I have to be able to go up: a case of Nautilus shell
A woman, in her 40s, J. is fine-boned and elegantly dressed, with a liking for strong colours. J first consulted me in November 2009 after witnessing a terrible incident in her neighbourhood, which had had a profound effect on her.
She did well on Opium for several months, and returned to see me in the spring of 2010.
She presents with exhaustion and anxiety. Her long term relationship is breaking down, and she has been experiencing anxiety about how she will continue to cope alone.
Trained as an architect, the main focus of J’s anxiety is looking after houses. She carries out improvement work on her home herself, and worries: Is the roof all right?
Prescription: Opium 1M.
After 10 weeks: “I feel poorly in my stomach. My head hurts. I am terrified.”
What is this like?
“Totally trapped. My instinct is to curl up. Gripping, paralysing fear.
“The opposite is playing the flute. I’m out, everywhere, in a much bigger space. No embarrassment. Not confined by my body. Purple bubbles rising. Clear and light.”
Say more about trapped, confined?
“Immobilised. Being held in a bubble. I can’t push out. Flexible, but can’t get out. Can’t get the air inside and outside together. It lets me move, but I can’t get free, like a big thick soap bubble.”
Dream: “I dreamt of a big house. A big part of the house is cut off, and I’m the only one who knows about it. I only inhabit a piece of it. It is very black and very bright, a huge contrast. A wild excitement of the bit I’m not using, yet I’m ignoring it. I know I’ve opened up so much. I feel I’m living in a totally different world to a lot of people. I can’t get to the brilliant bit most of the time. It’s all there, but I can’t quite get there or make full use of it.”
What is the worst feeling?
“Shrivelling up. Squashed, squeezed out. I can break out but I get pulled back in. It pulls everything in. It’s not big, it’s tight. It’s ingrained, like a fossil.
“The opposite is total freedom, connecting with everything without any effort. Music is all around, I lose myself in it.”
“No boundaries. A bird not in a cage. Airy, being completely in the air, like a bubble in the air. Moving through it. I don’t like gritty blocks.”
At this point, I was not looking at sea remedies, but rather at gases. Gas language and themes were present, including heavy / light; expansion versus confinement; burning up; buoyancy, flow, bubbles.
Prescription: Hydrogen 200c, in September 2010
“I love being in or near water. I have to get into water every day. I become part of it. I have a terrific fear of it too. Enormous depth and darkness.”
And if you can’t get into water?
“Trapped. There’s no freedom. I can’t cleanse things out. Like clearing my head. Washing things away. I have to be able to go up. I can’t stand one level living.
“To go up means Freedom. It’s exhilarating. Energy, life, light, bright. It’s like the flute - the sound goes up. Wonderful light and sound.
“Down is frightening. Things happen under the sea. Heavy and squashed. Going up means you can expand, because of lack of pressure. Floating, you can become part of the sea.
“The stars are millions of light years away. Sometimes, I’m sure I’m part of it. I have no clue about time. I don’t think of myself as an age. There are millions of years things I don’t understand.”
Understanding of the case:
Patients who need sea remedies as well as gaseous elements use the language of buoyancy and flow, heaviness and lightness, bubbles. They may be strongly attracted to or fearful of water. We may see themes of trapped or confined, versus freedom / no boundaries.
Shell-dwelling mollusc remedies may use language which describes their experience in the shell: they can break out but get pulled back in. It pulls everything in. It’s not big, but tight. It’s ingrained, like a fossil. Fossilised Nautilus has been found.
Physiological functions such as siphoning water:
I can’t cleanse things out. Like clearing my head. Washing things away.
Home and safety are strong mollusc themes, since the shell is vital to life, but vulnerable.
Nautilus is a cephalopod (as is Sepia). Its shell is coiled, and divided into chambers internally. It grows new chambers as it matures, moving into the new larger space as it gets bigger, vacating the smaller inner chambers as it grows:
Dreamt of a big house ... I only inhabit a piece of it.
One of the distinct themes of this class of molluscs is smooth movement, speed and agility.
J. tells me: “I feel I’m moving fast and fluidly, but I don’t think I am. It appears I’m moving very slowly.”
The contrast between light and darkness is distinctive: it is very black and very bright, a huge contrast. This makes me think of the contrast between the deep ocean and the brilliant, colourful surface.
For J., Up means freedom... energy, life, light, bright... you can expand, because of lack of pressure and down means frightening... heavy and squashed.
For the Nautilus, it avoids the surface of the sea during daylight hours, but predators lurk in the darker reaches of the ocean, making the dark a dangerous place to be.
Nautilus moves through the water by drawing water into the chambers of its shell and expelling it, swimming by jet propulsion. It adjusts its buoyancy by osmosis, which allows it to move up and down through the ocean. Nautilus can withstand extreme hydrostatic pressure of deep water to a depth of around 800 metres, beyond this depth they may implode and die instantly.
“Can’t get the air inside and outside together... I have to be able to go up.”
Nautilus is closest to the first cephalopods that appeared about 500 million years ago, and they have not evolved much since then. Extinct relatives of the Nautilus include the ammonites. Individual Nautilus are exceptionally long-lived for cephalopods, sometimes living longer than 20 years.
J. is uncomfortable with being placed in time, being a certain age - she would not tell me her date of birth. “I don’t think of myself as an age.”
Prescription: Nautilus 200c, in November 2010
After 8 weeks: “Life is totally different. I’m more together. Everything is going remarkably well. Bubbling along nicely.”
Over the next few months J. described how she was beginning to come to terms with her spirituality and clairvoyant abilities: “I am much more me.”
She no longer felt panicked or aimless, and could settle without wanting to escape or race about. The dreadful fear went. She described things as being much more level.
She continued well on Nautilus until summer 2012, with periodical doses as required, rising to 1M and subsequently 10M.
Looking back to the very beginning of the case, I have been interested to see hints of sea remedy and Nautilus in particular, right from the start. Words such as fluid, floating and gliding were present.
J. told me that colours are really important to her (a strong hint to a sea remedy). Part of the original case (one of the indications on which I prescribed Opium) was a terror of going into dark places, of the black shapes that lurk there:
Mind; Delusions, black, objects and people, sees
An early suggestion perhaps, of the predatory Octopus waiting in the deep?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Soap bubble; brokenshopstick
Nautilus shell cut in half. The chambers are clearly visible and arranged in a logarithmic spiral; Chris 73
Keywords: air bubble, chambers, buoyancy, floating, gliding, ageless, depth, shell, fossil, fear of dark, lurk, home, architect
Remedies: Nautilus pompilius