Best of 2012: My Personal Explore What’s Next Favorites

Celebrating the end of 2012 is just fine with me! We had some bad times: The return of my kidney disease early in the year hit me like a ton of bricks. But what the heck! We had some good times too! Moving into the new office space has been awesome! Work life and family life is good. So in balance, despite my negative brain trying to convince me the entire year was one long annus horribilis, we are still here, surrounded by a great deal of goodness. I am thankful for so much including you, dear reader, and this blog!

Below are my favorite articles from 2012. Enjoy and let’s look forward to a peaceful, healthy and happy 2013 !

January: 6 Reasons Why I Snapped My Husband’s Head Off

February: Chronic Illness: 6 Stages of Grieving a Relapse

March: Relax! We are Awesome Just the Way We Are!

April: Video: How Animals Keep Me Sane

May: What Does Maria Shriver’s Commencement Speech Have to do With Therapy?

June: Shut Up and Listen!

July: Being Helpful vs Being a Doormat

August: 7 Ways to be Nicer to Yourself

September: Video: When a Good Ego Defense is Like a Helmet

October: If You Have Anxiety…

November: When Asked, Don’t Panic. Just Say “I’ll Think About It.” Then Say “No.”

December: How to Avoid Spending the Holidays with Seriously Toxic People

12 Links For A Happy Holiday!

My little Christmas gift to you is a bouquet of links that you may find helpful, touching or just plain enjoy.  Sending all my warmest wishes for peace of mind, love of self and resiliency of spirit!


6 Ways to Manage Anxiety: Holiday Stress Tips

10 Things I Don’t Want for Christmas

10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays When Your Family is Nuts!

Random Acts of Christmas Cheer

Ten Suggestions to Make the Holidays Bearable

Humor! The Secret to Handling Holiday Stress

100 Ways to a Stress Free Christmas

1 0 Ways to Bring Christmas Cheer to Your Loved One in the Hospital for the Holidays

NORAD Tracks Santa!

Yes, People with Depression There is a Santa Clause

The Christmas Truce – 1914

Photo courtesy of Singer via Flickr

How to Avoid Spending the Holidays with Seriously Toxic People

There are a lot of articles out there that are helpful to the person who is not looking forward to holiday family gatherings. The combined traditions of petty arguments past (Mom loved you best!), retelling of embellished embarrassing tales of childhood (“Remember when Timmy wet himself in front of Santa, hahaha!”) especially when accompanied by alcohol is too much for a sensitive person. These articles, give guidance as to what to do in these situations and they are very useful. I know because I’ve written a few myself.

Recently, however, it was pointed out to me that there’s another kind of toxic relative that may need special attention. These people are easily avoided most of the year but when the holidays come around they gather like so many vultures because “it’s the holidays and that’s what families do.”

Many of us decide to put up with people we’re not crazy about because we have accepted that no one’s perfect and we love them anyway. Besides, they put up with stuff from us, too, so for one or two days we can support what we like about each other and turn a willing blind eye to the rest. We aren’t talking about them here.


“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’ Mara

Getting Back to ‘Normal’ (Whatever That Is)

How are we expected to move on with our lives, with holiday shopping, meal planning, cookie baking and parties after what happened in Newtown? On the day of the shooting I went to two holiday parties where everyone carefully avoided talking about what happened just hours earlier. It was weird and a relief at the same time.

Someone wrote that even those of us far away from the incident, we still may need to go through the five stages of grief as described by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. On Friday many of us were clinging to the denial and bargaining phases. We did not want to believe we were all so vulnerable and made up reasons to avoid going there. Some just went straight to anger even depression. None of us were ready for acceptance.

As with any act of terrorism, if we give in to depression and anger and let it obliterate the happy and good in the world, the terrorists win.

Now for our spirits’ sake we need to give ourselves permission to engage in the brightness and goodness of life. How?


5 Things We Can Do in the Wake of Tragedy: Responding to the Newtown Shooting

In rearing my kids I always told them that ‘hate’ is a strong word. Don’t use it lightly, I’d say. Don’t say, “I hate this tuna casserole!” Instead say, “Gee Mom, I strongly dislike this tuna casserole. Could I have a hot dog?” Save ‘hate’ for when ‘hate’ is the only word that can describe how you feel, when it counts.

I hate so much of what has happened recently.

I hate the senseless loss of the innocents. I hate the loss of good people who cared for the innocents.

From there it gets a little mirky.

I hate that I have to separate myself from this tragedy in order to survive it. This is happening to them, not to me. I am safe, my children are safe.

In graduate school I learned about cognitive dissonance: the struggle of the brain to reconcile what we know to be true with what we want to be true. I want to believe that what happened in Newtown would never happen in my town. That desire belies what I know too well, that it can happen anywhere. That we are all vulnerable. I have to fall on the fact that the chances of violence really happening to my loved ones are microscopic, just as the chances of a plane falling on my house are microscopic. But a plane really did fall on a house not far from where I live. So where does that leave me?


The Horror in Connecticutt

No words can describe the horror, anxiety and grief that devastates us upon hearing about the school shooting in Connecticut. Parents everywhere reach out to our children, no matter how old they are, hold them close and tell them how much we love them.

This Holiday Season: The Gift of Permission


Editor’s Note: The following article was written by contributor Glenn W. Frost, LCSW-R

As the season of giving is upon us, we sometimes forget to give something to ourselves. Perhaps the greatest gift we can bestow upon ourselves is the gift of permission. We might have had some struggles this past year but why not give ourselves permission to be happy anyway? Everyone around us is telling us to “be in the holiday spirit” but you might be thinking of someone special who you have lost this year, so why not give yourself permission to be sad? Why not give yourself permission to be courageous, or permission to be scared? These are emotions that all of us feel all year round but these are also some emotions that we are told, subtly or not, to not express, especially this time of year. The “holiday spirit” is to be happy, however, we each define happiness in many varied and personal ways. I, myself, define being happy as being true to myself, whatever I might be feeling.


The Empty Nest: Rekindling the Marital Fires

Good news! “Research shows that marital happiness reaches one of its highest peaks during the period after offspring have moved out of the family home.” I read this in the article New Love: A Short Shelf Life.

Thank God because my son is already a sophomore in college and my daughter is a senior in high school anxiously waiting to hear from the college of her choice. Wise beyond her years, my daughter is funny, a great shopping companion and all around co-conspirator. Watching America’s Next Top Model just won’t be the same without her. :-(

I often wonder what life will be like for my husband and me in our empty nest next year. I know there will be sadness because we like our kids and will miss them. But, they are both healthy, happy kids, doing what they want to do, so we are blessed. And since my husband and I not only love each other, but actually like each other, I think we have a good shot at being one of those couples that experiences a rekindling of marital happiness.

To ease the transition, my friend and associate, Dylan Broggio, LCSW-R, had a brilliant idea.

She suggested I should plan a romantic trip after dropping the kids off at college next September.

What a concept! To press the pause button before returning to our busy lives where it could be so easy to bury the pain of being without the kids in silence, to lose track of *us*, of our marriage. A Romantic Trip doesn’t have to mean a week long Caribbean cruise or a fancy suite at the Ritz Carlton or even lots of hot, sweaty, monkey sex. All of that would be nice but I’m thinking more in terms of anywhere that will allow my husband and I to enjoy us, who we are, what our marriage is, what we’ve managed to accomplish and what we still aspire to do. It should be light-hearted and fun! To reconnect as individuals for a moment (not as Mom and Dad) and maybe have a little monkey sex, too.

All empty-nesters should do this. We could create a new tradition! It will be a honeymoon for Phase Three of our life together!

I only hope I can afford it after paying tuition! :-)


Do you have empty nest experience? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments!



‘Love’ photo courtesy of wolfsoul via Flickr

The DSM-5 & Me: 3 Reasons Why I’m a DSM Agnostic.

My first introduction to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), was standing in the kitchen of my parent’s home and witnessing my father in full rant.

My Dad was a psychiatrist / psychoanalyst of the old school. Which is to say he was brilliant but also of his time. Which is to further say his fury was directed at the APA for taking homosexuality as a diagnosable mental illness out of the manual. It was 1973.

Hardly aware of what he was so upset about, I did hear him dramatically declare that he was withdrawing his membership to the APA. My Dad loved being a psychoanalyst / physician but he wasn’t that crazy (you should forgive the word) about being a psychiatrist. His prescription pad gathered dust as he focused on talk therapy. So his threat to quit the APA wasn’t idle but it wasn’t like he was giving up his beloved couch.

By the time I got to graduate school the DSM had gone through at least four more mutations. Partly because of my experience with my Dad but also because my Mom was addicted to the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Treatment (in which every twinge or sore throat could become a sign of impending doom), I maintained a skeptic’s view of the DSM.

If the DSM really is the behavioral health professional’s Bible, then I was a doubting Thomas.

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