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Aging, Mortality, and TMS Pain

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Walt Oleksy, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Aging, Mortality, and TMS Pain​
    When a good friend’s mother, Avis Carlson, turned eighty in 1977 she wrote a book, In the Fullness of Time, because she said books on aging were being written by those no older than fifty. She wanted to write about aging from a senior citizen’s experience and perspective. Her insights into aging and mortality are just as meaningful today as they were then, perhaps even more-so.

    From time to time, I am going to post excerpts from the book, now out of print but available in inexpensive used copies from amazon.com books and other online used book sellers such as Alibris.

    From Chapter One, “The Minuses of Old Age” :

    My mother’s mother was a delicately boned little Kentuckian who was never meant for the Kansas frontier on which she spent her adult life (in the 1800s). She had been asthmatic from childhood, in a time when even the word ‘allergic’ was unknown, much less all the drugs and immunologic therapies available to today’s sufferers. Because she was so often sick, she was very thin, and because her asthma seemed be worse outdoors (she lived on a farm), her skin was very pale.

    One day, when I was perhaps six or seven years old, I happened to notice her hands. They were, I know now, the hands of a sick, prematurely aged woman. On an impulse, I put my plump, brown, and probably dirty hand up beside hers. The contrast has stayed with me.

    “Grandma,” I asked in what was no doubt a very small, “Will my hands ever look like yours?”

    “Yes,” she replied, “I think in time they will probably look like mine.”

    The shock was overwhelming. I looked at her two hands and tried to imagine what it would be like to carry around such old-looking objects. Then I looked at her face and noticed for the first time that her gray hair was very thin, that her forehead had deep horizontal lines, that her cheeks were sunken, that, because she had neglected to put in her “false teeth,” her mouth was a small depression in her face.

    “You mean, I’m going to get old some day?” I asked in the carefully casual way of a child who has something important on his mind.

    “Yes, Avis, if you live long enough, you will some day be old.”

    It happened that the rather recent death of my grandfather, her husband, had given me my first introduction to death for human beings. As a farm child I had known, of course, that pets and animals die, but that people also died had somehow failed to soak in on me. So my next question was really important.

    “You mean, I have to die someday?”

    By this time she undoubtedly wished me home with my mother, but she did not flinch. “Yes, Honey, you will someday die and go to live with God. Like your grandfather.”

    That was really too much. I got out of there in a hurry and, so far as I can remember, never again engaged an adult in that sort of conversation. In fact, I locked the question of impending old age and death so tightly within myself that I forgot the whole episode until recently when I began to write about growing old. But it no doubt expressed itself every tome my forty- or fifty- or sixty-year-old self quailed on observing a new sign of oncoming old age. (As still happens!)

    Avis wrote that hardly any writers from Homer to W.H. Auden have found anything desirable writing about aging and dying. Cicero and Marcus Aurelius and the Chinese sages did. But she said, “The popular picture of an aged person has been of a doddering, dimwitted, absurdly opinionated creature beset with aches and pains. Who wouldn’t be badly put off by the idea that he is inevitably coming to that? Especially when he knows (or thinks he does), that even this gloomy picture of his coming state does not tell the whole story, which is that with every passing week he will be ‘more so,’ until finally, in the famous words of Shakespeare, he enters the Seventh Age: ‘Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’”

    Avis said that children have so much bounce and so much openness to all that is crowding in upon them, they rarely give more than fleeting attention to what is happening to their grandparents. In fact, they may not even notice it unless they happen to have an experience like mine with my grandmother.

    Adolescents have too many personal problems, too many ravening anxieties, to think much about what likes at the far end of what to them seems like limitless time. They simply lack the emotional energy to imagine themselves as an elderly thirty, les alone seventy-five.

    But by thirty, says Avis, most people have begun to have at least occasional intimations, nor of immortality, but of most earthly mortality. By this time, if grandparent and great-aunts or uncles are still around, they are old, and the thirty-year-old cannot avoid knowing that it will eventually happen to him.

    Aging, like dying, is something a person can get good at not thinking about. Throughout all the busy, harried middle years, when people are holding jobs, bringing up families, shouldering community responsibilities and otherwise doing the world’s work, the dread of what lies ahead becomes keener, if and when they allow themselves to think about it.

    But accepted or unaccepted, by age forty-five the intimations are usually a fact of life. The first gray hairs have appeared, and children have begun to leave home. Bifocals have probably had to be accepted or are least are on the horizon. Women find themselves beleaguered by hot flashes and kindred hormonal discomforts. Most men find their hairline slipping badly. Waistlines have begun to be a problem for both sexes, and doctors have taken to dreary discussions of diet and exercise.

    “By fifty,” says Avis, “it becomes more difficult for us to ignore what is relentlessly going on, however slowly. A practiced person can do pretty well at ignoring it, but even he has moments of seeing. He may take the commonsense tack that aging is a natural process and who is he to try to beat the game? If he has the income, he may elect to fight the process.” He may try face-lifts or other cosmetic surgery. In the 1950s, a report from Rio de Janeiro said that 20 percent of the face-lifts being done in that city were performed on men. Hair transplants were even more common.

    Avis says in her 1977 book that yoga classes were “attracting both men and women who hope to keep their joints usable or to limber up those that have already stiffened. Diet books in never-ending procession become best-sellers, and cholesterol has become a dirty word.”

    “Old age,” writes Avis, “actually is a hard thing to face and as such needs to be treated like any other fearsome thing that haunts and frightens: brought out into the open, looked at in the face, talked about freely, laughed at, if possible.”

    That’s all for now, but I will post more in hopes that information from Avis Carlson in the twin subjects of aging and dying can help us all. She did not know about TMS and how repressed emotions can cause us pain, so I will add thoughts on that when appropriate. I’m 83 now, and not in pain anymore, so I too have some words to say on the twin subjects.

    If you have thoughts on the twin subjects you would like to share on the TMS.org/forum, please do. If you have healed or are working on healing from pain related to these subjects, please reply to this posting. Thanks and happy aging.

    Now I’m going to give my dog Annie dinner and have a salad and then watch a movie. If a funny one isn’t on television, I’ll play one from my DVD collection. After all this heavy thinking, I need some laughs. You may, too!
     
    yb44 and plum like this.
  2. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    An old dog learning new tricks (yoga).

    dog yoga pose.jpg
     
    Eric "Herbie" Watson and plum like this.
  3. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    This reminds me a little of Isabel's story from Pathways to Pain Relief...where she developed TMS after she turned 65 and registered for Social Security benefits. There was a quote that stuck with me - "Aging is enraging" I think...anyone else remember this?

    I love this. Great life advice.
     
    yb44 likes this.
  4. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Walt, once again I am touched by you. Such an honest and gritty post with a soft balance of grace to keep faith alive. I'm in those muddle (haha, a typo I will let stand. of course I meant middle) years and feel nostalgia for youth and enough tiredness to feel apprehensive about old age. But it comes. I am awash with memories of my beloved Nana tonight. I inherited her diaries and therefore a sacred measure of her private heart. I ache to muse on it.

    I was a child of 5 or 6 (December baby) when Avis wrote this book. Somehow I have a sense of that cheeky urchin and the me now and the elderly woman I will be (assuming I am fortunate enough to make old bones); and I can only smile. How much I value both your and her words. I shall enjoy future postings on this and will track down a copy. I would like to gift it to my mum.
     
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  5. yb44

    yb44 Well known member

    Thanks for posting this Walt. I am on my way up the aging ladder at 53. The other week I picked up a leaflet about local activities for the over 50's. It was rather depressing. All of the activities were fitness related, many involving chair based exercises. Pardon if I offend anyone but I was hoping for more inspiring activities than these. Even if the focus was on fitness why couldn't there be a hang gliding club or something similar? I will stick around with the young'uns and pretend I am 48. Permanently. I have the grey hair but I am off the salon for a cut and colour. I do need my specs for reading but if I carry my Kindle I can just enlarge the font and do without them. Sorted.
     
  6. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Walt's story line) - My mother’s mother was a delicately boned little Kentuckian who was never meant for the Kansas frontier on which she spent her adult life (in the 1800s). She had been asthmatic from childhood, in a time when even the word ‘allergic’ was unknown, much less all the drugs and immunologic therapies available to today’s sufferers. Because she was so often sick, she was very thin, and because her asthma seemed be worse outdoors (she lived on a farm), her skin was very pale.

    One day, when I was perhaps six or seven years old, I happened to notice her hands. They were, I know now, the hands of a sick, prematurely aged woman. On an impulse, I put my plump, brown, and probably dirty hand up beside hers. The contrast has stayed with me.

    “Grandma,” I asked in what was no doubt a very small, “Will my hands ever look like yours?”

    “Yes,” she replied, “I think in time they will probably look like mine.”

    The shock was overwhelming. I looked at her two hands and tried to imagine what it would be like to carry around such old-looking objects. Then I looked at her face and noticed for the first time that her gray hair was very thin, that her forehead had deep horizontal lines, that her cheeks were sunken, that, because she had neglected to put in her “false teeth,” her mouth was a small depression in her face... Walt's story line- 8-19-13

    Eric) - This was me Walt, I couldn't face the thought of growing old all the times I thought about it.
    Very scary when you Start to think of it or haven't accepted yet ya know, that's the hard part I think.
    I didn't know how to use acceptance and I thought I had to repress my feelings.
    Back in the day I couldn't look the issue right in the eye and face it.
    Then I learned through awareness and acceptance that im ok.
    We live forever really and when we move from this life to the next.
    We grow in wisdom and stature.
     
  7. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, everyone. Glad this thread is meaningful to you all. Plum, your mom also would love Avis Carlson's SMALL WORLD, LONG GONE,
    about her girlhood in Kansas in the early 1900s when life really was more simple although not necessarily easier.

    And yg44, my mother was 94 when she died (just got tired of trying to recover from falls), but she never admitted she was a senior citizen or attend any of their meetings. She kept looking for new boyfriends. If a man was over 50 and alive, she was interested.
     
  8. KathyBee

    KathyBee Peer Supporter

    I remember reading that one of the triggers is reaching a landmark birthday.
    I turned 45 this past spring and really did not think too much about it. But it was about that time that my on again off again pain started moving toward always on. So maybe that was a possible trigger.
    I suppose in the long run that was a good thing. Because I felt like I could cope with the pain when it was only intermittent. When I got worse it sent me on another search for help which lead me to SteveO’s book. After buying too books of therapy exercise and a back roller first, but still I got here.
     
  9. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think we (including I) give ourselves worry by reminding ourselves about how old we are.
    It's all part of calendars and time clocks. Jack Benny decided he would stop counting his age at 39
    and mentally remained that to live to a ripe old age. When I think I'm forty again, I feel fine.
     
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  10. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Here is the 2nd installment of Avis Carlson's book IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
    with more insights to help caregivers and those getting care, whether elderly or injured or sick.


    More on caretaking.

    Avis Carlson says in In the Fullness of Time that older people may only be aware of the physical symptoms of aging, but caretakers have no trouble recognizing the mental and emotional symptons. These include failing memory, rigid thinking, repeating, withdrawing, even a drift woard self-pity that she says may verge on downright”orneriness.” On the plus side, some elderly achieve “a beautiful new tranquilty.”

    How the elderly deal with their advanced age is often a very personal mattere, depending partly on their temperament, education, income, religious beliefs, and circumstances experienced over the years.

    Mrs. Carlson interviewed many senior citizens when she became one herself. A man in his mid-seventies who had glaucoma and a little heart trouble said, “The trouble with old age is that the prospects are so poor. Old age is a bad business with a worse future, but joking about it helps me put up with it.” He learned to laugh at his advancing years.

    Avis’s husband, a lawyer who mediated corporate disputes, said “Why is it that just when you’ve learned the answers, nobody asks you any questions?”

    When asked how the French singer-actor Maurice Chevalier liked being old, he replied, “I like it fine, thank you, considering the alternative.”

    A man aged 87 told Avis, “My plan for dealing with old age is to ignore it.” He loved to travel and spent his senior years visiting his children or grandchildren scattered across the nation, or seeing a part of the country he had not seen before. If not on a trip, he was planning where to go next. “I can’t drive anymore, but the buses and planes go, and my children take me with them sometimes. I’m going to keep going just as long as there are people and places I want to see, and money to take me. I’m never going to be old. I don’t feel old and I’m not going to act old.”

    He didn’t know it, but he followed Dr. Sarno’s message that our mind governs our body. Avis Carlson also didn’t know about TMS as we do today, but wrote “He is one of the elders who believe that we get old by ‘thinking old,” which he is determined not to do. Like a host of others, he believes that people ‘hypnotize themselves right into old age.’

    Avis suggests that if an older person can’t or doesn’t want to travel, they can “Learn to do something new that other people will admire.” For women, this “something new” might be needlecraft or rug-making or weaving or painting or any of a dozen other crafts. A friend’s father retired but kept busy with crocheting, giving gifts to family and friends in the form of beautifully crocheted chair and couch doilies. He was a big, masculine man, but enjoyed crocheting.

    “It seems that in old age we mostly are what we have been earlier, only more so,” Avis writes. “The fun-lovers will usually manage to have themselves some fun in spite of the arthritis.”

    The elderly also need to have a good sense of self-respect.

    “When I’ve asked elderely people about their grounds for feeling good about themselves, most of them make one or more of the following responses: ‘My children have turned out well,” meaning, ‘I brought them up well and now they do me credit.’ Or, ‘I have lots of friends,’ meaning, ‘I must be a fairly good person or I wouldn’t have them.’ Or, ‘I have a place in the community,’ meaning, ‘My church or other groups accept me and consider me worthwhile.’”

    Avis says that in today’s society, old age almost invariably means loss of status, which can be a severe blow to the ego. “A retired colonel told me, When I spoke, everybody around me jumped to action. Now there’s only my family, and they don’t jump.” She wrote that many newly retired executives or administrators have to learn to answer a ringing telephone, no longer having a secretary to get the call.

    These are subjects that can help caretakers to better understand and appreciate the emotional health of the person in their care.

    “Also, loss of status may not be the worst of it. Many old people feel deeply that they are no longer of any real use toi anybody or anything. The old avenues of usefulness have closed off, and they do not know how to go about finding new ones. A sense of being worthless, of having no role, is the largest ingredient in the makeup of the unhappy, complaining old person whom everyone avoids as much as possible.

    “The person feeling loss of status and self-worth may resopond by bragging about his or her past accomplishments. Or they may turn sour and nastily downgfrade the performance of others (including their caretakers).”

    Avis reminds us of Cicero’s famous remark: “Old age, especially honored old age, has so great authority that it is of more value than all the pleasures of youth.”

    Pearl Buck, the author, said, in the last year of her life, “Respect can only be won by the dignity of self-respect.”

    Again, Avis Carlson did not know about TMS and the pain it can cause, both psycholigcally and physically, but she was tuned to it whether she realized it or not, when she wrote:

    “The elder can do some hard thinking about himself. Does he feel guilty about something he may have done? He can stop nagging himself. We are all wrong-doers, and perhaps the chances are that he is no more odiously tarred than most of us. He can, yes he can, do whatever is possible to rectify whatever wrongs he has done to others, then forgive himself for the mistakes of the past and get on with the living of today. This, I well realize, is the preachiest of all prescriptions and one of the hardest to take, but it also is one that effective human beings in every culture and religion have been practicing for a very long time.

    “Does he feel resentment at some of the raw deals life has handed him? Nothing makes old age so empty and bitter as resentment over what happened and cannot now be undone. Some sessions of thinking and talking about what happened may clarify the grounds for resentment. In the poerspective of time they may turn out to be less grim than we have been thinking. In any case, the thinking or talking session will help us to forgive and forget – and thus to get rid of some heavy baggage.”

    I hope the wisdom of Avis Carlson can apply to TMSWiki.org/forum members, especially those who are caring for someone whether aged or younger who are injured or ill. Learning where they are coming from psychogically can help caretakers and those in their care.

    I welcome comments on this or the earlier posting.






    (My mother was in a nursing home awhen she was 94 and her mind was as good as ever, while she saw those around her staring into the distance. She told me, “The worst thing is, there’s nobody to play pinochle with.”
     
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  11. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Chapter 9 in Avis Carlson's book, she tells about "Old Age Brings Opportunities for New Undertakings."

    She opens saying when she was working in a literary program in St. Louis, she said many older people are going back to get a high school or college degree, some do it with hopes of improving their income. Whether or not, she said they will have bolstered their self-esteem. And it isn't necessary to leave home to get a degree since it can be obtained on the computer, or just in reading books on subjects of special interest or those the person would like to know about.

    She tells of a man making his first sky-dive at age 65, and another age age 80 earned a diploma in radio and television repair. A 67-year-old banker
    became a tennis pro. A Chicago woman took up painting and swimming in her 70s. Another woman, aged 84, became interested in archaeology.

    Her unmarried and childless sister had to retire early from a career in business and became housebound and pain-ridden. She read books that gave her knowledge and training to help first and second grade children who had reading problems. She made friendships with them and called them "my children." How enriching and self-esteem-building was that!

    Another woman takes part in a "tele-care" volunteer program of seniors who call other elderly living alone in their home to be sure they are all right. If they need help, the program tries to provide it.

    Letter-writing to shut-in friends is another activity a senior can engage in.

    She strongly suggests that the elderly (she's one herself) find ways to keep their minds active, even if they are not physically able to do what they once did. Keeping the mind active, and feeling useful even at an advanced age, can help a senior citizen to live longer and more healthful.

    The next part of her chapter is called "To Perceive One's Life as a Whole," and I will summarize it next time.

    Meanwhile, I hope these posts have been helpful to those of us who are in advanced years (I'm 83 and feel as if I'm more alert and productive than in my teens) and those who are caretakers of the elderly.
     

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