Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art

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Sick but blessed



I don’t get ill. I don’t really have the time. If I get ill all the tightly held reins that I hold between my fingers each day get tangled and knotted, all those balls juggling high in the air above me fall crashing to the ground; the balance of the household which sometimes I feel I hold onto with the edge of my fingernails….is lost.

I might get a little cold, but can’t really stop. I might get a bad back, but can’t really stop. Vomiting bugs come and go, I am unscathed, and nurse everyone else back to health. I have worried that I am never ill, and hope I’m not suppressing things and not allowing myself to be ill. Sometimes, now this is a bit perverse…I actually want to be ill, not seriously ill of course, but just ill enough to feel that I’m allowed to lie in bed and read and write and drink cups of tea…alone. Allowed hmm. I’ll come back to that one.

Well, just before my birthday mid December, I started getting tooth pain…booked in to see the dentist, by which time my jaw was swelling and I couldn’t open my mouth so well. The short version; I developed an excruciating tooth abcess which made my jaw swell to huge rock like proportions and restricted movement so that I couldn’t even get a toothbrush in my mouth.

In short I was ill. Lying in bed with herbal pastes laced in garlic wrapped around my tooth, drinking tinctures and green smoothies , swilling coconut oil and salt water around my mouth, asking everyone who knew anything for advice, consulting tarot cards, inner wisdom, journalling, meditating sleeping……


I hadn’t asked for a tooth abscess, but I had one. I was in bed, I released the juggling balls, I cast down the tightly held reins of the house, and as it was also my birthday, figured it was ok.

It was painful, disfiguring, restricted me to a liquid only diet for a week, made me realize how much my appearance matters..(I started to swathe myself in scarfs to hide my jaw) and really challenged my natural only approach to treating illness. (It made me realize lots of other things too, but I’ll come to that later)

I don’t really go to the doctors. Occasionally for a diagnosis, and then I treat the problem at home….conjunctivitis, coughs thrush, infected fingers, sore throats…with a combination of diet, herbs, rest and lots of raw garlic, I can see away most of my family’s ills. I have become used to doing this, over my 16 years of mothering. So I put the antibiotics to one side, promising myself I would use them if I couldn’t sort myself in say, two or three days….

And it got quite strange. I lost my clarity and sense of what was the right thing to do. I became muddled and panicky and asked a lot of people for advice. I listened to them more than myself. I took so many remedies , smoothies, juices and green drinks(largely because I couldn’t get solid food into my mouth) that I actually began to feel very well, and energized, but my jaw continued to swell, my mouth opening ever more restricted. I didn’t stick to my original promise of taking the drugs after a couple of days…oh I’ll take them tomorrow became my daily mantra.


The emergency dentist put me straight. Flinging his instruments down after failing to get into my mouth he became quite cross. I understood. I just needed to take the goddam drugs, breastfeeding or not. The fact that I had been practically weaned onto antibiotics as a kid notwithstanding. There had been a moment in the middle of the night where I COULDN’T EVEN SWALLOW A GULP OF WATER. It came out of my nose because my throat had swelled shut. That was pretty scarey.

I took the drugs, the swelling went down. My mouth still wouldn’t open. My dentist washed her hands of me. A and E the day before Christmas eve..they started to ask when I last ate…

‘Oh it’ll be a two or three night stay in hospital, general anesthetic, draining the abscess, tooth extraction.’

‘But I’m breast feeding…its Christmas….’

More antibiotics and home for Christmas.

Yesterday, after a week of no pain, with a tooth extraction planned for…’several weeks time’ the pain started up again. The abscess was coming back. I bolted to hospital, got the goddam thing whipped out. Five lots of aneasthetic jabbed into the site of the infection. Childbirth was not this painful. I’m not sure how I walked back to the car and drove myself home.

Now I’m through, having a quiet day, Finch with a childminder for a few hours, hot salt rinses and time to think, to paint a bit, write a bit.

Its been a journey. I’m very grateful to it. To the abscess. Despite the pain, and discomfort, there were so many levels of learning and realisation in there for me.

1. I usually eat a lot. I mean a lot, and frequently, as in grazing, nibbling, just hoovering up leftovers, spooning a bit of peanut butter in, grabbing a few raisins. When I couldn’t open my mouth, it felt like a much needed rest. I didn’t even want to eat! My body felt fresh and relieved.

2. I don’t allow myself to stop. There. The allow word. I don’t allow myself. There’s no-one standing over me cracking a whip if I don’t sweep the floor six times a day or wash the nappies. Granted we may be wading through bread crusts, sylvanians and spat out food, and I would have to buy some disposable nappies, but I do have the choice. I don’t have to spend every minute of the precious hours when Finch is asleep being frantically productive. (Although I can if I want)  Its my choice. I don’t even have to churn out three home cooked lovingly prepared from fresh natural ingredients meals a day. I could just by oven ready pizza. Its my choice.

When I was ill I had to stop. I let go of my usual pre Christmas compulsion to handcraft everything, from gingerbread houses to Steiner dolls,  from cards to elaborate papercut mobiles of angels. I had an excuse. I was ill.

I don’t need an excuse to stop. I just stop…just for a few moments..half an hour…half a day..


Ps I did actually make a Steiner doll for Finch, but I made it with my feet up watching a film so it doesn’t count!!

3. I don’t look after myself. That’s why I get cranky irritable, impatient, exhausted resentful under resourced. Two days after my birthday I wondered why my long term chronic back pain had eased. My partner wryly pointed out that it was because I had stopped rushing around like a crazy woman, had a back massage and taken some long hot baths. Oh yeah. All the green smoothies, veggie juices, epsom salt baths…sure made me feel better than stuffing something in my mouth whilst rushing out of the door dragging hundreds of children behind me. Add in some meditating, stretching and fresh air and exercise, connection with friends and nature and chance to do what I love best, and I’d be pretty happy most of the time. Its hard to get to that point, but its worth it.

4. Herbal medicine and homeopathy etc is amazing I will still use it practically to the exclusion of anything else to treat me and my family..BUT, sometimes antibiotics are ok. Now this may not seem like a big one to some of you, but I was practically fed on them as a kid, (along with copious amounts of sugar dairy wheat) and was sickly unhealthy with chronic bronchitis, tonsillitis, digestive issues, lethargic and melancholy. The last time I took antibiotics was 16years ago, for two days…I stopped when it made my wee breast feeding babe sick. So for me it was a biggie, particularly as I am still feeding Finch….who yes was pretty ill with them.

5. I know what is best for me. My body has innate wisdom and all answers are right there inside my belly, my heart, even my jaw! I just need to trust that inner voice. No matter if it seems a bit crazy or not what I’d expect or if it goes against what other people think. Its always going to disagree with someone! My inner voice was clear ..take the antibiotics in two days. Then I got muddled and listened to people who I gave more power than I gave to myself. And I let it get pretty bad.


That’s alot of learning from one rotten tooth.

Does it take something like that to get you to realise forgotten wisdom? Do you have to get ill to look after yourself..or are you a well resourced calm person who drifts easily and serenely through his or her days tapping into your intuition easily? I’d love to hear, its always inspiring and comforting to hear your stories…….

Love Henrietta x