I feel everyone is judging me: a case of Passer domesticus
A 45 year old woman presented with anxiety and depression. She is striking looking, slim, carefully dressed, with long shiny black hair.
Patient (P) My father always gave me the message I’d be nothing. He said “you’ll get pregnant and be a single mother and live on the dole.” I’m getting married next year, but I have sheer panic every time I think about it. I’m in a happy relationship for the first time ever. I regret having stayed in relationships in the past. I’m not very strong, I’m very insecure. There was a lot of damage from my father.
Unable to provide for my children
Julia Geraghty (JG): Describe the relationship with your father.
P: I’m the youngest of seven children. I’m incredibly close to my mother. My father always put me down. My sisters got pregnant at 18. I know I’d be a good mother, but the thought scares me. It’s sheer panic. I got pregnant but I was in such an unhappy relationship that I had a termination. I was so unhappy… how can I bring up a baby to be happy? Probably, it would have been the making of me, but I felt I had nothing. I wouldn’t be able to provide for children on my own. I always used to think that everything had to be perfect before you got pregnant.
P: My mother and father fought constantly. We were always hungry, there was never enough food on the table. My friends had nice things and lived in nice houses, but we never had anything new. I can’t remember a happy time. My father died of a heart attack when he was 57. I didn’t cry… I didn’t feel like I had a father. He always favoured my two brothers, they’d get a bicycle for Christmas, we’d get a colouring book.
P: I’m incredibly close to my mother, I can’t imagine life without her, that’s another reason why I’d like a baby (cries) but it scares me. As a child, I clung to her, I never left her side. I always had a feeling if I was left with my father something would happen sexually. I was petrified. My eldest sister did experience sexual abuse. My older brother protected me and my mother.
I was popular at school with lots of friends, but I lied a lot out of embarrassment. I felt people were judging me. I was so insecure, I always wanted to be someone else. I’d work out what their lives were like, going home to a nice house, getting a hug from their parents, being told that they’d done well. I wish I’d had that as a child. We had no carpets, just broken linoleum. I lived abroad for five years, I was in such a controlling relationship, but I thought that was normal.
JG: Describe this controlling relationship.
P: Not allowing you to do
what you want to do. Violent. He thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen.
They start off so nice, like a perfect relationship. He wanted me to dress the
way he liked. At first, I thought he was helping me, then I became incredibly
unhappy. He threw me downstairs, gave me a black eye. He constantly put me down.
He’s very materialistic: new cars, designer clothes, but in the end my friends
said ‘you’re just like him.’. Eventually, I asked him to move out and I stuck
to it. I paid him my savings to go. Everyone says I was so brave.
Travelling and freedom
P: I do promotions work, I travel the country. It wouldn’t be me to be in an office. I love the travelling, the freedom. But they don’t remember anything but your last job. You are walking on eggshells, always trying to please, you have to impress all the time, so you get booked again. My best job was travelling around with Angelina Jolie; we were dressed up to promote the Lara Croft film. When I’m working, the confidence builds up; you’re working with top people so you’re on a high.
Feeling judged, embarrassed by being seen as ‘common’
P: I’ve been with my new partner for three years, he’s a lovely man. He wants to get married, we’ve set a date, but I get a panic attack thinking about it, all the attention… everyone will be staring at me. It’s the same feeling when we have a briefing for a new job, we all have to stand up and talk about ourselves. I feel they’re judging me, the way I talk, my clothes. I’ve lost jobs because I haven’t been able to do the briefing, and I could have done the job perfectly.
It’s the same feeling thinking about the wedding. I fear I’ll faint, I’ll make myself ill before the wedding. I’m worrying about going to my partner’s family for Christmas. I’ve never met them before. I hate sitting around a table, we never did it when I was growing up. I dread someone asking me a question and I don’t have a good answer. I feel everyone is better than me. What do I say if they ask what I do, do I say I’m in sales? I fear I will be judged. I’m even embarrassed by my surname, it’s so common. As a child, I had nothing, I always wanted to have nice things.
Dreams of cats and rats
P: As a child, I had recurrent dreams of rats. I’d go upstairs. A woman at the top of the stairs was not very nice, like a witch. She had kittens at her feet, they’d turn into rats. I just wanted to hold the kittens, then the rats would cling to me (gesture). They were massive, horrible. In my thirties, I had dreams of rats on my quilt. I hate rats, they’re dirty, they bring disease and death. I love animals, I’d love to be a vet.
P: I dreamt my partner was constantly trying to put me down in front of friends and family, he wasn’t protecting me, he was defending the other person, or making a pass at someone else. Normally, he’s very protective of me. In another dream, I was in my wedding dress, everyone was there; my husband was on the dance floor waiting for me, it was such a beautiful dream, it was perfect.
Controlling, abusive relationships
JG: What was the worst time in your adult life?
P: After I split up with my partner, I got really thin. I would have done anything to go back to him, to being controlled by him. I was so unhappy before we split up, I craved to go home, but when I got home, I wanted to go back, more than anything. Everything I did was what he said: if I went against him, I was a bad person. I was like a prisoner trapped in paradise, I was controlled by him. But I won’t become what they want me to be, so they’re happy to get rid of me in the end. I wouldn’t give in; I wouldn’t be the typical woman. I am very insecure, I like to be in a controlling relationship because they love me so much. Then, I become stronger, I stand my ground.
I’d drink a lot, and get very angry with myself and argue with my partner. You drink to the extent that you pass out, you have the positive confidence that you can do anything, and then you’re insecure again the next day, you feel you cannot leave the relationship. There is a pattern, I want out, out, out, then as soon as I’m out, I want to be back with them.
P: In my first relationship, I had my heart broken. He interviewed me for a job. He was much older than me. He was rich, he showered me with gifts. We went to top restaurants, travelled the world. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was living in a dream, but he made me do things I didn’t want to do, like leaving home.
P: It was like that every time I met someone, they wanted to capture me (grabbing gesture) but maybe I dived in. They wanted to hide me away, they didn’t like sharing me.
Prescription: I initially thought she needed a mineral remedy, with her insecurity and dependent relationships. I gave Kali Fluoratum 200c with no improvement.
Follow up six weeks later
Responsibility for a family
P: Most days I feel very negative. The baby thing is constantly in my head. I’m tearful every day. I do the opposite of what you’re meant to do in a relationship. I’m childish, afraid of responsibility. I play life as if it’s fun all the time. My decisions have been so wrong, I’m living with guilt, it eats away at me. Why has it taken me until age 44 to be in a good relationship? There was never any commitment from me, I only wanted to socialise with girlfriends. I was never in love enough to have a baby with those men. How can you go from being so negative to wanting it so much?
Lack of food on the table
P: I had so much fear that I’d struggle as a single parent. Because of my own childhood with never having anything new, I couldn’t handle not giving everything to my child. The thought of getting pregnant caused sheer panic, the feeling my life has ended. Having a child would be too much responsibility - I’d seen my mother struggling with 7 kids. The feeling of not having a partner who’d support me, the fear that I wouldn’t bond with the child ... I couldn’t have taken that risk, what would people think of me? They’d think I was weak. I wonder if my mother suffered depression? She was never a loving mother, there were no hugs, just hopefully enough food on the table.
My relationship with my last partner was perfect to begin with. We both had good jobs, nice cars. Why didn’t I make it complete? It would have been the making of me to have a child. My life was empty. I did get pregnant in the first 6 months, but I didn’t know what to do. He said I should keep it, he didn’t pressure me. I had a termination. He never blamed me, but after that it all went wrong, it killed the love we had. That eats me up every day. I was trying to blank it out but it came back with a vengeance, all the guilt. I was going out drinking. He lost respect for me.
Prescription: there is so much grief and feeling bad about herself that I try Natrum Fluoratum 200C.
Follow up 6 weeks later
Panic, heart beating fast
P: I had a briefing for work, my mouth dried up. I fear I will pass out, I can’t talk, my heart is beating so fast, as though it will come through my chest. I used to do anything to avoid briefings. I’ve got to go, I desperately need the money. I hate standing up and talking about myself, saying who you are, where you’re from. In a group of people I don’t know, I always feel that everyone is judging me. I want to say ‘I’m just as good as you’.
Dream of fighting over a house
Dream: I had a beautiful house, I was convinced it was mine. I saw a woman in the bed, I thought my partner had been cheating on me. I asked what she was doing in my bed? Then, a man came in, they were screaming at me to get out, I was telling them that it was my house. I was fighting with her, the boyfriend and her friend, three people against me. She was pulling my hair, then the next thing I broke my leg. I was trying to get them all off me. I pretended it wasn’t broken, I walked to A&E so that they wouldn’t put me in plaster. The hospital was very posh, even the people fighting were very well-dressed.
Dream of fighting, being overpowered
P: I have dreams where I’m trying to scream, someone’s got one hand over my mouth and another pulling my ankles. In the dream I’m screaming, but my partner says I make a tiny squeak like a mouse. I’m fighting them, pinned down, I can’t breathe, I’m trying to get their hand off my mouth.
From these dreams, I realised she needed a remedy from the animal kingdom. She is fighting for her territory, it’s a me-verus-you dynamic, she is overpowered, out-numbered. This is a ‘victim’ animal, she feels weak, inferior, put down, controlled. But which animal?
‘Trapped’ in the Bird realm
I went back over the case
looking for any images; she described men as ‘capturing her’, feeling like a
‘prisoner trapped in paradise’. ‘Trapped’ is a very important sensation word
for people who need bird remedies. Think of a bird trapped in a cage when its
whole purpose is to be able to fly.
At a seminar on Bird Remedies, Peter Fraser described Passer domesticus, the house sparrow, as being like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady: she was beautiful, pugnacious, but ‘common’, from a poor background.
Feeling common, scarcity of resources, domestic arguments
The key feeling of Passer domesticus is that she is intrinsically worthy of respect. My patient struggled with this, feeling that people judged her, wanting to say: “I’m just as good as you.” She hated introducing herself because she thought her surname was ‘so common’. Her descriptions of fighting and arguments, fit the remedy well. Sparrow also has dreams of violence. The importance of the family, safety and protection of the home, are Sparrow themes. They like to dress well but there is a sense of scarcity and effort to provide enough food for the family.
Prescription: Passer domesticus 200C
Eight weeks later
Facing the fear, presenting herself
P: I went to a professional briefing and got the job. I felt so much better. I even had lunch with the boss. I felt good facing the fear, I looked and felt relaxed.
After the remedy, I felt terrible for four days, a black cloud descended over me, then it started to lift.
I feel a lot better, I have panicky moments about the wedding, but I feel excited about it for the first time. I’m a lot more realistic about the baby thing, if it happens, it happens.
My mother is not well, but I coped better. I’m not so angry with her, I’m more understanding, I don’t scream at her any more. I take her shopping every week. I’d dread it before, I wanted to scream. My mother is such hard work but now I can sit and talk to her.
Interesting how she is more realistic about her relationship with her mother now, acknowledging her own anger and frustration. As the remedy seemed to be working well, initial aggravation followed by significant amelioration, I asked her how she related to animals:
P: I love animals, I’d have loved to be a vet. I used to love dogs, now cats are my favourite. Rats are my only aversion, I hate the look of them, but I wouldn’t hurt them. I’m in floods of tears if animals are hurt or neglected. My brother has birds, owls and hawks, he’s always had a passion for birds. I know the names of most birds. The bird for me should not be caged or tied, I want them to fly off (gesture). It’s not right to have a bird in a cage, I’d let them go.
Interestingly, according to Peter Fraser (Birds Seeking the Freedom of the Sky), people who need Passer domesticus often have a particularly close relationship with cats.
Two months later:
Cystitis, recurrence of old symptoms
P: I had my hen night in Spain. I got really down with cystitis, the heat was unbearable. I’ve suffered badly with cystitis for years. I didn’t have the remedy with me so I took it when I got home. The effect was amazing, I felt so much better within hours. I was on the 24th floor of a hotel, completely on my own, at home you feel safe. My partner didn’t want me to go to Spain, he made me feel guilty for going. I saw a jealous side to him for the first time, but he’s apologised. With cystitis you feel like something is being poked inside you, it burns when I pee, just a dribble comes out, then a sensation comes up through your body (gesture), like heat up the back to my head. The first cystitis was when I was 17, after I’d had sex for the first time, I felt like I was weeing fire. I wasn’t ready to have sex, I wasn’t relaxed, I wasn’t in love with him. I felt I should do it and I gave in.
Rising above it
P: My partner says I’m so much calmer.I used to snap and argue, I didn’t have any control. Now, I rise above it (gesture). I’m smiling all the time. I am excited about the wedding, just a little nervous about walking down the aisle. My main anxiety is not being able to help my mother get there on the day. I always do everything for her.
Five weeks later, after her
Birds in cages – the ultimate crime
P: The wedding was amazing, I had no nerves. I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve never felt so happy in my whole life. I’m not thinking about the baby issue, I trust it will happen if it’s right. I’d love to work with animals, but not as a veterinary nurse, I couldn’t work with animals being operated on. I don’t like zoos, caged animals, especially birds, it brings tears to my eyes to see birds in cages. It’s the ultimate crime, it’s like prison. My brother has a hawk who is tied up. I’d like to do volunteer work with animals. There’s an animal refuge nearby where people dump animals they can’t afford to feed.
The remedy helps every time I have a virus, it’s incredibly quick, within 24 hours I’m much better.
Six weeks later:
Feeling strong and happy with my life
P: I’m feeling so strong, I’m so happy with my life. I sleep well, I wake up feeling happy for the first time in my life. With the baby thing, I have accepted it. If it happens I’d be so happy, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t. When I first saw you I was on the verge of crying every moment.
The remedy helps when I get the first signs of cystitis and when I had diarrhoea. I’m so much better than I was a year ago it’s absolutely incredible.
Keywords: cystitis, panic, poor, ‘common’, materialistic, rich, scarcity, poverty, provide for family, abusive relationship, fighting, squabbles, arguments, commitment, responsibility, trapped, caged birds, rise above it, feeling judged, unworthy
Remedies: Passer domesticus