Just sit in Dr. Marilyn Varcoe’s office and you’ll see the world. From the 171 countries she has visited, she’s brought back treasures. Like the model of the antique car from Cuba, the masks from Bhutan, the hand-carved art pieces from Myanmar. And true to the psychologist that she is, she tells us objects like these “are symbolic cues to bring back the memories and emotions of your experiences.” We’re thrilled that Marilyn has blended her commanding travel savvy with her psychological expertise for this month’s story “The Right Travel Spots for You.”
Let’s go on a trip with Marilyn, first to discover her most memorable travel adventures, and then back to her office for a look at the patient issues that most frequently come through her door. That’s a voyage of discovery all on its own, revealing much about the niche that is Southwest Florida.
Frigid with a View
“In 2015,” Marilyn recalls, “I went to Antarctica. It’s 30 degrees below zero there and you need a medical certificate to participate. There’s a research station there where scientists and doctors are studying the ice and water and the effects of global warming.
“You sit at dinner on the ship and see a landscape that looks blue and white with the icebergs, snow and water. You dress in four layers of your own; they give you a heavy jumpsuit, boots and a windbreaker. You have to wear glasses to protect against windburn. You go ashore and hike for two or three hours. You see lots of wildlife, millions of different penguins. The place is idyllic, breathtakingly beautiful.”
Earlier this year, Marilyn went on her second African safari. It meant living in the Serengeti in tented camps. The idea is to get up close but not too personal with all manner of wild beasts. Her first night there, she heard the tearing up of nearby shrubbery and trees. It turns out one of the first visitors was a bull elephant with a massive head. Thank goodness it was just a neighborly welcome call. But, as Marilyn notes with relief, “There were Masai guards, and each had a rifle.”
Marilyn has a Ph.D. in psychology from Penn State and much wisdom about the state of mind here from her 21 years of practice in Naples. There’s obviously a lot of wealth in Southwest Florida and lots of older retirees. “No matter how affluent you may be,” Marilyn says, “there are still problems as well as depression and anxiety. And with an older population, there are more widows and widowers needing help with their issues of grieving.” She generally describes some cases that seem to capture the local culture.
Marilyn says many of her clients are women. In a typical example, she’s 15 years younger than her wealthy 60-year-old husband. He’s got three children from a previous marriage and wants no more. She’d like to have kids. He abused alcohol, wanted her to take care of all the details in their lives and subjected her to a lot of verbal abuse. He didn’t really engage her, except for the eating out and drinking. On and off, each talked about divorce. She was able to deal with her issues. She had been building a home on the east coast of Florida. He was always in denial about his drinking and ended up in the hospital. He was released with the understanding that he couldn’t drink again. He bought a place not far from her on the other side of Florida. They still communicate with each other, and their relationship continues in a healthier way.
Marilyn tells of a couple of other cases. One titan of industry had lost his wife. He had his penthouse on the Gulf, but felt a loss of power and purpose. He researched and wrote articles—he was brilliant and cultured—but felt quite alone. Marilyn coached him on and off for 10 years before he passed away. Another patient cared for her husband until he passed away after 30 years of marriage. She had no experience with their financial matters. Their adult children helped her with that, while Marilyn got her thinking more positively. Over time, she started dating and found a husband.
To help the afflicted, Marilyn has a book out called Toxic Stress: 7 Steps to Recovery. And ever thoughtful, she even wrote a book for the many, many golf addicts here: 7 Secrets to Master the Mind Game of Golf. Stay tuned. Later this year, we shall share many of them to help you psyche your way to better performances. Ever her way.
Goodbye, Darn It
Sadly (for us), President/Group Publisher Brett Wilson is leaving for a job in Arizona. In his time here, he was six stars out of five—an astute executive with a great feel for all sides of our business and an engaging personality that won us many friends in the community and the affection and loyalty of our staff. He was a joy to work with every day and we wish him great success as the new president/publisher of Cities West Publishing Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona.