A forty-two-year old high school French teacher from Eastern Washington, Kristin first visited our office four years ago for help with her irritable bowel syndrome and fibrocystic breast disease. She mentioned immediately that she and her husband had marital difficulties, which left her in a state of shock. “ I’ve always had a lot of digestive problems and food sensitivities. In my twenties, I had parasites. I have pain from my stomach to my lower abdomen.” Then there are milder, chronic things like a fluttery feeling in my heart, skipped beats, and itchy ear canals. I used to get mild psoriasis on my elbows and ear lobe. Ten years ago I had an episode of Fifth’s Disease. Then I developed strep throat, which ended up with a reactive arthritis. My fingers, ankles, and knees became swollen. The rheumatologist told me to take aspirin for two to six months. I went instead to a homeopath. He prescribed Belladonna and, within fifteen minutes, I was seventy-five percent better.”
We asked Kristin to explain what she meant by “shock.” when talking about her marital difficulties –
“It took me completely by surprise. I had never even considered that this could happen in my marriage. It surprised me in such a fundamental way. I got the feeling that I didn’t know if I could go on. Wondered what my life was about. I was really taken by surprise. I didn’t want it to be true. It just couldn’t be happening to me. I thought we would be together forever. I kept thinking about getting the rug pulled out from under me. Is he going to hurt me again? I needed to be more in control, to check up on him so it would not happen again. A total sense of being off balance.”
“I think I’m still reacting to the situation, even though it has been three years with a bunch of lies in between. It undermined my ability to trust everything the way I thought it was. I’m still really having trouble maintaining that balance. Knowing who I am and what I want and making sure nothing happens to me. How do you make sure that bad things don’t happen to you? I just felt shocked. And it happened again and again, each time I tried to trust him and he would again cover up. My whole emotional world was shaken up. I couldn’t tell the difference between my own panic and my intuition.”
We inquired a bit more about the initial grief. “I cried a lot. Racking crying and sobbing. In the first few weeks, I slept only an hour at a time. Then I would wake up with a surge of panic. We separated. The affair pulled everything apart—our family, finances, home. I kept telling my husband, “Just tell me the truth. The hardest thing was not knowing. Not being able to trust. I start to have the hope that I will eventually have a relationship that is closer to my ideal. I am lost. The immediate sense of panic, of getting the rug pulled out, is gone. But the disorientation is still there. I feel a deep sadness.”
We explored with Kristin whether she had ever felt similarly earlier in her life. In a previous relationship, the circumstances were quite different, but I still had that same sense of having the rug pulled out form under me. Of being off balance. Your feet go out from under you. That sense of being slammed down. Your feet go out from under you. That sense of being slammed down.”
“I’m very emotional. When I am somewhere with lots of personalities, I become irritable. Or way too empathetic. Very intuitive and very sensitive. I may not know what’s going on in someone’s life, but I can pick up his emotional responses. I can’t read his mind, but I can read his emotions. The cues he is giving.”
“I have had fibrocystic disease forever. Since my first mammogram at twenty years old. Lumps all the time, even in post-menstrual breast checks. My breasts have gotten more and more dense, fibrous, fluid-filled, sore. There’s no point in getting mammograms, since they always end up doing an ultrasound.”
We concluded the interview by investigation fears, dreams, family history, and some generalities. “My only real fear is being alone. Nothing else. I don’t remember my dreams much. I did dream that my husband’s lover was waiting in my house for him to come home. My mom was alcoholic and a smoker and died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. My father had heart disease. My maternal aunt, paternal and maternal grandmothers, and paternal uncle all had cancer, most of them died from it.”
An Obvious Prescription
The first medicine that we gave was a very straightforward prescription: Ignatia amara (St. Ignatius bean) 200C. It is a marvelous medicine for many cases of acute grief. At Kristin’s first follow-up appointment, three months later, she reported as follows: “After the first dose I thought I noticed back pain and stomach pain stirring up. I had foggy thinking before the remedy. I feel clearer. The fluttery feeling in my heart is gone. My heart still skips once in a while. The mid-cycle breast tenderness is less, but the breast lumps under the right axilla is worse. The itchy ear canals are the same. I still have on and off constipation, loose stools, and pimples. I have been much less anxious. The lump in my throat is gone. I feel more like things are gonna be okay. Less panicked. I have been much more able to manage highs and lows. I have begun another relationship. I am getting ready to file for divorce. I am not as tired in the evening. Wearing tight clothing around my abdomen doesn’t seem to bother me. Some symptoms were definitely improved. We raised the potency to Ignatia 1M.
Two months later we saw Kristin again. “I had a reaction to the remedy for a couple of days. I no longer have a sense of hopelessness. I can be empathetic now but not take on my husband’s emotions. The fibrocystic breast symptoms are a little better. The anxiety is still much better. The lump in the throat and pressure in the chest are gone, even when I go running.”
We continued to see Kristin at three-month intervals. Although the symptoms that had improved, as mentioned above, were seventy-five percent better, overall she felt only sixty percent improved. She was happy that she now felt so well mentally and emotionally. But a number of her physical symptoms were only minimally improved. We knew that there must be a better medicine that would help all of her symptoms. This, after all, is the beauty of homeopathy: one medicine for the totality of the patient’s symptoms.
On Shaky Ground
Although we write these cases using the proverbial “we,” only one of us takes and manages each patient’s case. This happened to be Judyth’s patient. Not satisfied with the outcome, Judyth explored the case further with the goal of finding a better medicine for Kristin.
Over and over again the same sensation emerged, one that was not particularly addressed by the Ignatia. As excerpted from the retaken case:
My stomach is flip flopping… Topsy turvy. Out of balance. Shaky. Weak in the knees… jiggling. Not grounded. Not peaceful. Really shaken… Not stable. Not calm. Vibrating isn’t the right word… Bouncy. Not stable. A feeling that everything can wash away. The rug being pulled out from under you. The sand washing away under your feet… A feeling of falling… A little bit like a roller coaster. No sense of gravity. You’re being pulled down. Like falling. Like there is nothing to hang on to. It feels really shaky. I can feel it in my body right now. In my arms and legs. Sort of quivery. A connection to not knowing what to do. Shaky and heavy. I can feel it shaking inside. Shaking like a leaf. A sense of being out of control.
As we typically do when we are trying to delve more deeply into the sensation of the chief complaint, Judyth asked Kristin to tell us about the opposite of what she had just described. “Calm. Grounded. Peaceful. Sure. Comfortable. At ease.”
Then, again, exploring more deeply into the sensation itself:
Shaky, quivering, and fearful. Held back. Tight. Like your pants are too tight. Like I can’t breathe. Am going to suffocate. Like something is holding you down. It takes more work to breathe… insecure. Taking away trust. A lack of trust gives me that feeling of the rug being pulled out or being washed away. I’m not safe. Not secure… Wherever I am, I would just think about what you need to do to be safe. To be prepared for whatever… Being aware of your surroundings. Like a parking garage in the dark. Who is around? How quickly can I get to my car? Not being a target of crime. Just being prepared for whatever your surroundings could present.
Judyth knew this sensation, which Kristin so brilliantly elucidated, was the key to her case. But the medicine was not yet evident. So, Judyth gathered more information about the sensation:
The affair was like a huge blow to something I was already sensitive about. That rug-pulling-out feeling makes me feel queasy. Seasick. I can’t find anything to hold on to. Like rocking in a boat… It would be easier to lay down than to stand up. Like that roller coaster feeling of falling. The bottom falls out. You’re suspended in mid air and you fall… falling. No safe place. That roller coaster feeling. The bottom falls out. Gravity pulling you down. Seasick in my stomach. .. When I feel lonely, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Like I’m gonna throw up. Nobody is there for me. Scary. Queasy. No sold ground. The rug being pulled out from under you… Like when you’re standing between a boat and a dock. That rocking. Not solid ground. You don’t want to stay there long. You want to step to one or the other.
Thank You, Twenty Mule Team
It is indispensable, when using the Sensation Method of case taking, to thoroughly investigate the sensation to its deepest core. But, next, we need to be able to translate that sensation into the simillimum. Fortunately, Judyth had the wisdom to consult Bob on this particular case. Once he heard the well-expressed sensation, a medicine quickly came to mind. It is best known for the fear of and aggravation from downward motion. It is a mineral remedy (logical due to the emphasis on the loss of a relationship and the issues of security) known to be effective for problems of nutrition (Kristin’s bowel symptoms), skin, and nerves. The medicine? Borax (sodium borate). Sodium lies in the third row and second column of the periodic table which, according to the schema of Dr. Rajan Sankaran, corresponds to issues of identity and “Who am I?” Boron, the other salt in the compound, is found in second row, third column, and is characterized by issues of struggle to separate. A mineral salt, or combination of two elements, involves issues of relationship. So, it is not surprising that the main theme for Kristin involved finding herself as result of a marital separation. The best known sodium salt is Natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride), which is the best known homeopathic medicine for the chronic effects of grief, betrayal, and lack of trust. The hallmark of Natrum muriaticum is a desire to bond intimately with a partner, profound hurt when the relationship ends, followed by the building of a wall to protect oneself from future hurt and, most often, a repetition of the process due to the inevitable tendency to want to bond again. Borax is a much lesser known sodium salt, but similar in many ways. Repertory rubrics include:
What is most fascinating for us about this case is Kristin’s sensation of being on unsteady ground with the rug pulled out from under her. Borax is found in the MIND rubrics: anxiety from motion of airplane, cable-railway, downward motion, elevator, while riding downhill; confusion of mind from downward motion or rocking; delusion of waves; fear of downward motion; of riding in a carriage; startled from downward motion. In the STOMACH section of the repertory, it covers nausea from riding in a carriage or cars, seasickness, and vomiting after riding in a carriage (more extreme than in Kristin’s case).
The first dose of Borax 200C was given three and a half years ago. Since that time, Kristin has responded very well. At the first post-Borax follow-up visit, she reported feeling “way more balanced, emotionally way more stable, no panic attacks, no sensation of falling… the emotional trauma of the last three to four years is gone. The fibrocystic breasts are better also.”
Over the subsequent nearly four years, Kristin has taken periodic doses of the Borax, first in 200C and 1M dry doses, and subsequently in 200C liquid plussed doses as needed. Judyth sees Kristin four times a year. All of the symptoms in Kristin’s case could be tied together in one thread and responded beautifully to Borax.