4 01 2010

I just wanted to let y’all know that I’ve started a Facebook account for this blog/project, under “Borei Hoshech.” If you spend time on Facebook, friend me and let’s continue our conversations. I set it up so that only Borei Hoshech’s friends can see who I am friends with, so if you’re worried about other people knowing, you only have to worry about other people who are friends with me. (There is no way to restrict access to my friends list beyond that.) I do have to warn you that I may be selective in whom I allow to friend me (for example, I would prefer not to friend people whom I know well in real life, since that entails a certain necessary curtailment of honesty). Anyway, if you know me well in real life and want to know how I’m doing, I would prefer that you just ask me outright.

In other news, I am sad tonight because I had fully intended to apply for a grant that would enable me to work on this project in a more serious and sustained manner, but I can’t get my act together to do it. I am also still torn about whether writing/thinking so much about depression while depressed is helpful or hurtful. I also don’t know, should I ever emerge from this current, too-long, state of severe depression, whether writing/thinking about depression and tefillah while not depressed would be helpful or hurtful. I was nervous about that when I started this project in my gloriously un-depressed state back in the summer of 2008. So maybe it is for the best that I could not manage to apply for this particularly wonderful opportunity. Maybe this work is not my intended tafkid (role) in life at all. Or maybe it was meant to be of a hobby than a vocation. I do not know.

I do remain worried about permanently messing up my as-yet-undetermined future by remaining depressed so long that I miss all my chances to do something worthwhile with my life. Or that I alienate or piss off so many people along the way that I effectively do the same thing.



29 01 2009

I want to take a moment to thank the Jewish and general blogosphere, and all of my commenters, for the warm welcome that this blog has received.

Thank you especially to:

  • Mixed Multitudes (“Depression and Prayer”). Matthue Roth wrote about me on Mixed Multitudes (‘s excellent blog) and cross-posted to his personal/professional blog.
  • Jewschool (“New Blog About Depression and Prayer”) linked here and began with a lovely Rebbe Nachman quote. I need to read some Rebbe Nachman. I know that there’s a whole Breslover subculture here in Israel, which produces copious amounts of literature, but I want to focus on his writings about emotional states and prayer. Does anyone have recommendations? (Hebrew or English.)
  • Chayyei Sarah (“I’m NOT war blogging”) managed to find time to slip in a mention of my blog in the middle of a war.
  • In the Meantime (“Welcome to the Blogsphere: From Darkness”) linked here because he is “interested in non-pharmaceutical, soul-based responses to depression.” I feel a little bit odd about that, because I am very wary of people who want to substitute soul-based responses for therapy and medication, rather than use them in a supplementary or complimentary manner. (I’m not sure that Scott was saying that he wanted soul-based responses instead of other methods of dealing, I just know that some people believe that that is the way to go.) I think that many kinds of responses (broad spectrum lighting, yoga, meditation, bio-feedback, exercise) can be very helpful, if used in concert with therapy and/or medication, or even on their own for people who don’t need therapy or medication.
    I happen to believe in both therapy and medication. I more or less believe that almost everyone should be in therapy at some point in their life, preferably before they have children, and believe that some people should also be on medication. I think it likely that nobody should be on medication without also being in therapy, although I might be able to be convinced otherwise.
    Anyway, Scott’s post gave me much to think about, and I look forward to looking at the other sites he linked to alongside mine.
  • This isn’t a blog, but I also wanted to include a shout-out/thanks to Congregation Eitz Or (Seattle’s Jewish Renewal Community) for mentioning this blog in their February e-newsletter, and so nicely, too!

When I first conceived of this idea (circa 2005), I was emerging from a depression and found that writing about my emotional life through tefilla [prayer] was powerfully healing. I posted them on a secret, private, password-protected blog that I didn’t tell anyone about. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts with the world! Over the years since then, as I have felt better and better, I have also felt an increasing need to share my writing, personal and painful though it is, with the greater world. I spent months dithering over the decision to start this blog. Should I go public? Anonymous? Password-protected? My goal was to enable myself to write as honestly as possible, while reaching as many people as possible. In the end, I decided anonymity without password protection was the way to go. Based on the number of readers I have and the ways in which this blog, through its honesty, has been able to touch people, I think that I made the right decision.

Special thanks to all of those who took the time to leave comments. I read and think about them all, even the ones that I can’t really answer. Comments that “just” say, “Thank you for doing this,” “I find this helpful” or “I find this meaningful” are incredibly encouraging for me. They are literally what keeps this blog going. When I was dithering over starting this blog, aside from the whole privacy vs. publicity question, I wondered if this was a good idea in terms of my own mood. I was feeling, this past summer and for several years before that, better than ever. Would writing about deep, dark, scary things make me depressed once more? Was it a risk I could take? Would I even be able to write from the point of view of a depressed person if I was no longer depressed? Life, as it so often does, played a little joke on me and I unexpectedly became depressed before I even began work on the blog. As a result, the blog’s launch was delayed by several months, and it’s progress has been impeded further since then by the depression. In short, I don’t think I could keep doing this without all of your positive feedback and comments. Working on this has truly been a healing, transformative experience, much as writing the first few pieces were in 2005…also, really difficult and draining. I am so grateful for the generosity of heart, mind, and spirit in which this blog has been received.

Speaking of comments, does anyone have an answer for commenter Tamar about Elohai Nishama and kabbalah? Something about “four worlds in which the soul travels as it is being formed”? I know very little about kabbalah and don’t think I can get a handle on it quickly enough to answer Tamar. Thanks!

Why prayer?

5 11 2008

There was a long period in my life when I used Torah study as a way to escape from the life of emotion. It was a place where I went to get away from myself and my problems; a place where I went to be tough and strong and smart. (Torah study is now one key place where my emotional life and my intellectual life meet, but that’s a story for another time.)

Prayer was never able to serve as a refuge for me in that way, but, instead, since I was very young, it served as a safe space—for a time, the only safe space—in which to feel a full range of emotions, from the most terrifying to the most deeply comforting. Prayer was where I could let down my guard; let down my walls; let down my iron-clad boundaries; open my Pandora’s box of sadness, yearning, and tears. Prayer is where I was able to be alone with God and free from the insistent voices of family, society, school, and work. Prayer was where I could stop and listen to myself–to my wants and needs, but also to my feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving. Prayer was where I could focus. Prayer was a place where I could go when I couldn’t focus.

Through this blog, I hope to learn more about what the use of tefillah [prayer] as a staging ground for experiencing emotions and for working out the primal relationship with God has meant and means to me and to classical Jewish commentaries on the siddur [prayer book].

I also expect to learn a tremendous amount from the experiences and reflections of future commenters and collaborators about how they experience the intersection between their religious and inner emotional lives. I expect to hear similarities to my experience, but also hope to hear of very different experiences.

Since I first experienced depression over ten years ago, I have been struggling to reconcile my love of Jewish learning, my experiences of alternately desperately clinging to and rejecting daily Jewish prayer, and the work that I have done in therapy in order to recover from depression. These parts of myself, which often seemed so separate and distant from each other, have increasingly overlapped. That place where they overlap is the subject of this blog.