Category Archives: Uncategorized

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The Love of an Aunt: Call me “Ellie”

My Beautiful Aunt Gilda died on her birthday, yesterday at 2:00 PM. She passed with amazing grace, and my perimagesonal loss is deep. You see, my Aunt was a caring mother to me in every way. I was blessed to have her as a role model, a mentor, a confidante and a source of unconditional love.

Aunts have the power to play that kind of role in the lives of their nieces and nephews. They have the power to fill what otherwise might have been an empty space, a void, in the life of a child. My Auntie stepped up to that fill that space for me and I am all the better for it. She’s wearing the captain’s hat in the picture; she would guide me through a lot of stormy weather and she never abandoned ship.

Perhaps the most beautiful gift my aunt bestowed upon my was my name. My birth name is Elena, but it was my Aunt always who always endearingly called me “Ellie”. When I turned 18, she took me with her, my Uncle and my cousin on a trip to Italy. She just about let me run wild there. It was a life transforming trip and I returned back to the states as “Ellie” forevermore.

Thank you Aunt Gilda for my name, for being My Captain and for the gift of your love. I will feel for you in the space around me. I know you are right there. RIP


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Mental Illness: A Communicable Disease?

There has been an enormous amount of press and publicity about the Ebola virus and the lives this terrible communicable disease has recently claimed. The current statistic reports that presently the Ebola death toll nears 1,000 people worldwide. Thank goodness, steps are being taken to overcome this horrible killer. Lots of discussion, awareness, worry, work, research and medical methodologies are being implemented to find help. Lots of attention, lots of compassion…

What about Mental Illness? The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the following statistics (brace yourself):

  • One in four adults (61.5 million Americans) experience mental illness in a given year.
  • 14.8 million Americans live with major depression
  • 42 million Americans have anxiety disorders
  • Approximately 60% of those suffering with mental illness do not receive any treatment
  • Individuals with mental illness have an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions
  • Adults with mental illness die on the average, 25 years earlier than other Americans largely do to treatable medical conditions
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and the 3rd leading cause for ages 15-24

These statistics are based on reported and diagnosed cases. The real numbers are probably much higher. Experts report that mental illness is on the rise.

Research has already suggested that there in an inheritable component to mental illness. But, is mental illness also a “communicable” disease? Are some people carriers of mental illness? Is it being spread around? After 35 years of psychotherapy practice, my opinion on these questions is “probably yes”. If you have mentally ill parents or siblings, live with a mentally ill partner or work/play with mentally ill people, your chances of contracting some form of it probably go up. If you find yourself repetitively in a stress-filled environment, your chances of breathing it in and contracting it probably go up. Everyone is at risk for mental illness. No one is immune to mental illness. No one.

As with any serious disease, the potential outcome for having mental illness is death. Are you concerned about Ebola? Get way more concerned about mental illness. The chances of you or someone you know “catching” it are far greater. What are you willing to do about this epidemic? Can we even begin to talk about it?

RIP Robin Williams

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JFK and I

I was ten years old when a teacher whose name I do not remember barged into my fifth grade classroom and cried out, “The President has been shot. They think he is dead!” I can still feel that electric bolt of shock shoot through my body, I can still smell the severe scent of dread.

Ten years old was a very tender age of development. It was a time when I began to feel the first flourish of abstract reasoning and I was looking for role models. JFK was one of my first chosen role models. I admired how he wore the cloak of leadership. It all started for me when my mother drove us to a mall close to where we lived in New York because he was campaigning and driving through town. We got to see him standing up in the limousine waving to the crowd, waving to us, waving to me. He was handsome and winsome. He had a beautiful smile and soulful eyes. Those were the days when you could actually get close enough to notice and appreciate smiles and eyes.

I became a fan of JFK on that day. I had a schoolgirl crush on him. I loved him like I loved the Beatles. I watched him debate Nixon, I saw him take the oath of office in the freezing cold with his warm breath visibly condensing in the frigid air. I was ten years old, a very tender age.

Those days of mourning over the loss of JFK were horrifying, sorrowful and greatly intensified by witnessing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV. I was home alone when I saw it. More trauma. I still feel traumatized when I think about it. All the grown-ups around me were also in a state of shock and so incredibly sad.

Our country was forever changed with the assassination of JFK and everything he symbolized. We lost an innovative, energizing and a global thinker. The New Frontier was now spattered with blood. How could someone who was anti-fragile (able to grow and thrive from some major physical and health challenges) be taken out in a few Zapruder film frames? I was never the same either as the curtain lowered on my childhood innocence and my first experience of profound loss introduced itself to me.