This year I had questions I’ve never had before. I wanted to run from Rosh Hashanah, hide from Yom Kippur. And now the old feelings have crept back into my life and as much as I try to stand strong against them, I have had to increase my meds and I still fight anxiety that several times a day is nearly debilitating.
On New Year’s Day the decree is inscribed and on the Day of Atonement it is sealed; how many shall pass away and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die…
Is this why my baby daughter died four months ago? Did I not pray hard enough last year?
It’s a question my counselor would say is ridiculous. G-d doesn’t work that way. Yet here it is. In writing. We daven it. Do we say the words but not mean them? Or do we mean them and if we do, how do I take them? When does prayer move from metaphor to the literal?
I visited my baby’s grave site twice during the ten days. Two friends who had wanted to be with me when she was buried, I took them each separately and we paid our respects. I could not cry.
…who shall have rest and who shall go wandering; who shall be tranquil and who shall be disturbed; who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted…
The question comes naturally, is my depression, my panic attacks, my distorted lens through which I see the world the result of some divine decree? If I were a better Jew, would I get past this? And what would that mean? Whose definition of a better Jew?
How can I do teshuva more than I can do it? How can I give tzedaka more than I can give it? Can I possibly pray harder than I can pray?
There are some who would of course say yes. There are those who claim the Shoah happened because Jews were not religious enough. Without a doubt they would blame my illness on my failings. But theirs is not the voice I want to hear. Extremism is never the answer, no matter what the question.
Would it make any difference if I did my own Vidui?
I have raised my voice to my children; I have raised my voice to the heavens and doubted I would get an answer; I have lost faith in humanity when reading the news; I have lost faith in G-d when my depression tosses me into the depths; I have blamed others for not doing enough to help; I have blamed
G-d for giving me this challenge in the first place; I have berated myself for all the weaknesses my illness makes acute; I have berated myself for not being stronger…
It didn’t even wait until October. I saw the first signs nearly a week ago. The red flags, the things that alert me to another onset of anxiety and depression, they started coming quickly and went from nonexistent to frequent in 24 hours. On the third day, I increased my meds from 30mg to 40mg. I see my counselor and the psychiatrist’s assitant this week.
I gave my rabbi two weeks worth of available times when we could meet again, but I have not heard from him. I fear he is angry with me or disappointed because I could not face the crowds at shul. I could not stay. That may have been the first red flag and I missed it.
I noticed it when the first signs of hoplessness returned, the sense of being overwhelmed, of fearing attack from every side. Every e-mail, every phone call, every knock at the door I fear is someone unhappy with me. I couldn’t possibly confess enough to satisfy the yetser hara’s depression inside of me.
This is not how I wanted to start the year. On New Year’s Day the decree is inscribed and on the Day of Atonement it is sealed. Have I already been assigned some horrible fate because of my anxiety over the Days of Awe? Has my next baby’s death warrant been signed (G-d forbid) because of my depression’s timing?
I don’t know how to come to terms with the liturgy. I have no answers.