I never thought PTSD could be a best option; yet the name inherently implies it’s “post.”
I’m a happy and mostly thriving survivor of PTSD and for two weeks I believed and hoped and prayed that our three kidnapped Israeli boys would be returned. Certainly they would be changed; certainly they would find themselves in the foreign land of PTSD.
PTSD distorts reality; PTSD tints the world in hues of grey; edges are sharp; people seem judgmental, possibly hurtful; and traumatic events replay in a seamless loop.
One aspect of PTSD I have yet to overcome is my inability to hear tragic news without feeling physically crushed; so I avoid the news the way I avoid shaking hands with someone who just sneezed.
When Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal were kidnapped I managed to avoid hearing about their terrifying situation for almost four days. I knew something horrible was going on but I hoped it would be over before I needed to learn what was happening.
It doesn’t mean, G-d forbid, I don’t care; or that I don’t worry; rather I care overly and feel pain I have no right to claim as my own.
And here we were with two 16 year olds kidnapped and a third young man, all of 19, taken with them. I avoided the news until one of my gardening clients expressed such deep grief that I realized whatever was going on hadn’t resolved itself, I needed to step out of my own protected world and expose myself to the real one: a world of pain.
It hit me harder than I expected.
I have two 16 year old boys, they’re twins. I have two 16 year old yeshiva bochurim. I have two 16 year olds born in Israel. I have two 16 year olds holding dual citizenship with the United States. I have two 16 year olds I worry about, two 16 year olds I keep on top of to the point of nearly suffocating them. And my heart breaks for the mommies of all 16 year olds, especially for the mommies of the two murdered 16 year olds.
For two weeks I turned my private prayers into prayers for these three young men.
Normally I give mine a hug and a kiss and quietly thank H’ for blessing me with the wonderful young men who suddenly all look down at me.
For two weeks I hugged them and said, “H’, please, let Naftali’s, Eyal’s and Gil-ad’s mommies hug them again,” “Please, H’, bring them back alive and well.”
When I went to wake mine up in the morning I asked H’ to let their mothers wake them up again, safe in their homes; sleeping the way only men growing a foot in 18 months sleep.
When I felt frustrated or angry with one of them I said, “Please, H’, let our three kidnapped boys come home and let them have normal teenager relationships with their mothers,” “Let them fight over how long they play video games or how often they post status updates on Facebook,” “Let them ignore their mothers when reading a really good book,” “Let them sit at the Shabbas table eating half of a large whole wheat challah and what looks like a quarter of a cow.”
I looked at my life, I looked at my sons and I channeled my love, hope, dreams, frustrations and pleasure towards the return of our kidnapped children.
I realize I was praying for Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali to have PTSD; for me PTSD was the best possible outcome.
One of my boys is going through whatever difficult stage 16 year olds are apt to go through and he up and disappeared after yeshivah during the two weeks we didn’t know where Gill-ad, Naftali and Eyal were.
His twin eventually revealed he went to Jerusalem with friends but not friends from Yeshiva who I could go to the Rosh Yeshivah for help finding. He went without permission and without asking for permission. He went without his phone (having a phone should be a privilege — not a necessity for tracking a child) and it turns out he also went without money to get home.
He knocked on the door at midnight (yes, I locked the door).
How a 16 year old, living in this country, at a time when a child was murdered on the Syrian border a few days before and three strong young men were forcefully taken against their collective wills; how a 16 year old can choose to act out his personal angst, in this particular way, at this time, baffles me but I took all of that potential rage and told myself — anyone of those mothers would be thrilled if their son suddenly appeared at midnight — take it: your son came home.
I literally threw my rage out, I disowned it completely — I refused to give it the smallest space to occupy in my heart or mind. He walked in the door and I sat there, clearly waiting for him. I invited him to get ready for bed and sit and talk with me while he did whatever he needed to do.
He sat and he talked; he accused me of being a control freak; of ruining his life and making him miserable; I let it all fly by — my son was home, alive and well, ranting and raging at me but home.
I did my very best to listen and reflect, to validate his experience, I put my clients and their gardens in a cupboard (because it frustrates me to even think it but staying up, waiting for my dear son, means I won’t wake up at 5 to start gardening before Jerusalem heats up) and I held the three mothers of our stolen sons in my heart and said, “Please dear H’, let their sons come home too.”
As mothers what do we care what our sons do or say as long as they are alive and well. I know statistically they will grow up and possible appreciate us . . . many years from now. I also remember this is the same child who has frankly and repeatedly thanked me for not allowing him to be hefker during episodes of frontal brain cortex activity; he might be furious with me today (and yesterday and probably tomorrow too) but somewhere in there he knows and somewhere in there he feels some safety, some security, some trust.
I saw my three sons together and I hoped my three new sons were together too. I hoped and prayed they had each other. I hoped and prayed they were being fed. I hoped and prayed they hadn’t given up. I hoped and prayed they knew we were tearing apart the country, looking for signs of them under each rock. I hoped they knew people around the world were praying for them. I hoped they could imagine how devastated we were as a nation of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and future brides and future children; we were devastated by their absence.
Each day I rushed to check the news — were they found? Did some flicker of humanity appear and inspire one of their captors to just drop them off somewhere?
I hoped and prayed part of them knew they were safe, no matter what; they were secure, no matter where they might be; I hoped they trusted all of us and most of all I hoped they trusted The Creator of the Universe who suffered with them through every microsecond they were hidden from us.
They are beloved and wanted and needed and appreciated and I simply wanted H’ to give them back.
I kept praying for them, for them and their parents and siblings and families and friends and neighbors and teachers and all of us interconnected Jews.
Beyond my hopes and prayers I was already thinking about after; after they came home.
As a survivor of PTSD I’m overly familiar with what trauma does to us; I’m intimate with the vigilance; with the almost constant reliving of traumatic events. I understand drowning in a never ending black hole of despair and pain; I’m familiar with how trauma sucks you in and leads you to believe there isn’t anything else beyond trauma’s subjective reality.
Miraculously I pulled myself to an invisible edge and discovered a world untainted by trauma.
I didn’t do it alone (no one does) but recovering is possible.
We human beings are created with an infinite ability to heal and survive and live and thrive. (There’s that infinite breath of H’ within each of us.) Especially us Jews. We are personally, gently cradled in the hands of The Master of the Universe and He wants us to live; to fully live in this amazingly beautiful world.
So I curled into myself and cried for you. I know how strong young 16 and 19 year old men are; it must have been unimaginably horrific to find yourselves in a living nightmare.
But I hoped and prayed you would hang in there, as a nation we were coming to the rescue. When we would find you, when we had you back, you would have had any and every tool ready and waiting to help you heal. You would have healed. You could have lived.
We were all just waiting for that knock on the door, announcing you were alive and home.