HaDassah Sabo Milner

How Are You Still Sane?

I am asked that question by many people here in New York, knowing that I have family in Israel, and sons in the army. If it were them they think they’d be a constant quivering wreck. I usually respond with “today’s a good day” or “I heard from the kids and they’re fine.”

After October 7, and after two of my sons immediately got called back to the army, I expected my mental health to take a nosedive. It would be understandable for any of us.

It’s been three months of continuous trauma for us all, and constant worry for our soldiers and the hostages, and, somehow, I’m coping. Even I am surprised that I’m not in bed huddled in the fetal position 24/7. The first few weeks I was a wreck, as we all were, but you can’t live life in a constant state of hyper-awareness. 

Being a mom of soldiers fighting a war, sitting 6000 miles away, my anxiety is through the roof…when I don’t try to rein it in. I clutch my phone at all times like it’s a lifeline, an umbilical cord tethering me to my sons once more. The pride I feel in my warriors is immeasurable even if I don’t know exactly what they’re doing (and that’s probably better for all concerned). A simple text from them leaves me aglow, even if it is just a heart emoji.

I’ve learned to compartmentalize. Somehow I’m able to focus on work for 8 hours a day, and be a valued member of our team. I’ve taken up swimming – something that I’m doing for me. I am trying not to feel guilty when I do something for myself. It’s not easy when guilt is one of my default emotions.

We have to live life. We have to carry on and show the world that we are strong. I can’t fall apart – I can’t distract my soldiers from their war duties. They don’t need to be worrying about their mother. They come first. 

I’ve often said that I rarely stand up for myself, but when it comes to my boys, watch out! Mama Bear is ever present. But now, this Mama Bear has to step back, because I can’t protect my soldiers – they’re busy protecting Israel. So I have to be fierce for myself, give myself the strength and support that I give my children.

I am blessed to have a husband who gets it – his strength gives me strength.

Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is perfect. I’m not sleeping. I’m anxious much of the time. Life is not amazing right now, but I’m trying to focus on what I can control, and not let myself get carried away with the what-ifs. As a dyed-in-the-wool catastrophizer that’s been a hard lesson to learn.

I think about the hostages all the time, and I pray for their safe return. Our soldiers are fighting a holy battle – I pray each and every one of them comes home safely.

Life is challenging right now but we have to live in each moment. This war will end, and we will dance again.

About the Author
HaDassah Sabo Milner is a Welsh Jew who lives in Monsey NY. She is a writer and a blogger and a lifelong foodie, and works in the local court's system. She's married with four sons who provide her with much fodder for her writing projects. HaDassah's oldest son made aliyah in Aug 2013, and her second son joined him in July 2014. Son #3 made Aliyah in August 2016 .Son #4 is a volunteer EMT and an entrepreneur and has no plans currently for aliyah.