depression

Marking My Recovery in the Mikveh

Courtesy of Mayyim Hayyim

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.

I went into the gorgeous room with beautiful tiles. I stepped down the stairs and felt the warmth of the water. I gave myself a moment and then immersed in the mikveh for the first time. I said a traditional prayer and then immersed a second and then third time, after which I said the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for sustaining me and enabling me to reach this day. I then allowed the water to cleanse me, not my physical body, but my mind and my heart.

READ: How a Trip to the Mikveh Helped Me Face My Pregnancy Fears

I said some private prayers and began to cry. I focused on my current health and all I have been through over the past year. I was overcome with tears as I recalled when the depression began, my two hospital stays, starting ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), seeing my therapist, and most recently the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) group I joined. There were so many parts and people involved in my recovery, including myself. My strength brought me to this point, whether I knew it or not. As the water surrounded me with warmth and comfort, I closed my eyes and let the water cover me. I felt protected and whole. It was a wonderful feeling, a feeling I did not want to lose.

I went to the mikveh not as a religious experience, but as a healing and spiritual cleansing. I met with my rabbi (who’s also my friend) last month to talk a bit about my experience with depression over the past year. I would soon be finishing my ECT treatments and I was looking for some closure, some way to mark the completion of this medical treatment.

READ: It’s Time to Fight the Stigma of Mental Illness

She offered the mikveh to help me heal, move on and continue my recovery. It seemed so logical! I had only been to the mikveh once before, prior to my wedding, and found it to be an amazing experience. My excitement to get married coupled with the spiritual experience made an impression on me. I truly felt as if the warm water purified me and readied me as I was entering a new chapter in my life.

I grabbed on to this idea and knew it would help me as I try to find ways to process all I have endured. The memory problems I have experienced as a result of the ECT seem like a small price to pay for my health. The terror I felt prior to my first treatment will always be with me, and while it is still a very uncomfortable feeling–bringing up sadness and a fear unlike anything I could try to describe–I know I am healing.

READ: Whirling Together out of the Darkness

I remained immersed in the warm, cleansing water for a few more minutes. As I departed the water and walked up the stairs, the cool air was a shock to my body. I grabbed my towel and went to take a shower. I felt warm inside and content.

As I walked out the door to my car, I said these words aloud: I can leave the ECT here. That chapter is done. I can continue my healing but leave this treatment behind. I am thankful for this closure, and I am thankful for my improving health. I plan to return to the mikveh to mark more milestones in my recovery.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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