For the love of Tui Na

The idea of post-traumatic stress being applicable to how I’ve been feeling for some time now never really occurred to me until this past weekend, at least not in any way that really registered.

I’d spent the entire afternoon and most of the evening visiting with a friend in town just for the day, talking, talking, talking. We’ve known each other since earliest childhood, so it’s one of those friendships that picks up anywhere, anytime, and because the backdrop is so familiar and deeply understood, we go deep from the start gate no matter how long it has been since we’ve spoken.

Within the first half hour, talking more than eating lunch really, I’m tearing up, and feeling silly, and saying I don’t understand my depression, and why I feel traumatized. “But you have been traumatized,” my friend says, and all talk of needing to keep a positive outlook suddenly fades into the background. Her words resonate, and it is clear to me that the downward spiral I’ve been on needs stronger intervention.

I don’t want to imply that my trauma is in any way unique or more traumatic than anyone else’s. I know a number of people who have lost far more to their cancer, or to someone else’s cancer for that matter, than I have to mine. But the strength of our spirit—or as they say in Chinese Medicine, our Shen—reflects the sum of our experiences, and I’ve been gathering those for five and a half decades now.

For my chosen intervention at this juncture, and at my daughter’s recommendation, I take my depleted self to a place of Traditional Chinese Medicine called Bethune, where I’m hoping to leave with some traditional Chinese herbal medicine in my hands. I end up leaving with much more.

The doctor does some Chinese diagnostics, and something else (I don’t know what), and leaves me—to relax for a few minutes, he says. Right. For reasons I don’t understand, I’m crying before he even makes it to the door. Profusely. Embarrassingly so. When he returns, the storm is still raging. He promises the acupuncture (this I’m familiar with and eager for), but first, he ushers me, figuratively, to a warm and sunny shore, and tells me it is his job to bring my energy back, and to make me laugh.

Making fish-like swimming motions with his hands and arms, he instructs me to watch the fish that have come to the shallows, and allow them to bring me the energy of the ocean. This, his gesturing, makes me laugh, but also for some reason, vibrate. Literally. He turns me into a pincushion, and then leaves the room again. I lie in the warm water (figuratively), still vibrating, and they, the fish, swim to me, around me, over me. They come up close, and offer me their energy. The warm current washes away the polluted one that had come my way earlier in the day. I stop vibrating.

He returns, removes the needles, and tells me I’m ready for Tui Na, which I’ve never had done before, and let me tell you: it’s intense, to put it mildly.

Two hours later this amazing doctor looks into my eyes and is satisfied that my Shen is adequately present again. I leave Bethune knowing this: the seas have been stormy for a long time now, and I have become very, very tired, and had all but quit paddling.

I’m paddling again now. And I remember again that everything has two sides: one that sparkles with beauty, one that is dark. Once again, I shift my focus to the sparkling side.

Once again I understand that sometimes we need more than what is considered a normal amount of help and support, and I accept this. One day, I will know only that my experience with cancer was a good thing.

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