How I Got Really Sick Then Got Really Well Again
Updated: Jan 30
I was in graduate school studying English and Poetics at the University of Maine Orono in 2005 when I got really sick. I was studying really hard, was on five committees (including a Tai Chi “committee”--how that could become stressful is beyond me, but, basically, we had to formalize a bunch of grad students and faculty into a unit in order to receive funding from the university to finance our weekly Tai Chi!--there was an annoying amount of paperwork and upkeep), and I was working too hard in general and starting to burn out.
The universe offered me an opportunity to stop and reassess my life when I found a patch of weird skin on the left side of my neck. I thought that it was frostbite (it was wintertime in Maine after all) but it didn’t heal or change so I went to the student health clinic to have it checked out. They sent me to a primary care who sent me to a dermatologist (does this chain of command feel familiar to you?) who diagnosed me as having localized scleroderma, a connective tissue autoimmune disorder where the skin basically hardens and striates.
I asked what the treatment was and the dermatologist said there wasn’t one! (I hear this so often from the people I work with. A diagnosis doesn’t always, or even often, lend itself to a clear path forward.) He then offered me steroid cream which I could smear on my neck for up to 2 weeks. I asked if that would help me and he said, “I don’t know, it might,” with a shrug.
At that point in my life, though only 25, I had already had several surgeries and ten-plus years of heavy duty medical interventions for another autoimmune disorder I developed at age 10 so there was almost no way I was going to smear myself in steroids if they maybe or maybe not were going to help.
Very luckily, the scleroderma doesn’t do anything (other than give me a slightly-striped neck on one side) so I decided to leave it alone and move on. I used to say that I was trying to become more beautiful like my gorgeous cat Lotti (pictured above in all her radiantly-disinterested glory) who also had stripes and spots. (I already had plenty of freckles to match the spotty parts of my beloved cat.)
But developing a second autoimmune condition, at the ripe old age of 25, was a wake-up-call for me. I knew in my bones that if I continued pushing hard, creating stress, and competing with myself to the best (as embarrassing as that confession is), that I would only get sicker and sicker.
That was basically the breaking point for me. Living a life that would contribute to my worsening health was no longer acceptable.
A friend in grad school suggested I try acupuncture. I showed up at her acupuncturist (who had a wait list, so I was incredibly lucky to get in with her) with basically no knowledge of what acupuncture did or how it worked. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know how much it cost! And that was when I was living off a stipend of $9,010 a year as a grad student.
You can guess by now that that first acupuncture session, and the hundreds I’ve had in the 12 years since, completely transformed my life.
The patch of scleroderma didn’t go away exactly, but I started to feel a sense of relaxation and ease and friendship with myself that I hadn’t been able to access before coming to acupuncture. As I went back for more appointments, I found that I was falling in love with being alive, and I was also able to really start tuning in to what my body, mind, and spirit needed to live my best life.
This tuning in gave me a newfound flexibility and freedom to adapt to the challenges of life. Inspired by these connections that arose through my deepening experiences with acupuncture, I changed my diet, adjusted my sleeping schedule, and just generally started supporting myself in ways that helped me start to thrive.
On the second appointment, my acupuncturist figured out, from my pulse alone, that my digestion had never been good (actually, the more accurate description is that my digestion had always been terrible). Because that dysfunction was all that I had ever known, I’d simply learned to live with it, assuming that everyone felt chronically bloated and uncomfortable. It completely blew my mind that she could tell what was going on with me without me telling her myself.
And now my digestion is radically better, completely transformed. I even drink milk, which in unimaginable in my lactose-intolerant family.
So that was my second year of a two year master’s degree, which I finished up with a little more ease (and a lot less committee work, which I mostly farmed out or dropped). The short version of what happens next is that I went on a 7 year internal journey (with some external stops along the way) to figure out if I wanted to become a physician and help other people through the amazing benefits of acupuncture.
I could so say much more, but I just want to say this--if you want a medicine that takes your whole heart and all of your glorious and often-complex being into account--please try acupuncture. Reach out to me for a free consult, or find a practitioner who you feel can hear your heart so that they can help you heal.
The glory of acupuncture is its beautiful intimacy. In the treatment room, it’s my spirit meeting your spirit, and we get to resonate together in service to your greatest potential. That’s why my website tagline is “nourishing your potential.”
I want you to be the best most beautiful and most vibrant you possible. The greatest gift of acupuncture for me has been plugging me into myself. May you also find such connection with your beautiful heart.