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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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Dear Drs. - I am a 63 year old woman who was blessed with

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Dear Dr's. - I am a 63 year old woman who was blessed with an abusive mother, and both she and my father were alcoholic & died at an early age. I have (had) 3 siblings): a brother who died at the age of 9 of peritonitus (sp) or lack of supervision ( a ruptured appendix which they did not notice). My sisters were assigned by the state of Florida to my maternal grandparents and I, my paternal who immediately found an orphanage which would take me. I was there for just over a year, during which time my brother died. I ran away from the orphanage and due to my maternal grandparents, had a wonderful home with lifelong friends until they got into a tif about how much they were paying the "care-takers. At that time (the end of my sophomore year in HS), I was returned to my maternal grandparents. He was a criminal atty and and very serious opinions about why men and women were put on this earth (sex). He too was an alcoholic. I left them at the beginning of my senior year, got a job and lived on my own. Very depressing) At the age of 17 I married my 1st husband who I found out was very physically and mentally abusive. (VERY!!!) After 14 years, 4 boys who were getting older, and fear for my life, I left him, went to a shelter and filed for a divorce. He continued to harass me for about 3 years after our divorce, 1 year after my re-marriage to Tom. We have now been married fo0 31 years, very happily for the most part. Then at the age of 50 I had a heart, developed COPD, a number of ruptured discs in my back, both hips replaced, open heart surgery, several bone broken from various falls, two mild strokes, several TIA's etc. Now we have reached Oct., 2009. Tom had two sons when we married, and we raised both of them along with my 4. They were very young when we married and were both precious children who grew to adults who I loved as my own. Tommy died in October of 2009, then in Jan. I was in a very serious auto accident. First I almost died, then almost lost my right leg and now they want to do a knee replacement. I also lost 106 pounds. Three weeks after I was released from 5 months of hospitalization & rehab, Alan (Tom's other son) died. I had lapses of memory right after that, but didn't know it until recently. Then 3 weeks later my baby sister (my best friend always) passed suddenly of a stroke. My husband and I went to
Georgia for the services, of course. During our stay in Georgia, the day of Barby's funeral I walked in my sleep in the hall of the hotel and fell on the tile floor. The next morning I woke up and could not breathe (My SATs were 62%). I was taken to the hospital and admitted with a diagnosis of pneumonia. 7 days later I was released and the doctor said he was only trying to get me well enough for the trip back to Tampa. That was just over a month ago. I have NO short term memory, can't make decisions, very, very depressed (I forgot to tell you that I had been seeing this doc for 8 years for depression.) My leg is still not much use and very painful, but I just can't face more painful surgery after the surgery required after the accident, the pneumonia, the loss of mental capabilities and the loss of 3 very close, loved ones in the months since Tommy first passed away. five months in the hospital and rehab. and no memory of my sister's funeral or the three days following while in the hospital. then laying there with the blinds closed, the lights off and the door shut.

The doctor said I had the equivalent of a nervous breakdown (in lay terms) and so I found this site trying to find out exactly what that was. I really didn't mean to be so "wordy", and there are alot of things that I left out in my poor attempts at brieviety. I hope you can give me some help as far as what might have happened to me, what is wrong with me now and what I should do to get some help. Thank you in advance for your expert help!!

Carolyn Szymanski
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

Lay people and some experts use the term nervous breakdown in a way that includes many serious mental disorders, which occur very often with physical exhaustion due to prolong stress. So, in your case the stress and trauma of events in your recent past physically 'wore you down' to a point of acute physical exhaustion and in addition, you appear to have had a serious clinical depression, such that you were literally incapacitated and unable to care for yourself. So roughly, this was probably what was being referred to in your case as a nervous breakdown.

As I read your initial post, I was struck by the fact that more life changes and extreme stress events have occurred in your life than occur in the lives of 3-4 people combined. One could write a novel about your life and probably then compose a meaningful sequel to it.

You report that you are suffering from memory loss and I'm inferring that you are saying you are having a hard time retaining/learning new information as well. I think that first, you need to be evaluated for clinical depression and possibly a trial of antidepressant medication. This combined with some sessions of psychotherapy with someone who is highly conversant with mood disorders would be helpful. I don't know where you live, but I would suggest that you check with your local hospital or medical center, or if you have a university in your area, with their departments of psychology, family medicine or their medical care for seniors unit (formerly called 'geriatric units) and find someone who specializes in mood disorders. This ideally would be a clinical or counseling psychologist. I am suggesting this type of therapist because I would be concerned that either due to depression or perhaps due to some changes in your cognitive functioning, your memory and learning ability is being affected. It would be important to find a way to lift your depression as much as possible, because only then could your memory and learning functioning be assessed (to see if something in addition to depression was affecting you. Since severe depression can, by itself, affect learning and memory somewhat, you may see a dramatic improvement in your attention and memory once the medication and psychotherapy worked together to help you, or you might find that your mood is vastly improved, but you still have some memory and learning problems. This could then be more readily evaluated either by the psychologist him/herself if they do neuropsychological testing, or by various medical tests e.g., you may have suffered a mini-stroke and do not even know it.

I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if I have overlooked anything in providing this response. I realize I may have assumed too much in providing this response, so again, let me know

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