Julie Gray
Featured Post

My chemical romance

On overcoming the stigma of acute depression and managing it as an immigrant in Israel

I take approximately nine pills every day so I won’t up and kill myself.

I wish I were kidding.

A few weeks ago I was so despondent that I became suicidal and I learned a great deal about what we don’t know about mental health care.

I also learned that there is no English-language suicide hotline in Israel. So I learned how to dial emergency services.

I learned that Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan is quite nice and that the psych ward of it is quite a bit less nice.

I learned of Eran, a great emotional crisis center here in Israel that is wonderful, compassionate and thorough but not quickly responsive. I learned that my Maccabi insurance is actually pretty great.

Nine pills a day.

They are blue and white ironically. I get them mixed up. Five in the morning, two in the afternoon, two at night. When I asked what the dark blue pills are for, I was told they were to “help” the white pills. Both make me very sleepy. Although my tolerance is growing, I’m noticing that.

A year and three months ago when I made aliyah, I simply stopped taking my medication. I’d been on it for at least four years already. Eh, why? I reasoned, as a brand new immigrant in a hot country with political tensions and in which I did not speak the language.  I had enough to distract me.

I have a long history of depression and lost my brother to suicide in 2010. In fact, I have lost many relatives to suicide. Seems that strong chins aren’t the only thing we pass from generation to generation.

I stopped taking my meds initially because I couldn’t find them in all my luggage, then a week later because I felt just fine!

A year later I was suicidal.

To be fair, there were some triggers. It was the third anniversary of my brother’s suicide. He was three years older than me. But he’ll never be so again. Chapters and chapters of my childhood died with him – we were the Two Musketeers, Pete and I. Now only I am left. I was dreading the anniversary of his suicide with a rictus grin of denial. May 13th would come and go. Just like any other day. But inside, a tsunami was building.

Another trigger was that my ex (that’s new) boyfriend owed me quite a sum of money and did not repay me when he said he would. This left me in a lurch, as we’d say back home. Quite a lurch. We’re on a fake break now – we both know it’s just an easier way to frame a break up. Borrowing that much money from your girlfriend and then not having, as it turns, out, an actual plan to repay it sent me over the edge financially and emotionally. It was one blow too many for my un-medicated brain.

I’m much better now. Taking it day-by-day, inch by inch, pill by pill. I see my concerned doctor every two weeks. I am adopting a little Tel Aviv street kitty soon. I plan to name him Herzl Shalom Freedomberger. He’s with his foster family now but I can’t wait to meet my furry friend.

I am writing this though it is personal, intimate and something I feel embarrassed about because I want to help de-stigmatize mental health issues.

My brother, in essence, died of shame. I almost did too. Depression and anxiety are treatable and it’s no more strange to take an anti-depressant than high cholesterol medication. And yet so many of us ignore our condition and do not get the health care we need.

If you feel you need help here in Israel, please do try Eran, I found them to be amazingly compassionate.  Reach out to a friend. A relative. To someone. Say what you need to say and feel no shame.


About the Author
Writer, editor and content creator Julie Gray lives in Northern Israel with her life partner, Gidon Lev. Let's Make Things Better, co-authored by Gidon and Julie will be available in Fall 2024 (Hachette/Pan MacMillan).
Related Topics
Related Posts