A survivor’s Shabbos “guests”

Dear neighbor,

I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to shul this Shabbos. I had a very busy Shabbos with many guest at my house. They knocked at my door as soon as Shabbos started and begged me to come for Shabbos. I let them in but didn’t realize how hard they will be. They were so needy and they were all fighting with each other. As soon as one of them was settled down, the other one started yelling. Thank God, Shabbos is over and I sent them all away. It’s going to take me a few days to recuperate from this noisy Shabbos.

In case you’re wondering why you didn’t see any of these guests if you live next door to me. The answer is because they were not physical guests. They are not visible to others but to me they are ever so visible.
They are the guests that are in my brain all week but I don’t have the time to see or notice them that much and although they are there, I’m usually able to manage them. However, on Shabbos when I have no distractions they all come knocking at my door and before I have a chance to allow them in, they are all over the place. They are at my meals, they are in my bed, they are in my dreams, they are there when I wake up and there when I take my afternoon nap. They are there trying to take my attention away from everything I want to do. They rob me of my enjoyment on this day of rest.

They each have their own uniqueness and name to themselves. Sexual abuse victim. Emotional abuse victim. Religious abuse victim. Confused and broken teenager. Anxiety disorder. Depression. Post traumatic stress disorder. Disassociation disorder. Adult new self. compassionate self. They all are at war with each other. This war takes place in my head which is why you don’t see it. But I feel it in every fiber of my being. Each one is fighting and screaming louder than the other one. They are all trying to win and knock the other one out of the battlefield.

How can I run a home and be a functional father and husband all while having this nuclear war going on in my head? The answer is that I do my best. I try to separate my head from the rest of my body. I go through the motions of Shabbos, but my head isn’t there. I disconnect it. My head is in the midst of a war and at the same time it’s watching my body from afar being a father and husband. Making the Shabbos meals. Doing what fathers and husbands are supposed to do.

So my friend, I couldn’t come to shul because I didn’t have the strength to go out of my house. I didn’t have enough power to put on my facade and show up in shul when my head was so not present. I barely had the strength to get the words of kiddish and havdalah out, but that, I needed to do for my family. I laughed along with my wife and kids and listened to all their stories but I just listened with my body because my head wasn’t there.

Shabbos is now over and I’m on my couch trying to recuperate from the battles that went on today. I was injured in this battle and I’m hurting. You won’t see my injuries as they are all internal and the only proof of them are the tears rolling down my cheeks right now. I know that I will still feel it tomorrow and very possibly the next day as well and then a few days after that, another shabbos will be coming.

This is the life that I was given. These are the battles that I was handed. I didn’t choose this life. I didn’t choose to have such an abusive upbringing. I didn’t choose to have the sensitive soul that I have, that made all my trauma so much more damaging. They were all given to me and I’m assuming that Hashem felt that I can overcome this all.

I don’t know how and I don’t know when I’ll get to the top of this very steep mountain but I’m confident that I’ll get there. I’m climbing with all my might. I climb and fall and then climb again. I know that hashem doesn’t measure how high I get on the mountain, He’s measuring how many steps it took to get there. So with each fall I just get more steps on my account because I need to redo my previous climb and get to where I was before I fell.

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