Lifting My Cloud of Depression

By: Tehilla Vanfossen   It runs in my family. But depression is a sneaky disease and it did its insidious work without anyone putting a name to it. As I was growing up, no one said that my father was depressed — instead, he was ‘moody.’ My grandmother, who couldn’t pull herself together long enough to make dinner, was described as ‘eccentric.’ But clinically depressed? Not in my family, thank you very much. By the time I reached adulthood, I was forcing my way through most days in a blur of emotional pain. Negative thoughts constantly pounded me: I was worthless — lazy and stupid — with no redeeming qualities. I didn’t expect anyone to like me — I didn’t even like myself. I never seriously considered suicide, but if I’d had a huge cosmic eraser, I would have used it on myself. This article first appeared Aish.com . To continue reading, Click  here    

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Dear Yad Rachel…

I was recently perusing through one of the local newspapers and spotted an ad from Yad Rachel. You weren’t asking for donations, your weren’t hosting a dinner, and you weren’t advertising a Chinese Auction. Your ad was inviting all women who are experiencing pre or postpartum distress/depression to reach out to you for help. The advertisement brought back a rush of memories- all the way back when I was in 8th grade. My mother had given birth to our youngest, and everyone knew there was something wrong. My mother was completely not herself, constantly crying, and was hardly talking. I didn’t understand at the time what it was that she was going through, and I thought that I could do something to help the situation. I took to cleaning the house from top to bottom, bathing and caring for my younger siblings, and acting as the mommy at bedtime. All the while waiting for that expression of thanks from my mother. None was forthcoming. This continued for weeks, and I felt like I would crack. That’s when Yad Rachel, then a fairly new organization stepped in. Someone started coming to make suppers, someone got the extended family to get involved to come […]

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My Anxiety Disorder

We are not transparent. Our fears and struggles are hidden under the façade of confidence and nonchalance. An acquaintance once told me, “You’re the calmest, most relaxed person I’ve ever met!” If she only knew! I thought to myself! I am the one who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia and fatigue, racing thoughts and heart palpitations. I am the one who clutches the little bottle of pills hidden deep inside my pocket while I struggle to breathe deeply and take it easy. To Continue article click here.

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When a Loved One Has Depression

8 tips to help you cope.   The suicide of beloved comic actor Robin Williams has again brought the topic of depression to the forefront. I cannot imagine what it feels like to have the weight of such unendurable despair that is so intense you cannot bear even staying in this world. But I know all too well what it is like to live with family members who have depression. One of my parents, a sibling, my husband, and one of my children have also suffered from this black cloud, in varying degrees, and for varying lengths of time. I have spent much of my life living with people I love with all my heart who often have trouble feeling happy or optimistic. This is in itself is very, very painful. Depression runs in families, and seems to be especially common among Ashkenazi Jews. Maybe our difficult history somehow let it seep into our psychological DNA. Depressive episodes don’t necessarily have causes. While traumatic events can trigger depression, in many cases it is part of a person’s psychological make-up, and I was at first baffled when years ago, my daughter, who had everything going for her, including friends and success […]

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Dealing with Depression

  There is a world of difference between clinical depression and having a bad day. When I was a young rabbi and I first encountered someone with depression, I vividly remember thinking to myself, why can’t he just snap out of it? What does he mean when he says he sleeps most of the day and can’t concentrate on anything? We are all tired and dealing with stress. Just resolve to get out of bed and get going. I remember not being able to understand why he was so depressed. After all, by all measures, his life was pretty good. If he were to just focus on the blessings and simply choose to be positive, he wouldn’t be depressed at all. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful that I didn’t articulate any of these sentiments to him, but nevertheless, I feel ashamed and even guilty for having being so ignorant and insensitive to what depression is all about. We perpetrate a terrible disservice by using the exact same word to describe how we feel when our favorite team gets knocked out of the playoffs or when our cell phone breaks, and a chemical, clinical illness that can be debilitating and […]

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NETHERLANDS: Mommy Shoes

It has been nearly two years since I asked for help. Motherhood and life felt like too much of a burden for me. After years of thinking that the problem was me, it finally dawned on me that there might be something wrong. I started therapy and found out that I had suffered from postpartum depression. Not once but three times. I also found out that the feelings I struggled with in my early teens were not just regular teen struggles. I found out that it was also depression that I had struggled with. These past two years have been the most intense years of my life. I have experienced tremendous growth. I have opened new doors and have closed old doors behind me. People talk about therapy lightly. They think therapy is nothing more than paying someone to listen and to give you advice. Therapy is no such thing. Therapy is facing yourself. Therapy is opening doors and looking into the dark corners of your soul. It is work. Hard work that sometimes  leaves you exhausted. Being as courageous, as walking into a lion’s den unarmed. Vulnerable. It is raw naked honesty and perseverance. Going down a steep, rocky and sometimes dark road without knowing […]

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Even though…

Even though you feel like a bad mother, Doesn’t mean you aren’t a good enough one. (There is NO such a thing as a perfect mother. It doesn’t exist. The desire to be one is what makes you great! Your willingness makes u great!)   Even though you feel like you are doing nothing, Doesn’t mean you are worthless. (You are valuable and precious to so many with a heart of gold that’s just broken right now.)   Even though you are angry at your kids and sometimes yell, Doesn’t mean you don’t love them. (Kids are resilient and more forgiving than any adult. They understand mommy’s not feeling well.)   Even though you feel weak and tired and can’t do as much as you once did, Doesn’t mean you aren’t the strongest bravest person who is battling a huge battle with courage and dignity. (Admitting you are broken and need help takes superhuman strength.)   Even though everyone around you seems to be managing and functioning, Doesn’t mean they are judging you even if it feels that way. (Compare and despair – not everyone’s outsides match their insides!)   Even though this PPD feels endless and hopeless, Doesn’t mean […]

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Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!

We are so thrilled to share with all our readers that our Walkathon 2015 was a tremendous success!!!! For those of you unaware, our annual fundraiser is our Yad Rachel Walkathon, an event geared to girls ages 8-12! It takes place each year in the May-June time, on a Sunday morning in a beautiful Lakewood park.   Our sweet Lakewood girls grades 3 thru 8 register a month in advance and spend the next four weeks raising money and collecting for our cause. They find innovative and creative ways to fundraise; bake sales, carnivals, barbeques, babysitting, or just plain old knocking on doors and asking!   Upon arrival to the event, they are each rewarded with a prize depending on the amount they bring in – then the fun begins! Walking around the track, stopping at booths to collect drinks, nosh and freebies,  passing by an ice cream truck we parked there which gave out free cones.  Then grand finale- a breathtaking trampoline act by award winning acrobats!     The atmosphere is exciting, the girls are enthusiastic and happy to participate.       Due to the unbelievable large turnout, We had close to 100 volunteers, moms and post […]

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S.E.L.F Care

HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT TIPS AND TOOLS TO HELP NEW MOMS TRANSITION INTO THEIR NEW ROLE AFTER BIRTH. FOLLOWING THESE STEPS WILL HELP KEEP YOU HEALTHY AND STRONG.   Sleep–  A lack of sleep increases anxiety and depression. Mothers need a minimum of a 5 hour stretch with naps during the day to function. Exercise– A little exercise moves your body, even when you don’t want to a little exercise is better than none. It promotes sleep and helps our mind by releasing endorphins (the feel good hormone). Laugh– It feels good to laugh. It helps our immune system  and reduces stress. Look for fun in life, its there. tip: look in the mirror- stretch your lips to a smile. Your facial expressions are hard wired to our brains. Then look in your eyes and say something silly.. you will laugh😉 Food– Always eat healthy. Low carbs, limit sugars and eliminate caffeine.  Keep hydrated- 6 glasses of water a day. Increase vegetables and protein for energy. ex: start your day with oatmeal covered in nuts and cranberries.   IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND SUSPECT YOU MAY NEED ADDITIONAL HELP, HERE ARE A FEW MORE IMPORTANT SUGGESTIONS: […]

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Delivery from Darkness

This article originally appeared in Mishpacha/Family First (Issue 425, January 14, 2015). @Mishpacha Magazine 2015 www.mishpacha.com   WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR NEW BABY BRINGS YOU ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION, INSTEAD OF JOY AND DELIGHT? HOW TO RECOGNIZE – AND RECOVER FROM- POSTPARTUM REACTIONS   “MOMMY, I WANT TO MAKE YOU A BIRTHDAY PARTY,” Shloimy said, eyes bright. “Hmm,” Leba mumbled, her head ensconced in a novel. “You know why, Mommy? Maybe if I make you a party, then you’ll smile.” An English teacher by profession, Leba Katz was as normal as they come. She was geshikt too: Despite giving birth to her sixth child just months earlier, her family always had fresh suppers, clean laundry, and sparkling floors. Which is why, despite repeated red flags, it never dawned on her that something was wrong. “My son’s remark should have been a bulletin from Shamayim,” Leba reflects. “But depression was for weirdos. I was Leba Katz, the oldest of a well-known heimishe family from Boro Park.” It took another alarming incident for Leba and her husband to realize they needed help. At 11:30 p.m. one night, Leba began walking out the door, wearing only a robe and socks. “Where are you going?” […]

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