MAILBAG: I Suffer From Mental Illness. Your Gossip Is Devastating

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a 22-year-old woman, born and raised in Lakewood. By all outward appearances, I am just an ordinary girl, perhaps even extraordinary. I consider myself intelligent, attractive, and hardworking. I have a wonderful family, amazing parents, and a supportive circle of friends. I’m not in the shidduchim process yet; when people inquire, I simply hand them my resume or say I’m “busy.” You see, I have a secret, although it isn’t much of a secret to those close to me. I live with mental illness, and I have for the past ten years.

Living in Lakewood, certain topics remain taboo, and mental illness is one of them. Despite this, my family and friends are aware of my struggles. Over the years, I’ve experienced extreme lows and, thankfully, some high points too. Recently, with the support of Hashem, my dedicated medical team, and my incredible support network, I’ve been doing quite well, although the journey has been anything but smooth.

From a young age, my dream was to become a mother. I imagined myself pushing a triple stroller, spending my days at the park with my children. However, as my mental health challenges became more apparent, I lost hope of ever fulfilling that dream. The thought of holding my own child seemed to drift further and further away.

In recent months, a faint glimmer of hope has emerged. I’ve been working towards achieving stability, nurturing the possibility of starting my own family. But my fears linger—what if I can’t handle it? What if it becomes too much? Unlike a friend’s baby that I can “return” after babysitting, my own child would be a lifelong commitment.

Yesterday, a horrific tragedy unfolded in my hometown of Lakewood—two innocent lives were lost. By now, the devastating details are well-known, but I want to shift the conversation to an aspect that many might not have considered.

This morning, when I checked my phone, I felt attacked. The hurtful comments came not only from the media but also from people close to me. Their words, often used carelessly, struck me deeply.

“She was mentally ill; she should never have had children.”
(I’m mentally ill; is this what people think of me?)

“She was doing well and then had a psychotic episode.”
(I’m doing well—could this happen to me?)

“THIS IS NOT YOU. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO HER. SHE WAS CRAZY! And you’re normal…”
(No, she wasn’t crazy. Just as I am not entirely ‘normal’.)

“She was mentally disturbed, you’re not.”
(Am I not?)

“She was just manic.”
(I was manic yesterday…)

And on it went. The barrage of comments overwhelmed me. I turned off my phone, fled my room, feeling besieged by the words that echoed in my mind. Some of the terms were inaccurate or taken out of context, but that didn’t lessen the impact. Logically, I know this was an isolated incident and unlikely to happen to me, but emotionally, I’m still reeling, unable to find clarity.

Today, I avoided spending time with a friend’s child, fearing I couldn’t trust myself.

I’m begging you, please, stop!

Gossip is something beyond my control, but I can bring this to your attention. Please, don’t use words you don’t fully understand, especially concerning an illness you know little about and that remains stigmatized and undiscussed. Your words can do more than hurt someone; they can devastate lives. In our community, where mental health struggles are often hidden, we must speak as if anyone might be affected.

By continuing to speak carelessly, we risk ruining marriages, diminishing the chances of children being born, and causing mothers to doubt their abilities, potentially leading to breakdowns. For myself, I can say such words strip away the hope and drive to keep fighting.

Please be mindful of what you say. Your words hold more power than you might realize.

Signed,

Esti

The view expressed in this letter do not necessarily represent those of Lakewood Alerts. Have an opinion you would like to share? Send it to us for review at Info@LakewoodAlerts.com

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing this!
    I am a married woman, is early pregnancy with my 1st child at the age of 29.
    I also struggle with mental health challenges and it took me many years to get to this point.
    I cannot tell you how excited I am to finally be a mother, for I too have been dreaming of raising a family since I was a little girl.
    Please don’t doubt yourself or your growth!!!
    Take things day by day. First comes marriage and babies and toddlers and teenagers aren’t born in 1 minute.
    As you become more healthy and continue working on yourself, you will be able to withstand all that comes your way.
    If Rabbanim recommend you don’t have children, then that’s completely different.
    Follow Daas Torah, follow your dreams and stay in therapy 🙂
    You will get there !

  2. Esti! you definitely should ignore all the comments people are just trying to find closure and trying to find the reason why this happened nobody understands exactly what happened nobody knows what happened no one will know what happened the bottom line is you stay strong the fact that you have such awareness shows a lot about you! continue doing what you’re doing follow medical and Rabbi guidance and you’ll be perfectly fine iyh you will get married to a very supportive husband and have many health and happy children!
    Hashem has his plans just keep trusting them!

  3. A very important letter indeed! Working with struggling people in a Yeshiva setting, because of the stigma the student can’t be open and honest with his teachers about his situation, thereby causing himself damage, from the teachers not understanding him and giving him his emotional support and just the space he needs. This letter brings out very clearly, that the person going through mental illness looks like everyone else, believing them when they open up a drop , that there is a bigger picture and be very careful how you interact with them. You are not their mental health professional and that isn’t your position in the overall picture, but give them space and understanding

    A teacher that tries to understand the student

  4. Esti,

    I for one will daven for you. I don’t need your full name. Hashem will know who I am referring to when I say Esti from Lakewood. Just continue to keep doing what you are doing and IYH you will continue to be the great girl you already are.

    Esti, don’t allow what others say or feel to become any type of a reality or accusation. We live in a beautiful world and part of our wonderful world is a persons ability to express themselves. I am so sure that not one of the comments you read or heard came from anyone who is mean or bad. Different people feel a need to express themselves differently. Different people handle tragedy differently. Everyone has to work through this unfathomable tragedy as best they can. Nobody is insensitive or mean. Everyone is just hurting.

    In a perfect world nobody would ever speak loshon Hora. Unfortunately it is not a perfect world and people say things. They are allowed to express themselves and certainly they should be sensitive to the best of their ability, but their words, their comments, their thoughts all have nothing to do with you. They are not speaking to you. They are just sharing how they feel and that is ok.

    I do feel bad that you find these things hurtful or if it makes you wonder about yourself. If that is happening then address it with those who you trust and turn to for advice. Don’t try to shut down everyone else because it is impossible to do. You cannot control what others say and do but you can control how you react and deal with it.

    I dont know you but I’m sure you are doing great and IYH will continue on the beautiful path you are on. We can’t change the world but we can take care of ourselves. I, like you, also have my personal things to deal with. Hashem gave us all our challenges but he also gave us all the tools to overcome them.

  5. Dear Esti,
    You seem like a very brave woman and very in touch with yourself, one who is constantly working hard to get to the milestones you have reached so far and will beH continue to reach. Stay strong! You are on the right road. We all have struggles on many different levels. It’s amazing that you have a circle of support who know and understand your struggles. Keep up what you are doing, Stay away from negativity and try not to read or listen to anything that can be a trigger (and there is a lot out there that can). However, if you do hear or read something that is a trigger try to use your strength to understand that people will alway say and do things that may be insensitive – mostly not even realizing it and that it has nothing to do with you! You are you, with a unique package that Hashem has give you (just as He has given each and every one of us a unique package). Because we each have a unique package, it’s impossible to compare what happens to one person, to another person. Esti, keep in mind – which I’m sure you do, that when Hashem created us, each with a very indavidualized package, He included the tools that we need to develop our potentials. Sometimes, the tools are easy to find and easy to use, but sometimes we have to dig deep inside ourselves to find the tools we are looking to utilize and to put them into action – and this can be very hard – but the tools are there! Keep strong Esti and thank you for bringing this to the attention of all the readers and posters.

  6. I feel very strongly that the details in this particular case should not be considered private- the act has made this horrific tragedy a public tradgedy a very public one. One thst effects every single one of us. . It is very possible that there were circumstances here that would help everyone understand this better- and would make others struggling with mental illness more comfortable in the knowledge that no, this cannot easily happen to them. And would make those considering shidduchim etc with an individual with mental illness understand what can be done to avoid this. If there were factors here that contributed- examples would be doing so well so she stopped medication, thought she didn’t need her meds for a few days so skipped doses, was just started on a new med and her husband went out of the town so there was no one to help her monitor herself while she regulated etc. they should be shared. Keeping part of this shrouded in secrecy is only contributing to the stigma, and fear that this could have happened to anyone.

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