I hate pain. I treat people in pain in my practice. And usually I can help them. But I hate the pain. Pain–whether it’s physical or emotional–breaks us. At a low level, we can tolerate it, although it wears us down. But when the level is high–when your nervous system overrides everything with distress signals, when everything hurts, or when your mind cannot escape the loss or betrayal that seeps into every moment of every day–something snaps. We become frightened animals, fleeing something so horrible we cannot grasp it. So we run. To doctors, to medication, to alcohol or drugs, to shallow relationships that offer some kind of temporary oblivion but are unwise and hurt us in the end. When we’re too tired to run, we fight, or withdraw–or begin looking longingly at ways to end our time on earth.
Pain rips into our every vulnerability. And, horribly, we often have the fewest resources available to us when the pain is at its worst. Even the kindest doctor or practitioner can only do so much, and in the age of prescription medication abuse, a person in pain often has to overcome a wall of suspicion before getting help for their discomfort. Those of us in the healing arts alternate between keeping a sometimes nearly inhuman distance from our clients and patients and allowing their pain to envelope us and suck us into despair. I sometimes have to hide in the bathroom and cry when someone comes to me in their most broken state.
How can you cope when your pain is at its worst? I don’t have a pretty pat answer. In my own life, I long ago gave up on suicide as a way to end my own pain. And thankfully, I have very little pain now. But when it was at its worst, all I could do was endure. I turned to my faith, friends, and family–but there were dark times when none of them seemed to help. So I trudged on. I rested as much as I could, and then just kept putting one foot in front of the other, one minute after the next, and finally outlasted the pain. I won.
For those who may never fully escape their pain due to injury, illness, or the nature of the emotional trauma they have suffered, I say be kind to yourself. Give yourself understanding. And I ask the rest of us to reach out. Not with trite phrases and over-optimistic attempts at cures. But with a soft hand and a soft word, like we would a terrified puppy or child. I ask that we all remember that pain makes it hard to think and hard to be nice, and perhaps if we can endure the sharp edges of another’s pain, perhaps we can blunt their suffering just a bit.
|Photo by Teresa Y Green
Emotional or mental problems affect many people. Even mild symptoms can lower your enjoyment of life, and severe symptoms can be debilitating.
Acupuncture together with other components of Chinese Medicine can help.
Diagnosis and Treatment: Different From “Western” Medicine
Many patients are surprised to find that Chinese medicine’s diagnostic process is very different from what they find at their doctor’s office. Two people with the same “western” diagnosis, such as clinical depression, may have completely different Chinese medicine diagnoses.
To make the right diagnosis for you, your acupuncturist will ask questions during the interview that may seem to have nothing to do with your emotions. Questions about digestion, your reaction to stress, and your sleep give information that will help her to give you the correct treatment.
While many people think of acupuncture for treatment, a complete treatment usually uses acupuncture, herbal, and dietary treatments. Using all of the resources of Chinese medicine brings quicker and longer lasting results.
Some Possible Diagnoses
There are many different diagnoses related to emotions. Here are a few different diagnoses, with the primary symptoms associated with each:
- Qi Stagnation: Crying or depression, especially with restlessness, becoming easily frustrated, irritability, wandering pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation, irregular menses, and any symptom that is worse with stress.
- Blood stagnation: Severe emotional distress, usually rage, accompanied by severe, stabbing pain in a fixed location. Also menstrual problems, purple color on the nails or tongue, and symptoms that improve with exercise.
- Phlegm misting the mind: Irrational thoughts, extreme paranoia, hallucination, can be accompanied by either mania and rage or terror, or apathy and withdrawal.
- Liver Yang Rising/Liver Fire: Anger or rage accompanied with red face, irritability, dizziness, and headache, worse with stress.
- Dampness / Phlegm Stagnation: Depression marked by apathy; difficulty concentrating; foggy, unclear, or irrational thinking; dizziness; feeling achy and sore, often with tender points; a heavy feeling in the limbs; fatigue; chest congestion or diarrhea.
- Heart Fire: Rage, red face, red tongue, insomnia, restlessness, mania.
- Qi deficiency: Depression or anxiety worse when tired, lack of interest in life, soft voice, gas and bloating, low energy.
- Blood Deficiency: Apathy, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, difficulty thinking or concentrating, poor vision, low energy, dizziness, dull pain, worse when fatigued, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling, pale skin, dry skin, nails, or hair;, scanty menses or missing periods.
- Heart or Gallbladder deficiency: Difficulty making decisions, apathy, anxiety, insomnia, shortness of breath.
- Yin Deficiency: Irritability or anxiety, worse in the afternoon and evening, accompanied by night sweats, hot flashes, any symptom worse in the afternoon or evening.
- Yang Deficiency: Extremely low energy, listlessness, apathy; difficulty staying warm; edema, frequent urination and diarrhea; dull pain improved by warmth, especially in the back, knee, or foot, worse when tired; urinary or sexual dysfunction.
Quick Tips to Balance Emotions
Here are some ideas to improve your emotional equilibrium today:
- Make a moderate exercise program and stick with it. Consider tai chi, qi gong, yoga, or other gentle qi exercises with fluid movements or gentle stretching.
- Work on experiencing your emotions as they occur. Set aside time each day to review your feelings and write about them, share them with a friend, or take action to make your life better.
- Keep a food diary, and note if you experience emotional episodes after eating certain foods. Some people find specific foods that trigger depression, anxiety, or apathy.
- Take steps to lower your stress level. Any health problem worsens with high stress levels.
Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms that severely interfere with your day-to-day life, please seek professional psychiatric help. Once your condition is stabilized, you can discuss adding Chinese medicine to your treatment strategy with your doctor or therapist.
Antibiotics are amazing drugs. They destroy bacteria that can kill humans and animals. The introduction of antibiotics into medicine turned once life-threatening problems like infected wounds and bacteria-based diseases into minor issues for most otherwise healthy people. But today, overuse threatens to diminish their effectiveness. Bacteria develop resistance to the currently available antibiotics, and like all medications, antibiotics have side effects.
Antibiotics’ effectiveness depends on destroying bacteria. But all bacteria are not harmful; many are crucial to our ability to digest food and carry out basic life functions. They are especially important in the workings of our immune system. In the article The Fat Drug, Pagan Kennedy describes our bodies as
“the condo that your bugs [bacteria] helped to build and design. The bugs redecorate you every day. They turn the thermostat up and down, and bang on your pipes.”
Our unique balance of bacteria help us in all our bodily functions, and antibiotics can change how well our healthy bacteria work.
So the question becomes, how can we avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics? Fortunately, Chinese medicine has lots of advice to offer.
- Prevention. The best way to avoid antibiotics is to not need them in the first place. Use basic health strategies like getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and making time for moderate exercise to strengthen your immune system, which will improve your ability to fight off bacterial illness. Managing stress with time management, and meditation, and an optimistic outlook will also help. A less obvious tip is wearing a scarf in cold weather, since the area around the neck and shoulders is considered especially vulnerable to invasion. Also, taking probiotics, which give your body the “good” bacteria it needs to have a health immune system, give your body a way to fight infection from the inside.
- Avoiding exposure. Doing your best to avoid exposure to dangerous bacteria will also minimize your chances of needing antibiotics. Wear gloves if you will be working somewhere where you could cut yourself, or come in contact with bacteria. Skip the trip to the drug store during cold and flu season, when all the contagious sick people are there. Wash your hands frequently–with soap and water, not anti-bacterial soap, which is another overuse of antibiotics and may have its own health risks.
- Infection 911–food edition. If you actually get a cold (which would not be helped by antibiotics anyway) or infection, there are some things you can do. Rest as much as you can. If you feel more hot than cold, have plenty of cooling foods (cooked and room temperature or warmer) such as mint tea, lightly steamed cucumbers, parsley, dill, or dandelion greens. If you feel more cold than hot, eat plenty of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to warm your system.
- Infection 911–herbal edition. Echinacea can help if used at the first sign of a cold. Formulas such as Yin Qiao Wan, Bai Hu Tang, and Ren Shen Bai Du Wan can all help with infections and other illnesses, but each have their own specific uses. Be sure to check in with a trained herbalist for information to be sure you get the best thing for your illness. Acupuncture can improve your immune system function, both as a quick boost and over time.
Antibiotics are a wonderful part of the medical arsenal. Saving them for true emergencies will leave you healthier, and keep them available for everyone.
I have extensive training in acupuncture and the use of herbs. However, the statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a health care provider, and should not be construed as individual medical advice. Any testimonials on this website are from individuals and do not guarantee or imply the same results.