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Meet Melissa Monroe of Eastside Family Acupuncture in Atwater Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Monroe.

Melissa Monroe, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After graduating college in 1991, I worked as a Research Technologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although I loved my job and am very grateful for the amazing opportunity I had at U of C, I became disillusioned with the business side of medicine. I was also personally getting jerked around the HMO system.

After a couple of unsuccessful operations on a knee injury, I found amazing rehabilitative results from yoga, Pilates, and acupuncture, and began to study all of the modalities intensively. Eventually, I moved to LA, opened a Pilates studio, and continued to study yoga. Once that business was running well, I began acupuncture school.

Today, I see patients in my acupuncture clinic in Atwater Village. About a year ago, I helped launch a community acupuncture program at USC-Martin Luther King Hospital in Watts, CA, where I conduct a weekly session for patients.

I have also taught continuing education courses to other acupuncturists through eLotus, the nation’s largest provider of acupuncture continuing education.    The majority of my work in continuing education has been on the topics of PTSD and Grief.   Supporting patients in grief has always been a large part of my practice, but my understanding of grief became far more personal after I lost my 2-year-old daughter Alice to Sudden Unexpected Death in Children in August of 2013. Since that time, I have blogged about my healing process on the Mothering in Memoriam website, founded an annual memorial concert –Agastock– which benefits a Southern California Counseling Center’s Trauma Training Program, and accepted public speaking engagements about grief and healing. My nine-year-old daughter Grace, helps me honor the memory of her sister at the concert every year.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Smooth road? HAHA!

Um, no. But, I don’t know many folks that have traveled only smooth roads, so this is not a situation unique to me.

*I think all young businesses struggle with having enough capital in the beginning. Luckily, I had no idea this was a problem when I started mine, so I just went for it. I was fortunate to have clients who believed in me and paid for sessions up front, so that I could purchase equipment and get started. But after 23 years of running a small business, I know that many of my struggles would have vanished if I would have had enough capital in the beginning.

*Many people think that when you have your own business you get to “make your own schedule,” but this is simply untrue. In the beginning, you work whenever people want you to work, or you simply will not have a business to operate. After 23 years, I do have more control over my schedule than I did at the start, but I still have to work hours other folks don’t keep.

*I loathe dealing with insurance companies, but for now, I must.

*Finally, like all working mothers, finding a home/work balance is a true challenge. I could write an entire book on this topic — if I had time! There is always something I should be doing for work when I am at home, and vice versa. I just try to do the best I can for my child and my patients.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Eastside Family Acupuncture story. Tell us more about the business.
In my private clinic, I see patients that come in for a variety of issues, such as pain syndromes, neuromuscular reeducation and rehabilitation, gout, shingles, colds/flu, women’s health issues, fertility, digestive problems, pediatrics, depression, anxiety, insomnia, grief, and PTSD. I have some patients that come for general wellness and disease prevention, which is where Eastern Medicine really shines.

I would say I specialize in treating pain syndromes, as well as grief and PTSD. My background in Western Medicine, yoga, and Pilates allows me to provide targeted exercises to patients with chronic pain. While the acupuncture helps people better manage their pain, I am a firm believer that lifestyle and habitual movement patterns cause and/or exacerbate a majority of pain syndromes. I feel it is my job to help patients identify the patterns that cause and/or exacerbate their conditions, support them in changing those patterns, and teach them methods to enact the desired changes. Often times, a patient only needs five-fifteen minutes a day of targeted exercises, as well as simple lifestyle modifications, to get to a place where they no longer need pain management.

Supporting patients in grief has always been a large part of my practice, but my understanding of grief became far more personal after I lost my 2-year-old daughter Alice to Sudden Unexpected Death in Children in August of 2013. Since that time, I have taught continuing education to other acupuncturists on the topics of grief and PTSD, blogged about my healing process on the Mothering in Memoriam website, founded an annual memorial concert, Agastock, to benefit Southern California Counseling Center’s Trauma Training Program, and accepted public speaking engagements about grief and healing. Although I truly wish that I was not in a position to understand grief and PTSD so intimately, and I wish that no one else had to understand them either, grief and PTSD are unfortunately not going anywhere soon. People need assistance in their darkest hours. If my education and my personal experience healing after trauma allow me to be of assistance to those in need, then I feel it is my duty – and privilege – to assist them.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Good luck and bad luck play a role in every business.

Good luck. I have been fortunate to have always been surrounded by amazing people that believe in me, all of whom have supported me in a variety of ways. I have no idea where I would be without all of my people. You know, I loathe that term, “self-made.” No one, and I mean no one, is self-made. We all have had teachers and mentors and parents and supporters that have shaped who we are and what we are capable of becoming. We learn from every relationship, even the bad ones. The trick is to accept the lesson, use it as an opportunity for growth, nurture relationships that nurture you, and kindly let go of relationships that are not nurturing.

Bad luck. Obviously losing my daughter to unknown causes is extremely bad luck, and there is nothing I would not do to change that if I could. I cannot change that fact, however. It seemed to me, I can allow that tragedy ruin me, or I can allow that tragedy to shape me into someone that can help others. I try, every day, to do that latter.

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Image Credit:

Chris Strother, Kimberly Metz, Duff Ferguson, and Donna Chow

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