Monthly Archives: December 2012

Outside Her Head: an Interview with Monica Legatt by Nisi Shawl


Receiving acupuncture treatments always causes questions to rise up in me. Maybe because that sort of thing happens to everybody? Or maybe it only happens to me, because I’m a writer? There I go again….

I sent Monica some of my questions via email and she answered a few. I’ve split our exchange into two posts. Here, for starters are her responses about getting started.

NS: Do you think of yourself more as an acupuncturist or as a practitioner of Chinese medicine?

ML: I definitely consider myself a practitioner of an entire system of medicine, not just acupuncture, which is only one modality of treatment within Traditional Chinese Medicine. Washington State recently changed my medical license title to East Asian Medicine Practitioner instead of Licensed Acupuncturist to reflect that. 

NS: What drew you to this practice?

ML: I was drawn to the study of alternative medicine when I took a class on it in college from a professor who began his career as a Western medicine physician. He said to me that the cause of disease in human beings is spiritual:

 by the time illness manifests in the physical body it is very hard to treat.

So he left the medical field to pursue a career in ministry, and eventually became a professor of religious studies at the University of Puget Sound, which is where he taught me from 1988 to 1992. His name is Richard Overman, and I consider him to be my first and most important mentor. His class was really about healing within medical traditions that are not divorced from a spiritual or religious origin.

 My area of interest at the time was esoteric religious traditions. Examples of these might be Sufism, or Zen Buddhism, or the Gnostic gospels within Christianity. I thought seriously about pursuing graduate studies in East Asian Religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, but decided to study acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine instead because

I wanted to practice concepts found in these traditions instead of being an academic and staying “in my head.”

NS: Are there other motivations for becoming a practitioner of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

ML: My teacher Richard Overman (mentioned above) told me something I’ve remembered all of my life. He said that very often people are attracted to the psychological and medical fields as students because what they are really seeking is to be healed. They do not end up being good practitioners of medicine or psychology, but they abound in schools for these disciplines.

It’s one thing to study a healing art form academically and it is something completely different to practice it with skill.  

My aim has always been to do the latter.


Interview conducted by author Nisi Shawl


I Am Strong; I’m Invisible by Nisi Shawl


I’m not who people see. None of us are, but I’m really, really not. I’m disabled, though looking at me you’d never think so. I have fibromyalgia, one of hundreds of “invisible” disabilities, and one that I and others are calling on acupuncture to address. Migraines, respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, depression–the list of nonobvious medical conditions goes on and on. My mother taught me never to assume those I encounter are having an easy time of it; almost every day I’m thankful to have learned that lesson.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain and fatigue. Hard to see those. A counselor once asked me how friends would know I was in pain. “I would gasp, or moan, or yell,” I said. It had never occurred to me to simply tell people.

Invisible disabilities are isolating.

If I sit in the disabled folks area when I get on the bus I risk getting the stink-eye from those who presume I’m as healthy as they are. Or healthier. My doctor had no way to gauge my pain till I saw her for an ear infection. She examined me and got a visual point of reference for the scale of my suffering. Her sudden sympathy made me cry, though most of the time I’m able not to.

Most of the time I grit my teeth and go on.


Going on is easier lately because I have hope. Hope in something invisible. It’s hard–in fact, pretty much impossible–to see the meridians acupuncturists use to treat patients. Charts show lines with names such as “Triple Warmer” netting diagrams of bodies (usually male). On these lines are strung–like beads–points helpfully labeled “D-7” and “Gv-24” and so forth. Acupuncturists feel these lines and points. The charts are visualizations of a nonvisual phenomenon.

Maybe I should make a chart of what’s wrong with me. But it comes and goes. It changes. I’ve compared fibromyalgia to living an episode of “I Love Lucy.”  “I’ll stub my left toe,” I complained to a woman at the Y, “and 15 minutes later my right one hurts.” Pain is my default setting. Unlike some other invisible disabilities such as certain kinds of arthritis or neurological disorders, conventional medicine can find no firm basis for what I and my fellow sufferers go through.

Acupuncture diagnoses focus on energy imbalances revealed by symptoms. There’s an explanation for my invisible disability, and it’s rooted in understanding a model of an invisible system within my body. That makes sense to me.



Acupuncture for the Respiratory System and Voice: a “Wicked” patient testimonial!

Recently this Winter I was honored to treat with acupuncture three different cast members from the touring Broadway musical Wicked.  I absolutely love musical theatre, especially having a background in dance, so I was really excited when first one, and then two more members of the cast came to see me in my Seattle office for treatment.

Acupuncture is helpful for throat conditions and the vocal cords as well as respiratory conditions like bronchitis, sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis.  I have worked with many touring singers through the years who were performing at The Paramount Theatre for conditions such as these because the combination of dampness and cold in our Seattle climate can cause them.

I just received this totally “wicked” testimonial: thanks so much P.H.  !!

“I came through Seattle with the national tour of “Wicked” and immediately had a reaction to the climate change, developing bronchitis and acid reflux, which I have never suffered as a singer before. After going to more than one traditional ENTs and getting all kinds of prescription medication that actually made me feel worse, I turned to Monica, hoping that she could help me get back in the show. After just 2 treatments and taking the herbs she gave me, as well as following the diet guidelines she had suggested, I felt so much better, both physically and mentally. She was always there to answer any questions I had and to fit me into her schedule whenever she could. I continued to see Monica until I left Seattle, and every single visit was a calming, healing experience. She has changed my entire opinion of acupuncture and opened my mind to a whole new way of health and wellness. I’m just sad that she doesn’t live in New York, where I’m from!” 


Thanks Monica!