I had always been way too mature and intelligent for my age. I was the kind of kid who would stump the teachers with the difficult questions, the one who effortlessly mastered all subjects and always had her nose in a book. For as long as I can remember I always felt out of place with my surroundings, but I buried these feelings, covered under a façade of fake confidence.
That changed when I was around twelve-years-old. I was having a particularly hard year at school due to a bad relationship with a teacher who constantly belittled and punished me for no particular reason. My feelings of being out-of-place intensified to the point where I could no longer ignore it. I started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, not sure why I was alive or what for. I began asking question like ‘who is God’ or ‘why was the world created.’ What I received in response were raised eyebrows and the pitying ‘she’s gonna be OTD one day’ look- in the best case scenario. I never received any answers for my questions, and so I reached the logical conclusion to my twelve-year-old mind; God simply does not exist.
I went for around two years with that belief, until that too was not enough anymore. If God does not exist, who had first created this myth? Who had written the Torah? And if the Torah was completely false and there was no God, was there an objective moral code? Or could we all do as we pleased?
I realized that I would need to investigate a bit further before deciding whether or not I believed in God and Judaism. And this is where my life truly began- and ended.
Once I began really exploring religion, I just could not get enough of it. My spiritual cravings from all these years suddenly poured forward, and I spent hours every day trying to quench my thirst for truth. With time I came to know a God of mercy and kindness, One who loved me unconditionally and wanted a relationship with me. I could not believe what I had been missing all along, and I dove into it headfirst.
But the closer I grew to God, the greater the dichotomy grew between my personal beliefs and what I was seeing around me. And so I started speaking out, expressing my opinions and beliefs. It was not appreciated. More than once was I threatened with expulsion from school, told to keep my head down… or else. I was acutely aware of the mocking stares, the hushed whispers as I got into yet another theological debate with my teachers. I started feeling judged and mocked wherever I went. This soon developed into my having severe social anxiety, to the point where just stepping out of the house was an ordeal. I stopped talking with most of my friends. Soon enough, aside for God, I was completely alone.
Unsurprisingly, I fell into a deep depression. I would lay in bed crying for hours, begging God to send me just one person who understands. But He wasn’t responding, and after a while I just stopped looking for a friend. Perhaps other people were all right. I was just messed up, and I would never truly be happy. I knew I had God on my side, but was that enough? Fighting for God and fighting for truth had gotten me nothing but trouble, but I still could not bring myself to give up the fight. I loved God more than any human being, and I would defend Him to the very end, even if it meant losing everyone else. I tried to find solace in Him, to find comfort in my misery.
But the mocking just kept getting worse, and eventually I started getting tired of fighting.
I was sixteen when I self-harmed for the first time.
By the time I was seventeen, I was seriously suicidal, had developed a bad drinking problem, and was self-harming on a daily basis. And yet, I still could not bring myself to give up the fight. I would not, could not, live a life which is not true to me. I’d sooner kill myself.
Once again, I begged God to send me someone who understands, someone to save me from myself.
And that was when I found Jew in the City’s Makom.
In Makom, I found not just one, but dozens of people who understood, people who not only did not mock me but were actually interested in what I had to say. These were people who did not think that I was crazy, that I was a failure. Seeing the success stories, I realized that perhaps, just perhaps, there might be hope for me too.
I realized that I too deserved life- not only physical breathing but actually living, living my truth. I deserved to serve God in my own way, to choose my own path even if it was different from the one my parents had chosen.
And I deserved to get better.
With the help of a supportive friend, I finally came clean with my parents. I told them about my declining mental health, showed them the scars. I met my therapist a day later.
No, I won’t say that my life suddenly flipped around and became all roses and cherries. The hardships are still there, but knowing that I am not alone and there are other people like me who care gives me the strength every day to keep on fighting, the desire to want to recover. It is now a few months later and I am proud to say that I have not had a lick of alcohol in two months, the suicidal thoughts are all but gone, and I am slowly on my way to recovery.
I would not at all be exaggerating to say that I own my life to Jew in the City’s Makom. I will never be able to repay you for all that you have done and continue to do, and I am eternally grateful to this amazing organization.
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