An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 15, Number 2
February 14 will always be remembered in Parkland as a day of incomprehensible tragedy. On that day, just three years ago, 17 lives were tragically ended by a former student at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. For no apparent reason but hate and anger, the shooter returned to his former school and took the lives of 17 students and teachers who were doing nothing but exactly what they were supposed to be doing…teaching and learning. Our country has moved on but the lives of the Parkland families, friends, neighbors, and community have been changed forever. The incomprehensible hurt still lingers in our community especially since, as of yet, no one has been held accountable.
Most of our readers are well aware of the events of that day having watched the frequently repeated news videos and read the news articles and social media posts. The news articles show the bigger picture. However, we have decided to publish one individual’s story. While not directly involved at the school, the following story is from Sam, a patient of ours, with his permission, who was nearby at the time of the shooting. He is currently attending college and is broadcasting sporting events for local high schools. This is his first-person account of how he was affected and what he did on that day. We have also in included pictures from the memorial outside the school as well as from the March For Our Lives.
We do this to remember what hate can do as well as to honor the memory of those who were taken.
Downloads of Sam’s story and handouts from our previous E-Letters can be found on our website, KimmelPsychology/e_Letters. We encourage you to read and download them. You are invited to email your thoughts to Dr. Kimmel at [email protected].
Make sure to read the latest blog addition near the end of this E-Letter.
When people ask me where I’m from, I always say Boca Raton, FL. My hometown is too small, too insignificant, too unremarkable to be noteworthy. That was my reasoning until 2018, anyway. Far too many people have heard of my hometown now. Chances are you have, too.
I’m from Parkland, FL. On February 14, 2018, 17 people were killed and 17 more were injured in one of the worst school shootings in American history. I was down the street from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as it transpired. This is the story of what I experienced.
It was Valentine’s Day. I took my then-girlfriend out for brunch at around 1:45 that afternoon. I was broadcasting sports games for my old high school at the time, and coincidentally, there was a pre-season baseball game that night against Stoneman Douglas. So, the holiday festivities had to start early.
Around 2:30 PM, we left the restaurant and started walking to my car. The high school is right down this street. There was an ambulance and a sheriff’s cruiser parked right close to me. Lights on, no sirens, but no sign of a car accident or anything like that. I didn’t pay it much mind at first.
All of a sudden, all hell broke loose. Over a dozen police cars seemingly came out of nowhere and turned onto that street. I looked up to the sky and saw a helicopter heading in that direction, then two. I looked back to the ground and I saw terrified people running away.
I started reacting on instinct. I told my girlfriend to get in the car, keep her head down and away from the windows, and I would get us home. She kept checking Google as I drove 70 in a 45 mile an hour zone. As we pulled into my driveway, we saw the news alert: “Active Shooter in Parkland, FL.”
We had four different news channels pulled up on our computers and phones, and they all showed where I just was. Anderson Cooper was talking about the roads I drove on every day. Outside my room, I heard my dad say, “Can you believe it? The next Columbine – right down the street.”
In between frantically texting my loved ones that I was okay, I reached out to a friend of mine who worked for the city. He told me a business complex in my housing development was being used as a staging area to reunite the evacuated students with their families. I wanted to help however I could.
I filled my car with two cases of cold water and grabbed as many phone chargers as I could. It was chaos. There were hundreds of students, dozens of police officers, some in full SWAT gear, some in gym clothes and a bulletproof vest.
I had 50 cold bottles of water; I gave one to every officer I saw. I put multi-plugs in every charging port my car had, and told every student I came across that if their phone was dead and they couldn’t contact their families, they could use my car to charge them or my phone to make a call.
An FBI agent came up to me after I had finished. I was standing around with my arms crossed and wearing a button-down, so he asked me, “Which agency are you with?” I told him I was a civilian trying to help; he laughed, told me I couldn’t be there, and suggested I go wait with the press.
I approached a few reporters, told them I was a journalism student, and asked what I could do to help. For the next few hours, I carried camera equipment, provided WiFi, gave directions to camera vans, and believe it or not, two news channels allowed me to help them film some interviews.
One interview is forever burned into my mind. A mother just reunited with her special needs son, a 15-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas, four-and-a-half hours after the shooting. This is what she told us.
“I’m really, really happy to hear that he’s okay. It’s just been crazy. I went to the school, they gave me the runaround, I got stuck out here, and then I had to walk like one mile coming here, but it’s just a relief to find out that he’s okay. To see him, and to see him smiling and that he’s okay, it’s a blessing.”
As haunting as that is, nothing will ever stick with me quite like what happened shortly afterwards. I was with reporters who were waiting for updates from the official press conference being held elsewhere. A cameraman ran over to us and said, “It’s seventeen, guys. Seventeen were killed.”
It honestly felt like time stood still. I looked around, and every professional journalist, hardened from covering death and destruction on a daily basis, was devastated. They had their heads in their hands. They were praying. It was the most powerful moment of my life.
Fortunately, I did not personally know any of the victims. But my friend’s best friend was Jaime Guttenberg. My sister’s biology lab partner was Nicholas Dworet. I still live just three miles from Stoneman Douglas High. And the shooter, who I will not name, once lived on my street.
When you see these mass tragedies on the news, it’s impersonal. You say “that’s terrible” and move on. You tell yourself “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.” Parkland was statistically the safest city in Florida the year before the shooting. It’s the last place this should’ve happened, and yet it did.
I sincerely hope that tragedy never comes as close to your home as it did to mine. I sincerely hope that none of you will ever be able to understand what I, or anyone in my town, went through, because you never experience anything resembling what I went through that sunny afternoon.
But in our country’s current political climate, we have to confront the unfortunate reality that this could happen to any one of us. If, heaven forbid, a mass casualty situation comes to your door, all I ask is that you ask yourself, “What can I do to help?”
At a swim meet this weekend in upstate New York, which Sam will broadcast, he will ask the audience to “observe a moment of contemplation before today’s meet as we read the names of all 17 victims aloud, followed by a moment of silence…”
Alyssa Alhadeff. Scott Beigel. Martin Duque. Nicholas Dworet. Aaron Feis. Jaime Guttenberg. Chris Hixon. Luke Hoyer. Cara Loughran. Gina Montalto. Joaquin Oliver. Alaina Petty. Meadow Pollack. Helena Ramsay. Alex Schachter. Carmen Schentrup. Peter Wang.
We here in Coral Springs and Parkland ask the same: “What can I do to help?”
KimmelPsychology has committed ourselves to being available for anyone who is in need of support, therapy, psychiatric consultation, professional coaching, and online psychological and psychoeducational evaluations. We practice telehealth and have recently returned to safe, in-office visits on a limited basis. We can be reached by calling our office at 954 755-2885 or by going to the Our Staff page on our website, KimmelPsychology.com.
5551 N University Drive, Suite 202
Coral Springs FL 33067
Dr. K’s Blog
February 12, 2021
I was fortunate enough to receive the second Pfizer vaccination last week. Although the drive-through experience took a total of 3 ½ hours, it went very smoothly and easily. I was quite impressed by the courtesy and professionalism of the healthcare workers who manned the check-ins and delivered the vaccine. Like many others, I experienced no side effects or reactions after the inoculation. Even though I have now received the two vaccinations, my safety practices have not changed. I continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid crowded areas. I do have some mental relief and am hopeful that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many of my patients have told me that they have had enough of the pandemic and are exhausted and frustrated that their lives are still restricted. This is not an uncommon feeling. But I remain optimistic that within a few months, we will be able to have more freedom and be able to do some of the things we used to do before the pandemic.
January 19, 2021
I recently received the Pfizer Covid vaccine which was not an unpleasurable experience. After being able to access the appointments page, I was able to schedule an appointment on a Saturday three weeks later. Last Saturday, I showed up at Markham Park early in the morning hoping to be taken quickly. The park was not even open yet but there were hundreds of cars in front of me. I took my place in line and began to wait. Surprisingly, the wait was not so bad at all.
Like being online at Disney World, the line kept moving, slow and steady. The weather was beautiful, the park was peaceful, classical music was on the radio, and there were plenty of porta pottys. There were several checkpoints along the way looking at the form that needed to be filled out as well as your date of birth to ensure you met the age requirement. The staff from the DOH were friendly, helpful, and professional. What a pleasure. It seemed like it went very quickly before I arrived at the inoculation tents, ten of them. The staff wrote on your windshield the tent you were assigned to and when the inoculation was delivered. After which, I drove to a separate area for another line. There, after 15 minutes, I was told I could leave. I felt great relief that it went smoothly and that I had received the first dose. I await the second dose and hope it goes as smoothly.
December 20. 2020
This has been a very difficult year for everybody. Some have had it worse and some have had it better. But what really matters is how was it for you. For myself, this year has seemed endless. While each day is long, the weeks seem to have gone by very quickly. The election is in the rearview mirror but what will happen during the transition of power remains to be seen and of concern. The virus which hopefully will become under control has been unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. Social media and the news dominate our lives and unfortunately, there is too much disinformation, misinformation, and outright lying.
Yet, there have been positives. The creation of several vaccines in less than a year has been nothing short of miraculous. The goodness of others in helping those who are less fortunate by providing food, clothing, and money is a testimonial to the human spirit. The technological advances during this time are equivalent to the developments that occurred during the Renaissance and Industrial Age. And there are more.
Despite what we hear about how bad things are, we need to remember our human spirit. I choose to be positive and hopeful for our future.
November 19, 2020
Another month has gone by and we remain restricted by the pandemic. The election has come and mostly gone although things seem to remain the same. The Covid news remains frightening and many of my contacts are angry and question how much more of the restrictions they can take. It does seem that Groundhog Day has set in. Tolerance for the sameness is decreasing and I think more people are taking unhealthy risks. Depression is on the increase as is overall mental health damage. We need to remember that Covid is a very dangerous illness and not just the flu. While the vaccine picture looks promising, we are not there yet and it may actually be a while.
We must remember that we are all in this together. What we do can affect others. It is very sad that our society has been entitled for many, many years with people being only concerned about themselves and their rights. This pandemic requires us to be a community where we pull together and not only look out for ourselves and our families but also our neighbors and others.
We can stop the spread by working together and being concerned about each other. Maybe this is the true lesson of the pandemic. Wear a mask and keep the social distance even though you may not want to or think you have to. Doing so is good for everybody and will flatten the curve.
October 20, 2020
For the past several weeks I have been looking at old movies and tapes of myself and my family. While some of these are sad as some family members are no longer here, I have learned a lot about myself and my family. Looking at these images, I remember who I was, how I have changed over the years, and how I got to be who I am. I no longer see my parents through the eyes of a child but through the eyes of an adult who is actually now older than they were in the films. I can see how much I am like them and how I am different. I also have seen my now adult children as they were when they were young.
These memories have brought back feelings of joy but also tears. My children’s’ childhoods were so fleeting and seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. I wanted to hold on to those years when life was much simpler. Today, we are caught up in so many worries and focused on daily events that we often forget who we were as we are just trying to get by. I have also realized that as I get older, my parents have gotten smarter.
I am glad that I have these recorded memories from the past. I have learned a lot from them. I encourage you to look at your pictures, tapes, and movies from many years ago to see who you were and who you became.
September 20, 2020
While each day seems long, the weeks and months seem to fly by. It is hard to believe that we have been living with this pandemic for six months now. We don’t know how much longer it will be but we seem to have adjusted to this new way of life. Some of us well and some of us not so well.
It’s amazing to me the role technology plays in our daily lives and how important it has become. What would life be like without our computers, televisions, cell phones, and online games? Fortunately, we have them and can rely on them.
Technology has changed my practice as well as all of medicine. I am able to actually view my patients in real time on my computer from the comfort of my home. No longer do I have to drive to and from the office unless I choose to do so. While I don’t think that therapy is the same as being in the office with a patient, teletherapy may be just as effective. But I am old school.
Do we appreciate our technology or do we take it for granted? Today and yesterday, the power went out in my home. No computer, no television, no Amazon but I did have the cell phone fortunately. This was just a reminder of how dependent we are on our machines.
I believe that one of the positives, if we can call it that, of the pandemic is the realization of how fortunate we are to live in this time when technology makes our lives safer, healthier, more comfortable, and more interesting.
How would we manage the pandemic without it?
August 20, 2020
Recently, I attended an in-person funeral at a local cemetery.
Nearby was the grave of one of the kids killed in the Stoneman Douglas massacre. I went over to pay my respects. The grave area was covered with stuffed animals, flowers, and painted stones, some with the name. I was surprised at the intensity of my own emotions looking at this youngster’s grave and the memories it brought back of that fateful day. Tears quickly swelled up in my eyes even though I did not know this teenager.
This tragedy that happened almost two and one-half years ago has not lessened in its impact on our community. Despite, the protests, politics, virus and economic issues, we are still affected by what happened that Valentine’s Day. I didn’t even know the kids but I did know the community. I do now know some of the other students who were in the classroom and their families because they are my patients.
Maybe we all need to take a trip to the cemetery to remind us of what hatred, mental illness, and political machinations can do. Perhaps, such a trip will motivate us to put an end to these root causes of violence.
July 20, 2020
After being out of the office for several months, I returned last week to conduct therapy with several patients who wanted to be seen in person. It worked out well even though it was only for one morning. This week will be two mornings and some of the other therapists are also beginning to return. In setting up the office, we have followed the CDC guidelines and made the necessary precautions to keep the office disinfected.
Virtual doctor visits and therapy sessions have been described as the wave of the future that is here now. In fact, there are reports of increased utilization of visits because telehealth is easy. There are many platforms and all you have to do is just log on and your doctor is there for you. There are those patients and doctors who appreciate not having to drive to the office or put their health at risk.
Telehealth has worked out well but, in my opinion, it is no substitute for seeing a patient in person. Maybe I am old school, but I get so much more out of being in the same room with a patient. While watching a computer screen, you don’t get to see a person’s body language or catch some mannerisms that are not apparent. There are also nonverbal cues that patients present that can easily be missed. The richness of emotions and the experience of shared compassion does not translate well via a computer screen.
Personally, getting out of the home to go to work felt like freedom. It was good to get back into the office and work directly with people.
Yes, I am definitely old school. I will also continue to practice telehealth to see those patients who want to be seen online.
If you are struggling during this pandemic, call the office and you will be seen in person or online.
June 20, 2020
I have had to turn the news off. Not that I wanted to but I found myself becoming quite upset by what I watched. It didn’t matter what television station I watched. I just found that everything seemed to be bad news and repetitive. News is presented in such a way that our fears and worries are stoked. I now get my news by reading online from different news sources and I can control it. When watching television news, we are a captive audience. We can change the channel but wherever we go, we get more of the same. Bad things are happening to people all over the world which mostly don’t affect us. Yet we watch. The commentators appear friendly and concerned but are they really or are they just news readers?
I wonder what happened to our ability to think clearly and make decisions based on accurate information. It seems to be that rather than unbiased journalism, news shows are now more entertainment than informative. They seem to have the power to set the context and with their choice of coverage, define a viewpoint and claim that it represents the majority of people. But do they really? If we see things differently, are we in the minority?
Does watching the newscasts no matter what station cause us to give up our ability to think for ourselves? Have we allowed others to make our choices for us by inflaming our fears? Have we allowed the news agencies to control the information we get and to guide us into accepting their messages?
Have we allowed ourselves to dumb down?
What do you think? Email me your comments.
May 20, 2020
Next week is Memorial Day and this day will be quite different. The unofficial start of the summer is marked by travel, celebrations, shopping, and recreational activities. Because of the Covid 19 virus, all of these activities will be curtailed. They will happen to some extent but it will not be the same.
For me, I have always considered Memorial Day as a day to remember those who gave their lives preserving our freedom and way of life. I learned early that freedom has its price as I grew up with a father who fought in World War II. I joined the Army Reserves when I was much younger and had a taste of the military life. I have been to Normandy and to other countries for their Memorial Days. We would not be the country we are today, even with our problems, without those who did not think twice about putting themselves in the line of fire to protect our country.
Listening to the politicians, critics, entertainers, and protesters, I wonder who today would give up their lives to protect our country. Who would go into harm’s way when asked to protect our country? Plenty of men and women do and unfortunately, many come back maimed and harmed. We must take care of them and honor them for what they gave up for us.
So, on this Memorial Day, pause to think about the lifestyle we have and who made it possible. Think of those who fought and never made it back and those who did with PTSD. Give thanks for all those who paid the ultimate price.
Would you possibly give up your life if called upon by our country?
This year, let’s honor those who have.
April 21, 2020
One of the nicest things about the pandemic, if there is anything nice about it, is hearing from old friends. It seems that now that people are stuck at home, they reach out to those who they haven’t spoken to in a long time. I have had calls from friends who I haven’t heard from in thirty years and we picked up like it was yesterday. I have exchanged then-and-now pictures with some of them. We discussed what the world was like then as well as how our families have grown up and our losses. The warmth and connection were still there. Perhaps, that is what motivates these calls; the looking to rekindle the meaningful connection or relive the memory of better times.
One of these calls was from a friend of mine who was very moved by his experience when we attended the March of The Living in 2000. Not being Jewish, he was touched by being given permission to travel with my group to Poland to experience the concentration camps and then onto Israel. He was a student of German history and his doctoral dissertation was on National Socialism in Germany or the Nazi party. Being in the actual camps and experiencing firsthand what he studied shook him to his soul. He was forever changed by this experience. I was honored to be there with him.
After the March, I would visit him often at the school where he was a principal. But it stopped and we lost contact. Recently, my daughter told me that he was the best teacher she ever had. The next day, he called me. Was that coincidence? My friend rewrote his published book about life in a barracks at Birkenau during the Holocaust. He was so excited that he called to tell me about it and sent me a copy which I read. In fact, I could not put it down. We have kept in touch since and I hope to travel to see him when the pandemic is over.
What a great feeling I had from this reconnection. Have you experienced anything similar? Let me know via email and I will include your experiences in the next e-Letter.
March 25, 2020
My how things have changed. When I was graduate school, psychotherapy was practiced very differently. In the old school, the therapist didn’t say much and offered little information about their private lives. The therapist sat behind you or off to the side. The patient would often recline on a couch and allowed to say whatever came into their mind. There was little, if any, direction from the therapist who often just repeated what the patient had just said. Dreams and behaviors may have been interpreted as representing some intrapsychic conflict. Therapy would go on for years and visits were often several times a week. The therapist was often a father or grandfather image.
Today, in contrast, therapy is conducted very differently. The therapist is often a lot friendlier, personable, and interactive with the patient. Some therapists are very directive, asking questions and challenging patient beliefs. They will give homework assignments and sometimes follow cookbook-type instructions on how to cure some behavioral problem. They are often a lot more available to the patient answering texts and emails. Some give details about their personal lives, if in their view, it helps the patient. The focus is more on problem resolution than personality readjustment.
Maybe I’m old school but in my opinion, what works most in therapy is the relationship between the patient and the therapist. Those therapists who conduct therapy via texting or email may be successful but it is not for me. The coronavirus has transformed my practice so that therapy is conducted via a video platform. That is okay as it is physically safer and you can still maintain the relationship.
February 19, 2020
Despite what we may hear in the media, I have found people to be more friendly and open if you don’t talk politics. I have encountered waiters, waitresses, and cashiers that smile more and are more talkative when I ask them their name. I have found people smile back when I’ve smiled at them. Sending “thinking of you” or birthday greetings on social media almost always gets a positive response. Even saying “hello” gets the same in return.
So maybe things aren’t as bad as they sound in the news. Perhaps not everybody is out to scam you or break into your accounts. Hearing negative news reports and being constantly inundated with advertised home or internet security warnings actually decrease our trust in others. And we are not even aware of it.
Let’s not be naïve. Sure, there are bad guys out there but perhaps things are not as bad as we are led to believe.
Let’s be smart about who we trust and let’s be friendlier to each other.
November 16, 2019
Rather than my usual musings, in the true spirit of the holiday season, I am listing below 10 inspirational quotes hoping that they might motivate some readers.
1. Fall seven times…stand up eight (Japanese proverb)
2. Jump and a net will appear (Zen proverb)
3. Be the best version of yourself (Sara Sampaio)
4. I am not what happened to me…I am what I choose to become (Carl Jung)
5. She turned her cant’s into cans and her dreams into plans. (Kobi Yamada)
6. A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
7. What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet. (Anne Frank)
8. You’re a diamond, dear. They can’t break you. (Unknown)
9. She promised herself better and never looked back. (Unknown)
10.Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. (Unknown)
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.
October 20, 2019
Recently, I decided to digitize the 60+ movies that I took when I was younger and before there were video cameras. I promised myself that I would do this at some time and it was now the time. I sent several off to a digitization company and was stunned with what I saw once I received them. Memories of past events that were long forgotten sprung to life. People who had been instrumental early in my life and who are now gone popped up on the video screen. With them were many, many memories.
My family had the opportunity to see my parents and relatives who they never met and really didn’t know anything about. They had the opportunity to see my wedding and both myself and their mother when we were virtually kids. It did bring some sadness to see those who have passed in the prime of their lives yet at least they could see them. It also brought to life places that I have been to and long forgotten but told my children about. I realized more about myself looking at who I was. I am now looking forward to receiving more videos of movies from the past. I strongly recommend that if you have movies and have contemplated digitizing them, do not wait. The rewards are invaluable.
September 14, 2019
Last week most of us were mesmerized by the possibility of suffering the ravages of Hurricane Dorian. The generated anxiety was so great that my daughter and I cut short our vacation to return to Florida to protect our homes. Twelve hours on a plane can be very demanding but we were able to sleep through most of it. Fortunately, South Florida was spared but not the Bahamas. Most of us living here have been to the Bahamas a number of times. Albeit, on cruises or quick vacations, there does seem to be a special connection between that country and Florida. We have always found our trips there to be enjoyable and relaxing.
True to form, when there are catastrophes, the goodness in most of us springs into action to help those who have suffered. It was heartwarming to see the many, many people and organizations who have sprung into action to help those in need. Some didn’t even wait for the government to develop rescue plans. Using their own boats and planes, they organized relief efforts in their communities and brought help to those before the established organizations even got off the ground. Mind you, these are strangers helping strangers. This is the true human condition. Relief efforts continue and will continue for a long time as the devastation goes beyond words. If you have not yet given or helped out, I urge you to go to the local store and buy some canned food, paper goods, toiletries, or clothing and bring them to a local drop off point for shipment to the Bahamas.
Why does it take catastrophes for us to put aside our differences to care for the needy, the less fortunate, the victims? Why do we allow ourselves to get caught up with the politicians, celebrities, sports figures and others who tear us down and find fault with who we are?
Imagine what we could accomplish if we regularly functioned together as a nation like we did after the hurricanes, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the mass shootings etc. We have it within us.
Our nation is made up of people with compassion, morality, and generosity. Let’s live it not only in times of catastrophe but all the time.
August 16, 2019
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the phenomenon known as Woodstock. For three days in the Catskills community of Bethel, New York, almost 500,000 people came together to enjoy music, peace, drugs, love, and togetherness. America and probably the world had never seen this type of experience before. No one was killed, several were hurt due to dehydration and drug overdoses, and many went hungry. However, the community came together to police, feed, take care of, and protect each other. What an opportunity to show what can happen when people try to get along, are respectful of each other, and care enough not to hurt others.
Contrast that with how we live today. Just fifty years later, our nation is polarized, angry, fearful, distrustful, and disrespectful. The Woodstock generation is now into their seventies or eighties but those who were there remember what it was like to have Peace and Love. What happened to change the world and why did we all let this happen? Perhaps the question is not really how this happened but how can we get back to caring and respecting each other. It is up to us.
Woodstock by Joni Mitchell
Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me
Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are caught in the devil’s bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
July 18, 2019
In a few days from now, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing men on the moon. While technology has advanced rapidly since then, it is hard to imagine the magnitude of this event. We have become desensitized to new advances in technology as they occur almost every day and we can even own them. Our science has provided us with new smart devices and we have come to not only accept it but to expect it.
I remember the landing fifty years ago. It was huge and everyone seemed glued to the television set to watch it happen. Try to place yourself back then. Color television was just coming into its own. Phones were wired and long-distance calls were extremely expensive and very infrequent. There were only a few television channels. The first personal computer, the TRS 80, would not be introduced for a few years. We had no calculators and knew little about technology.
Landing on the moon, given that background, was truly an astounding feat and almost hard to believe. Almost everyone stopped what they were doing to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step down on to the surface of the moon. It was as if science fiction came to life.
Being able to land on the moon with the limited technology of the day shows what determination, commitment, and intelligence can achieve. This is a lesson for us all.
June 20, 2019
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Eagles’ Haven in Coral Springs. It has only been open a few months but I was extremely impressed by the nurturing environment created there. Each of the people I met were dedicated to caring and helping. The environment is warm, supportive, and friendly but not intrusive.
Eagles’ Haven is a community wellness center run by the amazing people of JAFCO to provide support, education and wellness to current, former, and future Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, teachers, and family members. It is open to the community, seven days a week, and is a place to drop in for supportive services or wellness activities. It is not a therapy center but it does run different support groups for students. Wellness activities include yoga, kickboxing, cooking, Tai Chi, meditation, open mic, and resiliency workshops. All of this is done free of charge.
I have known JAFCO for years as an extremely well run and professional agency to help children and families in need. Their services are excellent because of their professionalism and true caring for others. It is no surprise to me that they have reached out to establish a community center to help the traumatized in Parkland and at no cost or requirements.
If you know anyone in need who needs a place to go to heal, have fun, and to feel cared for, please direct them to Eagles’ Haven.
May 20, 2019
Sunday evening, I attended the burning of the Temple of Time which was constructed as a healing project for victims of the MSD shooting. Over the several months of the Temple’s existence, thousands of people came to pay their respects, leave messages, and drawings and other items. Lat night, there were hundreds of people on hand to watch the Coral Springs and Parkland Fire Departments set fire to burn the Temple down. It was quite a moving experience. (Photos credit Dr. Joel Kimmel)
Despite the customary speeches from city officials, people came with chairs, drinks, their children, bicycles, and cameras to record this significant event. People were friendly and some were crying. At a specified time, the firemen surrounded the Temple ignited the flames and very quickly the structure went up in fire. Sparks flew up and into the sky and were quickly watered down by the firemen. The burn was very controlled although the heat and smell of the smoke covered us all.
Emotionally, I am sure that the burning helped some people to let go of their grief. Artistically, it was a very different kind of event. For others, it was a very unique experience, never to be forgotten.
April 19, 2019
Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend several theatre organ concerts in a private home/museum. Theatre organs are a distinct type of pipe organ that was originally developed to provide music and sound effects for silent movies early in the twentieth century. Consequently, they are very large.
Besides these instruments being beautiful visually, the sounds they make are exquisite. One can close their eyes and be transported back through time to another era. The music that is played is often from earlier decades but certainly a group favorite is the score from The Phantom of The Opera.
Still in use at ball parks and certain concert halls, as well as private homes, these instruments are very unique. It is difficult to believe that such an instrument can create chimes, horns, and other sounds while maintaining the melody. Having several keyboards and foot pedals, it takes great skill and talent to be able to coordinate hands and feet to produce the sounds and the music. The organists I have heard appear to love their craft as well as explaining how the organ works to the audience.
I have found that attending these concerts has allowed me to escape the constant everyday stress and to be transported back to a time when life was simpler. I encourage you, if given the opportunity, to attend at least one of these concerts and hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I have.
March 21, 2019
Recently, I began to listen to podcasts. I felt like I had discovered a new world. There seems to be a podcast about almost anything. I have found the ones that I listen to to be entertaining and very enjoyable. They are well produced and well narrated. The suspense in some of them literally keeps you on the edge of your seat. Today’s technology allows you to listen to them virtually where ever you are and helps you quickly pass the time while driving, flying, or just waiting for someone. From mysteries to teachings, podcasts are very entertaining.
Listening to podcasts is not really that different than our parents or grandparents who used to get their entertainment from the radio because there was nothing else. Shows like “Dragnet” or ”The Shadow” were old time radio series and in many ways, equivalent to what we listen now. But technology has made podcasts better and we can listen on our cell phones, computers, or tablets.
Old radio shows, like typewriters and vinyl records, have become very trendy amongst the younger generations. Does this signal a revolt against technology? Probably not. But maybe it is a reaction against social media, the constantly developing Smart technology, and the complexity of modern life. There seems to be a growing interest in things that are old, things that are mechanical and make noises, things that are not perfect, and things that can be fixed rather than thrown away. Using typewriters instead of computers and listening to vinyl records rather than downloaded tunes have become quite trendy and seem to be on the rise. Many people now like to play mechanical pinball machines and even old arcade games like Space Invaders or Pac Man.
I think it’s great to have both the old and the new. But I wonder if fountain pens, rotary phones, and carbon paper will ever return. Maybe there is a podcast about that.
I would love to hear from you. Send me your thoughts and I will publish them in next month’s blog.
February 22, 2019
Last week I visited the Temple of Peace that has been constructed on Sample Road in Coral Springs. It was truly moving and reminded me of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. It opened on Valentine’s Day, the one-year anniversary of the Douglas High School shooting, as a place of healing. An intricate structure, it is a safe haven for those who want to come and express their grief.
Inside the structure were flowers and hundreds of hand-written notes, drawings, pictures, and poems dedicated to those who were killed or wounded in the shooting. The messages in the notes were very personal and emotional. There were many people there yet no one spoke or intruded on others. It was very respectful and serene. I found the Temple of Peace quite comforting. I strongly suggest that if you can make it to the location, it is worth the visit.
The structure was constructed mostly by volunteers including students from Stoneman Douglas as well as some of the victims’ families. It will be burned down in May as a way of casting off the demons of pain, grief, and sorrow according to the artist David Best. This is not something to be missed.
January 21, 2019
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend both Art Miami and Art Palm Beach. I have attended these exhibitions for several years and almost always come away impressed. Both of these events showcase contemporary artists whose creativity and imagination are truly amazing. Unlike conventional paintings and sculptures, art is made from very unique items. Portraits of rock musicians are made from broken vinyl records. Dresses are made from plastic forks and spoons. Sculptures of animals are made from bullet casings. Other sculptures are made from used text books. Abstractions are made from buttons and pins. Large pictures of celebrities are made from smaller pictures of the same celebrity. Famous art scenes are replicated in bubble wrap. I often wonder how these artists come up with their medium. How do they think of what materials to use to create their works?
Simply put, artists think differently that ordinary people. I don’t believe they are bound by our conventional cause and effect thinking. Rather they think out of the proverbial box. The artists seem able to see things differently and create what they see in ways than most people wouldn’t even dream. They not only can conceptualize differently but they are able to construct their vision. Who would think of painting each bubble of a bubble wrap section a different color and then be able to complete the picture to be a likeness of a Seurat?
Our world is fortunate to have artists and other creative spirits. They cause us to expand our own thinking and appreciate seeing objects and even the world in different ways. In this manner, we grow and evolve.
December 21, 2018
Every year at this time, I set aside time to do some thinking about what happened in my life this year. Was it better than last year and if not, why not? Did I do everything I wanted? Did I improve my health? Did I tell those who I love and care for that I do love them and do care for them? Did I grow myself and help others to live a happier life? I think being a psychologist causes one to be more introspective than others. And yes, I actively spent time with those I love and care for and tried to help this who I treat to live better lives.
This year, unfortunately, will live in history as a tragic year. It is just a few months short of the one-year anniversary of the horrific tragedy that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. While life does go on, many, many, many members of the community have been traumatized by the shooting. Even though life seems to have returned to normal, people have not. I find myself wanting to know more about what happened that fateful day and then feeling angry and appalled by the numerous failures of the systems designed to protect our students and all of us. What good is it to “See Something, Say Something” when many people did say something yet nothing was done. Who is being held accountable for the failures that day? Are they still in positions of responsibility or are they just trying to pass the blame onto others? Will we ever know who failed to protect our kids? What messages are we teaching our kids?
I truly hope that this new year brings some solace to those who are still grieving, still fearful, and still in shock from that horrible event. My New Year’s wish is for speedy healing of those who have been traumatized so that one day in some year soon they can look back and say that this was a good year.
November 16, 2018
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting, over dinner, a Holocaust survivor who spent three years in Auschwitz. A friendly and outgoing individual, Morris is more than 90 years old and in very good health. His cognitive abilities were great and he easily spoke about his life. He detailed his experiences including showing his tattooed arm and what it was like being liberated. He said that he spends a lot of time talking to students in school and enjoys opening their eyes to his experiences with the message of “Never Again”. One wonders and I am often asked, how can these survivors enjoy life after what they have been through? Aren’t they filled with hate?
Was it a coincidence that I met him on Kristallnacht? Who knows? I told him that I had visited that death camp many times and perhaps that was the one of the things that bonded us. There was a genuine warmth and good feelings making this connection. Having had a horrific childhood, he now lives on his own but is he lonely or bitter? Not a chance. He has found a purpose which adds meaning to his life.
This is a man who took the worst and turned it into the best for himself.
A lesson for us all.
October 20, 2018
Unfortunately, politics has been good for my business. While I believe that few people have sought treatment because of being upset about politics, there is not one patient I have who has not talked or made comments about politicians. It seems to me that people are angry, scared, and worried about the future. Rightly or wrongly so, their emotional states have escalated and they report feelings of powerless. The question of what can I do is followed by a shrug of the shoulders and a reluctant acceptance of the current situation.
Ironically, as a psychologist, I work to empower my patients with new ways of thinking and behaving to resolve their problems and deescalate their negative feelings. We work towards avoiding harmful, negative situations and learning how to handle them when they occur. We model respect for ourselves and for others. We develop strategies to deal with difficult people and situations and develop ways to handle the anxiety, anger, and frustration.
The current political and societal climate have given us a lot to work with.
September 21, 2018
Like many others I have spoken to and have heard, I am appalled by the lack of decency and respect in our society today. I believe that this is a bigger problem than just politics where much of it comes from. What are the messages we teach each other and our children? What will the future be like if we cannot trust or respect each other? What values do we live by and how can we feel secure in a world where the main entertainment is winning or getting the better of the other guy? I believe this is a time when all of us need to evaluate our own values and behaviors and determine whether we are contributing to the collapse of decency and respect. We all need to decide how we want to live and relate to each other.
It is also the time that each of us individually need to take the responsibility of bettering society by how we live and by being an example of respect and decency. We cannot wait for society’s
leaders and influencers to set an example because they haven’t yet and probably won’t. It is my belief that only each of us can repair the world in our way.
Be kind and respectful to others. Hold the door and say please and thank you. Smile at others. Cooperate and help those who need it all the time not just in times of illness or catastrophes. Think of others not just ourselves. Be charitable and see others not as competitors but also trying to make their way in the world. Refrain from watching or listening to rabble-rousers as well as television shows or movies that degrade your values. Let others know that disrespect and indecency will not be accepted. Be a leader and not a follower.
If not now, when?
July 19, 2018
Recently I decided to do an experiment to put more balance in my life. Since I frequently talk to many people, I wanted to see if I could go a day without speaking to no more than three people. Would I be successful? The answer was yes and I was surprised and gratified. I went to the beach by myself prepared to snack, read, and listen to music. The weather in the morning and early afternoon was perfect. Just before the crowds descended upon the beach, I left having spent several hours under an umbrella in the sun. What serenity to have the day to myself to do what I wanted to do and I did. I made the time to relax, left all my responsibilities behind, and did not have to listen to or talk to anyone. I did however speak to both of my adult children but that was it for the day. I watched the fireworks through the rain while listening to music on the car radio. The day was just what I needed.
My typical day is filled with responsibilities. I have deep, emotional conversations with multiple people every day. In addition, there are always things that need to be done at home and in the office. There are phone calls to answer, chores that need to be done, and plans made for the next day or week. I often feel like I am doing a lot just to keep up, doing what needs to be done. But researching a balanced life led me to thinking and the above experiment.
I think it is hard to understand a balanced life until one actually experiences it. If you feel like your life just consists of things that need to be done, consider taking a day off and experiencing a balanced life. Maybe you will change your life to have more fun and relaxation and pursue the activities that you want to do not have to do.
June 14, 2018
I have just recovered from a cold. Like many of us, I suffered with congestion, runny nose, a cough, and difficulty sleeping. Fortunately, it did not last long after following my doctor’s advice. But it made me think of how lucky we are to usually be in good health. We often take that for granted as we busy ourselves with our responsibilities and activities. Once we are sick, we realize how debilitating colds can be. We have to cancel appointments, suffer with discomfort, and just wait until we get better.
Being sick made me truly appreciate how good it is to be healthy. I have always taken steps to be healthy…eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. I spray disinfectant after sick patients come to the office and wash my hands multiple times during the day. But the truth is, despite doing our best, we get sick and have to rest up until it passes.
We take our good health for granted and do not focus enough on maintaining it. It is important to recognize that good health is not a gift. It is dependent upon what we do, what we eat, what we drink, how we sleep, what drugs we put in our bodies, and how we work.
Maybe by getting sick, we get refocused on living a healthy lifestyle and being conscious of all that we do.
May 21, 2018
Just as predicted, another school shooting happened. This time in Texas. Ten more lost their lives by an angry and probably mentally ill young man. Again parents, family, and a community grieve because there have been no significant changes. When the tragedies happen, we band together supporting each other and demanding change. Then everything quiets down and people become passive waiting for the elections, for the internal review reports, or for the notoriously slow legal system to take action. This passivity needs to be challenged and the marching must continue for there to be effective change.
Years ago, I remember when there were the post office and workplace shootings that occurred because of disgruntled employees who believed they were harmed in some way. Today, it seems like there are disgruntled students who put such low value on human life, that they go into their schools to kill. When will this stop?
The killing will stop not when there are changes in the gun laws. The killings will stop when politicians and society recognize that mental illness is a causative factor in these murders. Not all people who have a mental disorder are dangerous yet there are those who are just so angry, so disillusioned, so disenfranchised, so isolated that they somehow see killing others as acceptable.
The signs are often there but ignored because mental illness is not taken seriously in our society. These people need to be identified early before they reach the point of rage and act out. They need to be understood and treated so that these tragedies can be prevented before they happen. These individuals need to be defused of their anger and connected to others so that they do not isolate.
We need to march not only for a change in gun laws but also for a change in how we deal with mental illness before another tragedy occurs.
April 20, 2018
It has now been over two months since the terrible tragedy that happened at Stoneman Douglas. School and routines have resumed but people are not the same. A profound sadness is still upon the community and it will take a long time to overcome the anger and grief, if ever. But most people I have spoken to want to resume their lives.
Town hall meetings and gun violence protests occur frequently and rightly so. Hopefully changes will be made to protect and ensure the safety of our society. However, it seems that little attention has been paid to those individuals who are mentally or characterologically ill. History has shown us that these types of individuals will continue to act out against society and will find the means to do so.
We must as a society find ways to help these people and get them connected so that they are not isolated and angry. Early identification of behavioral or emotional problems can help these individuals before their anger and resentment grow into acting out behaviors against society. This is not just a suggestion; this is a necessity.
We very well may be looking at a mental health epidemic. Combine this with the availability of weapons is a recipe for disaster. Just providing money to have more counselors at schools or to failed mental health clinics is not enough. Just as we would with a medical illness, we need to have mental health tools, quality training of therapists, and research-based screening programs to identify and help those individuals at risk before they escalate.
The time has come. Mental illness needs to be recognized as an epidemic and treated and not hidden because of stigma or not being an exciting topic for the media. Guns do kill people but people pull the trigger.
January 20, 2018
During the past year, many of my patients have come to their sessions angry about politics. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to or whether they are right-leaning, left-leaning, or centrist, they are all angry and frustrated. They feel powerless and worry about the future of our country and of themselves. Perhaps, rightly so. Many hours have been spent in conversation attempting to reduce their anger and to focus on their daily lives.
One of the suggestions that have come out of our discussions seems to work. That is, to reduce or eliminate the number of hours spent watching the news on television or listening to it on the radio. It doesn’t matter what network you watch or listen to. All of them seem intent on stirring up feelings of unfairness and anger but offer no solutions. I guess the ultimate goal is to get watchers or listeners glued to their stations. Perhaps this is a media addiction. Yet there is no high but only worry and anger.
I recently read an article about a self-imposed news blackout by Christopher Hebert, an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee, in the January 18 edition of The Guardian. The following is an excerpt:
Ignorance is far easier than I thought. I finish two or three audiobooks a week. I read novels instead of newspapers. Five months into my blackout, I’m happier than I ever was back in the days when I was informed. My fingernails are growing back. The sleeping pills remain in the bottle. I’m getting more work done. My family comes home at the end of the day to find me smiling, chopping things for dinner without my old regicidal rage. And yet, part of me can’t stop feeling guilty about feeling good.
Perhaps, this is one solution to the anger and frustration of a media news addiction.
December 18, 2017
Today, a patient of mine told me that his daughters were graduating from college in a few months. I was surprised to realize and remember how fast time passes. I know that it does but was nevertheless surprised. It seemed like it was just yesterday, that we were discussing their separating and leaving home for college. We spent many sessions discussing being an empty nester and the changes and opportunities it brings.
Time is relative in that it seems like some moments go on forever and some go so quickly that if we blink, we miss them. Life just seems to happen while we are waiting for whatever we are waiting for. While we are looking at what we don’t have and didn’t do, we miss out on what we did do and the wonderful experiences that we did have. I think the answer lies in living in the moment. Taking in as much as we can, both good and bad, is the best we can do.
I recently saw a friend of mine who was depressed about turning 70. We talked and I tried to get him to see that age was just a number and how he viewed that number would determine his mood. I don’t think I got very far trying to convince him that he was not old and was still vital and helpful to so many people. Maybe it sunk in.
For myself, I have been practicing mindfulness and trying to live in the moment. I am looking for stillness and sometimes am successful. I try to use all my senses in savoring the moment and some simple experiences defy description in their beauty. Yet reality and our society seem to have a way of intruding so that stress and worry are created. I look at mindfulness and appreciating natural beauty as the antidote to the constant troubling news and feeling of powerless generated by politicians, news people, and other media types.
The past year has been difficult in some ways yet I have had some wonderful experiences with my family and friends. None of us knows what the new year brings for us but I am determined to enjoy as much of it as I can. It will take work and discipline and sacrifice and commitment. But what is the alternative?
November 18. 2017
On Thursday nights, I take a restorative yoga class. This class is not a typical yoga class. Rather, it is more of a meditation and relaxation class. Guided by the instructor while in postures of relaxation, I find myself letting go and truly relaxing from the business of the week. In fact, when the class is over, few yogis want to leave and “I needed that” is frequently heard.
Although I have been trained in relaxation techniques and use them with some patients, it is hard for me to actually relax. Taking this class has allowed me to experience in some way what my patients experience. True relaxation necessitates the ability to let go; something most of us have a hard time doing. Whether we live hurried lives or we don’t have a sense of safety without our guards being up, relaxation takes practice. Letting one’s guard down takes trust. Letting go takes effort.
In restorative yoga after a sense of stillness is achieved in a posture, the instructor uses guided imagery to describe peaceful and beautiful scenes to direct our attention towards relaxing. Following the teacher’s imagery, one can transcend the everyday world into the world of the imagery. Worries disappear, muscles loosen and smooth out, and the events of the day are forgotten for a few moments. Some people become so relaxed that they even fall asleep.
Research has shown that relaxation has many psychological and physical benefits. In the hectic and stressful world in which we live, relaxation is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I have found my way to relax in restorative yoga. I hope you can find your way. Consider taking a yoga class.
October 21, 2017
Last night I watched the movie, “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace, Music, and Love”, and was visibly moved by how much our society has changed in the almost 50 years since this festival occurred. As I remembered and confirmed in the movie, the Woodstock community was peaceful and loving. Numerous comments were made about how nice the kids were, how courteous they were to each other, and how helpful they were to each other. This happened despite the quantity of drugs, the rain, the lack of food, the lack of accommodations, and the difficulties in transportation. Townspeople went out of their way to comment on how courteous the kids were saying “thank you” and “please” and asking permission. They greeted each other warmly and were well behaved not wanting to trespass on the property of others. They respected themselves and each other. When food ran out, they shared. When it rained, they shared whatever they had to cover themselves. When disagreements occurred, they settled them peacefully. When someone overdosed or had bad trips, there were others and medics to help them. They worked together to make this temporary society flourish. As Spock says in Star Trek, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.
Contrast that with today’s society. It seems to me that disrespect has become the norm. The values of our society which has existed for generations seems to have become eroded. Language has deteriorated to the point that curse words are used commonly in language by both sexes in public and on television. Dress has become so casual that in some cases it borders on sloppy and unsanitary. Respect for institutions is not trendy nor important. Values seem to be only important when it serves the needs of the person. Verbal attacks upon others occur daily and fake news and innuendo have become okay to use as fact. People will trample others to get the sale item when in limited quantities. Often, we don’t hear thank you or please even when holding the door for others. Protests have replaced communication, problem solving, compromise, or even mutual discussion. Selfishness and materialism seem to have become the norm and are reinforced by our media. The needs of the one appears to be more important than the needs of the many.
What has caused this in the past almost 50 years? We can point to many factors: fear, anger, the Vietnam War and others, the coming of age of the Internet, advertising, the pursuit of more money at the expense of others, the absence of appropriate role modeling by adults, drugs and alcohol, lies and deceit by politicians, celebrities, and broadcast news, serial abusers, Madoff type scandals, hidden agendas, and a silent society that allows these changes to occur. I am sure we can cite more causes.
Can we ever regain respect for our society to function? I would like to be optimistic and think yes. We see it in the support our nation gives to others when there is a disaster. We see it when individuals volunteer their money and time to help those who are less fortunate. We see it in the dedicated teachers and first responders. We see it in many others who still honor our values.
What can you do? Respect yourself. Follow the Golden Rule. Stick to your standards even though others may not. Say “thank you” and please. Smile at others. Be courteous. Let others get in front of you while driving. Just be concerned about the needs of the many rather than the needs of the one.
As always, I am interested in your thoughts. If you would like to respond to this blog, email me your comments at [email protected] and I will publish them next month.
Till March …
The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.
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If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2021 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.