Therapy therapy therapy therapy therapy.
I am an Orthodox Jew who goes to therapy.
Maybe if I keep repeating the fact that I Go To Therapy over and over again we might all become a little more open to hearing or speaking about mental illness/health.
Break the Silence on Mental Illness
I Go To Therapy,
And no, it is not just because of the tragedy that my family experienced this past summer.
Three years ago, I had testing anxiety that prevented me from achieving my full potential in academics, and I Went To Therapy.
Already then I had to make a decision: to cover up or to unveil. To become known as “She has testing anxiety” or to keep a straight face and a big smile while everything inside was lopsided in school. I went to therapy for months, and then I left therapy because my psychologist and I decided that I no longer needed it at the time. Eventually, I learned how to overcome my testing anxiety. In the meanwhile, I decided to say to anyone who asked that I Go To Therapy, but only my inner circle knew any details.
In the middle of eleventh grade, I gave a speech to a few hundred teenagers on an Shabbaton.
This is what the room saw: Teen leader giving a (hopefully interesting!) speech. Teen Leader smiling and using her notes. Teen leader gracefully closing and walking out of the circle with a smile.
This is what my best friend saw: Shanee giving a speech. Shanee’s hands are shaking, and she’s using her papers to hide that. Shanee is saying her last few words, and she is keeping the smile spread all the way until her and I reach the bathroom and then Shanee cries.
Was I happy I gave the speech? Absolutely. But I fought with my demons to get there. I fought them speech after speech for three years- dozens of speeches and post-speech-bathroom-crying. Until the last speeches I gave as a teen leader when I realized that I finally mastered the challenge and learned to channel my anxiety. Therapy gave me the tools I needed to be able to do what I loved.
Now about you.
Statistically, every person reading this is either personally affected by a mental illness or knows someone who is. You are either struggling or are connected to someone who is.
So why are we closing our eyes?
Why didn’t I speak out years ago, long before my mother committed suicide? Why was I embarrassed?
In Leviticus 19:14, we are told ” וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל” ” You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person”.
Why are we placing stumbling blocks in front of our loved ones? Why are we preventing them from accessing the proper support, the proper help, the proper compassion and understanding?
Instead, we could be educating and empowering. We could be enhancing our quality of life and we could be saving lives.
There are people suffering- and they are not distant.
For me, it was my mother. And since then hundreds of people have come forth to me with their own stories, their own struggles, their own experiences- and I am forever grateful for that.
“So, what can I do?”
As a community and as individuals- we can do more. We can speak out. We can end this stigma. Just as you may have messaged me privately, you can also broadcast your message to the world and you can influence and change and save lives.
There are people I know who are fighting alone- and it is partly my fault if I do not speak out.
And this is why I got involved with Refuat Hanefesh and why you need to as well.
Whether you are a mental health professional or a high school student; Whether you want to share your experience or make your point heard. Choose to publicize yourself or stay anonymous, everything goes- as long as you write.
Write. Do it for the helpless child who goes to bed at night in metaphorical darkness. Do it for the neighbor who fights battles with depression and walks around untreated- just like my mom did- and unable to ask for help from the right sources. Write for your best friend who may not be able to express what goes on inside of them.
Write. We all share this responsibility.
Write, because we need to end this stigma.
It’s time to break the silence.
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