Depression is an intense, personal battle. It is like slowly forgetting how to breathe. Day by day, you slowly lose the ability to inflate and deflate your lungs. Your vision gets darker as if the light is being drained from the world. Your body starts to operate in slow motion as if they are filling with lead. People's voices, once so loud and clear, begin to sound if they are speaking underwater.You want to ask for help, for someone to make everything better but as you lose oxygen, you lose the words you need. You start to spend more time in bed, not thinking or anything, just laying there trying to remember how to breathe again. All the joy and life you once felt begin to feel like they are someone else's borrowed memories.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is like everything in your environment suddenly becoming a safety hazard. It starts out innocently enough with checking the locks on doors and the gas stove burners. Then it becomes worrying that you might get sick or get others sick. When I go to synagogue, I take the siddur in my hands and I think about all the people that have used this prayerbook before me. At first this thought is comforting but then OCD distorts that good feeling into a sort of panic as I think of the germs that might be on the book. You begin to think that certain numbers have special safety to them. Superstitions become like a religion for your brain, they are as part of your world as gravity. Repeating words and phrases in your head can bring a temporary relief like a lifesaver in the ocean until it becomes to slippery to hold on to. You begin to become overwhelmed with all the what ifs and rules. Your room goes into disarray because you lose the energy and motivation to do anything but be weighed down in your bed by the swirling worries.

I still feel weird talking about my depression and OCD. My cheeks still twinge with a bit of shame as if I brought this on myself. As if I had willed my brain's chemicals into this place. I wish these were not parts of my reality, my body. I do not want to be this person, I want to be free. I am afraid at times that the weight I carry spreads to others around me. I am afraid if I tell people the truth about how I am feeling, that I will become "that friend". The one with the issues.

Judaism has become such a life raft for me. In the times when the light seems darkest in my life and my OCD seems to have taken over, Judaism breaks through and becomes a lifeline. Judaism makes the world a little less scary. I love that in Judaism, I found a huge family. A huge family that I am tethered to for life. When I withdraw, they reach out. When I reach out, they are there. This month's parshot reminds me of the endurance of the Jewish people. Of how they hold on to hope in desperate times. Through the narrow places in life, Jews survive. I can survive. In the Torah I find light and hope. As the Israelites were called out of Egypt and promised something better, so too do I know that with the help of therapy, medication and friendship- I can reach a better place. 

I feel hope when I look at the future of the Jewish people. Even though things are difficult, there is hope. We have each other. We have G-d. We have Israel. It's so beautiful to be connected to such a promising people. People who stand for truth and justice, help those around them and believe in good. I feel hope being a part of the Jewish people. I feel like there is momentum that pulls me forward. That even when I may be lost in my own life, I know where I stand with the Jewish people. I know that I have a home, a place, and a future. 

If you need help, please reach out. Jewish or not, you matter. If you live in the US, please call: 1-800-273-8255 or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org . If you live in Israel, please call: 1201 or visit www.eran.org.il .

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