Let’s Get Metaphysical

This week, I strapped on my jet-pack and embraced the woo. While it was less physically taxing than my previous series of encounters, it required a whole lot of tongue-biting and restraint. By the end of the week I found myself tentatively sipping the Kool-Aid.

I’m not going to ask what’s the harm? but I will share that, in my recent experience, the people who hold the most widely-challenged beliefs, the ones whose lives are filled with practices that make perfect dry kindling for skeptic fodder, seem a helluva lot happier than most cynics I know. Maybe there’s something to those crystal wands and synth-and-rainstick-studded soundtracks. But while I might be on board when it comes to deep breathing and trying to get in touch with some inner ether, but I’m still not going to believe that hovering your hands over me is going to fix anything. And I had women do that to me this week. Twice.

Additionally, the project created its first massive shift in my perception when it comes to a key decision for my future. But I’m not giving away the full monty just yet. You’ll have to check in again at the end, which will be next week’s post, if I survive the last few encounters. They’re going to be more confrontational on a physical scale, but less so on my so-called astral plane.

Oh, and this week marked the first time during the project that Atlantis was brought up – in all seriousness – as an actual place. And I’m not talking about the resort in the Bahamas.

Traditional Thai Massage with Herbal Compress*
Quick take: A really intense massage, as performed by a former semi-truck driver. Thai massage is recognized as an actual extension of medicine in Thailand. My experience incorporated vigorous stretching, prodding, and the manipulation of my body into positions often associated with Cirque du Soleil and the pile driver.
Anxiety: Went home, went to sleep. As invigorating as Thai massage is supposed to be, this made me nap. Insert happy ending joke here. Good stuff.

Healing Crystal Massage (Heated Selenite Crystals + Cooled Marble Stones)
Quick take: I had a hot girl get my rocks off…sort of. The real magic is trying to figure out how the hell someone can hold searingly hot stones and rub another person without both bodies being burned. The cool marble bits felt amazing. The whole thing was like the kinkiest version of sensory play for Mormons.
Anxiety: I can report feeling like less of a neurotic ball of shakes afterward. And I’m beginning to actually have taste in new age music. Garth Stevenson’s Flying isn’t half-bad.

Guided Meditation with Crystals
Quick take: As per the suggestions of a model-gorgeous, metaphysics-obsessed new age aficionado, I lay down with some hematite and amethyst in order to “detoxify” and “ground” my “root chakra.” There was a bit of initial talk about the celestial spheres and magnetism and toxins. I bought a bunch of pretty rocks and then drank a Diet Pepsi to up my toxic quotient.
Anxiety: Hard not to laugh when laying down with some stones on you, all while trying to visualize a color and listening to “chakra balancing” chants that sound like Philip Glass’ younger brother trapped an unfinished basement with a bottle of absinthe and a Casio. But I did have a marked up-tick in stress when I realized that I had spent $25 on rocks.

Reiki
Quick take: A cute girl laid her hands on me for an hour, what did you do with your Wednesday? I tried to suspend my disbelief and drifted off to sleep while a stranger practiced this “hands-on healing technique from Japan that is a means of transcendent life force.” Otherwise known as REM sleep.
Anxiety: After I got over the initial awkwardness that comes from sleeping in front of someone, I was unconscious. Sleeping relieves anxiety! Until you realize that you just took a really expensive nap. Also, I was told afterward to drink a lot of water to “help the body detoxify.” While I can get on board flushing out my endocrine system when it comes to something vigorous, like working out, deep-tissue massage, or a two-day bender with a girl named Heidi, I’m not sure what hitting the seltzer is going to do for me after this “Reiki Master” basically held my hand for a complete sixty.

CranioSacral Therapy
Quick take: If reiki was the WWE, CranioSacral Therapy is MMA. They’re similar, but this was more intense, at least with regard to where the chick put her paws. I’ve had boyfriends who’ve lingered around my crotch and ass for cumulatively less time.
Anxiety: Because my blood sugar was low, or because I had been on my back, or because of some meningeal-based energy readjustment if you believe in that sort of thing, I almost passed out when I stood up and had to lay back down. (In medicine, this is known as a vasovagal response or neurocardiogenic syncope. To others it could be known as making contact with the astral plane or past-life regression. Take your pick.) So my anxiety was worse, but I don’t think it was the nice lady’s fault.

* The Thai massage was supposed to incorporate Luk Pra Kob, or a medicinal herbal compress, but the massage therapist’s FryDaddy was stolen, so he couldn’t steam them. (Not kidding.) I’ll be receiving the Luk Pra Kob treatment next week, and I’ll report back on how it goes.

Best: Western

One week, a neurological exam, and four x-rays later, it’s safe to say that my anxiety has not been cured. And that I’m grateful for the big guns of western medicine.

Yup, using holistic cures and alternative therapies to remedy clinical anxiety and amenorrhea led me to sacrifice three hours of Valentine’s Day in the yellow-gray waiting room of a nuclear medicine, ultrasound, and x-ray diagnostic imaging office. I was sent there with a prescription from a physician, who inspected my back for signs of internal bleeding and then sent me to get x-rays just to make sure that nothing was fractured.

Seriously. I went from reflexology to radiology within a week. Never take a knife to a gun fight. Never bring your body to a basement massage parlor in Chinatown.

Just to make sure you’re following along at home, shiatsu is considered to be therapeutic by massage aficionados and woo-woo healer types alike. It’s touted by many in the alt med community as a means of stimulating circulation and aiding the secretion of sebaceous glands, alleviating arthritis symptoms, easing migraines, assuaging morning sickness, inducing labor in overdue pregnant women, facilitating digestion, assisting in fat metabolism, and pulverizing small women who previously thought they had a high tolerance for pain. Whether or not any of this is SCIENCE FACT remains murky at best. ¿Cómo se dice “randomized control trial”?

While I’ve had to take a few days off to recover, and I’ve been hitting the Ibuprofen hard after refusing my doctor’s attempts to prescribe me stronger painkillers by citing the fact that I’m part Lohan, the project is still on. Make no mistake. After all, I have CranioSacral Balancing, reiki, a “healing crystal massage,” and a chiropractor’s visit to get through. In the next two weeks there’s also a chance that I’ll get vigorously scratched with a spoon, rubbed with a herbal compress, and venture back to Chinatown for other supposedly salubrious treatments. I may or may not drink my own pee. (Uropathy for the woo!)

Keep in mind that, other than a pretty common mental affliction and a period more intermittent than Halley’s Comet, I started out healthy. And able to walk.

Some treatments I’ve subjected myself to since the last post, not including the examinations and blasting with electromagnetic magic…

Chakra Healing Massage
An energy therapy where the seven energy centers of the body are realigned. Involves chanting, guided visualization, light massage, and feeling awkward.
Quick take: The woman who performed the massage was able to detail my digestive patterns in a way that was a little distressing in its accuracy. But otherwise it was just really hard to put any faith in it. There were crystals involved. Also, my throat chakra “needs work.” She told me that I’m not expressing myself the way I want to, that it’s chronic, and that I should attempt Lion Pose in yoga in order to free it up. Rawr.
Anxiety: Equally as uncomfortable leaving as I was walking in the joint.

Shirodhara
A technique in Ayurvedic medicine where warm oil is poured over the patient’s “third eye” (read: forehead, center between the brows) in order to calm the mind and quell any mental tension.
Quick take: Really oily. You could have thrown me in a fryer and served me with a double-cheeseburger by the end of it. And my hair was so greasy even after shampooing, I could have been considered attractive in a Williamsburg biergarten.
Anxiety: No change. No increase or decrease. Just oily.

Raindrop Technique
A body therapy that incorporates reflexology and something called Vita Flex massage in order to balance the body’s “structural and electrical alignment” with the aid of supposedly antiseptic, immune boosting, and oxygenating essential oils. There may or may not be a connection to the Lakota Indian tribe. But I’m guessing that tribe members probably had better things to do than rub each other by candlelight with essential oils.
Quick take: Annoyingly uncanny. In my experience, it wound up not being bullshit, inexplicably, even in spite of my lack of belief. I lay there scoffing quietly, stood up, and felt fucking incredible.
Anxiety: No. Slept amazing, woke up amazing. Chalk one up for the woo-woo.

Shiatsu
A Japanese therapeutic massage technique that translates into “finger pressure,” shiatsu incorporates stretches, pressure points, and light stretching in order to facilitate the flow of invisible energy and help cope with everything from nausea to depression.
Quick take: Most painful thing I have ever been through without question, exaggeration, or room for debate. I have been in car accidents that were more pleasant.
Anxiety: Worse. Infinitely worse.

Next week could find me going from energy healing to emergency medicine. Stay tuned.

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.