I’ve been thinking about posting this for two days. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been thinking on and off about posting this since 2011.
There’s a piece going around Facebook about “10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression” and the timing was impeccable. Because I’m intimately familiar with depression. In fact, I wrote a list from the other side in 2007: “What not to say to someone who is depressed.” I joked (only in part) that it should be a chapter in a book titled The Care and Feeding of Your Bipolar/Depressed Friend.
For those who click that second link, you might be confused. Wait, you might say, this is another blog. By someone named Rivka.“
Yes. It is. I am Rivka.
My Hebrew name is SheynaRivka. I blogged about depression and Judaism for five years, between 2007 and 2011. It’s taken me seven years to lose enough of my fear of being cast out, rejected, shunned, blacklisted, or whatever else might happen to “come out” as Rivka. I’m not going public on that blog. It stands well on its own, giving voice to so many who feel they don’t have a voice, so many whose circumstances make it too dangerous for them to speak up.
I was first diagnosed with major clinical depression and anxiety when I was 15, but that was only after it got so bad that I couldn’t hide it anymore. After child protective services stepped in and made therapy a requirement to avoid foster care. I can’t say exactly when it started, but I remember the feelings as far back as age 12.
My mother had it. Her mother had it. There’s some indication that her father had it too. And so when my youngest told me a few months ago, “There is no use for me in the world” after a couple weeks of low energy, low appetite, zero motivation, and bouts of crying, there were huge red flags waving in front of me. I was able to get him in to the doctor the next day to be seen.
Because depression isn’t something to mess with. I’m not going to risk my child’s life by saying, “He’s a tween; it’s hormonal.”
Today I’m realizing that my own unrelenting fatigue and growing withdrawal and increasing sadness that’s been going on for a couple weeks now is not my usual fibromyalgia-related depression, which comes with the pain and goes just as quickly. No, this has a different flavor. This is dark and heavy and makes even the smallest daily tasks nearly impossible. This is the real thing. And it followed a couple weeks of high anxiety and near obsession with finishing and perfecting the website for work. My depression is back, and while I know it will pass, I have no idea how long it will take me to climb out of the hole this time.
Seven years ago, I got through one of the worst depressions of my life (and the subsequent death of my unborn daughter) by writing about it. Maybe it will work again this time.
Seven years ago, as Rivka, I wrote about viewing my depression as an adversary. As the adversary—the yetser hara. I wrote:
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)
Today, as I sit here, unable to come up with the strength to bake challah, or contemplate going downstairs to light candles, or even to reheat my coffee, all I can think of is that I’m letting my family down, that I’m letting down my child fighting depression because he loves lighting candles, that somehow I’m betraying my Judaism.
I know that’s the depression talking. I know that giving in to it will only sap my strength further. I know that I need to tell it, “Stop! Enough!” even as I’m yelling it from the bottom of this pit. Someday soon (please, G-d) I will see my lifeline again.