Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Old and New

The last few decades there has been a big emphasis on taking care of self. Make yourself happy, no one else can or will. For people who tend to be passive or allow themselves to be walked on, this message is desperately needed. Overall though, I don’t think we Americans need to be more self-focused. We could stand to be more other-focused.

Whenever I drive my dad to have lunch with his cousins, it’s a good hour-long trek. It’s the area I grew up in so sometimes he has me drive past our old house. No matter what though, we stop at the fire hall. He was honored last year for 60 years of service. Volunteering for 60 years is not something that people do anymore, myself included. Short spurts if anything, right?

Anyhow, we stop at the hall and he has to roam around and check things out. I often wonder what is going through his mind. It got me thinking about old/new, which got me thinking about my wish for us to be other-minded.

On the one hand, I think Dad has earned the right to roam anytime he wants. He has earned the right to his opinions about how things should be. He is respected there, as he should be. I also think about knowing when to bow out. There is also wisdom in the young moving in and having fresh ideas. Sometimes the quality of things isn’t as good, sometimes the creativity is even better. It takes grace to balance the two – standing your ground and making way for others. I think Dad has done a pretty great job of managing both.

I got to thinking about any time that we embark on something new. It might be entering a new family, church, job, group of any sort. I can see those long-standing members looking at the newbie and thinking, “Who do they think they are waltzing in here and changing things?” And they would be right to a certain extent.

It would all work out beautifully if everyone thought about the other instead of themselves. It would be on the shoulders of the new to say, “Who am I to come in and rock the boat?” It would be on the shoulders of the old to say, “How about I make this new person and their ideas feel welcome? I’ve had my chance to do things my way.”

Perhaps it is not realistic, but I think the world would be a much nicer place if we acted in a way that put others first. If all parties did so, life could potentially be more balanced and we could cherish the wisdom of the old and celebrate the ingenuity of the new.

Well, at least I will try to do my part in those situations. I challenge you to try the same.

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Spect Imaging Results

Last year, I started surfing the net about Spect Brain Imaging. Dr. Daniel Amen is the name I had been turned on to and I began listening to his many lectures on-line. Since then, I have spoken to a couple of critics of his work. Overall, the feeling is that he claims brain imaging can do more than it actually does, but there is merit to the concept.

My interest was twofold. One, my son plays hockey and is a defenseman. He takes a lot of hard hits and is a tough player. Dr. Amen works a great deal with NFL players and has done a ton of research on concussions and the effects on the brain. Secondly, being a psychiatrist, he showed some fascinating brain scans related to depression, ADHD and other conditions.

As a mom, I want to know. As a mental health counselor, I want to know. And as a person that has had several decades of struggling with depression, I want to know.

Turns out there is one psychiatrist in western NY that does Spect imaging. I waited several months and finally got in. An MRI and Spect image together seem to offer the greatest combination of information, so I complied. Last week I got the results.

“Impression: Abnormal Resting Brain Bicisate Spect Due to:

There is diffuse frontal cortical hypoperfusion with pericallosal medial frontal sparing, most consistent with long-standing or refractory depression.”

What the heck does that mean? As the local skeptics suspected, the results didn’t do much of anything to change the course of treatment for me, which is why there is question as to its usefulness. However, it did something less tangible for me, but still quite important.

People who don’t struggle with depression often have difficulty understanding it. For people like me who have a good family, an excellent support system, and a host of other “blessings” in my life, understanding how I could be depressed sometimes is almost impossible. And for people like me who are self-critical, there is a huge level of guilt that comes with the depression because I am fully aware of all the gifts in my life. Feeling depression seems wrong and ungrateful.

I’ve tried absolutely everything over the years. I couldn’t even list all of the medications that I’ve gone through. Counseling, of course. Psychiatrists. Acupuncture. Spiritual Direction. Daily affirmations. Gratitude journals. Vitamin D. I can’t even remember all of the latest and greatest hopes and remedies to help cure depression that I have tried.

Now I’ve “tried” brain imaging. I actually found it to be validating. I can now articulate in another way what is going on with me, especially when talking to the people I run into that think I should be able to change how I feel if only I would really try. My brain indicates refractory depression. When I asked what that meant, I was told, “resistant to treatment.” The doctor said that is perfectly consistent with how I describe my life. Medications help me manage, but I’ve never been free from depression.

Currently, we know about Serotonin and Dopamine. There is research happening that looks at entirely different types of issues. There is some success, but we aren’t close to having anything on the market yet. So until then, I will keep managing the best I can. But I also can now articulate what I have always known in my heart: My wiring doesn’t respond to the typical treatments. It just doesn’t. No amount of willing or wanting or self-discipline will alter that.

I will work on dropping the guilt from the list of emotions that come along with the struggle. THAT is useful.


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I Call Bullsh**t!

I get that the world we live in is different from what it used to be, but sometimes I wonder how the heck some things are allowed to go on.

This week was nothing earth shattering or considered high on the importance scale of life, but I found myself irritated none-the-less. Maybe you can identify with some of these types of situations.

  • An oil change taking over 75 minutes. When asked, I got a response of, “Well, we washed your car for you” like that would take that long. I would have appreciated an answer like, “We got backed up. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
  • Having to shop for tires and having it explained that even though they are billed as 60K tires, everyone assumes they only last around 40K. The higher number is only in ideal driving conditions, which exist no where in the world.
  • Finding out that the tires require an additional $99 fee for alignment. Yep, you can buy four new tires but they won’t be put on properly. If you don’t pay for the alignment, you forfeit your warranty. So let’s be honest here. The tires are an additional $25 each.  I’d rather have that said upfront.
  • Having a business cash your payment, but not post it to your account. They can’t locate the payment anywhere, but the bank shows it has been cashed. They then need another couple of business days to research where it is. In the meantime, they dock your paycheck for the loan you’ve taken, even though you have paid it off. The bonus? No, we can’t call you when we locate your money. You have to keep calling us back.  Double standard. When it comes to us paying our hard earned money, no leniency. When it comes to them, they have unlimited time to do whatever they need to.
  • You ask the local chapter of your professional agency a question. They tell you to post the question on the national listserv. You do so and the answer is that you should ask your local chapter those kinds of questions. Obviously, no one plans to help me.

Like I said, nothing monumental. It is aggravating though, day after day. Sometimes it is just exhausting to have to be on your guard and have your thinking cap on every minute to make sure you know what is going on. And it is hard to be powerless when you can’t get what you need to live your life the way you are supposed to.

I call bullshit.

End rant.


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Job Hunting Woes

Since January, I have been actively trying to figure out how to generate new business for myself that combines some of the skills, experience and passion I have developed over the last several years. I am still going to do therapy, but I want to do something in addition.

If I could sum it up, I would like to do what I do for my dad but be able to make an income. If that means hands on help for someone, that would be great. If it means teaching medical professionals how to do a better job with patient and family concerns, that would be great too. If I could use my speaking skills to teach people how to help get their affairs in order – or their loved ones’, that would also be great.

For almost five months I have been emailing and making phone calls. I am the queen of networking. I’ve joined organizations, attended seminars, and had more meetings than I know what to do with. It is usually informative and fruitful, but I come home with another five things to add to my follow up list. I am pursuing hospitals, rehabs, assisted living, hospice, financial advisers, attorneys, insurance agents, etc. – anyone that could possibly interact with folks who need my services.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all is how many times I have heard the statement, “There is a huge, huge need for what you are trying to do.” I have known that every time I have been somewhere with my dad and know that 98% of everyone else there doesn’t have someone to voice their concerns. All those professionals I talk to see it every day, sometimes several times a day. Their services have an end point and people need more than they can offer.

But I have yet to be hired to help even one person.

I am pretty aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I know which things I am good at. My favorite thing is the speaking gigs. I get tremendous feedback when I talk. I get feedback from others who overhear people talking about one of my lectures and how helpful and/or moving it was.

But I have yet to be able to give a Tedtalk. I have not been accepted by speaker’s bureaus and have no idea why.

People have always hated job hunting. It is hard to stay positive and deal with daily rejection. The more depressed you get, the harder it is to sell yourself. I haven’t had to face this in a while, but I am reminded now to be compassionate to others who are being challenged by this. And I am reminded to be grateful for the fact that I am still working while I am out there searching. Lots of people don’t have that luxury. And I have a boyfriend who cheers me on every day, even when I drone on about my headache from hitting my head against the brick wall.

Woes? Yes, but so many more blessings to focus on.


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You Never Know

Do you ever get discouraged?

I’m quite sure it’s a normal part of the human experience. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I think things that I probably thought in my 40’s, maybe even younger. Why am I still dealing with this? Do you ever just stop worrying about certain things?

Recently with adding job re-design and hunting to my life, I find myself in the place where I was a couple of years ago – exhausted. Most days I leave a lengthy list of things that I don’t get done that get cut and paste into tomorrow. I know I’ve been productive all day, there just is more to do. Lots more.

Lately I haven’t been sleeping well either. Last night I was still awake at 3:45 am, knowing I had to wake Frankie at 5. I ended up skipping an important seminar in the morning and slept until 11. Then the most productive part of my day (usually) has been lost and the rest of the day is spent playing a hopeless game of catch-up. The only reason I’m blogging now is because I forgot to confirm an appointment so by the time I remembered we had to reschedule.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not looking for a pat on the back. I am just trying to be realistic here. Does anyone really care about blogs? Does anyone even have time for them? Most weeks I love writing because it helps me process life, but sometimes I stare at a blank screen and wonder if I should bother.

Then I get something unexpected. This time, it was an email from an old friend several states away. I met her through my first husband, so you know that was quite a while ago. I don’t even remember the last time we spoke.

Anyhow, she reached out to tell me she was hurting terribly. She has read both of my books and been following my blogs for years now. That has enabled her to keep up with the basic gist of my life. She has now lost both of her parents and gone through a divorce after 35+ years of marriage. Many of those losses were piggy backed cruelly on top of each other. My heart broke for her.

I had no idea she even remembered who I was. I certainly didn’t know she had invested so much time into following my story. I was humbled and honored all at once. Again, it is not about the pat on the back. It is about the reminder that as we conduct our lives, we really have no idea whatsoever who is watching. We don’t know who we are impacting – for good or bad. Reminds me of the verses in the Bible where it talks about how we might entertain angels, not knowing we are doing so.

Thank you my friend for being the life jacket I needed this week. You gave me purpose when I was feeling discouraged. If you are reading this, please know I look forward to talking soon. It will be my honor to walk through any part of your journey with you as you navigate the difficult waters of re-inventing yourself after tremendous loss. I love you!


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Impatience is Not a Virtue

I feel like I have a fair number of strengths but patience has definitely not been one of them. It took me until I was an adult to realize that I get that from my dad. He is one of those guys that when he wants an answer or needs to do something, he demands an immediate response. He is a gentle and quiet guy though, so it took me a while to figure that out.

I’ve been thinking about it the last 48 hours that I’ve been watching the snow fall in the month of April, feeling the freezing, strong wind. I walk the dog every day and still have layers of clothing along with a winter coat, hat and gloves. I know I’m not alone. Most people have been sick of this typical Buffalo winter since the beginning of March. We have paid up for the last two mild winters in full. When the heck is spring coming? Fine, skip it, but then let summer come.

That kind of impatience doesn’t really hurt anyone except me. It makes me complain about not getting away to somewhere sunny this winter after I promised myself I would all year. It gives me an excuse to give in if the depression knocks at my door. But mostly I only make myself miserable.

Being impatient with others though is a different story. Sometimes, people say I have the patience of a saint. Sometimes, I put up with things much, much longer than I should. I have a very high forgiveness tolerance too. I guess I don’t fall on the evil scale when it comes to the big picture.

But sometimes, I do hurt people with how impatient I am. I am a type A driven person who has learned to get things done yesterday. I have a hard time understanding why everyone doesn’t behave that way. What? You know you have to do that and you didn’t stay up all night to accomplish it? What? You know you have that deadline and you didn’t power through your pneumonia anyway? I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.

I’m heading back for a refresher appointment with the spiritual director I used to see regularly. She was relentless with her acceptance of other people and distributing unconditional love to the best of her ability. I need her to remind me of the big picture and being kind to myself while also fully understanding that I don’t hold the key to the secrets of the universe. She helps me be true to my path, but recognize that other people have their own.

One of my dear friends reminded me today that as a single parent who has handled the myriads of things I have managed over the years, I have had to be tough and uber-responsible. I can’t lose some of those standards and boundaries I have shed so much blood, sweat and tears to earn. But I also want to remember to be kind and gentle, and learn to relax a bit. I’ve made some progress over the years, but life has a way of bringing things back full circle to you.

Moral of the story is, that in some ironic way, I am asking others to be patient with me and my growth, at the same time that patience is so lacking in myself. Kinda nervy, isn’t it?

Well, be patient with me.