Pesach (Passover) is a holiday of redemption and freedom. As we sit around the Seder table we actively remember the trials and tribulations of our nation as they were slaves in Egypt. We imagine the suffering, the fear, and the feelings of helplessness, as well as the hope for the future. Moshe Rabbeinu led our ancestors out of Egypt and it is our duty to recall the salvation that HaShem (God) provided us.
This time of year additionally conjures up memories of my own salvation. Five years ago I left inpatient treatment on Erev Pesach to return home and then spend the holiday with my family. Though one should not consider treatment my personal Egypt, one can argue that my emergence from 24-hour care was akin to Am Yisroel embarking toward the desert; I was being tested for the first time, guided by what I had learned during my process in treatment.
This holiday represents reflection and appreciation. Not only was my discharge from treatment on Erev Pesach, but the holiday itself holds great meaning with regard to my eating disorder. When an individual suffers from an eating disorder, s/he is trapped and controlled by the master, or unhealthy voice in her/his head. One is a slave, answering to the whim of the demonic nature of the eating disorder, trapped by the endless thoughts. One day with an eating disorder can feel like a lifetime, one month can feel like an eternity.
I had been stuck in “Egypt,” laboring at the commands of my Anorexia, experiencing the bruises, the depression, and loneliness. It was almost impossible for me to imagine a place beyond the torture of my mind, the illness that had encompassed me. And yet I had various “leaders” telling me that there was a place beyond my suffering. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, my treatment team, and my peers all encouraged me that a place of salvation did in fact exist. But arriving there would not happen by accident; I would need to push myself; to rearrange my mind and to learn acceptance, among other things. After years of suffering I was able to emerge from my Egypt and experience the light of a new day, of a new me.
As Pesach approaches I encourage you to reflect on our suffering as a nation as well as individual suffering — in whatever form that may take. Appreciate. Accept. And know that if you are currently still in Egypt, that there is hope.