Reflections and Shadows

When we look down into the blueness of some little pool, rejoicing in the birdlike passage of the clouds, and then look up to the wide sky, we realise that the finite is like a lake which, as far as its capacity allows, mirrors the infinite; and when we see the foreshorthened image of a poplar stretched in pale colouring beneath it, we have a sudden vision of time as the faint, straitened shadow of eternity.  –  Mary Webb

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Healing Herbs

Gaia's Daughter - Mara Friedman

A little over a week ago I had an appointment with a Gynaecologist. Exactly a week after this, I had an appointment with a Medical Herbalist. The difference between the two meetings, and the impact they each had on my immediate well-being, was striking. I have to say that the hospital doctors and nurses are certainly trying to help me in their own way, but the herbalist appointment was a revelation and left me feeling a million times better! In contrast, I left the hospital with a gnawing doubt about the course of treatment that they are suggesting. I am down to two choices: the removal of the lining of my uterus or the complete removal of my womb – both of which leave me feeling quite worried about the possible consequences. My body seems to be fighting this all the way: my cervix was too small for a womb biopsy to be taken without a general anaesthetic. They tried to do this process whilst I was conscious, which was excruciatingly painful and failed. I have taken the conventional medical route over this last 18 months or so to tackle my menstrual issues. It has been a challenging route (to say the least) and despite all best efforts, it has left me feeling, at times, very ill and increasingly demoralised.

I met the very appropriately named Wendy Budd by chance. She had been invited to talk about the medicinal properties of herbs at the open day of my friend Tracey’s Community Orchard and Garden project.  For months I have been complaining at feeling confused about what particular solution is best for my problem; as each option presented itself, I felt no clear sense within about which one was right for me. My friends have suggested things, my medical practitioner’s also, and yet I remained paralysed by the fear that I would choose something that would, yet again, make my symptoms worse. As I listened to Wendy’s talk, I felt that sudden spark of recognition; after months of assuming that I had completely lost all sense of judgement, at that moment, I felt certain that I had to speak with her. I approached her in a quiet moment and asked about the possibility of booking an appointment. After explaining my situation, she confided that she had suffered with exactly the same problem and was now managing her symptoms and feeling really well. If I hadn’t already got the hint, I did at that moment!

Understandably, hospital and doctor’s appointments are pushed for time, ten minute blocks that speed by. I spent almost two hours with Wendy where she asked about every area of my life and health. Rather than treating me as a set of isolated symptoms, she engaged with the whole me, trying to put together a clearer picture of my life, from diet and exercise to emotional and mental states that might be impacting on my health and leading me to suffer in the way that I am. I have always known that the events in my life over these last few years are a key factor in my worsening symptoms; I gave up tying to explain this to my doctors because none of them seemed to think it relevant. The equation for them is symptom + treatment = management; I have been astonished at how often the cause gets left out, particularly if it might involve the complex and tricky world of the emotions – they just don’t have the time to go there, and sadly, some don’t even have the interest. I am reminded of a Joni Mitchell lyric – Doctor’s pills give you brand new ills.

With Wendy I felt truly listened to; in an age when ever tightening budgets dominate health care, this empathetic exchange between patient and healer often gets lost. It is a tragedy because, as we all instinctively know, it is such a crucial part of the healing process. After almost all my doctor and hospital appointments, I left feeling very low; after Wendy, I was practically doing cartwheels!

I have also been increasingly aware that something has started to shift in me. Since being synthetic progesterone free, I have felt so much more settled in my self, the angst easing, and the pain of my family situation being placed into a greater perspective. I am feeling happier and this in itself is working its own magic. After not bleeding for an age after the implant’s removal, I have just experienced the best menstrual period I have had in years. I am hoping with the help of herbs that this sudden improvement will continue to be the norm for me.

I have been given a tea and tonic, both to be taken three times a day. Each has a mixture of several herbs, aimed not only at physical but emotional symptoms too. The tea is Raspberry Leaf, Yarrow, and Shepherd’s Purse, Rose, Lavender and Hawthorn; the tonic is Borage, Shatavari, Motherwort and Belladonna (a very small dose! It is an incredibly good painkiller apparently!), Peony, Liquorice, Ginger and the wonderfully named Tree of Life.

For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful that my life will no longer be dominated by pain, bleeding and exhaustion. It is a heady thought! I don’t know whether it is psychosomatic but I am already experiencing a sensation of opening in my lower body, as if something that has been clenched and closed has suddenly relaxed and softened. Strangely, I also feel a mirroring of this sensation emotionally too. Wendy said she is often amazed at how often the herbs go to where they are needed, even beyond her own understanding of their medicinal qualities. They are magical things. Time will tell but for now the sun is shining, I have people who I love in my life, I have purpose and feel well. What else truly matters?