Seducing Sleep with Chinese Medicine

Me and Marlene ... the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist
Me and Marlene … the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist

I’ve been having some pretty intense anxiety and insomnia for the last couple of weeks. My brand of insomnia starts with mild anxiety that impacts my sleep. I fall asleep pretty easily, but I wake up at 2 or 3 and can’t go back to sleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night like that, I’m usually in some state of mild to severe panic. I know that it’s my anxiety, so there’s no real danger, but my body is revved up all the same. There’s no amount of prayer or lavender or melatonin or yoga that will help me get relaxed enough to sleep. The longer it goes on, the more I panic when I wake up. I hate insomnia. Being tired all day makes my body feel more anxious which aggravates the whole cycle.

I was at a point last weekend where I decided that I was going to get back on my anti-depressant which helps with my anxiety. I called a friend to talk about it, and she concurred that if I’m thinking about it, I really need to consider it. So, I started considering it, and I remembered that my severe hypoglycemia disappeared after I got off the drug. I really can’t get back on that one again with that side effect. I don’t need blood sugar issues. I’d need to go back to my doctor and see what else is out there. Then, I thought about acupuncture. I’ve used it in the past when I was anxious – even when I was on the medication – and it really helped calm me down. So, I decided I would start a regimen of regular acupuncture treatments for the next couple of weeks along with whatever Chinese herbs they prescribe for me and see if that works. If it doesn’t work, I’m open to trying some new meds. I just hate to get on a long-term solution to a short-term problem.


I made an appointment with Stewart whose acupuncture practice is in walking distance of my house. I’ve seen him a couple of times, and I really like him. He was a pre-med student who decided to become an acupuncturist. I saw one acupuncturist here who was really pushy and didn’t seem to want me to be a partner in my treatment. It’s really important to me to be given full information so I can make my own decisions about my health care. I’m stubborn anyway, and I don’t like to be told what to do. Tell me my options, and let me decide. Otherwise, I get really grumpy. So, I went in to see Stewart, petted the office dog and told him what I was going through. We talked while he placed the needles in the places where he needed to put them, and then I rested while the needles did their magic. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud when I’m having acupuncture. A lot of people sleep, but I actually get really alert and clear-headed. I feel high. It’s pretty amazing. Before I left, he recommended some herbs and gave me the protocol to take them.

The herbs are pills … big pills. But, they are soft, and I can chew them. They have an earthly flavor that was distasteful at first, but it doesn’t bother me now. I take them 4 times a day, 4 at a time. It cost me $25 for 90 tablets. I felt an immediate change in my temperament after taking them. At first, I would start to feel anxious again before the next dose but as the days passed, I started to feel better all the time. I even started to feel a little lift in my step. I actually was eager to run on Thursday night and felt energetic enough to do some speedwork. I was still waking up in the middle of the night though. I wasn’t panicked, but I still couldn’t relax. I texted my Memphis acupuncturist and asked her for something for sleep. She said she had a ‘kick-ass’ sleeping potion she could make. I jokingly asked her if it was a pill, a tea or if you smoked it. She sent me a customized blend in the mail. It’s called Sleepy #3. The elixir is a powder that you mix into hot water. It makes a somewhat distasteful tea. I received it yesterday, and I followed her instructions to take it two hours before bedtime. An hour after I took it, I started to feel naturally sleepy. It wasn’t a sleeping pill-type sleepy. It was just a natural really sleepy feeling.

I woke up this morning at 5 AM. This is my regular get-up time so I can walk my dog in this unbearable heat. I have to do it before the sun comes up. I wanted to dance with joy! I slept through the night and had amazing dreams. And I didn’t feel groggy at all. On my walk, all I could think about was how much I love Chinese medicine. Here I am a week later feeling no anxiety and sleeping like a baby!! With no drugs!! And no nasty side-effects!! I thought of all the things that those magical needles have cured in me … my depression … anxiety .. a nasty stomach virus … a 5 year old back pain … and even a relentless cold. It’s just amazing.

My new herbs...amazing.
My new herbs…amazing.

Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old. It’s so much older than Western Medicine that it’s not even funny. I think its hilarious that we call it ‘alternative’ medicine. Why is there a ‘primary’ medicine, anyway? Isn’t medicine of any kind medicine? Every acupuncturist I’ve had – and I’ve had 4 – know that Chinese Medicine has some limits, and Western Medicine has a place in any person’s healthcare regimen. Chinese Medicine is designed to help the body heal itself. Natural herbs and energetic healing increase the immune system’s capabilities and help the body do what it does best. But in some cases, a bigger intervention is necessary. That is where Western Medicine is helpful. Why doesn’t Western Medicine realize that it’s not a one size fits all.

My doctor in Memphis was open to ‘alternative’ therapies, but I had to bring them up and seek them out. He had no information to give me. He just did believe it was hogwash. He would offer me a prescription for ‘that’, and I’d push back and tell him that I don’t really want a prescription. I wanted to know what was wrong and what was causing it. I wanted to try a few things before I commit to a prescription. It’s so easy to get a script filled, but when I do that, I’m committing to something that I’m probably going to take for the rest of my life. Of course, I don’t think of it like that when I’m wanting the issue to go away, but it’s a lifetime commitment. I don’t take it lightly. When I was on my Lexapro, I had to go in every 6 months to get a new script. I pushed back and asked that I get a year’s script since I’d been on it so long. My doctor said he couldn’t because if something went wrong and he got sued, he’d have to show in court that he saw me every 6 months to regulate the prescription. So, I had to take time off work every six months to go in, get weighed and look my doctor in the eye. The irony is that all along I had a major side effect of the hypoglycemia and neither of us had any idea. I still wouldn’t know that the medication was causing that if I was still on it.

I asked my acupuncturist if these herbs did the same things for my body as the prescription drugs. He said it should but there was no side effect profile. I didn’t actually believe it would help. I’ve bought all of this stuff at Whole Foods and never really saw much difference. But, these herbs have REALLY helped.

With Western Medicine, I had to make an appointment with my doctor sometimes a month in advance, sit in a waiting room with a lot of sick people, sign a document about who was going to pay for these services along with a threat to sue me if I don’t and then be pushed and prodded through a lot of unnecessary procedures. And, heaven forbid if I forgot to ask him something or had a question afterwards. I’d have to call the nurse’s station, leave a message, wait for hours or sometimes days for a call back and then receive an answer that may or may not answer the question at all. It was like getting in to see the President. With Stewart, I called that day to get an appointment AFTER working hours, sat in the waiting room with his lovely standard poodle, was greeted by Stewart, treated by Stewart and he even made the financial transaction at the end. And I had a question the next day. I called, and he answered the phone and answered my question. It’s just so civilized. I’ve been friends with my acupuncturists – all of them. They want to know ALL about my life because that’s part of the diagnosis process. They share their health journey with me if it’s applicable to my situation. It’s a true partnership, and they’ve even negotiated pricing and rates with me for the financial piece.

The main thing …. the thing that really keeps me coming back … is it works. I would ask Marlene in Memphis to ‘fix this’ and ‘fix that’, and she fixed it all with her Chinese magic. Acupuncture is an art as well as a science. Every practitioner has a different style. The fact that I haven’t seen Marlene in a year, and I could text her to provide me with some kind of amazing sleep elixir that works is astounding. I couldn’t talk to my doctor on the phone …. much less text. That would be blasphemous. Oh yeah, and I would bring Ashok with me to my appointments in Memphis. She knew the word acupuncture meant Marlene. I don’t see that happening at my doctor’s office!

When I got my colonoscopy at 50, the doctor’s office called to get a list of my prescriptions. I told him I was on Lexapro, 10 mg. There was silence. He asked what else. ‘That’s it,” I answered. Crickets. “What? I’m usually here for 15 minutes taking this stuff down,” he laughed. I wish he’d call back today. I’d be the one being silent. “None,” I’d say. “Have a nice day. I’m going for a run.”

6 Comments on “Seducing Sleep with Chinese Medicine

  1. Glad you are finding what works for you! Jackie always gets a surprised response when they ask him what medications he takes. At 67, he takes none!

  2. Glad you are finding what works for you! My husband always gets a surprised response when interviewed about what meds he takes. At 67, he takes none.

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