Our own worst enemies.

It has been a long time since I have written, perhaps this is not the time, perhaps I have no buisness writing this, maybe I should be worrying about myself and my family instead of focusing on what is going on out there, in my community, with my neighbours, friends and Jewish brothers and sisters ( Because, that is what we are, a Jew in Australia is my family even if we have never met). However it is bugging me, it is upsetting me, and the thing I do best when upset is write. So here goes.

I glanced at a newspaper this week, the London Jewish News, the journalist’s had taken on themselves to “expose” a terrible crime within the what they call “ultra- orthodox community”, see, it is only the ultra orthodox who are disobeying the rules, it is only them who are having parties, rioting, weddings, get togethers, that is why it was IMPERATIVE that the London Jewish News focused on the ultra orthodox.

Now, before you all start yelling at me saying how terrible they are, how could they be having weddings, hiding from the police etc. This is not what this blog is about. Hey, you dont need me to add to the obvious vitarol directed at the “ultra – orthodox” ( I would like someone to actually explain to me what ultra orthdox actually is… are they people who follow the word of the Torah to their best ability? the ones who wear big hats? the ones who wear small hats? or are they just Jews who dress differently to you and me and for some reason you have an issue with those who “flaunt” their Judiasm? )

Why, though do the so called Jewish newspapers need to add to the ferocious antisemitism that is already out there?

So, here is my take on what I would have loved to read in the newspaper this week. (sorry its not as gossipy and hate mongering as some seem to thrive on).

AND HERE IS TODAYS NEWS:

ORTHODOX AND ULTRA ORTHODOX SHOW US WHAT TRUE JUDISAM IS!

Friday January 29th.

This is Sara Benbassat reporting for the London Jewish Issues.

The house I have dropped off my package to is full. The dining room is a factory of food, toys and goodies for those in the community who are isolating due to one or both parents having Covid. As I arrive there are boxes being taken out the house for delivery. “6 families this week” my friend reminds me. 6 families whom will have their whole Shabbat catered, I do not mean they will get just the traditional gefilta fish, chicken soup, kugel and cholent, no, what these families will receive is, enough food for a month, toys suitable for each child’s age and preference, cards, and sweets.

What is important in this story is that none of the food items are shop brought. There is a system in place, via a Whatsapp group. The group has 65 ladies on it, every week the administrators of the group put out a message, detailing how many families, how many children in each family (if there are children) and preferences, within 10 minutes the group will have offered to make the whole Shabbat, some will make cakes and cookies, some soups, some sides, some desserts etc. On Thursday night the organisers will painstakingly and lovingly put together the boxes of food which are then delivered to the families in need.

This is one of many organisations.

Shabbat Walk, an amazing concept. Since the beginning of lockdown they have supplied an extraordinary amount of toys and gifts to families in need. They have sent volunteers to help out in a Covid safe way. They have saved families financially and emotionally.

Bikor Cholim (Meaning, visiting the sick). Another organisation run by orthodox and ultra orthodox ladies. Providing hospital rides, shopping and any other errands and support elderly people in the community may need.

Hatzola. A voluntary paramedic service. members from the orthdox and ultra orthodox community. Risking their lives to get to those who need help the most. At all times of the night, they are there, saving lives. transporting the vulnerable, never asking for thanks.

Shomrim, patrolling our streets keeping us safe. At the start of lockdown, the orthodox and ultra orthodox volunteers tirelesly drove round the streets with large speakers attached to their cars, playing music for all of us who felt alone, tired, desperate.

The orthodox therapist who started a Whatsapp group giving inspirational messages, and encouragment every day in a one or two minute clip.

The Ultra orthodox and orthodox synagogues ( I am not discounting non orthdox communities rather I am trying to portray the forgotten good in our community) who arrange care, food, financial aid.

The list goes on and on. I could open the Jewish phone book I have and find page upon page of orthodox organisations created to help people in any way you could imagine.

We have enough people hating Jews in the world, there is so much hatred towards our people. Why do we need to hate each other. Because you wear a blue hat, and I a black one? because you have a long beard and my family don’t have beards? Because you make a wedding and I would not go to one now? Yes, we can object, we can cry out the injustice of what others are doing, but look at yourself closely, are you following to the letter of the law?

As a Jews, ask yourself this with honesty, do you shake your head and spout nastiness upon the whole of the orthdox and ultra orthodox world becasue the London Jewish News has told you to?

Who will stand up for you if Jews are attacked, I do not mean orthdox jews, reform jews, ultra orthdox jews, conservative jews etc. JUST JEWS.

What is happening in our society? there is so much good out there, lockdown has brought people together in most communities throughout the world, yet the Jewish community, the community who we are told have a duty to “be a light unto the nations” is filled with self hatred and hatred towards our brothers and sisters, no matter what denomination they are. At a time when love and companionship is most needed, the Jewish world should be ashamed of how they are treating each other. A police officer mentioned to someone recently “your community is the only community spying on each other” and that, is the true Chillul Hashem, that is what brings shame to us.

Seek the good.

We have enough people to despise us, lets not despise ourselves.

How to protect yourself from corona.

See what I did there with that title?∧

Got your attention didn’t it.

So, follow these instructions carefully and within minutes your self protection will kick in.

  1. Log on to Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest
  2. Go to settings.
  3.  Scroll down till you reach the log out button
  4. Click on it.

 

Repeat steps 1-4 on all social media platforms.  then sit back, take a deep breath and revel in the quietness.

Having just typed the word Corona in to my WhatsApp search bar revealed that in the last 4 days I have received 46 messages with the word Corona in them.  This is after leaving a public group that I was on, if I was still  on the group the number would have been vast. Typing in to the Facebook search bar the word “Corona”, the first hit that appears is a group with the title “Corona” in big, dark scary looking font, the group had, when I last checked 15 million likes.  What there is to like about Corona escapes me, but each to their own.

Most, if not all conversations the last couple of weeks have revolved around the virus, the panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitizer, the mass global panic, the hoards of people stampeding a supermarket is something I do not remember ever experinacing before.

It was only a matter of time before the jokes started, and below i have selected 2 just in case you are the only person in the world whose phone has not stopped pinging with these pictures:

 

 

My daughter has been very  anxious this week, due I am sure, partly to my own anxieties, which have been difficult to hide.  She is mostly worried about us running out of food, which, in a child’s mind is one of the biggest calamities that could happen.

(Side note to adults: wherever I  have written the word grass, feel free to insert toilet roll)

Trying to explain to her the concept of herd mentality helped me to clear the space in my own mind to start to be slightly rational.  I compared us all to a herd of sheep in a field.  One sheep whispers in to the others ear “Have you heard, grass is disappearing, you had better get all the grass you can really quickly otherwise you will surely starve”.  The sheep hearing this, runs off in a wild panic gobbling up all the grass he can find, other sheep start muttering to themselves, they look at panicky sheep and they to feel the panic start to take hold, and off they go, not exactly knowing why they are running madly towards the panicked sheep, but nevertheless copying what he is doing, because she obviously knows something we dont, all of them gobbling and snatching at the grass.  Except one little black sheep, the black sheep stands bewildered, she sees grass all around her, she knows that it will rain, which will make more grass grow, she sees her mummy and daddy black sheep sleeping peacefully in the corner and knows they will keep her safe, and as she happily goes back to minding her own business and grazing on her grass she thinks to herself “boy, all those white sheep are sure going to have an awesome stomach ache”.

The herd mentality is something we are all experiencing now.  Think about it  for a minute, the panic buying of toilet paper.  Huh?? why toilet paper of all things? surely it would make more sense to be panic buying every food good we can, toothpaste, batteries, medication etc.  One person somewhere in the world decided that toilet paper is the most crucial item to have at home in case of a world wide pandemic and the herd have followed.  ( Saying that though, I think I will take a break to check how much we have………ok, checked, we have 12 which I think, with rationing of 1/3 a sheet each should do us nicely for the near future )

On a more serious note, this week has found my “normal” anxiety levels ( which you may know are high at any given times) reach new levels. For those who have to self isolate, those who experience health anxiety, are vulnerable both physically and emotionally the period we are going through now must be awful.  Pictures coming out of China and other countries with a high rate of Corona shows people throwing themselves out of buildings, gangs beating people in the streets and more. The fear that is provoking some to act in ways that would and should be seen as horrendous.  As I washed my hands for the 7th time today the thought struck me that  for those who experience OCD with thoughts such as “if I do not wash my hands something bad will happen” their condition is now becoming even more extreme then usual.  The cancer patients who can not get hold of essential hand sanitiser for their hands, the elderly and the people who are socially isolated how scared and worried they must be.

Last night on the phone a friend imparted wise words.  Take yourself off WhatsApp groups, do not listen to the news, turn of the TV or only watch mind numbing series, take yourself off certain Facebook  groups for a while. If there is anything crucial you need to know, you will find out.  I can attest that she was correct, not having my phone beep every 10 seconds with another catastrophic news report, or even having the constant jokes has brought down my anxiety substantially.

Perhaps a way to calm our own anxiety is to reach out to those who, due to many reasons are even more socially isolated now, offer to cook for them, shop for them or just have a chat on the phone.  This morning I received an email from the Chief Executive of the organisation I work for.  He quoted a Rabbi from Los Angeles, Rabbi Yosef Kanevsky, the Rabbi writes:

“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise”.

How beautiful, how perfect for today when we find ourselves in states of high anxiety, fear, illness and worry, to be able to take a deep breath, and ask what we can do for others who are in the same situation, or far worse off than we are.

Wishing you and all your loved ones, Health and well being.

 

 

Keeping Shtum

Last night I was on a battlefield

A war broke out on a WhatsApp group I am on.

The name of the group is “Chessed” which is Hebrew for kindness, on this group you can find messages relating to just about anything you may need at any time, it is a community group and extremely helpful. Need a ride somewhere, go ahead, ask on the group, a recipe, you can get that from someone, opening hours of a certain shop, someone on the group is bound to know.

Last night battle commenced on the group. an innocent post designed to help and educate people caused aggression, disagreements, anger and rudeness, the admins of the group tried to keep the situation calm, removed certain people from the group and informed us that the offending post was “completely unsuitable for our group”.

So what I hear you ask in bewilderment was the offending post? Brace yourselves, a screen shot of the post is below:

 

carolines law

And there you have it, a post encouraging people to sign a petition which could go some way in preventing future suicides, or attempted suicides.

The “offending” post was removed as was the person who posted it.

What ensued was a heated discussion, with people becoming very emotional.  As one person put it “if someone asks to borrow a phone, and someone lends it, that’s a chessed (kindness) but saving a life is not??”

It is situations like the one above which ensures the stigma and shame of Mental Health still continues to strive.  By banning posts which bring awareness to the sensitive subject of suicide we are in our own way reinforcing the message that Mental Health is not to be spoken about.

Saving a life is the biggest Chessed a person can do.

As I pointed out to the admins of the group ( after very emotionally and “loudly” expressing my disgust at them removing the post from the group) Caroline’s law, comes after a tragedy, a lady in the public eye, a beautiful person whom it seemed had everything to live for, at the time that she needed support, love and friendship the most there was no-one. How can we as empathetic, moral people stand back and let others suffer. Sadly the admins response was “remove your comments or be removed from the group”.

Our community is affected by Suicide as much as any other community, and until we are all able to stand tall, shoulder to shoulder and talk about it, nothing will change.

 

How visiting a friend in hospital can affect our own Mental health.

On Monday night I visited a lady I know in the psychiatric ward.  There were a few feelings and emotions that I had no choice but to acknowledge, both before the visit, during and after the visit.

Anyone who has been in the psych ward will know the deep emotional connection we can have with it, the smells, the sounds, especially the aggressive sound of the alarm bell ringing, signalling staff members from other wards that help is needed, the staring faces, the atmosphere of sadness.

Whilst in the ward a few things occurred. First, a nurse who was on duty greeted me, asked me who I was seeing, told me she liked my earrings, all the while not recognising me as the same patient whom had been in her ward a mere few weeks ago. The blank look she gave me spoke volumes, sending a clear message, “I did not see you, really see you as a human, as a person whilst you were in hospital.

Sitting with my friend was a revelation.  As I experience my Bipolar with manic highs, sitting with someone who was suffering with her illness in an aggressive and frankly scary way shook me to my core.  She is an extremely clever lady and whilst with her she rattled off all the names of the people who had proposed to her, the list was never ending, starting with a list of celebrities, going on to a list of people she had known since childhood, her memory for names and places amazed me.  She has not yet accepted that she is ill and currently is refusing medication. She shouted at me that she was the Messiah and they are trying to kill her and silence her voice.  All in all it was  a scary experience.

It naturally made me draw comparisons, the exhaustion I felt after the visit, the low mood, the sadness I feel for her all compounded the emotional reaction I experienced from being in the ward as a visitor. It gave me more awareness of how different Mental Health Illness are experienced, it gave me gratitude that when I am unwell I am not aggressive, in fact I am the opposite, love flows freely, this is not diminishing anyone who suffers from the manic highs, rather it can be just as dangerous and terrifying as living with the illness experienced with lows or anger.

The thought kept and still does keep going around in my mind, asking myself if those who visit me in hospital feel the same or similar emotions after being with me?

The visit, though fleeting left a lasting impression, has affected my mood, things have seemed bleaker, regular situations  I have had to deal with this week have become mountains, my thinking has been black and white with regards to daily struggles, and once again I am experiencing transference to my therapist.  She is occupying far to much space in my mind, the feelings of love I have whilst feeling vulnerable are unhealthy  to the extreme, the panic knowing that I will not see her for 2 weeks overtaking me.  I believe all these are the result of a highly charged visit to the psychiatric ward.

We have to be so aware of “where we are emotionally” before carrying out certain activities, for example visiting the psych ward very soon after being released from one yourself, taking on to much and saying “yes” to everything is a warning sign.  There are times that we are able to help, be there, support and encourage those who need us, but when living with a Mental Health issue caution must always be taken.

Ethics of the Fathers 1:14 states, Hillel says ” If I am not for myself, who will be for me? but if I am only for myself who am I? If not now, when?” The genius of these words are so clear, and can be interpreted on so many levels. Each person will have their own way of looking at these words, taking their own message.

The message I see in these words is ” If not for myself who will be?  Who will look after me if I do not look after myself, who will keep my emotional health and wellbeing at the forefront if not me?”   He continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” It is interesting that Hillel started the verse with self care, self love telling us that  only once we have looked after ourselves, made sure we are healthy and well, can we then be there for others.

Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

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