Once upon a time even the actual word ‘homeopathy’ meant absolutely nothing to me. I could never have possibly imagined I might consult a homeopath nearly thirty years ago, let alone go on to study to become a practitioner myself and to help others.
This story begins when I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first son Josh, now age 27. He has a brother too, Theo, nearly 25. In my first few weeks of pregnancy there was a programme on television about toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that one can acquire from eating contaminated, undercooked meat or from changing cat litter.
The programme warned that if a woman is infected while pregnant, it can cause the baby congenital defects and therefore a blood test was recommended for pregnant women, especially those with cats like myself. I had been vegetarian since I was 15. While attending my scheduled appointment at Hampstead’s Royal Free, I asked for a blood test for toxoplasmosis along with the routine ones carried out at that time.
I did not think any more about it until I returned to the hospital for my next visit a month later. By then at seventeen weeks, I could already feel Josh moving around inside my belly and I was very excited about being pregnant and becoming a mother. I was young, inexperienced and pretty green, and I had no expectations of any of my tests coming through ‘positive’.
So I sat there in the hospital waiting room on my own and without fear or anxiety, passing the time leafing through pregnancy magazines. But I was in for a very huge shock. The doctor told me that I did have toxoplasmosis and recommended I abort, as they could not decipher from their results whether my blood was carrying antibodies from a prior infection or I was recently infected. If it were the latter, my baby was at risk of congenital defects and they advocated that I not take that risk.
I stumbled out of the hospital in shock, and just about managed to drive home safely. Once there I shared the news with my husband and parents by phone – there were no mobiles in those days – and then broke down in uncontrollable tears. My husband and parents felt I should follow the hospital’s advice but that decision felt so far from right that I could not go through with it and didn’t.
I did my research on the disease and discovered that the risk was 5% and could be reduced by taking the antibiotic spiramycin for the remainder of my pregnancy, eight small white pills per day. I would need to return to the hospital once a month for monitoring with blood and urine samples and Josh would be assessed after birth too with a brain scan and blood tests. It was a stressful time for us all and those autumn months ticked by slowly as we endured the waiting game.
Josh was induced at 41 weeks in January 1991, as my blood pressure was high enough for concern. After a very long birth he was born healthy and well, and free from any damage caused by the toxoplasmosis parasite. So I put the stress of the pregnancy behind me and got on with enjoying being a mother to my new baby boy.
If you are a parent yourself or know someone close to you that is, the first few months of taking care of a baby can be a rather exhausting experience, to say the least. Although I tried to rest whenever Josh did, my immunity started to get quite compromised. I am not sure if the repeated antibiotic use in the pregnancy played a part too, but from what I know of antibiotics generally, they do kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad, which leads to generalised lower immunity. And of course there was all that stress and worry too.
As a consequence, I became susceptible to minor ear infections. My ears felt extremely itchy and were over-producing secretions. I found myself being driven quite mad and the only temporary relief I gleaned was from scratching vigorously with ear buds – something I would definitely not advise you to do! The relief was only passing and my ears continued to over produce and cause unbearable itchiness.
When Josh was nine months old I suddenly experienced such excruciating pain in my right ear that I could not continue to feed him and I knew it was time to ask for help. I felt so ill that my husband actually took me to A & E at St Mary’s in Paddington that evening, as they are known for their excellent ENT department. By the time I got there, the pain was tenfold and I screamed so much while waiting that they had to remove me from Casualty as I was disturbing the relative peace for the other patients. To put this into perspective, as you know I had already given birth, so I did have some idea of pain – this was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I am no drama queen!
I was immediately admitted into hospital and was put on a i/v drip of antibiotics. I already knew I was allergic to penicillin but the doctors soon discovered I was allergic to all the other antibiotics they tried as well. I was very much out of it on pethidine, which they were using for pain relief, but I remember they tried many options before eventually pumping me with anti-histamine at the same time as one of the antibiotics to counteract my allergic reaction. I was in hospital for eight days and actually nearly died as the infection was out of control and close to my brain. What I had was a secondary ear infection brought on by the continued use of the ear buds and my low immunity. My right ear was in such a bad state it was difficult to imagine it would ever heal.
Three months later, the infection switched to my left ear and I was admitted again for the same procedure. Clearly something needed to change. I was blasted again with high dose antibiotics, which my body was allergic to anyway, and I felt severely compromised on all levels. I started to feel weak and emotional and in exhausting on-going pain from the infections.
Up until this point in time, I had never seen an alternative health practitioner for anything. The year was 1991 and even though homeopathy and other complementary therapies were going through a renaissance, they were not yet as mainstream as they are today, and so consulting one was still seen as unusual. I had also never visited any kind of therapist before so my only comparable experience was a five-minute slot in a doctor’s surgery, and even that was rare for me.
A friend recommended a homeopath called David Needleman to me, and I booked an appointment to go and see him at his clinic upstairs in a chemist’s shop in East Finchley. I had no idea how long the appointment was expected to take, what we would talk about and what homeopathy actually was. As I said before, I was a pretty green, innocent and uninformed twenty something.
Mr Needleman gave me space to talk about how I was feeling and what was bothering me physically and emotionally. For an hour and a half I talked through my medical history, my pregnancy, my stress, my ear infections and anything else I could think of to tell him. He asked me lots of questions as well as listened and observed me. He also answered all my questions about homeopathy, as I definitely came across as someone who knew absolutely nothing, but was very inquisitive! I should really have done my homework before seeing him, but as I said, this was a whole new world for me.
Somehow in all that I said, he managed to get a picture of the kind of person I was. From his experience, and just holding the space for me, he grasped how I felt mentally, emotionally and physically and as a result he could match ‘my symptoms’ to a homeopathic remedy. He gave me three little white pills with instructions to take one every twelve hours over the next couple of days, and I had no expectations on what they would do at all.
I could never have imagined what impact those little pills would have on me though! Within days my ears started to feel completely different to how they had done for the whole year while I had been plagued by the itchiness, pain and infections. Not only did all the symptoms I had been experiencing go away, but also my susceptibility to ear infections. What I could feel was a kind of energy in my ears as the healing took place, a tingling sensation. I also started to notice changes in how I felt emotionally. I was stable, calm and less tearful – more able to cope with life as a young mother. And my energy started to return.
Mr Needleman explained at my follow up appointment that the remedy stimulated my own healing mechanisms to get me back into balance. I had become stuck in an emotional and physical state where I was feeling very sensitive and exhausted post-pregnancy, for a number of reasons, and my weakness was manifesting as ear infections.
The remedy matched the total holistic picture of what I was presenting on all levels and by helping my system become unstuck, I was then able to heal myself, as we all do naturally when we cut our finger for example, or expel matter out of our system when we have food poisoning. I have not had an ear infection since. And as a wonderful consequence, I have brought my children up on homeopathy alone, as of course I would!
So this was the start of my journey with homeopathy. I never imagined that I would go on and train to be a homeopath. I always thought that I would advance my skills as a psychotherapist when I had a little room for myself after my children started primary school. But in 1998, seven years after first experiencing the magic of those three little pills, I evolved my awareness to a whole new level, and began full time emersion at a university in London… and I have never looked back!
I welcome your stories on how you discovered homeopathy, if you have, and what difference it has made to your life.