Elaine is a woman in her 30's with two young children, all of whom I had been treating off and on for a number of years. Prone to headaches, menstrual irregularities and appetite dysregulation, she generally responded to homeopathic treatment positively. Lean and tall, Elaine always had a pleasant, gentle manner about her, agreeable, quick to smile and laugh.
That said, I was never really satisfied that I had truly understood her adequately from a homeopathic perspective, that I had grasped her what we term her 'constitutional state'. Even though the remedies did seem to address her complaints adequately enough, there was always a sense that there was something behind the cheerful manner that I had not put my finger on.
In more recent years, the main focus of our work was directed toward her feelings of anxiety that had developed since separating from her husband and was aggravated by his subsequent erratic behavior toward both Elaine and the children. This reached a climax during a court hearing when her husband's lawyer aggressively questioned her for hours.
She had returned home that day exhausted and depleted, went to sleep and awoke a few hours later in a full-blown panic. For the next week or so, the nightly panic continued. Every two hours or so she would be awakened by it with her heart racing, her mind full of images of the lawyer grilling her and flooded with a sense of dread toward the upcoming trial.
Elaine subsequently reached out to me to see if anything might be done for her condition. It was clear that she had been traumatized by the interaction with the lawyer and was suffering from an acute form of PTSD. The remedy was also clear: Aconitum napellus, commonly known as Monkshood or Wolfsbane. It is a premier remedy for ailments from a shock or trauma that has given rise to a state of fear or panic. In the literature it is described as treating "panic symptoms (that) come in evening and also just after falling asleep. Wakes 1 to 2 hours after sleep with fright, beginning after a shock."1Much to her relief, one dose of Aconite dramatically diminished the panic and a second dose about a week later eliminated it altogether.
For the next year, Elaine managed well enough but then her husband's increasingly unpredictable behavior began to feel threatening and rekindled the anxiety. It was around this time that she began to reveal to me a different aspect of her personality, that she had always been timid, prone to bullying, a target for teasing and that in general felt like 'animal prey'.
Seizing on the opportunity, I set up a consultation in short order to understand this other side that lay behind her smile. During that session, Elaine expressed how difficult interpersonal conflict had always been and that her priority was always to make peace and smooth it over. Any thought of making someone upset or feel hurt caused her great distress that might last for days. Even not being able to offer an opinion when asked or speaking to a group of people greatly disturbed her.
When asked to describe what was it about these situations that were so hard, her answer was simply, "They won't like me and I want them to like me". I asked her to further consider the experience of not being liked to which she replied, "I'd feel left out, on the outside in a cold, dark place... Cold, cut off, away from emotions and love, it is a very lonely place."
From this point, it was hardly necessary to prompt Elaine. She was 'in her state', in touch with and expressing a deeper aspect of herself than normally comes to consciousness.
"I'm always trying to connect, but I can't force that. Without the connection there is a void of loneliness. If everyone treated me like that there is nothing... reaching out and nothing comes back. That is scary and lonely.... If I do something that I regret I get anxious at how that will be perceived. The worst thing would be if people think I am angry... Relationships, connections - they are so fragile."
When asked to define 'connection' and its opposite, she replied that it is when "people are pulled together versus a void. Two people each exist and there is no crossover, alone and floating, nothing, no meaning a gazillion miles of nothing..."
It had become clear to her that she was a target for bullying, a 'prey animal, because refused to stand up for herself for fear of offering offence. Likewise it had become clear to me what her constitut wional remedy was.
The Scrophulariaceae is a botanical family commonly know as the figwort family. They have in common a sensitivity to emotional bonding and connections, sensing that they are easily loosened. In response they hold onto them tightly and are prone to great anxiety if there is a sense of them breaking because that will result in separateness and existential loneliness.
Amongst this family, different individual plants resort to different ways of coping with their sensitivity. One in particular, Digitalis or Foxglove, closely matched Elaine's strategy of avoidance and hiding herself behind a pleasant, timid demeanor. Digitalis, of course, is well known both in conventional, herbal and homeopathic medicines as a powerful tonic for the heart. But this aspect of it is solely understood through homeopathy.
Elaine's response to a single dose of Digitalis was dramatic. "I spent a day just sitting on the couch paralyzed. Then I plummeted into a depression, my body ached and I couldn't eat. I went into this deep hole... and have come out a different person. I sent him (her husband) an email and copied it to all these people just telling him that I'm done protecting him. I feel different. Something has snapped and changed in me. I'm more confident and stronger. There is a new level of clarity and I no longer have time for all his stuff."
This response has only strengthened in the following months. She characterizes the process as freeing, as releasing her from the sense that she needs to please and it is easier to set boundaries with people in her life. Her energy and mental clarity have increased as well. "I feel like I am a different person."
1. Morrison, Roger; "Desktop Guide to keynotes and confirmatory symptoms"