Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Ha'azina Tefilati

I was talking with D, a dear friend of mine, about depression, about how alone I felt, about how friendships and community and love seemed so very far away. I was already doing the other things D suggested--talking with my husband, seeing a therapist, taking my antidepressants regularly--and I said that it was so difficult to maintain my connection to Judaism, to G-d, to everything that flowed from that, when I was in the midst of this pain.

I mean, things in my life are actually going really well. Better than they have in quite some time. There's no reason for me to feel the way that I do, except that I do feel the way that I do. I feel like there's been a death in the family and I can't stop mourning. I feel like everything I love is on the verge of total disaster, even when it's not.

D has always had a penchant for returning to the text and encouraged me to do so again. I don't think there's a whole lot written about depression in Torah, I said. D disagreed, and suggested I take a closer look at Tehillim--Psalms. If ever there was a collection of writings about pain and aloneness, D said, it would be Tehillim. I found my tiny book of Tehillim and opened to a random page.

At least I think it was random. It hit me so strongly that I was immediately in tears. Someone did know how I felt! And later, when D suggested an anonymous blog since I have rarely been able to maintain an offline written journal, this Psalm--Psalm 55:2-7--seemed the obvious place to start.

It is from this dark depression that this blog name sprang:

ב הַאֲזִינָה אֱלֹהִים, תְּפִלָּתִי; וְאַל-תִּתְעַלַּם, מִתְּחִנָּתִי.
ג הַקְשִׁיבָה לִּי וַעֲנֵנִי; אָרִיד בְּשִׂיחִי וְאָהִימָה.
ד מִקּוֹל אוֹיֵב--מִפְּנֵי, עָקַת רָשָׁע: כִּי-יָמִיטוּ עָלַי אָוֶן, וּבְאַף יִשְׂטְמוּנִי.
ה לִבִּי, יָחִיל בְּקִרְבִּי; וְאֵימוֹת מָוֶת, נָפְלוּ עָלָי.
ו יִרְאָה וָרַעַד, יָבֹא בִי; וַתְּכַסֵּנִי, פַּלָּצוּת.
ז וָאֹמַר--מִי-יִתֶּן-לִי אֵבֶר, כַּיּוֹנָה: אָעוּפָה וְאֶשְׁכֹּנָה.

2 Give ear, O G-d, to my prayer; and hide not Thyself from my supplication.
3 Attend unto me, and hear me; I am distraught in my complaint, and will moan;
4 Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked; for they cast mischief upon me, and in anger they persecute me.
5 My heart is sorely pained within me; and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
6 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
7 And I said: 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! then would I fly away, and be at rest.

6 comments:

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Rivka,

I have come to your blog by way of Westbankmama.

May you have much mazel for a complete and speedy recovery from the abyss of depression!

I am,

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

Rivka said...

Alan: thank you for your kind comments. I visited your blog and I'm at a loss for words. There's nothing I can say to ease your own pain. I can't say I understand; I have never lost a child and pray I never will, but it is every parent's worst fear, I think. I am awed by how you've continued on and seen to it that your son's memory continues to be a blessing.

TherapyDoc said...

Hey, R. It took me awhile but here I am reading your blog! Great to get the feelings on "paper", no?

Depression (certainly in bi-polar or uni-polar disorder) is surely the Jewish disease. We have more of it than other ethnic groups and it is a real challenge.

To me, talk in therapy or anywhere else is only about half of it, if that. Making friends, making yourself do things (I know you do) is so important. Surely it's easier to go back to bed, but there's no glory in that, no contribution.

Dovid Hamelech wrote poetry and played an instrument. Creativity can sometimes help. Patience helps the most.

Have a great shabbas and keep the faith, Linda

Rivka said...

Hi Linda,

"Depression...is surely the Jewish disease. We have more of it than other ethnic groups and it is a real challenge."

I have heard this from several places but never found the statistics to back it up when people challenge that.

I agree that talking helps. Sometimes it's like a pit stop for me. Get the tires checked or changed, refuel, quick systems check, back on the track I go. But the real work is in the driver's seat - how fast to go, avoiding crashes, negotiating the track with other drivers, pursuing the thrill of the drive, maintaining a connection with my spotter(s).

I know next to nothing about racing, btw, so please forgive all errors.

I do have a creative outlet that I spend time on almost daily. It helps enormously, and what's even better, it's something I can and do share with the world. Though it is a double-edged sword when I have to face criticism. I may write more about that later.

Thanks for vising and for your encouragement. You have a great deal to offer the world, and I'm glad you do.

Ayelet said...

Heh. How ironic. Such a "Jewish" disease and still so taboo in the circles in which run. I've taken it upon myself to tell new moms how there were some days I felt like I couldn't cope and wanted to just throw the baby out the window if it didn't stop crying! (No, I never got near doing that, thank G-d. I'm a very good mom if I may say so myself, despite any struggles I may have.) I'm usually met with a grateful look of relief and sometimes with a tearful chizuk session. My evidence is anectodal, but I imagine, with so many young Orthodox girls entering motherhood while also going to school or working for financial support, that the incidence of PPD is more than high enough to warrant a good number of support groups. And yet, not only have I heard of only one (through a therapist), but I don't know a single person who would actually feel comfortable enough to go to one. The fear of the stigma is just so great. In all honesty, I have even myself thought about my actions affecting my kids' shidduchim! I would love it if you dropped me an email.

Rivka said...

Ayelet: Post-Partum Depression (PPD) is certainly a serious problem, and thankfully medication can help in many cases so long as the mother seeks help. There's been more media attention to PPD in the past few years, so in less insulated communities, hopefully the stigma is lessening.

It's important to remember, though, that there's a big difference between PPD and other forms of depression. PPD is very much hormonal. Those who are already geneticaly disposed to depression or who have a chemical depression are at higher risk for PPD.

PPD is not necessarily situational (working, schooling) and what I've heard about the incidence of depression in the Jewish community is more related to major/clinical depression, not PPD.

I have had PPD, but it is different from my "regular" depressive episodes.

That said, it is very sad that there aren't more opportunities in the Orthodox community for people dealing with any form of depression. It is a great disservice not only to mothers, but to our future, because the children and in fact the whole family suffers as much as the moms do.