I can talk to my mom about anything: my crushes, the drama at school, our shared gynecologist and so forth. We are open about our lives and have nothing to hide from each other. So it came as a shock when I told her I was depressed.
I remember that night like it was yesterday –– the bad feelings stuck in my body as my pillow absorbed my bitter tears. When my mom walked into my room, the silence broke. It took her an hour to soften my heart and get me to speak: “I’m depressed. I’m ugly. I have no friends. No one likes me.” I tried to explain my feelings through my child-like tears, the tears only a mom can understand. Despite my huffs and my nauseating cry, my mom understood every word. After mollifying me, a seemingly inconsolable mess, she started looking for therapists who take our insurance.
My mom and I talk about everything. But I never mentioned I was failing a couple of classes halfway through senior year. I never told herI felt like the ugliest girl in school. I never said I needed help. I needed help. I needed help. I wanted my feelings to go away. There was already strain in my parents’ life, and I did not want to plague them with another burden.
To this day, asking my mom for help (for the first time) was the hardest thing I
have ever done. And yet, I am still unsure of what I was afraid of –– why was I
so scared to reach out for the familiar hand I was usually holding anyway?
Unbeknownst to me, that hand could buttress a 109-pound amorphous
puddle of tears while searching for professional help.
Later that week, we sat together on a comfortable couch at a therapist’s office. The situation was anything but comfortable. Not only was I opening up to my mom, who is now crying in front of a stranger, but I was sharing my story with this stranger! A few sessions of uncomfortable sharing became a thing of Freud’s dreams. My mom parted the Red Sea for me to get the help I needed. And she modeled to me that opening up in front of my therapist was a safe thing to do.
Toward the end of senior year, my grades and my self-esteem were rising. My relationships were healthier and my confidence more beautiful. I learned more about myself than I have ever known. My mom and I had never talked about mental health until that night. I was the child who did not know how to ask for help when I needed it. I felt like I was burdening my parents by needing to visit a therapist.
On Passover, we teach our children the story of Exodus. We pass it l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation). My mom passed many lessons and stories down to me, with the most important one about being there to offer support when it is needed. By not judging me that night, she was able to show up for me. By offering comfort and help, my mom taught me a lesson I will pass on to my children. This Passover –– and every Passover that follows –– I will make sure this lesson gets passed down l’dor v’dor.
May Abravanel, a junior psychology student at Oglethorpe University, is spending her spring 2021 semester interning with The Blue Dove Foundation. May is a mental health advocate and believes in the power of sharing stories to eradicate shame and stigma through #QuietingTheSilence.