A Week Of Trauma

What a week it was for me.  For us.

Last week, I funded an ad to get placed in the New York Times to fight their bias against Israel.  It was finally, beautifully, published on Saturday.

This site called Hevria (take a look around) I run had its first event.


But underneath it all, was a very different week.

A week of mayhem in Israel.  Deaths, injuries, and fear throughout the streets.


But then there were two more things.  Two more things that, in my mind, wrapped up everything about last week.

The first: a phone call.

I don’t want to be too specific, but it was from a reader.  She had wanted to discuss some of her recent traumas.  She’s young, younger than me, at least.  And she had just been through… so much.

And she told me about how she feels about herself.  And it was just… so much.

What was even worse about all of it was that I could tell from the moment we began talking that this was a special person.  So sensitive, you could tell it from her voice.  She was so soft, you could hear it.

But she felt trapped, scared, frightened, by all that had just happened to her.

I just wanted to reach through the phone and put my hand on her shoulder.  I wanted to say it would all be okay.  But I was too far away.  A phone is too far.

Because I knew how she felt. Because around her age, I felt the same way.  Not for the same reasons.  But the way she spoke, I was transported back to that time in my life, to my own traumas, and I felt what she felt, and I knew how hard it would be for her now, how much pain she must be feeling, although probably even more than I did.


This talk with her, it didn’t just bring me back to my experiences.  It brought me back to another conversation, one of the other “things” I mentioned above.

A few days earlier, I was talking with my psychologist.  I don’t often write about such things here.  This one is important.

We were talking about my fears, my fears that people will think I am a big fraud.  It’s why things like the incredible success of something like crowdfunding an ad in the New York Times for a good cause are, in truth, absolutely beyond stressful for me.  I take double the medication I normally take.  My teeth grind.  

I feel pain, so much pain, whenever anyone says even the slightest mean thing to me.

But it’s not pain for the reason one might think: it’s a pain that comes from a very deep-seated fear that these people, these attackers, are right.  And that their tone of anger is justified.  Because I’m a fraud, a fake, and there’s something… bad… inside of me.

And I was afraid that when the ad goes live, or once this or that happens that all my thoughts would proven true.  So afraid.

My psychologist looked at me as I told him all this, things he already knew, things I just needed to get off my chest.  He said: “You know… do you ever think that maybe what happened to you ten years ago, your manic episode and NDE have any role in you thinking this way?  That you’re afraid that something bad is waiting to come out from you, no matter what you do.”

I wanted to cry.  Immediately, just hearing the words.  It was as if a brick had been slammed against my heart.

I had always seen those moments as this great time that had really made my life better in so many ways.  It’s when so many difficulties of my life, bipolar, depression, anger, loss of motivation, would start to finally be addressed.

So, why on earth would I be traumatized?

But I was.  I am.  Why else would I be afraid that something “bad” will happen suddenly?  Why else would I think there’s something evil or wrong inside that will be exposed?  That’s literally what it felt like when I went through my manic episode.  Can you imagine? 10 years of living like this… unaware.


Yes, it was a week defined by trauma.

Trauma.  A reality that even when we think it has disappeared, it comes back, reminds us it’s there.  Or sometimes, we don’t even know it’s festered for years.  Sometimes we never know.

It is one of those things, one of those things that you wonder why God would create a world in which such a thing exists.   A scar that stays forever, but not on a leg or an arm, but in the mind.  The deepest scar.  A scar that so many of us don’t even see, that we sometimes think defines us.

Trauma.  A moment or moments that simply cannot be escaped.

Trauma.  A world in which incredible potential exists.

I’ve seen people broken by trauma.  I’ve spent too much time writing about mental health online to not see it, hear about it, to not see its effects.  It doesn’t literally break them, of course.  But they… are brought down by it.  Unable to see light, to see beauty around them.

Because we all need to cope with our trauma in some way.  The only question is how we cope with it.

And for many, their mind tells them that the best way to cope with it is by building a shell around themselves.  Or by cutting themselves.  Or by numbing themselves with drugs or other “vices”.  Anything to dull that pain of the scar.  Anything to hide the voice that says, “Maybe it’s you.”

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It was that conversation with my therapist, and the conversation with that young woman, that helped me understand how trauma was wrapped in everything from last week.

Trauma is that scar, that invisible scar, that stays with us, and yes, so often it breaks us, brings us down, makes us helpless.

But I have a feeling my last psychologist, the one I had before this, knew I was traumatized, but for his own reasons, chose to not focus on it.  Maybe he thought I wasn’t ready for it, maybe he thought what mattered was focusing on where to go from there rather than to dwell on the past.

For the record, I think both psychologists were right.  I wasn’t aware that this feeling of “There’s something evil inside of me” until this last week.  But I did focus on transforming that feeling into growth, even if I didn’t know what it was.

That first psychologist taught me one thing that will always stick with me, and something that helped me wrap my mind and actions around the Week of Trauma.

Trauma can render us helpless.  But that is simply a sign of its incredible power.  A negative power, to be sure.  But power.

An atom bomb was created with the same technology that has allowed us to access the deepest secrets of the universe.  The same technology that may allow us to one day create an fusion, fission’s opposite, and create a world of clean, unlimited power.

And so, as with any power, trauma can be transformed for good or bad.  We can allow it to paralyze us, to render us voiceless, and actionless.

Or we can (at a pace that is healthy) use it.  Harness it.  It can make us stronger, more powerful, have more of a voice, than we ever had.  Maybe not overnight.  But the potential is there.


So it was with my campaign to get Israel’s voice heard in social media.  My mom had called me the day after the campaign succeeded and said, “I was just visiting Yale [where my dad used to teach] and, I said to Abba [father], ‘My gosh, if only things were different, if you had done something more or different, you could’ve gone here.’”

Don’t worry, this is how Israeli moms speak.

But she was right.  If I had focused, instead of fighting my teachers, and being stubborn about schoolwork, maybe I could’ve gone to a “better” college.  

But I’m so glad I didn’t.

I told her, “Mom, if I had gone to Yale, I might not have ended up in a mental institution.  And only someone who has been to a mental institution would think it makes sense to try to raise $118,000 for an ad in the New York Times.  You need to be crazy.”

And I was kind of joking, but I kind of wasn’t.  Every experience I had, every trauma, and resulting work to address that trauma, had led me to that point.

It would also take a crazy person to create Hevria, purposefully designed to do everything that a media outlet isn’t supposed to do: to not fit into some predetermined point of view.  To not push an agenda, but to also not to pretend to be objective.  To recruit incredible writers to help bring to life a mission that wasn’t even defined yet.  To ask readers to feel like they’re part of the site instead of just passive observers.

And then to party like a nutball, one year later, when you see that these things are coming to pass.  And that maybe we’ll change the Jewish world.  Forever.

I needed trauma for that too.  I needed to be crazy. I needed to work every day for a decade to believe in myself to do things beyond my imagination before I could make such thing happen.  The trauma… was essential.


And so it is with what is occurring in Israel. Israel, which has been through every trauma a country can go through, all somehow compressed into its short 67 years of existence.

Israel… an entire nation of people who have had to deal with war from every nation around them, bus bombings, constant war, and, now, stabbings.

It would be fair to say that America is not very good at dealing with terror.  We simply aren’t psychologically prepared for it.  This is not a dig on Americans.  We are used to being safe.  We don’t know what it is to have an enemy that doesn’t just want to beat us, kill us, etc, but to destroy us from the inside out.  To kill our spirit.

In other words, to traumatize us.

At least, not until 2001, and since then we’ve dealt with it either through extreme aggression or passive acceptance, two hallmarks of an unhealthy trauma victim.

Israel?  Well, Israel’s not perfect, but Israel’s people have dealt with terror in a way no other country in the world has.

And I’m not talking about Israel’s policy, mind you.  Those need perfecting, of course, as do all democracies.

I’m talking about the people.

I’m talking about how three mothers of three young boys who were killed by terrorists, instead of disappearing into the shadows and (just) mourning, became some of the most powerful spokeswomen against terror… and for unity… in Israel’s history.

I’m talking about how, with the current wave of terror, Israelis dance in the street singing Hativkah in the very same place, in a very short amount of time after, a man was stabbed.  Or how there was a minyan coordinated in the very place two men were killed in cold blood.

This does not erase the trauma Israel has been through.  It is, however, the other side of the coin when it comes to trauma.  It is an indication of how a people can let trauma turn them reactive or active.  It can destroy us or it can bring us higher.

And please don’t misunderstand me.  We will always struggle with the difficulties of trauma.

But the point is that each difficulty it brings upon us, every day we have to deal with this trauma, the higher we can go.  The more good we can do, for ourselves, and for the world.

And, in the end, it becomes the ultimate weapon, the ultimate revenge, against those demons, inner or outer, who may have traumatized us.  Suddenly they are our tools of growth.  They are our power.

They’ve hurt us irrevocably, but they’ve also brought us higher than we’d ever be without them.