A child psychologist remembers the remarkable acceptance of the weird world of grown ups.

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My Dad was an FBI agent. I had no idea what that meant.

Several times a year, he dressed in gray denims and went to a place called, “Firearms.” My brother and I couldn’t wait for him to come back with outlines of mean men with lots of holes in them. The fact that he had been practicing how to kill people never crossed our minds.

Every morning, my father rode an early train into the city, where he told us, he was “Making the Word Safe for Democracy.” Sometimes he wore a dark suit. Other times he dressed like…


How we lose, find, and sometimes lose again … Goodbye PSILY

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Lost my kid

I lost my kid once. I was worn from a long work day and I bribed her with a trip to Dunkin Donuts. We got our usual corn bread muffins, toasted with sweet butter, and intense hot chocolates. She was four and overflowing with words and stories that flowed back and forth into each other.

On a good day, it was hard to follow. But that day, one therapy session after the other intruded on my listening and I didn’t hear a word she said. We sat on our high, red padded, twirly counter seats.

I didn’t even correct her…


Skills to help discover their identities and learn a whole lot more about yours.

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On the chess board that is psychotherapy, I was never surprised when (no matter what the topic) my patients were always only one or two moves away from the King or Queen. Or, to quote an old maxim, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.” We are well versed in their positions and their powers. We know the contents and margins of our lives with them.

But we know far less about them “off the board.”

And what we know of them before we entered their lives is usually confined to the facts of history, not a sense who…


I don't know which is worse — getting older, or the documentation of it

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I just had my annual Medicare physical. I’d successfully put it off for a year. And then, I just asked for a lousy referral to a specialist, and “Bam” they nailed me. All the physical did was to put into real words and numbers what I’ve known for some time. I’m falling apart. But I’m almost 69, moving into that place where I’m supposed to be falling apart. So why all of a sudden, the need to document it all?

It was a tele-physical, relying primarily on me as the data source. Since I’ve never told the unvarnished truth to…


Grief after a loss by suicide changes its form throughout the process of mourning.

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Please note: This is a piece about missing someone who died by suicide, not suicide itself. But don’t read on if you think it will distress you. Thanks, MMM

Crying behind my eyes

It has been a tough few weeks. After a long stretch of relative well-being, I fell, fast. I didn’t even get the predictable high before it. I crashed. I use the term, “I’m crying behind my eyes,” to define the constancy of the pain of depression, even when no one can see it.

I live alone, not by choice, which lets me go a long while without being “detected.” …


Early studies show nitrous oxide relieves treatment-resistant depression

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Antidepressant medication fails to help one third of the people who try it. The label of treatment-resistant depression is typically applied to people for whom two medicine trials have not worked.

A resistant depression is often one with more severe symptoms. Hopelessness and vulnerability to suicidal thoughts and actions are common, creating an urgency in the quest to find more effective treatments.

Most of us are familiar with nitrous oxide, nicknamed “laughing gas,” used primarily by dentists in a wide variety of basic procedures. It has both sedative and anesthetic effects when used by a professional.

It also has an…


Mend it or end it?

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Close friends, occupy a unique place in our lives. Unlike our families, which are pretty much a crap shoot in terms of influence, we choose the people we claim as friends. Those relationships are integral to our health, our well-being, even our longevity. Even though the average length of a friendship in the US is ten years, in a long term friendship, we may spend more of our lives together than with parents, siblings or spouses.

Before we deal with heartbreaking, it’s important to consider what friends contribute to “heart-making

  • Friends are the almanacs of our lives. They see the…


Mind your own business

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The B word

One of the first “shrink” words I learned in my training as a clinical psychologist was BOUNDARIES. It was used in therapy contexts, but it is as important to our lives and our own well-being…… It means:

  • being intact, whole
  • knowing where you stop and someone else starts
  • managing what you give and what you take
  • having a solid set of values (not virtues, just beliefs that guide you)
  • knowing where you stand and where you refuse to fall
  • valuing privacy
  • knowing the borders of your “country,” where they are open and closed, and being clear on the “visas” you…


What doesn’t kill you, makes you … lucky!

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Let the games begin

Shepherding six kids in the journey from wakefulness to the forced march to school was a hugely orchestrated ritual devised by my mother. Actually, she was less of a shepherd and more like a five star general.

Sometimes her system worked like a charm, but the sheer number of moving parts meant that something, or someone, could bring it all down in a heart beat.

My mother, the commandant, appointed the older children as her lieutenants. Her morning circuit was so perfectly organized that she could do it in her sleep … which I’m convinced, sometimes she did.

At precisely…


Stigma shuts us up, but maybe there are ways to answer the question without hurting ourselves

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Those words — “are you ok?” can be questions or statements.

They aren’t easy to respond to when you suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders. Your answers will depend upon:

  • the degree of severity of the depression you are suffering
  • attributes of the question asker (familiarity, comfort, power they have over you)
  • your comfort level with self-disclosure in general, and depression specifically, especially with the levels of intimacy you have with people.

Severity

Mild depression

It may be easy to “hide.” “I’m tired,” “I’m working too hard,” “I still haven’t gotten over the breakup with John,” “I hate my job.” If…

Martha Manning, Ph.D.

Martha Manning, Ph.D is a writer and clinical psychologist, whose memoir, Undercurrents deals with her severe depression. Like heavy stuff with lots of humor.

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