Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Homeopathy Messed Me Up

Please note that what I discuss below happened two years ago and I'm perfectly fine now, so don't freak out MOM.




I've tried a lot of things in my quest to get less than 3 migraines a week. The list of conventional medications that have failed to help me is comically long. As is the list of side effects. One pill made me feel sleepy constantly. Another made me feel like I WAS NEVER GOING TO SLEEP AGAIN. EVER!!!! And so on. (I've mentioned this recently, so I'll spare you a repeat of the litany.)

I tried acupuncture, Chinese herbs, biofeedback with little relief. I'm getting reflexology massages now, and they seem to help. I just tried reiki and so far, so good. But before I got to that, I tried homeopathy.

Many people have been cured by homeopathy. I'm not one of them. But I can say the same thing about Botox.

The kind of homeopathy I'm talking about goes far beyond the drops and pills you find next to the pharmacy cash register. Those are acute remedies that work for only a short period of time. I went to a practitioner who asked me a bunch of questions ranging from precise descriptions of my pain to my latest dreams. She then thought and researched and selected a constitutional remedy. One dose and the remedy would spend the next six weeks prodding my body back into balance. 

The thing about homeopathy is that conventional western doctors are sure it's complete crap. They were also sure that the next medication would prevent my migraines, so they're full of shit too.

Some people say that homeopathy is just a placebo, and if it works, go for it. If you could trick your mind into making you better why not?

That first constitutional remedy gave me side effects as bad as any pharmaceutical. Now, there is the nocebo effect, where you trick your brain into making you sicker. Homeopathy can make you sicker before it makes you better, much like how ritalin is a stimulant that prompts the body into relaxing. I knew that going into it, but I never expected it to last for a month. 

So I honestly don't know if it was a nocebo effect or if the remedy fucked me up that badly on its own. I was sick every day for a month. Without a single good day to let me recover from the bad days, my ennui turned into depression. Or maybe the depression was another side effect.

Suicide started to look like a perfectly reasonable course of action. Crushing pain every day? This was not a life worth living. I couldn't even stir up much emotion about it. I was just being logical.

Almost immediately, I promised my husband that I wouldn't kill myself. Not because he asked me to, but because I needed that to keep myself in check. Even then, I could feel how sad it was that I felt it was necessary to make a promise like that.

It wasn't long before the promise turned into a lie. Christmas was coming and we were planning our annual visit to his family. I quickly came to think of our trip as my chance to see them one last time. This also struck me as incredibly sad, but unavoidable. I didn't have a plan, but I had decided to revisit the issue in the new year. 

When my homeopath checked in to see how I was doing, I told her everything. I'd been roughing it out, first under the assumption that it would get better and then under the belief that it never would. All this was from just one dose weeks earlier. It's not like I was taking a daily pill that I could stop.

I was hopeless, but I didn't lie to my homeopath - the one person who could've offered real hope at that point. I don't know why I told her how bad things really were, but it made all the difference.

You can undo a constitutional remedy. By sniffing peppermint oil of all things. (You have to avoid all peppermint and menthol during those 6 weeks because they could cancel it out.) One deep breath and the fog and pain began to lift. A second deep breath returned my will to live.

This was almost two years ago. My Christmas was fine. Our visit was pleasant, with no sense of finality to it. Just like that, I was back to my usual sickly self.

On the one hand, it was a side effect. I feel like I have less right to call myself a survivor of depression than people whose brains do this to them unprompted. On the other hand, that month destroyed me in a way that failed parenthood didn't only a year earlier. And I was still able to get the help I needed even when I didn't think it was possible. 

If I were decisive enough to get a tattoo, I'd get a semicolon. That's a thing now. People get a semicolon tattoo to remind themselves to take a pause before doing anything drastic. A period is an ending, but a semicolon is a pause. It's powerful and really speaks to me. But I'm doing so much better now that I don't want the constant reminder. 

I even thought about getting that tattoo to cover the worst of the scars on my left hand. The Kid was a scratcher, and I probably should've gotten stitches on one or two occasions. But I've finally gotten to the point where I don't notice that scar constantly, so why draw my attention back to it?

So that's what homeopathy did for me. I did try a few more homeopathic remedies, none of which affected my mood that severely (or at all in some cases). They increased the frequency of my migraines, and never really helped. One or more of the remedies made my tonsil stones less frequent. I can't imagine that was the placebo effect. But it's also the least of my health issues, so woo freaking hoo. My homeopath also gave me drops for my kid-related PTSD and those did work. That may be the placebo effect, but whatever works, right?

After a year and a half, I gave up. (My homeopath said that we were one or two attempts away from finding the perfect remedy for my body, but I ran out of patience. If I run out of other options, I may try it again but I doubt it will be necessary.) 

So is homeopathy nonsense? I don't know. But it fucked me up worse than anything my neurologist prescribed me, so I think it does have a legitimate effect. Would I suggest it to someone else? Maybe, but not without offering some detail about how it affected me. 

The main drawback is that homeopaths want to be able to prove scientifically that a particular remedy is what worked. Which means that they don't want you trying anything else during those 6 week periods when you're waiting to see if that remedy did the trick. Then when that one doesn't work, they want to try another. So you can't also try acupuncture, reiki or new pharmaceuticals while you're on homeopathy island. Which means that you're just spinning your wheels and hoping for the best for months and months. So I'd suggest leaving it as a last resort, or trying it if you have no interest in other treatments.


If anyone's interested, I can write about my experiences with other alternative therapies to help you decide whether or not to give them a try.

1 comment:

  1. I've recently heard that magnesium can be effective against migraines. I know that it's never that simple and what works for "Enthusiast Alice" may not work for "Been There Done That Stop Talking So Loudly And Leave Me Alone Bertram", but I was wondering if you'd heard the same or tried it.

    ReplyDelete

All the cool kids are commenting. Give it a try, it's fun!