Repost from my old blog from June 2015: This was written about 4 weeks after my original post about acupuncture/bipolar, but I have put them side by side for reposting.
So after I looked at all the empirical (scientifically tested) and anecdotal (specific testimonials) evidence about whether acupuncture was at all relevant or useful for bipolar (when I wrote this article), I decided to give it a try.
I have so far been to 5 sessions. Trigger warning: Needles.
Bear in mind that bipolar is a complicated beast, and that it has so many symptoms and affects people so differently, that what has worked for me may not work for you. As we all know, there are a lot of medications out there, that have all been “scientifically proven” (i.e. gone through testing) to help bipolar, and no two people seem to be on the same combination and dosage of those, so I was somewhat sceptical that acupuncture, which is so different to our empirical, evidence-based medical approach in the west, would have anything to offer.
Mostly, I went because £12 a pop is cheaper than £200 an hour for a private psychiatrist, and I thought, if it makes me worse, I’ll get sectioned and may actually finally get medicated like I’ve been needing for months (see this article to find out how slow and unhelpful the NHS has been so far, basically bumping me from one department to the next).
Also, if you’ve been following my posts on Wedding Wednesdays over on Invoke Delight, you’ll know I’m a complete sucker for a bargain from China, because half the time, they really do deliver above and beyond my wildest expectations.
Additionally, you should know that I was only receiving acupuncture for mood disorder symptoms because I haven’t had psychosis since early April (and when I did have it, I think on the scale of other people’s, mine was very mild and fleeting and I could always identify it and challenge those thought processes very quickly).
At the first session, the acupuncturist (who has asked to not be publically named but if you’re in the North of England and want his details email me) took a detailed history, including a description of all the symptoms, and asked me to bring a list of medications (I wasn’t and still aren’t on any). He asked whether I was currently seeing the NHS and what they had said, as well as establishing when and where my diagnosis had come from (which was from the NHS).
Then he explained how this would be approached in Chinese medicine. Apparently there are two systems in conflict (I hope I’ve got these right), heat and phlegm. When the heat is too high, the mania symptoms come out. When the phlegm symptoms are too high, the depression gets its claws in.
After the consultation, during which I said the agitation was the worst problem at the present, the acupuncturist put some needles in my arms, hands, lower legs and feet. Then one in the top of my head. If I’d known that was going to happen I wouldn’t have gone, but actually I didn’t feel it and it didn’t hurt, sting, ache, itch or anything else. I waited a while, during which I focussed on my energy patterns (I did a guided visualisation to mentally visualise the energy channels unblocking and flowing properly, as I thought it would help). At the end, I felt a bit confused and very tired, so I went home, cooked and ate dinner, and went to bed.
The second session was the coming Wednesday – two a week were recommended for this condition because of the severity. Between these two sessions I had been feeling more stressed and agitated than before I started, and I told the acupuncturist. Instead of trying to blow it off as “a symptom of healing” (as I’ve heard from those people who sell juicers and advocate long term juice cleanses and contradict themselves a lot), he took this seriously as a symptom that the original thing we had tried needed some kind of refinement. He kept four of the original nine points, and moved all the others, and added in two more, and I was relieved that the one from the top of my head went elsewhere.
I literally felt the cooling sensation while the needles were in, and felt significantly more relaxed when I had finished. I went home feeling great, cooler and more level-headed. I felt like I had a better sense of scale.
When I got home, I felt fine for the next two and a half days. Then, two hours before my third session, it all went to pieces and I got very upset over a few minor things, then two minutes before we were due at the acupuncturist’s, I ended up closing myself into my room with my husband on the outside trying to talk me out. The words “we’re going to have to pay whether you go or not, so you may as well go” appealed to my sense of reason, and I went out.
At the beginning, I explained how I’d been really calm and level until two hours earlier, then it had escalated again and I had struggled to get out of the house. I did note that I’d eaten chocolate that afternoon, which may have been the real culprit, and that overall I’d felt a lot better and functioned at a higher level. The acupuncturist decided to keep everything the same this time. He said we were mostly working on the heat of the system but that the phlegm had to be changed in balance otherwise I’d end up in a depression. I agreed that I didn’t want that to happen.
As soon as the needles were in, I felt calmer again, and started to cool down again. I felt as if I’d been slightly the wrong shape and like I was fitting myself better. I don’t think that explains it very well. Sorry.
I felt very calm and level as I finished, and when I left, this calmness stayed with me all the way to my fourth session. I felt a lot more confident that the acupuncture was doing something to help.
Just like session three, I felt very calm and cooler while I had the needles in. One wouldn’t go into one of my lower legs without causing an intense burning sensation that lasted long after the needle was removed again. I think that affected the results.
I had a lot of stressors to deal with this week, and it’s a testament to how well this was working that I was able to calmly deal with a) My post on XXXXXXX (deleted to stop search engines linking to me from it) going viral, including being approached by several national news outlets for interviews. b) Phoning Police Scotland to find out whether the Procurator Fiscal (their version of the coroner) had got the blood test results back yet to establish the cause of my father’s death, including a very stressful conversation about a mistake that they made which has been ongoing since April and still hasn’t been rectified. c) Finding out that because I didn’t pay for the funeral, I can’t place a memorial on my dad’s grave, and that the person who DID pay refuses to speak to me or allow a memorial. So my dad is in an unmarked grave still. d) Making my first job application since I lost my job at the hotel after the work trial because my dad died on the day I was due to start. e) The sense of urgency to get courses applied for if I want to re-train starting this September. f) My aunts were supposed to visit my house on Thurs, when I have done little-to-no-housework since my dad died and get stressed about people seeing it in this state. g) A publisher I’d sent a manuscript to had turned out to be a dead email address/no longer trading, which I only found out after waiting 3 weeks to hear from them, which was three weeks I could have been waiting to hear back from another publisher.
I didn’t melt down or even have a full blown panic attack about any of these things. Even when a TV crew wanted to come to my house (although that spurred me into doing the cleaning, and I was still relieved when they didn’t turn up). Given the precarious mood disorder that I have, this was amazing. It was like the emotions were still there, but someone had turned down the volume – the emotions were less strong and I felt able to get a handle on them and calm myself down. The only issue that came up was insomnia so he added something extra in to help with that from session four onwards and it has actually helped.
I don’t think I was in a great place by the time Saturday rolled around, given the stressors of the week. I’d been agitated earlier that day and I’d taken myself upstairs but I did feel like I used to years ago when this happened, rather than in recent years, where years ago I would just stare at the ceiling and think and calm down and feel better, then re-engage with life. That was certainly a dramatic improvement and I feel better about this because it means that I’ve had an agitation event (the agitation I experience is like a scribbly stressy agitation meltdown where I can’t speak) and seen that it was less bad, rather than wondering whether my calm mood was down to just not having been triggered into agitation. Does that make sense? I hope so!
I reported the week’s events and we did the same thing that had worked in sessions two, three and four, but I was struggling to relax, made harder by the fact that someone was talking very loudly just outside the window near my head. I left feeling tired and a little befuddled, and the rest of the day was a pattern of stress and de-escalation which resulted at 10:35pm in me calling Noise Control on my neighbours for the very loud party they’d been having since 10am that morning. This took a lot of mental fortitude since my last contact with Noise Control was a snotty letter I’d written them in January because they hadn’t returned my calls or brought the listening equipment in for a second go after the first one brought back nothing. They arrived promptly and were very professional and said this was definitely a noise nuisance and they listened all over my house then they went round next door and got them to turn it the hell down, which is more than I’d managed when I’d knocked on the door several times with no answer.
After that, the stress receded, I was able to get to sleep fine, and the calmness that has characterised the last two weeks remained. I wasn’t absent of mood, I guess this is how non-bipolar and non-mood-disorder people go through life. Things got at me less. I felt in control of myself.
I have another session on Wednesday then we’re reducing the frequency to weekly, we were going to do that on Saturday but given that Saturday was a bad day for me, I asked if we could have another Wednesday and then review again.
Conclusion So Far:
I think there is more that can be achieved through this, but so far, results are looking very good. I didn’t go into this expecting to be “cured” of bipolar or mood events, but I certainly feel more stable and like I can manage myself a lot better, and the underlying elevation seems to have halted its creeping progress, maybe even gone down a bit. I will continue going and report back again in a few weeks.
I would also like to add that I don’t think this guy was out for my money.