Michali Cohen

This Shavuot, I enter into a covenant with myself

(Toa Heftiba, Unsplash)

Suppose there is anything the doctors don’t tell you as they hand you your discharge papers. In that case, it’s that relapsing is almost inevitable.

As I approach my 10th anniversary since I was discharged from the hospital for anorexia, there was one thing the doctors hadn’t prepared me for: the healing journey is anything but linear. The first two years were the hardest. I had my good days: I would eat, shower, get out of bed, and go to school. And I had my bad days: skipping school because I could not get out of bed, a few suicide attempts, and IV treatments because I starved myself. I felt guilty on the bad days, asking myself what was wrong and beating myself up that I wasn’t getting “better.” What they don’t tell you about the bad days it’s that it becomes a spiral. A spiral of beating yourself repeatedly because, rationally, you know better. You saw what these behaviors have landed you, yet you continue with it. You spiral, and spiral, until you hit rock bottom and need to be pulled upwards. If you’re lucky.

10 years later, I know how to avoid those behaviors that lead to spiraling. Yet 10 years later, my healing isn’t over. Some days remind me of a sick 12-year-old me who didn’t have the strength to walk up a flight of stairs because I starved herself and beat herself up after drinking water with cucumbers. Then some days remind me of 13-year-old me shutting out the entire world around me because I was spiraling.

10 years later, every day is a choice.

I am constantly asked, “how did you overcome years of depression?” and the answer is, I didn’t. You don’t “overcome” your mental illness; you learn to tame and live with it. You fight with yourself day in and out not to fall into the traps of depression, especially on the days where it seems easier to do so.

10 years ago, I was released from the hospital on the holiday of Shavuot. While a powerful day, I only now realize how monumental this day really is. Shavuot is often seen as an agricultural holiday and one of the three holidays where the Jewish people were commanded to go to Jerusalem during the times of the Temple. However, Shavuot is also the holiday where the Jewish people received the 10 Commandments from God and entered into a covenant with Him. As I celebrate my 10-year anniversary, Shavuot holds a different meaning this year. While the Jewish people re-enter into a covenant with God, I re-enter a covenant with myself. One where I recommit to myself after 10 years of feeling guilty to do so.

For some, Shavuot is just another Jewish holiday, a day where the family gets together to celebrate. For me, Shavuot is so much more. It’s a day where I remember how far I’ve come and the long way I have to go.

About the Author
Michal Cohen has worked in the Jewish non-profit space for the last three years, starting as a college student at American University. She is a first-generation Israeli-American passionate about campus antisemitism and bridging the gap between Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora.
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