Recap: Michal and her father go to the Rov for advice
Michal told the Rav (Rabbi) what had happened. She pointed out again that the precise situation was unknown, that Elchanan’s decline after the terrorist attack was a one-time incident that didn’t reflect on his general situation, even according to the psychiatrist.
Abba’s eyes conveyed great indecision.
“And what about the aspect of heredity?” Michal asked the Rav.
“This, too, can be checked nowadays,” he replied. “But, again, the decision is yours alone.”
Michal already understood that everyone wanted to help her, but no one could choose in her place.
“I want to present another point for consideration,” the Rav said before they left. “The absence of a recognized mental illness does not necessarily indicate the presence of mental health. That’s a statement I have seen proven again and again in couples and individuals who come to me.”
“He, too, sent her to ‘do her homework.’”
Michal went home and “did her homework.” Her first stop was Ezer Mizion. Her tears flowed as a caring professional listened to her story, one hand stroking the kallah’s (bride’s) hand with motherly love. She had much to say and much helpful material to pass on to the distraught young bride. Michal read a lot of material on mental illnesses, particularly about depression and anxiety on various, assorted levels. She was in constant contact with Ezer Mizion every step of the way.
She learned that mental illnesses are not very different from physical illnesses, except for the things that are very different about them…
She also learned that, today, there is a range of treatments that help people deal with problematic mental states, and that people who are considered absolutely healthy in the public eye, and perhaps even more stable than others, are liable to be “pill takers.”
She spoke to a psychiatrist. “You need to understand one thing. People may undergo a trauma that will trigger an eruption of a psychiatric problem – depression, anxiety, and such. Some people need just one tiny match to set it off; others – need gallons of kerosene… But, in the end, there are many who slip. True, in cases of bigger, more serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and manic-depression, there is a higher chance of a similar brain structure, but the case we are discussing now doesn’t look like that.”
Michal was a diligent student. She understood the meaning of what she was hearing.
“You need to continue doing your homework and to make an informed decision,” said the doctor, looking into her eyes. “I understand you. It’s not simple at all, but you should know that mental illness is terrifying, as if we’re talking about a leper. Even a visit to a psychologist is considered a deep, dark, secret. It shouldn’t be like that. Times have changed. The world of pharmacology has advanced unrecognizably.
“Drug treatment can provide a complete solution and give the patient a healthy, excellent life, if he takes his medications regularly,” the psychiatrist promised. “As for heredity, in the case that you are bringing to me, studies show that the fewer the number of patients in the family, the smaller the chances that the illness will be hereditary. In my opinion, what determines whether your children will be strong or not strong depends a lot… on you! On what you give them, in the strength that you transmit, in what will be their environment, in what life brings to their doorstep…” Again, it comes back to her. Again, they’re placing such great and critical responsibility on her narrow shoulders. True, it’s a big compliment, but …
To be continued