With another deadline approaching and the prospect of turning in a pictorial account of my cousin's bar mitzvah in Pittsburgh becoming increasingly likely, that familiar stress ball began to gather in my gut.
In the past, the dreadful panic of racing against bastard time could only be ameliorated by finding something interesting to write about. But this week, rather than finding material for a column, I decided to treat my stress with a little help from the stress pros in Charlotte.
My first stop a couple of weekends ago was at the Home Economist Market, which was celebrating its second anniversary by bringing in some health experts, including a biofeedback specialist. When I arrived, Carol Calvert was at a table with her laptop and a EPFX/SCIO box set up in the herbal extract aisle treating a woman with a parasite.
"This machine is fan-TASS-tic," the patient said in a thick Brooklyn accent. "Last time I used it, it told me I was deficient in vitamin E and that I'm allergic to green olives."
"Are you really allergic to those things?" I asked.
"I haven't had symptoms with the olives yet."
"Do you know what an allergy actually is?" interrupted Culvert. "It's an emotion. At one point in your life you were having olives during an emotionally charged situation." In the session, which normally would cost $100 for two hours, Calvert informed the woman her parasite had travelled to her bladder.
When it was my turn, Calvert strapped me to the biofeedback machine. The rubbery ankle and wrist bands didn't have features like suction cups to give it the credible impression of taking real scientific measurements. The wristbands were like the kind they give you at a club, and the Velcro leather headband made me feel like a biofeedback ninja.
"I believe that one day everyone will have one of these in their homes like a VCR," said Calvert of the $18,500 machine. (I guess it's sort of like my dream that everyone will one day have skeeball in their homes.)
The machine took only three minutes to make 9,080 readings. Then it displayed my most out-of-whack imbalances. "You have ADD, did you know that?" Calvert asked me. I didn't. The machine also said I am going through a religious conflict, that I have high levels of ESP, I'm a perfectionist and I have female cervix disease and chlamydia.
With a click of the mouse, Calvert was in the process of sending correcting frequencies through my body. A green box popped up declaring my perfectionism reading was now balanced.
Concerned with Calvert's results, I sought a second opinion. Pat Hawn, another local SCIO box reader, filled me in on some background of the machine before our session. SCIO was created by Professor William Nelson, who invented it in an attempt to communicate with his autistic son. The machine is based on Einstein's principles, she told me, and works at the quantum level of matter, reading the 97 percent of our minds that is sub-conscious. In a few weeks, Hawn is going on a research trip to visit Nelson at his Hungarian home.
Hawn fired up the SCIO box and left the room while the test was running. The machine can detect other people's auras and energies (which could explain that someone who was in the Home Economist Market needs to take a trip to the free clinic). The machine can also work on people if they aren't in the room, or in the same state, for that matter. Hawn says most people have a hard time believing this concept but swears by it since energies are intangible and ubiquitous.
Fortunately, I no longer suffer from chlamydia or female cervix disease. This time, the box successfully detected that my legs were sore, confirmed I was a perfectionist and said there might be a problem with my ovaries.
Done with the biofeedback, I tried acupuncture. At Denise Hoffecker's office in the University area, I filled out a questionnaire, which asked detailed questions about stressors, such as, "Do you sleep with an electronic alarm clock by your head?"
When I was told to lie down on the examination table, I flashed back to the last time I received this command for an article (if you missed it, the story was entitled "Getting A Bikini Wax," May 17). The first needle went into my chest and felt as though I had been stabbed with a sewing needle. For some reason, I had imagined it would feel good. The next 11 needles spread around my body didn't feel much better. Hoffecker placed one near a vein in my right wrist that zapped all the nerves in my hand like it had been shoved into an electrical socket.
"That's good," she said as I yelped. "It means we tapped into your energy source."
Because Hoffecker was nice enough to rearrange her schedule to fit me in for a free demonstration, I had to lie and say the needles had been relaxing.
Back at the Home Economist Market, a nutritionist named Thomas helped me from a pharmaceutical approach. Everyone's diets are deficient in fish oil, Thomas said, which contains important omega-3 fatty acids. There are two kinds of fish oil to chose from: the good ole-fashioned cod liver oil or a scrumptious sardine, mackerel and herring blend. The only problem for me is that I'm deathly allergic to fish. I told Thomas this, and he had no recommendation for a substitution. (At least he didn't argue that the anaphylactic swelling of my throat and subsequent closing of my air passages was an emotional reaction.)
Unfortunately, being deficient in omega-3 could give me memory loss, ADD (which could explain the biofeedback results), more allergies (a cruel, corporeal catch-22) or depression.
To combat the depression over my depression being untreatable, Thomas told me I could take natural mood enhancers like he does. He recommended neurotransmitter inhibitors tryptamine or SAM-e. By my math, that should cancel out the depression and leave me with just my original load of stress.
Three grams of fish oil are recommended per day, but Thomas consumes four to six. Apparently, excess fish juice attacks the brain:
"What kind of agent are you?" Thomas asked when he saw my tape recorder.
And after our chat about fish oils, he asked me, "Why don't you do some stories on 9/11 and building number seven, and why did it fall down at 5:30 on 9/11? Anyone looking into those?"
Me: "Not at my paper."
Thomas: "It's funny how that is."
Me: "Well, we're in Charlotte."
Thomas: "Do some digging, it might change your world." Right-o.