Flower Essences Help an Actress in her
Battle with Chronic Depression:

An interview with Eloïse Watt

Eloise WattEloïse Watt
is a Shakespearean actress, director and teacher in New York City. She attended the FES Flower Essence Society Practitioner training in Belmont, Maryland in September, 1998.

Eloïse, you reported that flower essences helped you wean yourself off of anti-depressants. Could you tell me about it in more detail?

I first went on medication when I was 29. I had been severely depressed for a long time. I took the anti-depressants twice, for three to four year stretches. My journey with flower essences began the first time I went off medication.

When was that?

That was in 1986. The first one I took was from the Bach line, Gentian.

Why Gentian?

I was seeing a nutritionist who gave me a flower remedy combination; I don't remember what it was, but it didn't seem to help. I went back to the descriptions to try to find a linchpin remedy for what was underlying my depression. I suddenly realized I had no faith that anything could help me, and so nothing COULD help me. I took Gentian for my doubt and in a few days felt as if 30-some years of entrenched negativity had lifted clean away.

It was astonishing. I continued self-diagnosis and taking the remedies for five years after that. Then I stopped for whatever reasons anyone stops. After another four-year stretch on medication I began using flower essences again, and becoming acquainted with FES.

Do you think going back onto medication was a result of discontinuing flower essence therapy?

I think it may have been a factor, but I don't think it's that simple. A number of other stresses all came together to convince me to try medication again.

What essences did you use to help you after the second stretch of drugs?

The one that really helped me make a breakthrough was Self-Heal. By that time I had been thinking for a while about the difference between essences therapy and drug therapy. I knew intellectually that I'd been wise to discontinue medication, but Self-Heal somehow moved this realization to a much deeper level. I became capable of taking responsibility for my own healing in a whole new way. I must be clear that I believe that taking medication can be an important step toward taking responsibility because it requires a serious admission of difficulty and a willingness to get help, but for me — drugs ultimately stood in the way of taking full responsibility.

And that was a year ago?

Yes, about a year ago. I've had two really remarkable and immediate transformative experiences with flower essences in the wake of going off medication, but many slower transformations over time. I suppose you could say, "Well how good are flower essences if the broad went back on drugs?" But I don't see it that way. You know, this is a life journey. It's very complicated and difficult. I seem to have a very strong genetic pre-disposition to depression. Although I believe theoretically that it's possible to do necessary self-work while taking medication, in my experience anti-depressants take away the inner information you need to do the work. Flower essences not only give you access to the information, they make it clearer. I won't say it's easier. It isn't easier.

But you prefer essence therapy, and the inner work involved.

I'm wary of absolute stances, and I don't think we should Balkanize ourselves in terms of health, so I'm not anti-drugs. I'm grateful to my time on anti-depressants; for one thing they gave me a glimpse of what it felt like to lift above my pain and that has continued to guide me. I'm frankly not sure I would have had that otherwise. It's just that the two times that I was on medication I felt as if I were standing still, that I hadn't moved forward. I didn't feel that way when I was on medication, but when I was off of it I felt very betrayed, because I hadn't made any real progress during that time. I was still in the same place.

I spoke with a man once who said, as he looked back upon his experiences, that he was happy he had taken drug medication because it made him feel as if he were treading water, which he felt he needed to do at that particular point in time, to gain the sufficient force for the next step, which flower essence therapy and acupuncture was suited to help him with. Is this what you are getting at, Eloïse?

Something like that, though he sounds like he was a little more centered and conscious than I've been both on and off medication. I also did many, many things alongside the essence therapy. Partly out of desperation because I was so scared.

Perhaps there were issues that the flower essences brought up within you that you weren't quite ready to face yet. Hence the belief you needed to return to medication for awhile.

That makes sense to me.

This man was emphatic in pointing out to me that he was in the midst of what was a 9-year process, up to that point; it was an on-going project, that he felt would take him from one thing to another, and that one stage was always a preparation period to get him to the next stage, and so forth.

I think for me it's the same thing, too. I get very discouraged about that. But I am beginning to understand why that is.

You said you used other healing forms, other modalities, in your battle with depression. Could you tell me more about that? Do you engage in an active prayer or meditation schedule?

Shakespeare is my spiritual center. And I think it is helpful to have, in your life, anything that you do well, that you vibrate to. I'm toning and doing affirmations right now. I'm also doing a kind of brain biofeedback-neurotherapy, and a technique that involves tapping the energy meridians while repeating positive phrases. I have looked into many, many techniques and it is hard for some of them to take hold because I'm such a weird combination of skepticism and openness. I've tried many kinds of meditation, but never succeeded in establishing daily practice. And as an actor, I've been exposed to many different, helpful approaches to relaxation and focus. Recently, I've been going to a place called Gulliver's Learning and Living Center here in New York, which is mainly a food-centered place. For a long time I have tried to deal with my checkered relationship with food, and I think I am only beginning to accept the degree to which food is responsible for how I feel emotionally.

What anti-depressants were you taking, Eloïse?

Nardil the first time around. The second time I did a course of three, one after another, over a four-year period. First was Prozac. Second was Wellbutrin. The third was Effexor, which I took along with Buspar, an anti-anxiety drug.

You mentioned Gentian and Self Heal were helpful to you after discontinuing medication. What other essences have you found helpful?

Tansy, lately. I know that it is not specifically indicated for depression. But the Repertory description mentions people who have been exposed to a lot of chaos and confusion and emotional instability and even violence and have learned to suppress their natural responses to situations as a way of keeping peace. Or of avoiding further emotional overwhelm. Emotional overwhelm is a real issue for me. And this phrase has really stuck in my head — "they energetically downshift as an avoidance mechanism for emotional coping and distancing." I often feel that depression IS an energetic downshift. You do it because you can't handle the feeling. So I have found Tansy is remarkable. At the moment I'm also taking Borage, Chestnut Bud, Morning Glory, and Blackberry and have often taken Mustard in the past. There is something I have to say, in general. I've taken a lot of different remedies and weirdly enough, I've found the ones indicated for depression not all that helpful to me.

Could you elaborate on that?

There may be some people for whom the depression is the real issue. But as with all journeys with flower remedies, what you realize is that what is presenting itself is not necessarily the real issue. So the essences that have really been revelations to me are the ones that brought out the realizations hidden underneath the depression. And there have been many different combinations that have helped, at different times, as my needs went. What medication seems to do is almost surgically remove the depression. When that happens it becomes very difficult to do the work of self-realization that truly results in long-term change. It's very difficult, on medication, to get at the stuff underneath. Going off medication and getting at the stuff underneath is no picnic, but at the moment I believe it's the only way to move beyond depression. This is something that some people who have gone off medication may not want to hear. Richard and Patricia said similar things at the class. The essences work in such a different way than drugs. They don't suppress the real issues. They bring them out.

The rule of thumb of flower essence therapy is that they don't treat the symptom, it treats the human being. Were you taking the essences at the same time you were taking the anti-depressants?


How do you take the essences?

I have a treatment bottle. I put a few drops of each remedy I'm using, in a one-ounce dropper bottle of spring water with brandy. I try not to take more than five at one time, but sometimes I end up taking seven. I like the odd numbers. It seems to me there is less of a chance of one remedy canceling another out if you use an odd number. I always have just taken a squirt whenever I think about it, that's the way I have always done it. Under my tongue. I put three bottles around the house and take them whenever I see them. I have tried very hard to be more orderly, but this seems to work for me. I carry them with me, too. If I am having a really hard time I will put drops in my tea in the morning or in a glass of water I am drinking. I have all of them. I have two full sets of essences...the original Bach and all of the FES.

What was your initial diagnosis, in '83?

Severe chronic depression.

And in '93 when you tried medication the second time?

The same. As I said, there is a strong familial leaning toward both unipolar and bipolar depression. In fact, my extended family has been profiled by the National Institute of Mental Health for a study on the genetic relationship among manic depression, depression, anxiety disorder, and alcoholism. Thirty-five of us were interviewed and sent blood samples to Washington.

Do you drink?

I have stopped completely.

Were you drinking in 1986?

Some, but drinking was never at the top of my list of issues. I don't have much of a taste for it, so when I would drink, I would drink in order to "blot myself out." I figured with that tendency, the genetic link and the fact that it's a depressant, it was better to stop completely.

Do you have a personal philosophy about flower essence therapy?

I have a shifting philosophy, all of the time. It's funny, because lately I've stolen a metaphor from working on jigsaw puzzles. I just did one with a friend in Montreal. She was so much better at putting the thing together than I was. At first I was annoyed and competitive, but then I decided to look at the way she was doing it. She was taking a piece at a time and looking to see where it would fit by looking at the picture on the box; she just put each piece in the appropriate place and assumed that the pieces would link up. I kept trying to find single pieces, desperately searching for ten minutes at a time and not looking at the picture on the box at all. I suddenly had what a therapist once called a "paradigm shift," the first element of which was that it's no crime to get the help you need.

I think flower essences are about the pieces. You deal with one piece at a time. You put the piece in place. You cultivate faith that eventually all the pieces of your particular puzzle will link up. I picture God holding on to all the box covers with all our completed pictures, and then I laugh. That's my current philosophy, and it doesn't hurt that it makes me laugh.


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