the loss. And then he said the best thing—that treatments would not get rid of my grief, but would lessen the depression and anxiety so that I could grieve more fully. Well, how about that? This place just gave me license to grieve.

So I have grieved there—twice a week, draped in blankets, with heat on my toes and needles in my arms, I have cried silently and dreamt of my daughter resting on my chest. I’ve imagined a new future, a new child. And I’ve simply slept. This whole time, I’ve been treated with nothing but tenderness, and the needles have done their job—I no longer feel like I’m in free fall towards the pit.

Photo by Green Heat

When I say that acupuncture helped me, most people don’t understand the enormity of what I’m saying. My baby died, and nothing can make that better for me—not the love of family and friends, not the beauty of nature, not support groups and bloggers, not hot showers and brownies. These things are all crucial parts of my grief journey, and I would be lost without them. But nothing makes a dead baby better.

However there is something about the acupuncture clinic that is, miraculously, healing a part of me. Its gentle professionalism may be off-setting some of the damage done by the carelessness of my medical doctors. It might be the fact that the acupuncturist is simply a stranger, not friend or family. When we talk I don’t need to take care of his feelings, and the only thing I owe him is a check for $20.

And then there are the cozy blankets. I am so used to working hard at taking care of myself, and others. So much that I do requires an outlay of energy—even the things I do for myself, like taking a walk, or calling a friend. Acupuncture is an utter reversion. I am a child under those blankets. Something bigger than me is at work. Someone knows what they are doing. Someone cares and wants to make things better.

I have lost all sense of that kind of order and goodness in the world since my baby’s death. In the clinic, amidst the clinks and sschwipps and hums, for a couple of hours each week, I find it again.

* * * * * *

Acupuncture is my thing. What’s yours? Is there a person, place, or activity that has supported you unconditionally? That has eased your walk with grief? That has restored your faith in… anything? When you are in the dark, it can be hard to talk about the good stuff, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what could possibly help this most un-helpable thing.