So- it is the British Acupuncture Council’s “Acupuncture Awareness Week” – and their theme this year is Back Pain.I thought I should write a blog post about this, but quite frankly I thought it would be a bit boring. Yes I do treat lots of back pain, and yes I get amazing results, and I think it is a fantastic thing because Back Pain is one of the most common ailments in this country/ society, and one of the most common reasons for people having to take time off work (Is back pain hurting the UK economy? BBC) and take painkillers, and pain is a terrible thing! etc etc etc… so- not belittling the importance of promoting acupuncture for back pain– but the case studies are all a bit the same really… i.e. “I had terrible back pain, I had a few sessions of acupuncture, and now I have no / very reduced pain and no longer need painkillers etc etc”…
SO- I thought instead I would say something about how I became aware of acupuncture…!
People often ask me this- the honest answer is actually I don’t remember exactly when I first became aware of acupuncture. I remember having an interest in complementary therapies and in helping people from a young age- my mother was always interested in herbs and natural remedies and studied with the famous Dr Malcolm Stuart (while I was in the womb…she thinks something must have seeped in!) so he was a family friend, and I remember visiting his beautiful botanical gardens as a child…. I remember that my favourite books as a child were Wise Child– about a girl being taken in and taught by a druid ‘white witch’ type of herbal healer, as well as detective books like Harriet the Spy and Nicky the nature detective… and I also remember buying a book when I was 12 or 13 (!?) called “A complete System of Self Healing” about Taoist internal exercises- which was maybe one of my first introductions to Qi and Qi Gong and the channels and meridians… Around that time I also remember getting a book about Shiatsu which was a good introduction to acupressure points…!
My mother then met a friend at art school who was marrying Tim Haines- a real-life practitioner of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs- and I was fascinated by him and his down-to-earth approach. I loved (and still do!) the idea of being a detective too, and really getting to the bottom of people’s problems rather than patching things up. So when it came time to organise work experience at school, most people went into offices and helped make tea and photocopy, but I guess I never pictured myself in that world.. so I organised myself shadowing Tim for a week.
I loved learning about how he saw things in people’s tongues and pulses that answered questions about their health and imbalances, how Chinese Medicine could explain the different issues different people suffered with, and their knock-on effects. The links between our environment and our moods and our health, and making all the holistic connections. Hearing his patients tell me how he’d changed their lives was a huge inspiration, and I was humbled when they trusted me with an intimate glimpse into their health and lives, as they were keen for me to see how the treatments really helped!
I also remember that I was one of these annoying children that ‘asked too many questions’ and this was I think what led me to question ‘conventional medicine’. It never had enough answers for me! Why did I have eczema? Why did I have a cough at night? Why could the doctors not do anything for my glandular fever except tell me to gargle aspirin?
This was actually when I first had acupuncture-15 years old, feverish, delirious, with gross pus-filled ulcers on my tonsils and crying with pain to swallow, I thought of Tim- and mum took me to him. 20 minutes later I walked out of his clinic and mum cried with relief seeing me as I could breathe and swallow, the colour was back in my cheeks, and my fever was down. It was a longer course of treatment to really recover from the Glandular Fever but we got there and I credit that treatment with preventing my having any further long term effects with post viral fatigue or tonsil problems.
SO- one environmental science degree later, several years of travelling later, a few years of working in Sustainability charities later, and finally I came back to Plan A: Acupuncture training- a second BSc degree. I love it- I’m still always learning and being a detective- and I haven’t looked back. 🙂