I’ve been feeling wretched the past two weeks: particularly uneasy, anxiety high, sad, unable to fall asleep, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m working hard not to play the game of “yes, but look around. It could be so much worse.” That’s absolutely true. It could. But that’s a weird fallacy to rest an improvement plan on. That doesn’t help me understand why that even that being the case, I’m living in my sympathetic nervous system right now.

No bottle of ashwaghanda is big enough.

So, I did what any rational white lady with a little expendable income does in that situation: I went to acupuncture. I only mildly joke because as much as I hate western med and its stupid, weird system of only responding to problems after the fact, I’m somewhat mesmerized by eastern medicine. I think eastern med pushes our understanding of what science is; it looks a lot like an art which we in the West tend to set apart, and as a binary, to arts. I don’t mind calling it a science–there’s quite obviously a system involved, there’s study involved, there is consideration of health care involved. Just because its more holistic and intuitive, we question, but I find it to be a nice balance.

Typically, my modality of choice is massage therapy. I need someone to get in there and dig through that fascia, dominating and muscling out any tension. Western mentality there. Sadly, though, in March of 2020 my most beloved massage therapist retired (the nerve…of someone with grown grandchildren…who wants to enjoy her life) and since then, I’ve been adrift really without any kind of intervention. It hasn’t been good and I can’t believe my health saga is just a coincidence. Many years of massage therapy, I’m sure, kept those demons at bay.

Regardless, I got a good recommendation for an acupuncturist and its a modality I’ve held a longstanding curiosity about so…let’s go get the needles.

My experience was great and I’ll circle back around to the ins and outs of that another time but what really caught my attention was a discussion around my habitual waking, out of seriously deep sleep, at 4am. Every. night. Of course, I googled that shit and I already knew that in Chinese medicine, 4am is in the window that the liver owns (or something…I don’t know the words). If you’re waking at that hour, chances are you’ve got a liver and kidneys problem, so sayeth the East. And I do. But my very kind, zen new acupuncturist threw me a curveball.

“That hour, she said, “is when we process grief and sadness.”

Well, damn. I thought I’d been handling that.

When she said it I actually laughed out loud. I knew that was right, so right that it’s the only thing that could have made sense. I think the laugh came out of the acknowledgement that it’s something I’m going to have to confront because pushing it away just doesn’t do the trick. I’ve done it too long. Touche, Universe. You’ve got my attention. More importantly, I’m ready now.

The reality is, the pandemic and the presidential elections and the ugliness of world right now is a strain. It is a sometimes source of sadness. It’s not my source of grief. I think I have to look farther back upstream and realize that just because you pass through the time of important relationships passing away, big mountainous ambitions coming to pass and then not being what you’d hoped, and the daily compounding of an incredible and oppressive feeling of failure, you’re not handling it. It’s building up in there. It’s cutting off oxygen. It’s taxing the system.

I left acupuncture with tiny little pin-pricks of heat all across the surface of me and some ear seeds adhering to my left inner ear like fun alien tattoos. They’re doing some kind of longer-term therapy on those “grounding points.” I did feel relaxed; I felt like I was floating a little. But over the course of the next few days, I suffered. Some kind of detox was happening. In my literal gut. It was emptying. And I didn’t mind. I felt a shift more profound than the just the literal shift…(wink, wink).

This is why I need the balance of this modality with all the lab work and shame talk around fatness. That is my grief; that is a lifetime of sadness built up over how others have approached and boxed me in. It’s a long-term sadness and guilt over the fact that I let it that far in. This healing is going to take some time. And I need to find the fortitude to not run away from the discomfort.

Intermittent fasting cannot solve everything.

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