Submitted by a Survivor.
It’s selichos night. Last year I went to shul on selichos night and was overcome with an enormous amount of guilt and pain over my life, that I needed to leave shul right away. This year I’m not even attempting to go. I don’t have the strength for it.
Selichos night means that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are coming up. It means that the day of judgement is coming. It’s so scary for me. It’s all so triggering for me. It triggers and magnifies my already tremendous amount of guilt and shame that I live with each and every day.
To me, Elul and Rosh Hashanah are such scary and serious days. That’s the way it was taught to me. Religion in general was given over to me with tremendous seriousness and strictness. There was no room for error. There wad no such thing as making a mistake. It’s a strict and rigid religion and if I dare deviate ever so slightly from it’s very strict laws, I will be severely punished.
I now know, after a tremendous amount of work, that this is all wrong. Yiddeshkeit is a beautiful religion in which the ultimate goal is to develop an intimate and close connection to Hashem. However, being that I was brainwashed so much for so long, I feel so much guilt and still feel that sense of utter dread over the upcoming Yomim Tovim. It’s all so so triggering for me and I therefore am not able to go to shul tonight. I don’t have the strength to fight my enormous inner critic that will wash over me if I go to shul.
I just heard my neighbor leaving his house to shul and I’m here all alone. I’m here alone battling the after shocks of years and years of trauma and abuse. I’m too tired to leave and go to shul and get all triggered.
Hashem, I feel so much guilt. I feel so full of shame over my life. What can I show you? What can I be proud of? What can I give you to earn another year of life?
I didn’t learn this year because learning is too traumatic for me. I barely went to shul this year because going to shul triggers me really bad and I don’t have the strength for extra triggers. Even at home I didn’t daven much. I talk and write to You all the time, as I feel so close to You, but the actual davening is so hard for me to say. There are so many other mitzvos that I’m not able to keep fully because they are too traumatic for me.
So I ask You Hashem, to please listen to my own version of selichos now. It’s coming from a broken place in my broken heart.
Hashem, You know that I didn’t have an easy year. I had many many ups and downs and perhaps more downs than ups in my journey of healing. I’ve had thousands upon thousands of triggers and flashbacks this year.
While Yes, I had days in which I was doing well and felt like I’m finally nearing the end of my journey, You and I know that those days were few and far between. Most of my days were filled with deep sadness and a vast feeling of emptiness. Feeling as though I’ll never creep out of this darkness.
I was challenged this year with enormous challenges which threatened to shake and destroy my entire core. My very essence was threatened time and time again. I don’t need to go into detail with You because You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Then came the challenge of a close family member with an extremely serious illness. When that challenge hit, I thought my life would be over, but I’m still around and fighting. Yes every day is a battle. Every day is a fight to not give in to the temptations of surrendering and giving up. It’s so much easier to give up. It’s so much easier to end it all and stop fighting. The emotional pain of a victim of emotional, religious and sexual abuse is so much that at times it gets almost unbearable. On top of this all I have experienced new pain of watching a sibling get sicker and sicker every day.
However, with all this, I never gave up. There were hundreds of times that I needed to force myself out of bed in the morning to go to work. There were many many times that I cried my eyes out on the way to work and then did my work with all my remaining strength with full honesty and perfection.
When I came home depleted of my strength and my kids care running to the door, I put up a show and gave them the love and attention that they needed.
So yes I didn’t keep all the “traditional mitzvos” that everyone else kept but there was one mitzvah that I kept to the fullest, which no one else kept.
That is the mitzvah of V’chai Bahem. Who else is challenged with this mitzvah? Who has a hard time keeping this? It’s built in to the human psyche to want to live. But when the emotional pain gets so strong, it can very much threaten the fulfillment of this mitzvah. When there are triggers and flashbacks wherever you turn and there’s nowhere to run away from all the pain of the ptsd of abuse, life almost feels not worth living.
So if I’m still here and am a functional father, husband and business owner, doesn’t that mean that I fulfilled this mitzvah to the fullest. If I continue fighting everyday, despite the extreme feeling of depression and that dark emptiness, isn’t that the biggest thing I can show for myself. If all the commandments get pushed away from the mitzvah of V’chai Bahem that would mean that it’s the greatest and most important mitzvah in the whole Torah.
So dear Father, I come to you with a year full of keeping the greatest mitzvah. I was challenged with so many difficult challenges but I’ve kept this mitzvah despite every reason to go against it. To me, this mitzvah doesn’t only mean just living life, it also means to live a functional life and not stay in bed and cry all day.
Hashem, You know how many times I wanted to just stay in bed and cry all day. You know how much strength it took to get up and go out to work. You know how much strength it took to be a functional, normal and loving father and husband.
I come to you with two huge buckets. One of them is full and one is empty. The full one is the one with all the tears that I’ve shed because of my pain. The empty one is all the tears that I didn’t shed and instead went on with my life.
I ask and beg of You. Take these two buckets and bench me and my family with a beautiful year. A year of true inner piece and tranquility.
I know you are close with the broken hearted among us. I’m truly broken hearted. I ask you and plead with you. Please be with me. I never left You. Please never leave me. Please show me the way. Please make my journey an easy one. I’ve climbed so many uphill battles, please let the rest be an easier and smoother climb with less falls along the way.
All my love, your dear son.