Originally posted on August 6, 2014 on What’s Wrong With You?
When I tell people I’m an Acupuncturist there are always the inevitable questions. “Does it really work?” or a variation thereof, throwing in “placebo” for good measure. Sometimes it’s followed up with “Isn’t it expensive?” or “I don’t think my insurance covers it.” And, of course, the perennial favorite: “Oh, needles! Doesn’t it hurt?”
When I began studying Acupuncture I would vociferously defend the validity of the medicine from every angle I could think of. I would go on and on about research, past and present. Discuss which ailments the World Health Organization or the National Institute of Health currently list as showing improvement with acupuncture. Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, insomnia and Bell’s Palsy, among many others.
I would point out the sheer volume of hospitals around the US that have integrated some aspect of acupuncture into their facilities. Hospitals here in New York like Sloan Kettering, New York Presbyterian and Mount Sinai. In fact, a recent survey by the American Hospital Association showed that 42% of hospitals in the US has at least some kind of acupuncture available. Even the US Military has recognized the efficacy of acupuncture for better pain management, treatment of PTSD, and speeding the rehabilitative process. A recently released report from the office of Veteran Affairs, highlighting the concern over their skyrocketing addiction and suicide rates, emphasized the efficacy of acupuncture versus pain medications for Afghan returnees.
Then I’d inform people most health insurance plans cover some CAM (complimentary/alternative medicine) treatments. Lots of people could use their insurance, they just don’t know. The New York State House and Senate has even passed a bill adding acupuncture to workman’s comp coverage. Now the Governor just has to sign it.
I started on the journey to become an acupuncturist after it effectively cured my arthritis. I know, I can’t say “cured” to a patient I ever plan to treat. It’s disingenuous and illegal. It is, however, exactly what I experienced. I saw a wonderful Acupuncturist in midtown for 3 months. After 10 treatments all of my symptoms were alleviated and have not had a reappearance since. All the standard western interventions had done nothing for me except mask my pain and disrupt my digestion. I was amazed that pain I had been living with for 3 years diminished and disappeared in such a short time. It sparked a light in me and I decided I had to know how to do this, too. So my journey began.
Now that know for myself, I just keep it simple and answer the questions.
Does it hurt? Not really. The needles we use are pre-packaged sterile, single use stainless steel needles that are roughly the thickness of one of the hairs on your head.
Does it work? Yes. Speaking from both sides of the needle, I know firsthand how effective a handful of needles can be. I have treated or helped treat patients with a myriad of conditions, virtually all of whom saw definitively positive results from their time in treatment. I don’t bother with the naysayers; they like staying skeptical in the face of mounting evidence and that’s their prerogative.
Seriously though, if you and I were sitting around, talking about our health and life and stuff, drinking some coffee or whatever, and you asked me about it I’d say:
“Look, if you’ve been shot or you broke something or any other emergency, of course go to the emergency room. If you’re bleeding profusely or can’t breathe, please, go.”
Then I would pause, just a moment, maybe take a sip of that coffee or whatever…
“But if you’ve got anything else going on, and I really do mean anything, physically, mentally or emotionally, go see your acupuncturist.”
Guest blog post by Stephanie Schroeder, a freelance writer and activist based in Brooklyn, New York.
Three years ago I published memoir about my struggle with bipolar disorder, Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide. I got a little press, didn’t make a dime, but I did somehow become an instant go-to person in the Brooklyn LGBTQ consumer community on where to find no/low cost mental healthcare care and treatment, and especially how to afford expensive psychiatric meds without insurance or with insurance, but without adequate coverage. I’m a self-taught expert on how to do workarounds of the shitty healthcare systems we have in the US. I call this the NYC Healthcare Hustle, and healthcare professionals and friends alike refer folks in need to me regularly to see if I can help.
Here are a few inquiries I’ve received/exchanges I’ve had on social media in just the past month:
I signed up for “Obamacare” for $490 on January 1. I still don’t have a card and I don’t show up in the system. I’ve made several calls and just get the runaround. Still can’t get the abilify. I wonder if i will ever see a national healthcare plan in my lifetime. I need medical care with this fucking diabetes!!! Fuckers! I feel helpless with this shit.
I would love to have health insurance… That I could afford. The rates are just too expensive for the crap coverage I would be getting honestly. I think the cheapest plan I could get was $250 a month and it was really shabby insurance! I just couldn’t in my heart pay that much for something that wasn’t really covering me… And I do need it, for mental health. I’ve been lucky to find things like the shine program that help get these services for free.
I can’t find a new fucking psychiatrist who takes my insurance or reach my GP to talk about someone prescribing for me moving forward!
I have a question about medication and suicidality. My mind isn’t working well due to a dismal trial on Geodon (which helped me a lot once in the past, but this time the side effects and the side effects of the medicines I tried that treat Geodon side effects are very devastating and not at all tolerable) and due to just its nature, I guess. Abilify. I think you said it saved your life. I don’t want to live my life any more, but at the same time I wish I could at least have a chance at life. My psychiatrist is on vacation (until April 1) and I can’t wait that long. Do you know of a clinic or some other place where I could see a psychiatrist without being hospitalized? I have a private therapist who I adore – she doesn’t have any leads on a psychiatrist (she is a social worker.) I am on Wellbutrin SR (generic) and I think it has stopped working. Do you know of anywhere that I can just walk in for help…?
The Affordable Care Act has not made healthcare better for most people I come into contact with, including myself. The reality is that the actual lack of affordable healthcare is making us sick(er). There are a lot of folks both within and outside the LGBTQ community who need help, need it now, and need it to be free or very low cost. The government of this country, state and city won’t help. I’ve appealed to many elected and appointed government officials in my lifetime mostly without response—or with the most lame, inane and canned responses ever. It’s not surprising, but it is disheartening.
I recently convened a group of radical queers to mobilize on behalf of our community. We are a small group—consumers and providers, and some who identify as both—concerned about the lack of information about and resources, in NYC, for quality, LGBTQ-affirmative, culturally competent affordable mental healthcare treatment and affordable prescriptions. We are concerned about the lack of choices, of various barriers to access as well as the lack of actual providers who are affordable, especially in light of the ACA. We aim to act as a resource/clearinghouse to our community/communities to find and publicize existing free and low-cost resources as well as develop new options.
Following are some ideas we initially conceived:
- Establishing and maintaining a website listing relevant and updated resources for free/low-cost healthcare. This would provide detailed information and tips, not just a web links. We also discussed creating and distributing a zine.
- Creating a cooperative of psychotherapists and psychiatrists who volunteer to take on one pro bono client for as long as they need assistance. This might also involve a community fundraising campaign on a crowdsourcing platform asking folks to donate the cost of one of their own therapy sessions to another community member in need to fund this project.
- Training and coordinating peer counselors to support those in the community with mental health needs.
I’m also personally interested in coordinating a medication exchange. I’m more about rogue than my brethren, even while I respect the limitations of those colleagues with professional licenses. My idea is that folks donate surplus psychiatric medications whether they have extra, no longer take a certain drug, get free samples, etc. These are then passed along to others who need psych meds, but who cannot afford to purchase them, and there are a lot of folks in dire need. I had to stop taking Abilify for several months a few years ago because I could not afford the almost $700 price tag. I lived very precariously without my antipsychotic medication, thank goodness I have an excellent support network who helped me get through it, not everyone does. We created medication exchanges for HIV drugs—we can do it with psych meds.
I’ve applied for a few small seed grants, mostly to get a website with resources up and running. I envision this resource to not be a simple web listing of people and places, but one where those who have worked with, or tried to access, various resources, give tips and where commentary/narrative from those who have researched different resources accompanies listings.
Stay tuned for the NYC Healthcare Hustle Project to launch sometime in the fall of 2015.
Dr. Eli Mayer will be presenting a talk on Saturday, March 28 at the 40th annual conference of the Society of Sex Therapists and Researchers (SSTAR) in Boston. The theme of this year’s conference is: Healthy Sexuality as a Human Right: Making Sex Therapy Available to Diverse Populations. The conference provides an opportunity to educate “mainstream” sex therapists and researchers about how to provide quality Sex Therapy to those of us whose sexual interests and gender identities diverge from what has traditionally been considered the norm.
It was forty years ago that modern sex therapy to shape with Dr. Helen Singer-Kaplan’s book: The New Sex Therapy was published. At this conference, Dr. Eli Mayer hopes to help bring the members of the organization in line with contemporary thinking, and has titled his talk The New New Sex Therapy: Working Productively With Nonnormative Populations. He looks forward to sharing information from the conference with everyone when he returns. To be continued…
I recently read an interesting albeit brief article discussing research on casual sex, and calling out the different types and functions of casual sexual encounters (click on the following to read)…
…and I really appreciated that it calls out the oversimplification of these types of sexual interactions. I often have a strong reaction to the way that certain words are reductive, and used to pathologize or stigmatize non-reproductive sex—casual sex, hypersexuality, promiscuity to name a few. The phrase “casual sex” has an inherent assumption that “casual” is not “meaningful” and that there is something wrong with having casual sex. The same sort of implication exists in the terms “hypersexuality” and “promiscuity”—both are terms coined by the mainstream majority to refer to sexual activity that deviates from social norms, and are loaded with negative connotation. I am of the mindset that sexuality is a very personal matter; that how many sex partners one has or how they choose to interact with sex partners or engage in sexual interactions is very much dependent on individually assigned meaning and motivation.
For example, person A might have a variety of sex partners (perhaps who they consider “casual”) and types of sexual interactions, and experience their sexual expression as egosyntonic—i.e., a positive expression congruent with their values, beliefs, and self-image. Person B might have a sex life similar to person A in terms of sex partners and types of sexual interactions, but experience it as egodystonic—i.e., it might create internal and external conflicts, and negatively affect interpersonal functioning and the way they feel about themselves. In defense of person B, I would say that a large part of the conflict someone might have regarding their means of sexual expression is a reaction to the societal expectation that they conform to what is considered “appropriate” sexual behavior. For many, the resulting stigmatization from words like hypersexuality and promiscuity can cause far more discomfort than their internal dissonance, not only due to negative reinforcement, but in that it can create additional conflicts that delay or mitigate an authentic expression of sexuality.