Novels by Karen Stephen...

Doctor Flamingo on Midlife

MOTHER TONGUE - Lingua Corsa
My real adventure in Corsica in 1963
Photos of Corsica
Oxford 2013 Blog
Blogging Oxford Photos England
Bloging Oxford Photos France
Music from England and France
About the Author
Favorite Links
Doctor Flamingo on Midlife
Contact Me

Visit My Sister Website
especially created for
Navigate your pink passionate years with...
positive mental health   


Doctor Flamingo's

Perspective on Mid-Life

for Women

Karen Stephen, Ph.D. developed her Doctor Flamingo website to bring to the general public all the shared wisdom emerging from during her 19-year stint as a co-therapist for a Women's Midlife Support Group at the HMO where practiced until 2009.


Introduction to Midlife 

In the Middle, Meddle, and Muddle of Life


            A referring physician once asked me what the age range was for my Women’s Mid-life Support Group. 

Anything between forty and death, I answered. 

But I should have told him that there is no limit…on either end. 

If you are twenty-five years old, taking care of your diabetic grandmother because your own mother is drug addicted and incarcerated…and you suffer from hypertension, work as an aide at the convalescent home during the day, and attend nursing school at night…then you qualify for my mid-life group. 

Or if you are dead-and-gone, sittin’ up there in heaven and polishin’ the pearly gates, but still trying to get Saint Peter to make an exception for your no-good, rotten, cheatin’ husband…and you need a larger pair of wings because you’ve been bingeing on the manna…you qualify too. 

            Mid-life is neither a chronological age nor a phase of life…it simply means being in the middle of life…too much life.  Too many responsibilities.  Too many irons in the fire, pains in the rear, and worries on the brain.  Life turns weary.

Mid-life also means being in the meddle of life.  Too many bodies to run with just one head…the dunderhead husband, the doltish teen, the ditzy neighbor, the dastardly boss.  So many incompetent and irresponsible folks to tend, mend, and bend to one’s own way of thinking…and so little time.  Life turns teary.

Lastly, mid-life means being in the muddle of life.  Too much to remember and not a very good “rememberer”.   Too many questions and not enough answers.  Life turns bleary.

And, God forbid, that in the middle of this muddled meddling, you break into tears in your physician’s office or ask for the third time to have him look at your aching back or swollen ankles.  Within a minute, you are handed a prescription for an anti-depressant or tranquilizer or, worse yet, sent off to the psychiatry department.  You find yourself confused and offended.  After all, you’re not crazy…at least you didn’t think so until then. 

If You are referred to a mental health provider... yourself a favor and follow through, at least on the counseling part.  At the very least, you can get a second opinion as to whether the medication recommendation is appropriate. 

Tranquilizers are rarely appropriate except for very brief use during a period of acute anxiety or trauma.  They have the potential to be addictive.  Plus they can make depressive symptoms worse.  Remember that tranquilizers are central nervous system depressants.

Even anti-depressant medications are only helpful when you have the symptoms of clinical or, what we call, Major Depression.  These symptoms include:


      Sleep disruption (especially waking frequently and having problems returning to sleep)

      Decrease in appetite and libido (sexual arousal)

      Weight loss (or gain from comfort eating)

      An inability to enjoy activities

      Drop-dead tiredness

      Impaired concentration, which often creates memory problems

      Crying easily or being on the verge of tears much of the time

      Increased irritability (or lowered frustration tolerance)

      Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness

      Thoughts of suicide or wishing you weren’t here

      Depressed mood  

Note that depressed mood is the last symptom checked.  The physical changes in appetite, sleep, and concentration tell us that you are clinically depressed and may need medication.  Generally, depression or unhappiness that occurs in the absence of these physical symptoms, especially if it is a reaction to one of life’s disappointments or traumas, is not going to be helped by medication.  

When you arrive at the counseling center or psychiatry department, you may be lucky enough to be sent to a Women’s Support Group or Depression Class where you can garner support and learn new skills.  Individual counseling may be more comfortable or familiar to you, but doesn’t provide the level of support or incentive to change that group therapy can provide.

You will find new ways of looking at relationships, responsibilities, and life itself.  You will develop a new willingness to care for yourself.  You will find courage to peel off the leeches, uncover your boundaries and set limits, and to say “no” and mean it.  The old pot-holed filled paths you have stumbled along will be left behind, and you will step out onto a smoother avenue that leads to better health, serenity, and even joy.

What are some of the new skills you can learn by attending a support group?   Is it possible to teach an old...or new tricks?

Learn much more when you visit Doctor Flamingo Online...

What Doctor Flamingo Can Help You Learn:

To discover more is doing less

The art of turning things over             

Detaching with love             

Living one day at a time

Just say NO

Self-help for depression           

Self-help for anxiety and depression             

Being mindful