July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

(I’m biting my tongue here since this is where my kids would say, “it’s called a chanukiah!”)

Personally the holiday of Chanukah has always represented optimism, hope and second chances. The reason why we light the menorah, is to remind us of the miracle that the oil that the Maccabim found was only supposed to last one day, but it instead lasted for eight. Obviously at the time of the miracle they had no idea it would last for more than one day, let alone eight!

Living with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, it is oftentimes hard to see the light when your brain is covered with darkness. Over the years I have been to many leading therapists, psychiatrists, inpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, outpatient therapy, individual therapy, group therapy and support groups. I have also completed many kinds of therapies and treatments such as DBT, CBT, EMDR, ECT, Ketamine infusions, TMS; the list goes on and on. (I have no idea how myself or anyone else keeps track of what all of these abbreviations stand for.)

Recently, while attending a consultation for a new form of treatment, I had to fill out the same forms that I feel like I’ve filled out hundreds of times. One of the pages has you list specific medications you have been on in the past that have been ineffective. Having been on psychiatric medications to attempt to control my depression and anxiety for almost half of my life, I knew it would be a long list. For the first time in my life, I actually counted how many medications and combinations I’ve tried. The number equaled 36, which in Judaism is two times chai, meaning double life. I know throughout this difficult journey I’ve been given many second chances, but for it to equal exactly 36? That’s no coincidence.

This made me think of the holiday of Chanukah. We light a total of 44 candles. If you take away the total number of candles used as the shamash throughout the holiday, it’s 36. The shamash candle is used to light the other candles or is often referred to as “the helper candle.” I’ve been very lucky throughout the years to have support throughout these treatments for both myself and my family. I would like to thank everyone who was in the past or is presently one of our “shamash candles.” It’s definitely easier to endure this with the extra help. I also wanted to let others know that it’s not just okay to ask for help, it reflects your own individual strength and makes your day-to-day life even a little bit easier to handle.

Right before we lit Shabbat Chanukah candles last week, I was given a new medication regimen from my team to work in tandem with the other treatment I’m currently receiving. It took a lot of thought and debate on both mine and my doctor’s part, but we finally came up with something. That’s what inspired me to make my “medication menorah.” Yes, I’ve been through a lot of different treatments, therapies and medications, yet they represent the difficult journey I’ve been on, and the light that has been brought into my life, no matter how minor. It helps give me the strength to get through the day, and put a smile on my face.

With many of the medications and treatments I have tried, I’ve been subjected to many hard to handle physical and emotional side effects. But I’m always willing to try something new so that at least I know I am trying everything possible to get my life back. Giving up is not an option. Taking my medications every day at the properly designated times is my way of adding light and continuing to fight every day. This isn’t the solution for everyone, but this is my menorah representing the majority of my adult life, and that’s all right with me. I want to live knowing that I do everything in my power to make living with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety tolerable.

By Shelli Sussman

 

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