The Alchemy of Iron Overload

Within the last couple of weeks, I found out I have some sort of blood disorder that makes my body collect iron. It’s something I’ve never heard of before now but is apparently an incredibly dangerous condition since the excess iron gets stored in organs and muscles, potentially causing damage if not treated.

I got that much information, plus a list of things that I’m not supposed to do for the time being, and now I wait…for a month…to see a specialist who can hopefully tell me more.

Yes, I’m scared.

After exhausting my own ability to research iron overload and the underlying condition, causes, treatments, etc., I’ve turned to my spirituality to help me understand the purpose for my body’s sudden affinity for this heavy metal.

I’m not the type of person that believes all medical conditions are rooted in the spiritual and that if you just clear your chakras then all physical ailments will disappear. Not at all. I’d give anything right now to be working on an herbal supplement, taking a medication, donating blood, or something to make me feel better right now.

However, I have a fucking month to sit around on my hands, and finding symbolic meaning for my current predicament seems like the least that I can do in my waiting period.

So iron…

Alchemically, iron is associated with physical strength, energy, masculinity, and Mars, which makes sense considering that iron was one of the first metals used for weapons of war and has often been a display of power.

It also makes sense given that too little iron in our blood causes fatigue and weakness—anemia.

The ironic part comes when I consider how my current symptoms of iron overload (primarily pain, fatigue, and weakness) resemble iron deficiency, so much so that when I initially went in to see my doctor for those symptoms, she was pretty convinced I was anemic. Had she not drawn blood to test my iron levels before telling me to take iron supplements, there’s a good chance I’d be dead by now.

So in certain amounts, iron is good. It adds strength and energy to the body. It’s necessary for blood oxygenation.

Too little iron, and the body becomes vulnerable and weak.

Too much, and the body becomes vulnerable and weak.

The symbolism is a little mind-blowing to me. Do you see it yet?

Let’s think about it in terms of outward iron as well.

Italian suit of armour in the Walters Art Museum. Public domain.

Italian suit of armour in the Walters Art Museum. Public domain.

In certain amounts, iron as a material could be useful, weather as a tool, weapon, or suit of armor. It adds strength and power to an ordinary human motion.

Too little iron, and the tool, weapon, or body becomes vulnerable and weak.

Too much, and the tool, weapon, or body becomes useless or weak because it’s too heavy.

Is there a psychological version of iron?

I can’t help but think of the way that hypervigilance affected me in the early stages of my healing and can still affect me to some extent now.

It’s not unreasonable for abuse survivors to want to protect themselves, and it’s not abnormal for them to develop extremely sensitive warning systems in social interactions.

The reasoning makes sense. “I was hurt by someone I deeply trusted in the past. I don’t want to be hurt again; therefore, I need to be on my guard constantly against those I deeply trust now.”

Okay, the reasoning doesn’t entirely make sense, but the motivation itself makes sense.

And for a while I thought that my hypervigilance was helping me, even though it also overwhelmed me. It wasn’t until someone pointed out to me that a guard dog who barked all the time at shadows wasn’t really a very good guard dog that I realized my hypervigilance may not actually be serving me in the way that I thought.

Constantly being on guard was exhausting, sapping the energy I would have needed in a truly dangerous situation, and constant warnings going off in my head made it immensely difficult to discern between a legitimate warning and a false one.

It’s taken a while for my heart to understand that calming my hypervigilance didn’t mean getting rid of my vigilance altogether. It merely meant that I trusted myself enough to recognize a legitimate threat when it appeared, and I didn’t need to constantly be on the hunt for where the non-existent threats were hiding.

That was my outer psychological iron—the weapons and armor against the outside world. Now I’m looking inward. In what ways psychologically has my mind collected too much “iron” against itself? In what ways have I depleted my spiritual energy by holding onto something heavy?

Iron is also the metal used to make fences for graveyards because it is believed to keep the ghosts inside.

Batavia Cemetery surrounded by iron fence. Public domain.

Batavia Cemetery surrounded by iron fence. Public domain.

As an abuse survivor, I know I’ve also built up protections against myself. I’ve put fences around certain memories to keep their ghosts inside. I’ve shut pain up behind iron doors and hung a mobile of iron knives and sheers above the cradle of my childhood.

These were defenses I set up long ago, and though I’ve been on a healing journey that has led me to lowering defenses, facing truth, unlocking doors, and freeing memories, there are still many that remain bound behind the iron of my psyche.

At the solstice, I had the feeling I was emotionally menstruating, shedding the old layer of work that was complete and beginning a new cycle into a deeper layer of my healing. Now, as I wait more or less patiently for my body to be able to shed its literal iron (I seriously cannot wait to bleed it out!), I consider the ways that I can release the psychological iron of an over-protective and somewhat weary soul.


20 thoughts on “The Alchemy of Iron Overload

  1. wow…I ve just come across this page when looking for more information on iron overload…I went to see a doctor because I had been feeling sick for some time and as a UC patient I was afraid that my body was fighting someting I couldn´t ignore anymore. My doctor told me there is too much iron in my blood and I´m seeing a specialist tomorrow. Sice diagnosed with Uc last year I ve been thinking a lot about psychosomatics…and what you ve written makes so MUCH sense to me…it´s just…wow…

    • Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Iron overload is really not a pleasant bodily experience. I’m glad my post gave you something to chew on, and I hope that your doctors can treat you faster than mine are treating me. 😦

  2. annelaurie56 says:

    Love this blog, your thoughts on the symbolism of iron. I went to an energy healer for terrible pain in my solar plexus. I saw a rusted rod sticking out of my third chakra. I was amazed. I realized that was put in place in my childhood to protect me from trauma. It was some kind of metal. Maybe iron. I removed it with the healer and my deceased father’s spirit. Bless you.

  3. Timmy says:

    Thank you for this. I have been wondering lately why my body thinks it needs so much iron. Your answer is provocative. I’ve had HH for 2.5 years, but haven’t had a bloodletting in 9 months. Turns out I was overbled into anemia – no reserves are left in my tissue -and currently I’m running on transient iron with the reintroduction of red meat into my diet. Can’t complain about that (I love me my pot roast). Also, a crippling brain fog has lifted, as previously there was not enough iron for oxygen to hitch a ride to my brain, which also routinely is full of acetaldehyde from a malabsorption condition. I was very strict with myself before, no red meat and blocking absorption through various means… turmeric, tannins, calcium. Through this experience I’ve found a path that is restoring strength to my sword arm, however. Transmuting base metal into gold, so to speak. Again, thanks for your thoughts.

    • Ugh, yeah, I’ve heard of people being bled into anemia. It’s such a tough balance. I hope that you continue to seek out balance through diet and treatment. Good luck!

  4. Monica says:

    Thank you, Every ailment emotional mental or physical, Ive ever had Ive been able to reverse or remiss, by finding the spiritual meaning behind it and tweeking my diet and prayers and meditation, usually before the doctors did more damage. Im hoping for the same with this ‘issue of blood’, reaching for his garment now.

    • If you have high iron please do not forego the doctor in favor of spirituality only. That’s not what I recommend at all in this post. Spirituality is often an asset in healing but there are definitely things that need medical attention. The way if taking care of iron overload is by drawing out blood in much the same way a blood donation center does. It’s the least invasive form of medical intervention I can think of. I did not reverse my iron stores by prayers. I had treatment. You should not consider this a testament of faith healing.

      • timmyherrig says:

        I appreciate your balance. The best of western medicine took me from a coma on the brink of end-of-life protocol to ecstatic recovery, with ongoing troubles, granted, but it’s better than dead. Love played a major role in saving my life. Love flipped the switch I think. Never underestimate the power of love. Love works. It’s why all of us are here.

  5. timmyherrig says:

    Monica, I had a 2-month checkup last Monday. Previously my ferritin was 56, but only 28 on Monday. I did nothing different except come under the care of a physical therapist for osteo-arthritis, who turns out to be a magnificent holistic healer. I do ankle pumps and stimulate neuro-lymphatic points for lymphatic drainage, I work the Five Elements and trace meridians. Suddenly, after a few weeks, it’s like I no longer have HH. Energy systems fly under the Western medicine radar, or MRI, or CATSCAN, and other Western measuring devices, but in my experience are profound. Best of health to you.

  6. flybylove says:

    My ferritin levels are only about 7 at the moment. My body struggles to store iron for some reason. I am vegetarian but I eat other stuff. I wonder what the metaphysical reason is for not storing enough? I am trying to find reasons how to increase it because I suffer from terrible fatigue and it is destroying my life. And I have had my fair share of abuse and betrayal by those I love also…

    • I’m unfamiliar with any medical knowledge that would explain difficulty getting enough iron, but I hope you’re working with a doctor to figure out the reasons and how you can increase the iron available to your system. Anemia is a sucky condition. I don’t think my spiritual take on my own health is in any way universal. It’s how I processed what I couldn’t change while I was in a holding pattern with my doctors, waiting on a game plan of how to move forward. After some intense phlebotomies, my iron levels returned to normal and have stayed relatively normal with periodic blood draws and lifestyle adjustments. If you’re working with a doctor and are feeling stuck like me, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to look for a deeper symbolic meaning, but please don’t mistake this post to mean that your iron issues also have to be more than just a physical phenomenon.

  7. Kimberly Zuller says:

    I am the complete opposite of you! I wish you could give me your Iron! I have had over 10 blood transfusions in less than 2 years! Still don’t know what’s wrong!!! I wish you all the best, and I know you will get better!

  8. Goutham Zampani says:

    I’m a civil engineer and I have been looking into the possible of effects of iron on human body, as the world in the last few centuries has increased its consumption of metals (at least in civil field). I really liked your insights. Thank you. I would like to discuss more on this.

  9. Leah says:

    Thank you for this!!! I recently found out that I had iron overload as well and what you wrote makes SO MUCH sense because I’m an abuse survivor as well. Thank you! Thank you! thank you!!!

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