These days, it’s wonderful to see Chloe almost skipping into my clinic for her acupuncture appointment. Chloe is a thirty-two-year-old, athletic, fit, lovely woman with a smile that can brighten any room. However, I’m getting ahead of myself; when I first met Chloe just over a year ago, she was sad, sullen, and had very few smiling days.
Chloe was twenty-two and a virgin when she was brutally raped in a car after she accepted a ride home from a party with a friend of a friend. She told no one about the attack or her attacker for one year, and she opted not to press charges. Since that time, Chloe has been completely shut down emotionally. In addition, her abdomen grew to the size of a second-trimester pregnant woman.
Chloe spent seven years seeking help from specialists from coast to coast, including a one-month stay at The Mayo Clinic. She underwent extensive psychotherapy for her trauma, but could not get help for her hardened, distended abdomen, her lack of energy, depression, anxiety or shortness of breath.
Chloe presented herself at my clinic diagnosed with psychosomatic disorder due to trauma and hysteria. At our initial intake, Chloe wore several layers of clothing, which completely hid her body. Her eyes rarely met mine and her answers to my questions were curt and abrupt; she was sick of talking about her trauma and her health condition.
What troubled Chloe most was her distended abdomen, lack of energy, and shortness of breath. She was able to work and loved her job, but after that she had no life beyond managing her exhaustion and depression.
I started treating Chloe with acupuncture, and herbs addressing her spirit (shen) along with her liver, spleen, and kidneys. The liver is the organ most affected by hysteria and anger, especially in women. In a simplified nutshell, Chloe was suffering from extreme stagnation or stuck qi (life force) along with hormonal imbalance and deficiency.
The formula I recommended to Chloe translates, in English, to the name “free and relaxed wanderer.” Although kind and soft spoken with Chloe, I purposely kept our conversations very short. Since she had been through so much with so many practitioners, I knew I would have to build her trust in me.
I asked Chloe to start jumping on a trampoline for five minutes every day, to jump-start her lymphatic system and increase cellular oxygenation. I also use castor oil hot packs on her abdomen with every treatment to aid in dissolving stagnation and stuck fluid.
Within three months of twice weekly treatments, Chloe’s abdomen was softer, and she had lost six pounds of mostly water weight all over her body; not so much in her stomach though.
By now, Chloe was opening up a lot more to me about her life, sharing her feelings and her desire to just look normal again. As I had suspected, she had not dated or been sexually active since her attack.
I asked her to start getting regular massage, and specifically recommended a Korean day spa where women walk around naked and enjoy hot steams, dry saunas, and hot whirlpools before an hour-long complete body scrub while naked on a table with other women enjoying the same treatments beside them. The women attendants wear black bras and granny panties as their uniforms. They throw buckets of hot water and milk over bodies in all shapes and sizes while vigorously scrubbing from head to toe with hand exfoliating sponges.
I wanted Chloe to get the overall benefit of a deep, circulating, complete body massage; most importantly I wanted her to allow herself to start to feel vulnerable again with her body. It took Chloe three weeks to summon the courage to go to the spa, but the benefits were immediate. She felt exhilarated and, in her own words, “alive and vibrating.”
Little by little, Chloe’s body is starting to function again. Her abdomen is becoming more normal although we are not 100 percent there yet. Chloe now plays tennis three days per week before work or on weekends, wearing short tennis skirts that show off her athletic legs.
She still has some difficulty breathing, especially when she feels anxious. However, Chloe has begun seeing a chiropractor who is working on her diaphragm. Meditation has also been very helpful, as well as deep breathing techniques.
I have recommended several books on connecting female sexuality to the mind, body, and emotions. Chloe has been journaling and has been able to better understand her own symptoms in relating her body to her emotions. During her treatments, she freely talks about what she is learning about herself and her own body. Chloe wants to take a temporary break from psychotherapy and I honor her choice.
To be sure, Chloe is a much more effusive women than the one that first showed up at my clinic. During our last treatment, she brought up the subject of “guys” in a really positive and fun way, and though she has not met anyone per se, she is open to the possibilities.