Depression and anxiety can affect anyone. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that in 2012, 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode (lasting more than 2 weeks), or 7 percent of all U.S. adults. That number increases every year by 20%. Even scarier, or at least more concerning, is the estimate that 80% of these people suffering with depression and anxiety DO NOT receive any treatment. While acupuncture is most known for its treatment of physical pain, it can be also affective in the treatment of emotional and spiritual pain.
I will first state for the record that acupuncture is not intended to be a substitution for talk therapy with a licensed psychologist, social worker, and/or psychiatrist. Any person having self-destructive and suicidal thoughts should immediately call crisis hotline, a local hospital, or dial 911. Life is a gift and everyone deserves to be happy.
That being said, I have had extensive experience working with persons having light depression, and persons with severe depression who were also under the care of a doctor or licensed therapist.
One such person, Abigail, came to see me with the recommendation of her therapist. Abi was incredibly depressed. Though she was on prescription anti-depressants, most days she didn’t have the energy or will to get out of bed. She was exhausted all the time, yet had great difficulty sleeping because she couldn’t stop thinking her sad and angry thoughts. She cried often, everyday. She felt hopeless that her life could improve. She walked like she had an anvil on her shoulders. She spoke in quiet, slow, short intervals like she couldn’t get enough air in her lungs. Her spirit looked absolutely defeated.
I was very careful with Abigail during those first few sessions. I constantly asked into any self-destructive thoughts and made sure she was keeping up with her doctor and therapist appointments. For her first treatments, my goal was to offer her a bit more chi energy. The reason being that her body lacked the energy to do anything. Think of a fire that has been depleted down to its embers. It is impossible to get flames to rise up without first tending those embers, helping them to grow larger and hotter.
To build her chi, I began using points like LU9 on her wrist, PC6 on her forearm, and SP3 on her interior foot. These are very gentle and still very powerful points meant to, almost literally, breath life into the patient. I also did points on her lower back, BL23 and GV4 further tend the embers and carefully give them more life.
The next step was to resuscitate and restore her spirit. For that I turned to a collection of “spirit” points on the chest and back. Points called “Spirit Path”, “Spirit Soul Gate”, “Spirit Storehouse”, and “Spirit Seal” all reminded her of her goodness, her light, and her power persevere. With each treatment, she showed just a little more spark. Sometimes those differences would have to be explained to her. Other times, she came in to the treatment offering observations of her own.
When her energy grew strong enough, I did a powerful “clearing” treatment. A clearing treatment can be likened to a reset button. When a patient can’t let go of a specific memory (a trauma or abuse), or is stuck in the grip of particular thought pattern that the patient recognizes to be unhelpful (constant negative thoughts), a clearing treatment can be used to start over, or at least change perspective.
The clearing treatment I chose was called The Dragon Treatment. In Chinese lore, dragons are the good guys. The imagery behind the treatment itself is that the Dragons are being called on to root out the Demons that hold the patient in that memory or thought pattern. Once those Demons have been ushered away, the patient is left with a clean slate, or as I like to say an empty garden bed in which the patient can plant anything she wants.
After that treatment, Abigail began to change in great strides. Her sleep improved. She had much more energy and motivation in life. She smiled more. She laughed more. She began to ride a bike and took up yoga. In addition to her therapy and acupuncture, she began to read self-help books to further her understanding of herself. She began to dig deeper into herself to ask and answer the hard questions about her life, whom she wanted to be, and how she could achieve it. And she did all this with zest, with excitement, with genuine desire to make her life everything she wanted it to be.
It took a tremendous amount of courage for Abigail to face her demons. However, once she did, she realized that there was little, if anything, to be afraid of. She had a lot of work to do then, and she continues that work to this day. Abi truly is an inspiration to me. I am as proud of her as I could be.