Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Need Serotonin

"Tishrei 24, 5770 · October 12, 2009
All Teachers

By Tzvi Freeman

In our times, it is crucial that every Jew who knows anything must be a teacher to others. Those who can teach children must teach children. Those who can only teach adults must teach adults.

Those who know alef-bet, must teach alef-bet. Those who know only alef, must teach alef. But all must teach."

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman. To order Tzvi's book, "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, click here

Even though I really know such a very little bit about Judaism & Jewish Wisdom, I always remember this saying from the Rebbe and have taken it to heart - all who know alef must teach alef. So I share the bit that I know.

But even more enjoyable for me is to share my own experience and my own challenges and my hard-earned knowledge that comes from stumbling through my life. Hitting bottom and facing my own death this year was for me the greatest catapult ever. And that's another thing that I've heard from Kabbalah, that HaShem is found in the lowest of all worlds and the lowest parts of the lowest of all worlds. The lower you go, the stronger is the spark and the higher you can reach. In the same way, the Baal Tshuva is stronger than the Tzaddik.

I hit a very low point again this past week. It crept up on me a bit at a time. Once I recognized it as depression, I was able to not let it take me down too far. It all started last week when I was trying to get the word out about the workshop. First, I noticed not wanting to exercise. Then I noticed I didn't want to wear my camisole with the fake boobs. Then I found myself in bed one morning, not wanting to get out of bed.

That morning, Geoff told me it was October 7th, his marking of my canServersary with the "regular" (goishe?) calendar. Of course, I'd already had my canServersary between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, so I had forgotten about the other date. At first I thought, well maybe I'm feeling like not getting out of bed because subconsciously I know that this is the anniversary of my diagnosis.

But the next day, I found myself getting really depressed about not getting any sign-ups for the class and thinking I should change careers. I also found myself feeling really depressed about the cold weather. And worrying about finances and thinking that my chest is forever going to be tight and the stretching that I do will not help and so I should just give up...

Yeah, I recognized it. The lowest of my lows looks like that. So that made me remember that I had just 2 weeks ago started (stupidly) cutting down on my Celexa. 2 weeks is usually the time it takes to see some change. I had gradually been cutting pills with a pill cutter, thinking that I really shouldn't be taking so much since normally I don't need the highest dose of any pill.

Truthfully, I need the highest dose of serotonin I can get. And when I was in the hospital with chemotherapy induced colitis, I needed the highest dose of the strongest pain medication. So just because I'm sensitive to other things doesn't mean I'm sensitive to everything.

Luckily, Saturday night was my favorite of all Jewish holidays: Simchas Torah. You know me - dancing is one of my things. And dancing this year was the best it's ever been. I was so depressed, I almost didn't go. And until we all started dancing, I was really down. But no one can stay depressed while they're dancing. As I was dancing, a thought passed through my mind, "I made it through this year!" It was the best way I could ever have imagined ending this horrendous year - dancing on Simchas Torah.

I'm so grateful to Bailly and Yochanon for all that they did this year and every Tishrei to host so many parties for an entire month. The last of all of these holidays, my favorite, is something I never knew about until I met them. And for the past 10 years, watching the men dancing with the Torah has been so much fun. We're supposed to be happy and celebrate after Yom Kippur, through Sukkos and all the other holidays all the way to the end, Simchas Torah. And where else can you see men dancing and singing together? Nowhere.

And where else can you dance with only women behind a mechitzah and feel totally free to cut it loose with no men watching? Nowhere.

I saw my friend Sharon there and told her I was depressed about the cold weather. She reminded me that on Shmini Atzeret - which is the holiday right before Simchas Torah - we say a long prayer for rain. After that, in the Amidah (silent prayer) we no longer say a prayer asking for the dew to descend and instead begin asking for rain to fall, 3 times a day until Pesach.

So tonight, I'm excited. The wind is blowing and hopefully we'll have a storm tomorrow. I'm beginning to embrace life again and not resist what is.