Dr. Ping: Con job or great job?

Eighteen months ago, Chris switched medications from Abilify to Respiridone because he didn’t like Abilify (I’ve forgotten why).  Three months after switching he began to rapidly put on way more weight than what the Abilify did for him. I got alarmed at his out of control appetite and insisted he get a blood test, which revealed (surprise surprise) high cholesterol, for the first time in his life. So, after discussing all this with Dr. Stern, at the beginning of the year, he went back on Abilify and dropped the Respiridone all in one go. I assumed that his weight would go back to his Abilify weight. Well, it hasn’t. Many months later, Chris’s weight has not returned to his pre-Respiridone level.

My Internet pal, Irene, is a nurse who is quite familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She suggested, based on her understanding, that TCM herbs can help with the metabolic weight gain caused by antipsychotics.

Dr. Stern, Chris’s psychotherapist, wrote him a prescription for ten acupuncture sessions and I located a Dr. Ping, who runs two TCM clinics in our city.

Part of my thinking (and Dr. Stern’s) was that in addition to dealing with metabolic weight gain, acupuncture would also work on Chris’s ever elusive body/mind connection.  I was hoping that acupuncture could super glue or better yet “weld” Chris’s intellectualizing head to the rest of his body to give him a real physical presence and “flow.” Dr. Stern had previously taken up my body/mind suggestion by sending Chris to a metamorphic massage therapist. 2014 is the body/mind or bust year for Chris.

I haven’t accompanied Chris to his medical appointments for several years. Once he got to the point of remembering he had them and actually getting there on time, there was no need for me to go with him. The missed appointments are a thing of the past for Chris. This time, I made an exception in the name of “research” and went with him. I had a lot of questions that I wanted to put to Dr. Ping himself. Chris had undergone 5 point acupuncture several years ago, at the suggestion of Dr. Erika, his holistic psychiatrist. At the time, I didn’t think it did much for him, but he was at at different stage, and maybe being further along in the recovery process would make a difference. I really wanted to grill Dr. Ping on what exactly he might be able to do for Chris. Otherwise, this latest adventure could be a huge waste of Chris’s time and our money.  I’m mustering less and less enthusiasm to keep suggesting new therapies for Chris. For much of the past two years he has been happy to just get on with his own life, his way. As it should be.

We sat down with Dr. Ping and his Chinese assistant, and he asked Chris why he was there, which got a rather lengthy philosophical reply, but eventually he got the idea that Chris was there to see if acupuncture could help him lose weight. I kept my mouth shut. Once Chris’s pulse testing was done and his tongue examined, I asked about using Chinese herbs.

“No! said Dr. Ping.  “Maybe need for herbals later, but now only acupuncture. He have stagnant liver. He need to express himself more!”

“Can I see how you do the acupuncture?” I said, thinking that maybe there was something new since the last time Chris had done it. “Research,” remember.

“Okay,” said Dr. Ping. “Follow me.”

I followed the two of them into a ward of curtained off cubicles.  I noted where Chris’s cubical was and then waited down the hallway until Dr. Ping had finished. When I arrived Chris was there on the table, Saint Sebastian in his underwear, his chest stuck full of needles. Dr. Ping had left the room. There was obviously nothing new here from the last time Chris had acupuncture, so I said to Chris “I’ll see you at home,” and left.

Chris was a bit shaken when he got home. While I was lying on the table, Dr. Ping leaned over and hissed at me “What’s your mother doing here? Be a man!”

“Well, be a man, Chris! Do what Dr. Ping says. I’ve been trying for ten long years, since you came back from university,  to get you out from under my apron strings. I didn’t want this job in the first place. Maybe, Chris, what he’s telling you is what I’ve been telling you, in so many words, since you were a child. You let everyone else decide for you. YOU should start establishing stronger boundaries. If you want to be a man, tell your mother she is no longer needed!”

“What else did Dr. Ping say?” I asked.

“He said I need to exercise more and not eat sugar,” Chris responded.

Well, you don’t need an acupuncturist to tell you that, I’m thinking.

Over the course of his treatment (number 8 and only two more to go) Chris’s weight has remained more or less the same, despite his increased daily exercise routine. At his last visit, Chris challenged Dr. Ping on the lack of weight loss. “You not exercising enough. “You do MORE!” said Dr. Ping. As a parting gesture, he hammered three pins into Chris right ear. “Twist them at least four times a day,” he instructed.

Dr. Ping. Well done! You are hammering home the body/mind connection by reminding Chris to use his body, to break some sweat. So, YAY! However, my response to this lack of weight loss is: Dr. Ping, then what are we paying YOU for? If we thought Chris could lose the weight by exercising or dieting, there’d be no need for acupuncture. What exactly are you selling here? Everybody knows that antipsychotics produce metabolic weight gain in most people. YOU held out the promise that acupuncture would be different.

Unless, unless, I say to myself, a great part of TCM is the doctor applying psychological pressure on top of the needle pressure. Dr. Ping may be doing a great job. The acupuncture may simply be a distraction, a side show. What may be more important than the needles is the psychology.

The Chinese physician, in contrast, directs his or her attention to the complete physiological and psychological individual. All relevant information, including the symptom as well as the patient’s other general characteristics, is gathered and woven together until it forms what Chinese medicine calls a “pattern of disharmony.” This pattern of disharmony describes a situation of “imbalance” in a patient’s body. Oriental diagnostic technique does not turn up a specific disease entity or a precise cause, but renders an almost poetic, yet workable, description of a whole person.*

Will Chris be able to lose weight caused by metabolic weight gain through acupuncture? I have no idea. It’s either a con job or a great job.
Kaptchuk, Ted J., The Web That Has No Weaver, McGraw-Hill, 2000, page 4.

Prince Charles and the Royal Family

Ten days later after our first visit with the shaman, Chris returned for a checkup. Although this second visit wasn’t strictly necessary, I was beginning to appreciate the journey as a way of preparing for the outcome. As expected, Chris’s assemblage point was whole and had remained where the shaman had repositioned it. Nonetheless, Chris got a top-up of diamond and carnelian on his chest only.

I decided that I would like to have my assemblage point put back into shape the old-fashioned way, using the shaman’s blow and crystal wands. Given my age and the strain I had been under, my assemblage point had predictably traveled up the panic and anxiety line to the right side of my chest. The shaman’s assistant asked me to stand with my back to him, tighten my sphincter, and hold my breath. Then he quickly thumped my right shoulder blade. I was caught off guard. Air was forced reflexively out of my lungs and I emitted a little squeak. So that was the famous shaman’s blow! I then hopped onto the table where I was handed a giant quartz crystal wand that I struggled to keep upright over my assemblage point while the transducer pumped emerald crystal vibrations through my wine soaked liver. I stayed in that ludicrous position for twenty minutes.

A couple of days before, Prince Charles had delivered a keynote address at the World Health Organization about his belief that national health systems should take more account of alternative treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture. I remarked on this to the shaman, who confided that established Harley Street doctors in London were quite concerned these days because members of the Royal Family were now largely seeing homeopathic doctors and other alternative medical practitioners.

I mentally began adding up the alternative treatments Chris had undergone: colonics; acupuncture; vitamins and supplements; energy medicine, including the magnetic mattress and a magnetic bracelet; Emotional Freedom Technique; and assemblage point shift. On a scale of 1 to 10, if Chris was a 10 when he was first hospitalized, then I would have to say he was now about a 5, a 4 at the most. He just was not visibly normal, meaning that he seemed somewhat nervous, was not comfortable around people in large or small groups and was not able to motivate himself. I attributed a lot of this to the effects of the medications, which I believed kept him in an anxious state, but I didn’t attribute all of it to the medications.

I felt that we were on the right track with all the interventions we had done up until that point, but that there was still a missing X factor that had not been addressed. The good that the vitamins had accomplished this far were undermined by the still heavy doses of meds. I believed that the benefits of the assemblage point shift would reveal themselves over the next few months and hopefully lead to a complete cure. We weren’t there yet. I still had not tried to approach Level 4 of the healing pyramid in a formal way.

As the shaman predicted, Chris gradually began to express his thoughts and convictions more. It was subtle, but it became increasingly apparent in the next few months. He more frequently expressed his preferences and sometimes lingered to talk a bit more. What surprised me is that I also felt that I was becoming more real. I became even more direct and focused.

Energy psychology and Emotional Freedom Technique

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) was developed by Gary Craig, a Stanford biomedical engineer and later an ordained minister. EFT is a simpler version of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which was developed by Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1970s and is a type of energy psychology, a relatively new field within the general field of psychology.

The basis of energy psychology is the fact that our physical bodies, though appearing solid, are made up of building blocks of atoms, which emit positive and negative energy. We are, in essence, masses of energy. Illness, trauma, and our own thoughts and emotions can throw the energy out of its normally balanced state. The practice of energy psychology encompasses the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture applies needles at points along the body’s meridians (energy channels) to restore the proper flow of energy. In EFT, you use your fingers to tap on these points. Like Thought Field Therapy, EFT combines the physical effects of meridian energy therapy with focusing the mind on healing the underlying problem, for example, the emotions associated with a past trauma. EFT makes the most of the theory that many physical problems are psychosomatic in origin, or put another way, energy-based.

For the purposes of EFT, the meridian points to tap are at the inner end of the eyebrow, just above the eye, on the bones under the eye, in the indentation under the nose, on the collarbones, and in several other symmetrical points on your body down to your fingertips, ending up on the nine gamut point (the part of your hand just below and between the baby and ring fingers).

As a simplified illustration of how EFT works, think of a problem you would like to overcome. Let’s assume it is a fear of spiders. We can begin by an affirmation statement that goes something like this: “Even though I am afraid of spiders, I deeply and completely love, accept, and forgive myself and I want my fear of spiders to go away.” As you say this affirmation three times, you gently rub a point on either side of your sternum with your fingers. Then, repeating the reminder phrase, e.g. fear of spiders, you tap each of the EFT points with your index and middle fingers together. Once you have reached the nine gamut point, you tap on it while continuing to focus on the problem during each of the following nine steps: (1) Close your eyes; (2) open your eyes; (3) look hard down at the floor to your right; (4) look hard down at the floor to your left; (5) roll your eyes in a complete circle, going right or left, doesn’t matter; (6) roll your eyes in a circle in the other direction; (7) hum (don’t sing the words) five seconds of a song (such as “Happy Birthday”); (8) count to five; and (9) hum (don’t sing) another five seconds of “Happy Birthday.” Stop tapping on the gamut point and take a deep breath in and out. End of round one.

EFT seems to work best for traumas and specific fears. Before you begin a round of EFT, it is advisable to rate the extent of your fear or the emotional distress associated with the trauma on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing the greater emotional response. After you do a round of EFT, retest yourself to see if your fear or distress has decreased. Continue doing EFT until the fear or distress no longer registers.

Yes, it works. Not all the time, not necessarily the first time, but it works if you keep drilling down to the core issues. One morning I woke up the day after a house guest had left. My blood pressure was sky high but I didn’t know why. I was worried that I would have to go to the hospital. After two rounds of tapping that produced no relief, I hit upon the idea that my sick feelings were linked to a delayed reaction to the pressure of the visit. I tapped on that specific issue and my blood pressure returned to normal.

With schizophrenia, it is difficult to determine where the trauma lies. EFT alone will not get rid of the cluster of symptoms called schizophrenia, but can be useful in detecting and overcoming many deep rooted emotions at the base of this condition.