As some know I had an adult Bat Mitzvah last week. I am very flattered that a few people have asked to read what I said. I thought it easier to put it up here.
My Aunty Anne had her adult bat mitzvah earlier this year, and inspired me to follow her footsteps for many reasons. Everyone was shocked when I said I was doing this and believe me so was I. I had never enjoyed Synagogue and I’d had a bat mitzvah at 13– so why would I possibly do it again? When Helen told me what my portion was I could not believe how it fit my reasons.
The portion is called Va-eira which translates to “I revealed myself”.
G-d reveals himself to Moses from hearing the Israelites “moaning and groaning” in slavery. He tells Moses he will free, redeem and rescue them. Moses reports back to the Israelites, but they would not listen. From the years of slavery, they had lost their “ruach” (hope and spirits) they were unable to see good or anything beyond where they were. Slavery brought them torture and misery but it meant life was predictable, the change being offered was scary, making their future UNknown and UNpredictable. They could not see opportunities that could be gained from change, as all hope and determination had been shattered.
Change is part of life. Change can be exciting but also scary. Most of us do things to save us from some form of change and the unknown, for it can be uncomfortable, challenging and testing so it’s natural to want to protect ourselves from it. What we need to remember is denying change by not giving new things a chance, could be preventing you from a new adventure, something great, leaving you to wonder why you never tried or did something different before. Sometimes after accepting change we never look back. Without attempting change we do not give ourselves a chance to grow and discover new things around us or in ourselves.
It is not only what we do to avoid unknown changes, but also the little unhealthy habits and excuses we make (often without even realising it) of doing things that hold us back or stop us feeling good. We forget what we gain from having a tidy room, doing that essay, to have gone for a run or face our anxieties. Though it is hard to do, we should remember how good, or what an accomplishment it can feel by doing these things, changing a habit, facing boredom, discomfort, stress or fear. 9 times out of 10 we know we will feel 1000 times better once it is done!
So how does this relate why I decided to have a 2nd bat mitzvah?
Over the last few years I have suffered significant mental health struggles, causing discomfort, fear and plenty of change – not just to me but also everyone around. Like the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians I was a slave to myself; trapped in a vicious cycle of depression, and negativity, which was difficult to see past.
A turning point to recovery was a therapist saying something that devastated me, “Emma”, he said, “what are you gaining from being ill?” To me this implied I was getting something good and choosing to be where I was.
It is not until whilst studying my portion I really realized what he was trying to make me see; I was gaining something totally unbeknown to me. Being where I was, I had people looking after me, everything was in place, I was protected and life was predictable, I did not need to do anything. It meant I did not have to face up to the fact everything about me had changed and I was going to step out into a very different world to that I had known.
I had changed on so many levels. Not just my change in my career but also the biggest change was in me, who I am, what I want and what I believe in. I have found confidence I never had before. At the beginning of last year a close family friend reminded me how previously I was unable to talk with friends over a cup of tea, but now I can stand in a room full of people and talk, but not just talk, but talk about myself, something I never dreamt I’d able to do. Just like the name of my portion, I have revealed myself, found my voice, and using it to educate and attack the unnecessary stigma surrounding mental health.
My example is extreme, but does show how we can do things that cause harm without us being aware, as we are scared of the unknown or discomfort. If it were not for that therapist perhaps I would still be stuck where I was. If the Israelites had ignored Moses they may have remained slaves. In both instances without stepping out and embracing the unknown, a new strength and wealth of opportunities would never have been revealed.
My experience taught me change is definitely scary but not always bad, and can be pretty great. Doing my adult Bat Mitzvah I wanted to mark and put behind the experiences of the last few years and celebrate all the good that has come from it.
I never would have dreamt Synagogue would become a such a central point in my life. I love the people and sense of community. Coming on Friday and Saturdays gives me time to think and collect myself, with added bonus of daddy daughter time. Synagogue (especially Helen) have supported me in the most incredible way, not only emotionally but also giving me, and my amazing friend Sophie, a platform to start the CBT (cake before therapy) café and show me I can really make a difference to people struggling with mental health issues, by giving them support and the feeling that they are being heard – and what a better way to do this over a lot of tea and cake!!
Mum, Dad and Soph honestly you are the best I could wish for, you have been there constantly always with big smiles no matter what I put you through and how you must have really been feeling. You always came with big hugs, or brownies or whatever I needed. You are 1 in 10000000 and I love you infinity and beyond. There are so so many others I want to thank, far too many to mention but I am sure you know who you are. Our family all so lucky to have such incredible friends and family who have been there to support us at the drop of a hat through thick and thin – so a big thank you for everything each of you have done.
One final huge thank you goes to my incredible friend and teacher Julia, who without her patience I would never got to this point (let alone sing in front of anyone!!)