Finale by Marla Chalnick

My mom died on December 5th, just two weeks’ shy of her 90th  birthday. She left us the greatest gift. She made her wishes about the end of her life very clear to our family. She wanted to remain at home and pass away in her own house. She did not want any extraordinary measures to prolong her life. She did not want any service. She wanted her ashes buried next to my father at Valhalla cemetery.

She contacted a local funeral home and paid the final expenses. Writing instructions down very specifically on her favorite yellow legal pad and it witnessed by her caretaker seemed exactly what was needed.

This was not a binding legal document, but in my other’s case that didn’t matter. We were all aligned with her requests and were prepared to honor them. Her passing went exactly as she planned.

Not all families are so fortunate. The end of life is not usually a subject for conversation at the dinner table. There are many reasons why adult children and their aging parents avoid this discussion. For example:

Parents may believe it’s not necessary,

They may not want to talk about serious illness or death,

They may not want to be a burden.

To deal with this problem you might consider asking your parents 2 simple questions, even if you know the answers.

Do you have an advance directive?

If not, why not?

See if the answers give you any clues what’s stopping them.Dig a little deeper. You might say that you would feel better if you knew your loved one’s wishes before any problems arise. Try, “I love you and I wouldn’t want to do anything you didn’t agree with if you were ever unable to tell me yourself.

If you still meet with refusal, don’t push the issue on that occasion. Changing behavior takes time and often many conversations. Be willing to drop the subject if your loved one gets angry or upset, but explain you want to revisit the conversation again.

Then follow-up. A news story or the experience of a relative or friend might be the perfect opener. If you know your loved one’s doctor or religious advisor that might be helpful, suggest meeting with them.

If you’d like to read more about end of life planning, check out the work of these experts:

Doug Smith, author of “It Takes a Village to Say Good-Bye”

Stephen Kiernan, author of Last Rights:  Rescuing the End-Of-Life from the Medical System

Dr. Angelo Vallendes,  author of The Conversation

In our society, there’s a strong tendency to avoid talking about death. Don’t wait until your parents are too sick or too impaired to provide you with insights into what they want!

 

 

 

 

West Palm Beach: A Poem by Marla Chalnick

West Palm Beach

My mother is waiting to die in her sleep.
Her brain has been scrubbed clean.
I struggle to trust this renovation.

My 90-year-old mother lives alone in
a row of condos that resemble army barracks.
She is surrounded by counters covered,
closets overstuffed, piles, boxes
leave little room for her to move about.
It’s the kind of place where middle class
New York Jews go to live with disappointment.
Looking forward to the Early Bird Specials,
they wait to die, just not yet.

The Benefits of Baking by Marla Chalnick

dear-stress-lets-break-upPeople who bake use any excuse to heat up their ovens. They bake a cake to crown someone’s birthday, labor over cookies to celebrate a holiday, and whip up brownies because everyone loves chocolate. But it turns out that baking is about more than creating something sweet to eat. Baking, especially when it’s done for others, can be accompanied with a host of psychological benefits.

Baking is a productive form of self-expression and communication.

“Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, Donna Pincus, told HuffPost. “There’s a lot of literature for connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s painting or it’s making music [or baking], there is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”

Stress is related to a host of mental and physical problems, and finding ways to cope with that stress is important for leading a healthy life.

Here is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”

Stress is related to a host of mental and physical problems, and finding ways to cope with that stress is important for leading a healthy life.

When baking for other people, baking can also be a helpful way to communicate one’s feelings. Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, points to the cultural norm of bringing food to someone when a loved one has passed. Sometimes there are no words, and only food can communicate what you’re trying to say. She told HuffPost, “It can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thanks, appreciation or sympathy with baked goods.”

Julie Ohana, a licensed medical social worker and culinary art therapist, told HuffPost, “In many cultures, in many countries, food really is an expression of love, and it’s actually beautiful because it’s something we really all relate to. I think it could border on an unhealthy issue when it replaces communication in the traditional sense, but if it’s done along with communication, it is absolutely a positive and really wonderful thing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing Mt. Everest

This writing was shared with me by one of my clients. With her permission, I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!!!

I watched the Everest Imax movie in high school.

Climbers buy the best quality gear to help them in their quest to the top.  They search out the warmest, lightest outwear to protect themselves from the elements.  They hire the most experienced, capable guides to lead them.

Yet still, they need to climb.  They need to put one foot in front of the other.  They need to trudge through snow, and balance themselves on ice covered cliffs.

True, without the gear, the protection, and the guides you wouldn’t last thirty seconds moving towards your goal.  But all the money in the world, the best guide and the latest model gear cannot get you up to the peak of the mountain if YOU are not willing to climb.

This is how I sometimes feel about battling my anxiety.

I have the best therapist, an awesome doctor, a sensitive husband, a supportive and understanding family, and the sweet love of my children.

I have researched and found medicine that works for me, increasing my serotonin to normal levels.  I do stretching and breathing exercises, and occasionally get a massage.

But I still need to be the one to climb the mountain.  I need to put one foot in front of the other when I feel like I’m about to throw up from the intense anxiety pushing at my chest.  I need to trudge through my thoughts and feelings to figure out if there is, and if so, what might be the source of why I feel this way.  I need to carefully balance my priorities so I don’t waste precious mental energy and time.

It’s so different from my experience with a physical illness.

Sure, having Crohn’s disease is no picnic.  It’s painful, embarrassing and can get quite annoying (yes, I can make a directory of all the public bathrooms in the city.)

But really, it’s more like a very long international flight that gets delayed about half the day so you almost miss your connection.  You wait for hours in a stuffy, dirty, overcrowded waiting area.  You sit in a narrow seat on the plane flanked on either side by people who could either use a shower or are wearing a nasty smelling deodorant.  And sometimes you even have to run through an airport to catch a flight.

It’s not a pleasant experience, but you are not the one physically doing the work.  There are pilots flying the plane, and flight attendants who actually offer you a drink.

It took time to find the right doctor, and alternative care, but really in the end all I had to do was show up for appointments and make it through the prep for surgery without vomiting, (ok so I did vomit, but who cares?).

And people understand physical pain.  They get it.  They are sympathetic.  And somehow, that helps.

But even if everyone in the whole world understood emotional pain, if I didn’t put one foot in front of the other, there is no way to get any closer.

Brighten Your Days: Don’t Be SAD

By Marla Chalnick, Ph.D., LPCsad-winter-depression

Winter means different things to different people. Aside from having to deal with ice, I look forward to the crisp temperatures with great anticipation.  Others may see winter as just the inconvenient interlude between summers. For many people, winter can be down right depressing. They may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a condition that is similar to depression, except it appears only in the winter months.

SAD affects roughly 6% of the adult population of the United States. Women are more affected by SAD, but there are cases of men and children who experience it as well.  SAD can begin as early as September and last until April. The most difficult months are December, January and February because SAD is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes.

The symptoms of SAD occur regularly each winter and may include a number of the following: sleep problems (too much or too little), lethargy (feeling fatigued and unable to carry out daily tasks), difficulty concentrating, overeating (craving carbohydrates and sweet foods), depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends and family. In children, symptoms include irritability, difficulty getting out of bed and school problems in the fall and winter.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, helped discover the disorder and its treatment in the 1980’s. Dr. Rosenthal described his arrival in the United States from South Africa to complete his residency in psychiatry.

“I was born and raised in South Africa where the geographical climate is very, very pleasant, the seasons blend into one another. And then I came to New York City. I arrived in the summer, and the days were wonderfully long and I was full of energy and enthusiasm.

But then as the days got shorter, something began to happen to me, especially after the daylight savings time change occurred. Suddenly, I felt myself slowed down, less able to carry through on all the projects I picked up during the summer, reluctant to get out of bed and get going in the morning. I sort of soldiered on through the winter until the spring, when it all seemed to get better.”

Light therapy has proven to be an effective therapy in up to 85 per cent of cases of SAD. It consists of using a light box with high intensity florescent lights. Treatment consists of daily half hour to two-hour sessions of sitting in front of the light box, where you can read, eat or do other daily activities. While light therapy is generally the first line of defense, antidepressant medication maybe helpful.  Counseling or any other complementary therapy that teaches relaxation, stress management, adaptation and coping skills can also be useful.

And, if you are very fortunate, take a winter vacation to a warm, sunny place. Spending a week or two in the warm sunshine will have lasting benefits when you return to your winter climate. It’s like “recharging” your batteries. I’ve always wanted to go to Bermuda, how about you?

Winter means different things to different people. Aside from having to deal with ice, I look forward to the crisp temperatures with great anticipation.  Others may see winter as just the inconvenient interlude between summers. For many people, winter can be down right depressing. They may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a condition that is similar to depression, except it appears only in the winter months.

SAD affects roughly 6% of the adult population of the United States. Women are more affected by SAD, but there are cases of men and children who experience it as well.  SAD can begin as early as September and last until April. The most difficult months are December, January and February because SAD is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes.

The symptoms of SAD occur regularly each winter and may include a number of the following: sleep problems (too much or too little), lethargy (feeling fatigued and unable to carry out daily tasks), difficulty concentrating, overeating (craving carbohydrates and sweet foods), depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends and family. In children, symptoms include irritability, difficulty getting out of bed and school problems in the fall and winter.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, helped discover the disorder and its treatment in the 1980’s. Dr. Rosenthal described his arrival in the United States from South Africa to complete his residency in psychiatry.

“I was born and raised in South Africa where the geographical climate is very, very pleasant, the seasons blend into one another. And then I came to New York City. I arrived in the summer, and the days were wonderfully long and I was full of energy and enthusiasm.

But then as the days got shorter, something began to happen to me, especially after the daylight savings time change occurred. Suddenly, I felt myself slowed down, less able to carry through on all the projects I picked up during the summer, reluctant to get out of bed and get going in the morning. I sort of soldiered on through the winter until the spring, when it all seemed to get better.”

Light therapy has proven to be an effective therapy in up to 85 per cent of cases of SAD. It consists of using a light box with high intensity florescent lights. Treatment consists of daily half hour to two-hour sessions of sitting in front of the light box, where you can read, eat or do other daily activities. While light therapy is generally the first line of defense, antidepressant medication maybe helpful.  Counseling or any other complementary therapy that teaches relaxation, stress management, adaptation and coping skills can also be useful.

And, if you are very fortunate, take a winter vacation to a warm, sunny place. Spending a week or two in the warm sunshine will have lasting benefits when you return to your winter climate. It’s like “recharging” your batteries. I’ve always wanted to go to Bermuda, how about you


 

 

Being a Loner and Finding Love: Is It Incompatible?

 

I recloner loveently read an article on the Lonerwolf website (http://www.lonerwolf.com) discussing this apparent opposition and I thought you might be interested in it as well.

Alethia Luna suggests that being a loner comes with an unspoken “job description.” 1) You like spending most of your time alone. 2) You are self-sufficient and don’t “need” other people to fill your life, and 3) Socializing is your nemesis.

If you consider yourself a loner, this job description may give you a sense of relief from social burdens, but also a sense of loneliness just below the surface.  But how can you be a loner that enjoys your solitude but still desire to find a friend or a lover? Isn’t this completely incompatible with who you are? I think not and here’s why:

  1. Wanting to find love and friendship is normal-for any personality type.
  • Aristotle once said, “Man be nature is a social animal.” This doesn’t mean that he always enjoyed socializing, but may naturally gravitate towards collaboration with others.
  1. You don’t have to be inauthentic to find someone you authentically connect with.
  • Pretending to be someone you’re not is a certain recipe for disaster. There are unlimited ways to find and connect with people who resonate with you.
  1. Don’t let your self-definition bog you down.
  • When identifying with a label can make you feel accepted and understood, it can also box you in and restrict you. You may be a loner, but you are also many other things. You are multilayered!
  1. Think about what is really holding you back from finding love.

Perhaps your identification with the loner label is holding you back, or perhaps something else. Close relationships may have wounded you in the past, creating fear, anxiety and inability to trust in the present. Making new connections is difficult for most everybody. You are not the only one struggling with this. Consider counseling if this is an issue you can’t seem to wade through by yourself.

Besides from giving you self-concept a space to breathe, REMEMBER TO GIVE YOURSELF TIME. It is difficult to go from a homebody to a socialize overnight. Take baby steps ad be patient, but don’t give up on finding LOVE.