Category Archives: Susan Towers

Could your prescription medicine be making you depressed?


Definition of depression: Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. – American Psychiatric Association.

The recent  suicides of two Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have once again brought  depression into the limelight.

Statistics  about suicide are staggering.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,  around 123 people kill themselves every day in our country. I’d rather not go into how people do it. You can look that up yourself.

About 123 people kill themselves every day in the United States

There is an undeniable link between suicide and depression, according to American Association of Suicidology.  So many of us know a family who lost a loved one to suicide. Many of us are that family. It is awful. Not only do you lose someone you love, but you suffer the guilt of not stopping it, of not recognizing the symptoms, and you imagine the pain that was so intolerable, that they could not see any reason to live.

A shocking medical study released June 12 revealed that many  common prescription medications can cause depression as a side effect.  The study was released by the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported on by NPR. I have attached links to both articles for your convenience. However, you will have to pay for the entire JAMA article, if you are interested in reading it.

I am writing about this to bring it to your attention. If you are feeling seriously depressed, or even just plain sad, check the side effects of your medications. If you find ‘depression’ is listed, please contact your doctor.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. If you are uncomfortable talking to your doctor, you can reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or on an online chat at

This is a free and confidential service.




When your dog dies

King lives on the beach and rests in my heart

When your dog dies and you scream inside

 You may miss the signs that your dog is nearing the end of his life.

You take him to the vet for his annual visit and she comments that he is getting older and may need pain medicine one day. Big dogs have hip problems, she says. He is already 11.  She talks you into an x-ray. There are signs of serious arthritis in his back and both hips.

A trip back to the vet means that you buy a special HelpMeUp halter to help him when he negotiates the stairs. You also get a prescription for Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory for dogs. He only needs to take it once a day, and he seems to have more energy.

He is getting older. He doesn’t pull as hard on the leash, and if you pull him, he loses his balance. It hurts you to see he is losing his strength. Still at 87 pounds, he is a big, proud, and regal dog.

He turns 12. You start to worry that you may lose him, but you know he looks as good as ever. The two of you still walk four miles a day, two in the morning and two in evening.

Then you break your ankle and the two of you stop doing your walks He won’t walk with anyone but you, and stubbornly stays by your side as you recuperate. He sleeps on the floor next to the bed. His hips are no longer strong enough for him to jump on the bed. When did that happen?

You get better and start walking him again, but notice that he no longer can walk several miles. He turns back earlier than he used to. He walks slowly. You are determined to build his strength back, and he is now 12 ½.  A friend notices that he seems to be limping. You hadn’t noticed. You called the vet and she said to give him two Rimadyl a day.

Then, he falls down the stairs. You saw him through the window when you were unlocking the front door. You stood helpless. What did you miss? His back legs are no longer dependable. You start using the HelpMeUp halter daily. He falls on the stairs again, trips himself on the leash.

The vet gives you another medication to go along with the Rimadyl. Gabapentin – now he is taking 6 pills as day.  You notice he seems spacy and confused, but the limp disappears. His legs seem stronger.  But he’s up in the night, panting, pacing. You know there is something else wrong.

The vet diagnoses a rare heart condition, and advises you to stop the Gabapentin, and instead to use Tramadol at night.  You research it to find out that it is a narcotic. You are afraid.  He wakes up panting, licking his lips.

You wait a few days and then decide you will give him the Tramadol. But he still wakes up, and one day he looks at you with a faraway gaze, and can barely get himself up when he is lying down. You take him to the pet store and he falls again. You help him up, put him in the car, and take him to the beach, his favorite place. But he won’t get out of the car. He looks out at the scrub where he knows rabbits live, but won’t get out of the car.

You know the end is near but you don’t want to believe it. He looks at you with such trust in his eyes. He still loves food. The next morning, he is livelier, and agrees to take a walk in the neighborhood.  But when he lies down in the house, he struggles to stand up.  His back legs buckle. You have to help him.

You take him to the vet to be euthanized. He collapses on the blanket provided. He doesn’t try to get out of the room, as if he knows.  You pet him and talk to him and the vet injects him with something that kills him. You watch him die and scream inside.

Later, you ask yourself, “What if I had tried something else? Another medication?”

You doubt your decision and glaze at his beautiful photographs.   You see him in every room. You cry uncontrollably, and wish he was still beside you, lying next to your desk or on the porch. Barking for a treat.


Staying Active: Keeping Purpose in Our Lives

How do career-minded people define their lives and remain alert and engaged after retiring from a demanding, all-consuming, full-time job?

I have been thinking about that question throughout 2017 following my retirement from a writing and marketing career. I have looked around to see what people in their 60s and 70s are doing, people who have left high-powered jobs and people who have left tedious ones.  I have talked to my baby-boomer peers and discovered that this question is and has been on the minds of most of them at some point. Whether they left jobs because they wanted to, or because they were downsized, it doesn’t seem to matter.

What does a career-type do when the career is over?

I am inspired after reading an article about David Harry Stewart, known as ‘the age disrupter,’ and want to share the article with you.  The article is Disrupting the Concept of Aging 

If you did not read it yet, his message (my interpretation) is that we have to energy ourselves, find a purpose and keep ourselves healthy and active while we are doing it.   Two lines out of Stewart’s comments: “To move is to live,” and “to retire is to die.”

Retirees have to find a meaning in our lives. The first thing to do it not to describe oneself as ‘a retiree!!’

Haven’t we heard the stories about people who get sick and die within a few years of retirement? I’m sure the reasons are far more complicated than what we might find in a google search. Maybe people were already sick. Or, maybe, once they gave up a stressful job, they relaxed  and ate and/or drank too much. How often have  you seen people who have gained tons of weight after they retired?  How many of them are on a handful of pills for heart, high blood pressure and painful joints taken daily? We know that a lack of exercise and over eating can lead to all kinds of diseases.

Look out the window and see the sky.  Think about what you enjoy, what you would like to do to help others.  You can find volunteer work, or a job doing something you’d never thought you’d do. You can find your creative side with art classes. You can learn about plants and dig a garden. Those of us who live in Coastal Delaware because every activity one can think of is documented in the Cape Gazette newspaper.

No matter what, get into a regular exercise program, doing whatever you are physically able to do.

The possibilities are limitless.



It’s time to get your flu shot

Besides hospitals and health clinics, local pharmacies and supermarkets are giving free flu shots. Acme was even announcing a discount on groceries!

Prevention is critical to maintaining good health

Flu season officially begins each October 1st. And, in case you might have forgotten, the obvious ‘free-flu-shot’ signs are everywhere to remind you.

I noticed the other day my local Acme supermarket in the Rehoboth Beach is offering a 10% discount on your grocery bill, up to $200, if you get your free flu shot at its pharmacy.  Now that’s great PR.

Emily Knearl, section chief of the Office of Health and Risk Communication with Delaware Public Health, said all flu shot programs in Delaware, whether at a supermarket, pharmacy, clinic, or through a hospital, are strictly regulated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  So, you don’t have to worry about your safety if you get your shot at a convenient location.  There are lots of convenient locations.

Besides local pharmacies, Delaware Public Health has clinics all over the place. You can check out the state’s flu clinic schedule at or you can find out by calling (800) 282-8672.  Beebe Healthcare in Lewes also is offering free flu shot clinics, as well as free shots at the hospital in Lewes every Monday through mid-November.

If you do not live in Delaware, you can find the nearest flu clinic by visiting Emily explained that under the Affordable Care Art (Obama Care), we all get shots for free, whether our insurance pays or the government pays.

Flu shots are important!

One thing I learned while working in public relations at a hospital is that flu shots help prevent flu. CDC estimates that your risk of getting sick with flu drops from between 40% to 60% if you get the shot (Yes, some people get it anyway, and no, it doesn’t give you the flu).

The incidences of flu usually peak in December and January.

People with compromised immune systems (and with chronic illnesses that include cardiovascular disease, COPD, diabetes) can get seriously ill if they get flu. And, people die of flu. Last year, 15 people died of flu in Delaware. A few years ago, nearly 30 people died of flu in Delaware.  In fact, the CDC estimates that somewhere between 12,000 and 56,000 people in the United States have died of the flu since 2010.

Of course, there are people who cannot get the shot because of allergies to eggs and some other ingredients. You know who you are, or should find out if you are concerned. But the majority of us have a better chance to stay healthy this winter if we get the shot.

I’m not trying to scare anyone. I realize there are the believers and disbelievers. I’m a believer in vaccinations. I am old enough to remember when a boy in my class at elementary school had braces on his legs that had been damaged by polio, and when I had to stay in my room for a week as a young child with measles because the doctor was worried about my eyes.

I spent two weeks in isolation as a parent when my one-year-old son got mumps! He was so sick that he had convulsions. I dipped him in a cold bathtub and that helped.

A few days ago, a woman in her 60s told me she doesn’t get the shot because it gave her the flu when she was 14 years old. I didn’t want to argue with her because I felt it was rude, and hope she doesn’t end up suffering this winter.

It’s never too late in the season to get the shot, though earlier is better. It takes about two weeks before it is effective. I got mine at Rite Aid a few days ago before I heard about Acme’s discount.

While this season’s flu hasn’t shown up yet in the United States, it has been creating some issues in Australia, where there has been two-and-a-half times more lab-confirmed cases this year than last. Flu hits Australia before the North American continent so U.S.  health officials are predicting higher numbers here, too. Nothing is for sure.

A new vaccine formula is made every year to target the flu anticipated to hit. The CDC also is NOT recommending the flu nasal spray, which doesn’t seem to work.

You can get all the details about this season’s flu by checking the CDC website

Other helpful tips to avoid getting sick this winter are:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
    • Wash your hands before you eat
    • Wash your hands before you eat after you have gone to the bathroom, touched handrails, handled money, picked up library books, and pushed the cart at the grocery store.
    • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Cough into your arm rather that into your hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Get enough rest, think positive, and smile




A 92 year old’s secret to longevity

Sara is wonderfully optimistic and at 92, is still a bundle of warmth and energy

“Finding my own peace in the midst of chaos.”

At 92 years old, Sara Sherman drives a car, walks to the shops around the corner from her home on Santa Monica, California, and flies across the country to visit family.

Sara is an inspiration. She is soft spoken, witty and knows more about healthy eating than anyone I know.  In the 1980s, she earned her PhD in clinical nutrition. She was ahead of the popular trend of gluten-free, whole grains, fiber and ‘shopping the edges of the supermarket.’

I wanted to find out her secret of longevity and happiness so that I could share it. I sent her a list of questions as she said it would be easier for her to answer them in writing than it would be to over the telephone.  Included here are the questions and her answers.

Question –   To what do you attribute your health and longevity?

Sara –  I am not sure. I am still discovering why. My father died at 85. He was always active, but believed in cat-naps, and laughter. I have tried to follow his example in both, and try to see the humor or benefit in most situations.

Question – What life practices do you think are the most important?

Sara –  Being a nutritional counselor, I know what I eat is important. But I also know that what I put in my into my thoughts is much more important that what I put in my mouth.

Question – What has brought you the most joy in life?

Sara – That’s easy — the relationships with the people that I love – more joy than anything I could have in the bank or in my possession.

Question –  Please tell us about one of your most favorite experiences.

Sara – It was the one year traveling alone in Greece where I had no one else to please and no one to advise me. I was able to focus on my own intuition. That resulted in one year of amazing changes and wonderful growth.

Question – How have you sought joy and peace?

Sara –  The old-fashioned way! I work at it. I have learned I have a choice in the way I feel. I first have to become aware of my negative feelings so that I can work to change my thoughts, which ultimately changes my feelings. I call it, “Finding my own peace in the midst of chaos.”

Question – How do you handle grief?

Sara –  Healing from grief involves forgiveness. That’s really important. First, I must find a way to forgive myself for whatever my mind can imagine. We all do the best at any time. I find journal writing about my grief and loss and regrets eases the pain. Part of the pain goes into the book, making it feel heavy. Or, I put the sadness away on an emotional shelf.  Then, I take it out it bits and pieces when I feel able.

Question –  Do you get anxious? If so, how do you handle it?

Sara –  Of course I do but I have learned to become a monitor of my thoughts. For 10 years after my father died, I heard (imagined I heard) his voice over my left shoulder, commenting or advising or asking me questions. Gradually, I replaced him, becoming the monitor of my own thoughts, looking for the gifts in what is happening, knowing that anxiety or peace is my choice.

Question – What makes you laugh?

Sara – Life makes me laugh. The older I am, the more fun I have, the more I realize almost everything we worry about never happens.  Everything else is very temporary, working itself out if you believe it will.



Man on the bench

I was inspired to write this piece through the participation in the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild Art in the A.M. monthly event. The assignment was to write 300 or fewer words about one of the pieces of art chosen for the month. The photograph by Angie Moon inspired my imagination.  Since I am using her photograph on my website, I also am including a link to her website:

My piece represents a subject of my book Black Market Baby, which I am in the process of completing.  It does not represent Angie’s theme. 

He dropped his head into his right hand, sinking deep into his thoughts.  He was no longer aware of the lovely garden around him, or of the rigid wooden bench upon which he sat. He didn’t feel the warmth of the sunshine, or hear the cry of the cardinal as it welcomed spring.

He pictured the young woman where they had just met by the pond.  Their favorite spot.  The place they knew they would find each other in the afternoons.  He could still hear her voice and see the tears in her eyes. Pregnant.  She was pregnant.  What were they to do, she asked him.  Fear swelled from within him. He didn’t know what to tell her.  Let me think, he said. Let’s meet tomorrow.

He walked away from her as she sat holding back her sobs. He couldn’t console her because he was too afraid himself. What to do.  He couldn’t marry her. He was married. She was so young and so beautiful. Young, alone, and pregnant. What had he done?

He walked through the park and past the daffodils that had begun to shrivel and die. He didn’t notice them. He didn’t notice the boy on the bicycle who nearly ran him over or the couple walking hand in hand. He didn’t notice the toy boats in the pond and the geese snapping up the breadcrumbs dropped by a woman wearing a shawl.

What to do.  He had always wanted a child, and now there was a child he could not have.  He had married after the war, but no children would come from that marriage. He could not turn for advice to his mother, his father, or sisters who had died by the Nazis hands. Tomorrow, he thought, I will call my friend Zalmon tomorrow. He will know what to do.



King is lounging now, but don’t let that fool you

King LoungingHe ran full speed at the park today after a squirrel. I knew he wouldn’t catch him – or I really hoped anyway – but figured he’d wear himself out in the chase. The squirrel must have seen him coming as he sprinted right up the side of the trunk of a really big tree. King tried to climb after him. However, at 85 pounds and nearly 10 years old, he didn’t have a chance.

He was really happy, though. Happy I unhooked the leash so he could run as fast as he could. Happy that he had a chance to catch a squirrel. Just plain old happy.

He trotted back to me with a smile on his face. “Yes,” I told him. “You are a good boy. We are going to the beach in the morning tomorrow. It’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work.”

He gets it. He really does. He knows the word “work” and he surely knows the word “Beach.” I truly believe that now that we are back home and it is dark outside, he knows that we are going to the beach the first thing in the morning, which to him is 6 a.m., light or dark. Dark now.

So, right now, he is lounging in the second bedroom. He’s not even asking for a treat, though, I’m sure he would jump right up if I mentioned the word or went into the kitchen.

Could he be thinking about the squirrel today? Or the beach tomorrow? I’ll have to ask a dog behaviorist if dogs think about what is in the past or what they anticipate in the future. He really seems to know when it is the weekend and that we spend longer on our morning walks. He watches what I put on and sniffs my clothing. When I dress for work he seems resigned to be home alone. Honestly, what really  is on a dog’s mind?

As sure as the sunrise and sunset

horseshoe crabs on Lewes Beach morningWe may not know what is going to happen in our lives. But come May and one thing is always reliable — The horseshoe crabs arrive to lay their eggs on the beaches of the Delaware Bay. They arrive with the moon and the high tides. The males cling to the females. They fight the waves and the sand, the seagulls and the people. They make their way as high up on the sand as they can. And then they travel back into the water.  Their circular paths mark the sand.

I’ve read that they are an ancient animal and actually not a crab at all. For me, they are as reliable as the sunrise and the sunset. They signal that the weather is going to be warm again, that the sun is going to be out and that the days are longer.

They tell me that it is time for me to get my kayak back into the water.

King is preparing for surgery, only he doesn’t know it

King on the couchHow do you tell a dog that he is going to have surgery? King is going to be nine years old on May 1. You would never know it. The girls look at him when he walks by. People stop their cars in the middle of the street and ask what kind of dog he is.

The groomer found a lump on his chest and the vet confirmed it was going to have to be removed. Soon. It’s a lipoma. I have never heard of one of those. I quickly ‘Googled’ it.  It’s a fatty tumor and normally  not dangerous. Of course, his is dangerous. It’s large, somewhere between a good-sized orange and a small cantaloupe. It’s on his chest and near the pit of his leg. It could make it difficult for him to breathe.

He doesn’t notice it at all. I only adopted him last year and have never owned an 85-pound dog before so I missed it. Now I’m trying to prepare for the surgery.  It’s open, not laparoscopic.  He’s going to be out cold. The vet is going to cut him open. When he wakes up, he is going to have a drain.  I am figuring out now where he is going to sleep when I bring him home that afternoon. He won’t be able to get up my inside stairs the first or second day after surgery, I imagine. I definitely can’t carry him up a flight of stairs. I’m not even sure how I will get him out of my car the day of surgery if he is still groggy.

He looks at me with such trusting and innocent eyes. I wonder what his eyes will be like after the surgery, when he wakes up in pain.  I think I will run out and get some Campbell’s chicken soup. When my last dog had Rocky Mountain spotted fever, that was the only thing she would eat for a few days. Of course I added boiled chicken breasts and some white rice.

King is so sweet.  I’m still trying to prepare him for the surgery.