Revisiting the Why of What I Do

My Manhattan Office

How my New York office looked from where I sat for many years

Reposted from August 2016

[The panorama above of my Manhattan office shows so much of what has been important to me. The watercolor over the couch was painted by my mother, an accomplished artist, may she Rest in Peace. The stone Buddha head was a cherished gift that I gave a colleague when shlepping it home on the subway proved too daunting. The glowing shape near the far window is a Himalayan salt lamp. The green mid-century modern chair is the only furniture I brought with me to Florida where I now live and work. It sits in my garage awaiting refurbishing, its woven tape faded and badly snagged often and enthusiastically by the cat after I brought it home.]

In New York City where I practiced for over twenty years, it seemed as if everyone knew what psychotherapy is, even if they hadn’t ever experienced it personally. Occasionally I’d meet with an older patient whose primary physician or psychiatrist had referred them to me for treatment, and they’d say something like, “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do.” A discussion would follow, and soon we’d be “doing psychotherapy” every week. But many elderly people are psychotherapy-savvy, a case in point being a ninety year old woman in New York who had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis fifty years before she came to me to address a current issue.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So these days, I’m explaining psychotherapy a little more often, and helping shed a light on experiences that have baffled, frightened, confounded or annoyed my patients. I’m describing how certain medications treat depression and why they aren’t good for people with the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

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Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I’m cataloging symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and helping patients gauge how much those symptoms interfere with functioning and their overall quality of life. Sometimes just asking a question about obsessions triggers access to a deeper emotional issue never before spoken to another. As I was psychodynamically trained, I enjoy helping a patient explore a dream for its value in clarifying issues, past and current. I take my role as therapist and guide along this most challenging journey very seriously.

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Flatiron Building, Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

As we prepared to move out of New York, I considered retiring. For about five minutes. I got a late start on my career as a psychologist so there’s a practical, financial incentive to continue, but there’s an even more important reason I am still actively working as a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy: I love the work. I enjoy meeting new people and sitting down with them to see what we can do together to alleviate their distress, resolve their conflicts, arrive at healthier alternatives to their problematic habits and behaviors, and find greater and deeper meaning in their lives, both in terms of the past, the present, and into the future.

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Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

I find it to be a great blessing helping people traverse very intense points on their path, such as dating, marriage or divorce; pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth; seeking, losing, improving or getting new jobs; illness, accident, treatment, death and grief, and as the late death and dying pioneer Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross taught us, acceptance. Acceptance of what has been and of what is, even when we wish it were different. Acceptance of what we’ve done and who we are, and acceptance of our ability to learn and grow and change despite the past, even though it can be extremely challenging and a lot of hard work.

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I alway have ended these posts with the Sanskrit word namasté, which basically means, “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

And so it is.

Namasté,

 

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Animals and Difficult Choices

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Wow! The circus animals depicted on the Animal Crackers box have been freed into their African habitat. How wonderful! I may have resumed eating some beef and chicken for reasons I will explain, but my love and concern for all beings remain very strong.

For about 10 years I have been a fervent, even strident, vegetarian, a large part of that time as a vegan. I eschewed silk, leather and honey. And then my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it turned our world up side down. And the Universe brought a number of people and articles into our awareness about a radical new treatment for AD. It’s called the ReCODE Protocol devised by UCLA neurologist Dale Bredesen, MD. We scoffed at first, but I did some research and also asked a clinician who treats AD if it was snake oil or just plain bullshit. She assured me it was legit, adding that a member of the medical staff had presented on it and said it was the real deal. The initial study included only 10 subjects but nine showed significant reversal of their cognitive decline after following the protocol. Dr. Bredesen has proposed a larger study and is awaiting approval by the UCLA institutional review board.

The ReCODE Protocol consists, in a nutshell, of a gluten-free diet that induces mild ketosis, fasting, and individually tailored supplements following extensive blood work and genetic testing, and medication. So I began preparing three meals a day for him following the protocol, and we had to find sources of grass fed beef and pastured chicken and eggs, and wild caught fish (except large fish such as tuna, shark, swordfish because of the mercury in their tissues). This ketogenic way of eating is important to reducing the environment in the body conducive to AD symptoms.

We found grass-fed ground beef at our local supermarket and I made a meatloaf. Pinterest has great ketogenic recipes and I found a winner. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed beef until this meatloaf was cooking. It was delicious. Then we went to a farm here in northeast Pennsylvania that sells grass-fed and grass-finished beef (some grassfed cattle are sent to standard feedlots to be fattened before slaughter) and bought a chuck roast and a brisket. When the chuck roast was cooking, the aroma was amazing, and it was fork tender and very tasty. I asked the farmer how they were raised and slaughtered, and he assured me both were humane. “They’re my babies,” he said. “I take them there myself. It’s done humanely. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

A local heath food store sells organic pastured chicken and organic, unpastured and uncured chicken sausages. I began making jerk chicken in the crockpot, another winner. I still eat vegetarian sausages because I like them. I serve his and mine with sauerkraut. Fermented foods are strongly encouraged, and I make mashed cauliflower with pastured butter and organic miso which make it creamy and tasty, and miso is fermented. We also make zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. I steam a head of organic cauliflower at least once a week, and I also make cauliflower home fries to serve him with his morning eggs. It’s a high fat diet, and we use avocados and olive oil dressings, and I cook with lots of avocado oil, coconut oil, and pastured ghee and butter. I prepare salmon patties using wild caught canned salmon mixed with Old Bay seasoning, chopped onion and green pepper, plus one egg, which makes four patties that he loves. One with veggies is usually enough, but sometimes he has two.

We found a doctor who was trained by Dr. Bredesen to treat my guy and she is helping us refine his plan according to the testing. He has lost a lot of weight, so she added brown rice, millet and quinoa to his diet. He is to eat a whole avocado daily. I was eventually too busy and stressed to keep preparing for two very divergent food plans, so I began eating meat again and maybe I was weak, but I’m at peace with it. I also have lost about 12 pounds after adding beef and chicken. Doing so has sped up my weight loss and moved me to within about 10 pounds of my goal.

So I’m so happy Nabisco changed the Animal Crackers box to reflect the reality that the circus has closed and the animals have been released to humane sanctuaries. I have gratitude for the animals who end up on our plates. I hope those who remain vegetarian and vegan will understand my decision to leave the fold. If not, be glad you don’t have to make the kinds of changes we have made in our lives to accommodate and hopefully reverse the cognitive decline of AD. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. The future is uncertain for all of us. But for us it is scary.

Namasté

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The Amazing Voice of Scotsman Andrew Johnson

Relaxing with Andrew Johnson

The voice of Scottish self-help and guided meditation master Andrew Johnson is hypnotic and oh so easy to listen to. Even if his words had nothing to do with relaxation and calm, his voice would help anyone relax who took the time to listen. The Insight Timer app has a broad selection of his guided meditations. YouTube also features several, including this one:

When my day doesn’t permit a luxurious sit of 20 minutes or more, or when I’m so stressed I just need a reliable route out of the tension, I listen to one of Andrew’s lush guided meditations. Many are very brief, others 30 minutes or more. As I’m going through some stressful times these days including a long distance move and all that it involves, Andrew’s guided meditations have saved my serenity. When I’m feeling exhausted, meditation of any type consistently refreshes me as well as or better than a nap in a fraction of the time.

Visit Andrew Johnson’s website if you’d like to learn more about him or browse through MP3s available there for purchase and download.

The Apple and Google app stores also offer Andrew Johnson apps, both free “junior” versions and longer ones for a modest fee to put his voice at your fingertips.

I’ve never used my blog to simply pitch anyone or anything, but I’ve shared interesting things I’ve found along my journey these days. So take it from me, a woman of Scottish ancestry, this voice really delivers relaxation. But I also love the bagpipes as most Scots do, and some people cannot stand them, freaked out as if being tortured by fingernails on a chalk board. So, to each his or her own. But I am enjoying Andrew’s efforts so much since I stumbled on his guided meditations that I thought you might want to check him out yourself.

Namasté

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 43

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On Week 43, I’m departing from my usual self-imposed prohibition of disseminating  specific political information. The week has been filled with newsy highs and lows, the lowest lows being when supporters of an accused pedophile cite the Bible to justify this skeevy, illegal and unethical behavior, and many use that, “If these allegations are true…” meme which discounts the words of the accuser. Blame the victim. Hadn’t we gotten better than this? I guess not. And the accused is blatantly trying to raise money off the story!

But then there’s another low that rips into the surface of decency and scars all who consume and buy into it: Minutes after the horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Russian bots apparently promulgated the falsehood that the shooter was a member of the anti-fascist group “Antifa” on social media, and it was spread for hours before being taken down.

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And now for our diversions. First, to cleanse the palate of the foregoing paragraphs, here are some words to live by.

 

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Another diversion that may have relevance in your life: It’s Open Enrollment season in the US for health insurance. This is the time individuals and families can shop for health insurance plans and switch to plans better than what they have now, or sign up for the first time. This includes Medicare recipients as well as those shopping for commercial plans. Several people I know have reported to me that, despite the dire predictions, they’ve gotten plans that are saving them money and still provide good coverage. Medicare recipients can elect to switch to Medicare Advantage plans that may save them money but vary greatly from state to state. It’s supposed to take a lot of the stress and cost out of medical costs not paid by Medicare, which includes the 20% and can include deductibles for a variety services and treatments. But the plans often dictate which healthcare providers their insureds can use, called “in network” providers and charge them more if they go out of network. As a psychologist I have had to turn down clients with some Medicare Advantage plans, while being paid by others. So listen and learn and ask around. Make some calls, go online and see what’s what. For all Medicare options, seniors and those on Social Security Disability can visit Medicare.gov, and most people under 65 should go to HealthCare.gov.

All is well with us, getting settled in our winter snowbird nest! Friends are visiting today and we look forward to showing them around. First stop will be Pinchers at Tin City, then a stroll down the ritzy 5th Avenue that leads right down to the beach. And then, who knows?

Yesterday we were eating lunch at our local Tropical Smoothie Café, and as usual they had great tunes playing. So I usually open my SoundHound app to see what we’re hearing. I have always loved this Duke Ellington song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and Gabin does it up brown, as my dad would say. I hadn’t heard this version before, and I love it! Enjoy!

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 42

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It’s Week 42 and between current events, the change to daylight standard time, aches and pains from a challenging gym workout, technical difficulties in the house and other distractions, I almost forgot to publish a post this week.

Okay, diversions coming right up. Have you I noticed that the latest slim cable boxes no longer feature digital clocks? Sure, we wear watches and have our phones and tablets nearby, but still. So we decided to look for a reasonably priced, analog, table top clock. They aren’t so easy to find! Nothing except wall clocks and digital clocks at the local Bed, Bath and Beyond. Only a few we didn’t like at our TJ Maxx. Decorator outlets and fine jewelry stores have lovely ones at more than we wanted to spend. So we checked on Amazon and found some good ones.

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Here’s one we liked enough to buy

 

I checked through the ideas I save on Google Keep for future posts and thought this piece on the herb turmeric might be interesting to my readers.

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There have been so many wild health claims made about turmeric that I was pleased to see that Memorial Sloan Kettering covers it here.  Turmeric is a rhizome, similar in appearance before slicing to ginger root. I use it in soups and stews and egg dishes and believe it adds healthful benefits. It’s nice to know that it can, provided cautions are observed.

I just love Sam Smith, and his new 2017 album is great. Here’s him doing “Pray”, one of the numbers he performed a few weeks back on SNL. Did you notice how slim he is? He lost over 50 pounds dropping dairy, gluten and sugar and doing much of his own meal prep. Enjoy his delicious voice!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Weekly 37



Now we find ourselves at Week 37. It’s been quite a challenge for the planet and for human kind. My mom’s 92 year old baby sister just fell and broke her pelvis. We are all praying for her healing and return to the active life she loves. Then my cousin finally got down to her home in Florida only to find leaks and other damage. Another cousin found that her Florida art gallery and museum and all the contents survived undamaged, although trees and plants on the grounds were devastated. Friends with property and family in Puerto Rico are anxious about their wellbeing. And then there’s the political circus with its twirling and gesticulating, gyrating and posturing, bellowing and sanctifying its innocence in the face of a blunt reality that begs to differ.

Painting  by Yukon artist Natalie Parenteau

Do you smudge? If not, here’s why you might want to start. Science backs up the belief many share that smudging is good for our health and can be good for the air we breathe. I do it in the office between clients sometimes, especially if the vibe has been especially intense or just to give me a lift. The wonderful work of Canadian artist Natalie Parenteau as seen above can be found here.

The colorful seaside neighborhood of La Perla in Puerto Rico inspired singer Luis Fonsi to write and perform his iconic “Despacito”. Before you get to enjoy the video make earlier this summer, here’s how La Perla looks after Hurricane Maria, in a sobering video clip.

Now, the joyous “before” to remind us all how much work will need to be done for the people of Puerto Rico and this pastel paradise to be restored to gain. “Despacito”:

                                                            Namasté