Dramatic Cure for Depression: A Case of Red-Tailed Hawk
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, MSW
The first and foremost homeopath to introduce and document bird remedies is Jonathan Shore, MD, of California. However, we have found in the Reference Works computer program information on various other bird remedies that we have used with our patients. I have prescribed homeopathic medicines made from macaw, peregrine falcon, crow, dove, eagle, seagull, hummingbird, and others. For those animal lovers out there (among which we include ourselves), do not worry that any bird is sacrificed or suffers in order to make the medicine. It is prepared, whenever possible, from a drop of blood.
Bird Remedy Clues
How does it become clear that a patient needs one of these medicines? First, it is evident that she needs an animal, rather than a plant or mineral medicine. There are issues of survival, victim/aggressor, dominance, attractiveness, competitiveness, human/inhuman, and, often, a feeling of dirtiness. The patient is likely to have a strong association, positive or negative, with animals in general and, often, with the particular one from which the medicine is prepared. Clues that a bird medicine is indicated include references to soaring, flying, wings, heights, and any other bird-like images. Raptors are more likely to have violent, prey/predator images. Polarities may emerge of being bound, held, captive, restricted, and restrained versus free, unrestricted, and able to go wherever she wants. Perspective is also a subject that comes up in some of these cases. Flying high infers the ability to view from a broader viewpoint.
Themes that are especially characteristic of those needing bird medicines include 1) movement, especially in the air; 2) bone structure (analogous to feathers); 3) rapid metabolism; 4) migration/travel; 5) freedom; 6) a nervous restlessness; 7) stabbing or stitching pains, in general, and specifically in the heart, chest, and abdomen.
A Dramatic Response to Depression – Patient Case
J.C. is a 44-year-old female patient who presented with a very interesting case. Thanks to the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo-j) proving of Jonathan Shore, we were able to give her Buteo from the beginning of the case. The following sections are written in her own words, and I have italicized phrases that I consider particularly significant in understanding the case.
“I’m a mess. I’m taking Prozac for outright depression. I have had days that I call black-hole days, when I couldn’t even cope with making a grocery list, much less get to the store. Low, low energy. I’ve had 5 miscarriages and had a lot of grief. I had a real attachment to bringing a second child into the world. Then had to face my husband’s addictions. I’m still thinking about adopting or foster parenting. I attend Al Anon. [Al Anon is for families of alcoholics – J.C.’s husband was an alcoholic addicted to marijuana.]
“On my worst days I’d feel immobilized, scared to death, bordering on panic attacks… helpless and powerless, filled with anxiety and despair. I just couldn’t stop my mind. I was not able to be present. I was stuck in this mindset of ‘What should I do? What should I do?’ Unable to make a decision. Leaving my husband has never been my first option, but how could I live with this guy? On bad days I just want to shake him and ask, ‘Why are you still doing this?’
“On bad days, I feel so, so tired. Oppressed by fatigue. I wanted to go in a hole, wrap myself in a blanket, and pull the floorboards over me. That’s when I went to my doctor and asked for antidepressants. I was laying on a sunspot on the kitchen floor. I could have laid there all day. I felt so tired that I would close my eyes at stoplights.
“I’ve had so many people check my thyroid. I went to a homeopath who kept changing remedies for me. Walking and getting out in fresh air always helped, but I didn’t seem to have any motivation. I didn’t even care about cleaning the house or fixing my hair.
“I’m very shy, introverted. My energy is drained by being around people for too long. Shallow talk zaps and bores me. I freeze up in social situations… I talk too much. Nervous prattle. I feel embarrassed. I want to be liked. When we visit my husband’s family, I feel disconnected from him. It pushes a lot of buttons of insecurity, lack of confidence, and I get mouthy. I had just graduated with college and was at a cocktail party given by a company that was interviewing me for a job. I remember walking around having disjointed conversations, saying totally moronic things. I try so hard that I just blurt things out.
“Intense would describe me. I have big feelings, big desires, big ideas. I don’t stay tepid.
“I get foul-mouthed and fairly dramatic when I’m angry. Lots of gesticulating. I move into the other side when I’m pushed too far. My husband lied to me and was out till the wee hours. He came in pretty toasted. I was so angry. Just crazy, crazy. I was throwing my arms around. Then my husband will applaud my performance and we both laugh about it. Once I was working for a mortgage company and the workload was getting way out of hand. I was handed the umpteenth-million file. I threw the whole stack up the air. A sort of a release. Everyone laughed.
“I’m a Type 1 in the Enneagram: self-righteous, always trying to do the right thing… the dutiful child, student. I can be supercritical of myself and others. I’m really good at troubleshooting. The trouble spots leap out at me. My focus tends to go to what’s wrong.
“I try to fix every small thing in the world. I’m not happy when my husband says I’m not doing things the right way. Even deadheading petunias, I got defensive. I have to be right. ‘Opinionated’ is a word many people would use to describe me. Sort of a narrowness. I can argue to the death when I know I’m not right. I’m somehow protecting myself that way. If I weren’t right, I would feel belittlement, embarrassment, shame.
“I took a lot of teasing from my older brothers when I was little. Their taunting hurt my feelings a lot. They told me, ‘Don’t go away crying. Just go away.’ So, maybe the tough, outer mask was for them. The face I present to husband’s family or to him about deadheading. Inwardly afraid, trying to protect myself. Just being belittled, shamed, embarrassed, humiliated. When I say those things, my brothers come to mind, so there must be a connection there.
“I grew up the middle of 6 children in a small town. I didn’t have a role, so I started being mommy’s helper because my older sister didn’t want the job. I tried to put order into the chaos. I took on that role fairly early, out of my own need for order and out of caretaking. I was always aware of how tired and overwhelmed my mother was, but I really never had a domestic bone in my body. I was a tomboy. My dad wasn’t emotionally present. He was more involved in hunting and fishing with my brothers. He had a horrific, grassfire temper. I remember been sizzled by that – torched on the spot. I walked around on eggshells, tippy toes.
“I was a good student – competitive, but I lacked confidence and was really shy. It goes beyond shy. I couldn’t face the audience at the Christmas concert. I was even too shy to accept things that I wanted. I didn’t want that attention on me. Just forget I’m here.
“I’ve always had a spiritual orientation. I was raised Methodist, but knew it didn’t fit for me early on. I had spiritual experiences as a child. The rapture. No one else in the family had those convictions, experiences. Those small boxes of religion didn’t work for me.
“I needed to be outside absorbing sky. My favorite was at night looking up at stars. I could blow a gasket when I was little by trying to absorb the infinity of the sky. I would go out and try to absorb with my mind how many stars there were out there. To comprehend the enormity of infinity. It would tweak my brain. Something about the indifference or sameness of the sky comforted me. It’s there… always the same. But there’s this peace that’s not emotional.
“I just had a need for it. My mom called it ‘sucking sky.’ When I was irritable, she told me to go suck sky. I love sleeping out under the stars. I think that’s why I moved out West. They call it “Big Sky Country.” I tend towards claustrophobia. I don’t like elevators. You couldn’t get me into tunnels or caves. From an early age I was absorbing the universe-ness – the bigness of space. I was looking outward to find big, expanding, vistas.
“That continues to be my orientation with work. I’m a broad-brush person. Detail work is actually painful for me. I thought the business courses in college were gonna kill me. I‘ve learned to tolerate detail work. The sky is still huge. We live up on a hill. Vistas that we love. I’m thankful for having the space just to breathe in.
“It’s this desire to soar into the sky. I feel really attracted to birds. I have been my whole life. The flying aspect. I love to see hawks circling. I can get into a space where the joy starts bubbling. I just want to take off with them and soar.
“As a kid, I had lots of dreams about running down hills and flapping my arms. Then I would take off. The joyful, lifting feeling of taking off into the air. Sometimes when looking out at a vista, I have a desire to take off and fly.
“Outside and air is important to me. I have a lot of trouble with those long flights, like to India. I almost feel like I need oxygen. What helps is pressing my face to the glass.
“I need space and air. At concerts, I can’t sit in the middle. When I was at church and had to sit in the middle pew, I had to plan my escape so I could get out. Small spaces are really hard for me.
“There’s a connection with me with watching birds soar – expansive. It’s a spiritual thing for me. I can also think of it when I’m in a joyful space. I did a sweat with a Native American medicine man. He touched my head and told me to go back to the womb and know that it is also the universe. The space was pitch-black. It became the womb. Then it became infinity. So it’s not always physical space. It can be a mental thing.[I asked her, “Which bird do you like the most?”] “Clearly a hawk. I just like them circling. The way they glide. It just seems so free. Like they’re above it all. Noble comes to mind. They feel noble to me. Maybe I would feel that way about eagles if I saw them more. Hawks are more common and I see them frequently.
“I’ve had irrational dreams of ending up as a street person, of my material needs not getting met. I’ve often thought those were a result of my father not being there. I never thought anyone would take care of my security. So I’d have to do it myself. Not feeling safe in the world still raises its ugly head. Recently I experienced some panic attacks for a couple of days. Yesterday I was driving past the flophouse hotels, feeling so sorry for the people living there. I found myself thinking, ‘But for the grace of God, there go I.’
“I worked for a while in a Third World country. I got every GI disease you can think of. Was down to 84 pounds. We’re talking about survival. I had to find kids to get me food in the jungle. The thing I ate most consistently was cassava leaf – a green leaf with a poison that had to be pounded out of it. They also ate palm butter, which is a sauce made from palm nuts. I didn’t care for that. I had people send me the leg of a deer. They would singe it with the fur on. The smell was horrendous. So the food would be flavored with that burnt hair. I wisely recognized I wouldn’t survive there, and I moved to another village. People were being poisoned.
I have 2 other recurrent dreams and they both involve my mouth. One is my teeth falling out. The other is having a mouthful of gum that I can’t get out. In the dream about losing teeth, my mouth was disintegrating. Filled with this black, sawdust-like material. One tooth, then more and more and more. They just kept coming out. In the gum dream, I’m trying to pull this sticky gum out of my mouth. Again there’s more and more and more.”
- Musculoskeletal: Large cyst at base of middle finger on left hand; stress in upper neck and back; severed right ACL in skiing accident; right bunionectomy. Bone structure in feet is not good, resulting in foot pain.
- Head: Most chronic physical symptom is a 10-year history of headaches. Pain all around head, with intense pain focused around left eye. Accompanied by sinus congestion and stiffness in neck. Better from heat, tai chi, meditation, massage, and anti-inflammatories.
- Gynecological: Dysmenorrhea, 5 miscarriages with D&Cs; recurrent ovarian cysts; adenomyosis
Analysis of Case
This patient sought out homeopathic treatment for depression and fatigue. She did not emphasize her physical complaints, mentioning them only at the end of the case, as indicated above. The case unfolded with minimal prompting of any kind from us. This is a clear example of the importance of allowing the patient sufficient time during the case-taking to tell her story. Given 2 ½ hours, she revealed beautifully her state arising from childhood, the family etiology, and numerous life situations that brought out the state quite vividly.
When she began talking about the expansiveness of the sky and the universe, “the infinity of the sky,” and “the enormity of the universe,” we began thinking about the remedy, Hydrogen. But as we remained quiet and let the patient continue, the story evolved to one of a bird soaring in the sky. Each of the images that followed confirmed the prescription of a bird remedy. Having had little experience in this area, I contacted Jonathan and studied his bird provings. The patient seemed to be telling me that she needed Buteo-j (hawk) but this was our first time prescribing this medicine and we didn’t want to jump to conclusions without researching other bird remedies. In the end, that is what I gave her.
The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo) themes/rubrics from Jonathan Shore’s proving that emerged in this case were as follows:
- Themes: Freedom; Carefree, desires to be, and Zooming through stars
- Rubrics: “Negative Relationships: Exploited being, feels as if; Taking, people, more than wanted to give; Rudeness, sadness, causes; Relationships, people, relating, having difficulty in. [His proving also elucidated a dream, which can obliquely apply in this case due to the recurrent substance abuse of this patient’s husband]: Dream. Divorced, of getting, because husband abusive.
- Mind: Wanting to “curl up” for hours
- Energy: Lethargic, unmotivated and, feels; Sit, hours for; Delusion flying, feels as if, while walking
- Physical symptoms: Neck and shoulder tightness
My Assessment of the Case
This woman grew up in a family where she was very sensitive to being taunted by her brothers. A tomboy, she craved the affection of a father who was fairly distant and who favored her brothers. From a very young age, she sought freedom, and found it most profoundly under the night sky where she contemplated and found solace in the expansiveness and enormity of the universe. Her exploration of the heavens took the form of a noble bird circling, gliding, soaring, free. The desire for freedom and her primal, animal nature took her to a Third World Country where she could, in fact, live out a scene of nearly starving to death. She found herself in a marriage and career where she felt a lack of freedom. She was torn between the alternatives of leaving her marriage due to her husband’s problem’s with substance abuse, and somehow rising to meet the situation and maintain a nurturing family life. The decision was to choose the latter. Her spiritual inclinations, also from a very early age, were another way for her to fly high and explore the enormity of the inner and outer universe.
I prescribe Buteo 1M.
After 7 Weeks
“I am doing well. I cut my Prozac in half, to 20 milligrams. My mood has definitely improved. My dream activity has been incredible. The cyst on my left hand is no longer painful and it has reduced in size. The doctor told me before he’d never seen one so large.
“My last period was only 2 days. That’s amazing. My headaches are only minor.
“I feel upbeat, confident, and positive. An overall, general sense of well-being. I’m tripping lightly and it feels great. My security buttons aren’t being pushed. I’m able to trust in God, a higher power. Those are really big strides for me.
“I don’t feel that indecisiveness is a problem either. My confidence has come back. Before, I felt conflicted about whether to go back to work or not. It all cleared up; I’m not going back to work. End of story. I also feel a lot clearer about interacting with my husband’s parents.
“I feel less pushed by duty. I’m not making to-do lists anymore. My new mantra is ‘I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to.’ And it’s all working fine. I’m just walking lightly.
“My confidence is coming back in relationships, too. I am feeling less isolated and I no longer need to engage people in conversation. I’m learning about listening. I never realized how wonderful the power of silence could be. My husband is expressing appreciation for how non-reactive, supportive, loving, and compassionate I am.
“I haven’t felt the need much to get out and suck sky. I feel happier with my own piece of sky. I’m just more comfortable with the space that I’m in. Many nights I like to go out in the backyard and take in the night sky, but I’ve been doing it less.
“I’ve not had any dreams of ending up as a street person or about my teeth falling out. There is a real possibility of my husband getting fired, and I haven’t moved into fear. The fear of being in a place like that is gone. I no longer feel the need to manipulate, control. Walking down the path feels really good.”
I instruct J.C. to take the Buteo 1M in a liquid form twice a week for 1 month, then once a week.
After 3 Months
“I’m struggling to maintain some sanity. My husband is quitting his job. Our son is picking up on our financial problems. The marriage is in jeopardy, but I don’t want to leave my husband. I have been taking the remedy once a week. My mood is okay.
“The cyst on my hand is totally pain-free. I have absolutely pain-free menstruation. I’m doing work with my counselor about trying to understand what I want from my husband and to be able to communicate that to him.
“I feel less of a need to ‘suck sky.’ I mostly go out for the coolness of the air. I find it refreshing. But I don’t have the need to escape into space anymore.”
I instruct J.C. to take the Buteo once a week during the current stress, then 1 dose every 2 weeks.
After 10 Months
“I feel like the remedy has worked beautifully. I’m taking it twice a month. I’m feeling fine. No pain with menstruation. The cyst on my finger doesn’t hurt. My moods and energy are good. There is no fatigue. I haven’t been sucking air at all – just haven’t had the need. I am enjoying taking the dog out for fast walking and fresh air. I go out every night and toss some food over the fence to the creatures – skunks, deer. We are selling our house and moving near my husband’s parents, so he can get support.”
I instruct J.C. to take Buteo 1M as needed.
Thirteen Months Later
“I’m still doing really well. Since I talked to you, I’ve taken the Hawk twice during some anxious moments. I felt an immediate bounce both times. No gynecologic symptoms. I recently had a very early miscarriage from an unexpected pregnancy. It’s the most normal miscarriage I’ve had. We’ll be moving soon.” At this point the patient moved to another state and I lost contact with her.
Since this case, I have had a number of successful cases of Buteo and other bird remedies. In fact, I am about to present a beautiful long-term case of a child with Asperger Syndrome and rage who responded dramatically to homeopathic Peregrine Falcon. But that is another case for another article!
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, MSW, is a licensed naturopathic physician who is board-certified in homeopathy. She practices at The Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA, and also treats patients by video and phone consultation. Dr Reichenberg-Ullman is the coauthor, with her husband, Dr Robert Ullman, of 7 books on homeopathic medicine, including the bestselling Ritalin-Free Kids; she is also the author of Whole Woman Homeopathy. She can be reached at (425) 774-5599 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.healthyhomeopathy.com or her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/healthyhomeopathycom/?fref=nf.