Alternative Pressed

Let’s start at the foundation: I believe in science. Not having any academic prowess in much other than English and health class, I can’t say I understand it. But I believe in it. I like it. Science is honest, at times brutally so. Want the world to be flat? Sorry. Unicorns? Wrong again. Like the idea of creationism? Science doesn’t have to laugh at you. But it will get you to say oops.

It ain’t gentle, that’s for sure.

The branch of science that tickles my fancy the most has always been bioscience, primarily medicine. Yep, most likely this is ‘cause it has to do with the human body, which, as a hypochondriac who is also a slave to her hormones, is a miracle that teaches me something new that I’m wrong about every day. I would have become a doctor, if I wasn’t really shitty at math and hadn’t frittered away much of the vital years of college drinking and fucking girls.

Also, being terrified of disease doesn’t really make for a good doctor. If you combine the character of Monk with Dr. Gregory House you’d get the male persona that lives inside my brain. So medicine, alas, lost another potential asshole to tote around a stethoscope. It’s ok. I’d probably misuse the crash cart and park my flashy sportscar in a spot reserved for reconstructive surgeons.

Because I dig medical science, I decided to pursue an MS in alternative medicine. This may or may not seem counter-intuitive, depending on your opinion of medicine, education, me, and/or the healing power of crystals. I applied to an esteemed complementary medicine program that will remain unspecified for the sake of not shooting myself in the foot. (With a bullet, not a needle.) It was only after I was accepted that I realized I have little-to-no knowledge of the woo-woo fringes of medicine. So I figured, why not become a guinea pig of the holistic health field prior to my first semester? After all, there’s no better way to flex your asshole muscles – or to be proven wrong – than to approach an entire arena of health care with a sarcastic, wholly cynical mindset and a keyboard.

The goal is simple: to use non-traditional treatments and techniques to cure my anxiety and amenorrhea in a few weeks. Hopefully I won’t alienate myself fully from my peers and future colleagues via the Internet, a mere calendar page prior to the launch of my graduate academic career.

Of course, ideally I’ve set out to indulge in this experiment to see if there’s any truth behind some of the claims of the alternative health movement. Is it only logical to assume that a lot of it stems from a dangerous greed that manifests in a form of cozening? It’s hard not to believe that there’s a fundamental fallacy of certain alternative treatments that make bank off of our culture’s quest for “better,” a sort of psycho-emotional orthorexia that causes many people to search for the newest, magical way to make themselves healthier than is really attainable. Or maybe this is just my western perspective. I’m not sure. But I can’t help but assume that new age practitioners and movements cash in on a quest for “wellness” that’s entirely mislabeled. It isn’t being well that many of their eager customers and devotees are looking for (and paying for), it’s best-ness, the idea that there’s a mythical, euphoric healthy condition that can be attained with a cleanse, chant, or kick in the chakras, something that can be momentarily experienced and sustained…for a price.

Sure, some treatments, such as acupuncture and massage, have science in their corner, studies that have been performed with appropriate control groups, screening, and administration. But what about things like reiki, polarity therapy, or chakra alignment? What the hell are they about?

Well, I’m going to try my best to find out.

It’ll be fun to be groped by strangers. And funny. Right? This week alone I’ve been stuck by needles, suctioned with cups, and nearly set on fire.

Worst case scenario? I die or become a hippie. Best case scenario? My anxiety is cured and I go back to bleeding once a month.

I’ll be posting brief overviews of each treatment as I undergo the process of trying to demystify an entire catalog of voodoo. By the end of these three weeks, I hope to have a manuscript I can present to my super-awesome (and slightly skeptical) agent. And maybe I’ll have a better mental state, more limber hips, a functioning set of ovaries, and clearer skin. Who knows.

This week’s roster has included:

Acupuncture
Quick take: Not bullshit. As cynical as I was on the table, I felt something. I went to a teaching clinic for treatment, and while it was awkward, and the students seemed really, really interested in the previous consistency and color of my lackadaisical menstruation. The experience made me very, very excited to hit the books. And the Kotex.
Anxiety: No real change, but it’s an ongoing treatment. As for the blood, none as of yet, though, uh, stuff is going on. (Bring me chocolate and a bag of dicks, please, thanks.)

Lymphatic Balancing with Cupping
Quick take: Possibly bullshit, though pleasant when administered in candlelight by an attractive woman. I left with marks, too, which I find obscenely sexy. Even if I now have something in common with Gwyneth Paltrow.
Anxiety: Temporarily relieved. I fell asleep or passed out on the table. But by the next day I was anxious again.

Ear Candling
Quick take: Bullshit. DO NOT DO THIS. There is no reason for it, it’s been proven to be bunk by science, and having fire near your head is not relaxing under any circumstances. Ever.
Anxiety: Worse.

Reflexology
Quick take: Science says bullcrap when it comes to treating any sort of condition, but I suppose for some people it feels nice. For me it felt a little too much like a middle-aged cat lady’s sexual fantasy, and I think that I was forced to listen to a recent album by Enya. Also, I have issues with people touching my feet, as they are the least attractive part of my body by far.
Anxiety: Unchanged. If I want to stop having panic attacks, perhaps the first step is to get a permanent pair of socks sewn into my skin. I don’t want anyone to go near my feet ever again. Don’t even look at them. You’ll turn to stone. Mortifying.

On tap for this weekend are a modality of aromatherapy called “The Raindrop Technique,” a chakra healing massage, and an Ayurvedic oil therapy that’s meant to stimulate my third eye, which may or may not be a euphemism. Everything from shiatsu to CranioSacral Therapy are slated for next week. Perhaps the most interesting will be Tuesday’s plans. Called a “Buddha Detox,” it sounds like it’s going to be colonic, which is perhaps the most eloquent way for me to express my opinion that the celebration of Valentine’s Day is simply a load of shit.