Coming to Grips with My Mental Illness

After my first child was born I developed severe postpartum depression and sank into a dark abyss. I used to think that people with mental illness are incapable, dysfunctional, dumb, and just downright weird. Until I had the distinct honor and pleasure of joining the exclusive club. After my first child was born I developed severe postpartum depression. Life as I knew it ceased to exist. I had sunken into a deep and dark abyss. Through my journey to recovery and self-discovery I was forced to ask myself probing and painful questions. Who am I? What am I? Does my mental illness define me? Am I a worthy being? What makes a person worthy anyways? These questions kept on spinning round and round in my head and I was free-falling. I realized I was faced with the hardest choice in my life: I could take the humiliating leap and go for help or continue to let things spiral out of control on the suicidal path that I was heading towards. Deep down I knew that I wanted to go for help, but how would I be able to look myself in the mirror again? I need help? Do you hear that? I, Rivka Kaufman the […]

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The Stress is Real- Tools to Help With Pesach Prep

To our dear Yad Rachel family members, Purim has come and gone! We sincerely hope that you were able to tap into some of the joy and celebration that comes along with that magical and mystical Yom Tov. Can we sit back and relax now? Not quite. The Jewish calendar is once again calling for us to keep busy. All around us, there is a palpable tension in the air. Conversations of cleaning, cooking, shopping can be heard. Shelves in grocery stores being lined and filled with Pesach products. Pesach kitchens being opened and scrubbed down. Lines in kids clothing stores with purchases and returns. For a large majority of us, all this activity fills us with dread and anxiety. The lists seem so long. The errands seem endless. The cleaning seems insurmountable. When? Where? How? The anxiety can turn to panic; the panic can then turn to anger. “Is this Simchas Yom Tov? Really? Scrubbing and cleaning?” The anxiety can turn to shame, which turns into feelings of inadequacy. “Everyone else is managing. Why am I crying and why am I the only one not coping?” The anxiety can turn to avoidance, which then turns into unmanageability. “The list is too long. I can’t handle. I’ll leave it to the last […]

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Racing to the Finish Line… Take a Minute to Breathe!

Here are practical some ideas to a smoother Yom Tov. Technical and physical preparations Fill all prescriptions prior to going away for Yom Tov. Erev Yom Tov is a long day. If you are traveling out of town, keep in mind that there is no formal meal until the Seder which is late at night. A leben or a string cheese won’t suffice to keep you or your children satisfied. Hungry kids equal cranky kids. Plan options that are permissible to eat after Biur Chometz. If traveling, make a checklist. Lists keep us organized and focused. Start packing two days prior to give yourself wiggle room to purchase last minute things. Check the weather forecast to make sure you’re packing the correct wardrobe. Here is an image of a packing list. Buy new baby bottles, sippy cups, wash bibs. If possible, sign up some of the smaller children in a Pesach day camp. Send some of them for either all days off or even just one day to give yourself some quiet. Lakewood is full of fantastic programs run by adorable preteens the week of Pesach. Don’t feel guilty, it’s called making smart choices. Staying home and cooking? – take […]

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Tips to a Stress Free Purim!

To our dear Yad Rachel family members, Purim is around the corner, just days away. A beautiful Yom Tov, celebrating miracles of redemption and salvation. A day to take the time to recognize and commemorate Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis so long ago.Feasting, dancing, gift giving, happiness and joy are the themes of the day. So why is it so stressful? Why is it that some of us aren’t feeling that happy vibe and instead feeling anxious … feeling overwhelmed…feeling tired… and even, although we feel shame admitting it, maybe feeling DREAD? It’s a challenging holiday. So much to do and accomplish for such a short day. Endless costumes, discussions about costumes, costume accessories, and then there’s creating endless amounts of Shalach Manos, kids Shalach Manos (when did that become the standard?), notes to be written to Rebbeim, teachers, therapists, delivering those endless amounts of Shalach Manos in the endless traffic, hearing Megillah twice while juggling babies who can’t attend Megillah, preparing Seudos, attending long Seudos where kids are hyper from too much sugar and too little sleep, dealing with a tipsy husband, the mess, the fatigue…And of course, weighing most on your mind, is feeling terrible shame that you aren’t HAPPY. And feeling so guilty that you are secretly waiting for it to end. Yes it’s […]

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Natural Happiness

Using Exercise & Nutrition to Help Fight depression! Exercise and Depression Want to learn more about exercise and depression? Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. What are the Psychological Benefits of Exercise with Depression? Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive energizing outlook on life. Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain by acting as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain. It appears that any form of exercise can help depression. Some examples of moderate exercise include: Biking Dancing Housework, especially sweeping, mopping or vacuuming Jogging at a moderate pace Low-impact aerobics Playing tennis Swimming […]

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The Fifth Trimester

The “Back to Work after Baby” Blues By: Dena Neuman So, you’re going back to work after having a baby. How are you feeling? Elated? Terrified? Wracked with guilt? Are your feelings exactly the opposite of what you expected them to be? I can see you, brand new Mommy, on the night before your first day back at work after maternity leave. Everyone else in your house is asleep, but you are not. You can’t sleep. I see you sitting at your desk, illuminated by the soft glow of the computer. You are typing Baby’s daily schedule for the babysitter, checking it over three times to make sure that you included everything in it, because how else will the babysitter know that Baby takes one short nap and then a longer one only an hour later? How will the babysitter know that he likes to be swaddled, but with one arm out, free to touch the world? This article first appeared in Ami magazine. Please Click here to continue.

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Breaking the Myth of Perfection

By: A Yad Rachel Mentor/Volunteer I once attended a lecture years ago about postpartum depression. I volunteer at Yad Rachel, and this training like many others was mandatory. The speaker, a popular social worker who specialized in treating women of child bearing years, was asked to educate us on perinatal mood disorders. After spending time giving over many scientific facts and percentages, she suddenly shared a message that was both powerful and direct. “Ladies, there is a disease that is rampant in your community that is causing untold amounts of stress and anxiety. No, not postpartum depression. It’s called the disease of perfectionism. It’s destroying women and their families, and we must fight it!” She went on to share that in her many years of practice, she has counselled women of all different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds. ” in general, women especially mothers, can be hard on themselves. But of all the women I’ve seen, Orthodox Jewish moms have placed unrealistic expectations upon themselves that are impossible to achieve or maintain that are bringing them to a breaking point ” She listed the demands we make on ourselves one by one, and we all nodded along. Perfect Wife – We need to be supportive, encouraging, and […]

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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 incapacitating. Clinical […]

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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 in school, suddenly […]

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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 there isn’t a light at the end of this tunnel. (You […]

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