| Family First Inbox |

 Family First Inbox: Issue 756

"In addition to therapy’s price making it unattainable for many, I’ve found the entire process of even finding a therapist to be exceptionally challenging"


People with Mental Illness Aren’t Uncaring [Family Reflections / Issue 755]

The article equating nasty behavior with mental illness was hurtful and untrue. As someone who has suffered from mental illness and personally knows others who do as well, I can attest we are the furthest thing from these examples of nasty, uncaring people. Imagine the damage done for someone considering a shidduch with a person who has mental illness after reading this article.

Untreated personality disorders are completely different from living with depression, anxiety, or other similar disorders.

On behalf of the many resilient, growth-oriented, and caring people who live with mental illness, please do not portray us like this. Please decrease the stigma, not increase it.

Name Withheld


Sarah Chana Radcliffe responds:

You are absolutely correct: people with mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc.) do not routinely have serious personality problems. However, many people with serious personality problems do have mental illness. Those who seek diagnosis and treatment can certainly improve their condition, but many individuals remain unidentified and untreated.

The point of the article was not to stigmatize anyone, but rather to alert suffering loved ones that what they may be dealing with is something beyond their ability to address in the normal, relationship-based ways that can be utilized when illness isn’t a factor.


Following My Dreams [Inbox / Issue 754]

The article about Dr. Alexandra Friedman, a chassidish mother of ten in Monsey who went to med school while having her children really resonated with me. However, growing up in an earlier era (when I was told “no frum boy will marry you if you become a lawyer”), I held on to my dreams for 25 years. During that time, I held various jobs that were more time-conducive to raising our children.

When they were grown and out of the house, I said to my husband, who was still not thrilled with the idea, “It’s now time to pursue my dream, so take me to three rabbanim of your choice and let’s see what they say.” He took me to a chassidish rebbe, a litvish rav, and an Israeli mekubal visiting Monsey. All three thought it was a good idea; in fact, the litvish rav told me if I wanted to learn hilchos yerushah, he would teach them to me.

My husband asked, “Who will make Shabbos?”

I don’t know how I promised this, but I responded, “I won’t take classes on Friday or work then. That day will be dedicated to preparing for Shabbos.”

In my 25 years since starting law school and practicing halachic estate planning in the US and Israel, I have kept that promise.

Tirtza Jotkowitz, Esq.


Closer to My Teens [Better Together / Issue 754]

Thank you for the article about support groups. I recently participated in a support group for parenting teenagers, which was run by Madraigos. The group’s expert facilitators, Rena Kutner and Rivki Rosenwald, taught us effective communication skills to build closer relationships with our teens, and coached us as we put this new knowledge into practice.

Most parenting classes I’ve taken have been lecture-based, but the support group model allows for give-and-take, role-playing, weekly follow-up, and peer support. The experience was invaluable.

I thank Madraigos, Rena, and Rivki for the opportunity and encourage parents who are finding the teen years extra challenging to reach out to Madraigos (mwerblowsky@madraigos.org). I believe the next support group cohort is forming.



Not Damaged Goods [All the Broken Roads / Issue 754]

I read your story “All the Broken Roads,” about a young woman who struggled with her own marriage in the wake of a tumultuous childhood, with much consternation. The portrayal of us children who survived growing up in homes with constant fighting couldn’t have been further from the truth. The author portrayed the wife as completely clueless in how to have and maintain close relationships.

I want to make something clear: We are not damaged goods. Far from it. We are survivors. We are warriors. We have been through Gehinnom and emerged scarred but whole.

Most of the time, it is people like us who go on to build the most incredible, loving homes. My background has served as the ultimate chinuch for my (Baruch Hashem beautiful) marriage. I got married with a heightened awareness of how each negative interaction can break someone. I went into marriage with a burning desire to make it work and not end up like my parents. I stood under the chuppah and made a promise to myself: that I will learn to separate my past trauma from my husband’s actions, that I will force myself to take a deep breath and act, not react to situations.

That is a level of maturity and self-awareness that most 20-year-old kallahs do not have! But not us, we strong fighters who are determined to bring the Shechinah into our homes instead of driving it away. We are the ones who are determined to succeed, and we do. Although all we have known was destruction, we too are capable of building. Please don’t doubt our abilities.

Every time I look into my husband’s eyes and give him a compliment, I have won. I have taken nekamah against the grip of the traumatic childhood that was mine. No revenge tastes sweeter than that.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all my incredible siblings who were also able to turn their scars into proudly worn badges of honor. You are amazing!

May Hashem watch over all His precious children stuck in homes with no shalom bayis.


A Blissful Newlywed [The Price of Health: Inbox / Issue 754]

I’d like to join the discussion about the need for organizations to fund therapy for mental and emotional health. In addition to therapy’s price making it unattainable for many, I’ve found the entire process of even finding a therapist to be exceptionally challenging.

What happens to those who just cannot get to the point of getting help? Aside from the financial burden (if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I’m getting help, I could afford the therapy sessions), I have found the process of actually obtaining an appointment so incredibly daunting and complex. And I would love nothing more if that concept was considered as well.

When you’re juggling so much, including what’s likely debilitating anxiety or depression, but are also somehow managing a household and full-time employment, you’re just “getting through the day.” There just isn’t time or energy available for getting help.

Yes, I know there are referral agencies. And I’ve called multiple times in my quest for finding a therapist. But each time, nobody had any recommendations in my insurance network. Or I finally got a moment to call someone recommended, and got a dead end, no calls back. And then a few weeks go by before you have a moment to make a phone call again. Daytime hours are for work, and evening hours are for your family. So, what is supposed to happen? I feel like I can’t be the only one who is struggling with this. It’s definitely time for some support here and I would love some ideas. I do hope I’m not alone in this.

Getting Help Is Hard



The story “The Long Road to My Home” was printed with the incorrect byline. It should have been credited to Avigail Stern. We regret the error.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 756)

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