When Looking for a Therapist, Find One That Specializes in Your Particular Need


After my brother, Pete, took his own life I had to start seeing a therapist.  Not because I wanted to make sense of this, which I did, I just eventually realized that it was never going to make sense to me.  That realization really threw me for a while.  I needed to seek therapy because I now had to figure out how to live without the one person, that I had literally spoken to every day since we both old enough to communicate.  My sister-in-law never disconnected his phone, but I have stopped myself from calling it 100 or more times a day.  Only slightly exaggerated.  Luckily I had a friend, who had a friend, who had a friend, who happened to be the founder of With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation.  She got me in with a therapist for an assessment five days after the incident and then got grant approval for me to see the therapist twice a week starting August 23, 2012.  This was actually pretty fast, even for an emergency grant proposal.  I saw her twice a week for what seemed like forever, then once every other week or every week as my financed allowed.  One week ago, I discharged myself because I could no longer afford it, (even at more than 1/2 off) since I did not have a job and I was going to school.  This past week I have been pretty busy with school and assignments, but when I have had down time, it’s been REALLY DOWN….I’m hoping that this gets better, because I don’t want to think about it getting worse.  

When I started this project for school, I had to do five postings, have five things (websites, etc) that were not generated by me and then five things that were generated by me.  For the crown jewel of my 5, please see my post titled “Boy Did I Get a Rude Awakening…”  For a first time directing a video, I think it turned out really well.  

One of the other things that I did for this project was interview a therapist, Suzette Spence, M.A., LMFT, who specializes in working with issues of depression and grieving.  Her therapy focuses on working with family survivors of suicide, unexpected and traumatic death and the passing away of a loved one.   Suzette understands at a very deep and personal level herself, the immense energy and courage it takes to get through the grieving journey especially of a traumatic death of a loved one.  We sat down in her office one afternoon and she answered my questions in a very thoughtful and caring manner.  Here is the transcript of the first part of that interview:  

Q:  Why do you focus on family survivors of Suicide and how long have you been doing this? 

A;  I have been seeing survivors for approximately eight years.  I focus on this population because there is such a need for therapists who specialize in this area and who have real life experience to match the situation.  

Q:  Are there any other areas that could be focused on relating to sucide?

A:  Yes, one can pursue a certificate in Thanatology or a fellowship in Thanatology.  (writer’s note:  Thanatology investigates the mechanisms and forensic aspects of death, such as bodily changes that accompany death and the post-mortem period, as well as wider social aspects related to death.  See http://www.suicidology.org/home)

Q:  Survivors have a hard time telling people how their loved one died because of feelings of shame, guilty, etc.  What do you feel needs to be done in order to change this? 

A:  I believe that, socially, things are starting to change in a very positive way.  The general public is now starting to become more educated in mental health issues and people are now starting to understand that suicide is largely related to depression and mental illness (writer’s note:  This depression and/or other mental health illnesses may or may not have been diagnosed and/or treated) The stigma socially and religiously that survivors used to feel is lessening. 

Q:  Some people feel that is a person talks about suicide, they are just trying to get attention.  There is evidence that proves this is not true (see http://suicide.org/suicide-myths.html). In general, how do know if a person who talks about suicide is serious about doing it?  

A:  I start by asking if the person believes they have a future.  I also ask if they feel hopeful about their future.  Then, depending on their answer, I then ask if they are talking about suicide because they want an “escape from the pain” or if they truly want to end their life.  If it is escape from the pain that they respond with, we then focus on behavorial strategies to deal with the pain and depression.  However, if the person continues to talk about ending their life, I ask if they have a means and a plan.  I also ask about prior attempts and of course would need to have a complete mental history in their file.  If there is intent, a means and a plan, then hospitalization is usually required.  

Tomorrow, I will give you part two of this interview, as well as some other insights that Suzette shared with me regarding suicide.  

In the meantime if you, or anyone you know, is in need of a therapist who specializes in grief and/or family survivors of suicide, you can reach Suzette by calling (714) 801-6850.  Her office is located at 228 W Main Street, Tustin, CA  92780.  

In the meantime, take good care of you and those you love.  

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I Need a Job so I want to be an Alcohol and Drug Counselor – Not a Paperback Writer


My title is my homage to the Beatles and also reflects the silliness of my day so far.  But seriously, as I’m working toward getting my degree, at some point, I am going to have to have a job to pay for all of this schooling.  Since I want to go into social work, I thought starting out as a drug and alcohol counselor would be a great way of getting my foot in the door.  Cypress College apparently had the certification program, but I cannot take that there unless I want to mess up my financial aid.  So I have been searching for other ways to get the required classes for certification.  I started out with CAADE (California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators), as they are one of the biggest in California and are also approved by the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services).  This is their website: 

http://www.caade.org 

While looking around for information, I was led to another site that enables you to take unlimited  continuing education courses for one year for $74.99.  Their website is:  ce4less.com  

Now all I have to do is find an online course that will give me the necessary hours/training to become and A/D counselor.  It’s a process, but it’s a process, I’m definitely going to take.  Anything worth having is worth fighting for.  

Social Media is a Great Aid to Get Information to Many People Very Quickly


I will admit that I have become addicted to social media in almost all its forms.  This admission comes as I just turned in a paper for journalism in which I had to keep track of ALL of my medial usage (phone, text, Facebook, Twitter, TV, games, books, magazines, newspapers, etc) for one week.  On the seventh day, I had to GIVE UP ALL TYPES OF MEDIA for 24 hours.  The fact that I’m writing about it means I survived, but not without a lot of insight about myself.  I am on Facebook and Twitter every day.  On Facebook, I interact with friends, play one game obsessively and check out the feeds to see what everyone is up to.  Occasionally someone will post something that I consider worthy of sharing with everyone.  This is how I interact with people who live all over the world, whom I have not met, but some of them I feel closer to than some members of my family.  During my day without media, I had no clue what to do.  I couldn’t even study because I would have had to read.  I ran some errands, came home, slept a little, walked a lot that day and pretty much climbed the walls.  But during that day it hit me “Social Media in all of it’s forms is incredibly POWERFUL!”  When I write a blog and publish it the post goes straight to my twitter feed and straight to my Facebook feed.  Whether or not people chose to click on the links is out of my control, but with 515 friends in at least 8 different countries, I know I can count on several people reading it.

As far as Twitter is concerned, I’m relatively new to it and I only follow 120 people with only 20 people following me but if you were to look at who I follow, you will see it relates to this blog and what I eventually want to do.  If you like it, please follow me @CharleneEgizi.

Using both of these social media sites, gives me access to a much larger audience than I ever would have without it.  I have also noticed an increase in fellow bloggers following my posts, which is really nice because that automatically gives me new bloggers to check out and I haven’t read posts by any of them that I didn’t like.  Now if someone would just show how to get my blog featured, I would be grateful.

Since International Survivors of Suicide Day is coming up on November 23, 2013 (all over the world, if you want to find an event near you check out http://www.AFSP.org or do a Google Search.  There are events all over the world), I thought I would leave you with another astounding suicide fact.

 

Big Rock WORLD JPEG

It’s About Time – Maybe……Depends on Whether or Not the ACA Gets This One Right.


I just found an article online from the New York Post (one of the few papers that I read that I give any kind of credibility to) that the Obama Administration is about to release regulations that will require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction in the same way as it covers any other type of illness.  These rules will apply to almost all forms of insurance.  In my opinion, this is where it can start to get a little tricky; for example if Medicaid is excluded from having to cover these new regulations, it could be almost the same as having no regulations at all, as many people with serious addictions and/or mental illness cannot hold jobs because of their illnesses, therefore they do not have top rate health insurance in place.  We will have to wait and see once the regulations are released by the administration and scrutinized and over analyzed by reporters, congressman, senators, etc.  Overall, this is the ONLY thing related to “Obamacare” that I have been on board with.  Overall, I’m not a big fan of socialized medicine (for elective items), as it has been proven time and time again that it takes about 10-15 years of REALLY, REALLY BAD, before socialized medicine starts to become “tolerable.”  As it stands now, the roll out has been so botched up, that I find it hard to believe that come January 1, 2014, everything will be running smoothly.  In the meantime, please read the article in the New York Times below.  

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/08/us/politics/rules-to-require-equal-coverage-for-mental-ills.html?smid=pl-share

 

 

 

 

We Are Not Alone


No, this post isn’t about space aliens and whether or not they walk among here on earth, but that would be an interesting discussion if I could get enough diversity in opinions together in one room.  I think that in itself, might be a great form of therapy.  YES, my mind does tend to wander in all sort of strange directions.  Thankfully, my friends who know me really well, know my sense of humor and are still around….that says more about them, than it does me.  LOL.  

November 23, 2013 is International Survivors of Suicide Day.  There will be gatherings all over the world where people can offer each other mutual support and guidance on coping with grief.  Before my brother’s suicide, the only time I thought about the subject was if there was a story on the news or in the paper, and, most of the time, it was related to a crime of some sort, murder suicide, a mass shooting resulting in the suicide of the shooter, etc.  My response back then was probably somewhere along the lines of “They deserved it after what they did!”  I never made the connection between mental illness and suicide before my brother.  But, hindsight, always being 20/20, it is easy to see now, and that is the main reason why I have decided to do what I’m doing – going back to school with a Master in Social Work being the goal and working toward getting mental health awareness to as many people as possible.  

If you are in my area on November 23, 2013 and you have lost a loved one to suicide or if you know someone who has, please attend this meeting.  If you do not live in my area, hit the WorldWideWeb, search for Suicide Survivor Day and find a meeting near you.  It will be informative, supportive, and beneficial in many ways.  

 

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Volunteering: An Unpaid Job Than Can be More Rewarding Than A Paid Job


Hello all,

So here it is,  my fourth blog for my journalism class.  So far I’ve included 2/5 things that I generated and one that someone else generated.  I’m on the right track.  Maybe….we shall see.

Today was a hard day for me.  I had class this morning – I still want to hurt the person who scheduled me for a 7:00 a.m. class after a class that ends at 10:00 p.m. Monday night.  However, with everything that has gone on in my family for the past year plus, I’m afraid that people who know me might take that action the wrong way.  Plus every time I try to hit myself, I flinch. Family suicide survivor humor?  At least it was my attempt at it.  After class, I came home and studied for the two tests I have next – the same Monday night/Tuesday morning scenario and then I went to have lunch with a dear friend after what seems like forever since we last saw each other outside of church.  That was fun and I always enjoy spending time with her.  She gives great advice.  From there I had to head south on the 5 freeway because Stephanie’s family memorial was this afternoon.  My oldest sister, Angelina just returned from Italy because Stephanie wished to be buried in the family cemetery at my villa in Florence.  It looks like the rest of the family will be going to Italy for the formal service there once all the students are out of school for their break.  I have six weeks off between semesters and I’m seriously considering spending all of it in the one place that I can totally relax.  Despite that the villa is where Pete took his life last year, I was there in December 2012-mid January 2013 and in that time, I can come to terms with a lot of it and before I left the country to come back to California, I was able in the room where ‘it’ happened.  Definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but with the help of a kitten who had hung around the villa (her, her mother and her siblings have been indoor residents since I left), I was able to get through that.  When I left, I instructed my cousins, who manage the property for me, to get rid of everything that was in the room and completely redo it.  While I am glad that my sister-in-law and I are getting along better, I hate that it’s because of another loss.  But pulling together as a family is definitely better than being torn apart.

Tomorrow will be a much better day.  I have an interview in Orange at the Mental Health Alliance of Orange County, where I have applied for a position as  a mentor.  It is an unpaid job, but sometimes volunteering can be very therapeutic.  There is something about serving others that takes your mind off of your own crap for a little while.  If I get this position, which I am pretty sure I will, I will be mentoring kids who come from broken homes and have been abused.  Part of the “group” that I plan to focus on after I’m done with school and have the degree that will actually lead to a job working with these kids.  I’m not sure if it will be a county position, or if I will be able to land a job with a foster organization.  I just know that after everything I’ve been through, I have much more empathy for these kids, because growing up, I was one of those kids with an abusive “father” who it turned out was  not my biological dad.  I’m pretty sure that there is no situation they could have experienced that I can’t relate too.  I’m looking forward to being a safe sounding board for these kids and most likely, in some small way by helping them to heal, they will also help me to heal.  That’s so much bigger than any paycheck I could ever bring home.

Boy did I get a rude awakening………


I read a quote once that said “NEVER get too comfortable, you’ll get a rude awakening.  In the past week, I can honestly say that truer words have never been spoken.  For those of you who have followed my short lived blog so far, and if you’re not, please start, you know that on August 1, 2012, my family and I lost my brother, Pete, to suicide and less than six months later, in January 24, 2013, we lost my niece, Alexandra (Ali), to suicide.  That has been a struggle for those of us left behind, as you can imagine.  On October 2, 2013, 14 months and 1 day since my brother took his life, and 8 months and 8 days after my niece took her life, my youngest sister, Stephanie, took her life.  To say that it shattered mine and my family’s world (again) was a major understatement.  We were all still seeing various therapists and were just barely starting the scratch the surface of what had happened to Pete and Ali…But Stephanie?!  NO ONE saw this one coming.  My middle sister, Vittoria found her and I, better than anyone else in the family understood exactly what she was going through and would be going through, since I had been on a Skype chat with Pete when he took his life.  On top of the grief of losing a loved one, she could count on flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD.  As of the time of this writing, we are not any closer to finding out the “Why” as were on that night. We all know, of course, that we will probably never completely understand the “why” other than at the moment that they took their lives, all three of them JUST WANTED THEIR PAIN TO GO AWAY…which is different than wanting their lives to really end.  At that final second, they were literally not thinking clearly.  Since Stephanie’s death, my oldest sister, Angelina has discovered some unsent emails on Stephanie’s computer, one of which was to me.  She asked me if she should send it and I told her that eventually, yes, I wanted to read it, but I would let her know when.  Until then, it sits in the “waiting to send” folder.  Pete left me a note and I still haven’t read it.  My therapist has read it to me, but it was so soon afterward, that I don’t remember what it said.  No one else seen it.  My therapist keeps it, so no one “accidentally” finds it and reads it.

In the meantime, we all wake up each morning and try to move on as best as we can.  After Pete’s suicide, our family was torn apart, (mainly my sister-in-law and I) but slowly we have been working on our relationship and are actually doing pretty good, considering the issues that were between us.  We all talk everyday, sometimes more than once a day in addition to school, work, and other activities.  My sisters and my sister-in-law and I get together every Saturday for dinner….ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSES.  It’s important to us to keep communicating.  I’ve become very active in the With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation since Pete’s and Ali’s deaths and because this blog originated as a journalism assignment, With Hope’s founder/CEO, Annette Craig, was kind enough to tape what has turned into a PSA for With Hope (she will be putting on the With Hope website soon).  After three revisions to get it just right, we are finally happy with it.  Please share it anywhere you feel that it will get exposure.   Until next time, here is the final product.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avd0dwtL6LQ