What Brought Me Here? Homeopathy as a life journey.
In 1997 I was living in a forest of old growth trees in South Western Australia, as you do! I was part of a large community of people protesting the logging of the forest, using the ancient trees for paper and toilet roll. That forest is now a national park complete with billboards charting the success of the campaign. At the time many people proclaimed us crazy, tree hugging environmentalist nutters. Now we are immortalised forever in those images at the entrance to the park. And more importantly, those trees still stand.
In was in that forest that I first came across a homeopathy kit. Someone had left it for our use but nobody knew how to use it. One of my friends, a medical doctor, examined it with me. We didn’t figure it out that day but one year later we had each returned to our respective native lands and coincidently had begun homeopathic training. On return to Ireland I crossed paths with a student of homeopathy and began to learn more about it and eventually study it. I had an interest in natural medicine after growing up with a brother with brain damage. As a family we also had other autoimmune struggles and illnesses.
By his teens my brother had already developed severe epilepsy, which was to cause his death aged 22. But for a couple of years before he died my mother began to explore alternative therapies and he received some homeopathic remedies. I observed his speech improve and his behaviour change in little ways. I always wondered what would have happened had he received those remedies as a younger child when we were struggling so much with his behaviour and illness. As a family we had already learned about books like ‘E is for additive’ and that certain foods were bad for him, physically and emotionally. My mother was exploring all these new ideas. The natural health movement was only beginning to take off in Ireland. At one point I accompanied my brother to his appointment with Jan De Vries. Up until those times, I had no idea that natural medicine existed or that something as amazing as homeopathy could pinpoint and treat his particular behaviours and responses. When he recieved homeopathy, his entire person was taken into account, along with his habits, peculiarities, fears, loves, food desires and general health. It was a real eye opener.
I began my homeopathy studies in1998. I learned to explore the relationship between our physical symptoms and our mental and emotional health. I learned about holistic care and a system of medicine dating back to 1775, to a learned German physician looking for a more effective way to treat sick people. I learned about the doctrine of signatures, direction of cure, return of old symptoms and skills of case taking. I learned that homeopathy was used in the old epidemics in Europe and more recently in Cuba and Haiti. A statue of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in Washington DC honours his work after homeopathy was successfully used in Europe and U.S. to treat the cholera, typhus and flu epidemics throughout the 1800’s. Homeopathy was so widely used in the U.S that there were many homeopathic hospitals. Nurses, midwives and mothers were commonly trained in basic homeopathic prescribing.
I learned that it was introduced to India through the British Empire where, with it’s holistic philosophy dovetailing so well with Indian spirituality, it flourished. You cannot walk down a street in Mumbai or Delhi without passing a homeopathic pharmacy and it is widely used in all levels of society. Indian homeopaths are highly educated and extremely skilled, they work in hospitals and clinics in some of the wealthiest and poorest areas. Gandhi’s famous quote comes from this period when homeopathy was beginning to take hold:
“Homeopathy cures a larger percentage of cases than any other form of treatment and is beyond doubt safer, more economical and the most complete medical science.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
In short, I came to understand that this was no airy-fairy new age fad but a tried and trusted system of medicine. I had many teachers from India and went on to study there. At conferences I met doctors and lay practitioners from all over the world where homeopathy is widely used: Spain, UK, Brazil, Switzerland, U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia. Many of them had specialized in areas such as ADHD, behavioural problems, cancer treatment, child health, addiction, heart health, and Veterinarian practice.
Of course, homeopathy does not differentiate by condition. Although many conditions can be helped, it’s about the person, first and foremost, not the disease. So three people presenting with the same apparent condition may be treated with different remedies. This is the nature of holistic medicine. It is essentially a bespoke medicine, providing care based on a person’s symptoms, personality and general health. You may have anything from 2-5000 remedies that could be useful depending on the nature of the pain. This is why homeopaths will ask:
When did it start?
What makes it better?
What do you desire, hot drinks, cold drinks?
What does the pain feel like?
Which side is it on?
A left sided sore throat may require a different remedy to a right sided one. A thirst-less child a different remedy to a thirsty one. It is a specific, particular, excellent system of medicine that creates light-bulb moments for anyone studying it. You suddenly think back on that time you had a horrible painful dry cough and were very thirsty – that could have responded well to Bryonia. Or the loose phlegmy one may have needed Pulsatilla.
And eventually you get to see this in practice. It does mean there is room for error. It is not always easy to distinguish one remedy state from another and sometimes takes skill and patience to find the best one. However many times, we experience some relief from one and then move on to the next layer to be treated. Remedies have relationships and progressions just like illnesses and emotional states. For example sadness may underlie anger. It’s useful during the first visit to make a timeline and a map of possible related remedies that may benefit a person over time. The first session is only the beginning of the journey. All of this is explored in theory and learned in practice.
For my part, while learning, I also attended a homeopath and from the age of twenty five and used it pretty much exclusively for any health problems I encountered. This led me to learn about it from the inside out and understand how ailments responded. Everything from allergies, skin problems, hormonal problems, back pain, acute throat problems, first aid aches, injuries, fevers, anxiety, grief, PMT, childbirth, pregnancy – for all of them I began to use homeopathy. I witnessed for myself the process of slow, gentle, healing.
It was only natural that when I became pregnant and had children this was the way I treated them also. By then I had also begun to look more carefully at nutrition, herbal medicine and natural wild herbs growing around me. I got interested in how my granny used to nurse us as kids with open windows, hot lemon drinks and a boiled egg. Her sayings came back to me like ‘feed a cold and starve a fever.’ As a teenager I had eaten my way through packets of Solpadine for headaches and period pains. Now I drank more water and took fish oils and remedies to balance hormones. I no longer reacted to previous allergies and hay fever. I no longer became regularly ill or suffered with skin problems.
My children were the greatest learning curve. Having children is so wonderful for learning where your true fears lie. Although I trusted natural medicine, I still panicked when they had fevers, while keeping the window open and letting the fever rise and break with a sweat. I stayed awake at night watching them cough and splutter in their sleep. I made the inevitable trip to A & E to make sure what was a virus wasn’t something more sinister. It was all of these experiences that really taught me the power of homeopathy – the trust of natural, simple medicines, home nursing, mothering and love as the most powerful remedies we have.
I watched my kids become ill and make fast, healthy recoveries. I watched my son struggle with chronic coughs until consistent remedies and additional things like healthy food, carrageen moss drinks built his immunity until he could shake those coughs off. He’s had only the one visit to the GP in all that time and zero antibiotics. He is hardy, headstrong and runs around in shorts all year round. It took work but it was worth it. When he needs it he makes ginger and lemon drinks with honey. And wears a vest (with persuasion).
My kids have taught me to overcome my fears, trust my gut and allow them to build immunity and confidence in their own innate healing ability. It’s an ongoing journey and I’m honoured to be making it with them. Along the way I’ve learned to step back and work with my own fears and anxieties so they don’t have to! I studied Family constellations and more recently Choice Theory. I’ve examined my mindset, my patterns, my controlling parenting and my fears. I endeavour to look at myself first and the family second. I’ve learned that the only behaviour I can control is my own and ‘don’t tell when you can ask’. I’m still learning all the time, still making mistakes and still enjoying the continued improvement I bring to my work.
All I can offer in my courses is my own journey. I hope that what I’ve learned can be of benefit to other parents out there searching for natural, supportive ways to raise healthy, strong kids.
Siobhán Daffy runs Natural Rhythms Homeopathy practice from Alethea in Bluebell, Dublin 12. She works with adults and families looking for natural ways to build immunity, well being and confidence. She also runs Happy Health Children courses for parents of young children and writes regular blogs and articles. For more information contact: Siobhan@naturalrhythms.ie