“Moxie is the only one I trust,” Natasha tells me at our first meeting. That is her cat. She adds that she does not know which is strongest, her fear that I will reject her because she is unlikeable, her fear that I will be unable to help her because I am inept, or her fear that I will exploit her sexually as a doctor once did. And she is no novice, she says, when it comes to exploitation and abuse, for her childhood abounded with horrific incidents.
Nevertheless, she has turned to me despite her reservations because she is desperate for help and wants no part of psychiatric drugs. (She has been prescribed several in the past, with distressing side effects.) She complains of periods of severe depression when she takes to bed for days, starves, and sometimes cuts or stabs herself. These bouts emerge after disappointment with her latest abusive boyfriend or for no apparent reason. They alternate with briefer periods of excessive energy and spending of money, little sleep, and an uncharacteristic and often rude directness with other people that contrasts with her usual aloof and fearful demeanor. Though only in her mid-twenties, Natasha has had five psychiatric hospitalizations, usually for suicidal impulses.
Other than the self-inflicted cuts and her chronic fatigue, she has been physically well except for her tendency to fall when she laughs (she adds wryly that given her customary emotional state, that is only rarely a problem), cries hard, or becomes acutely fearful. At these times she loses her muscle tone and collapses like a rag doll to the floor where she lies paralyzed for a short while, the victim of a neurological disorder called cataplexy. (She once took a medicine that controlled it but blurred her vision, so she stopped it, deciding that the cataplexy was one more tormentor she had to accommodate.)
We agree to proceed with homeopathic treatment. (See my previous post for a brief explanation of homeopathy.) Unfortunately, I prescribe six different remedies with only partial and temporary improvement. As she is not actively suicidal and is game to continue, I do. And then, as I am pondering what natural substances paralyze people (the Law of Similars, remember?) . . . epiphany!
Natasha responds dramatically to one dose of the seventh remedy, Curare. Derived from the paralytic chemical extracted from the Strychnos plant, Curare is the answer to the question, What do South American aborigines and anesthesiologists have in common? The former coat their arrow tips with it to quickly immobilize prey, while the latter use it to paralyze their patients’ voluntary muscles in order to facilitate surgery.
Within three weeks following the single dose, Natasha’s mood lifts markedly, not to the usual antipode of hypomania but into an unfamiliar state. She feels more balanced, she says, more–she hesitates to utter the word because it seems so alien to her–normal. Her energy rises as well.
Nine weeks after the remedy, her cataplectic attacks have stopped. By twelve weeks she feels emotionally even better. Her mood is steady and upbeat, with no highs or lows. She is more relaxed and confident around people, less frightened of them.
She continues fully well until a year later (she had never before felt well even for one day) when she becomes depressed and sleepless, though not as severely as in the past. Her cataplexy also returns. But she responds within two weeks to a second dose of Curare. Two years later, she remains well, on no psychiatric medication despite her bipolar disorder, which conventional psychiatry considers incurable.
Mainstream medicine pronounces remedies to be only placebos, mere vehicles for patients’ wishful thinking. Natasha’s case alone argues against that claim. For if the Curare worked through placebo effect, why did not the previous six remedies work as well? Or the previous psychiatric drugs that she had unsuccessfully taken for her cataplexy and psychiatric problems: Why did they not work as placebos?
Over the years I have seen a number of other patients with bipolar disorder and its variants become well with homeopathy. However you may be thinking, my testimonial plus two dollars can buy you a cup of coffee. What other evidence is there for homeopathy’s usefulness, both in general and for psychiatric disorders in particular? My next post covers this topic.