Month: February 2015

Depression – Fighting the Battle

Depression – Fighting the Battle

depression
Cineraria

There is no way to measure the pain of depression. There are no blood tests, x-rays, or questionnaires to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not an individual is suffering from depression. There are educated guesses. There are circumstances suggesting the possibility and likelihood of its presence. How much suffering can be endured is relative to the individual in all illnesses, but depression has a way of going unnoticed, of being looked upon as a behavioral or character flaw, not only by outsiders looking in but by the sufferer as well.

Depression is a nebulous disease. It creeps on us going undetected and managed through force of will and determination. Those with long-term depression often have not known anything other than a dark state of mind. They don’t know they’re suffering unless, or until, it becomes too hard to handle or their lives are turned upside down by poor decisions made by a depressed mind. It’s a tragic disease. It’s a disease that significantly alters the course of an individual’s life. And yet, there is no effective diagnosis and no guaranteed treatment or prevention.

Depression is widely treated with medication and therapy.  Almost anyone can walk into their doctor’s office, tell their physician they’re feeling blue and can’t seem to snap out of it, and be given a prescription for antidepressants — especially women — especially those over fifty. I have a problem with this. We’re a quick fix society that loves a fast, easy solution to problems. I’m pretty sure there is no such thing when it comes to treating depression. There are too many variables. There are too many physical, emotional and experiential dynamics at play.

Popping a pill doesn’t address unresolved issues. Therapy doesn’t address diet and exercise. Like most things, I’m a fan of addressing the whole person when it comes to most things. We’re way too complex creatures to toss a pill at a problem and call it a day.

TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION

  • Prescription Drugs – use is on the rise and prices are getting cheaper. Effectiveness is always up for discussion. They work great for some, not so much for others and not at all for a few.
  • Therapy – a valuable addition to the arsenal. Finding the right therapist is crucial. I always recommend interviewing potential therapists and choosing one with whom you feel comfortable and understood; someone who speaks the same language. This takes work, but it’s worth the effort and saves time and money in the long run. Researching types of therapy can be an added plus. More on that later.
  • Exercise – Research has shown repeatedly that exercise boosts endorphins and energy and effectively fights depression. It also combats stress which also can be a factor in depression.
  • Diet – Food allergies and sensitivities can create a physiological environment for depression or worsen an existing depression. Working with someone who understands and knows how the body reacts to a variety foods and circumstances can be very beneficial, a Naturopath for instance. Research has begun to show the ill effects sugar has on our bodies in general and it may in fact, exacerbate depression.
  • Body Work – Everything and anything we do to improve our health and well-being can help counteract depression. Massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, sauna, etc.
  • Spiritual Practices – Meditation, guided imagery meditation, prayer, mindfulness, reflective reading, etc.
  • Education – Learning something new opens the mind to new ways of thinking and re-directs our thoughts along more constructive pathways. Habits of thought are insidious and take a concerted effort to change. Therapy is one avenue, but reading and studying can also be helpful.
  • New Experiences – Depression tends to cause us to shut down and close the doors to our lives. A new experience  may be like a breath of fresh air that lifts the spirits. This, of course, would depend on the depth and nature of the depression.

SEEK HELP AND SUPPORT FOR DEPRESSION

The bottom line is that if you suffer from depression, chances are good that your quality of life suffers. Seeking treatment and support is absolutely a must. It is not something one can manage on ones’ own. It just isn’t. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner relief can be found. That being said, trusting your instincts and being your own advocate is important. If something feels right or works, do it. If it doesn’t, leave it alone and go on to another option. Do consider a variety of simultaneous treatments. We are, after all, very complex creatures!

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HOW TO RECOGNIZE DEPRESSION IN THE ELDERLY

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

 “Not all those who wander are lost.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

One belief, wrongly held, can cast a shadow over one’s entire life.
What do you believe? Do you know what’s driving you?

Over the last decade in my work with women over fifty, I have heard said countless times, “I don’t feel that way anymore”, and “I don’t worry about that anymore. It’s just not important.” The process of self-evaluation seems to begin in earnest as we begin to feel our bodies entering the “maturing woman” phase of life. There is a clear moment in time when we are forced to accept that we are no longer “young” and in our youth driven society that can come as quite a shock! I see it as a gift.

A shock of any kind can be just what we need to shake us out of our complacency. It forces us to ask the hard questions, to look at what we believe to be true at the most fundamental level. When we ask these questions, when we look deep inside of ourselves and ask, “who am I?” and “what do I believe” we set in motion a tidal wave of change.

Our lives cannot change unless we change…on the inside. This does not always appear to be the easiest option! We think it’s so much easier to just tolerate our discomfort, or change externals to alleviate our dis-ease. We imagine that if we get a new job, a new house, a new spouse, a new blouse all will be well. Has that ever worked for you in the long run? It hasn’t for me.

The bottom line is that to live a congruent, energy filled life as we age it is necessary to line up our insides with our outsides. In other words, we have to get in touch with our fundamental beliefs and values and start living them. I believe we are all challenged to do this, if by nothing else than our pain and suffering, for when we are living and acting in contrast to our fundamental values, we will suffer.

What questions need asking?

Knowing what questions to ask often comes along with whatever difficulty we are facing. When my mother was in the last years of her life a conflict arose in my family as to where she should live. I wanted to bring her home to live with my husband and me. My four siblings wanted her to stay put in the retirement home. My mother gave me every indication that she wanted to live with us, was, in fact, desperate to get out of the retirement home and get back into a more comfortable home environment, but, it was very clear she would not ask directly for this, nor would she advocate for herself. It was left to me to decide whether or not I should act counter to the rest of the family. It was a touch place to be as I hurt deeply for my mother. I understood her sense of isolation and loneliness. I wanted nothing more than to ease her pain, but there would be serious consequences. It was time for me to dig deep and wrestle with what I believed at the deepest level. Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • Is it worth creating a rift with my siblings that could cause long after my mother was gone?
  • Was my perspective of the situation of any more value and importance than my siblings?
  • Am I responsible for my mother’s happiness?
  • Is her happiness more important than my own?

I came to recognize that while I value family and doing what we can for those we love to ease their pain, they alone are responsible for their happiness, as am I for my own. Happiness is an inside job. Contentment is an inside job. As harsh as it sometimes sounds, even now, the seeds of my mother’s despair were sowed throughout her lifetime. I could never fix that, nor did I want the responsibility for it anymore.

Asking the question is the first and most important step.

When we look closer at an area of our lives that is causing us distress and pose a question that does not contain the word “do” (i.e. what should I do), or have person’s name attached to it, (i.e. what is Johnny’s real issue), then we are getting closer to the question that needs to be asked. You may want to begin by asking, “what do I believe to be true for me in this situation” and what are my underlying beliefs and values about this situation. Formulating the deepest, richest question you can find will take you in the direction of your answer and your resolution.

Listen to the Silence

Listen to the Silence

Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com
Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com

Winter weather has descended on many of us in full force in recent weeks. My brother called from New Hampshire to assure me that while yes, he is buried in snow, he is surviving. That’s what they do in New England!  At that point, the total was 96 inches. Yikes! We’ve lived in the south for close to twenty years and while it’s not uncommon for us to be turning on the air conditioning when he’s pulling out his snow shovel, this year the heat has run pretty much non-stop. That was until our heat pump decided it was tired.  The silence was deafening and noticeable even before the temperature in the house began to plummet. If you have forced air heat, like we do, you know what I mean!

True silence is hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but when a background noise like our heat stops, my whole body heaves a sigh of relief. It’s a reminder to me of how much stress can be created by sound.  The sensation of our bodies relaxing is their way of saying, “Thank you. I really need the quiet.” Silence feeds us. External noise, especially extraneous sounds that are not particularly pleasing, is a stressor that can zap our energy.

There’s another kind of background noise, and that’s the running commentary that chips away at our self-confidence throughout the course of each day.  It’s often a very unconscious dialogue, but it’s there nonetheless. I’m talking about those thoughts and comments to ourselves  that are less than kind.  I’ll give you an example, though it may not be necessary. You walk into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee on your way to work. There’s a line at the counter and you’re running late. Your inner conversation may be something like, “I should have gotten up earlier. I’m already late, I should just go. But, I really want coffee. I stayed up too late. I should have gone to bed earlier. God, I wish I wasn’t so old. I wish I had more energy. I wish I looked like that woman there looks. I bet she isn’t going to be late for work.” You know what I mean, right?

In order to turn off, or turn down, the noise in our lives, internal or external, we first have to become aware of it. Occasionally we receive a free reminder when circumstances occur like our heater breaking. At other times it is necessary to be pro-active, to take specific steps to create a quieter world.

I have begun to turn off my phone and simply check it periodically for missed calls. Not everyone is happy about that, but it’s the best way I know how to downgrade my stress level and to create the quiet I need. How can you create a quieter world for yourself?

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.

It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok

 

 

 

 

 

Simplify Your Life

Simplify Your Life

By Jim Daly Americana Artist
By Jim Daly
Americana Artist

Windows to Wisdom: “Simplify your life. Make room wherever and whenever you can for new ideas, new experiences, new friends, and new experiences.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I really need to be happy?” Most of us live wrapped in a cocoon of material abundance. Even if, and maybe especially if, we think we do not have enough, most of us have everything we need. Perhaps it is our propensity to keep looking and striving for more that makes it impossible for us to appreciate what is right in front of us. The noise in our head blocks the path to our heart.

Many over fifty, particularly women, have fallen on hard times financially. Choices and happenstance, divorce, job loss, medical expenses can pile up to the point where we feel as though we are living in a vice. If we’re not careful, self-pity and despair will become our outlook on life. We may become so focused on what we do not have, on our lack, that we forget to be grateful for all that remains.

Simplifying one’s life in all areas creates space for the “enough” to filter through.  Eliminating the longing, the self-pity, the demand we place on ourselves to keep up with our own expectations,  opens a window and allows the fresh breezes of a new perspective, a new appreciation for what is right in front of us, to blow in and wash away the debris of the past. Contentment may just be right in front of us, right within reach. We simply need to make room for it.

Simplifying is a process and a practice, not an exercise we do once.  To carry the expectation that we can sweep through our lives, strip everything away and walk away free and at peace is an illusion. You see the process of simplifying is both internal and external and one depends on, and supports, the other.  It requires changing many thought patterns, habits and behaviors, each one a valuable step in the process. If we do not walk through the process we may find ourselves back where we started in no time.

Wherever you are in the process of simplifying begin there. Even if you’ve already eliminated all the extraneous things in your life that you think you can, take another look. Is there a habit of thought that does not serve you? Is there a book on your book shelf that someone else might benefit from? Push the edges of your comfort zone. It keeps us on our toes, it keeps the air moving within us, it keeps some space for the voice of our hearts to emerge.

The Evolution of the Hollywood Heartthrob by Sylvia Safran Resnick

The Evolution of the Hollywood Heartthrob by Sylvia Safran Resnick

A DELIGHTFUL WALK DOWN MEMORY LANESylvia

Hollywood reporter  Sylvia Resnick not only writes about the evolution of Hollywood heartthrobs, she lived it! (Learn more about Sylvia’s fascinating life in my review of her book, The Walton Family Cookbook.) Sylvia’s new book, The Evolution of the Hollywood Heartthrob, offers us a perspective of Hollywood that we may not have thought about, and one I found,, particularly intriguing.

As a young woman I swooned over the likes of Clark Gable, Tyrone Power (Zorro my very first fantasy super hero), Gregory Peck, Richard Burton, Tony Curtis, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, just to name a few. Growing up in the fifties, we were given  a delightful array of charming male heartthrobs to fall in love with, while awaiting our own knight in shining armor to come along and swoop us off our feet.

The Big Screen world evolved before our very eyes. Most of us took it for granted. We were drawn in, mesmerized by the allure of the bigger than life characters that have now become a part of every day life, oblivious to how it would change our perspective on so many aspects of life. The Evolution of the Hollywood Heartthrob lays this evolution out for us in black and white. Looking through the lens of the men in our Hollywood lives, Sylvia takes us decade by decade, through the lives of the most enchanting of male actors, complete with photos, biographical information, facts, films, and bits of personal info that we likely did not know. An overview of the most significant world events lays the groundwork for each decade. It’s fascinating.

Sylvia’s new book is a great book to peruse on lazy weekend afternoon, or a snowy day like the one we have here today. I keep my copy close at hand on a table in my living room. It’s a perfect coffee table book, a conversation starter and a perfect gift for anyone who loves the movies, and who doesn’t!

The Evolution of the Hollywood Heartthrob is available on Amazon.

 

 

Dine In this Valentine’s Day & Rekindle the Romance

Dine In this Valentine’s Day & Rekindle the Romance

Couple Cooking Food in KitchenGUEST POST by Wanda Fish

If you don’t know already, here’s the dirty little secret about Valentine’s Day: you don’t have to go out in order to create a memorable evening.

Don’t believe me?

There are a lot of reasons that make dinner at home a better option than dining out, but here are the top three.

Avoid the Holiday Traffic
Even if you somehow manage to get a reservation for Valentine’s Day this late in the game, you’re going to be among dozens of other couples doing the same thing in the same place. You’ll probably be packed into the restaurant like sardines, with barely enough room at your sides to cut into your steak (or whatever you’re eating).

Dinner at home provides a quiet and personal environment that allows you to devote all of your attention to one another. You won’t be bothered by waiters buzzing around and the noisy conversations at nearby tables. Instead, put on some romantic tunes and be serenaded instead.

Choose your favorite dish, or select something with that extra dash of romanticism using Food & Wine’s recipe and drink suggestions. Plan an amorous atmosphere with strategically placed candles and flowers, and don’t forget to break out the flatware and plates reserved for special occasions.

Incorporate the Food into Your Play
If 9 ½ Weeks has taught us anything, it’s that food can definitely be sexy. Make the decision to dine at home this Feb. 14, and, if you dare, recreate that famous food scene yourself!

According to Reader’s Digest, consider opting for foods that serve as aphrodisiacs, such as oysters, or dishes including artichokes, olive oil, or pumpkin seeds. Different fruits are also a must-have, such as watermelon, figs, bananas, and strawberries. Get bonus points by including chocolate fondue or whipped cream for dipping.

There are a few things to avoid.  Adam and Eve advises on their blog to stay away from anything spicy. They also recommend being sure to avoid anything that can cause an allergic reaction. These may sound like obvious tips, but it’s a helpful reminder, especially if you’re putting something together at the last second.

Show You Still Care
Whipping up an indulgent dinner at home for your loved one is a gift in itself. As Epicurious says in this article, it serves as an act of love that can enrich your lives, strengthen your bond, while tantalizing your taste buds. It also makes your loved one feel like royalty.

The effort you put into creating a dish is a perfect way to show your loved one how much you care.  When you see the smile on their face you will know that you are appreciated.  You may also enjoy creating the meal together, an activity that many couples really enjoy. There’s nothing like a joint project to bring you back together, and after all, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? It’s an opportunity to celebrate your relationship by carving out a special time for just the two of you. Honor each other and celebrate the moments you have together.

Wanda Fish, of Orlando, Florida, has been married to her husband Ben for 30 plus years. She enjoys writing and contributing blogs on a variety of subjects in a desire to pass on her relationship knowledge, particularly to the younger generation.