Fleeing from pain: seven short cases of Opium
Opium is one of our well-known remedies, generally relating to ailments from shock where the patient is left in a more or less dazed state. The pain, both physical and emotional, has caused the person to dissociate, leaving the body, as it were, in order to avoid the trauma. Physical pain is dulled, as observed in the use of opiates for pain relief, and emotional pain is avoided, as known from the opium dens of the Orient. This, however, leaves the body relatively uninhabited, with the vital force that governs mental and bodily functions less available. Physical functions tend to slow down, constipation and snoring from excessively deep sleep being major indicators for the use of Opium as a remedy. The senses, however, can also be heightened, picking up on barely perceptible signals, as though one is scanning the environment for signs of danger. It is crucial in case-taking, when noticing such signs, to be aware of the possibility of severe trauma in the past, even if it is unknown to the patient. As we shall see in the cases below, giving Opium can cause an underlying situation, with all its pain, to surface in order to be healed. It might be possible that “pain” remedies are then needed, or that previously well-indicated remedies can suddenly be effective, once the person is more available to receive them.
A thirty year old woman was brought by her parents for treatment of narcolepsy. Although she lived on her own, she required their constant care and support since she could lapse into a comatose state at any given moment. Her parents often found her collapsed in a heap at her home, with the shower still running or the gas on. She was unable to lead an independent life or hold down a job; her only participation in life was to play the organ at church on Sundays, when she was well enough. During the initial consultation, she looked as though she was drugged, with drowsy eyes and a flushed, swollen face. Her speech was very slow and she talked with difficulty, saying that everything felt as though it was in slow motion, as in a dream. According to her parents, all her functions were slowed down and she suffered from severe constipation, for which she used laxatives.
Her problem had started twelve years previously. She had caught her leg in barbed wire and the wound had become infected, requiring two minor operations under a whiff of anaesthetics to clear out the infection, as antibiotics had not proved effective enough. Since that time, she had gradually gone downhill to the point where she could no longer look after herself. I gave her repeated doses of Opium, initially a C200 dose once per month, then later 1M once per month. Slowly but surely, she returned to life and function. Seven months later, she was bright and lively, conversing cheerfully and starting to rebel at her parents’ “interference” in her life. She was able to come on her own and at this point I asked her a question that had been puzzling me: “Have you ever had a very severe shock?” It seemed to me that the two fairly minor operations could not have been solely accountable for twelve years of narcolepsy. “Yes. I have never talked about this but years ago I did something really stupid. It was a game that we had with a couple of neighbourhood girls. We used to like getting my neighbour all riled up by teasing his daughter. He was not quite in his right mind and we liked it when he would rant and rage at us; we’d laugh and run away. One day, however, he ran after us through the fields. My friend got caught in barbed wire and she was afraid of him catching her, so she pointed to me as the culprit. He caught me and started to kick me so hard that I really thought I was going to die; you wouldn’t kick a grown cow that hard. He went completely bezerk. I was so ashamed of myself that I never told my parents, knowing that I had brought it on myself.”
It seemed that the operations merely triggered an underlying trauma, a situation where she had though she was going to die.
A thirty-seven year old woman suffered from many problems following an accident she had as a young girl: at seven she had been run over by a truck, crushing her pelvis and causing her to be in a body cast for many months, while in hospital far from her home. On returning home, she became very accident prone, breaking one bone after another. People sometimes commented that she was “not quite there”, even though she was very intelligent. She later suffered from depression, for which she sought psychotherapy. She was found to have a grossly enlarged bladder, which was retaining urine, causing chronic cystitis and kidney malfunction.
Thirty years after the accident, she returned to the site, feeling the need to “call back her soul”, as she put it. She found the exact spot where she had been run over and recalled the events of years before. “I was standing behind the truck, looking at a cat just up the ally. I didn’t hear the truck back up, it hit my head, then it rolled over me and I was under it, looking up at the dirty underside and wondering if it would roll over me again. People came and pulled me out. Everyone was standing around, talking in a panic with each other, but no one talked with me. No one told me I would be alright, told me that I would live.”
Taking Opium has been one of the many things she has done to heal herself from the trauma, which had many layers. Here, we see the need to respond to someone in shock, immediately calling them back to life. Even many years later, Opium can enhance various other treatments by enabling the patient to be more present in the process.
A young boy was brought for treatment of severe constipation since several months. Even with the help of laxatives, his bowels barely moved and his few stools were rock-hard. His mother was clear about the cause of the complaint: “It started straight after he had an accident. Our dog got caught in barbed wire. He tried to free him but the dog, crazed with pain and fear, bit him badly. He was taken to hospital and we didn’t even notice until we got there that he had many more bites than we could see; he didn’t even seem to feel the pain. There was a big chunk out of his leg that he hadn’t even noticed, as well as severe bites to his hands. The doctors say that it can’t have anything to do with his constipation but I know that this is the cause.”
Repeated doses of Opium 1M cleared up his constipation and apparently helped to lift a “cloud” that had been hanging over him since the accident. “He was not quite there; he was doing badly at school and not getting along with his friends anymore, wanting to be on his own. Now, we’ve got our boy back!”
A woman in her sixties came for complaints of hypersensitivity, especially to sound. “I can hear everything, even things that other people can’t hear. I even hear the sound of electricity, the sound of the electrical grid. It’s not tinnitus, I know what that is, it’s sounds coming from outside of me that I can’t filter out.” Being a therapist herself, she led me to where she needed to go: “Don’t even bother asking me about my recent divorce or the death of my parents, it has nothing to do with that. Ask me about my dental history.” It turned out that as a child she had been sent with her brother to the dentist and it had been extremely traumatic for her. A tooth had been extracted and she bled profusely, feeling that she was drowning in her own blood but that the dentist was oblivious to her distress. “He later told my mother that he would never treat me again because I made such a fuss; I was completely hysterical with fear. I had to travel home with my brother on the bus and I was still bleeding. It would seem that the shock of that time caused my palate to stop growing properly and for a long time it remained the same size, which required even more dental treatment as the teeth became crowded. It has all been such a drama.”
Here we see the opposite reaction to the well-known lack of reactivity of Opium. Opium provings show both sides of the coin, with references to the acuteness of hearing: “Hears flies crawling on the wall. Hears the sound of distant church bells.”
Opium 1M in repeated doses helped to reduce her extreme sensitivity to sound. Later, Silica, which seemed more constitutional to her but had not helped her in the past, helped to resolve some remaining issues.
A woman brought in her 11 month old baby, ostensibly for treatment of her tonsils, as she assumed that they must be the cause of the loud snoring of her daughter. “She snores so loudly that she keeps us awake, even when she is asleep in the bedroom far down the hall.” Speaking of sleeping, I noticed that the child was extremely placid, having not opened her eyes at all since being carried in, despite our lively conversation. “She is so calm, such an easy baby. She sleeps 25 hours a day!” This seemed to go farther than merely being an easy baby, so I asked if the girl had experienced any shock or trauma in her young life. “Well, her birth was extremely traumatic, for me as well as for her. It was to be a home birth – I am a midwife and wanted it that way – but it came on so suddenly and I was bleeding profusely before the doctor arrived; I nearly died of blood loss. He grabbed the baby, who was healthy, and put her in a cot that had been warmed with a hot water bottle. He didn’t look at her again until I was stitched up and put on a drip. When he finally checked her, he was mortified: she had been place naked next to a metal hot water bottle, which in the panic no one had thought to remove from her cot. She had third degree burns all down one side but she never gave a peep. She has had so many operations since then, plastic surgery to repair the damage, but it always gets infected and the grafts don’t hold, so she has to go back for more. It’s a vicious circle.”
I gave her a dose of Opium 200 on the spot and warned the mother that her daughter might “wake up” and start to feel the pain. In that case, she was to give Carbo animalis 200C due to the burns. The next morning the mother phoned, saying: “I’m glad you warned me about what might happen. I have never heard my daughter cry, let alone shriek, and now she is bellowing the house down!” Carbo animalis, made from the burnt hide of an animal, helped to ease her pain and to heal her skin, which cleared up into tidy scars without the need for more operations. The snoring stopped after that first night. The little girl was treated some years later with Ferrum Phosphoricum for the tendency to coughs. She had the same colouring (sandy blond), build (squarish) and feisty temperament as her mother, who did well on Ferrum Phosphoricum for chronic fatigue and food allergies. One wonders if treating the mother before her pregnancy might have prevented the near fatal bleeding and disastrous birth.
A girl in her early teens was brought for treatment of a very unsightly birth mark on her leg. There was a large patch of bright red skin, which looked as though it had been burnt, with veins bubbling out from the skin. It was impossible for her to wear tight jeans, as her skin burst and bled due to the pressure of the fabric. It reminded me of the look of the previous patient's burnt skin. Yet, this had been present at birth already and there had been no trauma during the pregnancy. On the indication of a dream she had, about burning to death in a house fire, I decided to treat her as though some burn had occurred. I started with Opium 200C, followed by Carbo animalis 200C in repeated doses, over several months. Slowly but surely, the “burn” healed, leaving clear skin behind.
A woman in her forties came for treatment of chronic vaginal thrush. She had been treated with Sepia in the past by another homeopath, as that seemed suitable to her type and her complaint, but this had not brought relief. “I am quite reluctant to try homeopathy at all because I am so sensitive. I pick up on everything and have even made it my profession to 'read' people’s state, since I can sense what is going on for them. Homeopathy tends to throw me off balance if it is not exactly right, so I don’t want to take remedies.” This posed quite a problem, so a different approach was required.
“My problems started 15 years ago, before that I was fine. I was in a huge car accident and was in a coma for eight months. During that time, the thrush started and I have never been free of it since then, no matter what I do.” We went back in time to the accident and her subsequent coma, and she was given Opium 200C. Being so sensitive she was asked to simply hold the vial of Opium in her hand. Her reaction was immediate: “Oomph, I am here!” She made a motion with her hands, as though pulling something from the air downwards, into herself. The change in her eyes was startling: suddenly one could see a clarity, where before there had been a vagueness, and the white that had been showing under her irises was gone. She started, however, to complain of pain, as though she had been beaten. The Opium was put aside and a vial of Arnica 200C was put in her hand, while she moaned and groaned. Hypericum followed, due to the shooting pains she then described, and then Staphysagria, when she told of feeling maltreated in hospital. “I was treated like a thing because I wasn’t present. They would just shove a catheter in me, with no regard for my dignity, and I would be watching it all from the ceiling!” The last remedy was Sepia once again, even though it had done nothing for her in the past. She held this in her hand for a while, then went to the toilet and expelled a large chunk of mucous from her vagina. She was later given Aurum Muriaticum due to severe issues with her mother, which she “took” in the same fashion, holding it in her hand and allowing the energy to do its work. It was the fastest response to homeopathic treatment that I have ever witnessed, and although it was not along the traditional lines, it opened doors for me in treating hypersensitive patients. It showed me the need to be truly homeopathic in our prescriptions, working in the way that best suits patients, at their own tempo, and with their own specific way of taking the remedy.
Photos from Wikimedia
Opium smokers in the East End of London, 1874. From the Illustrated London News,
Barbed wire (rusting after years of hard work); Waugsberg
Fliegergriff (airman-hold); Produnis
Car crash; Thue
Keywords: shock, pain, trauma, constipation, snoring, depression, burns, narcolepsy, hypersensitiviy to sound
Remedies: Aurum muriaticum, Carbo animalis, Hypericum perforatum, Opium, Sepia officinalis, Staphysagria