Have You Tried Acupuncture?
When I was studying for the Bar Exam after graduating from Law School, a few weeks into my expensive-but-apparently-necessary exam prep-class, my anxiety took over. I didn’t know what to do. I had never experienced this level of anxiety before — it was nearly debilitating.
It isn’t uncommon when studying for the Bar exam to go through spells of anxiety. Studying becomes your entire life, and makes otherwise healthy students do crazy things. I should know, I’m one of them.
The Bar exam is one of the most intense and stressful tests you can take besides the Boards to become a medical doctor. It is a two-day test, and each day is 8 hours long. People will often go to a hotel while taking the Bar exam so that others in their homes will not disturb them when they are trying to relax and focus, which certainly says something about the intensity of this test.
Not passing the Bar exam the first time often means losing jobs, or losing job offers. There is also a public display of everyone’s names who pass the Bar exam in multiple news sources. So if your name isn’t there, everyone knows you didn’t pass.
Most importantly, though, is that you will not be able to practice law for at least another 6 months — the test is only offered twice a year.
So, it makes sense that students might feel anxious.
My anxious thoughts consumed me so deeply that I couldn’t function. I knew something inside of me was breaking and that I wouldn’t be able to go on much longer. It was scary.
A few weeks into studying, I attended my nephew’s first birthday party. Most of my husband’s family also attended the party, and knew I was studying for the Bar Exam. With the best of intentions, everyone kept asking me how studying was going.
The question “how is studying going?” started ringing in my ears. I felt like I was being ping-ponged between people asking me the question over and over again. I saw faces and heard the question until things started getting blurry.
Soon I felt like the world was turning upside down and caving in on me. I found myself in the basement of my in-laws house crying hysterically, calling my mom and asking her to come get me. I couldn’t stay any longer and hear one more person ask me how studying was going.
Having to respond to that question — the question of how studying was going — forced me to reflect on exactly how things were going for me at the time. At that time, it felt like I was swallowing water coming out of a firehose. It was all I could do to keep my head above the water. Stopping to think too much about what I was doing only made it worse.
I had been exercising regularly. I was trying to sleep well. I wasn’t employed anywhere — my only job was to pass this test. And yet, I could feel in my body that something was wrong. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do it.
The idea of getting an acupuncture treatment crossed my mind. I was desperate for relief. I did some research and learned the basics: acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been practiced for thousands of years in China, and requires the strategic placement of thin needles into different parts of the body.
The thought of having someone stick pins in me to release tension — release the anxiety in my body — felt delicious. Just the idea of it had peaked more than my curiosity. I needed to give it a try.
I reached out on my social media channels, and asked my local friends if they ever got acupuncture, and if they did, where they might recommend I go for treatment. Three of my friends responded with the same place and the same acupuncturist — I needed to go to Mend and get acupuncture from Sarah.
Three people who were all friends with me, but didn’t know each other, recommended the same place and the same accupuncturist.
I called and made my apointment.
I soon realized that this place, “Mend,” was in a location with limited parking, and lots of one-way streets. The chaos of trying something new, trying to find a parking spot, go the right direction on unfamiliar streets, and my general anxiety from studying for the Bar, nearly put me in tears — again.
I judged myself for being such a mess that not being able to find a parking spot almost made me break down into a puddle of hysteria.
Once I found a parking spot and made my way inside, I was greeted by the warmest, most gentle woman. She has a kind smile. I knew this was going to work.
Sarah talked with me for a while, and I told her my situation. I told her that I was studying for the Bar exam and that I was an anxious mess. I told her that I had never had acupuncture before, but that I’m not afraid of needles.
She learned a lot about me in a short time because I trusted her.
Sarah asked if I would feel comfortable removing my shirt, because she wanted to have access to my back. I was fine with that, so she left the room for me to get undressed and get under a blanket. She asked me to lay face down, like one might when getting a massage.
When Sarah returned, she started placing the needles in a pattern down my back that must have made me look a bit like a reptile. There were needles all down either side of my spine, just deep enough that the tips were in me. It didn’t hurt, and I really didn’t care what I looked like — I just wanted to feel better.
The treatment was meant to clear out all of the negativity and give me a fresh slate, Sarah said. She asked if I was ok, and if I was comfortable. When I said “yes,” she left me alone to let the treatment do its work.
Sarah said I could think about anything. I didn’t have to meditate or try to be at peace. I could even think about my grocery shopping list, or fall asleep — my thoughts wouldn’t affect the treatment.
I just tried to relax. I remember feeling for the first time in weeks like I could have peace. The burden of studying for the Bar exam, and all of the heavy anxiety was being held by something else, or someone else, in that moment. I didn’t have to carry all of that weight myself.
I felt positive energy return to my body. I felt consoled and understood. I left that day feeling like maybe I could do it — maybe I would pass the Bar exam after all.
I went back for treatments many times that week, since the affects of treatment don’t last very long, particularly in the beginning, and because I was so deeply anxious. If I could have afforded it, I would have gone every day, but with every treatment I made progress.
I passed the Bar the first time I took it. I tell everyone: I could not have done it without acupuncture.
I am absolutely obsessed with acupuncture, and try to never go more than three weeks without it, even now. I passed the Bar exam in 2015. I have been going to Mend and getting acupuncture from Sarah for over four years now.
Though this story of how I passed the Bar exam is compelling, whenever I tell it to anyone, I still feel like I can never really express just how dramatic of an impact acupuncture has had on my life.
Even before I started getting acupuncture treatments, I avoided taking pills, and still do. I really avoid going to western medicine doctors, in general. I am allergic to most antibiotics, and a variety of other medications. Most of the time, whatever a doctor is willing to prescribe for my ailment, I am not willing to take.
Discovering the wide-ranging benefits of acupuncture has been my saving grace. I have been treated for: anxiety, seasonal depression-like symptoms, insomnia, muscle pain, seasonal allergies, emotional trauma, and illness prevention. I’m sure there’s more, but I just can’t think of anything else at the moment.
You just don’t know how good acupuncture is until you have tried it yourself. I try talking everyone I know into getting acupuncture treatments.
If someone confides in me that they are feeling anxious — have you tried acupuncture? If someone tells me they aren’t sleeping well — have you tried acupuncture? If someone tells me they have terrible allergies and nothing seems to help — have you tried acupuncture?
I sound like a broken record, but I don’t care. I will proselytize about the benefits of acupuncture until I am blue in the face. Then people will really have a reason to look at me like I’m nuts.
Sam Kimberle is a Writer, Poet and Artist. Her primary creative mediums are words and clay. She received her B.A. from Dickinson College in Religion and Philosophy, M.A. from Temple University in Comparative Religion, and J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. Instagram: Sam Kimberle, Facebook: Sam Kimberle, Writer Creative Entrepreneur