When I was 11-years-old I went to the first Bat Mitzva of our class. Well, I went to the shul where it was taking place. And then I had a panic attack and cried under a sink in the bathroom until my friend’s mom found me and called my parents. I had alway been a shy kid, afraid to talk to or in front of most people, and had already started therapy with an amazing social worker. This incident made my parents decide it was time for me to get on medication. I went to the psychiatrist, my goal being to be brave and talk a lot so he wouldn’t put me on medication. I didn’t want to need the help. I was proud of myself for how much I talked to him but even so he saw the truth. He diagnosed me with social anxiety due to a chemical imbalance in my brain and I started taking Zoloft. After that my life completely changed. What the people in my life saw as a shy kid growing up and coming out of her shell was actually me getting control of my anxiety. I was able to talk to people, even new people. I attended many more Bat and Bar Mitzvas and actually made it into the party. I graduated middle school and then high school and left home for the first time for seminary. It was scary, but I made it and loved it. Then I decided to make aliyah. I started Bar Ilan and here’s where the trouble started. I was far away from my family, adjusting to a new language and culture, trying desperately to pass my classes. But I was struggling- something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I called my mom one day sobbing and told her I was broken. She said it was time to get help again. I sobbed even harder. I was suddenly 11-years-old and under that sink again. I’d worked so hard to get here, how could I need help again? It must mean I had failed. I started seeing a social worker again and at her advice (and after consulting with my psychiatrist) I upped my Zoloft dosage. I got help and I got better in a matter of months. I started feeling happy again, an emotion I had forgot. I broke free of the depression and moved forward with my life. I continued with my degree, met a boy, got married. And my family joined me in Israel. Up until that point my mom had been getting my Zoloft prescription from my psychiatrist back home, so when they made aliyah I had to see a doctor here. I made an appointment and explained my situation. The psychiatrist asked if I’d ever tried going off the medication. I had been on it for 10 years at that point so he suggested I try stopping and if I have trouble to come back. So, I stopped and even better I functioned. I was so proud not to need help anymore. A year or so later I got pregnant. I knew because of my pre-existing conditions I’d be at risk for postpartum depression and promised myself I’d be on the lookout for it. I had my baby and came home, my husband went back to work. And I struggled. I felt isolated from the world as I tried to adjust to being a mother. I couldn’t seem to connect to my baby. I wanted her to be healthy and happy and took care of her, but I didn’t love her. And I felt terribly guilty. I waited all week for shabbat when I got to be with my family and dreaded going home again after. My mom suggested I look into getting help. Instead I decided to find a job (I had worked in a temporary job while pregnant). Luckily I found one fast. My baby started daycare, I started working, and I got happy again. I grew to love my daughter and felt good about my life. I would have hard days sometimes where the anxiety felt like it was crushing me- if my daughter was sick or I was dealing with something difficult at work- but overall I was good. When my daughter was about 1 and a half I got pregnant again. This time I decided things would be different. I would be healthier and take a longer maternity leave and things would be good. I gave birth to my second daughter 7 weeks ago. It has been different- the birth and subsequent recovery were easier and I loved my daughter right away. But sometimes it’s hard. I’ve been sick a number of times (mastitis), my toddler has had trouble going to bed as part of her adjustment, and this week my baby has had trouble eating due to having a cold. And although overall I’ve been happy, when the road bumps hit I struggle. I get very down and have scary thoughts of hurting myself. I’m self-aware enough to realize that it’s the depression talking and to not act on it thank G-d. So, I figured that means I’m ok. But it doesn’t, it’s not healthy to feel this way and think these things and as much as I don’t want to need help, I do need it. I’ll be seeing a psychiatrist next week. This time my goal is to go back on medication. Because although needing help makes me feel weak, getting the help I need means I’m strong. I am strong enough to decide that I want to be happy and lucky enough to live in an age where we have medications to help. I am strong enough to not let my anxiety and depression rule my life and make my decisions for me. I am strong enough to role model for my girls that when they need help they should ask for it. I am strong enough to be happy, even if I need help to do it.

Please visit my blog where this was originally posted to see more of my works: https://myperspectiveguk.blogspot.co.il/

Article by Author/s
Gabi Kennard
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and am one of out 5 children. My family has all made aliyah and I currently live in Givat Shmuel with my husband and two wonderful daughters. I studied social work at Bar Ilan University and work with the elderly in a Nursing Care Company as a social worker.

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