Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

“Psychology,” a Poem, Published on Spillwords

(Photo by Glen Hodson)

I’m thrilled to announce that my poem, “Psychology,” has been published today on Spillwords. I want to thank Dagmara K. and all of her lovely staff for this opportunity to share my poetry. I feel truly honored.

PSYCHOLOGY

written by: Dawn Pisturino

A psychologist by trade,
She brought order from chaos,
Splicing together the broken threads
Of fragile minds:
Listening for the right tone,
The right inflection, the right notes
To harmonize the deepest
Fears and desires of her clients.
But, in her own disordered brain . . .

Please head on over to Spillwords here to read the rest of my poem and all of the other featured selections for today.

Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart!

Dawn Pisturino

June 18, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

And, don’t forget to check out the Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology, now available on Amazon and Kindle. #1 in Amazon New Releases of Poetry Anthologies. Thanks!

31 Comments »

Attachment Disorder and Crime

Abstract
Attachment disorders arise when children experience prolonged and persistent abuse and neglect.  They are unable to form attachments and respond to the world with anger, defiance, and aggression.  They resist authority figures and defy social rules.  Without early intervention, these children are at high risk for delinquency, criminality, and the commission of violent crimes.

Attachment Disorder and Crime
       Criminologists recognize that antisocial behaviors, which are more common in males, can lead to an increase in criminality and violent crime (Siegel, 2012).  Much of their research has been based on John Bowlby’s attachment theory.
       Psychoanalyst John Bowlby studied Lorenz’s research on imprinting.  He concluded that “children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive” (McLeod, 2007).  Failure to make secure attachments can lead to “affectionless psychopathy” later in life (McLeod, 2007).
       “Attachment is an enduring affective bond characterized by a tendency to seek and maintain proximity to a specific person, particularly when under stress” (Levy, 2000).  This bond is created between mother and child during the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of life (Levy, 2000).  The mother-child bond is unique and forms through social releasers — behaviors that ensure a reciprocal response between mother and child (McLeod, 2007).  Smiling, eye contact, holding, rocking, touching, and feeding are cues which create a “mutual regulatory system” (Levy, 2000).
       When the mother-child bond fails to develop, infants can suffer from severe colic and feeding difficulties, fail to gain weight and reach important developmental milestones, remain detached and unresponsive, refuse to be comforted, and respond too readily to strangers (Attachment Disorders, 2014).
       Children need a “secure base” to learn trust and reciprocity, qualities which lay the foundation for all future relationships (Levy, 2000).  They must be able to explore their environment without fear and anxiety so they can attain full cognitive and social development (Levy, 2000).  A strong, secure attachment between mother (or other primary caregiver) and child helps the child to learn self-regulation (self-management of impulses and emotions) (Levy, 2000).  The child has the opportunity to form a strong self-identity, competence, and self-worth and to create balance between dependence on the mother and his own autonomy (Levy, 2000).  A secure base allows the child to learn empathy and compassion and to develop a conscience (Levy, 2000). A well-established core belief system helps the child to evaluate himself, his caregiver, and the world around him (Levy, 2000).  He learns resourcefulness and the resilience to cope with stress and adverse events (Levy, 2000).
       Even adopted infants can “develop healthy attachment relationships” in the first year of life if raised in a safe and secure environment by a caregiver who is consistently responsive to their needs (Reebye, 2007).  Children with Down Syndrome tend to develop attachments later, during the 12-24 month period (Reebye, 2007).
       Secure attachment allows children to develop positive patterns of cognition, behavior, and interaction which help them to survive successfully within the family and society at large (Levy, 2000).  They internalize altruism, empathy, compassion, kindness, and morality, qualities which lead to proper social behavior and social cohesion.  They learn to view themselves, the caregiver, life, and the world as essentially good, safe, and worthwhile.
       Children who do not develop secure attachments experience just the opposite.  They learn to view themselves, the caregiver, life, and the world as hostile, dangerous, and worthless (Levy, 2000).  By age four, these children exhibit symptoms of chronic aggression — “rage, bullying, defiance, and controlling interactions with others” (Levy, 2000).  These are the children who overwhelm the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and carry diagnoses of conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.  Children with severe attachment disorder typically engage in cruelty to animals, bed-wetting, fire-setting, pathological lying, and self-gratification at the expense of others.  They are predatory and vindictive, controlling and manipulative.  They lack empathy, remorse, and a moral conscience.  They are unable to form close relationships with others because they never experienced it themselves.
       Adults with these traits are often labeled psychopaths and may become serial killers and mass murderers (Levy, 2000).  The motivations for their crimes are manipulation, dominance, and control.  They feel powerless and inferior, committing horrific crimes against others as a way to release their frustrations and hostilities (Levy, 2000).
       But why do some children fail to develop a secure attachment to their mother or other primary caregiver?  Researchers have determined several common factors — “abuse and neglect, single-parent homes, stressed caregivers, parents with criminal records” (Levy, 2000).  Other factors include parental mental illness, substance abuse, and a history of maltreatment.
       Within the family, persistent conflict and violence lead to childhood anxiety, fear, and insecurity.  Children learn that violence is an acceptable way of dealing with life (Levy, 2000).
       Poverty, living in an unstable community rife with violence, access to weapons, and graphic depictions of violence on TV and in the movies desensitizes children.  They learn to “express feelings, solve problems, boost self-image, and attain power” through aggression and violence (Levy, 2000).       

 Prenatal drug and alcohol abuse, maternal stress,  birth complications, prematurity, nutritional deprivation, and genetics can lead to inherited personality traits and brain damage that interfere with learning, attention spans, and impulse control.  Compound this with a firmly-established attachment disorder, and a child is likely to be difficult to control, impulsive, hyperactive, defiant, aggressive, indifferent to learning, and angry (Levy, 2000).
       Children who are maltreated are often found in foster care, kinship care, adoptive care, and orphanages (Chaffin, 2006).  This includes children adopted from other countries.  They grow up in unstable environments, without the consistent affection and nurturing required to develop secure attachments (Chaffin, 2006).  They may grow up with suppressed anger that causes them to “seek control, resist authority, engage in power struggles and antisocial behavior” (Chaffin, 2006).  They become self-centered, resist close attachments, and eventually fall into delinquency and criminality (Chaffin, 2006).
       Teenagers still need a “secure base” as they wrestle with independence versus security (Mathew, 1995).  If a teenager has developed a secure attachment to his mother or other primary caregiver, he will weather the storms of adolescence with more resilience and adaptive abilities to cope with stress and change.  A strong, loving family environment teaches teenagers social competence and self-confidence.
       Adolescents who grow up in unstable, inconsistent homes torn apart by conflict and violence develop “psychopathology resulting from the inability to function competently in social situations” (Mathew, 1995).  “Delinquency, addiction, and depression” grow out of “inadequate problem-solving” (Mathew, 1995).  The teenager suffering from attachment disorder is incapable of interpreting and responding to social cues in appropriate ways (Mathew, 1995).  They view the world as a hostile place, attribute hostile intentions to other people, and respond aggressively.

       Decades of research have found clear links between early childhood abuse and neglect, attachment disorder, and delinquency and violence later in life.  It is not surprising, then, that children under age twelve have committed some of the cruelest crimes or that adolescent males are three times more likely to commit violent crimes than their female counterparts (Levy, 2000).
Method

Process
       Research was conducted online through EBSCO and Google Scholar using the keywords “attachment disorder,” “John Bowlby,” and “attachment disorder and crime.”
Results
       Attachment theory has been around for a long time.  It has been studied and expanded on by others.  A lot of research is available concerning attachment theory, maternal deprivation hypothesis, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED), secure base distortion, rage theory, disordered attachment, disorganized attachment, disoriented attachment, and insecure attachment.  These are all variations on the same theme — early childhood abuse and neglect lead ultimately to emotional detachment, dysfunction, anger, defiance, and aggression.
Discussion
       Traditional psychotherapeutic tools are ineffective on children suffering from attachment disorder because these children are unable to trust others and form the therapeutic bond necessary to engage in treatment (Levy, 2000).  Without early intervention, however, these children are at high risk for risky behaviors, criminality, and incarceration.

       Several treatment modalities have been developed to help children overcome their attachment difficulties.  Most focus on learning how to trust and feel secure.  One of the more controversial, Holding Nurturing Process (HNP), involves forcibly holding the child and maintaining eye contact, which is supposed to promote secure attachment and self-regulation (Chaffin, 2006).  HNP has been associated with the death of several children, however, and criminal charges have been filed against some attachment therapists and parents (Chaffin, 2006).
       The most effective attachment therapies allow the child to gradually build up trust with a committed therapist who then works with the child to re-program patterns of negative thinking and behaving (Levy, 2000).  Therapy is based on the individual needs of the child and involves family, school, and community.  The child learns positive coping skills that help him to function successfully within the family and society.
       Parents and other primary caregivers can undergo Corrective Attachment Therapy in order to enhance their parenting skills and learn specific tools for dealing with a difficult child (Levy, 2000).  Parent and child must go through therapy simultaneously so that they both learn mutual caring and respect; open up to feelings of affection; set up limits, rules, and boundaries; share empathy and compassion; and learn how to be in tune with one another (Levy, 2000).
       If high risk families can be identified early in the process, families can be enrolled in special programs and children can receive the treatment they need to overcome the damage already done.   

References

Attachment disorders. (2014, January). American Academy of Child & Adolescent

       Psychiatry. Retrieved from 

http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_youth/Facts_
       For_Families/FFF-Guide/Attachment-Disorders-085.aspx.
Chaffin, M., Hanson, R., Saunders, B., Nichols, T., Barnett, D., Zeanah, C., Berliner, L.,
       . . . Miller-Perrin, C. (2006). Report of the apsac task force on attachment therapy, reactive
       attachment disorder, and attachment problems. Child Maltreatment, 11(1), 76-89. doi:
       10.1177/1077559505283699.
Levy, Terry M. & Orlans, M. (2000). Attachment disorder as an antecedent to violence and
       antisocial patterns in children. In Levy, Terry M., Editor, Handbook of attachment inter-
ventions (pp. 1-26). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Mathew, S., Rutemiller, L., Sheldon-Keller, A., Sheras, P., Canterbury, R. (1995). Attachment  

       and social problem solving in juvenile delinquents (Report No. 143). Washington, D.C.:
       Educational Resources Information Center.
McLeod, S. (2007). Bowlby’s attachment theory. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

http://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html.
Reebye, P. & Kope, T. (2007). Attachment disorders. BC Medical Journal, 49(4), 189-193.
Siegel, Larry J. (2012). Criminology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

(The references did not all format correctly.)

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Mohave Community College

Criminology 225
November 29, 2016

Copyright 2016-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 Comments »

People will Never Forget

(Artwork from Parle Magazine [http://www.parlemag.com])

Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

COVID-19 put the whole world into a panic. There’s been a lot of verbal abuse, finger pointing, bullying, outright lying, extreme government overreach, hysteria, hypochondria, anxiety, hostility, and fear to last a lifetime. Everybody’s life has been upset in one way or another, with no end in sight. We’ve seen people at their worst.

The question is: if the pandemic ended tomorrow, how would we heal the broken relationships, reverse the mistrust that people feel, overcome the lies, forgive the hurtful words and accusations, and unite as a people? The damage has already been done. People turned on each other like rabid dogs. Some people are still expressing their hatred; their desire to hurt others; their need to segregate; their willingness to kill others who don’t comply with their demands.

The long-term social effects of COVID-19 — and the inept and malicious way in which it has been handled — is a mountain we still have to climb. Will you trust your doctor again? Your teacher? Government bureaucracy? The CDC? DHHS? NIH? The president? Congress? Facebook? Twitter? Big Pharma? Corporate America? The twisted media? The unions? Your interfering ex-friends? Your spying neighbors? Your stressed-out boss? Divisive family members? Attention-seeking celebrities? Will you ever trust ANYONE again?

Will you ever feel safe again? Feel healthy again? Or will you live in fear of the next germ that shows up to affect our lives? Will you still douse yourself in hand sanitizer and wash your hands 10 times a day? Will you still stay 6 feet away from everybody, thereby preventing new relationships into your life? Will you keep popping the tranquilizers, sipping the booze, smoking the weed to alleviate your anxiety? Will you suffer from permanent social anxiety and fear as a result of your experience with the pandemic?

What about the children? Will they be able to trust our authority figures again? Their teachers? Their parents? Their pediatricians? Will they have long-term anxiety and lung problems from wearing masks all day? From social isolation? Inadequate learning? Have they lost valuable social and language skills that would have contributed to their success in life?

And who’s addressing these issues? And does anybody really care?

Dawn Pisturino, RN

January 31, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Laughter is the Best Medicine

A man took his wife to the doctor. After a short examination the doctor said, “Your wife’s mind is completely gone!” To which the man replied, “I’m not surprised. She’s been giving me a piece of it every day for the past 25 years!”

We all know that laughing feels good, but researchers are now confirming that laughter is good for us.

A study done at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that laughter can actually relax arteries and increase blood flow.

Laughter is good aerobic exercise.  It increases the heart rate, improves our ability to use oxygen, helps clear the lungs, and lowers blood pressure.

When we laugh, our muscles relax and tension is released. The production of stress hormones is reduced, and we feel a greater sense of control over our situation.

Humor and laughter have been shown to reduce anxiety and pain and to enhance the immune system.

Laughing makes us feel good because it stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, natural substances which give us a feeling of euphoria.

Laughter is a form of communication which strengthens our bonds with other people, makes us feel younger, and gives us more energy.

Humor is a form of creative expression which helps us to cope with life’s problems and allows us to comment on the human condition.

Laughter therapy is now being utilized by healthcare and mental health professionals to promote more positive outcomes in patients. Corporations have discovered that humor programs are an effective way to reduce stress in the workplace.

The next time you’re feeling depressed or stressed, give yourself a little laughter therapy! Watch a funny movie, TV show, or favorite comedian. Pick up a joke book. Hang out with someone with a good sense of humor. Play with your kids. Do something silly and fun. Memorize your own jokes and tell them to everyone you meet. Throw an impromptu party.

As Thomas Edison once advised, “When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out okay.”

Dawn Pisturino
April 2, 2007

Copyright 2007-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Judging People Superficially

Photo by Photo Boards on Unsplash

As a registered nurse, I took an oath to treat all of my patients equally, regardless of race, color, nationality, religion, sex, or anything else. So, it appalls me when I read stories about doctors, nurses, and even whole hospitals refusing to treat unvaccinated patients. THAT’S POLITICS – NOT HEALTHCARE. If you work in healthcare, you take all the necessary precautions, and you get in there and treat the patient, regardless of your personal feelings. Otherwise, you deserve to lose your license to practice.

In 2008, America had become color-blind enough to elect the first black President, Barack Obama. My husband and I both voted for him and were proud to do so at that time. And yet, here we are, thirteen years later, backsliding as a society into judging people by their superficial appearance and using race, prejudice, and bias to judge and condemn other people. It’s become a real epidemic, and frankly, I’m sick of it, because – once again – this is POLITICS, PROFILING, and BULLYING – something people claim to abhor.

When I was a registered nurse fresh out of school, the housekeeper on our hospital unit refused to clean the room of an AIDS patient. She was afraid, and the hospital sent her home. I volunteered to clean the room since I had established a positive rapport with the patient. I donned the appropriate gear and cleaned the room. While I was in there, she and I conversed, and she revealed how isolated and alienated she felt from other people. I took care of her many times after that incident. And I’m glad I did, because she died a few years later. She was only in her late thirties when she passed away. She was annoying in so many ways! She was demanding and obnoxious! And she had very poor hygiene. She came into the hospital with lice more than once. But she was suffering both physically and emotionally. She was human. I learned a valuable lesson about courage and acceptance. And I never got HIV/AIDS or lice from my interactions with her.

One morning, when I was starting my shift on an inpatient psychiatric unit, two Native American clients came up to me and started complaining about the nightshift nurse. They claimed she was rude to them and, therefore, must be a white supremacist racist who hated natives. Now, I knew this RN very well. I empathized with them because, yes, she could be very rude and abrasive to anybody. But racist? I smiled and informed them that she was a card-carrying member of the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma. In fact, she is a direct descendant of Sequoyah, the Cherokee who created the first Cherokee language syllabary. The response I got was, “Well, THAT tribe will let anybody in!” However, they both looked very foolish and never mentioned it again. I informed the RN that patients had complained about her being rude, and that was the end of it.

Another morning, it was very early, and the only client awake and in the dayroom was a black man from Africa. He was ranting and raving about how racist the staff were and how victimized he felt. I got sick of hearing about it because I knew it wasn’t true. We had a very diverse team of workers who were black (some from Africa), Hispanic, Native American, white, gay, etc. I had never witnessed any incidences of racism or overheard any racist remarks made by staff on the unit. We all took pride in working as a team to treat our patients fairly, equally, empathetically, and compassionately. I slammed my fist down on the table, which shocked both my co-worker and the client, and said, “Bullshit!” He stopped ranting and raving, and then we talked about what was really bothering him. He was Muslim and needed a place to say his prayers. So I got him blankets and towels and whatever else he needed, and he went into a private place and said his prayers. He never talked about racism again, he participated in the program, and he was discharged a few days later. It may sound rough, but getting past the racism barrier helped this gentleman get the help he needed. I have never lied to my patients and never will. And sometimes the truth, no matter how raw, is what turns people around and sets them free from the demons they are fighting

The counselors on our inpatient psychiatric unit did not like talking to psychotic patients because they saw no value in it. However, I disagreed and always made a point of talking to them, if for no other reason than to establish some kind of rapport. One client was so manic, she was completely psychotic. She would crawl around on the floor, imitating different animals, eat with her hands, and refuse to talk to anybody. This had been going on for a while, without any improvement. One day, when I came on shift, she was in the quiet room talking to herself, dancing, jumping up and down, and basically “bouncing off the walls.” I sat in there for twenty minutes listening to her, asking her questions, and listening for that “thread of truth” that often came through when psychotics babbled on. It became clear to me as I listened to her that she just wanted to be normal and to be treated like everybody else. When I began talking to her about this, she nodded her head and suddenly stopped what she was doing. She calmed down. After that, she stopped all of her bizarre behaviors, took her medications, and quickly got well enough to go home. Why? Because somebody took the time to listen to her and look past her bizarre behavior.

As a registered nurse, especially as a psychiatric nurse, I have seen people at their worst and their ugliest. I have been called names, threatened, and ignored. I have never let that stop me from helping someone, if I could help them. And it has been the difficult ones, the ones who make you want to tear your hair out, who have been the most rewarding, — because they are the people who truly need the help.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

November 6, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

31 Comments »

The Seance: A Short Story

The heavy iron gates of Bellemont Cemetery stood open like silent sentries, daring her to enter. Lila hesitated, fearful that once she passed through those gates, they would close behind her, trapping her in a cold, dark, colorless place forever. Thick brick walls enclosed the historic cemetery on all sides, walls much too high to climb if she became trapped. She forced herself to close her eyes and take a deep breath, squelching the rising wave of panic inside her. Then, heart pounding, she hurried through the ominous gates and breathed a sigh of relief when they remained open behind her.

A thick line of trees leaned wearily against the walls, their branches swaying in the cold wind. All around her, the trees were alive with sound: raindrops drip, dripping off rain-soaked leaves onto the rich, mossy soil below; a merry chorus of tiny birds chattering in the treetops, flitting here, then there, delighting in their wet, dewy bower. Overhead, the sky was heavy with white and gray clouds moving rapidly with the wind. More rain threatened to fall. But suddenly, long beams of shimmering sunlight broke through the clouds, caressing the earth with wraith-like fingers, providing a glimpse of heaven, and the possibility of angels breaking into song. Raindrops glistened like silver beads of light in the trees; the last of the autumn leaves burst into fiery red and gold flame; and she was alone, blissfully alone, in a magical world.

Lila breathed in the pure, rain-washed air; inhaled the heavy odor of decaying leaves; the spicy scents of cedar and pine; and the delicate perfume of roses, pink ones and black ones, which she carried in a large bouquet in her hands. She held them to her nose, luxuriating in the sweet aroma, and felt the wetness of raindrops on their velvety petals.

A damp chill rose up from the earth, making her shiver, and she pulled her heavy, black velvet cloak closer around her. The heels of her black leather boots echoed on the pavement. The skirt of her long, black velvet dress clung to her with dampness. But she didn’t care — she was nearly there.

At a fork in the path, she stopped. Gingerly, she stuck one booted foot onto the rain-soaked autumn grass, turned stubby and brown. But the ground held firm, so she continued through the grass, feeling the cold dampness penetrate into her feet.

She walked among the ancient headstones with care, noting with sadness how they leaned and crumbled in the shadows, their weathered faces obliterated over time, their stories forever silenced, forgotten, erased from the world. But a few remained to tell their tales: Baby Emma, dead of pneumonia after two days of life in 1842; Mary Whitehead, Beloved Wife and Mother, died age 27 in childbirth, May She Rest in Peace; Harold Whitby, who died a local hero in the Civil War; and Hope Blaisdale, born 1767, Asleep in the Arms of Jesus since 1857.

So many lives, come and gone; so many hopes and dreams passed away; so many joys and sorrows extinguished forever; so many years gone by. Both the hardness and frailty of life were represented in this place, and she was overcome, once again, with the stark realization of life’s shortness and the finality of death.

She found what she wanted in the newer section of the cemetery, a gentle, grassy slope once sparsely populated. But ten years had witnessed the gradual appearance of many smooth, cleanly-engraved marble headstones, and the open, park-like feel of this section was disappearing. Many of the more recent headstones were simple oblong markers embedded in the soil, flush with the earth, to make it more convenient for the mowers. They lacked the character and history of the older stones. But here they were, and here they would stay, until decades from now they, too, would appear weathered and worn, a testament to the passage of Time.

She had insisted on a more enduring headstone to honor the memory of her dead husband. She stood before it now, examining the clean whiteness of the weeping angel’s marble arms flung mournfully over the shiny, black marble headstone where her husband’s vital statistics were deeply engraved. It was not a new idea. The Victorians had doted on the image of weeping grief. She had borrowed the idea from William Wetmore Story, an American artist who sculpted the original monument for himself and his wife in 1894. It now stood in the Protestant cemetery in Rome, where they were buried. Lila had kept most of the original design but paid the sculptor to sculpt her own image onto the angel’s face — and it was her own grief represented in the statue.

She knelt before the marble monument and placed the pink and black roses in the bronze vase embedded in the marble base. Pink for everlasting love; black for everlasting death. It was an annual ritual which had consumed her life for the last ten years. She uncovered her head, feeling the damp, misty air all around her, and traced the carved letters of her husband’s name with one gloved finger.

“Happy birthday, Jonathan,” she said softly, and tears filled her eyes. With loving hands, she brushed away a few dead leaves clinging stubbornly to the cold, wet marble. Ten years ago, she had vowed to keep his memory pristine and shining. She would not allow him to be forever silenced.

The dull ache of her everyday grief filled the empty loneliness of her life, reminding her listless spirit that she was still very much alive and obligated to remain so until either God or the devil decided otherwise; but today, on the most special day of her year, when the ritual of her grief found its most sublime expression, she needed no reminder of the separation that lay between herself and her husband. The hardness of the marble headstone felt all too real beneath her fingers; the shortness of his precious life felt all too bitter in her heart:

Jonathan Harkins

Born October 31, 1952

Died June 21, 1997

Beloved Husband, Lover, and Friend

She leaned over and kissed the cold, hard stone, unmindful of the clinging dampness or the tears streaming down her face.

“Tonight,” she said hopefully, and believed it in her heart.

* * *

At nine o’clock, when she felt certain there would be no more Halloween revelers at the front door, she stoked up the fire in the fireplace, turned down the lights, and placed a small, round mahogany table in front of the fire. She covered the table with a large square of deep purple velvet cloth and set out the wooden Ouija board and plastic planchette. She placed a small silver candelabra on the table next to the Ouija board, filled the candleholders with pink and black candles, and carefully lit each one. The effect was charmingly romantic, definitely Gothic, in keeping with her annual birthday ritual; and she said a silent prayer, hoping that this would be the year when Jonathan’s promise would come true. Then she changed into a long, black velvet gown embroidered with tiny silver stars and waited for her guests to arrive.

It wasn’t long before she heard a brisk knock on the front door, and she opened it with a large smile to admit two women of varying ages and costumes. They removed their coats, handing them to their hostess, and looked around the darkened room in expectation.

“How charming!” exclaimed a young woman with blazing red hair and large, green eyes dressed in a long-sleeved, forest green gown with red embroidery on the tight bodice. The material clung to her slender figure, emphasizing her plump breasts. “Lila, you’ve absolutely outdone yourself!” She leaned up and kissed her hostess on the cheek.

Lila crossed her fingers. “This year, Maureen; it has to be this year!”

“We’ll do our best, my dear.” She turned to her companion. “This is Madame Angeline, our guest psychic, just arrived from Boston, Massachusetts. Her reputation is impeccable!”

The older woman with platinum blonde hair and faded violet eyes was dressed in a long-sleeved, lavender-colored gown adorned with vintage cream-colored lace at the wrists and throat. An old ivory cameo was pinned to the starched, Victorian-style high collar, and Lila wondered how the woman could breathe. She stretched out her hand, and the woman took it gently, turning it over to examine her palm.

“Madame Angeline sees many things, my dear,” she said with a slight French accent. “But for you, I see a long, happy life — if you will allow it to be.”

Lila removed her hand from the old woman’s grasp. “Thank you, Madame,” she said nervously. “We will see tonight if that prophesy comes true or not.”

Madame Angeline shrugged. “A cup of hot tea with cream would be lovely. The air is quite damp outside.”

“Certainly. And you, Maureen?”

“I’ll pass. I’m nervous enough without adding caffeine.”

“Then, I’ll be right back,” Lila said. “Here, the table is all ready. Please take your preferred seat, Madame.”

Merci.” The old woman seated herself in front of the Ouija board where she could easily reach the planchette. The chair opposite was left for Lila, and Maureen took the third chair to the side.

Lila returned shortly with a serving trolley bearing a large pot of black tea and a small, white birthday cake decorated with pink and black candles.

Madame Angeline observed the cake with a strange look in her eyes, but said nothing. Maureen smiled apologetically. “Lila, dear, you really must explain to Madame what this is all about.”

Lila poured cups of hot tea for herself and Madame Angeline and sat down in the empty chair. She took a few sips of the strong hot liquid and began:

“My husband, Jonathan, was a psychologist who became interested in the paranormal when he took on a young man with schizophrenic tendencies as a patient. This young man was a gifted artist who had visions of another world after death. He painted beautiful canvasses depicting a world full of light and angels and unearthly spirits. His paintings sold well, but the young man’s visions grew in frequency to the point where he could no longer function in the real world. He began to drink and use street drugs, and he finally sought counseling for his substance abuse.

“Jonathan took the young man under his wing, so to speak, and became convinced over time that the young man’s visions were real. He became obsessed with the idea of life after death, reading every book he could find on the subject.

“When Jonathan was diagnosed with brain cancer, we were both devastated. Right from the beginning, the doctors told us it was hopeless. We tried chemo and radiation, but nothing worked. We finally turned to hospice, and Jonathan died in this very house ten years ago.

“Before he died, however, he promised to come back on his birthday and prove to me that there is life after death. We chose a special number code that only he and I knew, and if that code was revealed during a seance or Ouija session, that would be his message to me that life after death is real and everlasting.

“It sounds crazy, I know, but I have celebrated his birthday and honored his death every year for the last ten years without fail. We have hired a different psychic or medium every year, to no avail. There has been nothing but silence from the grave. We were hoping that tonight would be different.”

She reached over and squeezed Maureen’s hand. “Maureen has been my loyal friend through all of this. She has been right here with me through all the disappointment and pain for the last ten years. He has to come tonight, Madame, he has to! I don’t know how much more of this I can stand!”

Madame Angeline listened to her gravely, then closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Then she placed her fingers gently on the planchette.

“Place your fingers lightly on the planchette, and do not force it to move!” The two women complied. “Now, open your minds and hearts to the celestial realm and join me in calling on the spirit of Jonathan Harkins!”

Lila’s heart leaped in her chest in anticipation. Please, God, let tonight be the night, she prayed silently.

Madam Angeline continued. “Jonathan Harkins, ten years ago, before you passed on to the other side, you made a promise to your wife, Lila, that you would send a message to her from the other side on the anniversary of your birthday if — and only if — you were able to do so. Please come to us tonight, on the anniversary of your forty-fifth birthday, and deliver that message!”

The fire crackled in the background, and the candles softly flickered. Outside, the wind howled gently against the windows. Then the soft patter of rain could be heard upon the roof. The lighted jack-o-lantern sitting on the hearth grinned a snaggle-toothed grin, and the odor of burning wax and pine logs filled the room. But the planchette did not move.

Once again, Madame Angeline took a deep breath, let it out, and continued. “I call upon all the spirits of Heaven and Hell to dissolve the veil between life and death, spirit and flesh, darkness and light, and allow the spirit of our beloved Jonathan Harkins to break on through to this material world on this holiest of nights, when the barriers between life and death are at their weakest, so that he may impart the message he promised to give to his beloved wife, Lila.”

Lila’s heart pounded in her chest, and a thin film of sweat dampened her brow. Her fingers trembled, but the planchette did not move. She looked nervously at Maureen and smiled faintly. Maureen smiled back reassuringly, her eyes glowing like green emeralds in the candlelight.

Once again, Madame Angeline closed her eyes, threw back her head, and said loudly, “I call upon the spirit of Jonathan Harkins to appear in this room and deliver the message he promised to give ten years ago!”

Lila and Maureen each held their breath as they waited for the planchette to begin moving idly across the board, slowly at first, then gathering speed. But instead of searching for alphabetical letters or numbers or touching upon the oui or the ja or even good-bye, the little plastic instrument sat there silently, mocking them both.

Lila stared at the planchette in disbelief. “It’s no good, my dear,” Madame Angeline said quietly. “Jonathan is not going to appear.”

“I don’t believe it,” Lila said, gripping the planchette tightly. “You didn’t try hard enough. In fact, you hardly tried at all.”

Madame Angeline reached for her hand across the table. “Remember what I said, cherie. You will have a long and happy life — IF YOU ALLOW IT. Ten years is a long time to wait. You are still young — only 42, am I right? Young enough to remarry — have a child, if you like. This obsession with grief is unhealthy. Life was meant for the living. For some unknown reason, Jonathan is not able to reach you from beyond the grave. That does not mean he’s lost to you forever or that he’s suffering in any way. It simply means that it’s not God’s will that he contact you. It’s time to let it go.”

“I can’t let it go, especially when he promised –“

“People make a lot of promises on their deathbeds, my dear; sometimes, not very wise ones.” Madame Angeline stood up and prepared to leave. “If you will bring my coat, Lila, I will say good-night to you.”

Lila stared at the little plastic planchette held tightly in her hand. Ten years of grief and frustrated hope burned inside of her, and she wanted to scream. She squeezed the planchette until the plastic cracked in her hand, and she threw it on the floor in disgust. Then she grabbed the Ouija board and flung it into the fireplace, making the fire sizzle and pop.

Lila stood up and pointed an accusing finger at Madame Angeline. “You don’t believe me! You never believed that Jonathan would come back! You’re nothing but a fraud!”

“Lila!” Maureen cried. “Madame Angeline is just trying to help you!”

“She’s not receptive to help,” Madame Angeline said sternly. “Please get my coat so I can leave.”

When they heard the knock on the front door, they were all startled, then annoyed. It was too late for visitors. Cautiously, Lila opened the front door without releasing the safety chain. She peered through the open crack at a stranger visible under the porch light. He was standing in the rain holding his brown overcoat over his head. He smiled at her apologetically.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I seem to have run out of gas, and my cell phone battery is dead. Can I please use your phone? I know it’s late, but I have no other way to get home. I live about two blocks from here, at 12145 Maplewood Court. I could walk, I guess, but the weather isn’t too good out here. I’d really appreciate it.”

Lila stared at him, not believing her ears. “12145, you said? Did you say 12145?”

“That’s what I said.”

Lila’s heart leaped in her chest. “12145!” she exclaimed, clutching her hands to her breast and laughing ecstatically. She turned around. “That’s it! That’s the code! Did you hear, Madame Angeline? He’s come back! Jonathan’s come back!”

Maureen and Madame Angeline stared at her in stunned silence.

“Did you hear me?” Lila cried. “JONATHAN’S COME BACK! That man out there just gave me the code!”

But Maureen and Madame Angeline just looked at her in disbelief.

“Here, I’ll prove it to you!” Lila fumbled with the safety chain, released it, and threw open the door. But the stranger was already down the walk, disappearing into the rainy darkness. “No!” Lila cried. “Please don’t go!” She hurried after him, arms waving wildly, and calling frantically, “Come back!” until the rain and darkness engulfed him, and she was alone.

* * *

NOTE: This story is about Lila’s fear of death, her attachment to grief, and her inability to accept her husband’s death. Sometimes, authors get attached to their own words – “their little darlings,” as Stephen King would say. I would really like feedback from you, The Reader! Is the story too long? Too boring? Too wordy? What needs to be cut out? Or is it okay as it is? Please leave your feedback in the comments below – and, thanks!

Dawn Pisturino

October 15, 2021

Copyright 2009-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?

This explanation of sociopath vs. psychopath comes from a class I took. “Psychopath” is a term used mostly in criminal justice. Many people have fallen prey to sociopaths and psychopaths, which is why it is important to recognize that these types of people exist in society.

Sociopath vs. Psychopath:

“The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include: 

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior”

Sociopaths

“Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others.  In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.”

Example: O. J. Simpson

Psychopaths

“Psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.”

Example: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson

NOTE: There is no cure for these disorders, and medication does not work.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

September 21, 2021

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Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18

Exquisitely performed by Anna Fedorova, virtuoso concert pianist.

Sublime! Absolutely divine! The angelic nature of this piece brings me to tears.

Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18” is so beautiful and beyond the ordinary, it is hard to believe that he wrote this piece in the lowest point of his life. As lovely as this piece sounds, he suffered terribly from depression after his “First Symphony” was rejected by the public in 1897. Distraught, he could not compose another piece of music for three years.

In order to regain his self-esteem, Rachmaninoff began to work with Russian neurologist Dr. Nicolai Dahl. Through hypnosis and positive suggestion therapy, Rachmaninoff recovered, wrote his exquisite concerto, and dedicated it to Dr. Dahl in gratitude. We should all be eternally grateful to Dr. Dahl and the great gift of music that he inspired!

The concerto premiered in Moscow on November 9, 1901 to rave reviews. The composer won a Glinka Award in 1904. Rachmaninoff’s career as a pianist and composer was assured for the rest of his life.

Like composer Franz Liszt, Sergei Rachmaninoff had big hands which allowed him to compose and perform complicated pieces. Only experienced and accomplished pianists can easily perform “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18.”

Rachmaninoff, who was born in 1873, was heavily influenced in his music by the Russian Orthodox Church. The simulation of bells can often be heard in his work, including the beginning notes of “Piano Concerto No. 2.,” which almost sounds like a death knell.

After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Rachmaninoff was forced to flee to the United States as a political refugee. His music was considered “too bourgeois” for Bolshevik tastes. He is considered the last composer/pianist from the Russian Romanticism Movement.

He died in Beverly Hills, California in 1943 after a successful career in America, where his musical talent was highly valued.

Dawn Pisturino

September 16, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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My Alzheimer’s Nightmare

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Today is Mother’s Day – and I salute all of the Mothers of the world! But, I’m glad that my own mother is dead and not dealing with my father’s Alzheimer’s.

My mother died in 2002. A couple of years before she died, my father began exhibiting signs of dementia: confusion, getting lost, argumentative behavior, etc. He did not handle her death very well. In fact, it sent him into a downward spiral. His behavior became more erratic and irrational. His sister talked him into moving near her so they could spend time together.

A couple of months later, my father met – and married – an elderly woman who had a reputation around town for being crazy. The marriage caused an uproar in the family. As people got to know my new stepmother, they began to realize just how crazy she really was. She threw temper fits when she didn’t get her own way. She swore like a sailor, while pretending to be a devout Christian on Sundays. She refused to contribute any of her own money to the household bills. She harassed my father constantly for money. Eventually, the word DIVORCE came up, and we all prayed it would happen.

It didn’t. My father stayed with this crazy woman, getting quieter, more depressed, and more confused. The police were called on more than one occasion because of her temper fits. Finally, against her better judgment, my aunt got involved.

In 2016, it became increasingly clear that my father needed to be evaluated by a neurologist. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s!!!!! Nobody in our family had ever been diagnosed with dementia, let alone Alzheimer’s. The prospects were frightening.

My father refused to take his medications, and my stepmother refused to help him. She refused to let home health into the house to help him. My aunt became ever more involved, checking up on him to make sure he was okay, and coaxing him to take his medications. She got into terrible fights with my stepmother over his lack of care.

Adult Protective Services were called. But they were limited in what they could do. They could not FORCE my stepmother to take care of my Dad or FORCE my father into a nursing home. My aunt and I became more and more frustrated. We knew it was an unsafe situation, and there wasn’t anything we could do.

When my father drove off one day in his van and disappeared for three days, a nation-wide Silver Alert was announced. My stepmother knew he had disappeared and never bothered to call the police. It was my aunt who called them when she discovered he was gone. My Dad saw himself on TV in a convenience store hundreds of miles away, and the cashier called the police. Thank God!

My aunt and I hounded APS after that because my father absolutely refused to go into a nursing home. And my stepmother continued to neglect him and leave him alone for hours at a time, even though she was told not to do that.

Finally, when I was visiting with my father and asking him questions, I began to wonder if my stepmother was even feeding him. He had lost a lot of weight and couldn’t seem to remember when or what he was eating. When I began snooping through the cupboards and refrigerator, I didn’t find much food. I made another report to APS.

By this time, the APS worker had had several run-ins with my stepmother and developed a distinct dislike for her. She decided to act. She spoke to her supervisor, and they made a point of investigating the food situation in the house. After finding little food, and compiling a report on my stepmother’s neglect, they approached a judge, who court-ordered my father into a nursing home. When the case came up for review a few months later, the order was upheld by the judge. The relief we all felt was overwhelming.

Once my father was safe, it became clear that my stepmother could not take care of herself. She refused to pay any bills, and raided as much money as she could from my father’s funds. It took a while, but my aunt finally convinced my stepmother’s children to come and get her and take her home with them to a neighboring state. We were glad to be rid of her!

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that robs a person of their identity, their dignity, and their self-respect. It does not kill quickly like cancer. It drags on for years, draining family finances and resolve. My father’s condition has caused a big split in our family over legal and financial matters. And then there’s the guilt – for, no matter how much or how little you do, it will never be enough or the right thing or the thing that satisfies other people.

If you’re struggling with a family member who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We are all in this together.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

May 10, 2020

Copyright 2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

 

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The World is Too Much with Us

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The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

~ William Wordsworth (1770-1850) ~

My Thoughts:

If this was true over 150 years ago, it’s even more true today.

The world is overwhelming us, beating us down, blasting wave after wave of propaganda and lies into our heads. Who knows the truth anymore? Who knows what’s right from wrong? Who even knows what’s real? The constant prattle of commentators/agitators, politicians, and celebrities is driving all of us mad. Where is the escape? When will it end?

Escape into the wilderness, they say, but a tumultuous crowd awaits us there. The noise! — oh, the noise! I long to escape it.

Quiet, peace, serenity, silence — a long-forgotten reality.

I will find it inside myself.

Dawn Pisturino

September 28, 2017

Copyright 2017 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

 

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