“Running to Be on the Run”
Lately, I have been noticing more and more women patients of a certain age—between forty-five and about sixty-five—who are just so, so busy. They are busy every moment of every day, and they are always running.
They come in exhausted, having been to their exercise class, hair appointments, manicures, facials, work, having lunch with friends, shopping or other activities. It’s as if being busy is a new status of importance or a badge of honor.
Unfortunately, I have observed that many patients who are chronically busy are running away from a reality they refuse to see, cannot accept or are unable to change in their lives.
Such was the case of Cynthia.
Cynthia had been suffering from a severe cough and tiredness for the past three months. Coughing would keep her from sleep, and coughing spasms continued with the slightest exertion throughout the day. It was clear to me upon examination that Cynthia was exhausted; I suspected she had pneumonia.
I recommended Cynthia see a doctor. When she did, she was promptly diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Although sick for three months, Cynthia had refused to rest or cutback on her grueling, daily, two-hour workout routine. She believed that if she just kept going even harder she would soon feel better.
In this case, staying busy kept Cynthia from thinking of a future filled with fear and uncertainty.
Cynthia is in a loving yet strained marriage. Her husband has a fifteen-year neurological disorder that only gets worse and will eventually lead to his death. There are aid workers in the house night and day. Her husband can no longer drive, so all transportation falls to her or an aid.
Her dear, handsome husband has become her roommate, and leaving the marriage is not a thought or an option.
Along with her grief, Cynthia is very angry—angry at God, angry with her husband, and angry with life. On the plus side, she maintained a regular meditation practice.
I immediately started to treat Cynthia with acupuncture, targeting the lungs, liver, and kidneys. Lungs house the emotions of grief, and her lungs were very depleted from months of bronchial spasms due to nonstop coughing. The liver, which circulates qi (life force) throughout the body, was severely overheated; anger will cause excess fire and stagnation. Cynthia’s kidneys, which house the battery pack of the body, were quite depleted. Fear is the emotion related to the kidneys.
After a round of strong antibiotics and one full week of bed rest—upon my and her doctor’s strong insistence—she felt less exhausted, although she was still coughing and very tired. We continued with our acupuncture treatments three times a week and I applied warm, nourishing castor oil packs over her liver and abdomen to help circulate qi and to help her to relax.
I prescribed a strong acidophilus replacement between meals, and daily adrenal supplements. I began using moxibustion therapy on her lower back and to the immune system points on her legs. Moxibustion involves a warming herb called artemisa argyi, or dried mugwort. The moxa comes rolled up in cylinders, not unlike cigars, or in a dry spongy form which can be rolled into cones. Moxa is lit with a match and when it begins to smoke it is applied very carefully over the skin or onto the top of the needles. When using the cylinder, I slowly wave it like a smoking wand directly over acupuncture points, warming and stimulating them. This is another way to encourage, nourish, and tonify deficient qi in the body. If you have ever entered an acupuncture clinic and smelled a smoky smell similar to the smell of burning cannabis sativa, chances are that is the smell of moxa therapy.
Cynthia is now much calmer and more accepting of her path. I have started her on a Chinese herbal formula. We have been working together for over five months, and while she is improving, Cynthia is not there yet. She remains depleted and her coughing spasms continue when she schedules long days. The busy life Cynthia has created to escape from the reality of her husband’s illness continues.
In her head Cynthia knows what she is doing, yet she can’t stop running.