My husband and I try to take the subway together at least a few mornings each week. While doing so, we have been learning Hilchot Kriat Shema according to the Rambam. I was reminded this week of the importance of Shema as it reminds us, multiple times a day, of the Exodus from Egypt. In fact, as a teenager I used a highlighter to mark one of the portions in Shema that mentions yetziat Mitzrayim so that I could focus on this formidable act of God that so greatly impacted our nation.
Tomorrow, April 3, will be my first wedding anniversary with Shachar. It baffles me that it was only a year ago—and also that it has been this long. I’ve always been told that the first year is the hardest, and it is incredible to me that it flew by and that we went through a full spectrum of emotions and events, and to this day continue to grow as individuals and in our relationship together. I would be remiss not to mention how immensely blessed I feel.
I was reflecting on this tonight as I spoke to my mother and grandmother about how we would be celebrating the anniversary, and remembering my own journey within not only the past year, but the past eight years, since my eating disorder. I left my stay at residential treatment three days before Pesach; I was horribly depressed, ambivalent about my hope and motivation, and feeling that I needed more time in treatment. While my memories are foggy from that year, I’ll never forget that Pesach. I had supplement drinks for almost all my meals, I holed away alone in my room, and overheard my nephew constantly ask “why Tia cries all the time.” I remember that my niece was a baby and she giggled at me, bringing in some light to a very dark place. I remember laughing for the first time in months listening to my brother do movie impressions. I remember wondering if I’d ever recover, ever go back to the person I was before, ever lift the foggy veil that covered my mind and soul.
I am so grateful that this eventually did happen. That with the help of my family and friends, treatment and Ferdie (my pup), religion and hope—I ultimately fully recovered. Even writing out those words, I recall the person I was at that time and for years that followed; she never would have believed that I would now be an eating disorder therapist and writer on the subject. She was a shadow of a person, fearful and in pain. She needed to learn to mourn and let go and appreciate all the adventures that life has to offer, rather than cower due to its dangers. And that young woman is still me. I’m still prone to the same difficult emotions (though without any impulses toward eating disorder/maladaptive behaviors), but I’ve learned to cope and use my support network and adaptive coping mechanisms to manage.
I mention this, in juxtaposition to the Rambam and Shema, to highlight the importance of gratitude and reflection as building blocks in the foundation not only of a nation, but of my experience as a human.
As I type we are preparing for Pesach, the time of exodus. This theme of liberation is one that should not simply be thought about during the Sedarim or over the eight days of the holiday. Rather, as the Rambam writes, we must think about this more than once per day. So too, I think about my gratitude toward Hashem for all that I am, and especially for my personal liberation from my eating disorder. I also think of all the individuals who came together to support me through this process—those who raised me up at the time, and those who have come into my life since. And of course I am grateful that I was able to push myself to this point. Not only out of the darkness, but into the various hues that now decorate my life.
This gratitude and reflection does not ignore any current hardships. Rather, it allows me to put into perspective and to draw on previous strengths as well as support, hope and understanding. As we greet Pesach 5777, let us remember to think about God’s liberation of our nation not only this time of year, and to use this is a point of learning and growth within our own lives.
Happy Anniversary, Shachar!
By Temimah Zucker, LMSW
Temimah Zucker, LMSW, is an eating disorder therapist working at Monte Nido Manhattan and will soon be seeing private clients in Manhattan. After recovering from her own struggle with anorexia nervosa she immersed herself in the field of eating disorders as a therapist, writer, meal mentor, speaker and activist. She can be reached at [email protected]