149. Why I Choose Therapy…

…and trust the Pros to help me recover.

Why I Choose Therapy || Ann Ning Learning How

Let me clarify in case anyone ever comes across this post in their internet research:  When I talk about “Therapy” and “Recovery” I mean the kind of rehabilitation you receive after a stroke, car accident, joint replacement, etc.  I am also referring to alternative medicine, but I couldn’t think of a short and comprehensive title.  If you are looking for information on substance abuse recovery or psychological therapy, please do keep reading as this might still be helpful, or at least interesting.  Also, my condition is not permanent (kind of – jury’s still out, somewhat) and non-degenerative.  One more thing – my immune system is not deemed to be compromised, so do not worry if your children/dog sneeze on me (I’m talking to you, B&G).  Not that I’m inviting sneezes – it’s just that you needn’t worry about your kids wearing surgical masks while in my presence.

When I first starting going to The Place (ARHM, my first outpatient rehab hospital) I was still getting accustomed to RecoveryLand’s layout and it was so early in my treatment there that I hadn’t yet been paired up with A (6).  So I asked E (10  – remember, my numbering system isn’t chronological) if I was just going to get better in time and why I had to do therapy.  Well, she said, it’s likely you’re going to heal with time, but until then…[what do you do?]

1.  Therapy is about living life.

As I prepared to be discharged from The Place after ~6 months, I had major anxiety over getting kicked out.”  A (6) explained to me that there was nothing to be nervous about; the idea was that I’d eventually return, and that therapy is about learning to live life.  I didn’t take the “living life” concept seriously until I really thought about it for months after, and he was right.  (Side note:  I hate it when A’s right!  I said that to Mom in the parking lot after receiving another medical vote for a recovery that would be less than 100%.  Okay, fine.  Let’s go for 99.9..I extrapolated this idea from a convo with Je. PS. Props to docs who have to say unpopular things.)

It’s true in that I practice what I learned in therapy as I sit in a chair, eat a meal, type this at my computer, and basically, while I do everything else when I’m awake.  Yes, I learned how to sit on a mat in the gym, and how to get up from the gym floor if I had a fall, but I sit, fall, and get up in the real world.  And I go to the store and eat at restaurants and climb the stairs at church.

What E said to me was absolutely on target in a thought-provoking way.  Maybe I would get better by just waiting this thing out.  But in the meantime I still want to get my own cup of water when I’m thirsty, and venture out into the community.  So I’ve learned the skills that help me to do what I want to do in the real world by practicing them in a controlled environment under the supervision of licensed professionals. There’s also a huge achievement factor in RecoveryLand – you have to set goals in therapy, and the point is to figure out ways to reach them, even if it takes a while.  Progress is closely monitored and systematically measured so you can tell if you need to adjust your strategy, or if your plan of attack is proving to be effective, it’s easy to celebrate.

2.     I’d rather be doing something (even if it doesn’t work) than nothing.

Have you seen my medical disclaimer (click on the link and scroll down)?  I really do stand by that – e.g. there is a school of thought that says, I love Vision Therapy – there’s no other way to train the brain to “see” the best ways your eyes can see.  There’s another school of thought that simply says, I don’t believe in that – that doesn’t work.  Reading is difficult for me at present, but when my Eye Doc told me to go home and research VT before deciding to go this route it took me two seconds to understand that this course of treatment is a source of debate, although I have chosen to immerse myself in an environment of pro-VTers.  So yeah – everyone needs to do his/her homework and decide what the best course of treatment is for him/her.

At my next appointment I told my Eye Doc, I’d rather do this even if it doesn’t work than nothing.  I’m ignoring the question of “does it work?” at the moment and just saying, Seriously?  Sitting on your hands and hoping for the best is an option?  Well, it’s a bad option, IMHO.  (Side note: Remember that my condition is in flux.  I am not referring to dealing with a permanent condition. Learning to live wheelchair or prosthetic-style = huge heavy lifting.  )  I’m NOT saying, God helps those who help themselves (that is not scriptural, BTW), I’m just saying that my personality does not lend itself to inaction.  I need the idea of goal-setting and a professional to break achievement into baby steps.

So I chose VT with a well-rounded view of the discipline, and I was encouraged to pursue the necessary research by my VT Practice, and I recommend research to you as a good course of action before pursuing any kind of treatment.

Admittedly, I chose acupuncture with somewhat less (okay, zero) research.  I just went to CMD based on my Uncle/Aunt’s recommendation, and the vague knowledge that Chinese people having been doing this sort of thing for a long time and people all over the world love acupuncture, so I wanted to try it, especially since I had nothing to lose.  Like I told CMD on day 1, my primary goal is pain relief (check!  Goal met), any other relief I can get from her ministrations I will treat as a welcome surprise.

3.     Therapy and Alternative Medicine have changed the way I think.

I’m still ignoring the “does it work?” question.  Well, let me list the following items – these may be interpreted either as improvement due to treatment or coincidence, depending on your persuasion:

a.      Vision:  My neurologist saw me 3-4 months after I started VT.  I had not seen her since starting treatment.  She immediately noticed that I was using my eyes to look at her while talking in a way I had not been able to before, and that my nstagmus (jumpy eyes) had improved (except when looking up).

b.     Vision:  My tests (e.g. those crazy looking space goggles) indicate my left eye is “waking up” – meaning that I am using my eyes in a way I was unable to pre-injury.

c.      CM:  The only relief I’m willing to state emphatically (since I’m naturally tentative about these things) is that I have much less pain in my left side since starting to see CMD.   Other things I’m still processing but have happily noticed:  greater mobility in the right (weaker) side of my face, more freedom of movement in my left hip, overall improvement in my gait.


Regardless of how I answer the question, “does it work?” I am fully confident in saying that I would not have played the piano at church on Sunday had I not been a VT patient.  My Eye Doc asked me to set a goal, so I did – being added back in to the roster by April (check!  Goal met).  I got to choose any goal I wanted to, so I chose a very functional activity that impacts my life and it happened because there’s a practice full of Doctors and helpers down the street from me who all thought that yes, it would be perfectly natural and attainable for me to play for a group and look at the hymn book like I used to do.  So I did the exercises I didn’t like and made my cryptic notations on my music sheets and practiced because being in the VT environment made me think it was possible, and further, a natural next step in recovery for me.

I told Mom last week that one day I’d come to a curb and step up/down it without thinking…but not today.  Today I still need to think hard about navigating curbs, but this and so many other things (even something as simple as using a public restroom) are no longer barriers to me participating in life since I know how to approach all these little individual tasks since doctors and therapists taught me how.

I also am even more cognizant of what I eat since CMD can tell all sorts of things by just looking at me.  Not kidding.  I feel like she’s got spy cameras in my kitchen.  But this is a good thing, mind you, given my body issues at present, and also because I definitely need the highest quality fuel right now.  And I’m able to cook more now since  I practiced at The Place and have examined the faux diner at Planet Rehab, and consulted knowledgeable people on how to do this.  I occasionally see patients cooking in the kitchen when I pass by during PT, so I figure that if they can do it, so can I.

Also, the fact that CMD shows zero surprise when I tell her this or that feels better is good for me since she expects improvement, so I feel more optimistic.  Do you remember when I wrote 131. My Expectation is?  The day after I posted it I remembered one of my favorite entries in The Valley of Visiona collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.  This is “Repose” –  p.298 in my version, gifted to me by Drs. M&S when they stayed with me during my Happy Summer of 2010 in Oregon.

 Repose – from The Valley of Vision

Heavenly Father,

My faith is in thee,

My expectation is from thee,

My love goes out toward thee,

I believe thee,

accept thy Word,

acquiesce in thy will,

rely on thy promises,

trust thy providence.

I bless thee that the court of conscience

proves me to be thine.

I do not need signs and wonders to believe,

for thy Word is sure truth.

I have cast my anchor in the port of peace,

knowing that present and future

are in nail-pierced hands.

Thou art so good, wise, just holy,

that no mistake is possible to thee.

Thou art fountain and source of all law;

what thou commandest is mine to obey.

I yield to thy sovereignty all that I am and have;

do thou with me as thou wilt.

Thou hast given me silence in my heart

in place of murmurings and complaints.

Keep my wishes from growing into willings,

my willings from becoming fault-finding

with thy providences,

and have mercy on me.

If I sin and am rebellious, help me to repent;

then take away my mourning and give me music;

remove my sackcloth and adorn me with beauty;

take away my sighs and fill my mouth with songs;

and when I am restored and rest in thee

give me summer weather in my heart.

PS.  Thank you for your prayers and support for my piano playing adventure.  It went well (without incident).  More later.

118. Let’s do the fiery cup thing! (Acupuncture & Cupping, Anyone?)

Josh at Karate Class Feb '12

Joshua at Class –  Feb ’12

I have made reference to Acupuncture Ed and what Acupuncture is supposed to look like, but I haven’t actually written about my experience thus far.  If you are considering Chinese Medicine, here’s my take on it.   Please just be aware of my disclaimer (click on the link and then scroll down to “Please note, esp if you’re sick”) and make sure to do your own research and choose the treatment that is best for you.  Here’s something I learned in my own research to get you started: an important designation to look for is “L.Ac,” or “licensed acupuncturist.”  Wikipedia told me that in the U.S., “L.Ac.s generally receive from 2500 to 4000 hours of training in Chinese medical theory, acupuncture, and basic bioscience. The amount of training required for healthcare providers who are not L.Ac.s varies from none to a few hundred hours, and in Hawaii the practice of acupuncture requires full training as a licensed acupuncturist.”  Fascinating, no?  Apparently there’s also a Master’s Degree you can get from the national commission, and there might be other desirable designations to look for, but in my case, I needn’t have worried since CMD has all sorts of professional recognition and a lot of street cred, too.

I started acupuncture a couple of months ago.  I had often thought of it since I got sick but this is the first time during my recovery that I was able to prioritize it.  I was too unaware of life in general when we first came home, and I couldn’t bear to go anywhere besides the doctor’s office when my leg got bad this past Summer, but now I’m in a position (emotionally and physically) to choose my own course of treatment, and I chose this.  It has almost been 2 years since my injury, and the sooner you start treatment the better – so I know I’m a little late to the party, but better late than never, right?  I found my CMD (Chinese Medicine Doctor) since she helped my Uncle (JE’s Dad) when he was here visiting from Malaysia and had a really bad back problem.  :/.  But the acupuncture really helped.  My Aunt also went since she was having knee problems, and got relief from those symptoms.  They referred me to CMD and it was an excellent move – She’s got umpteen years of experience gained on 3 different continents and in settings ranging from hospital to private practice and it wasn’t hard for a newbie like me to tell that she knew what she was doing.  Otherwise I wouldn’t let her near me with needles/fire/electricity.

That’s right, I said “fire.”  Not only does CMD do acupuncture, she does cupping, moxibustion and herbal medicine.  Cupping and moxibustion are where the fire comes in.  She’s only done moxibustion on me once, but cupping happens pretty much during every visit.  During my first appointment I was lying face-down on the treatment table so I couldn’t really see what was going on.  Then I heard a large ripping sound.  The cup makes the ripping sound when it comes off of your skin since the vacuum created by burning up all the oxygen in the cup prior to putting it on your skin is being broken.  “What’s that?” I asked. “That’s cupping,” said CMD.  “Ooh, this is like Karate Kid with Jackie Chan!” I informed CMD.

She hadn’t seen it.  So much for my pop culture reference.  I am talking about the recent (a few years ago) remake of the 80’s classic.   Jackie Chan is Mr. Miyagi to Jaden Smith’s Daniel-san.  When Dre (the karate kid) gets pummeled by a bunch of bullies early in the film, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) rescues him and does cupping to relieve Dre’s pain.  At the end of the movie there’s the classic tournament scene where the Bad Teacher tells his student to break Dre’s leg.  Dre ends up lying on a table and tries to convince Mr. Han to help him return to the tournament to fight.  C’mon, Dre urges, let’s do the fiery cup thing!  But Mr. Han is distressed and wishes Dre would just concede and not end up with a more serious injury.  Why, he asks, does Dre feel so obliged to fight?

Dre pauses for a moment and tells Mr. Han, “Because I don’t want to be scared anymore.”  No matter what happens (win or lose), Dre just wants to be able to leave the building without looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life.  Jackie Chan is convinced by the boy’s answer to get out his cups, light a flame, and then Dre limps back out to the mat to win the fight and the respect of his tormentors.

So that is how I found out what cupping is.  I think cupping has gained more of a mainstream presence lately and acupuncture is already there.  If you’re wondering, the needles usually don’t hurt.  If I make the slightest sound of discomfort, CMD immediately notices and adjusts accordingly.  This usually happens in the non-often event that a needle touches a hair follicle.  Otherwise, I feel a tiny prick (like a rubber band snap) when the needle goes in, and then I can forget about it once it’s there.

I have extremely uncooperative veins.  I tried to donate blood once at Intel and I’m not kidding – 3 or 4 people came and went on the opposite side of the Red Cross bus while I was still lying there, trying to squeeze out the minimum unit for donation.  A RCWorker even had to hold my arm for the last 10 minutes to aid drainage.  In the hospital, putting an IV in was routinely difficult.  I used to amuse myself during breaks at The Place by counting the holes in my wrists, but I gave up after a while since there are too many holes and I didn’t want to strain my eyes.

In general, I don’t like being poked (example:  being scoped by the PDG/ENT), so it’s heavily ironic that I have willingly signed up to be poked A LOT – 3x/week, and more recently, 2x/week.  I am willing to do this since I think treatment has had positive effects thus far – give me a while to solidify the results and I’ll report back.  After the poking, CMD will usually attach some leads from a little box that generates an electrical current to the needles.  She’ll find a level suitable for me and then I get to rest.  I like that part – you get to lie there while the needles etc. work their magic.  I get good naps in – that’s what I mean when I say I’m usually able to forget about the needles.

Just so I’m aware, though, CMD will remind me if I have needles in my head/arm etc. so I’ll be careful not to fall into such a deep sleep that I touch them accidentally.  (Side note:  Your experience with acupuncture might be more of a needles-only proposition.  Since I have quite a few issues, though, I think I’m getting the whole enchilada.)  I’ll often do the tricks NP4 taught me to help myself relax and not get stressed out by the treatment.  Relaxation is critical for me since, like Dre, I don’t want to be afraid anymore, either.  What happened already happened – and whatever happens in the future will be okay, too.

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