Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I think I’m losing my mind, I think I’m really going crazy and I’m afraid to be left alone because I may harm myself or my baby. Please help me, I have nowhere to turn. My mother thinks I’m making this up but I’m not.
Two years ago I married someone I did not love and did not want to be married to, but at thirty-six years of age, my mother said beggars can’t be choosers, that this was my last hope for marriage and I should grab it before he got cold feet and had a change of heart. So I married Usher, who said he was forty-five, but was really fifty-one, and it just wasn’t good from the start. It’s not that Usher was a bad person or treated me badly, it was more that I felt forced into this marriage. Every night I prayed that Usher would not come home from work and that I’d be back to my old life. And then last year, he didn’t.
I got a call from his boss. Usher had been taken to hospital having suffered a massive heart attack. Although I didn’t want to, I went to the hospital and when I got there, I was told he wouldn’t last the night. He didn’t. After the calls to the Chevra Kadisha, the funeral home and the rabbi of our shul, I went home not feeling anything. I had the flu so I went to bed after taking medication to help me sleep. In the morning, I called my mother and told her to prepare for the funeral and to make calls to all those she wanted there for the service. I was not sad or sorry for myself, just happy Usher was no longer a part of my life, yet sorry it was at the expense of his own. Everyone was impressed at my stoic demeanor at the funeral and lauded my strength and bravery at facing life without Usher. Little did they know that I had wished him away.
My flu turned out to be a pregnancy I did not want and wasn’t prepared for mentally or emotionally. My mother was thrilled that although she lost a son-in-law, she was gaining a grandchild and admonished me for not seeing this as a blessing, a gift Usher left for me, a child that would care for me in my old age. I told her I thought she had finally lost her mind and that the only gift I want is to be free of both the father and the child. G-d had other plans I suppose, because those were the most horrible nine months of my life. My mother watched me like a hawk so this child would at least have the chance to be born. Then, after an endless nightmarish labor of nearly eighteen hours, it was decided I should have a C-section to bring this wretched, unwanted creature into this world – as if the preceding nine months of misery were not enough.
Mrs. Bluth, then, when I least expected it, something really strange happened. They placed this soft, squirming little body on my chest and I felt, for the very first time in my life, true love. Tears welled up in my heart and in my eyes and I wept for this little tiny baby I hadn’t wanted just a mere few hours before. Somewhere deep inside of me was born a multitude of emotions that all rose together to make me want to hold and protect this baby, my baby, because it was the two of us against a sad, cruel and uncertain world.
When I came home from the hospital, there was no one to help me those first days. My mother came by with some food and diapers for the baby and to ask me what I wanted to do about the bris, I told her to call the rabbi to arrange for the mohel to come and also to guide me through the process. It was at this time I started experiencing terrible headaches which kept me in misery during the day and up during the night. My mother heaped every kind of anxiety on me, with what I should name the baby (she wanted a name after her father, whom I hated because he always hit me) and tormented me about losing the weight I gained during my pregnancy.
I named the baby after my feelings, Chaval Chaim, a lamentation of life with little hope for a better future. My headaches got worse, so much so that if it weren’t for one caring neighbor who took pity on me, I don’t think the baby would have survived. She would come over at night to feed him and change him when she heard him crying and stayed most of the day because I couldn’t get out of bed. The headaches stopped in intensity after a while, but a dark feeling settled in that offered me no peace. I began to think that maybe I’d, be better off without the baby and he’d be better off without me. I began hearing voices telling me to run away and leave him, or to just take all the pills the doctors gave me and not wake up. Someone would surely find him wailing in his little bed and care for him when they saw that I was gone.
One day the neighbor came in just as I was about to cover his little face with a pillow, which she grabbed away from me and tackled me to the floor where I lay in her arms weeping. She told me I must see a doctor because I was a danger to both myself and my son.
What I need to know is why all this has happened and if I am, indeed going mad. I feel so alone. If it wouldn’t be for that wonderful little old neighbor who offers me comfort and cares about both of us, I might end up in an institution or worse. There are moments where I feel such love for my son and can’t imagine harming him and then, there are the black and terrible thoughts that invade my mind and the voices that encourage me to do the unthinkable.
As I write this to you, I realize that I need help, please tell me where to go and why this has happened to me.
I read and reread your letter and was left with chills at the degree of your suffering. Please listen; you desperately need physical and emotional help immediately! Since I do not know most of the important details that have led up to you present state, other then the ones in your letter, your mental health is a primary issue here and your physical health runs a close second.
From what you have described, I believe you have been in a depressed state well before you married, having lived a childhood without maternal love or affection, that lent itself to your inability to love or care for your husband and your child. What one has never experienced or had, one has no way of giving to another. There may also be an issue of post-partum depression that only exacerbates your pre-existing state of depression and indicates a hormonal imbalance that may well need medical attention.
To make a medical determination from the contents of your letter would be nothing short of criminal, so I advise you to seek immediate medical attention for both your physical and mental state. It may very well be treatable, as one affliction is often remedied by treating another of your ailments. Don’t waste another moment; just get to a doctor as soon as humanly possible. Ask you good-hearted neighbor to watch the baby and continue to be supportive to you as you seek the medical attention that may be both curative and life-saving. But do it NOW.
I am happy to report that we were able to put our letter-writer in touch with two doctors who are treating her and an organization that supplies her physical needs, food, clothing and emotional support, as well as escort service to and from doctor’s visits.
She is slowly improving and each day is a day that sees her getting closer to being able to live a functional, productive life that includes caring for her child. To be sure, there is a long road ahead before this becomes a reality, however, when you give thought to what might have been had not all these wonderful, caring and loving people availed themselves to help, there may well have been a sorrier, sadder, and less hopeful ending to report.