The American Sound Bite
Out of nowhere, my husband turned to me and said, "I wish you'd tell me what you do so I can tell other people. They ask me what you do and I can't explain it."
"I'm a psychotherapist and a consultant in classical homeopathy," I stared at him. "You know what I do."
"But I can never explain it quickly enough. I tell them 'rebalancing,' 'rewiring,' 'peeling the skin off onions,' but then I lose myself. I can't come up with a simple way to describe it."
This is the worst problem for a homeopath. How do we explain an exquisitely subtle and complex process in a simple way? Take something so important and put it in a sound bite?
I remember a long time ago having to try to explain "verbal first aid" in five seconds or less for a three-minute TV news interview. I totally blew it. I'm not very good at sound bites.
But that is what we want in this country -- drive-through information, fast food for the mind. If we can't eat it in the time it takes to reach for the remote, the opportunity to communicate is lost.
But there is hope, because we do like stories. So, I thought that perhaps the best way to communicate what I do is to share with you a few cases. The first one is my own. The others (in Part II of this article) are a dog and a patient with his/her identity protected. I have never shared my own story before, but I do so because I believe its dramatic nature will help you to understand what classical homeopathy can do and why some people are so passionate about it.
The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Mass
Many years ago, I suddenly developed abdominal pain. I had not been sick in any other way and had no idea what was happening. I went for a gynecological exam and was told I was fine. The pain continued. I went back and after numerous exams was sent from the table to the couch. The psychiatrist sent me right back to the doctor. After about a year of bouncing back and forth with increasingly intense (searing, stabbing) pain, they finally "discovered" a mass several centimeters in width in the area of my left ovary.
At this point, the surgeons were called in. I was scheduled for an emergency laparotomy. As they wheeled me in, the surgeon said to my mother, "It could be cancer." I was 26.
After surgery, as soon as I stopped vomiting, the doctor told me that it was not cancer. My mother wept. He said it was a streptococcal infection (Strep B) that had created adhesions and that I could forget about having children. He proudly went on to inform us that they had "scraped me clean" and that I'd be on antibiotics for about a month.
I did as I was told. I was raised by a doctor, surrounded by doctors and had complete faith in the system.
Within a short time a whole new sort of pain emerged, this time, however, deeper. It was more localized, again on the left side. I thought the infection had returned. The pain continued for quite a while. I went to the doctor, but there was no infection. After dismissing it (and me) for at least a year again, I finally wound up in hospital. A cyst had burst. This cycle recurred every few months. They recommended birth control pills, pain pills and pills I didn't understand. Nothing helped. By the fourth rupture and hospital visit, they recommended a full hysterectomy.
I sat silently until I could take a deep breath again. I asked if there were no other options. The doctor said, "You'll just keep getting them and since you can't get pregnant anyway, this is the best idea."
I told him I would think about it. He told me not to think too long but looked at me is if I couldn't think at all.
I called a friend who had been talking about homeopathy. She used a homeopath for herself and had located a homeopathic vet. I asked for more information. She sat with me. She loaned me books. And she gave me the name of a doctor. I decided to at least try something before I let my reproductive center be removed forever.
I told my gynecologist about it. He said, and I quote, "You can use all the weed whackers you want, it won't help."
I said, "We shall see." And I meant "we." I had no more experience in it than he did. But I wanted some option other than organ removal. He did not escort me out. He was more than mildly annoyed. But I was on a mission.
Where the Magic Begins
This is what saved me: a young doctor with a tattered copy of a repertory (the book that is used to look up symptoms and match them to different remedies) and another equally frayed Materia Medica (the book that contains full descriptions of the remedies themselves) in a basement office in New Rochelle, NY.
It was the strangest medical experience I'd ever had. He didn't examine me the way I had expected. He talked to me. Well, actually, he talked very little. He asked me endless questions: Where is the pain? When does it come on? What happened then? What does it feel like? What makes it better? Do you have any food cravings? Do you kick your feet out of the covers? Do you like other people around you? Are you warm? Cold? What makes you afraid? Anxious? Sad?
He was relentless. Two hours of questions that could not seem more unrelated to me or to my ovaries. But honestly, it was such a relief to have someone listen to me without judgment that I suspended my own.
At the end of the interview, he went into a little closet, pulled out an amber bottle, opened the cap, poured a few pellets into the cap, tipped my head back and said, "Open your mouth."
He poured the little pellets under my tongue.
That was my first remedy. It was Pulsatilla, a common flower in highly diluted (potentized) form.
After that, my mood improved slightly but briefly and the physical symptoms did not go away. Instead they shifted and got worse. I've learned since then that this can happen when a remedy is close but not a bull's eye. The symptoms became far more localized and presented with greater clarity. It seemed to me then that it was like a boil coming to a head, collecting the "illness" from a large area and concentrating it so it could be seen properly and discharged. We waited a very uncomfortable month.
After the second interview he gave me Thuja. After that I had a frankly rude aggravation (cystitis) which lasted about a month and the cystic pain completely disappeared. An aggravation is what homeopaths hope for as the sign that a cure is beginning. It is also precisely what allopathic doctors find wholly inconsistent with their training. They are supposed to make symptoms go away, not generate others. But because homeopaths see the human organism as a moving, dynamic system, they believe that this discharge is absolutely necessary. Aggravations are like siphons; they allow previously suppressed diseases or eruptions a way out of the system. In homeopathic philosophy, it is part of the cure.
But I didn't know that at the time. So I called him and complained, and after he ruled out any dangerous infections, he said "Now, we wait." I'd call him back, still annoyed, uncomfortable, and worried. And he said, again, "WAIT!"
So, I did. After a while, the "rudeness" was gone and so was all the pain. And after a year I realized so were the cysts. None of it -- not the cysts or the strep or any of that pain -- has ever come back. More important, perhaps, than the physical relief, was that over the next couple of years I became calmer, more centered. Much of the insecurity that had ruled my life up until that point also seemed to just not be there. I didn't see it leaving. It was just gone when I remembered to look for it.
That was a very long time ago. All my exams are still splendidly normal and I still have my own organs in my own body.
I went on to need other remedies over time to deal with other issues and wound up with a different remedy as my "constitutional," the one that seems to fit my overall being. But this is how it started. And it convinced me on a cognitive and cellular level that what I had experienced was more than placebo or fanciful wish-fulfillment.
As far as I could see, it could not be a placebo (although that would have been just fine with me at that point), because one remedy missed the mark, but the other did not. And as far as wish-fulfillment -- if it had been up to me, I'm sure I would have wished for instant relief -- sans aggravation!
In any case, getting better was the beginning of a search for understanding and eventually I enrolled in school for classical homeopathy. In the follow-up article, we'll look at a couple of other cases to demonstrate the most important principle of homeopathy: like cures like. And hopefully discover the sound bite people need to understand what Hahnemann's legacy has been.