Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's Adar; reconciling happiness and depression

I never really thought about this until this year, but how do we reconcile the fun and good-natured wish of, be happy--it's Adar! with the fact that some people have really good reasons for being unable to be happy and are not necessarily in control of whether they are happy or not? When I'm in the midst of a depression, I simply cannot just be happy.

It's everywhere now, on signs and emails and web sites and mailings from the shul. I so want to be happy, whether it's Adar or not, but there's only so much I can do. And I dread walking into shul and being met with a cheery smile and a why aren't you happy? It's Adar! Be happy!

I'm not saying we shouldn't encourage the increase of happiness, or that we should ban the signs and the greetings out of some politically correct concession to those who have every reason to be unhappy. Not at all. At the same time, I'm wondering if we're asking everyone to fake it 'til you make it. Just what do we mean by, be happy--it's Adar!

I just wonder how we reconcile it. Or if we do. And if we don't, why not?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taking risks

Yesterday I managed to get out of the house and together with some other moms and their children. I was able to laugh some. I was shaky and had to be driven; it wasn't safe for me to drive, but it was a nice couple of hours.

When I got home I was terribly tired and took a nap and when I woke I had several blips of hope for the future. I liked the happy hope but it also scared me. It meant getting out and being vulnerable. It meant taking risks.

Today I woke without any of the happy hopefulness. Just a heavy blanket that makes it hard to move and terrifying to leave my bedroom. I see my counselor again tomorrow. I know I am better than when I saw her last week but I am not all better yet. Meanwhile life goes on for everyone else and I have other responsibilities stacking up. It's all overwhelming and panic-inducing.

I am very touched that people I know, even some people who know of me but whom I've never met, have been providing meals this past week because of the efforts of one of my close friends who sent out email asking for volunteers. I keep reminding myself every day, every few hours if I need to, that people do care and they want me back to my normal self.

I also took the risk of telling a handful of moms yesterday about my diagnosis and my current depression. Not only were they not bothered by it, but one of them was looking for help for a friend who is bipolar (more mania than depression) and pregnant and untreated.

I talked to her about my experiences and recommended that her friend get a team together, her midwife, an OB or psychiatrist or other MD who is familiar with bipolar I, her partner, and write down a plan for what they'll do if she needs treatment before the baby is born, and also what they'll do if she needs treatment after the baby is born, and someone to check in on her periodically in case she is particularly predisposed to postpartum depression. I also gave her some other local resources for moms and for information on bipolar.

The mom who was looking for help for her friend said something about it being serendipity that I came that day. Maybe so.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My life in lyrics

Sometimes I think that I could make a video of my life with all the high points (marriage, birth of my children) and low points (like this past month) and I think about what music I'd pick to go with the video.

I do actually have a collection of songs that I use to motivate myself and unfortunately they have not worked so far but that might be changing.

One of the movies I lost myself in late last week was The Devil Wears Prada. One of the songs in the movie stuck in my head and even though I couldn't remember any of the words and didn't know who sang it or anything, it seemed important. I tracked it down tonight and the song is Suddenly I See by K.T. Tunstall. It is not, I found out, on the movie soundtrack.

Then I looked up the lyrics and it seemed terribly appropriate especially because the piece that kept playing over and over in my head was, "Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see) This is what I wanna be." That made me think about how a bad depression kind of gives me a chance to rebuild myself as I come out of it. What do I want to be? I know the hospital would ask the same thing. What am I going to do when I get out? If I went in in the first place.

There's more I want to say and one of the commenters that I've already picked on said something that made me realize I am not nearly as free of the destructive messages I learned from my parents as I thought I was. B'li neder, I will write about that more shortly.

My concentration continues to be not so great and I am still terribly tired. I was concerned it was a side effect of the medication but my husband thinks not and doesn't want me to lower the dosage until I'm fully out of the depression. He is afraid it will come back and I don't blame him. Too many things still terrify me, just thinking about them. But I have started to think about things I'd like to do, which I was not doing last week. I don't have the energy or really the motivation yet but at least I am thinking about them.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Today I am still very tired and have a difficult time with concentration but it has been three days since I cried last. I also have found that almost precisely five hours after I take my meds, I get terribly sleepy, so I am now taking them at dinner so I can get to sleep at a reasonable time.

I still have a great deal of anxiety and little things still overwhelm me, but it is not the hopeless state it was a week ago. With time and G-d's help, I believe I can take on more and more and get back to what I consider my more normal life.

I am still thinking about some of the comments to my experiences last Shabbos, but I cannot right now come up with a coherent response so I will leave it until next week. My apologies for taking so long to answer.

A good Shabbos to all; Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A priceless treasure

I've written a little bit about my mom. I do acknowledge that this was almost three years ago and was probably the worst time in her life. We had never gotten along and this was just one of the worst times for me.

When I told her as a teenager that I had found my place, had found where I belonged in Judaism, she went ballistic. She searched my room while I was in school for any sort of Judaica and anything she found she threw out or burned. I had to sneak books about Judaism home from the library and read them by flashlight in the middle of the night. A high school friend had given me a mezuzah with the scroll inside. I don't know if it was kosher or not but I guarded it like a priceless treasure.

My depressions in high school were bad enough that it came to the attention of the principal who called social services who threatened to have me removed from my home unless my parents got me into therapy. They denied there were problems. They denied all of the abuse. They set me up with a psychiatrist who wanted to drug me and when I refused they demanded I tell them about each of my sessions. When I refused to do that as well because the psychiatrist said anything I said was confidential so long as I wasn't a threat to myself or anyone else they refused to pay his bill. Therapy ended before it could do any good.

My track record with my mom is not good. So please allow me some shock and surprise in response to the email I received from her tonight. I wrote to her and told her about this latest depression, about maybe having to be hospitalized, about adjusting my meds. The times I've told her about previous depressions she's told me many of the things I suggested were not good choices for someone who's depressed. I expected more of the same but decided honesty in telling her what was going on with me was preferable to ignoring her.

I got nothing of the sort. I got an email that sounded genuinely concerned and supportive. She even asked what she could do long distance. She has never asked that before. I know people can change but I am stunned. I wonder if it has something to do with her having a new relationship. If so I hope he stays forever. Her email left me feeling like I wanted to call her and not just email back. I'm a little scared that she might not be the same way on the telephone but it may be worth the risk.

Like the mezuzah from all those years ago this is an email I will treat like a priceless treasure. My mom reaching out to me in a loving way. That really is priceless.

One step back

I saw my medical doctor yesterday. She had no recommendations for a psychiatrist except to refer me to the behavioral health center within the HMO so I will continue to wait to see the psychiatrist's assistant at my counselor's clinic. She had no problem refilling my meds and said what I was taking now was still considered a low dose even though it's high to me.

My husband drove me to a meeting last night while a friend watched our children. It was very hard being around so many people but I really felt I needed to go because the speakers were talking about a topic that is important to my work. While I was there a few people I've known for a year or so asked what was wrong, if I was okay. I struggled with telling them and finally explained what was going on. They didn't even bat an eye. Well actually one said, you're doing everything you're doing and you're dealing with this? Now I'm even more impressed.

I may have overdone it though. I am so tired today and can't shake the feeling that nothing I say or do is worth much. My concentration is very bad. Last week I could still lose myself in a book or a movie, but today I can't concentrate on anything for more than about ten minutes. I just want to hide away.

I seem to remember this from last time, that it's two steps forward and one step back as I get better. For right now, I think I'll go take a nap.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I am a little overwhelmed and a little surprised and a little sad that this blog has apparently touched so many others. Overwhelmed and surprised because I didn't think people would be that interested in reading depressing posts or posts on depression. Sad because so very many people are struggling with the same thing or know someone who is or see that people in their communities need help with this and there's only so much that the individual can do.

In a moment of irony, I'm tempted to say that what I'm doing right now contributes to the problem. I'm typing words onto a computer screen instead of reaching out to others in my immediate community. Two close friends and members of my congregation have had a parent die in the past week. I need to get myself together enough to make another shiva call.

Others may argue that I'm making connections here even if it's through this electronic medium. That this still helps, and maybe eventually will help my congregation too. Perhaps that's the reason I said okay when D suggested starting this blog instead of haranguing me yet again to journal on paper. Certainly I do not want to just spew negativity into the universe. We have enough of that. I want to find a way to articulate the problems and find solutions. Even if the ultimate problem for my life lies in my own brain chemistry.

One commenter said something that is very true, but still bothers me. Maybe it's this lens through which I'm viewing everything. Anon identified him/herself as someone else who struggles with depression and said:
But part of the pact is that we have to be willing to help ourselves, otherwise this places a responsibility on others which they may not be emotionally equipped to handle. If someone is acting in a way that seems irrational and unstable, they can't realistically expect people around them to be lining up to hug and soothe them in any situation.

I need to respond to this, for me if not for the commenter. I do take issue with the description of "irrational and unstable." Those are loaded words that bring to my mind a break with reality, more descriptive of psychosis than depression. What people around me would have seen was me crying. They would not have known if I was irrational or not and I doubt that "unstable" would have been in the first five words they'd use to describe me. I could be wrong, but don't think I am. There is already enough stigma attached to depression. Irrational and unstable fuels that stigma. It doesn't lessen it.

Anon does have a point, however. I would never suggest that I or anyone else ought to simply do nothing and expect the community to pick up the slack. I don't know if that's what he/she had in mind or not. It could be read that way or it could be read simply that support needs to come from professional sources and not from one's faith community.

It reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's quotation that "G-d helps those who help themselves." From what research I've attempted, Franklin was predominantly a Deist and believed that G-d did not have a hand in human affairs. This, to me, could easily be turned into help yourself because no one else is going to.

Is that what we want? It's not what I want, not for me and not for my congregation. Yes, we each need to take responsibility for ourselves, for our care and our safety. This is why I am in therapy and have been for a very, very long time. It is why I have been diligent about taking my medication for almost four years since it was prescribed. While it now needs adjustment, I cannot be considered negligent in this area.

The fact that I do not have a psychiatrist is an unfortunate intersection of managed health care and a clinic more focused on policy than people. It is not because I expected others to care for me instead of helping myself.

I don't work outside the home so I do not have friends or a support network through work. I used to have a support network of other stay at home mothers but our group grew and gained many new and enthusiastic Christian members. It was wonderful for the group, but as the only Jew, I became something of a non-entity. I'm not sure if I still have that support. I have little contact with my biological family. I do have a handful of close friends. And I have my shul, which is very important to me. It seems natural to me that I should look to my faith community as a support network.

Every professional--doctor, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, rabbi, social worker--has stressed the need for a support network. We all need people to turn to when we are in need, people we can give to when they are in need. Perhaps the Internet and iPods and handheld video games have eroded support networks and we are far more alone than we think we are. Perhaps, but I have hope for my congregation.

I should post the good things my congregation does. Unfortunately, much of it would risk my anonymity. I don't believe they are "heartless and self-involved" as the same Anon wrote, though I can see why he/she might read that into what I've written. I do believe we have some problems, some tendencies to stick to old cliques and not be as welcoming or outgoing or receptive to those in pain as we could be.

Some time ago a congregant who also suffered from depression and who had been open about it with those he felt he could trust was in such pain from his depression that there seemed only one way out. After his death and the subsequent shock to the community, the rabbi sent out information to every congregant about helping the surviving family to reintegrate into shul life. What to say, what to do, what not to expect. It was extremely helpful and informative to me as a congregant who didn't know the family well.

We used to have a committee that looked at how to provide the opportunity for further connections within the shul. But that committee went through some turnover and changes and now focuses almost entirely on new members. We have another committee that focuses on the needs of those just out of the hospital, new mothers, bereaved families. Needs are attended to by volunteers. People volunteer to cook meals, bring a Shabbos meal, whatever they can help with. It depends on a coordinator and those volunteers. How to contact that committee remains somewhat of a mystery. Most of the names on their need list are supplied by the rabbi.

I have honestly done everything I can think of within the time and financial and legal limits I have to ask for help in the past two weeks short of screaming, I need help! from the bima. I've come to believe that the response from those in the congregation who saw me and said nothing to me or my husband or the rabbi has more to do with them simply not knowing what to do, what to say. That's something I want to change.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Jewish culture versus personal comfort

I saw my counselor today and things are underway to get me in to see the physician's assistant who is supervised by a psychiatrist. It could be a few weeks, but it's a good recommendation from my counselor who has known me for four years, and the two of them can work together to make sure my treatment is appropriate. I do believe my counselor is an excellent advocate for me.

I talked to her some about being Unseen at shul and about my hopes for our shul's future. While she is not Jewish, she had a perspective I had not considered.

She suggested that it may be cultural. Not like Jewish culture versus Christian culture, but like geographic culture, how people are socially different in New England than they are in the Pacific Northwest than they are in the South than they are in America's heartland. She said it sounded like it had a lot to do with their comfort level.

This is my personal space, she said making a kind of boundary around her. I immediately thought of the Talmud's concept of a personal courtyard. Then she said, people believe anything outside of their space has nothing to do with them. They are focused on what is immediate and in their comfort zone.

This would explain the shul kiddush turned high school cafeteria. People see someone crying, think oh, that's not comfortable, let's go back over here to people I know who are happy and up. It's comfortable, I know them, and they can be in my personal space/courtyard.

I personally do not believe this is what Jewish community is all about. I actually do not believe this is what my rabbi thinks Jewish community is all about, though I cannot speak for him. My observations of his behavior and the issues he is passionate about and the words he speaks from the bima tell me that he would prefer we care a little more for one another. I have no idea why I never heard back from him about meeting last Friday, but I do know it was a very busy week and a lot of unanticipated demands of his time and maybe he didn't even get that last email. Or maybe he was just overwhelmed with everything else going on and I slipped through the cracks again. I don't know.

Although I have thought more than once about making Aliyah, it is not something my family can do right now. Maybe in the future. So I do not have the different sort of community in Israel. I am limited to the Jewish community in which I live, and if it is a cultural behavior then people are probably going to have to want to work hard to attain a different level of comfort and community that is within their personal space.

But the alternative is that people like me continue to cry for help and wonder if anyone other than G-d hears them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tell us what more we can be doing

My rabbi said that yesterday. At the time I didn't know how to answer.

I talked with my husband at greath length this morning about yesterday. We talked about whether expecting true community, people caring about one another, was unrealistic. We talked about the fact that this was not an isolated incident, for me or for others.

We know people who have left the shul entirely because they did not feel supported. We know people who no longer stay for the kiddush luncheon because no one talks to them unless they initiate it. We know people who never receive invitations to Shabbos dinner or a Seder.

I don't know if the rabbi knows this or not. I don't know if he knows that new members are welcomed and embraced in proportion to the amount of money they make, what they can offer the shul, or their ties to long-established members of the shul. We have been members here for almost twelve years and we would not be considered long-established members.

I don't know if he knows that during the kiddush luncheon or any other social time, people gravitate toward their own social circles and tend to ignore everyone else. I don't know if he knows that if you are not wealthy or not politically connected or not related to someone popular in the shul, it is easy to be marginalized.

I don't know if he realizes that social events, including after shul on Shabbos, is just like high school all over again. But whether he knows it or not, I think he needs to hear it from us. I think we owe it to him, to the congregation, to all those who have left, are considering leaving, and those who have yet to be disappointed and cast aside, to tell him.

He cannot legislate community. He cannot force others to care. No one can. But I am sure there are ways, inexpensive easy ways to drive home the point that we all have an obligation to one another. Even if we ourselves are not in a position to help right now, we have an obligation to find someone who can.

One of the basic fundamentals of Judaism is that Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh. A Jew does not live isolated from the rest of the world, nor can he be concerned merely with his own existence and survival. Jews must reach out and give of themselves to their fellow Jews.


A commenter asked, Do you usually stop to comfort someone who is crying and upset? The answer is yes, I do. And if for some reason I am hurting too much myself, I will--and have--found others who I know can do something. I am not particularly extroverted, even in the best of times. I find it very hard to trust people. But I know what it's like to be in pain and be Unseen. So I do my best to See people.

I see people who want to join a conversation but don't know how and so I ask them a question to include them. I see women nursing their infants in a special sitting area next to the women's restroom and looking like they need something but don't want to bother anyone. I always ask and in particular offer to get them a glass of water. I know how thirsty I got when I was nursing. I see people who are sitting by themselves at a table and I ask if they would like some company. I make a point of looking for new faces, people who are not already engaged in conversation, people who are looking a little lost, and I ask if they are visiting or new members. I often offer to introduce them to a dozen other people I know.

Even as shy as I am, it is not hard to do this. The questions are easy: can I get you something? Would you like some company? Are you new here? But one has to See these people first.

The same commenter said that a more likely reason for not saying anything is not knowing how to proceed and how to offer comfort. This is a problem that has a solution. This is something more that the shul can be doing. We have offered classes in bikkur cholim, how to visit the sick. Why could we not offer information, even from the bima, about how to care for one another? How to ask? What to ask?

If the congregation simply does not know, we can fix that. If they do not care or do not want to see, then we have a bigger problem.

My husband and I are going to try to see our rabbi about this in the next week. This is bigger than just my not being seen. This is about much more than me. This affects all of us. It may not be me who is Unseen next time. I want to spare them the pain I am going through now.


In the interests of being completely honest on this blog about what I'm going through, I have to admit that I sort of gave in to the overwhelming urge to cut last night. I'm not proud of my weakness. I thought I could fight it off.

I tried to tell people yesterday about how much I hurt. By late last night I was having panic attacks. Horrible, reality-distorting panic attacks when I thought about the near future. I tried to tell my husband, but admittedly it was 1:00 in the morning and he was tired. I had no one to call.

I deliberately chose something that was sharp enough to hurt but neither sharp enough nor big enough to draw blood. I pressed and dragged it slowly over sensitive skin until the pain made me nauseous. This was not about suicidal ideations. I do not want to die. I simply needed a physical release for the pain ready to burst out of me. That's why I was careful in my choice. It's not ideal. Ideal would be never to have had to do it in the first place. But not doing it would have meant being driven to take handfuls of pills or drive my head through a wall.

I scratched up my arm to save my life, really. I know that is twisted and warped but that is what depression does to me. It was the lesser of two or more evils. Even as I did it I thought about b'tselem Elokim, being created in the image of G-d. I thought about that and felt badly, but I didn't know what else to do. Prayer was not helping last night.

Today it hurts. It's red but there's still no blood. It didn't cut deep enough to even ooze. The pain remains a release today. I don't have to do it again. G-d willing, not ever.

At loose ends

I had a horrible night. I hurt so much from yesterday and the uncertainty of this next week.

Hospitalization was looking more attractive, more necessary, until I checked our health insurance coverage and saw that we would need first to give the insurance company a 5 day advance notice for inpatient care unless it were a life or death emergency. And second insurance only covers 80%.

In 1995 the average daily cost in the United States for inpatient care at a behavioral health unit ran about $500 a day. Figure an increase of at least 20% over ten years (maybe much, much more) and we're talking about out of pocket expenses of at least $120 a day. If they change my meds rather than just the dosage, it takes 2-3 weeks to reach a therapeutic level, and they'd want me stabilized before I left. That means taking on a debt of at least $2000.

I can't do that to our family. Plus there are other issues, child care chief among them. I know the argument is that my life is worth more than $2000 but I can't justify the stress my family would be under to pay the bills, either. I'm hoping there is some other option. Or maybe the increase in my meds since Thursday will help before it gets to that point.

Support exists on the Jblogosphere

I want to say a very sincere thank you to Jack who said last week he would include me in this week's Haveil Havalim without my having to submit a post. It really means a lot to me that he offered support.

And thanks also to all those who have commented, who read regularly whether they comment or not, and who take what they read here to make the world a little less painful for themselves or others.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What would I want my congregation to know? Part III

An anonymous letter to my congregation:

I write to you today as one of the Unseen. It hurts to not be seen. It hurts even more to suffer alone and in silence.

I have a mental illness, depression in particular. I hide it well most of the time.

Today I did not hide it. I cried openly in shul. I trembled from the sheer pain of it, surrounded by some two hundred people, during the kiddush luncheon that followed, and still you did not see me. I stumbled out of the social hall, blinded by tears I could not control and sobs that left me unable to breathe, and still no one saw me.

I took refuge in the chapel and sobbed aloud. In the past I would hide in the bathroom, taking great pains to silence my tears when anyone came in. Today I did not. I sought solace, but I did not hide. People came into the chapel for various reasons: to look for a lost tallis, read the newspaper, find a book in the library. Even still, I remained Unseen.

When my sobs exhausted themselves and I found my peace in emotional numbness, I rose to leave the chapel, falling onto a chair in my weakened state. One man remained in the chapel, facing me. He did not even bother to look up. I left the chapel, Unseen.

I made my way to a class. At one point I was standing in the middle of a crowd. Two dozen or more people were close enough to me that accidental contact was inevitable. I was crying, wiping tears, choking through my breaths. I was in your midst, and still I remained Unseen.

Two women who already know me and know I've been struggling with this for the better part of a month did stop me on my way and expressed concern. After being surrounded by my congregation for four hours by then, I was finally seen. But only by those who already knew of my condition. And as a side note, every single of one of those are converts. What does that say?

My rabbi called after me. I was shaking and doing everything possible to hold back the tears. I was not successful. He said while hospitalization was not an attractive option, the results I could get were positive. He said a misheberach for me. He mis-remembered my Hebrew name, leaving off part of it. I didn't know if that invalidated it, but I was too shaky to correct him.

I entered late to the class, which was populated by people I know. You know me. But you did not see me. The teacher asked my opinion on the topic, and I somehow managed to push my brain into something resembling coherent thought. My voice as I answered was clearly one that had been crying. My eyes were red; my hands still grasped a damp tissue just in case.

The teacher was quite pleased with my answer and the discussion continued. I didn't trust my voice to contribute further. When the class ended, people left. No one said anything to me about my demeanor. You who were in the class with me have known me for a dozen years. You are part of the lay leadership of the shul. I respect you and your learning and your commitment to the congregation. Why did you not see me?

Perhaps all of you in the congregation had too much going on in your own lives today. Perhaps you saw only what you wanted to see. Perhaps you saw me and thought to yourself, it's not my business.

On behalf of the Unseen, it is your business. If we are not sensitive to the pain and needs of each other in the congregation, what business do we have even being there? You may not be able to fix the problem. But you can show that you care. You can ask if I'm okay, if I need help, if I need to talk to someone, if I need to be alone.

But silence only tells me that you do not care. You do not see me. I am less than unimportant; I do not even exist.

My congregation, my Jewish community, my adopted family has let me down. That the only people who saw me other than my rabbi are all converts says nothing good about the Jewish community.

I do not understand why you will not see me. It hurts as much as my depression attacks my spirit. I am left only with the hope that you will hear me now. Do not assume that a fellow Jew in obvious pain is none of your business. Do not keep your blinders on in shul. If you cannot attend to someone yourself, find someone who can. Go get the rabbi if necessary. Do not walk away and assume someone else will come along.

Good questions to ask include: Do you need help? Are you safe? Do you need to be alone (if safety is not a concern)? Do you want to talk? Can I get someone for you?

Use your common sense. Depression kills. It kills the spirit, but it is also a leading cause of suicide, either intentional or by accident when someone with depression cuts himself or herself to relieve the pain, to be seen, and accidentally cuts too deep or the wrong thing and can't get help in time.

Taking one small minute out of your day, out of your life, to see someone in obvious pain could literally save a life. And it is the only Jewish thing to do.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Holding pattern

I write this from bed while watching bad daytime t.v. at 1:30 in the afternoon. Right now it is just background noise. I am trying another meds adjustment for the next few days, to see if it can get me over this patch. Usually increasing from my usual 5mg a day to 10mg a day for a week or so works. But this time I started on 10mg a day back on January 10, and it is now almost a month later and I'm no better off. I've been on 15mg a day before and not had even a hint of mania, only sleep disturbances. I hope that an increase will lift me out of this, because if it doesn't, hospitalization is the only option left. Even I see that.

I ran out of medication mid-week even though I called in a refill last week. But the pharmacy couldn't get a hold of my doctor to get a refill authorized. Finally my husband called the doctor's office and they said they never got the request. My doctor authorized 15 pills (10mg each) but wants to see me for a physical before she authorizes more. I can't get in to see her in the next week because she has no appointments available, and if I'm taking 15-20mg a day for a week, I will run out of medication again. I only got this far because the pharmacy gave my husband two pills to tide me over until the refill could be approved.

I don't have a psychiatrist. I used to, but the last one I had didn't want to listen to me and my experience and what worked and didn't work for me. She wanted me to wean my baby at four months old and take a powerful anti-psychotic drug that would leave me an emotional zombie. I refused to wean my baby to take a medication I didn't want when there were other viable alternatives available. The antidepressant was working well but she wouldn't accept that. When I refused, she flagged my file at the clinic as a troublemaker and no other psychiatrist at the clinic would see me. My insurance wouldn't cover any other clinic that was accepting new patients. I am on my own.

I have different insurance now but I don't want a psychiatrist who thinks he or she knows me better than I know myself. I have lived with this illness for most of my life. I am intelligent and introspective. I know my warning signs. I am honest with my caregivers and my husband. I should have a say in my treatment. I am the one who has to live with myself.

Yesterday my rabbi e-mailed that he had some time today to talk. I wrote back minutes later and said whatever worked for him was okay and could my husband join us. I don't know what happened, but I haven't heard from him since and Shabbos begins in three hours so I don't think we are meeting today after all. Tomorrow he is teaching after shul. It's hard not to be disappointed, to wonder what happened, to think about what I need from my rabbi. It's hard not to take it personally, that I'm not important after all.

Now I feel like my meds are being held hostage, or that I'll run out again before I can get in for a physical. Or that medical beaurocracy will drive me to the hospital just for medication management. I feel like the universe is conspiring against me.

Still I trust that things will work out. I trust that G-d knows what is best for me. I trust that what is meant to happen will happen.

I took a single Tylenol PM last night to help me sleep. This morning when I looked at myself in the mirror, my eyes were sunken, deep dark circles all the way around my eyes. My skin looked grayish and pasty, my mouth in a relaxed frown that hurt to smile. I went back to bed, which is where I remain, resting, watching bad daytime t.v. and just holding on.

Update: still no word from the rabbi. However my doctor's office called and said they had a cancellation for next Wednesday morning, so I will see her then. My counselor called today and said she blocked off an hour on Monday and I could see her again then. I know it's her lunch hour.

She is also working to get me an appointment with a physician's assistant who is supervised by a psychiatrist. She has really good things to say about this PA, and I could schedule counseling and med checks in consecutive appointments in the same building.

One of my friends that I e-mailed sent a card that I received in yesterday's mail, and another one today. She's also been sending me daily e-mail. Another of the four friends I e-mailed is coordinating with my husband to help as she can.

I wish my Jewish community were here for me, but I am very appreciative for the support I am feeling now from others.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

To the hospital???

I didn't want to bore anyone with continuing tales of woe, but the fact is, despite the various things that have happened over the past two weeks or so, the depression that made its severity known here has not gone away. It's questionable whether or not it's gotten worse.

I just saw my counselor today and my husband went with me. Between the two of them, they think this is serious enough that they are of the opinion that I should be hospitalized. I managed to talk them into 48 hours until we make that decision, so I have until Sunday. I really don't want to go. It's been fifteen years since I was last hospitalized for this.

In the past hour I've managed to gather most of my emotions and seal them away. It may not be particularly healthy but it allows me to function for now. Otherwise I'd be terrified of going to the hospital and equally terrified of not getting any help.

I think I will maybe be meeting with my rabbi tomorrow, though I have no idea what I would say. I'm not even sure what I need.

Update (evening): I kept busy this afternoon by cleaning and reading and was able to keep the depression at bay but it keeps all my feelings at bay as a result. It's also tiring; six hours of this and I'm dizzy and stumbling around from exhaustion. I don't really know what that will get me except buy me some time. Please G-d, may tomorrow be better.

How to respectfully ignore someone?

In a previous post, I talked a little bit in the comments about a handful of not so nice people at shul. I got an e-mail from one of those people today. She was angry because when I saw her last at shul, she was verbally bashing another group of people and even though everyone else who was listening to her were just nodding silently, I couldn't stand it anymore.

I probably shouldn't have said anything, but all I could think of was how horrible these people would feel if it got back to them. This woman is one of those who thinks she's right and everyone else is wrong and she'll only be nice to you if you agree with her. I was just so overcome with emotion, and I thought very carefully about what I was going to say because I didn't want want to make it worse but I wanted it to stop.

I told her, this is what I hear you saying, and I summarized it as, you don't like ... because they ... That was all I said. My summary was exactly what she'd been saying, and the others around later confirmed that. But when I summarized it, the irrationality of her dislike and subsequent verbal attack on these people was evident. She took it to mean I was calling her a racist.

She's very involved in shul, socially and politically. I want to just ignore her, but I don't know how. We aren't a huge congregation, and I'm sure to run into her now and then. I'm also apprehensive about retaliation from her.

Do I just avoid looking at her? Do I look at her and feel sad that she's carrying around so much anger? Do I keep a wide physical space between us? I have a bad poker face and when I'm feeling low it's very hard not to take things so personally.

I don't know how to avoid her and retain my self-worth. She's very angry at me and even though I think I handled it as best I could, I can't help but feel like I'm in the wrong. Am I? Do I just talk to my rabbi about all of this? I don't want to feel scared or unwelcome in my own shul.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


I'm so tired and emotionally numb. My motivation for getting through the day is that Mandy is on tonight. It's silly, my little infatuation. It's not even so much that he's quite handsome, though he is. It's that there's something about his eyes, that I can almost believe he would understand how I feel. I crave that.

My husband has been very tired lately. He's working hard, picking up the slack I leave because I can only do so much right now. I feel guilty that I can't do more. I feel guilty for adding to his burden. I feel guilty for not spending as much time with my children as I could. At the same time, I feel like I have nothing left to give.

I want to sleep all the time. Everything takes such effort. I did get up, get dressed, fed myself and my child. My hair is uncombed and I don't care. I'm wearing the same shirt I did yesterday and I don't care. And then I feel guilty for not caring.

The pharmacy called yesterday. My refill for my medication hasn't been approved yet because they can't get a hold of my doctor. I placed the refill order late last week. Now I'm out. Two nights of missing my meds and this could spiral out of control. My husband called and they said they can give out a few since I'm out, until they can get the refill approval from my doctor.

I don't know why this is so hard. The last time I saw my doctor, I told her how the meds were working and about sometimes needing to go from every other day to every day. She supported that. She didn't need to see me until late 2007 unless something changed. I don't know why my prescription wouldn't extend until then. It's overwhelming to me.

I feel like I'm whining, like just stating how I feel is complaining. I don't want to whine, complain, wallow in negativity. I just want to feel better, get my energy back, get my enjoyment from life back.

I have to be at shul this week. No option. I don't know if I have enough energy to put on my public face, but I'm still scared to cry at shul again. Too much. I just want to go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What would I want my congregation to know? Part II

If there's a book called The Care and Feeding of Your Depressed Friend, this should be a chapter. The following are taken directly from my experience. Unfortunately.

What not to say to someone who is depressed or bipolar:

  1. Snap out of it / get over it
    Believe me, if I could, I would. In a heartbeat. Or less.
  2. You're too sensitive
    Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm struggling with an emotional disorder.
  3. Everyone gets depressed
    Everyone can have situational depressions; far fewer have chemical depressions when nothing is wrong in their lives.
  4. What's wrong? What do you have to be depressed about?
    Nothing, and that's the point. I endure terribly low depressions even when life is quite good.
  5. Stop whining. Nobody likes to be around someone who is sad/cries/complains all the time
    Which is exactly why I don't want to tell my friends or ask for support. And then it's even harder to get better.
  6. Lighten up / you need to toughen up
    Thicker skin will not change how I feel inside.
  7. Get over yourself already / Why is it always about you? / You're just trying to get attention
    There are far less painful ways to get attention, if that's what I wanted. I withdraw and isolate because I don't want attention. And it's about me because this is what's going on with me. This is my reality. Comments like this also contribute to my not wanting to ask for support.
  8. This again? Didn't we go through this a month/year/whenever ago? / I'm not your therapist
    That's the problem with episodic, cycling depression, the problem with bipolar: it always comes back, no matter what I do. I can find tools to cope, control the worst of it with medication, but it will always be there. Many people are happy to help--once. But for those of us with cycling depression or bipolar once usually isn't enough. I know that I may need extra support as often as 2-4 times a year. And when people ask, this again? it further reduces my willingness to ask for the support I need.
  9. It's not Jewish to be depressed / It's a mitzvah to be happy
    Believe me, if I could, I would. I'd much rather be happy. But being happy is not one of the 613 mitzvot, and calling on G-d for help from the depths of despair seems to me to be exceptionally Jewish. Besides, where or when--ever--in our history were Jews always happy?
  10. You owe it to your family/husband/children to ignore this; they need you more than you need to be depressed / You could feel better if you only tried hard enough
    Again, it's not a choice. It's not something I can ignore or put behind me. It's not something I can control any more than someone can ignore their asthma or diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome. It is my reality and I have to work within it. And sometimes that means I have to take care of myself before I can take care of my family.
  11. I know what you mean / I've been depressed, too
    I don't know how to take this. Lots of people have had situational depression, feeling down because of a trauma, unemployment, death, financial problems, divorce, infertility, terminal diagnosis, war, etc. Far fewer really know what it's like to have a chemical imbalance: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder. How do I know you really know what I mean? Until I do, I'm more likely to see this as patroizing, even if it's entirely well-intentioned.
  12. This too, shall pass
    Yes, that's true. And I remind myself that in a few days or weeks or months, provided I don't harm myself, it will eventually get better. But eventually doesn't help me now. And now is when I need help.
  13. What can I do to help? ** See comments, please. I will be writing more about this.
    This may be the most-asked question and the hardest to answer. If I'm already in a depression, I won't know what you can do. I simply can't think. It's better to find a time when I'm stable and create a written plan for the next depression: this is what you can do, this is how you can help, this is what I need. Maybe it's child care for a few hours or going to the grocery store for me or making some telephone calls or helping me to clean my kitchen or maybe it's just sitting with me while I bawl my eyes out.

    I know people who have done training in bikkur cholim, visiting the sick. One of the things they learned is not to ask, what can I do to help? because quite often the sick person doesn't know.
    Instead, offer something you know you can do: run errands, babysit, cook a meal (beware of kashrut issues), help clean, visit, make phone calls, enlist other support, walk the dog, check out books from the library. Think about things you would want help with when you're sick.

    Finally, please be understanding. I may be too embarrassed for you to see my house after a week or more of depression where I can't clean. I may not want to impose. When you offer to do something, I often see it as a trade, even if you don't. You'll do this for me and then when you need something, you'll call in the favor. Of course, I would do everything I can for my friends, if I'm able. But I can't guarantee when I'll be able, and I dislike feeling that I owe someone something. So I may say no because I want to avoid the debt. If you offer, and if you mean it, make sure you offer with no strings attached.
  14. I know your plate is full, but can you help us with this / We could really use your help / I helped you when you were depressed, now it's your turn
    When I'm depressed, I can't. I simply can not. And guilt trips will breed resentment. Besides, I self-guilt myself better than anyone else can. When I'm hypomanic, I will absolutely help, but at a cost, because I tend to overcommit when I'm hypomanic. And my emotional cycles work such that at the height of my hypomania, something insignificant will happen and trigger a crash. Within literally minutes, I can go from laughing extrovert to sobbing negative self-worth. I do my best to hide it. If I'm in public, I find a restroom and ride out the initial crash there. If you know I have a lot going on, please consider not asking me to do something more. Or ask me to do it when I'm in a better emotional state.

Depression and bipolar sites

I'd written here that one of my commenters had a good site "with lots of references and links to others writing about depression and related mental health issues." Ayelet noticed that I didn't actually say what the site was, so I'm doing so now. It's From La La Land and lists its intent as
"For those who suffer from depressive disorders, as well as for their loved ones, to share thoughts, frustrations, joys, research, treatments, articles, books, studies, etc."
There is an entry on this site about the effect of depression on creativity from CBS Cares. I linked to CBS Cares earlier though a different article. I thought this was interesting because I find that I'm most creative when I'm just going into or coming out of a depression, but rarely when I'm in the middle of it and rarely when I'm in a hypomanic state because I'm too busy volunteering for things I can't say no to when I'm hypomanic. I get a lot done but little of it is creative.

Another site I found through a comment to an article on bipolar linked on this site is specifically on bipolar disorder and creativity. I'm glad all these famous people can go public with their disorder and be respected for it. I wish I could. Then again, I'm not famous.

There is also an entry on the worst things to say to someone who is depressed, and I thought I would make my own list based on things that people have actually said to me. It can be part of my What I would want my congregation to know series.

Finally I want to mention this site for those who are unfamiliar with what bipolar disorder even is. Most people when they talk about bipolar are talking about Bipolar I, characterized by low depressions and very high mania. This is not what I have. I have Bipolar II which is very low depressions and mild (hypo) mania. I think this may be why the antidepressants work some for me. But they obviously don't work completely. And I don't want to go back on the bipolar meds I used to be on. That was a nightmare. I may write more about that some other time.

Four more hours

I'm shaking. My hands are trembling and my legs feel weak and it's hard to think. Facing the day seems so huge, so difficult. I've barely slept the past few nights, a few hours here and there, and the anxiety that comes with my depression sometimes reaches the point of being unbearable.

Yesterday my husband worked from home while I somehow made it through the day. I read a lot and thought a lot about my Depression as adversary post, if that would work as well in practice as it seemed to in theory. I still like the theory, but it seems I still need tools to fight the adversary. The perspective itself is not enough.

Today my husband is back at work and offered to come home early to run some errands so I don't have to leave home. I am grateful to him for that. I just need to breathe and calm myself through the next four hours.

I sent email to four friends yesterday. It was a big step. I summarized what was going on. I said this particular depressive episode was probably the worst one in three years, which my husband originally observed. I said I was slowly climbing out but not ready to be social yet. I didn't talk about my diagnosis or get into any more detail other than going through a depression. I didn't ask them for anything. I'm not sure what I would ask for.

One friend who knows me very well replied and was sympathetic. I haven't yet heard from the other three.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Torah, depression, sensitivity and blog rolls

One of my commenters has a really cool site with lots of references and links to others writing about depression and related mental health issues. He added my blog to his blog roll and I thank him.

I know others have added my blog as well, and I can't say how grateful I am for their support. It really does make a difference to get that reality check from others, like when I pull out a 2000 year old theological world view and attempt to apply it to depression and wonder if I'm the only person on the planet to whom this makes sense.

It helps when others validate hurts and reject fears I'm equally afraid to claim. It helps to know people care.

I do read others' blogs, sometimes for an escape from my own inner battles, sometimes looking to see if and what others are blogging about depression, sometimes because I'm intrigued by a comment I see on my or someone else's blog.

I'd love to start a blog roll of all the blogs I find consistently interesting or funny or helpful or reflecting my own pain in different words. I've read blogs that brought me from tears to laughter, blogs that make me feel like everyone else is just as messed up as I am or I'm no more messed up than the rest of the world, blogs in which women try to protect their children from the harsh realities of war just beyond their doorstep, blogs where men teach themselves to cry and in doing so find their full humanity, blogs in which men and women argue respectfully about Jewish legal issues that will likely never be resolved in my lifetime.

I'd love to start a blog roll of these but I can't. I'd love to start a blog roll of all those who have linked to me or comment frequently but I can't. I know many bloggers have blog rolls and it's entirely appropriate for them on their blog. I don't think it's appropriate on my blog. The reason is how I live this:

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan."
(Sh'mot 22:20-21)

"You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings (soul) of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt."
(Sh'mot 23:9)

I was one of those kids that all of the other kids liked to pick on. I was frequently picked last for sports teams unless some other poor soul was more reviled than I was. By high school when my depression became a life-threatening force, I was at the height of unpopularity. I know how it feels to be left out, passed over, forgotten, invisible.

Because I know how it feels, especially because this is the sort of thing that depression exacerbates to an infinite degree, I try very hard never to cause someone else to feel that way because of my choices, my words or my actions.

And because this is a blog about depression, about the bad feelings as well as the good, about how life's experiences can become twisted and viciously self-belittling through a depressive lens, I'm even more aware than ever of the possibilities should I start a blog roll of some blogs but not others.

I never want someone to feel hurt or left out because I didn't add them to my blog roll. And while many of those reading here may not be the type of people to care or be hurt, I have no way of knowing that.

There's one other thing. Emotional disorders are sadly a stigmatized reality. Many, including me, don't feel safe going public with it (ergo the anonymity). Some commenters who may maintain blogs of their own having nothing to do with depression and therfore post anonymously could not be added to a blog roll without violating their need for safety.

As a result, I have decided not to create a blog roll. I have a few links to (American) national organizations and I might expand that list, but it will remain with organizations and not individual blogs.

I will continue to post links to individual posts on others' blogs that I believe are appropriate here, and I continue to appreciate all of your very welcome support on this blog and your understanding of my position on this topic.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Depression as adversary

It seems clear from the last several posts that I need a tool to help me make sense of when my thinking is from the depression and when it's not. I've also written several things about my depression that follow a kind of theme:
  • it breaks me down and consumes me and spits out what's left, and
  • I have this black cloud over my head or in my head and I can't see (both from here)
  • [it] takes that and twists it all around, that I don't deserve success, that my faults are too many, that I'm simply not good enough (from here)
  • I'm ... under the influence of my unstable emotions (from here)
  • It left me questioning my contribution to my marriage, my contribution to anyone, my value to the world (from here)
  • It's that I just feel less. Less everything that is meaningful to me, and
  • It diminishes everything important. It corrodes what makes my life meaningful and powerful and profound. It eats away at what makes me me (both from here)
And then over Shabbat I had a weird spark of an idea. Too often I see my depression as me, as the same thing as me. What if I thought of it as something else? My words above follow a theme of something taking over, blinding my reason and destroying what's important to me, who I am. What if I solidified that concept?

Not like a multiple personality thing. I don't need that on top of everything else. But it feels like an internal battle when I'm dealing with the depression, a fight to stay in the moment, a fight that sometimes requires sacrifices and casualties. What if it really is?

What if my depression is my own personal adversary?

R. Shimon b. Lakish stated: "A person’s evil inclination gathers strength against him every day and seeks to kill him" (Sukkah 52b).

The yetser hara, evil inclination, and adversary were often considered the same thing in Talmudic times. I don't hear a lot about it today, but the idea holds a certain amount of promise the way I think. I'm not saying that the depression, or more specifically the bipolar II (depression/hypomania) major depression/generalized anxiety disorder with OCD features/seasonal affective disorder (as of April 2007), isn't real, or that it doesn't need medical treatment. Medication and therapy are a given. It's more about perspective.

If I change my perspective, start thinking of the terrible, self-demeaning things I think about myself as coming from the depression/adversary then I have a way to fight it, resist it. I can picture the adversary/yetser hara/depression/black cloud trying to break me down, trying to get me to do harm to myself, trying to kill my spirit at least. I can see the real me differently. I can find answers in Torah, and Tehillim of course. I can ask G-d for help.

In my current flawed perspective it seems to give more legitimacy to my asking others for support.

Please don't misunderstand. I have never believed in a source of evil except perhaps for human choices, and I don't intend to start now. This isn't some demon from the dark side wrestling for possession of my soul. It is brain-based and comes from within me. But the perspective of seeing it as the manifestation of my yetser hara, my adversary, allows me to see the real me as something different, something better.

Something worth saving.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Please help me think rationally

I read something recently about reasons to dissuade potential converts and money was one of the reasons. If someone couldn't afford what it would cost to be Jewish (ritual items, shul dues, donations, schools, clothing, mikvah, Pesach food, etc) then they shouldn't convert no matter how much they may want to be Jewish or how much they love Judaism and Jews. Because the community has enough of "their own" to support financially.

I'm afraid to think this could apply to emotional needs as well.

Assuming an acceptable, halachically valid conversion, no matter that the convert is supposed to be now accepted as if he or she were born Jewish, are converts still sort of like second-class citizens when it comes to their needs because the community has enough of "their own" (born Jewish) to support, even emotionally?

Even given my history (my maternal grandmother was born and initially raised Jewish, yet through a convoluted family history involving a mysterious death, betrayal, adoption, and antisemitism, she was later baptized and rasied Christian), I fear that I have no right to ask the community for help, for support. They have enough of "their own" to worry about.

Is this the depression talking? Is this irrational thinking that's all twisted? Or is it true and I have no one? Who do I turn to? Where do I go for help?

What happened II

(Continued from What happened I)

I stayed through Mother's Day. When I'd planned the trip, it seemed like an appropriate thing to do, to be with my mom on the first Mother's Day without her husband, my father.

But I was invisible. The entire time I was with my mom, from the time I arrived on the flight until I left to go home, not one single person acknowledged that I was in mourning. It was all about how much my mom hurt, how close my brother had been to my dad and how my brother was taking it really hard. My mom gave my brother things of my father's. She gave me nothing. No one at any point offered to care for my children so I could take a nap or cry or even shower. I was on my own and alone, surrounded by people who didn't see me.

On Mother's Day, no one there wished me a Happy Mother's Day. My husband sent me a text message. My brother paid the check for dinner, saying, well, you are a mother too. My own mother, my mother-in-law, my two aunts and two uncles who were there, my cousin, never acknowledged that I was a mother, and I had my children with me there at dinner.

My children and I flew home. I had arranged with my rabbi to have a minyan at shul to mark the end of shloshim, thirty days after my father's death. Especially since I couldn't have a shiva minyan earlier. A couple of friends said they'd make phone calls to announce it. It didn't happen quite that way. For whatever reason, people didn't get called. When the prearranged time came, there were four of us.

I felt horribly let down, even more unseen. I felt like no one cared, though I found out later people were sad they didn't know or they would have come. It hurt, to have gone through everything with my mom and then not be supported by my own community. It still hurts.

I told my husband last night through my sobbing that if I don't tell anyone about my depression, there's still an illusion that people would help if they knew. I could console myself with that illusion. But if I tell people and they leave, then I don't even have that illusion anymore.

I think talking with my friend, who was one of the four at the would-be-minyan, brought all this up again. Now I just need to figure out how to fix it.

What happened I

I don't want to whine or complain. I do want to explain. I want to put words to this so I can maybe get through it and leave it behind me.

I am not much better than I was last night but I think I know what happened. The friend I visited who had just lost her father was in a similar horrible position as I was almost three years ago. Father not Jewish, funeral planned for a week or more away, at loose ends and shiva won't start until after the funeral. What's a Jewish mourner to do?

I think talking with her brought up so much of what I experienced when my father (alav hashalom) died. Please indulge me while I offer a summary of what happened.

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack half a country away. He was alone and outside, working on a piece of machinery. I had talked to him only the day before, planning his and my mom's visit to see their second grandchild for the first time since birth. My husband, my children and I all had walking pneumonia. The doctor forbade us from flying for at least a week, but my mom said that was okay. Family was scattered all across the country; she planned a memorial service for three weeks away, to give everyone time to arrive.

Three weeks of mourning before the memorial service. All I could think of was Tisha b'Av. There was no actual funeral; he was cremated. Ergo, no way to know when shiva would begin. I couldn't bear to wait three weeks to begin shiva. There's a technical term for this, my rabbi said, for the time between knowing about the death and waiting for the funeral. I can't remember it. I just know it's a horrible limbo sort of feeling.

I flew out with my children as soon as the doctor allowed. I had been in daily contact with my mom all this time, helping her through losing her life partner of almost half a century. As much as I disliked it, I helped her plan the memorial service that would take place in her church. She asked me to write a eulogy, which I did. I used words from Yizkor toward the end.

When I arrived, I was met with instant hostility. None of this Jewish stuff, my mom warned me. I even had to hide the Magen David necklace that I almost never take off. The children and I stayed with my mother-in-law for several days. I thought maybe it would be a chance for us to bond a bit more. But she was busy with her own life and when we were in the house together, she was more interested in playing with her three dogs and watching TV. I developed severe allergies to literally inches of dog hair on every surface and had to go stay with my mom, a woman who'd been a legitimate threat to my physical person during my childhood and teen years.

Minutes after she picked the children and me up, she lit into me. She would not stand for my "picky" eating habits. If I didn't want to eat what she had in her house, I could go starve for all she cared. She was in mourning, and was not in the mood to deal with my insistence on keeping kosher. She didn't want to hear anything that sounded even vaguely like Hebrew. If her Christian prayers weren't good enough for me, then I should keep my mouth shut. And if she saw my star necklace, she'd rip it off my neck and destroy it.

I had no choice. I had no money, no place to stay. I withdrew into myself and focused on my children. Aunts, uncles, other family were equally hostile and made public derrogatory comments about my being Jewish. Some of it was just ignorance. Some of it was clearly malicious. I wanted more than anything to just fly home. But we weren't even to the memorial service yet.

My mom and brother and I had to meet with the pastor of the church the morning of the memorial service. He wanted us to hold hands and bow our heads and say a prayer. I refused. He didn't understand. I was going to tell him the truth. I can't participate in your prayers because I'm Jewish. I have my own prayers. But my mom interrupted and told him to continue without me. At the end of his prayer, when he made the sign of the cross for all participants, I turned away. I didn't want a cross.

After we left his office, she said horrible things to me, how I'd humiliated her in front of her pastor, how I was being selfish and ungrateful and maybe it would have been better if I'd never flown out.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I don't know what happened

This afternoon went okay; I was fine, my friend is coping as well as can be expected. I spent some time this evening cursing tweaking my computer. Things were good so long as I stayed out of my emotions. And then something happened and I don't know what and it all came out. I wanted so badly to do harmful things to myself. I didn't. But I wanted to so bad.

I got one of those animated e-cards from a friend today saying she missed me and was here for me. I saw so clearly that she cares, that there are wonderful, loving, caring people out there and all I can think is WHY?? People are not supposed to care about me, that's what I learned years ago over and over again. I want to be witty and warm and thoughtful and generous and intelligent and helpful and maybe even a tiny bit wise and humble, of course humble, but I can't when I have this black cloud over my head or in my head and I can't see.

I can't tell people I have this thing because when it breaks me down and consumes me and spits out what's left, I'm afraid no one wants to see that or be near it. I want to tell my friend of the e-card but she's one of the few close local friends I have and if she knew, really knew, then I might not have that friendship anymore.

...... yeesh, now I'm getting all self-critical and I hate this post and I just want to tear it down and pretend tonight didn't happen but I promised myself I'd give this a try, be honest with what I'm really feeling and stop hiding it from everyone and I can't do that if I'm hiding it from here too. I just want the hurting to stop.

Setback or truth?

The past 24 hours have gone so well that I was really hoping this was it. Now I'm not so sure.

My husband is at a training seminar and has a class tonight so I'm on my own today. I was worried about coping, about some other more mundane things going on in my life, and I wound up barely dozing between 3 and 5 this morning. I don't feel tired. Just like a failure.

I received word that the parent of a friend of mine died and though shiva doesn't begin until next week, she would like visitors. The pain surrounding my father's death is still fresh, still not processed I guess, but this friend was one who was there for me then. The least I can do is be there for her, so I'm going to visit this afternoon. And even though I'm very comfortable with her, it scares me. I don't know how well I'll hold up. I don't know how much I'll be able to give.

I was finally able to return to some work today and it felt good to have that bit of control. But without going into details, I have to deal with a lot of competition. Every time I see someone else's success, I'm really happy for them because I know how much work had to go into their success. At the same time I'm sad, because I wonder if I'll ever share it.

The depression takes that and twists it all around, that I don't deserve success, that my faults are too many, that I'm simply not good enough.

At least I think it's the depression. I hope it's the depression, because if it's not, that means all these things I don't want to believe are true.