Risa is mommy to a fabulous 5-year-old girl and wife to an amazing husband. She has lived in Boston, New York City, and now lives in Central CT. She has an MSW from Fordham University and a BA from Columbia University. She has written for Huffington Post, Psych Central, Keshet and Stigma Fighters and on her own blog, sillyillymama.blogspot.com
“You don’t look like a patient.”
This was said to me by a nurse who was prepping me for my second electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment when I was in the hospital last summer. At the…time, I did not think about it--as I was focused on my treatment. But since then, I feel agitated by it. What does a patient with mental illness look like? To answer that I simply look in the mirror. People with mental illness look like me, your neighbor, your brother, your best friend. We are… >> Read More
Pajama pants, t-shirts, a gray sweatshirt—I recently had to throw or give away all of these items. Seeing them would conjure up flashes of memories of such fear and pain, I could barely catch my…breath. Thoughts of the hospital and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) are only the jumping off point as my brain processes all I have been through in just the past year. These powerful memories impose themselves not just on my mind, but on my entire body. Headaches, stomachaches, and flowing tears are all part of the experience.… >> Read More
What’s the big deal with preschool, anyway? Adorable 3, 4, and 5-year-olds frolic, play, and learn, but why is there such a big emphasis on it these days? I see it through interactions with other…parents, as we ask each other where we send our preschoolers. I also see it floating through social media with different posts about the importance of what is learned in preschool. I’ll tell you why: Preschool just may be the best form of education offered today. And I even wish some adults, including myself, could… >> Read More
I read the seven kavanot (preparatory meditations). I brushed my teeth and when I took a shower, I concentrated on the water kissing my skin and the wonderful aroma of the body wash. I felt clean and…pure and ready. >> Read More
My husband and I endured 12 months of fertility treatments with a successful IVF in month 13. We considered ourselves lucky and blessed. When the time came to try for another using our frozen…embryos, we endured another year of hormones and tests, but all four transfers were unsuccessful. It’s been a year and a half since that last failed embryo transfer, and I can only now say I do not want another child. >> Read More
Growing up I spent much of my time after school at Hebrew School. I did not enjoy it very much and would try many tactics to get out of it. My favorite was holding a thermometer under my lamp. That…worked very well for me. Because I went to overnight Jewish summer camp and learned quite a bit about Judaism there, I felt bored during the school year in Hebrew School. I have heard many stories from friends about their “Hebrew School torture,”and the one common thread was the lack of creativity in the lessons.… >> Read More
After months of worsening depression and intense psychotherapy, it was an email I sent to my psychiatrist that was the last straw. I simply told her, once again, how lonely I felt and how much pain…I was in. She called and told me it was time to go to the hospital--I had suffered enough. Just a few hours later I was in the Psych ER being evaluated and then admitted. Terrified and emotionally exhausted, I was shown to my room. I don’t remember how I slept that night but when… >> Read More
My 4-year-old daughter participated in her first dance recital yesterday. It came after a full year of classes with her 3 to 5-year-old peers. I admit to feeling a little nervous for her: being on…a stage, the lights, the full audience. She got nervous when I told her I was leaving to go sit with my husband, mother, and mother-in-law. So, I applied more lipstick (yes, I put some make-up on my 4-year-old), fixed her costume, and tried to leave the room. Something occurred to me then: I am… >> Read More
From 7th grade through 8th grade, I was bullied.
In 7th grade, I started at a new school and made friends quickly with a popular group of girls. With wonderful friends and good grades, I thought I…had made it. But just as suddenly as we all became friends, it quickly shifted to “Mean Girls.” It was weeks before my Bat Mitzvah and each girl in our group stopped talking to me, wrote nasty notes to me and would hang up on me when I called. I was left feeling helpless and… >> Read More
I am Iliana’s mom. That is my identity, according to all of her friends.
Am I OK with that? Hell, yeah!
I have heard many times that you lose your identity after having a child, as no one…calls you by your given name. You are just “someone’s mom.” But I don’t understand the issue with that. I know who I am and I am not worried that I will lose that knowledge just because a bunch of 4-year-olds call me something else. If anything, it makes me blush. >> Read More
As a woman, I try to be everything to everyone. As a wife and mother, that becomes magnified times 100. With Passover creeping up a bit too fast for me, I have to become superwoman. At least, that…is what it feels like. While my husband, daughter, and I will only be home for a few days of Passover, I still need to clean. Additionally, our kitchen is being renovated during the week of Passover (good timing!), so there is that added stress. We will be with our family for the seders, but… >> Read More
All parents have wishes of what their children will become and this is mine: I want my daughter to be a rabbi. At the young age of 4, my daughter loves being Jewish. She loves Shabbat, she loves…all the Jewish holidays, and she loves learning about Judaism. She says the Kiddush proudly on Friday nights wearing her kippah. My daughter is lucky to attend preschool at our local JCC and the program is simply amazing. Not only has she made wonderful friends, but my husband and I have, too. She learns about… >> Read More
For a long time I was an anomaly among my friends. Most were married in their 20s and started their families then. I watched and waited as I went through my days of being single. I did some more…waiting and dating while I held babies and changed diapers. This was never easy for me as all I wanted was a partner in life and to have babies of my own. I did not meet my partner in life until I was almost 32 years old. This felt downright elderly in comparison to my… >> Read More
As a social worker, I have always been about combating the stigma of mental illness. As a human being, I have been passionate about it. As someone with an actual diagnosis of depression, it is…always on my mind. Why is there still a stigma? I do not want my daughter to grow up whispering the word, "depression;" I want there to be open conversations where people can talk about illness--any illness--and not feel isolated as a result. When someone talks about controlling his or her diabetes, that is more… >> Read More
It was a day I will never forget. Last week, I was at work when I received a call from my daughter’s preschool. I was told that she is fine but she is saying she is very tired and is lying on the…couch sucking her fingers (her go-to when nervous or tired). I said I would be right over. Since I work next door to the JCC where she attends, it makes it convenient. I went over and sat to talk with her asking if anything hurt. She said “no.” I asked her if she wanted to… >> Read More
Depression and motherhood do not mix. Before I was married I was aware that my offspring could possibly carry the same genetic predisposition that I have for depression. I don’t mean…the “blues” or feeling sad for a couple of days; what I do mean is months of feeling hopeless, helpless, sleeping in excess, and feeling completely alone. Unfortunately for me, I produce a low amount of serotonin which is needed to maintain a cheery outlook, and to just feel balanced. Add some generalized anxiety to… >> Read More
Right now, my father is getting over pneumonia, my mother has bronchitis, and I am annoyed.
When I spoke with my mother on Saturday night, she first asked about my daughter and what we did during…the day, and then I heard, “Oh, so Dad’s in the hospital.” Me: “Um. Why?” Mom: “Well, he has pneumonia and his oxygen level was low.” Following that conversation, I conducted the “routine.” I have to share the news with my two older brothers as I am usually the first to hear any news in… >> Read More
I am part of the sisterhood… you know, the one where women undergo blood tests, injections of numerous hormones, one too many pelvic exams…the fertility treatment sisterhood. That was my life…for 12 months; month #13 was lucky for us, though! We had IVF and implanted one healthy embryo which developed into our daughter. We were thrilled and are so lucky to now be planning for her 4th birthday. This past year, however, was difficult again as we were rolling the dice and hoping one of… >> Read More