Euthanasia as a Cure for Alcoholism?

How is this for a crazy headline? At the same time, who among us has not thought of it?

By Dorri Olds 12/14/16

In the last two weeks of his life, Mark laughed, ate, and spoke honestly with the family for the first time in years. He was lighter, looking forward to death.

A grave with yellow flowers

There was no pain, no struggle—just relief

Mark Langedijk, a 41-year-old alcoholic, did not want to live anymore. He was euthanized, legally, in the Netherlands on July 14. His heartbroken older brother Marcel, a journalist, published a poignant essay (in Dutch) in the magazine Linda on November 15.

Why did the Netherlands legally permit putting Mark to death? Before you slap a harsh judgment on what a foreign country allowed to happen, you need to understand the whole story with all of its complex circumstances. This was not a callous, immoral decision by an uncaring government. This was a begged-for mercy killing.

Shouldn’t a person whose life is filled with pain be allowed to say, “Enough is enough”? I think so.

I was intrigued by this story the second I stumbled upon it on November 28. Throughout much of my life, I would have jumped at the option of euthanasia. Like Mark, there was something wrong with my brain. For me it was a combination of PTSD and bad wiring.

Langedijk went through an agonizing eight years that included 21 hospital and rehab admissions. Desperate to understand what happened, I scoured the internet to find his older brother Marcel Langedijk. I found out he was 44 and living in Amsterdam with his wife Carlijn and their infant daughter, Sammie. I contacted Marcel and asked for an interview.

He wrote back, “I would like the story of my brother and his addiction and the euthanasia to be read by as many people as possible. It won’t be any problem to answer your questions.” I am grateful that he was willing to confide in me by phone and email, but this was not a conversation that came easily. He is still shattered by his tremendous loss.

“This wasn’t sudden,” said Marcel, wanting to make it clear that euthanasia was not a rash, careless decision. “It took one and a half years of planning with a doctor. At first the doctor said ‘No,’ but Mark kept talking to her, pleading with her. He was suffering. He’d had a successful hearing aids company but couldn’t work anymore. He’d lost his wife and their two boys—now 11 and 9.”

Marcel said Mark wasn’t a “typical alcoholic.” I asked him what he meant.

“He wasn’t like those smelly, dirty people living on the street, always desperate, and begging for money.” I didn’t stop him to explain how many alcoholics don’t look like that.

Marcel said, “My brother always took care of himself but, emotionally, he just couldn’t cope. He had so many fears. It was mental illness.”

“Was Mark bipolar?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Marcel, “that was part of it.”

During Mark’s eight years of deterioration into the depths of alcoholism, his family grew angry with him. Mark hadn’t confided the details of what his life had become and his family did not understand what alcoholism was. As a result, they could not figure out why Mark behaved as he did. Still, love overrode their frustration. They did what they could—offered emotional support, made suggestions, gave money. Marcel said his parents always hoped Mark would get better, “especially my mother.” Mark went back to live with their parents when his marriage fell apart.

Marcel said, “We didn’t understand what was happening because he hadn’t let us in on the details until it was too late.”

He, Mark, and their sister Angela grew up in Overijssel, a small town in the Netherlands. Marcel described a happy childhood with loving parents, a life that was quiet, easygoing, fun.

“Nothing in our lives could’ve explained what happened,” Marcel told me. “There was nothing we did to cause it. It was a problem in his head—his brain didn’t work right. Then his body was breaking down. He had cirrhosis.”

Mark was always very social. “He knew how to get people to help him.” But he was also able to hide his problems for a long time because “he had a very good income and insurance from his hearing aids company,” said Marcel. “Then when he needed more help, our parents and the government paid a lot of money to help him.”

After getting Mark to rehab after rehab, but seeing it fail each time, “the family took some distance.” They hoped that if Mark saw that he could lose all of them, he would make himself stop drinking. Despite wanting desperately to get better, he was unable to.

On June 18, just 26 days before his death, Marcel and his wife Carlijn had gone out to dinner, leaving their one-month-old daughter Sammie with his parents. As they babysat at Marcel’s home, Mark called. His mother answered. He was calling from a police station and said he had nowhere to go.

“My parents said, ‘Come to us, to the house of your brother.’ What else could they say?” said Marcel. When Mark arrived he was still drunk. It was the first time he met his new niece, Sammie. Marcel and Carlijn hurried home and found Mark ashamed and in pain—physically and mentally exhausted. Mark told his family that he wanted to die by euthanasia.

In Marcel’s article he said that their family didn’t take it seriously at first. “Euthanasia was for people with cancer. Not for alcoholics.” But Marcel described staring at his brother seated on the couch next to their mother; he saw him moaning in pain and shaking. He needed vodka to stop the delirium tremens. After a couple of glasses of vodka, he cried out to his family, “This is no life.”

Over a year before he died, Mark had gone to Dr. Marijke and begged her to euthanize him. She was skeptical at first, afraid he was just a self-pitying alcoholic seeking attention. The doctor asked why he didn’t just commit suicide.

Marcel said to me, “It would have been cruel to force my brother into taking his own life. How should he have done it? Jump in front of a train? Jump from a building. That would’ve been so violent.”

Dr. Marijke continued to talk to Mark, and also sent him to see other doctors, psychiatrists, and insisted he keep a daily journal. Marcel said it detailed how unbearable life was. He described every day as the same. He was in pain, he drank, loneliness dripped from every page. Mark went through the normal channels and finally it was a doctor at the Support and Consultation on Euthanasia in the Netherlands that gave the approval.

Being put to death in the Netherlands is legal through the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act. Marcel wanted me to understand that the country doesn’t just kill alcoholics on a regular basis. When we got off the phone I Googled statistics. I found that in 2002, euthanasia in the Netherlands was legalized for those with “unbearable suffering and no prospect of improvement.” According to the UK’s The Telegraph, during the past five years, euthanasia cases in the Netherlands increased from 3,136 in 2010 to 5,516 last year. That is a 75% increase. For cases based on mental illness, it went from two people in 2010 (0.1%) to 56 people in 2015 (1%).

In Marcel’s article he described the last two weeks of his brother’s life as surreal. There was a bed set up for Mark in the living room of their parents’ home, the house Marcel and his siblings grew up in. Mark joked about being a “dead man walking.” He laughed, ate, and spoke honestly with the family for the first time in years. He spoke of how he had managed to keep his alcohol abuse hidden from everyone, how unhappy he’d been. It was like having the Mark they used to know back with them. He was lighter, looking forward to death.

He barely cried, there was no pain, no struggle—just relief. Marcel told me about his brother’s last night on earth. “He slept like a baby. I couldn’t understand it, how he could sleep so well.” Marcel was on the couch all night next to Mark, listening to him snore while he stayed awake with the horrid reality that his brother would be gone “in a few more hours.”

On the day of, Marcel said his hands were clammy and his head buzzed from lack of sleep and emotional overload. Weather-wise, it was a beautiful day. They laughed, drank, smoked, ate ham and cheese sandwiches. Dr. Marijke rang the bell. She was dressed in a black dress and sneakers. The jokes stopped. Dr. Marijke explained that there would be three syringes. The first was a saline solution, the second would make him sleep, and the third would stop his heart.

Everyone started to cry, even Mark, but his tears were not from sadness. Mark cried with empathy, seeing his family so grief-stricken. Marcel told me that even though he hadn’t included it in his article, the doctor was crying, too.

She asked him two more times if he was sure. Marcel said that his head was screaming, “No!” but Mark said, yes, he was sure. When Dr. Marijke emptied the third syringe, Mark’s face lost color and he was gone.

Marcel told me that he never planned to write about the ordeal. “I didn’t want my brother to die but when he did, I am a journalist so I wrote about this.” The Dutch article in Linda went viral and Marcel received a lot of feedback suggesting that he write a book about it. Now, he has three chapters written and a publisher. His book will be out in 2017.

As is always the case when stories go viral, Marcel saw a lot of harsh criticism. He Facebook messaged me on December 3 to say, “The BBC did an interview with me. I decided to do that because there was so much bullshit—sorry for that word—written online that I felt I had to say something.” He sent me a link to the short BBC video.

In the video he said, “It’s a weird kind of day [as] you can imagine.” He wiped away tears, composed himself and said, “Okay, let me try to do this again. My name is Marcel Langedijk.” He described July 14, the day of Mark’s death as “ridiculously hot. We went outside and he said, ‘Well, this is my last morning.’ We just drank some wine. He had a favorite wine we drank once before. Then he smoked one more cigarette and we went inside. My parents now got the time to say their goodbyes and he got the time to say his goodbye. If he just would have shot himself or stand in front of a train, that would have been so different. That would have been so cruel. The thing that disturbs me the most right now is that my family and I and even my brother are made to look like we just ended it because it was convenient. Let me tell you, this is in no way convenient. We don’t take it lightly. It’s not like in Holland we go around killing alcoholics. It’s very complicated and it’s difficult and it’s a huge step. For me it’s very important to make sure that everyone knows that we did everything and some people just aren’t curable. If you don’t help them with it, they will eventually kill themselves.”

5 Ways To Increase The Serotonin In Your Brain

Source: POWER OF POSITIVITY
Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another…it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. This includes cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some behavior. -WebMD
While serotonin is a chemical frequently associated with depression, most people aren’t aware of the numerous functions of this brain chemical (hence, the quote). Most people also are not aware of the fact that serotonin can be reproduced without pharmaceuticals – drugs only made available via doctor prescription, and can have nasty side effects.

The fact that we can naturally increase this vital brain chemical should be considered exciting! Many ailments, acute and chronic, are believed to be due – at least in part – to low levels of serotonin in the brain. We encourage our reader to use this valuable knowledge included in this article to enhance their physical and mental health.

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO INCREASE SEROTONIN IN THE BRAIN:

Related article: 10 Ways To Increase The Dopamine In Your Brain

1. GET SOME 5-HTP

This little “hack” is a terrific way to help ward off the blues. Formally called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, this substance has been found effective in treating anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and hypertension. 5-HTP accomplishes these things by stimulating the production of the chemical serotonin.

In addition, 5-HTP has been shown to have positive effects on weight levels – a trait derived from the substance’s suppression of appetite. In a study at an Italian University, female participants who ingested 5-HTP lost an additional 10 pounds over two weeks, in contract to the placebo group who lost just two pounds over the same time period.

To realize the serotonin-boosting benefits of 5-HTP, a dosage of 100 to 400 milligrams per day – taken in multiple doses (i.e. at breakfast, lunch and dinner) – is recommended. Anticipate a time period of 4 to 6 weeks before any type of 5-HTP supplementation begins to demonstrate tangible benefits.

2. TAKE SOME B VITAMINS

Vitamin B6, in particular, aids in both the development and function of serotonin in the brain. Those prone to stress should consider supplementing their diet with a B-complex product, due to its myriad effects on brain chemicals.

Both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are effective in lessening depressive symptoms while inhibiting erratic neural activity in the brain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older adults that have been diagnosed with depression or experiencing depressive-like symptoms improved after supplementing their diets with B-vitamins.

Regular intake of a B-complex product, such as a supplement, is 50 to 100 mg daily. Those with additional symptoms, including fatigue/exhaustion or chronic stress, should consider adding a pantothenic acid – a twice-daily 250 mg dose of B5 vitamins, which is often sufficient for the alleviation of such symptoms.

3. EMBRACE THE LIGHT

Ever wonder why opening the shades on a sunny day has a distinctive way of improving our mood? Well, it may be due to the fact that our brain self-injects itself with serotonin chemicals. Even on a frigid or cool day, sunlight has a noticeable, positive affect on our mindset.

A productive and healthy practice is to briskly walk for 15 to 20 minutes at least once (or even twice) a day. Regardless of frequency, it is best to walk in the morning for two reasons: (1) we’ll burn more calories, and (2) we mentally prepare ourselves for the day ahead. Not only will our brain reward us with a kick of serotonin, we’ll burn off some calories in the process.

4. GET A MASSAGE

Massages feel really good…pretty much everybody knows this already. What most of us probably do not not know is that massages have a direct effect on our serotonin levels. Physiologically-speaking, messages are effective in reducing the stress hormone cortisol – a chemical that actively blocks the production of serotonin.

Researchers have discovered that professional massages decrease levels of cortisol by about 31 percent. When cortisol production is inhibited, our brains are in an optimal state to produce serotonin chemicals. As an added benefit, massage therapy can increase the production of the “reward and pleasure” brain chemical dopamine.

Experts are quick to point out that undergoing guided massage therapy is the premier method of boosting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, in addition to other sought after health benefits. However, a simple massage by a close companion will suffice for many. Those experiencing turmoil (including trauma) may be best served by consulting a licensed massage therapist, whose expertise will be invaluable in counteracting psychological stressors.

Related article: This ONE Plant Prevents Mood Swings And Balances Hormones

5. MEDITATE

Ah, yes…no “serotonin-boosting” article would be complete without the inclusion of meditation. Simply put, the proliferation of scientific studies that prove the physical and psychological benefits of meditation are mindboggling. Numerous forms of meditative practices exist, and all of them are beneficial in increasing the production of serotonin.

Perhaps the most impactful form of meditation on serotonin levels is Transcendental Meditation, or TM. Researchers believe that TM is a powerful stimulant on serotonin levels due to elevation of one of serotonin’s building blocks: 5-HIAA. Science has discovered a direct correlation between increasing concentrations of 5-HIAA and elevated serotonin levels in the brain.

Similar to massage therapy, meditation reduces the levels of cortisol in the brain. Additionally, meditation is particularly adept at invoking a relaxed response in the brain while suppressing the brain’s natural “fight or flight” reaction.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is another meditative type linked to elevating levels of serotonin, partially because MBSR further sensitizes serotonergic receptors, an important variable chemically in the production of serotonin. Interestingly, MBSR is the meditative technique promoted to military personnel that have been exposed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

9 Signs You’re Overstressed (And Don’t Know It)

Source: POWER OF POSITIVITY

Stress can be the underlying reason for many of our ailments. It lowers the immune system, causing us to get sick and acquire pain in the body. Stress enables us to function in a balanced manner, and while under stress we can’t see the many symptoms it conjures up. WebMD explains stress as: “…any change in the environment that requires your body to react and adjust in response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you and around you — and many things that you do yourself — put stress on your body. You can experience good or bad forms of stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”

When we are overstressed, we might not even feel the stress, as it masks itself under several symptoms.

HERE ARE 9 SIGNS THAT YOU ARE OVERSTRESSED AND DON’T EVEN KNOW IT

1. YOUR BODY IS IN PAIN.

We don’t listen to the whispers of the body until pain starts to scream. Under high stress levels, your body will start to break down. You can experience stomach issues, diarrhea, ulcers, tense muscles, chest pains and palpitations. You will get aches all over, arthritis will flare up, and even headaches will be screaming for your attention. Whenever you have pain in your body, become aware of it. Do not ignore the symptoms. Address what’s going on. It isn’t just stress management that helps you heal. Acceptance and awareness, that change is required, is the first step to deal with stress management.

2. YOU AREN’T SLEEPING WELL.

Any fluctuation in sleep patterns, either sleeping too much from exhaustion, or insomnia, needs to be addressed. Meditation, exercise and a healthy balance diet help with sleep issues. But, ultimately you need to find a root to the problem. Are you worrying too much at night? When you are sleeping, are you having nightmares? Our daily events get played out in the subconscious. Sleep, or lack of it, gets affected. Stress impedes a peaceful state of mind. Sleeping patterns do change with age and environmental factors, however, when you are overstressed, sleep is one of the first things that gets affected.

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3. YOU HAVE WEIGHT FLUCTUATIONS.

Are you over eating or forgetting to eat? Stress will slow down your metabolism and you will gain weight. Change in appetite is a radar to our emotional and physical bodies and how we are being affected. If you are worrying and not addressing the issues, it can also find you losing weight quickly. When we are overstressed, cells do not get enough oxygen. Food is energy and what we put in the body is a sign of how we handle things. Are you eating too many sweets? Are you not eating enough? The body is a vehicle, and how we treat it is based on our mental capacity to deal with emotional issues.

4. YOU CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT WORK OR PROBLEMS.

If you can’t shut down work, finances, and other challenges for a while to find balance, stress has a hold of your life. Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.” You cannot find a solution until you detach from the problem. The excessive chit chat of worrying can escalate to cause psychological and physical problems. If you are constantly checking your phone, emails, and other forms of communication from work, it is time to really face what’s important in your life. Stress is suffocating you.

5. YOU CAN’T SIT STILL.

Avoiding being still is a huge form of being overstressed. If you can’t go for a walk, sit in contemplation, do gentle stretching exercises or just be with your own thoughts, there is a chance you are overly stressed. If anxiety is constant and you can’t relax to even read a book, it’s time to address what’s causing you to avoid being still. Sometimes the mind is the worst enemy. It’s time you get help with managing your anxiety and fears. Stress can be triggered by an imbalance in the emotional body. Things we avoid get pushed further and further down until we feel it in other areas of the body.

6. YOU HAVE LITTLE PATIENCE WITH OTHERS.

One of the first symptoms of being over stressed is the inability to have patience or tolerance with others. Our loved ones get the wrath of being under tremendous stress. If you are snapping or getting angry quickly, most likely you are being tormented by too much in your life. It’s not easy to carry the world on your shoulders. Sometimes we need to be vulnerable and ask for help. The lack of patience in others, and in yourself, is a sign that you need to slow down and smell the roses.

7. YOU HAVE MAJOR MOOD SWINGS.

Our mental health gets affected when stress levels rise. If you find yourself happy one moment, and then immediately crying or enraged, your hormones may be affected by too much stress. Bottling up things inside and carrying everything alone, doesn’t help. Get help. Talk to others. Make time to find out what’s truly causing you to behave this way. Stress does not only injure the body, but it also compromises and hurts relationships. Stress can enhance anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and addictions (from alcohol, drugs, sexual or food) and other mental health issues.

8. YOU HAVE HAIR LOSS.

According to Carolyn Jacob, MD, founder and medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, “Typically, people shed about 100 hairs a day. Most people don’t even notice. Sometimes, a significant stress of sort may spark a change in your body’s routine physiological functions, and cause a disproportionate number of hairs to go into the resting phase at the same time. Then three to four months later, sometimes longer, all those resting hairs are shed. The effect can be alarming. The types of events that disrupt the normal hair cycle can be caused by the substantial physiological stresses on your body.” So, if you are experiencing a change in hair loss by the masses, it’s time you take a look at what’s emotionally causing these physical changes.

9. YOU HAVE A LOSS OF LIBIDO.

The loss of libido is one of the subjects most people do not address under stress. They won’t even acknowledge it to themselves or their partners. Whenever stress levels increase, the stress hormone secretions responsible for sexual response get affected. Stress causes exhaustion and the inability to experience any kind of intimacy. If you are experiencing a decrease or loss in your libido, it may be time to try stress management and other relaxation techniques. Ultimately your mate shouldn’t be affected by outer issues that aren’t part of your loving relationship. Express your fear and your concerns. Once it’s in the open, it no longer has power over you.

Related article: 5 Differences Between Stress and Anxiety

Life can sometimes be challenging. We are constantly putting tremendous demands on the emotional, physical and spiritual bodies. It’s up to us to check in with ourselves and get real about what’s important. A little ailment today can land us in the hospital tomorrow. Stress is a silent killer. Let’s listen to the changes that happen in our bodies so we can address them early on. Life is too short to be living under constant chaos.

Depression is awful. But you *can* get past it.

Too many people simply do not understand that depression is an illness. A very real illness.

The problem is that there is no blood. No stitches. And there is a whole lot of history, including some who think that depression or ptsd is a choice.

It is not a choice. No one chooses this. And until you have some very specific experience with it? More often than not, it’s not going to have any real impact.

Depression kills.

It is very important that people understand this. IT KILLS.

This may make sense to you. It may not. But, The one thing that really matters it that people are dying, because they have not yet found their answer.

Talk about it. Type about it. Say what you are thinking. Say it all. YES – it is nuts. It’s also normal. All those “crazy” thoughts? You’re not alone. You might be surprised at how many people you already know who are fighting similar battles.

The reality:  This is but a moment in time. It does pass.  Remembering that really matters.

Think it’s only weak people who suffer from depression?

Think again.

The Buzz has a great article on a mega-star, and his own battles with depression.

By: JUSTIN LUKE ZIRILLI

The Rock Opens Up About A Difficult, Unspoken Subject Among Men

There are many reasons that men could be jealous of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. For one, he’s the highest paid film actor of 2016. For two, he’s People’s Sexiest Person Of The Year. For three, he’s a freakin’ WWE Hall Of Fame Legend.


 

Rock
(CREDIT: Twitter)

But this past week, The Rock decided to use all of that fame and celebrity for good. (I will add that The Rock is often one to inspire, drive and support others, by the way.)

Twitter user Austin Bitikofer, a 19-year-old aspiring film maker took to Twitter and said:

The fact that @TheROck once battled depression.. and he’s where he is now, one of the biggest stars ever. Gives me hope I’ll get somewhere.

The Rock, who has millions upon millions of followers and is no doubt busy filming five hundred sequels to The Mummy and 2 Fast 2 Furious, still took the time to respond to Bitikofer.


Rock
(CREDIT: Twitter)

The Rock tweeted:

Battled that beast more than once. Us men too prideful to ask for help. Speak up, ask for help and you’re never alone. See (you) at the top one day.

In admitting to what Austin tweeted, and retweeting it, The Rock effectively ripped open a silent stigma among men: mental health.

Read more at The Buzz.

End of daylight time could increase risk of depression

A new Danish study has found that changing from daylight saving time to standard time increases the number of cases of serious depression.

Carried out by Associate Professor Søren D. Østergaard and his team from Aarhus University Hospital in Risskov, Denmark, and in collaboration with the universities of Copenhagen and Stanford, the study analyzed 185,419 depression diagnoses registered in the Danish Central Psychiatric Research Register between 1995 and 2012.

The study found that the number of patients diagnosed with depression at psychiatric hospitals rises immediately after moving from daylight saving time to standard time, with the number of cases approximately eight per cent higher than expected based on the development in the number of diagnoses leading up to the transition. Østergaard also commented that the team are confident the increase is due to the transition and not other factors such as the change in the length of the day or the decline in weather, which were taken into account in the study.

The team also believe that although the study was based on severe depression in psychiatric hospitals, the transition might also increase the chance of other, less serious forms of depression.

Although the study doesn’t reveal why the transition may cause the increase the rates of depression, the team suggest that it may be because the change takes an hour of daylight from the afternoon and adds it to the morning — a time when many people may not benefit from it as they are indoors at home preparing for work. When they are free to get outside later in the day, it is already dark.

The findings can be found published online in the journal Epidemiology.

Previous studies have also pointed out the importance of getting enough daylight, especially in winter. Research has suggested that getting outdoors in the morning is most beneficial; those who struggle to get outside are advised to open the curtains at home and sit by windows in offices to try and maximize the amount of light.

Previous research also suggests that exercise, light therapy lamps and cognitive behavioral therapy can help fight depression in the winter months.

All of a sudden… I care too.

How many of us have landed here when we never thought we would?

I know I did.

I landed here when my teen kid had an issue. It was only in figuring out his issues that I recognized that I had pretty major issues myself.

It’s my opinion that we all have “issues”. The depth of these issues varies and our capacity to deal with these issues varies too. So – someone who grows up with no money in an abusive household may well grow up whole and well. And someone growing up with all the money in the world with the most supportive family in the world may well grow up feeling a wholesale need for external support; often times very negative support.

Why?

The simple answer is that People need support. No matter where they come from.

Let’s help.

Helping each other

One of the biggest things, when you are suffering from depression, is to recognize that you are not alone.

And surprisingly, to me, at least, reaching out to try and help others actually helps yourself.

When we help each other, we help ourselves.

How is *that* for a win! 🙂

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