Driven mad with sexual desire: a case of Cantharis
A 65 year old woman came to the practice due to “chronic fatigue”; the feeling that she could not do nearly as much as she had in the past, needing to have naps in the afternoon. She was pensioned from a busy job in telecommunications, where she had many employees under her. “I had to keep an eye on them all, and I enjoyed the busyness of it, being everywhere at once.” She used to enjoy a seemingly endless amount of energy, bustling about at work all day and coming home to go straight back to work in the house. “I would even work outside at night with the car lights on, so that I could paint the fence. I felt I had been gifted an extraordinary energy, I was on the go all the time. At night, I cannot sleep; my mind is churning with busyness, and I often have to take a sleeping pill to relax. I’ve tried meditation, but can’t keep still long enough for that. I’ve got to be on the go.”
Although her main complaint is “tiredness”, she does not come across as being tired. She is small and well-dressed and coifed, and speaks in a lively, animated fashion, making many rapid gestures and constantly moving on her chair. She has bright eyes and rapid speech, very intense.
On asking about herself, she mainly talks about her husband. “He is always yelling at me, telling me that I sew too many clothes and that my wardrobe is already overflowing. He hates it when I come home with more fabric for a new dress, but I just love to have new clothes. If I only wear them once, I end up giving them away. My husband is such a bother, he vacuums behind me when I have done anything in the kitchen, cleaning up every crumb even if no one can see it.” (He later receives Germanium for his joint pains and depression.)
“I used to be a wild child, I did whatever I wanted and I went to bed with anyone who wanted to have sex. My mother did not put any restraints on me – she felt she had been too restricted by her strict upbringing and she just let me do whatever I wanted. But that meant that she did not protect me or give me safe boundaries, either. I was quite provocative as a young girl, and I got raped by the neighbour when I was twelve, but I didn’t realise then that it was actually rape. I liked it. He talked about me to a friend of his, and he sexually abused me, too. Finally, word got out and they were arrested, and my photo was put in all the papers. I was really seen as a “loose girl” then, and was seen as fair game, and so it just continued even though the men were put in prison. I have a really strong sexual drive, I thought it was great, but it is really too much. I had relationships with married men – once a man even spent the night before his wedding with me.
“These days it is miserable, sexually spoken. If my husband wants to “punish” me, he withholds sex, sometimes for months at a time, knowing that this is my weak point. I often think of leaving him and looking for another man – I hardly have to look, though, they just sense something and they come to me. I have to keep a rein on myself, otherwise… Women don’t like me, they are always afraid that I will snatch their husband. They gossip about me and they keep me outside their circles. They are always trying to be the best, to have the best concerts at their place, to show off, and they leave me out of things.”
“All my joints and muscles hurt – the doctors say it is fibromyalgia. If I am moving it is better, but I stiffen up quickly.
“I have been using antibiotics for years now due to a chronic bladder infection. I used to scream from the pain when I peed. Now it stinks, but it doesn’t hurt anymore, as long as I keep using antibiotics.
“Dermatitis on my hands if I am unwell; my skin blisters and peels off in big patches.
“I used to dream that I was a flower on a railway line – a train was coming and I was going to be squashed. I told this to the doctor once when I was little, and he was alarmed, saying to my mother that she needed to keep a good eye on me, but that never changed anything. I still have the feeling that I could be squashed, killed at any time, and sometimes that wakes me up at night.
“I am eating all the time, just nibbling. It doesn’t matter what I eat, it could be anything, but if I don’t eat I get low blood-sugar and feel faint. I’ll snack on anything that’s at hand rather than make something elaborate. I am thin, but that is only because I am on the move so much – anyone else who would eat as much as I do would be fat.”
She clearly needs an animal remedy: competition, heightened sexuality, fear of attack, animated behaviour. And clearly an insect: impetuous, (as opposed to snakes, which are more cunning), (fruitless) industriousness, well-organised, team-work, fear of being squashed. Many patients requiring beetle remedies have problems with their muscles, often in the form of fibromyalgia, like the stiff armour of the beetles.
Prescription: the bladder infections, the dermatitis, and the sexuality that drove her nearly mad pointed to Cantharis, which was given in increasing potencies over the course of two years.
The first thing that she noticed was that she was able to sleep better, and was able to reduce her sleeping tablets, then stop them altogether. Her energy increased, but not in the frenetic way that she had experienced in the past. “I still do a lot, but I do not feel like I am driven to work all the time.” She briefly had a severe flare-up of the skin on her hands, which peeled off completely, for which she applied an herbal ointment; since then her skin has been smooth. Her urine began to be less smelly, but it took some convincing to convince her to reduce her antibiotics, as she was afraid of the pain that she used to have on urination in the past. But as her urine cleared up, she was able to reduce, and then stop the antibiotics, with no ill-effects and no return of her previous cystitis.
Most remarkable, though, was the change in
her relationship with her husband. “He has become so much kinder; he is not
shouting at me all the time. We get along much better, and I am not thinking of
leaving him for someone else, though other men are still always attracted to
me. I love to flirt, but it is not as important as in the past, it’s more just
“I am eating better, not snacking so much now. I just eat at mealtimes now, and I’m not nibbling all the time. But it’s strange, I am not losing weight even though I don’t eat as much. Maybe I don’t burn it off in the same way.
“My muscles are not so stiff anymore. I used to have to “warm up” in the mornings, and I would be stretching all time. My neck still goes out from time to time, but I don’t need painkillers anymore.” (She had never said that she used them…)
After nearly a year, she returned, this
time talking about sadness rather than of tiredness or pain.
“I have been crying and crying. My whole youth has been showing up in my dreams and in my thoughts. I realise more and more how alone I felt as a child, and how little motherly care and protection I had. I threw myself at men just to have their attention, and I felt like sex was a way of being on contact. But now that I’m older I realise that I don’t have real friends, and that men just used me. I weep and weep for the little girl who was never really loved.”
It was interesting to read about
Cantharis in Frans Vermeulen’s Prisma: "Polyphagia, eating much, the habit
of polyphagus insects to eat many different kinds of food." He
also describes madness and rage “as Raging
Madness, Lyssa, the offsping of Uranus and Nyx, drove Heracles out of his mind.”
"Cantharis is wilder that the devil's own remedy." (Saine)
We know the industriousness of the insects, but fatigue is also part of the picture, especially when one has overtaxed oneself with constant busyness: "Great weakness. Constantly tired, considerable prostration of strength”.
Reading Vermeulen’s text on Cantharis was almost the same as reading my notes on this patient.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Cantharis fusca; Richard Bartz
Keywords: competition, intense sexuality, fear of being attacked, fear of being crushed, impetuosity, team worker