Yesterday I attended a workshop called “Breaking the Way We See Ourselves”
We literally smashed mirrors. It was great. It was different, out of the box, and unexpectedly healing. I only found out about the workshop two days ago, and I'm sure it wasn't an accident that I was there. I don't believe in accidents.
Two days ago, I sat on a hill where I go nearly every morning to pray, meditate and talk to my Creator. The conversation is mostly one sided.
I said, “God, I'm drowning! Help me out here. It took me four years, four years!!! to wean myself off of 27 years of anti anxiety medication, and for over a year now I have been off and doing well. I went off because I don't need medication anymore. Since I had invasive surgery half a year ago my anxiety is through the roof again and I'm miserable. I don't like myself and neither does my husband . I hate the idea of going on meds again. I had to work so hard for so long to get off! Please, please God, you can do anything! Help me find some other way to cope!"
I imagined God laughing at me. Saying, “You think you're so smart? I already gave you the solution. You know the medication works. Why don't you just use it and stop making life so difficult for yourself and your poor husband.
The medication works. It does. But I don't want to be dependent on it for the rest of my life, and I know just how physiologically addictive it is. I also found other things that work, but they don't seem to be working right now. I know so many other women who are on SSRI's and can't get off even when they don't feel like they need it any more. Psychiatrists are good at getting people on the drugs, but don't seem to know as much about how to help people get off of them. When I stopped my last prescription my general practitioner told me most people can't quit and I should expect to have to get back on. She has seen it so many times. I want to rely on you, God, not drugs! How do I know what you want me to do?! I want to do YOUR will, not mine. I don't know anything! Is this really what you want?! Guide me! Help me!
Maybe God is laughing at me. I remember the parable of a drowning man clinging to the roof of a house, the floodwaters rising all around him. A boat comes along and offers to help. The man refuses, saying, “God will save me.” He continues to pray. “God, save me, I'm drowning!” A helicopter flies by overhead and drops a rope. The man refuses to climb it saying, “God, I trust you! I'm waiting for you to save me!” A raft floats by and the man refuses to climb aboard saying, “God, I'm waiting for you! Save me!”
Well, the man drowns. He arrives in heaven and confronts God, "Why didn't you save me?? I believed in you! I trusted you!"
God replies, “What do you mean why didn't I save you? I sent you a boat, a helicopter and a raft!
Maybe drugs are like glasses. Some people just need them for life. Put them on to see clearly and stop complaining that the world is blurry. Take the drugs again to calm your body and mind and help yourself focus. Sigh.
Not an hour later I saw the add for the workshop, Breaking the Way We See Ourselves. I knew it was a sign.
My friend Dina is running it together with another woman Michal. My gut said, this is it. This is your sign from God. You have to go. I had to find a substitute on very short notice and I succeeded. Another sign.
Dina and Michal shared Rav Kooks Torah on why God breaks us. God wants to give us his infinite love, and we are finite limited beings. When something infinite hits something finite there must be a breaking. The breaking is necessary to allow the infinite light to enter. We all have the potential to become infinite and God-like, creators of our own reality, precisely at the places that we are broken. Strong at the broken places. I have experienced this many times in my life.
We gaze into a mirror and journal about what we see. We write about how we see ourselves and how others see us. The good, the bad and the ugly.
I write that I am a lost daughter, a lost sister, a lost child. I have so many complex parts and I am different at different times and to different people. Others see me as being whole, grounded, warm, caring, distant, overprotective, loving, giving, healing, wise, clueless, and kind. I see myself right now as someone struggling with anxiety and physiological dysregulation. I am struggling to feel calm and safe in my body without medication. I am learning if it is possible to be without it, even when life is stressful. I am exploring how to encounter and embrace a mind that is not numbed out, and it is so, so hard! I need so much patience and self compassion. I am determined and committed. I am honest. I love truth even when it hurts. I hate lies. I love people. I desire to be a source of healing, compassion and joy in Hashem's world. I want to bring healing to myself and others.
I learn through the workshop that I have resources inside of myself that are a gift. The gift of allowing myself to be in a process. The gift of silence, maturity and patience. The willingness to give myself this space and this time. The gift of not knowing the answer right now.
We are instructed to write who we are on the mirror. I grab a Sharpie. "I am strong, kind, good, daring, independent, stubborn, sad, anxious, creative, compassionate, wise, clueless, loving, caring, hopeful, self doubting, lost, confused and scared!"
After psychodrama, discussion, contemplation, and connection in a group of wonderful women, we pass around a hammer and smash our mirrors. We put the shattered pieces in a small burlap sack labeled “Breaking the Way I see Myself.” It feels exciting and uncomfortable.
It also feels like a death of sorts, smashing the need to hold onto any sort of narrative of who I am right now, and what I'm supposed to be doing, and allowing a new opening to welcome in new light. The pieces of my broken mirror are lying on a mirror tray on my dining room table, the tray I light my Shabbos candles on, reflecting the light and reminding me that I am open to new possibilities.
Dina Etigson and Michal Oshman live in Ramat Beit Shemesh and will be holding their next transformational Torah workshop in Elul. You won’t want to miss this! Contact Dina at 058-5992259 for more information.