Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column about the loving, wonderful husband who wants to help his wife who had a stroke. She is displaying signs of depression and feelings of worthlessness, telling him to leave her so that he can “get on with his life,” but he does not want to leave. He wants to continue to live a loving and productive life together with her, but doesn’t see how he can, given her inability to integrate her new body and medical needs into her old life. I was scrolling through Instagram recently and came across a post that immediately reminded me of this letter, it was like it was divinely sent! The website is called Hope Heals, and posts and stories are written by a young woman with two children, who had a stroke at age 26! She is in a wheelchair and, like your reader, needs help with daily living activities. Her outlook is so positive and her attitude of adjusting to fit her new body and new abilities into her existing life is inspiring!
The goal of this website is “…disrupting the myth that joy can only be found in a pain free life.”
The author has also written two books, one where she shares her story and the other where she gives “practical insights for suffering well, and surviving anything by redefining how we think about everything.” I strongly suggest that anyone that is struggling to find their equilibrium within a “new normal” and can use practical advice blended with a bright, positive outlook on everyday life, check out this website. This website is not written by a Jewish woman and as such may have some references to Christianity. But the overall message is one of acceptance, perseverance, and positivity, which is universal and can be tremendously helpful to us all!
Hoping for Healing
Thank you so much for taking the time to write a letter to help this woman in need! I cannot endorse this website as I do not know anything about it, but appreciate your help and advice. Inspiring websites can be very helpful in times of feeling down. Obviously this would be in addition to seeing a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist to help this woman alleviate her depression.
Her feelings of worthlessness and depression likely stem from feeling like she is diminished and a shadow of her former self. Although physically she may not be who she was, these feelings still reflect a distortion of reality as she still has what to offer her children and her husband. Additionally, once her depression subsides, she will hopefully be able to see all of the brachos in her life. She has, baruch Hashem, a husband who clearly loves her and wants to maintain a relationship with her and children who live and depend on her as well. Perhaps her husband can also try and make her feel wanted and desirable by initiating more physical contact, both casual and intimate, and by engaging in playful banter and conversations with her so as to resuscitate their relationship which has been severely impacted by the stroke.
As Herzl famously said, “if you will it, it is not a dream.” If she can just perceive, with a lot of help and guidance, a vision of a loving and productive future – both familial and economic – both for her individually and as a part of her family unit – then she can move forward. However, as noted above, none of this will work if she is severely depressed and she will need to seek professional help in addition to trying these ideas in order to get better emotionally.
It is an axiom of Judaism that there resides in all of us a spark of Hashem, a soul which Hashem has bequeathed us. It is up to all of us, whatever our health, to cultivate that spark and to elevate ourselves to the best of our abilities. To do any less would be to move backwards and to denigrate Hashem’s gift to us and our holy nature. The husband has to impart this idea of his wife’s inherent Godliness and responsibility to move forward to cultivate it. To do any less, to give up and wallow in depression, to destroy her marriage and children would be a tragedy and would not be what Hashem wants.
Hopefully, with a great amount of care and patience, this woman will “see the light” and move forward in her life, despite any continuing or permanent disability.
Thank you again for your ideas and I hope your letter helps this woman get better and make a life for herself!