Sunday, March 04, 2007

Purim and depression: unmasking myself

One popular teaching about the Book of Esther, which we just read in synagogue yesterday, is that it's the only book in the Hebrew bible that does not mention God at all. Not once.

"Esther", rabbis say, is related to the Hebrew word "Hester" which means "hiding" or "hidden". "Megillah" (which is the Hebrew word for scroll) is related to the word "Le-Galot" which means to reveal. So our name for the book of Esther, "Megillat Esther", really means "revealing what is hidden". Popular interpretation says that God was present throughout the story, and miracles happened, but they were hidden. Hidden, just waiting for us to unmask them and reveal them to the world.

At the lowest point in my depression, I didn't recognize myself at all. I had always been positive, giving, cheerful, and compassionate. Suddenly I was bitter, angry, and had very little compassion even for people obviously worse off than myself. I saw only the bitterness, the loss, and none of the blessings still present in my life. I identified with Job from the bible, even though I still had my health, my husband, my home, and all of the people I love around me. Only my fertility was lost.

There were days when I cried for hours. I was anguished because I hated the person I saw in the mirror. I hated the negativity, the hopelessness, the callousness. I missed myself. I cried like a baby who can't see her mother. "Where did you go?" I'd wail. "Come back! I need you now more than ever!"

In my despair I predicted that the person I had been was no longer. That I would never again be happy. I cursed God for taking away my gifts of light, laughter, and love exactly when I needed them. I bitterly told everyone that I was a different person now. Get used to it. What you see is what you get.

But the lesson of Purim is that there are plenty of things beneath the surface. Things you can't see. Things that are moving and changing and directing the flow of life.

It took a long time to unmask the "old me". In fact, the bulk of that time I wasn't even sure where it was. I searched frantically, I cried, I begged. For whatever reason, it took a long time for me to see past the mask of bitterness and find myself again.

I'm not sure why, but it's comforting to know that my positive self was in there all along. It never left me. Neither did God. Will I remember this experience next time things get tough? Who knows? But if I ever tell you I'm a changed woman because of IF, that I'm incapable of loving or giving, you know how to call my bluff. Please do.

What mask do you wear because of IF? What would you hope to find if you could unmask yourself? I want to know. Lurkers, you too!


Jennifer said...

I will have to think on that one. I'll get back to you.

Beautiful post though Sara, and I am so glad you found the old you again.

ariah said...

I'm going to need to chew on that's another thought provoking post. It's wonderful that you're getting back to 'you'.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing...
something i think and talk about a lot...the old me is now the new me...IF is part of me and has changed me, but not into something or someone completely's been a reformation more than a revolution...