2012 July August
Go right in and chew him a new head: a case of Mantis religiosa
Complaints: poor energy, frayed nerves, physical depletion, irritability, indecision about having a second child
This 41 year old woman began her consultation by saying: “My energy is not as good as I’d like it to be. I’m taking iron and prenatal vitamins now. Actually, the last time I felt really good was when I was pregnant. I can make it through my day, but I’d like to feel I have more vitality. I don’t have enough ‘oomph’ to exercise. I’m feeling uncreative and I used to feel more creative. I’m feeling uninspired by my job – feeling un-creative, uninspired, really AVERAGE, and I don’t like feeling average, I like feeling on top of my game.”
This is a woman who was accustomed to finding success for her efforts. She’d been a competitive middle distance runner, a double degree university graduate, and a highly proficient media relations representative for a large government public service organization. Her qualities of “stick-to-it-ive-ness” and attention to detail were useful in her work. She also declared herself as not the ‘most patient of people’, and I saw in her a sharp intelligence and quickness of mind that was coupled with a low tolerance for slow or sloppy work. Snap judgements, blunt comments and accurate appraisals all comprised a part of her ‘smart as a whip’ work mentality.
However strong her self-confidence may have once been, it took a near fatal blow with the birth of her son. She said, “I had such a difficult time with him that I felt completely incompetent as a mother.” She described her child as an “awful baby”. He was “wide awake as soon as he was born and he was super-alert all the time”. He couldn’t be put down, or he would “Scream his head off, and he’d keep going and going”. Breast feeding did not go well, and proper coaching ultimately helped sort out the nursing regime, but unfortunately it came so late that the mother was totally disheartened. The child didn’t sleep unless held by his mother, and as her own sleep deprivation accumulated, her health began to decline. As she put it, 2 ½ years into motherhood, “I was a wreck; I swear I’ve been a wreck. In 2 ½ years I went from feeling about 30 to feeling 60 (years old) – to being completely drained, having no energy to do anything, no joy in life - it was just awful.”
Her marriage suffered along with her health. Disagreements and fights came with the territory of caring for an extremely needy youngster. Since returning to work, she felt heartened that at least there she could “actually do something and feel semi-competent”. And while from her boss’s perspective she’s performed well enough, internally her feeling was “I was barely holding together.”
Now, she’s trying to choose, “do I focus on career…, or do I have a second child…?” The decision is complicated by her depleted state of health, her self-declared post-traumatic stress from her first child (and anxiety about a possible repeat), and her concerns about a lack of parenting solidarity with her husband. For her immediate day to day life, though, the most significant change she was looking for was to feel more patience towards her son, the child who she’d come to feel tormented by. I prescribed Chocolate 30C about six weeks before the appointment, which brought the “insect” remedy into focus as her similimum. After having Chocolate she reported: “I was hoping to feel a lot more patient with my son, and on one hand I noticed that, a bit… but I was feeling much more intolerant of his behavior at times, too. When he was being a total monkey, I just wanted to… to strangle him. Well, not literally, but I just felt I had no tolerance for it, it was just like crrrrrh.”
This woman is an expressive speaker, and when describing her frustrations with her demanding son she made numerous and expressive hand gestures – palms up and down like the balancing of weight scales, edge of hand slicing the air in a cutting motion, fiercely gripped fingers as if strangling someone, and so on. She is equally animated by the powerful love that she feels for her son, and sheer frustration.
She spoke of having challenges disciplining her precocious and tireless child whom she described as being “up and down – angelic and awful”. Parenting, when it comes to guidance and discipline, is never an easy thing, and for this woman complications arose because her discipline attempts were not supported, and were at times even questioned by her husband, in front of her poorly behaving son. Of this she said “I think it’s completely inappropriate, and it just makes me nuts!” As she considers the idea of having a second child, some of her differences with her husband weigh in heavily on the “nay” side. Their “Mr. Intensity” child has “frayed the nerves” of both parents. While on many levels they work well together as a couple, when stressed out, she says of her husband, “when he irritates me, he just completely irritates me, and I think, why the hell am I married to you? You are making me nuts!”
What type of irritation was she experiencing? She feels irritated on all kinds of levels with her husband, but basically she feels a lack of support from him. “But”, she said, “he’s not an axe murderer… everybody would agree he’s a very nice guy. It’s just… it’s just that his mannerisms just bug the hell out of me. At times it’s fine, but when he’s irritating me I honestly feel like, UGHHHH!” She couldn’t put a word to her feelings; an animal-like cry expressed it best, and at this point she did a type of whole-body gesture – squirming in her seat and moving her arms sharply as if to shake something off. “Sometimes I feel like, sometimes it feels like being married to N (her husband) is like wearing a hair shirt – just so constantly irritating!”
At other times irritation is not nearly a strong enough word to describe her state; this happens when she finds her husband making “provocative comments”, typically in the form of sarcasm. She says that he “likes to sort of twist the needle... sort of being deliberately obnoxious”. And her reaction to this? She says, “It just makes me angry – my response is to just go right in and chew him a new head!”
A recent mishap, when her son had slipped in the tub and hit his head, brought this feeling into sharp focus once again. Miscommunication and misunderstanding were involved, but in the heat of the moment her anger towards her husband was very intense. Upon reflection, she said of her anger “I don’t think I was necessarily appropriate in wanting to rip his head off at that particular moment.”
By this point it was clear that this woman was fully in an insect state – the praying mantis insect state! What is she talking about? She’s irritated. Her husband irritates her. Certain behaviors “bug” the hell out of her. And her candid response to this irritated and bugged feeling? Anger: she “would have shredded him”, “go right in & chew him a new head”, “rip his head off”. These were descriptions that had my mind leaping to the praying mantis.
The brute violence of her anger can be witnessed in the sexual cannibalism of this insect, and the extreme irritation she felt, not only emotionally but physically – like needing to squirm out of a ‘hair shirt’. This is reflected in the development of immature mantises; they molt their skin six or seven times before maturity. Materia medica that existed at the time suggested that this remedy has the potential for being “unfeeling and hard hearted”, but the extreme anger and irritability was not well described. Itching skin was noted in the physicals, but a strong quantity of confirmatory rubrics was not to be found in this newish remedy. But the animal state, her animated expression, painted such a vivid picture of the mantis that the prescription was clear. We began with Mantis religiosa 200C, a single dose.
Six weeks later, I saw her again and the change she reported was dramatic. “Whatever it was you gave me was awesome; I feel so much better. The underlying extreme irritation I was feeling… GONE! My son is not getting on my nerves nearly as much as he was. And my irritation with my husband? Before it was high; now it’s very, very low. He still bugs me from time to time, but not nearly to the same extent. I’m feeling much more mellow and happy. It’s such a relief!”
This was a dramatic change, and I was interested in seeing if she could describe how the “relief” from her previous frayed nerves/extreme irritation state came about. Her answer is hopefully illuminating for identifying the nature of the suffering in Mantis religiosa cases; she said, “It was like something unraveling, like tight wires, loosening and loosening, and then coming down. I can’t describe it any other way, but within two weeks for sure, even within a week, I was feeling RELIEF; it’s the only way I can describe it, not feeling so bugged, right?” As she said “bugged” she made another gesture with her fantastically expressive hands – a tight gripping gesture as if all the strength of her will was focused in her ruthlessly clenched fingers.
She remained with this remedy for a little under a year. It met her state, and after only two doses she was done with it. Longer term results were lovely. She reported that, “I’m feeling almost mellow, which for me is unheard of!” (She laughs at herself.) Her relationships became healthier, and with her son she said, “I’ve actually been feeling a lot of joy with him… I think that’s what you’re supposed to feel when you have a baby and I never felt that. He still runs me off my feet and talks a mile a minute, but I’ve got a deep sort of contentment which I didn’t really have before.”
She summed it up with a laugh and said: “I’ll take more of that anytime; it was really good – best drug I’ve ever had! Whatever you pinpointed,” and here she made another gesture, first pointing her finger and then ticking her nose with it, “was awesome. Thank you.”
Cynthia Shepard lives and practices on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada
Photo: Wikimedia commons; Alvesgaspar
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