Tag Archives: recovery

Mildly Medicated: HGH Therapy, Music and the Metamorphosis

Rocky Basile is the compact drumming dynamo behind the sound the Modern Rock Band Mildly Medicated. What do you get when you combine a lead singer with Hemophilia, a guitarist with ADD, a guitarist with diabetes, a bassist with Tourette’s, and a drummer on HGH therapy? You get the modern rock band Mildly Medicated. Against all possible odds, these uniquely talented young musicians from Monmouth County NJ found each other in 2012, all unaware that each of them had medical issues. It was only until they were discussing possible band names that they all realized that they shared a commonality.

Labels – Sometimes the packaging hides what’s really within

I’ve been called them all, midget, dwarf, shrimp, shorty, just to name a few. When a girl Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 9.34.46 PMwrites in your middle school yearbook “Rocky, you’re my favorite midget in the whole world” it’s hard to find the compliment in that statement. By then I was already one of the best drummers my age in the state of NJ, but that didn’t seem to matter much to people my age. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to drums, other than the fact that I sucked at everything else, was that I sounded big. I mean you could barely see be behind the kit, but there was no question I was there when I stated to play. My beats were loud, angry, attacking, and complex; all the things I wasn’t in physical form.

You see, at age 12 I was diagnosed with a non-functioning pituitary gland, which just happens to be the gland that produces human growth hormone when you sleep. My growth velocity was measured as zero. I was destined to be a little person. Other than being able to park in the handicapped zone, I wasn’t really happy with the prospects of being 4’2″.

My parents gave me two options, one being to break my legs and transplant bone grafts into the gap and put rods through my legs to hold everything in place, or lobby our insurance company for legal human growth hormone, which costs around $5,000 a month. I opted for hormone therapy, and thus we embarked on a two year battle with our health insurance company to get them to pay for it. Their position was I was not sick. Our position was that we wanted them to look at the situation holistically and treat the entire patient, not just an affected area. I would be a happier and healthier person if I was able to grow to a normal height. During this two year battle with them, my internal clock was ticking, and my growth plates would eventually lock up, and no hormone would ever make a difference. I became depressed hearing my father constantly fighting with the insurance company, while trying to hide the pain of labels and the natural abuse you get in school by being the “favorite midget” .

The recluse

Even though we finally won the battle over the insurance company and I was taking daily injections into the flank of my stomach, I threw myself in my music because I could feel the Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 9.34.59 PMdepression and the anger start to build. School was still problematic, and I had not yet found my voice. My body was changing, some of it for the better, but some not. It’s a funny thing about human growth hormone, it makes everything grow, even the bad stuff inside you. And for me, the bad stuff wanted to make itself known. I developed tumors in my wrists and ankles, which is not great if you’re a drummer, causing me to have multiple surgical procedures. I had just started playing with my band Mildly Medicated, I had just starting feeling like I was accepted and surrounded by people who understood me, and now my drumming career could potentially be over. Continue reading

Letting Go of Fear of Abandonment

abandomentHi guys.  Today I want to talk a little bit about the topic of letting go of our fears of abandonment.  I think it’s a really important subject when delving into love addiction and co-dependency, and fear of abandonment is one of the main things that prevents people from getting out of unhealthy relationships.

The idea of being abandoned is scary.  Nobody wants to be left alone to fend for themselves.  As humans, we are social creatures, and having other people and even animals in our lives is comforting and part of being human.  The issue then, is when our fear of being alone – a reasonable fear – becomes so deep that it prevents us from being independent.  We can be independent people without having to give up healthy relationships.  What we have to strive for there is balance. Continue reading

The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting During Rehab

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Parents understandably want to be their children’s biggest advocates. When a child’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction hangs in the balance, that’s never truer. During rehab especially, that natural parental impulse to do anything to help can kick into overdrive. A well-meaning effort to support a child’s recovery, often amplified by a sense of guilt or responsibility for that child’s substance abuse, can feed a strong “over-parenting” reflex to save a child.

“Helicopter parenting” is the term clinical psychologists have attached to this phenomenon. It’s a fitting way to describe unhealthy parental hovering over a child’s every move: like pilots at the controls of a Black Hawk military aircraft, some parents at the first signs of a threat launch a full-scale air assault or swoop in and deploy a quick getaway for their child. And parents of children in rehab are especially vulnerable to this form of parenting, because they know their child’s risks of relapse pose harmful and potentially life-threatening consequences.

But what parents of children in rehab also need to know is that an “interminable ‘swoosh-swoosh-swoosh’” over their child’s every move can pose even greater dangers to that child’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Knowing what these pitfalls to lasting sobriety are is key to boosting a child’s chances of success in rehab and beyond.

Helicopter Parenting and “Failure-to-Launch” Children
Helicopter parenting in rehab can result in the following dangers, all of which can account for a child’s failure to launch toward lasting freedom from drugs or alcohol: Continue reading

Having Faith In Positive Energy

SMILE.....IT'S MONDAY.Most people can relate to having a strong desire, belief and yes, even faith, that something good was about to happen. This may have been a strong intuition that they were going to get that promotion, meet Mr. or Mrs. Right or even reconnect with someone after a misunderstanding that created a rift in the relationship. However, for whatever reason, despite the strong belief that we had it would all work out, it didn’t. The promotion went to someone else, Mr. or Mrs. Right turned out to be wrong and despite our willingness to rekindle the relationship the other person wanted to stay mad and unforgiving.

When this happens the first step is to immediately see the negative. We berate ourselves for our wishful thinking, for our mistake believes and our misplaced faith in the positive aspects of the universe. We often block ourselves from trying again and sink into a cycle of negativity, cynicism and critical outlook on the world around us.

Instead, there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your faith, belief and hope stays alive and you stay focused on the positives. Getting caught up in negativity will only attract more negativity, a concept that is central in my book, “The Law of Sobriety” , which is based on the universal Law of Attraction. Three techniques that really help you stay focused on the positive energy around you even if things don’t go the way you anticipated are:

  1. Don’t try to control how positives will come into your life, just look for the opportunities that the universe provides. Controlling the process will simply block possibilities.
  2. See yourself as you want to be, not how you want to get there.
  3. Have faith and believe in your vision for yourself, don’t set a timeline or a specific date that it has to be accomplished by.
Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your copy of“Manifest Holistic Health” from Sherry’s Enrich Your Life Series. Contact Sherry at sherry@sgabatherapy.com for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. 
Originally posted in 2011
photo by: Neal.

A Focus On The Positive Is Key To Success In Addiction Recovery

think positiveOne of the best experiences I had in writing my book “The Law of Sobriety” was the opportunity to think back on the clients I have worked with throughout the years. By looking at many different cases I was able to clearly see patterns emerging that signaled either success in addiction recovery or a return to the life of an addict.

The biggest issue that I noted and, in my own life have found to be true, is that the more that you focus in on what you want in a positive fashion the more likely you are to reach that goal. The clients that I worked with that used the positive influences, energy and elements in their life were the most successful in recovery and continue to be throughout their life.

Most people, when they think about their future, think about what they don’t want to happen. They don’t want to be addicted, don’t want to hurt friends and family and don’t want to experience that constant downward spiral. Focusing in on what they don’t want brings a negative energy and mindset to your recovery. In keeping with the Law of Attraction you know that the more you dwell on the negative the more this becomes a reality. On the other hand, focusing in on the positive goals and objectives you have allows you to tap into the powerful energy in the world around you.

Key ways to set positive goals for your immediate recovery and life include:

  • Take the time to really understand what you want in your life. What your friends and family want for you is important to consider, but you have to make the decision for yourself in order to be authentic and honest.
  • Think both short and long term when setting goals. Short term goals are like milestones that will help you achieve your long term goals as a sober, happy person.
  • Seek help and work with an addiction recovery therapist, coach or counselor that can assist you in taking full advantage of the power of the positive energy in your life.

Getting help in goal setting and focusing in on the positive goals in your life is a critical part of your recovery. This is a central part of charting your path forward and dealing with issues, challenges and the reality of this important lifestyle change.

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Sherry Gaba LCSW, a psychotherapist and life, love and recovery coach, is featured on Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of  The Law of Sobriety, which uses the Law of Attraction to help people recover from addiction; she is also a contributor to Conscious Entrepreneurs, and to several e-books: Empowerment Manual: Finding Purpose with Intention, Filling the Empty Heart: 5 Keys to Transforming Love Addiction. The e-books Relapse Prevention and Eliminate Limiting Beliefs can be downloaded free of charge at www.sherrygaba.com. Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements.

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Thursday Morning Melody: All We Are

If you had to pick one song to be the last one you heard for the rest of your life, what song would it be? Do you think you’d be able to choose? Jessica Stone faced that choice five years ago when doctors discovered tumors in her ear drums. The surgery to remove them would save her life, but it would also leave her deaf.

Jessica chose “All We Are” by Matt Nathanson – a Boston native transplant to San Francisco who is known equally for his self-deprecating, witty stage banter as he is for his heart breaking ballads. “All We Are” is the last track on Nathanson’s breakthrough album “Some Mad Hope.” The song ends the record on a positive note, hoping to push people to be more than they are and into what we could all be. No wonder Jessica picked it as her last song.

Good Morning America  chronicled Jessica’s journey leading up to the surgery and afterwards, including getting the VIP treatment at one of Matt’s shows before she went into surgery. The cameras caught her listening to the song on her iPod as she was rolled into surgery.

You can listen to a stripped down acoustic version of the song in the video below.

Six months after the surgery Jessica Stone found out that she was a candidate for cochlear implants and had them put in! So all in all she was deaf for less than a year, but she still made the courageous leap to have the surgery, and “All We Are” will always have her story attached to make it even more special.

PS. If you loved this song and are in the LA area, Matt is performing at the Wiltern Theater tonight. You should definitely check it out because he has an amazing live show.

What are the songs that touch your heart? Send them to us for our next Thursday Morning Melody! 

The Accident That Changed My Life (Part 2)

165Click here to read Part 1.

By Margaret Westley

My optimism carried me through the extent of my six week hospitalization. Life in a hospital is far from easy, but amazing medical care, family, and friends supported me through multiple surgeries and challenging rehabilitation therapy. However, optimism would only take me so far. And like with any traumatic event in life, a person needs to take time to heal.

More surgeries followed the summer after my accident. One morning I noticed a wound had appeared on my residual limb and it turned out to be an infection that traveled to my bone. More bone would have to be amputated. Though I knew the surgery was necessary, I was tired – tired of surgeries and setbacks preventing me from scheduling an appointment with the person who would fit me for my first prosthetic limb.

A shift occurred. Instead of letting myself feel disappointed, I looked for ways to control the situation and prevent myself from feeling sad. I started with eating as little as possible. Being hospitalized only increased my odds for losing more weight. Eating was the last thing from my mind. The fact my wrists were getting thinner and my stomach more flat were pluses in my eyes. I started to tell everyone I was too tired to eat.

At the grocery store, I started checking labels and counting calories too closely. Low fat, fat free, low carb, carb free were my favorite categories. Though I was a size four/six, the Slim Fast Plan became my new best friend.

Externally, I was upbeat and smiled, but inside I wondered why I had started to be afraid to cross busy streets, and why I trembled during class and why when I looked at a line in one of the textbooks all of the words looked the same. Most people had made positive comments about my weight loss, but I’d already decided I was not yet thin enough. So I joined a gym and survived on coffee, bananas, and diet cereal.

The gym became my refuge where I worked out two or three times a day, and when I felt lightheaded I sat on the toilet in the bathroom until I stopped feeling like I was going to black out. I rarely went to class, but when I did, the bathrooms at school called to me. The quiet in between the stalls was one of the few places I felt safe.

I didn’t yet know eating disorders were a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I didn’t even know what PTSD was.

The crash came. My bed was a close second to the gym as my favorite place to be. Everyone thought I’d gotten too thin. I couldn’t balance a full time school schedule, appointments with doctors, lawyers, prosthetists on top of learning how to walk all over again. People began to tell me I was too thin, encircling my emaciated wrists with their fingers to prove I was not eating enough. There were too many questions, and I didn’t have all of the answers.

Withdrawing from school, in my eyes, was the only option. Since I no longer was a student and did not live in the dorms, I sought the guidance of my mentor who had a friend who owned a bar with a boarding house on top of it. The next chapter of my life started in a room the size of a closet. The quiet comforted and frightened me at the same time. I knew it was time to listen to what it was my body needed.

At times, it felt like my world was crumbling, but I knew I would not have made it that far had I not had hope. I found a therapist who specialized in PTSD and eating disorders. She told me I could be sad, mad even, and that I wasn’t crazy. I just needed to take the time to heal.

Yoga became a life saver. I stumbled across the first class I ever took in the East Village. Interestingly enough, I was not nervous. It was as if my body knew being on a yoga mat was where it belonged. At the end of class after the deep relaxation the teacher said, “namaste” and I burst into tears. I knew then yoga and other mindfulness based modalities would be a part of my life forever.

People often want to know about my healing process. Process is a word I prefer instead of overcoming because I don’t want to overcome anything. I want to learn how to be. My amputated leg isn’t going to grow back anytime soon and to be honest, I wouldn’t want it to. I focus not on what I lack, but what still remains.

Life continues to be challenging. My residual limb swells when it’s hot outside and shrinks on a cooler day making it difficult to walk a lot of the time. Phantom limb sensation and spasms are constants. I get tired more easily than before and bed time rarely is past 9:30 pm.

A little over a decade has passed since the accident happened. Sometimes it feels like it was twenty years ago, and there are days where I am shocked it wasn’t just yesterday. I have some regrets, but being hit isn’t one of them. No matter what day it is, I take the time to connect. In the morning, I lie on my back and breathe. Sometimes I cry. A lot of the time I smile. Laughter happens often. There is no shame. Just one incredible journey.

* * *

mwestleyMargaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

The Accident that Changed My Life

800px-Two_ambulances_at_nightBy Margaret Westley

Getting run over by a bus during Freshman year of college had not been part of my plan. I came to New York City to attend a small liberal arts school to study Sociology with hopes of becoming a social worker. Second semester had gotten off to a good start. I was re-acclimating myself to a class schedule and set a few goals. I wasn’t going to party as much as I had during first semester. I gave myself a curfew and aimed for perfect attendance. I felt the need to reinvent myself, and finally after years of being heavy, I was going to lose weight.

One evening while walking back to the dorm room with one of my roommates I stepped off of a curb and was run over by a bus.The driver was speeding while making a left hand turn. He wasn’t looking so he missed seeing me in the crosswalk. The bus hit my shoulder and threw me to the ground, pinning my left foot underneath one of it’s wheels. As a result of the accident, I broke my right ankle and badly damaged my left limb, which eventually had to be amputated six inches below the knee. Within one moment, my life changed forever. It would never be the same again.

Over the years, people have told me I am crazy when I say, “I kind of asked for the accident to happen.” I’m thrown a look of shock and asked how I could say such a thing. Because it’s true. Here’s why. Three days before I got hit I was talking to the roommate who would be with me at the scene of the accident and told her how I felt somewhat unfulfilled with life and I wanted something big to happened to me.

Three days later the accident happened.

People have told me to be careful what I wish for. However, I’ve never seen the accident in a negative light. I’ve never wished the accident had not happened. I feel it was a gift. Even though the recovery process was the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, I would not change a single thing. One step saved my life, and I am simply grateful to be alive.

The accident was also a huge wake up call. I’d been pretty unfocused during the first semester of college as it hadn’t taken a lot of time for the lure of New York City night life to take a hold. Pretty soon, I was pre-gaming shots of liquor with friends in our rooms before heading out for a night on the town. I was 18. My parents were hours away. A curfew was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to live life on my own terms, and I was going to live it fully.

So, I did. I equated  living with drinking. My friends and I split pitchers of margaritas in the Village or we headed uptown to our favorite college bar whose bouncers rarely asked us for ID because they knew us and had been waiting for us to arrive.

Inside, I drank cocktails, glasses of wine, Jello shots followed by straight up tequila. My fair share of Long Island Iced teas took me close to the edge, but I didn’t stop drinking. I accepted offers for beers (even though I’d never liked the taste) from my friends, and our favorite bartender, Imax.

I don’t know if someone would have classified me as an alcoholic. I just wanted to have fun. Some nights I drank more than others. There were days I spent focused solely on recovering. My roommate expressed her concern, “you have to be careful, Margaret.” This was after I confessed I’d spent the previous night with a man who had invited my friend and me to his apartment in Spanish Harlem. I lost my virginity to a man whose name I did not know.

Christmas break, I returned home to Maryland and immediately got sick with what turned out to be a lung infection. Doctors orders kept me inside and under the covers providing me with ample time to think and have long conversations with my roommate who was visiting family in California. We talked about life and how I wanted to get back on track second semester. I vowed I wouldn’t go out as much and focus on getting good grades.

Grades I never got to see. It was my roommate who pulled the jacket I was wearing just enough for the bus to miss hitting my head. Moments later, in shock, I tried to stand, but my roommate encouraged me to stay down. I wanted to know what happened.

“Your right ankle looks broken.”

“But, what about my left leg?”

My roommate paused, “that looks broken too.” She only left my side to call 911 after which she quickly returned to my side to let me pull her hair because I told her it helped with the pain. When the ambulance’s sirens called in the distance we knew help was coming. Just a few moments later, my roommate was taken away and my body was surrounded by police officers and EMT workers one of whom knelt by my side, took my hand in hers and said, “stay with us sweetheart you have the entire city of New York behind you.”

Thankfully, Bellevue, one of the best hospitals to treat trauma was close by and it was there, on top of a cold, metal, examination table where the doctors told me my right ankle was broken, but the extent of damage on my left foot was unknown. X-rays were taken and confirmed my left foot had been severely damaged and the doctors would have to amputate at least half of it. Swallowing the word amputated, I decided to work with whatever had to happen.

“That’s OK,” I told the doctors, “I’ll just get a new foot.”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2…

* * *

Margaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful: Why I’m Camped Out On A Rooftop Yoga Mat

Right now I’m sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL,” and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 18, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night — I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand – for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a sub-clinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year – daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn’t be dying of starvation. 8-year-olds shouldn’t be vomiting to lose weight. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my kids in.

Over the past several years, I’ve built my life and career around helping others recover from this illness. I believe yoga can be a game-changer in the fight against eating disorders, and more importantly, I believe it can help shift the sociocultural dynamics that contribute to eating disorders to begin with. Yoga teaches critical skills for developing a healthy relationship with food and one’s body (which many of us never learn as children), and it can equip those who struggle with these issues with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide.

That’s why I developed Yoga for Eating Disorders — to teach people who struggle with eating disorders practical tools for using yoga in their recovery. Specifically, the program teaches yoga-derived exercises for tuning into hunger and fullness signals, coping with difficult emotions, and learning to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. The average cost of eating disorder treatment is $1,250 per day, and even at that rate over half of patients relapse after discharge. Eating disorders — from anorexia to binge eating — take a huge toll on our healthcare system. Yoga is a cost-effective way to teach those who struggle with these issues skills for long term recovery, potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30th (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and offer pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city where the program is offered. We’ve raised almost $30K so far, but with only 4 days left in the campaign it’s time for something a little more drastic. It’s time to Occupy.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don’t Let Will Die campaign, I am demonstrating my solidarity with eating disorder sufferers around the world by taking a stand. I invite you to take a stand with me – for life, for freedom, and for the belief that all people have the right to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

With less than 100 hours left in our campaign, I need your help. I will not let this campaign fail. This yoga mat saved my life once, and I’m not getting off it until other have the same opportunity.

Stand with me by donating today!

You can stand in solidarity with Chelsea and #OccupyYouAreBeautiful by making a donation, sharing this campaign with your friends and family, commenting on this page and visiting her at 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. Host one in your own community!

The Survivors of Suicide

NaseknanThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is heartbreaking to think that suicide is that pervasive of a problem in our society to warrant such a week. And yet it is. Suicide takes the lives of over 30,000 Americans every year. There are twice as many deaths from suicide as there are from HIV/AIDS. It is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans. And there are more than 800,000 attempted suicides every year.

Those are the statistics.

And then there are the stories.

Perhaps the worst thing about suicide is the pain it causes to those left behind. These people are known as the survivors. And telling our stories can help us to heal from the trauma of this experience.

When Gia Allemand, the reality television star, took her own life last month, the topic of suicide became a part of a national discussion. Gia’s distraught mother spoke with Dr. Phil about her feelings, which echo those of many survivors.

Sometimes there are warning signs. And then sometimes the incident seems to come from out of nowhere. That’s how it was when I found out that my friend Ophir had died. I remember getting a phone call from our mutual friend Curt. He was in a state of disbelief as he had just gotten the news. It took a few phone calls to figure out exactly what had happened. Ophir had committed suicide.

I knew Ophir as an extremely talented and creative composer. We worked together on several music projects. We had a close friendship and a great respect for each other. Ophir helped me bring my songs to life. When Ophir had a hernia operation, I had him stay at my home while he recovered.

I was aware that Ophir used drugs. I spoke with him about it many times, offering him alternatives, and suggestions for a more healthy way of life. But he did not want to hear it. He did not want to talk about it. He always functioned perfectly well when we were working, and he assured me that he did not have a problem. When I heard that Ophir had died, I assumed it was an accidental overdose. But there was no accident about Ophir’s death. He planned it. He put a rifle in his mouth and shot himself.

Like most people do in this situation, I started asking myself all kinds of questions. What could I have done to prevent this? Why didn’t I see this was coming? What was so terrible that he had to do this? I felt awful, not only for myself, but for his family, everyone who loved him. Suicide is such a violent act. It is terribly hurtful to everyone left behind with so many unanswerable questions. I don’t know what brought Ophir to his decision. I do know and recognize that although our relationship has changed, he is still very much a part of my life. I have the songs we wrote together on my websites. He taught me so much about music and the creative process. When certain songs come on the radio I am reminded of him, and his amazing energy, sweet smile, and sly sense of humor. His words still influence me. His music still moves me.

I know the agreement Ophir and I had was complete even before his death. There was no unfinished business between us. We learned from each other, both creatively and personally. At his funeral I met many others who felt the same way.

This was the second time that I had been affected by suicide. When I was around eleven years old, shortly after my parents’ divorce, my mother’s brother took his own life. He was a Vietnam veteran, and he became hooked on drugs while he was in the war. When he got home, he couldn’t handle normal life after seeing everything he saw in combat. His drug problem got worse, he would have hallucinations, and he overdosed to escape the pain.

I saw how this shattered my mother and grandmother. He also left behind a wife and baby daughter. It was tragic. As a child I could sense how awful this was for everyone. And now as an adult I can see how my uncle’s life mattered. Even in the short time he was with us, he brought joy to his mother and love to his family. He struggled with life, and he chose to die. But while he was here he lived, and he had the opportunities and experiences that allowed him to learn and grow. He may not have made the best choices, but they were his choices. In situations like this you have to get past the blame, and the guilt, and know that there is nothing you could have done to change the outcome. For whatever reason, this person took his own life. It is not rational, or logical, or right. But it is irreversible. And we learned by going through all of this together as a family.

Chaim Nissel, PsyD is the Director of Yeshiva University’s Counseling Center in New York City, and an expert with the American Association of Suicidology. He has this to say about coping with the loss of a loved one from suicide:

The death of a loved one by suicide has all the trappings of conventional grief plus a host of other intense, difficult, and confusing emotions. These include feelings of guilt and responsibility, anger and blame and often a disconnect with the individual who killed himself. When we lose a loved one to cancer or AIDS, we accept the reality, feel the loss, grieve, yet we don’t blame ourselves. Following a suicide, it is hard to accept the reality that the individual chose death. We feel responsible and wonder “if I had only…..” he’d be alive today. We would rather blame ourselves because it is difficult to place the responsibility where it belongs, on the individual who killed himself.

One who experiences the death of a loved one to suicide is fittingly called a “survivor.” They must now learn to cope and survive their loss. Most survivors experience anger, guilt and emotional turmoil. There is often anger at the deceased for taking their own life, it is seen as selfish, because their pain ends, but the survivor’s pain begins. Guilt over what they could have and should have done to prevent it (although if the loved one wanted to die, they would have despite your interventions). We like to think that we can control events, but when another person is in such emotional pain that they want to die, the choice to kill themselves remains their choice, despite everything that you can and did offer them.

There is still tremendous stigma and shame associated with suicide and when the fact that one died by suicide is hidden or denied, it becomes so much more difficult to come to terms with it. When we try to “cover” or pretend the death was accidental, it takes its toll on the survivors and will impact them the rest of their lives.

To help us find closure, Dr. Nissel has this advice:

  • Talk about it! Find supportive people in your life who you can share your feelings with.
  • Focus on the person’s life, and the good memories you have of the person. Know that you will never truly know why he killed himself.
  • Recognize that the person’s pain is over, now it’s time to start healing your own pain.
  • Have answers prepared for when people ask questions. This will help reduce your anxiety and emotional reactions. You can say “He took his own life” or “died by suicide” or even “he suffered a long illness.” If someone is persistent, blaming or insensitive, you can say “it is too difficult to talk about right now” and end the conversation.
  • Know that you are not responsible for your loved one’s death, in any way. Only the individual who killed himself is responsible.
  • Know that the likelihood is that the person was in such pain, for so long and now the suffering is over. 90% of those who die by suicide suffered from some form of mental illness, most commonly an affective disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Seek resources such as professional counseling, support groups, and books.
  • Being exposed to a suicide makes you somewhat more susceptible to suicidal thinking. If you are having thoughts of killing yourself, get help immediately by contacting a local psychologist or psychiatrist. If you feel you may act on these suicidal impulses, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) helps survivors of suicide. Actress Michelle Ray Smith, who played “Ava” on the daytime drama “Guiding Light,” talked about her father’s suicide in an interview with Soap Opera Digest magazine a few years back. She said that participating in AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” event, an overnight 20 mile walk, helped her connect with people who had been through the same thing. “For the first time since he died – it’s been three years in September – I feel at peace.”

Talking with people, sharing our stories, is one way that we can help each other to heal.

For more information about how to find closure go to http://www.closurebook.com

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