Category Archives: Mental Health Musings

How Do You Feel About Controversy? (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

Nyalas literally locking hornsSome people don’t mind controversy; a few even thrive on it.

And with social media, these two groups seem to have found their voices more and more lately.

A friend of mine loves political debates online. She finds them stimulating.

But I’m in the group that pretty much hates controversy. I sit on my hands at least once a day, resisting the temptation to get into it with someone on Facebook or Twitter. It just isn’t worth the stress.

Zero Hero book coverIn my Kate Huntington mysteries, I have often touched on somewhat controversial social issues. I’ve been fortunate that they have been well received.

I really enjoyed writing those books, but more recently I’ve been having fun with a lighter cozy mystery series about a service dog trainer.

I thought I had left the somewhat darker topics behind. My muse, however, had a different idea. She spun out a story in my head that involves two less than likeable members of groups that normally inspire high levels of sympathy in people.

In my new release, launching today (Yay!!), I have a crabby paraplegic veteran, who has an unhealthy obsession with his sister’s love life, and a brash, hard-to-like sexual assault survivor.

My main character, Marcia Banks, doesn’t particularly care for either of these people when she first meets them. And she feels guilty about that. How can you dislike a veteran in a wheelchair? she asks herself.

But the reality is that people in most groups come in all sizes, shapes, and personality types. Some of them aren’t going to be likeable. And my early readers have told me that I have handled these delicate topics well. I appreciate that reassuring feedback.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation as this book releases. I know I will get blow-back from some folks. I hope it doesn’t get too nasty.

Because there’s a lot of good, fun stuff in this book as well, as Marcia gets herself in a few scrapes that have her detective boyfriend tearing his hair out. And there are, of course, cute dogs and some humor, and horses. And a couple of romances…

So I do hope you will check it out!

How do you feel about controversy? Do you hate it like me, or does it get your juices flowing like it does for my friend?

Patches in the Rye cover

Patches in the Rye, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book 5

Nothing about her new client is what service dog trainer Marcia Banks expected—from the posh house that says family money to his paranoid preoccupation with his sister’s love life—but when he dangles a thousand-dollar retainer under her nose, she can’t resist playing private detective.

In between training sessions, Marcia digs into the sister’s boyfriend’s sketchy past. But the deeper she digs, the more questions arise. How is a disastrous fraternity party five years ago linked to blackmail, prostitutes, and murder today? And who’s driving the black SUV that keeps trying to turn Marcia and her dog Buddy into roadkill?

She can’t let it go, not when there are innocents at risk who are depending on her to find the truth. But the deepest, darkest truth is the one she wishes she never uncovered.

Just $0.99 for a limited time on  AMAZON US   AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS   NOOK   APPLE   KOBO

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Laugh Lines Make the Best Wrinkles #BOAW2018

by Kassandra Lamb

BOAW VII logoThis would normally be an “off” week for our blog, but I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest VII this week, as I’ve done each year since its inception (or maybe I jumped in at year 2; I can’t remember for sure). This wonderful celebration of women is sponsored by the beautiful-inside-and-out August McLaughlin.

So here’s a short and hopefully amusing post in honor of humorous women. Please hop over to the BOAW site when you’re finished reading and check out the excellent posts listed there. (And maybe win a great prize or two!!) The blogfest is from today through March 9th.

Forever Irma book cover

Not Barb’s book; it is below.

The late comedienne extraordinaire Erma Bombeck had a birthday a few of weeks ago (she would have been 91). Meanwhile, a very much alive friend of mine, Barb Taub, released a new humor book last month.

These two events got me to thinking about humor, aging and beauty.

In my review of Barb’s book I called her today’s version of Erma Bombeck. I hope that compliment will keep her from killing me for what I am about to say. Erma was no physical beauty, and Barb can best be described as a middle-aged plump person who smiles a lot.

pic of Barb Taub

Barb Taub ~ for some of her great humor, check out her latest blog post, My House Makes Me Sick

But I believe they are two of the most gorgeous souls ever to walk the earth, because they find humor in EVERYTHING. Everyone around them is smiling or downright laughing out loud. Talk about spreading sunshine in the world!

Erma was particularly good at poking fun at false standards of beauty or perfection around less-than-important things like housework. But she rebelled so hilariously that she got away with it, even in the 1970s and 80s, when feminism was still somewhat of a dirty word.

Erma on dieting:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

“It is my theory you can’t get rid of fat. All you can do is move it around, like furniture.”

“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”

Erma on the fashion industry:

“Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.”

Erma on housework:

“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.”

And finally, on laughter:

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

“Laughter rises out of tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.”

And yet another quote, this one from a reviewer of one of Erma’s books:

“Erma liberated women from guilt of imperfection”
(by domestic diva, the title of her review on August 30, 2015)

book cover

Barb’s new book. Available on AMAZON US and AMAZON UK.

My life certainly hasn’t been one big laugh, but humor has always been one of the tools—a prominent one on my tool belt—that I’ve used to keep going. And perhaps more importantly, it has made the “keeping going” worth doing.

I can’t begin to imagine life without laughter.

I’ve been blessed with oily skin (although in younger years I considered it a curse). Oily skin doesn’t wrinkle very readily, so even though I’m 65, I don’t have wrinkles.

Or at least I believed that, until I happened to smile while looking in the mirror the other day. That’s when I realized I’m starting to develop laugh lines around my eyes.

I’m so happy that they, in particular, are my first wrinkles.

And I’ll leave you with one last quote, most often attributed to Oscar Wilde:

“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

How about you? Do you have laugh lines yet? How do you feel about them?

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW blog posts (and maybe win a prize!)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Beta Men Make the Best Husbands

by Kassandra Lamb

Hubs and I will be celebrating our 42nd Valentine’s Day this week. I’m not sure he’s even aware of this but Valentine’s Day is a particularly special day for our relationship. You see, I decided I could marry this man on the first Valentine’s Day we celebrated together. (It took him another 2 ½ weeks to catch on and actually propose.)

I’ve been writing some romantic suspense stories lately, and I recently took a little informal survey of my romantic suspense readers. One of the questions I asked was how important was it to them that the hero be an alpha male, and also I asked for their definition of an alpha male.

The split was about 65% yes, it had to be an alpha, and 35% said they didn’t care or preferred a beta male.

Most defined an alpha as strong, confident, and protective, but they didn’t like it if he was too controlling, cocky or arrogant. My favorite comment was this one:

“The hero doesn’t have to be an alpha necessarily, but when his woman is in danger, he needs to step up and do what needs to be done.”

Now, back to my husband and Valentine’s Day. I suspect my husband would be the first to admit that he is not an alpha male. He’s a fairly quiet, go-with-the-flow kind of guy, an excellent complement to my rather intense personality. Indeed, he is probably the only kind of man I could still be married to after 41 years!

I normally have no trouble standing up for myself. But the few times in my life when I couldn’t do that, for one reason or another, he was there. He stepped up. The first time was on that first Valentine’s Day. We’d been dating four months.

He’d made an 8:30 reservation at a relatively swanky restaurant in downtown Baltimore. We arrived on time and were seated in a little waiting area with quite a few other couples. Someone came by periodically and assured us that it would just be another few minutes.

By 10 o’clock we still hadn’t been seated. I was literally weak with hunger. It was a revolving restaurant on the top of a high-rise hotel. By this point, I was feeling quite queasy as the city slowly spun below us.

My then boyfriend went to the maitre d’ and complained for the second or third time. Ten minutes later we were led to our table and he said to the waiter, “Bring us house salads right away.” The waiter dropped a salad in front of me just a few minutes later.

wedge of lettuce

Gee, doesn’t that look yummy! 😛

It was a quarter wedge of iceberg lettuce with some dressing drizzled over it. I looked at it and said, “I don’t think I have the energy to cut that up.”

Hubs aka then-boyfriend exploded. He called over the maitre d’. “You kept us waiting one and half hours after our reservation time, and now this…” He pointed to the green wedge on my plate. “What kind of salad is that?”

In a huffy voice, the man said, “That is the way salad is served in finer restaurants.”

Hubs aka then-boyfriend straightened to his full six-foot, 26-year-old lanky height and said, “Sir, I’ve been in finer restaurants before, and I’ve never seen a salad like that. Bring my girlfriend a real salad NOW!”

That was the I-could-marry-this-man moment. (Note: I’ve since seen that kind of salad a couple of times in other restaurants, but only a couple of times.)

About 30 seconds later, a waiter brought a tossed salad, with bite-sized pieces of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and slivers of carrots. I devoured it in another 30 seconds and felt much better.

Fast forward three and a half years and I have been in labor for 23 hours. Seventeen of them mild labor and six hard labor (by my definition, as in very painful). And something had changed. It was no longer muscle contraction pain. It was a sledge hammer pounding on your foot kind of pain. My gut, at least partly educated by Lamaze classes, said this was not normal.

But the resident doctors kept insisting I was “still in the early stages” and it wasn’t time yet to call my private obstetrician into the hospital. I won’t go into all the gory details of my interchanges with them, but when one of them told me, “Childbirth is supposed to be painful. Lie down, shut up and relax,” I’d had enough. (Yup, that’s what she said and yup, it was a woman—obviously one who had not yet given birth.)

Immediately after the next contraction, I said to my husband, through gritted teeth, “Get our %&*%^$ doctor here! And get back here before the next contraction!” He’d been rubbing my back during them, the only thing that made them bearable.

He raced out of the labor room, tossed his paper gown (he told me this part later) at the woman at the nurses’ station when she yelled, “You can’t go out there; you’re sterile,” and ran to the waiting room where my mother was. He quickly filled her in, asked her to call our doctor, raced back into the maternity ward, donned a fresh gown and was back by my side just as the next contraction started.

Our doctor arrived about fifteen minutes (and way too many excruciating contractions) later. He started bawling out my husband for “letting your mother-in-law sit out there and worry unnecessarily.” But we quickly filled him in on what the residents had not been reporting to him.

(Note: try not to give birth in a teaching hospital. I’m sure some resident doctors are lovely people, but others think they know more than they do!)

baby and grandmother

My mother and her new grandson

To make a long story short, our son was born at 3:46 a.m., about four hours after my husband’s heroic dash through the maternity ward.

(The next day, my doctor explained that I’d had a “stiff cervix” that wasn’t dilating… not a big deal, it happens sometimes with first births, blah, blah. Yeah, easy for you to say, Doc!)

My husband has performed his own brand of protective intervention on a few other occasions as well, but those are the two that stand out most in my memory.

So I’m sorry, romance readers, but my heroes are the beta males who know how to step up when needed. And in the real world, they make much better Happily-Ever-After husbands than those dark, troubled alpha types.

Happy Valentine's Day

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To Resolve, Or Not To Resolve

by Kassandra Lamb

image of fireworks and 2018

image by Pixabay, CC0 (public domain) Wikimedia Commons

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is a natural time to review what has come before and look ahead to how one may want to do things differently in the future.

I took an informal survey of some of my friends and fellow authors to see how folks felt about New Year’s resolutions these days. A few still make resolutions, while most said they prefer the term “goals.”

But even here the approach varied, from meticulously planning out the year complete with deadlines for each goal to only making relatively short-term goals. Motivations for the latter approach ranged from wanting to remain flexible to feeling that loftier, long-term goals would be too intimidating.

One person said if the goals were too big and she wasn’t making sufficient progress toward achieving them, then she would be tempted to throw in the towel and not even try anymore. But if she keeps the goals smaller and more short-term, then she can feel a sense of achievement as each is accomplished, which then motivates her to keep pushing toward the next goal.

I totally get that approach and it will help preserve one’s mental health. That’s pretty much how I handle concrete goals like “I will finish this current story by the end of January.”

But I also tend to make more general resolutions that are about how I want my life to go in the next year.

The last couple of years, my resolutions have been about finding a better balance between my writing business and my life. The business had become all consuming for a little while there and I needed to do some serious stepping back.

This past year, the balance has been better, but when I wasn’t “working,” whether that was writing or doing other business tasks, I was rather bored, at loose ends about what to do with my down time. I got back into reading more again and watching some of my favorite TV shows (it’s fun to binge on your faves now with Netflix and such). But those were still solitary activities.

beginning a list of resolutions

So this year’s resolution is to have more fun, and to especially have more fun with other people. I’m going to check out some local classes and such.

I also asked folks if they got upset with themselves if they didn’t meet their goals/resolutions. Some did, but most said they just regroup and try again.

And one person very wisely pointed out that when she doesn’t meet a goal, she stops to ask herself if she really wants to meet it. Has it failed to happen because it isn’t truly what she desires or needs in her life right now?

Very good questions! All too often we stick with a goal, even when maybe it’s not right for us, because letting it go feels like quitting. But letting it go is sometimes exactly what we need to do.

My favorite response, however, to the question about getting upset with oneself was one woman’s comment:  “I’m too old to get worked up about that.” Amen, sister!

If age has taught me anything, it’s that life is too important to be taken seriously. And I’ve found that beating up on myself is one of the least productive things I can do.

I too tend to ask if the unachieved goal is truly relevant, and if I decide it is, then I adjust my approach and/or the time line. Sometimes the task was bigger than I thought it would be and is taking longer. Sometimes it needs to be broken down into more manageable sub-goals.

I think the best approach to resolutions was one person’s combination of resolutions and goals. She said she tries to have an overarching theme for the year, expressed in a few words, and then she makes short-term goals that are more concrete.

So my few words would be “Have more fun!” And the concrete goals to make that a reality will be to:

  • Streamline promotions and hire more of that work out to other people.
  • Spend more of my working time actually writing rather than doing other tasks.
  • Find some interesting/fun things to do that get me out of the house and allow me to interact more with people.

How about you? Do you make resolutions, set goals, or avoid both? Oh, and by the way. . .

world with Happy New Year

Image by Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

A Reminder: we are officially posting every other week in 2018, although we may share some other interesting tidbits in the off weeks. And next time, on January 30th, we will be starting a special series of interviews to introduce you all to other mystery writers. (Interviews will be posted about once every 4-6 weeks.)

So please stay tuned!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

House Guests High Jinks

by Gilian Baker

Ever had a house guest you thought would never leave?  You may have just experienced this over the recent holiday season.

Even the most patient among us would agree that having house guests can be taxing.  According to Psychology Today, it’s normal to feel stressed when you put someone up. Even someone you love dearly!

This is due to the shift in control from us to our guests. They are essentially in charge, and we do anything and everything we can to please them.

This lack of control in a place that is usually our domain (home) can cause tension. And that doesn’t include the strain that naturally occurs when you throw another personality (or two or three) into the mix.

Then there are the changes to our routine. Even if you say you hate routine, there is a contentment found in having things the way they always are. When normal is out of whack for long enough, you guessed it–stress.

My protagonist, Jade Blackwell, experiences more than her fair share of house guest high jinks in her latest adventure, Murder Over Medium. Jade, who dearly loves her routine, is at her wit’s end within hours of her old friend and colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby arriving.

Gwendolyn hasn’t been straightforward about her visit. For example, Jade doesn’t know until Gwendolyn shows up that she’s no longer a religious studies prof…now she’s a psychic medium.

Tension? You bet!

And guess what?

The visit that is only supposed to last two days goes on and on…thanks to a murder in the village. A murder Gwendolyn prophecies during a seance held at Jade’s dining room table. By the time it’s all said and done, Jade is ready to kill someone herself.

If only Gwendolyn would have read these etiquette tips from Emily Post about being a good house guest before she came to visit!

  • Do clean up after yourself. Put your dishes in the dishwasher, make your bed and put dirty linen in the hamper.
  • Do help out with chores, especially in the kitchen, unless the host absolutely doesn’t want your help.
  • Do inform your host of any dietary restrictions and food allergies before arriving.
  • Do pitch in for groceries if you are staying more than a couple of nights.
  • Don’t bring your pet. In fact, don’t even ask to bring it along.
  • Don’t make plans with other people without checking in with your host first. They may have plans already.
  • Don’t use the host’s phone, computer, or other electronics without asking first.
  • Don’t eavesdrop or snoop while you’re there.

Murder Over MediumWant to find out how Jade deals with this intrusion while still managing to solve a murder? Grab your digital copy of Murder Over Medium today! 

Former English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

5 Tips for Surviving the Most Stressful Time of the Year (Plus New Releases!)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Barb Taub’s blog today giving some tips on surviving the holiday season…

Christmas: It’s the Most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year!

I’ve got some new lyrics for this old classic!  See below and sing along.

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!
There’ll be much to and froing,
And tempers a blowing
When loved ones are near.
It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year.

It’s the crab-crabbiest season of all!
With the holiday shopping
and pushing and stomping
when crowds raid the stores.
It’s the crab-crabbiest season for sure.

There’ll be parties for hosting,
Uncle Joe’ll be boasting,
after he’s had enough beer.
There’ll be scary Aunt Glory
and Gramps telling stories
of how he shot the reindeer!

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!

Can you imagine Andy Williams singing that?!? 😀

Joking aside, this is indeed the most stressful time for anyone who celebrates Christmas. Some years I’m tempted to take up Buddhism.

I’ve learned the hard way, through the years, how to reduce the stress of the holiday season. Here are my top five tips!

1. Lists, Lists, Lists…

funny Santa meme

meme created on imgflip.com

Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones who should be making lists and checking them twice. There are three ways that lists can save your sanity.

First, ask your family members with whom you exchange gifts to make up a wish list. We’ve been doing this for years in our clan. It makes shopping so much easier. One is not bound by the list, but it’s there as guidance and a safety net, as needed and desired.

Second, make a list of the people you give gifts to and which gifts you plan to buy/have bought/have ordered, etc. for each person. No need to stress over whether or not … READ MORE

AND WE HAVE NEW BOOKS RELEASING THIS MONTH!!

My Christmas novella is now available for just $0.99

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

AMAZON    NOOK    APPLE     KOBO

And K.B. Owen’s Concordia Wells Book #6, Unseemly Honeymoon, is coming out Dec 12th!!

Here’s the beautiful cover:

Kathy will be telling us more about it next week, so stay tuned!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

An Attitude of Gratitude

by Kassandra Lamb

Thanksgiving is always a reminder that one should be grateful for one’s blessings.

paper turkey and gourds

I found this harder to do this year.

The last six months have been a rough time in my household. We seem to have been slammed with one stressor after another—some of them neutral, some of them bad, none of them all that good.

With all that has been going on, I’ve been way too near the edge of stress overload, and when I’m in that spot, I get depressed. Which doesn’t help one bit.

Well-meaning folks sometimes say, “Well, look at what others are dealing with? They have it much worse.” Sure one can usually find those whose life challenges are far worse than one’s own. But comparing one’s own pain to others is not mentally healthy, believe it or not.

For one thing, if you care about those people (such as the dear friend who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness), that’s just more depressing stuff to think about.

Also, that makes you ashamed of feeling stressed and depressed. Then you try to bury those feelings. As I’ve mentioned before, buried feelings don’t go away. They just fester under the surface and can erupt somewhere else in a less than pleasant way.

Of course, applying strategies to lessen one’s stress in other areas is always a good idea. But in my case recently, even when the stress let up, I was still depressed.

I have two strategies that I find helpful when I get stuck in a negative mental state like this. One is to stop and count my blessings. Yes, this is a cliché, and it can also lead to shame and stifling the bad feelings if not done carefully.

When I do this, I don’t just focus on the blessings (which are all too easily taken for granted). I do a kind of counterbalance in my mind.

  • Yes, I have friends who are struggling with their health, and that brings home that I will be facing such major challenges in another decade or two. This means I should appreciate my own reasonably good health more and make sure I am living to the fullest during the remaining healthy years I have left.
  • Yes, money is tight right now due to unexpected expenses, but we have a good income and we’ll recover in a few months. I need to appreciate that good income more.
  • Yes, I lost my dog suddenly to cancer. But I now have a new four-legged buddy. He doesn’t replace the dog I lost in my heart, but he’s creating his own spot there. And again, I am grateful that I have the resources to give a shelter animal a new home.

You get the idea.

This process doesn’t eradicate the negative feelings, but it helps to put them in perspective. I don’t suddenly feel great because I have so many things to be thankful for, but I feel less depressed. And focusing on the resources I’ve been blessed with makes me more hopeful that this too shall pass. I will deal with the stressors and move on to better times.

Which brings me to my second strategy. When I am dealing with a major stressor, I ask myself at what point in the future will I have most likely already dealt with it and put it behind me. A month, six months, a year?

Then I keep telling myself this reminder: In a month (six months, a year), this will all just be a bad memory.

If need be, I remind myself of times in the past when I used this strategy, and indeed those stressors are now nothing but memories. If I can remember them at all.

When I first started teaching, I was a basketcase. I’d done public speaking before and wasn’t all that nervous, but facing students was a different matter. They don’t always give much away. They sit there and stare at you (if you’re lucky; sometimes they fall asleep). You don’t know if they are finding your words of wisdom fascinating or boring as all get out.

I gave myself two years that time. “In two years, I’ll be comfortable in front of the classroom and this will all be a bad memory.”

It didn’t take that long. By my third semester I was comfortable, and now years later, I can’t even really remember the anxiety I felt at the time. I just remember thinking, that first semester, that surely I would have an embarrassing accident in front of the classroom (involving bodily fluids) before the semester ended.

And having written this blog post, I now feel better. Not great, but better.

How about you? What strategies do you use to get unstuck from a negative mindset?

One thing I am definitely grateful for is the gift of my talent.

My Christmas novella is now available for preorder … Just $0.99

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps href=”https://misteriopress.com/books/to-kill-a-labrador-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

AMAZON    NOOK    APPLE    KOBO

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

“Working Through” Instead of Pushing Past the Past

by Kassandra Lamb

row of flagsBelieve it or not, this is a Veterans’ Day post. I’ll get back to that.

As is the case with everything from clothing to baby names to the size of one’s car, mental health is affected by trends in our society. During most of my career as a psychotherapist, the trend was to explore one’s past for explanations of one’s neuroses, so that one could heal whatever trauma lurked back there and then move on. (Key words: Move On!)

This trend was fortunate for me, since I discovered that I had a real talent for trauma recovery. It became my specialty, and I walked the path with hundreds of people, over the twenty years of my career, who’d been abused in a variety of ways as kids. I was honored to be a part of helping them heal and blossom into the people they were meant to be. As hard as it was to face the past, it was what they needed to do in order to truly “work through” that past, rather than ignoring it and have it continue to affect their behavior, moods, parenting, relationships, etc. And most of them came out the other end of the process far, far healthier and happier than they had ever been in their lives.

In my parents’ day, the WW II era, the trend was to “buck up” and push past the past. Best I can tell, this had been the attitude, off and on, for generations, until the more recent trend to go through one’s “recovery process.” As a result of this buck-up attitude, the damage done by trauma in people’s pasts continued to not only affect them but their children.

PTSD existed during WW II—it has always existed—but back then it was called shell shock or battle fatigue, and soldiers who suffered from it were at best pitied and at worst scorned as cowards. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War era that the concept of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder developed and new and better treatments were discovered.

WW II era submarine

My husband’s uncle was a Navy seaman in WW II, on a submarine in the Pacific. For decades, the only impact from that experience he would admit to was ringing in his ears, a residual symptom from all the depth charges that went off in the water around his sub. It wasn’t until his sixties that he started talking about his experiences during the war. It became obvious to my husband and myself that he had suffered from PTSD his entire life. But he’d never dealt with it. He didn’t have permission to deal with it. Instead he drank too much and smoked too much (even after he had emphysema) and took his anger at the world out on his sons.

At the time that I was a practicing therapist, I didn’t realize that the shift away from that buck-up attitude was just a trend. I thought our society had actually turned the corner and was beginning to understand what was involved in obtaining and maintaining good mental health.

In the 1990s, sadly, the pendulum swung back toward the old-fashioned attitudes (not all the way back, but dangerously close for a while). Exploring and working through the harmful mistakes one’s parents may have made so that one could forgive those parents for being human—and then most likely have a better relationship with them thereafter—became “parent bashing” and “whining about the past.” Those going through their recovery process were sometimes viewed as “looking for excuses” for their own behavior and choices. (Nothing could be further from the truth; the process, when done right, is all about taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life.)

The pendulum has now swung more toward the middle ground, but I still see or hear statements on social media, pretty much on a weekly basis, along the lines of “stop whining about the past” or “you are not your past, move on” or “stop blaming your parents” (I repeat, recovery from the past is not and never was about parent-bashing).

inside of submarine

Inside of a submarine (photo by by Eteil CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wkimedia Commons)

Once Uncle Pete opened the door to the past, a lot came pouring out. Fifty years later, he was finally talking about how terrified that nineteen-year-old seaman and his buddies were, as those depth charges exploded in the water around their submarine, how they feared that sub would become their coffin and perhaps their bodies would never be recovered from the depths of the sea.

Show me a combat veteran and I’ll show you a man or woman who has at least some psychological scar tissue (whether they admit it or not) due to what they have experienced protecting us and our country. One of the best ways we can honor our veterans is to continue to acknowledge what they have gone through emotionally, continue to give them permission to seek help so they can heal those wounds, and to continue to fight for and support funding for mental health services for them.

service dog

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons))

If you see a veteran sweating and shaking in public from an anxiety attack, know that they came by those anxieties while fighting for your freedoms. Having never been in such a veteran’s shoes, I can’t tell you what would be most helpful to them right then, but turning away and denying that their internal wounds are real is definitely not helpful.

And if you see a healthy-looking woman or a big strapping man with no obvious physical disability being accompanied by a service dog, don’t make assumptions. You have no idea what they are dealing with inside.

Speaking of service dogs (and to lighten the mood!), I have a new novella coming out in the Marcia Banks and Buddy series, a Christmas story.

Here’s the cover! Isn’t it awesome?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Christmas Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol will be available for preorder on November 27th (Cyber Monday) and will be released on December 2nd. So stay tuned!

Your thoughts on the trends in mental health? Have you or someone you love ever been on the receiving end of the “buck”up” attitude?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

“Impostor Syndrome” and What To Do About It

by Kassandra Lamb

Today I’m guest posting over on Jami Gold’s site on the subject of Impostor Syndrome in writers. But there are nuggets of truth in the post for everyone on the topic of believing in the quality of one’s work, filtering feedback, and letting the good stuff in to bolster our self-esteem.

Why Writers Feel Like Impostors Sometimes (and What to Do About It)

“Impostor Syndrome”—it’s the bane of a writer’s existence. Am I really a writer? Am I really any good at this writing thing?

Even after we’ve produced several books and they’re selling, we may still encounter those moments of fear—Am I a fraud? Have I just fooled everyone?

Why is writing (or any creative endeavor) so prone to impostor syndrome?

1.  “Good” is subjective. No matter how great our talent, some people will love our work, and some will hate it. (Just look at the bad reviews on many of the classics.)

2.  We are too close to our work to judge it accurately.

3.  We feel things more intensely than others might. That’s what fuels our creativity, and also our self-doubt.

4.  Our stories, poems, etc. are our children. Criticism of them is a knife in the heart.

5.  Any insecurities we have about our worth as a person will feed into insecurities about our work. Criticism will seem harsher than it was intended to be; praise will be seen as people just being kind.

created via imgflip.com

What to Do About It: 

First, are you a writer?

If you write, you are a writer! Claim that title. You have a right to it. (Or to sculptor, painter, or even teacher, architect…whatever the case may be.)

Whether or not you are a good writer is something else. Being good at something almost always involves three things: natural talent, training, and practice.

Talent is the subjective, innate component. (I’ll come back to that.) But the training and the practice you can make happen. Take craft classes. Find a good critique group, editor, beta readers, etc. who can help you hone your skills.

And then write. A lot.

How do you know if you’ve got the talent?

When you are first starting out, have lots of people read your writing and give you feedback.

Then pay close attention to that feedback. This does NOT mean that you BELIEVE all the feedback you get, but pay close attention to it.

First, who is giving it? Do they have their own agenda (such as making themselves seem important), or are they sincerely trying to help?

Do they know what they are talking about? Do they normally read your genre? Are they writers themselves or editors? (They don’t have to be, and just because they are doesn’t mean everything they say is correct.)

I intentionally have at least one beta reader who is not primarily a mystery reader (currently my daughter-in-law, romance writer G.G. Andrew). This gives me…READ MORE

Grief and Acceptance, Denial and Desensitization #VegasStrong

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve dealt with grief over big and small tragedies the last few weeks, and worries over near misses. First there was Hurricane Harvey hitting close to where my son now lives, then Hurricane Irma taking out large chunks of my own state of Florida. Then Maria laid waste to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

dog

My sweet Lady. She loved walks.

And right between Irma and Maria, my dog suddenly became ill and died in a matter of days. She wasn’t that old, only about 7 (we didn’t know her exact age as she was a rescue dog) and she’d always been healthy. So it was quite a shock.

I felt a wee bit guilty that I was mourning a dog when so many people were dealing with much greater losses than a middle-aged pet.

But she was a real sweetie and she kept me company all day as I sat at my computer writing stories.

Among the stages of grief are denial (sometimes taking the form of numbness), anger and depression/sadness. I’ve certainly felt some of all of those feelings lately, about the bigger tragedies of the storms and the smaller one in my own home. I’ve choked up as I’ve watched the news, the houses reduced to rubble, and when I’ve thought about my sweet girl so abruptly taken from me.

And then 58 people were killed by a madman in Las Vegas, and so many more were wounded.

And I felt almost nothing. My brain and heart shut down. I didn’t feel the horror of it or tear up during the news. I didn’t think about it off and on all day, for days afterward, as I did with Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Indeed, I resisted writing this post and almost gave in to the temptation to let the lighthearted post we’d intended for this week to run as planned.

When we don’t have any more emotional energy left for shock, horror, grief, we go into a different kind of denial. It’s called desensitization.

The bad stuff has become normalized.

Study after study has found that this happens to children exposed to violent media, and especially to those allowed to play violent video games. They become more fearful, more convinced that something bad will happen to them, but at the same time, they become desensitized to violence.

It no longer horrifies them. And in the case of video games, violence become conditioned to trigger excitement and a sense of achievement. Kill off all the enemy and you are rewarded. You then advance to the next level, where the challenges are harder and the violence is often gorier.

I’m not going to get into the whole guns issue, although I am a proponent of “reasonable gun control,” as are the majority of Americans. And I certainly believe that mail-ordered kits for turning semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones need to be banned.

But the preserve-the-purity-of-the-second-amendment-at-all-cost advocates do have at least one good point. Guns don’t kill people.

Crazy people with guns kill people.

And the biggest problem is that it’s not always that easy to tell when someone is crazy enough to pick up a gun and go after strangers. The Vegas shooter showed few signs of this level of craziness. His friends and acquaintances say that he wasn’t spewing radical ideology or conspiracy theories. And his girlfriend claims she had no idea he was stockpiling highly lethal weapons.

But what is being hinted at now is that he was into video games.

As a psychologist, I believe that violent media and video games, in particular, are one of the reasons (not the only one, by any stretch) that we are seeing so much senseless violence in our society.

Now I know a bunch of people will immediately claim that they play video games and it hasn’t turned them into violent maniacs. My son, who is a priest by the way, is one of them.

He’ll tell you that having Batman destroy the Joker in his superhero video game is just his way of blowing off steam.

And for people with stable psyches, this is true. The games don’t do them any harm. But for people who aren’t so stable, these games desensitize them to violence and plant ideas in their heads about ways to get attention, to express their pain and anger at a world that they see as letting them down or doing them wrong.

For this reason, I think banning violent video games is as important if not more important than any attempt to control guns.

Is this inconveniencing those who enjoy these games and who are stable enough to not have ill effects mentally from them? Yes, it is. I’m sorry, but your entertainment is less important than our society’s safety.

Is this stepping on the first amendment rights of the companies that design and sell these games? Technically yes, but their complaints won’t really be about freedom of speech; they’re about profits. Are their profits more important than turning the tide away from senseless violence in our society?

We put restraints on porn, seeing it as having “no socially redeeming value.” We need similar restraints on violent media.

And let me paraphrase another argument that has been stated before. Just as our founding fathers lived in a world of one-shot muskets, they used riders racing through the night yelling, “The British are coming!” to communicate. They never anticipated automatic weapons that could mow down a crowd nor mass media capable of transmitting images and sounds instantly into everyone’s homes via the TV and Internet.

Yes we need to tread carefully as we do so, but I believe we do need to place some reasonable, sane limits on free speech (as we already have regarding porn, falsely yelling “Fire” in public buildings and making physical threats against the President of the United States—which is treason, by the way).

Before those few INsane people among us destroy our country while exercising their rights.

Oh, and in regard to the other word in the title, acceptance. It’s supposed to be the final stage of grief, the goal of the grieving  process. But I don’t think we want to reach that stage when it comes to mass murder. That’s not something we want to accept.

We need to stay angry and horrified until we find solutions!

But I am close to acceptance in my grieving for my dog, close enough to get a new one. And so as not to end on a total downer, here’s a pic of my new pup.

new pup

Our new doggy. He was named Benji by the people at the shelter but doesn’t answer to it yet. So we may change his name. Any suggestions?

Your thoughts on violent media and video games? (Note: Please keep it civil. And I know I touched on gun control but I don’t want to debate that. Everything that can be said on that subject has already been said, on both sides of the fence. And I’m still depressed enough that I just don’t have the energy to go there.)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )