Trod on and comes up smiling: a case of Bellis perennis
I first saw this 47-year old man, a manager for a furniture manufacturing company, in November 2011. He comes across as well balanced, likable, somewhat jovial, and responsible. He elaborates a lot in his way of speaking and it is hard for him to keep a boundary. He has trouble finding flexibility in his work in order to be with his kids. It has also been difficult for him to confront bad workers.
The first thing reported was his sleep issues. He is active in the late evening; he finally sleeps, but wakes after an hour or two. He then stays awake, sometimes getting some sleep towards the morning. He has had many sleepless nights, which were getting worse lately, exacerbated by his relationship problem. He has been in a trial separation with his wife since she was not happy in the relationship. He describes the process as traumatic and hopes it will work out. He feels very connected to her. They have two young children; before that they did a lot of traveling together, doing social and environmental volunteer work. They’ve been in therapy together and apart.
Before they separated he was having a lot of anxiety associated with the sleep loss, but he’s always been a bad sleeper, sensitive to sounds. Clonazepam in small doses has helped somewhat. His first response to his wife initiating a split was an overwhelming anxiety, which would give way to a heavy feeling he really could not control, though in time he managed.
The only dream he could remember during his first visit was one he had had around age 7, when he was sexually abused by his uncle; the same feelings surface at the present. This traumatic time was fraught with “horrendous nightmares” that he finally learned to control, but then he didn't dream anymore. There was a dream where his mother was “standing at a futuristic podium; I’d be falling, spiraling down. She was trying to say something to me, and I couldn’t understand what it was. It felt clean, a lack of emotion. I couldn’t understand or hear her. She was dressed in a white futuristic garb, I’d be spiraling out of control, it was a heavy dream.”
He suspects his sleep and relationship has been affected by the abuse and says he’s been holding onto it ever since it happened. He says, “I’ve had flash backs of it my entire life and had uneasy feelings around it… never really resting… my body has been on guard most of my life. There's a lot of tension. I’m overly analytical… I’ve been angry… can see I’ve held onto a lot of anger, never dealt with the trauma I’ve suffered. So, I’m working through that. It’s a slow process, I am hoping (homeopathy) will make a difference.”
He analyzes himself: “I’ve closed off a lot of my emotions and held onto them, so I’m not overly expressive. Then anger would come out to the point where I had no problems expressing it! I thought I was a loving person, I think I was… guarding or protecting myself… closing off and becoming tight, not letting anyone in too close, otherwise I’d feel vulnerable. It’s in my character that I’m on guard, ready to… look after myself… to be on edge…”
While growing up he didn’t feel supported around what happened to him, neither by his mother nor his father, who was an alcoholic for a while. He said “I became rebellious and my own person. I wouldn’t listen well to others because I didn’t get the support; they wouldn’t understand, would criticize me, or whatever. It gave me a feeling of helplessness, but strength, like ‘I’m going to do what I want to do’… I’ve always been distrustful of authorities.”
More recently, he lost his mother to ovarian cancer and his father is struggling with colon cancer at 79.
Additionally, he broke his arm twice around 14. He said it was quite traumatic and involved a bone cyst. He also dislocated his shoulder in his early 20s. His “controlled treatment” proved very beneficial, but he still feels pain and he guards his shoulder. It’s another impediment to sleeping. He says, “It’s hard to surrender myself to being in that sleep state. It’s weird; I’ve always feared that if I relax completely my arm would come out. I don’t know if that would happen but...”
At first, I thought there were a lot of indications for a tree remedy: the control issue and the need for flexibility, with a sensation of heaviness behind his anxiety. He has a responsible, practical and balanced disposition, so I considered the Fagales order. Fraxinus is strong for dislocations. He is also very much into wood-working in a utilitarian way. Not far off, Salix fragilis of the Malpighiales, is the cracked willow, and the proving had a lot to do with ‘splitting up’. He described losing his temper as ‘snapping’. But then, I thought of how often the word and the occurrence of trauma presented in his case. His need to guard himself had expressed itself in his injury, his sleeping problem, his reaction of autonomy to the abuse and his holding onto the abuse: not being able to directly deal with it. It was also part of his disposition. He also strived for integrity and had a strong humanitarian aspect to his nature, so I considered Asteraceae.
This family also has a huge need for (or loss of) control arising from trauma, as does he. Their boundaries are easily transgressed or they lose boundaries themselves, as he did in his talk and temper. He would easily lose his temper with his kids or employees. On the other hand, there was an underlying helplessness and difficulty resolving conflict. He would always see the other’s struggle or point of view. I got the feeling, which was later confirmed, that his wife had the power in the relationship negotiations and he actually sympathized more with the trauma she herself had gone though at a younger age. She could be very stand-offish and cold during the separation; she didn’t give at all, even as he pined to have the relationship back.
For fun, I put in ‘Asteracea/Compositae’ in the same remedy as ‘sexual abuse’ into Referenceworks. Bellis perennis, the British daisy, was the only compositae referred to in the spagyrical proving by L. Deacon and A. Ribot-Smith. Rajan Sankaran places it in the cancer miasm, and it was made famous by Clarke for tumors arising from blows to the soft tissue, as in the breasts or abdomen. In this case there is a strong cancer element in the family history, including the colon and ovaries, also spheres of action for Bellis. He has the ‘overdoing’ of stage 12, but the ‘adaptability’ of stage 2. Overall though, I’d say it is in stage 12. Clarke says “The daisy is a flower which is repeatedly trodden upon and always comes up smiling afterwards and being the ‘day’s eye’ may be the sign of its too early waking propensities.” Perhaps, this is a main problem of the daisy. The theme runs through this case.
Prescription: Bellis perennis 200C
Throughout the monthly plus follow-ups, usually re-dosing with a 200 or 1M, it was clear that this patient was processing his trauma. He reported in the first follow-up that he had a deep experience of grieving his mother’s death, which he thought he had already done. He started vividly dreaming again, after years with few remembered dreams. He was more motivated to clear out things he didn’t need and felt more aware of what he wanted. He started woodworking more, wanting to be more hands on.
His dreams clearly reflected his underlying feelings. In one dream he was working in a role that was totally not him. The next night he dreamt of his abuse. It was a very real and alive dream as if it had gone on in his adult life and he felt very threatened. He had another dream where he was in Africa fixing up his wife’s mother’s unlivable decrepit house. It wasn’t his decision to be there, but he’d go along and make the best of it.
He has been calling people on actions that have made him feel angry or isolated and he has been getting positive responses. He is more in touch with his emotions and can see his own needs as much those of others. He is still in a holding pattern with his wife, giving her time.
After the second visit, his shoulder improved dramatically, even the other shoulder which he hadn’t mentioned; it had been a constant factor since his early 20s. He can see more clearly that his wife’s way of behaving has been tough on him. He suggested a limit to when they would come to a new agreement. He is giving her space, but showing that he is not pushing. He is more at ease, and sleeping somewhat better. He feels that he needs to directly address his abuse history, maybe face the perpetrator, but the outcome is unknown.
The notable thing of the third visit was that he had been in a bicycle accident. He says, “…bad things happen when you let down your guard: I fell on my shoulder and head, went head over heels and was a little dazed. I reinjured the left shoulder a little, but I was really lucky, I landed on my face, my tuque (woolen winter hat) took the brunt of it.” He also got a stiff neck.
He has a dream that he and his daughter were being attacked while canoeing. He had the feeling was that there was no safe place to land. He is going to Whistler, British Columbia, which he has always dreamed of doing; he wanted to treat himself. He is tired of the stalemate with his wife since she is sending mixed messages. He experimented in taking his wedding ring off; she has hers off. He’s had some positive interactions with other women, and says, “If she feels she’s not my soul mate then she might not be.”
He joined a men’s group focused around survivors of sexual abuse. He says, “I don’t feel the guilt and shame I was carrying, that whole secretive aspect that I carried for 40 years. I put a lot in perspective…when you're 7 years old you're innocent…but regardless I was feeling that (guilt).”
During the next visit, he said he had recovered from the bike injury well. He had a few falls while skiing at Whistler, but no injuries.
A friend’s child fell and injured herself. It really stuck with him and during the night, he remembered the times when his own child had some bad injuries and how traumatic it had been for him. His men’s group was focused on the aspect of unresolved trauma in sexual abuse. They also watched a program on how neuroplasticity helped with PTSD.
A woman made a pass on him, but he wasn't into it. She asked him point blank if he was still in love with his wife. He said he guessed he was. On the other hand, the separation is not as much on his mind in the last month. He knows he has as much power as she does to call it off.
A month later, his sleep and shoulder are better. He went to a seminar called “Transforming Trauma to Triumph”. He focused on the fact that a large percentage of males are susceptible to as much abuse as females, but that it is overlooked by cultural stereotypes. Also, when men look for help and it is not there, they go on living their lives in silence.
He says, “I’m not feeling guilty about going to bed when I want to without the kids; even if I do have with me them I don't feel guilty. That would have been impossible in the past. I’m listening to myself more. You have to do what you feel, sometimes there's stuff you have to do.”
He says, “I’m calmer, not as reactive or as explosive as I used to be. When I do feel the anxiety coming on I’m more mindful of how it might manifest itself.” He’s more tactful with his kids, getting them to school in the mornings. He’s not as aggressive with people at work who are not pulling their weight, but he lets them know it is bothering him. One employee was giving him some held-in anxiety. Finally, he fired her and he was OK with it. He was too forgiving and now he feels free of the dark energy she brought to the department. He hired two new employees who he thinks will be perfect.
Over the next visits, more of this processing happens, as reflected by his dreams and occurrences in his life. He is no longer getting the ‘Sunday anxiety’ he has had for years; he has more relaxing days and thinks his kids feel more relaxed too. He had a ‘heart to heart’ with his boss about what he dislikes about his job. His sleep has improved even more and he’s better able to communicate with his wife and other people. He’s now completing the divorce and is really thinking of what his needs are and that his (ex-)wife needs to be more independent. He met a woman he really likes and is trying to hold back his enthusiasm. He didn't think he had time to meet new people, but she was just suddenly there.
He has a new perspective on how things were with him and his wife. He says he didn't have a concept of boundaries. She was manipulating him for a long time and maybe he was impinging on her boundaries since he had needs, but everyone does.
In summary, there’s been a real shift in the sense that he’s resolved a lot of his trauma, his guard is down, his injuries healed, he’s becoming more integrated and he’s feeling more in control of his boundaries. He’s not being trodden on anymore.
Photos: Jürgen Weiland
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