I’ve spent the last three weeks digging through a deep depression and thinking about the high holidays makes me tremble.
I think it’s Rosh Hashanah’s relentless insistence that the new year be sweet. Apples and honey just don’t sit well with crab apples like me. Or maybe it’s the distinctive Wake up of the shofar when my body just wants to stay in bed. Tashlich, a symbolic tradition of throwing breadcrumbs into a body of water, demands that we discard our mistakes; my depression demands that I wallow in them. And while Kol Nidre hits the right note (any minor key will do), even Yom Kippur doesn’t nudge us so gently to stop hiding, to face the harsh truth, and to ask forgiveness for our shortcomings.
What should a depressed Jewish mother do?
In all honesty, I find that times of change, times of planning, times of hosting and entertainment and small talk are some of the hardest times to endure. The High Holidays are hard for me because of the logistics, because of the expectations, because of the thousand tiny decisions that need to be made (which synagogue for day 1? where for day 2? can we eat with friends? inside? outside? who’s bringing them ball? Does your child eat nuts? Can my child sit in a chair for 90 seconds?). It can be overwhelming for any busy parent of young children, even without a depression diagnosis. But it’s more than overwhelming for me. And when my body feels overwhelmed, it just shuts down. Gently closes the door for visitors and displays an out of office notice. You will find me hiding in my bed.
This year I have bright hopes that I will enjoy celebrating the High Holidays with my cute little boys and extended family. But knowing myself pretty well, I’ll set up a few guard rails in case my depression is trying to keep me at home.
I’m sharing these with you in case any of them resonate, in case any of them clear up your storm clouds even a little bit:
During this holiday season, may your mantra be: “I am an extraordinary person.”
That is Is correct. You are unique and there will never be anyone like you.
You can do extraordinary things with your exhausted mind and body.
I know this is true because you are already doing extraordinary things with your exhausted mind and body. You’re reading right now, for heaven’s sake. Remarkable.
Everything is optional except your comfort.
You don’t have to go to the temple. You don’t have to dress your kids. You can stream beautiful services in your home from your bed. you can just be You can just listen. You may hear something you needed to hear.
You don’t have to cook anything.
If you decide to attend family dinners, you don’t have to cook anything, no matter what anyone says. You don’t have to bring anything. I can’t overdo it. Arrive empty-handed. There will be enough food.
Think about doing tashlich.
It’s well known that water activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. If you can, find a body of water and symbolically throw off the pain you are holding in your mind and body.
Think about the beauty of another year.
In your depressed state, you may tend to brood. I am. It is possible Ponder the beauty of another yearabout the beauty of knowing that you stay connected to your people, in the dark and in the light.
take your meds.
Please take your medication.