Born into a loving home, a good student with plenty of friends, Montreal-born Bashie Naparstek (neé Heshcovich) appeared to have it all.

Until illness struck.

Bashie’s harrowing struggle against anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder is a journey that takes her from the depths of isolation and despair to the profound joy of knowing that a Jew is never alone.

There was nothing in Bashie’s formative years to indicate that anything was askew. She was a happy-go-lucky child, friendly and well-liked. But something changed around the time she entered eighth grade, although it was hard to say what. It may have been simply the discomfort of being a preteen, but Bashie feared it was something more.

I had a terrible sense of unease. … I couldn’t relate to my peers … social gatherings became a nightmare. I felt alone even when I was surrounded by people. What was I doing wrong? Why did everyone else seem to get it right, while I was left behind?

As much as I felt different from others, I maintained a guise of normalcy. I hid my feelings from everyone, even my twin sister, with whom I’d always been so close.

It was the early 1990s and since emotional instability was seen as a “no-no,” Bashie kept quiet. She worked hard and maintained good grades; she hung out with her twin’s friends so as not to appear friendless, and she continued to sing in choirs as she’d done in the past. It looked as if she’d duped everyone.

But the conflicts inside her head were not so easily fooled.

I sank further into depression. I’d creep into a corner during recess and write down my thoughts in my journal so I wouldn’t have to socialize with others. I felt I was a nobody!

And then came a sign of hope, or so it seemed. In ninth grade, Bashie got the flu and lost some weight. The compliments came rolling in when she returned to school.

“Aha”! I concluded. “If I get even thinner, people will like me more.”

A matter of months later, I was anorexic and feeling terrible. Fortunately, my mother, Faige Hershcovich (a”h), was a very astute woman and stepped in to save me from being hospitalized. She encouraged me to eat in such a caring tone, it felt wrong to let her down.

My icy resistance began to thaw. And then I learned that severe weight loss could affect my ability to bear children and that gave me the final push. I went back to eating and, for a time, it seemed that the crisis had passed.

It was to be a temporary reprieve. Bashie’s disordered eating had been addressed by her mother (with guidance from an eating disorder therapist), but nothing had been done to curb the anxiety that caused it. Relentlessly, it continued to grow, and soon she was enveloped in a constant cloud of gloom.

Though there were momentary glimmers of light, they never lasted long.

Many of Bashie’s friends were preparing to go on to post-secondary religious studies. Would this be the answer? Bashie thought that it would, and initially, it seemed that she was right. During her first year in seminary, which was also the first time she’d ever been apart from her twin, she felt a burst of energy and discovered traits she never knew she had.

Her twin’s return at the end of the year unwittingly triggered a reversal. Bashie attributes this simply to the layers of trauma piled up over so many years that were ultimately spilling over. She began to crawl back into her shell and found it increasingly hard to function, although she still continued to hide her issues.

She was sitting on a smoldering volcano that was ready to erupt.

I had a full-blown anxiety attack while I was in England as a camp counselor that summer. I couldn’t do my job … I couldn’t look after myself … I could barely talk.

My beloved mother hastily obtained a passport and a plane ticket, and came to bring me home. She took me to a series of holistic practitioners, but they were unable to help me, so we went to a psychiatrist. She must have been desperate because we were a health-orientated home. And yet, there I was with a jar of antidepressants that even my mother insisted I swallow. Despite my misgivings, I took those pills and began to feel better … and better … and better still.

Life calmed down, and I started to wonder if it was possible that my life was going to be like everyone else’s. When I met Shua Naparstek from California a couple of years later, I decided that it would. I was in the process of weaning myself off my medications and was confident I wouldn’t need them again. After all, happily married people don’t need pills, right?

Not exactly, but the young couple had other things on their minds. They married and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., working as Chabad-Lubavitch shluchim (“emissaries”) in 2007, eager to begin a new life.

After three years, the Naparsteks decided to move to Montreal with their three children. Another baby was on the way. Unbeknown to the Naparsteks, the birth of this baby would become the trigger that unraveled Bashie’s life once again, but this time, more drastically than ever before.

After my fourth child was born, l felt I was falling apart. I’d had postpartum depression after my first birth (although I was unaware it had a name), but somehow, I had pulled through. After the birth of my fourth child, the depression revisited, and this time I knew it was going to be far harder to conquer than before. I had four children under the age of four and was feeling overwhelmed … but that wasn’t my only challenge.

Shua had recently admitted to me that he had an addiction problem, and this had totally thrown me off. We’d been seeing a therapist on account of his issue, but the therapy was brutal and left me unnerved.

To make matters worse, I was still working hard to maintain the image that everything in my life was “picture perfect,” and it was depleting my peace of mind.

It was a recipe for disaster. My neatly stacked house of cards was about to come tumbling down.

It wasn’t just an anxiety attack this time; Bashie had her first manic episode when her baby was a few months old. Impulsive and reckless at times, listless and gloomy at others, her greatest fear came true—she couldn’t function. She couldn’t be the put-together young mother that people imagined she was.


Bashie was hospitalized in a locked, windowless room where she was given a bundle of medications and the frightening diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It was a shattering blow.

Separated from her possessions in the psych ward, she was only allowed to keep her Siddur. Starving for emotional comfort, Bashie made it her constant companion. Barred from viewing the outside, she rested her focus inward.

She stormed the pages of her Siddur, and eventually, she rediscovered G‑d.

Because I was fortunate to be raised in a religious home, I took “belief” for granted, but this didn’t mean that I was cognizant of his beneficence or felt that G‑d was always looking out for me.

Now in the psych ward, I was faced with a new perspective. As much as I was angry that G‑d had put me there, my deep-seated, although sometimes errant, belief in his Omniscience told me that only He could set me free.

Bashie had begun her journey to recovery, but she still had a long, long way to go before she could internalize these lessons. She returned home from the hospital traumatized by her experiences yet unwilling to share them with anyone outside her immediate family. As broken as she was, she told people that she had been on vacation and acted as if nothing had happened.

The strain was unbearable. She’d leave the house dressed up and wearing lipstick, but when she came home, she’d fall apart. Burying her head in her pillow, she would beg G‑d to provide her with a release from the quagmire in which she was entrenched.

Before long, an answer came. Bashie discovered a link to a website that presented her with a checklist of emotions that people with bipolar disorder feel. Bashie checked them all! She was led from there to a 12-Step Support Group for people with emotional disabilities.

When I walked in, there was a grown man crying as he talked about his experiences in front of a crowded room. It was a life-changer! I cannot describe the relief I felt when I saw that I was not alone; other people had my challenges.

Bashie’s attachment to the 12-Step Program continues until this day. The program embraces reliance upon G‑d (“our Higher Power”) and the ancillary need for repentance, acceptance and continuous self-growth.

With the help of a mentor, with whom she worked through the program, Bashie began to progress and gained a greater connection to G‑d. At the same time, delving deeper into Chassidic teachings, she internalized their lessons and strengthened her awareness of G‑d guiding her life. Moving forward, Bashie placed her focus on gratitude. Waking up with the words, “Modeh Ani” (a prayer of gratitude) on her lips, and going to sleep with a review of her “victories” and “gratitude” passing through her mind, her life began to take on a new shape.

I felt that I was really beginning to live again. My anxiety became less constant; my depression less severe; and my bipolar disorder was under control. Things were really looking up—so much so that when my youngest turned four, I started hankering for another child. After all, Shua and I were both doing well with therapy, and we were growing spiritually. It seemed as if the nightmare we’d lived through was over.

Bashie was blessed with three more children in quick succession, which meant that she now had a beautiful family of seven. She was also off medications completely and working well with a therapist. There were many successes in her day. Was this the end of her ordeal?

Once again, Bashie was to learn that her confidence was premature. Following the birth of her seventh child, she fell into another postpartum depression, which coincided with the passing of her beloved mother.

A second manic attack came. Hospital, darkness, disappointment and despair. Bashie had made such a huge effort to lead a normal life. Was her life once again falling apart because she was trying too hard to keep it all “together”?

It was back to the hospital, back to the medications, and (I have to admit), it was back to the anger that all this was once again happening to me.

And yet as hard as it was, I wasn’t the same Bashie that I had been when I had my first manic attack. I was upset, but I wasn’t helpless. I knew that G‑d was with me, that He loved me, and that as hard as it was, this was an opportunity for me to grow as a person and to become closer to Him.

But what did He want? As I mulled over this question again and again, it became increasingly clear that I had to make changes in my life. As G‑d’s child, I did not have to feel guilty that I had an emotional illness; I did not have to live a “pressure cooker” existence that would inevitably burst every time it got overfilled; I didn’t have to worry about stigma or ridicule.

I am Bashie Naparstek … I suffer from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder … and G‑d loves me!

Isn’t that enough?

Bashie “re-entered” the world, humbled and inspired, and ready to share her “secret.”

To her surprise and satisfaction, there was no backlash; people empathized with her situation and admired her for her honesty. Their reaction has spurred Bashie to share her story with others, and she is being warmly received wherever she goes.

The young girl who hid from others and felt alone has become a true soldier in the “war” against the stigma of mental illness that is so common in every society. Emerging from her years of suffering, she is embodying the cornerstone of Chassidic teachings by turning darkness into light.

With courage and determination, Bashie—with Shua at her side—has ripped down the traditional negativity that is associated with emotional illness and shown through her own example that it is a human condition like any other.

Through their ironclad belief in the love of G‑d, the Naparsteks are illuminating the world and making it a better place.