I couldn't make myself get out of bed for the morning megillah reading last Purim. Venturing out the evening before had sapped all my energy. I couldn't bear the scrutiny of the prying eyes of others. I was sure that everyone would read the emotions on my face. I didn't want to go on living. And I didn't want anyone to know.

Just two years earlier, I was all smiles at the public high school where I taught English. As I teased my 11th grade students mercilessly, they groaned in response. I had finally found a career that challenged me. I pictured myself retiring in twenty years with countless stories under my belt. I was already a hit at every Shabbat table where I delighted the hosts and guests with stories from my colorful classroom.

I was sure that there was nothing I couldn't overcomeMy students respected me because I was a survivor. My past was an open book. I had survived a childhood of unimaginable violence wrought by my mother's hands. I was a runaway at seventeen. I earned a college scholarship at eighteen. I was working at a teen magazine by nineteen. I kidnapped my sister at twenty-one. I fought my mother for custody for three years. By twenty-five, I was sure that there was nothing I couldn't overcome. I told my students that I was living proof that they could weather anything.

And it was then that I came down with a chronic, debilitating illness. As my sisters, my boyfriend, my friends and my students rallied to help me cope with physical illness, my mind was being warped by something more insidious. Realizing that I would live the rest of my life as a disabled person, beholden to family, friends and strangers, I started to wonder whether or not life was worth living. The independent streak that had helped me survive was broken by a growing, dark, pressing weight on my chest as I became more and more dependent.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. And in an instant, I was pummeled by childhood memories. I remembered my mother locking herself in her bedroom to cry. I remembered days where she was too tired to leave her bed to feed herself. I remembered the smell of unwashed sweat that had emanated from under the covers she used to protect herself from the world while she hid in her bed. With her daughters crowded around her bed, she told us she wanted to die. She claimed there was no reason to go on living. My worst nightmare had become realized: I was becoming my mother.

By twenty-six, I was in agony on my wedding day. Because the physical illness made my skin ache, I wailed when guests reached out to hug me. A shocked, embarrassed friend ran from my table when I burst into tears as she approached. Though I was married to my bashert, the soul mate who had stood by me through deteriorating health, I couldn't shake my sadness.

A silent war was being waged in my head. Come on, no one is beating you with telephone cords! Hello? No one is stalking you! You will never starve! So what if your skin feels like it is on fire, so what? If you were a superhero, you'd be that guy in the Fantastic Four who sets himself ablaze! You have the perfect husband. SNAP OUT OF IT!

I didn't feel up to talking to anyone but my therapistI pressed the "off" button on my cell phone when friends called. When I didn't call right back, my friends sent me cute emails to check up on me and to cheer me up. They offered a limitless supply of hugs, love and free meals. Still, I sobbed myself to sleep. I didn't feel up to talking to anyone but my therapist. And talking to her wasn't helping. When I talked to my loved ones, I whispered about my suicidal thoughts.

And suddenly, without any warning, a friend's relative committed suicide.

Everyone in our community was distraught, but I was numb. Earlier that week, I had read that depression is an illness that can end in death. I told myself coldly that it had been her right to die. That sometimes life was too difficult to live. When I found out that the victim had also been suffering from a physical illness, I told myself that I, alone, knew how she had felt.

My husband would not look me in the eye when our friends, a married couple, coaxed us to join them in visiting the grieving family. Once we arrived at the home, my friend, Devora*, detached herself from her grieving family to shuttle the wives into a bedroom. I assumed we were leaving the room so that Devora could breastfeed her newborn daughter.

"This is what it would be like if you killed yourself," Devora said breaking the silence when Hinda* and I sat with her on the bed. She motioned to the door, behind which crying could be heard. "Everyone will think it was their fault. That there was something we could have done differently. Everyone will be scarred forever. You will kill your husband. You will kill your sisters. You will kill us. No one will ever be the same. Because you killed yourself. We would never be the same without you."

I nodded, and closing my eyes, I collapsed into Devora's lap. As she held me, loud, breathy sobs escaped from deep in my throat. All the numbness drained from my body and was replaced by a horror enveloped by pain.

The next day, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist.

I told the psychiatrist that I was in his office because I daydreamed about killing myself. Nervously, I offered that my friends and family were pretty upset with me. No, I assured him, I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a plan for death…or for life for that matter. That was part of the problem.

He listened patiently as I told him the short version of my life story. But when I told him that I had converted to Judaism, he looked into my eyes and he smiled.

"You can't kill yourself," he said, peering up at me over his glasses, with shocking self-assurance.

"Why not?!" I blustered back angrily.

"Well, for one, it's not Jewish," he said shaking his head and scribbling on his pad.

He had gone and pulled the Jewish card on me! It was low. But that was when the fog cleared.

He had gone and pulled the Jewish card on me!In the Catholicism I was born into, I had been told that suicides earned a one-way ticket to hell. And even though Judaism didn't seem to offer such exclusive packages to heaven or hell, I could see that my psychiatrist was right. It wasn't Jewish to kill yourself.

If I killed myself, I would be usurping G‑d's will. In doing so, I would cease to be Jewish as I knew it, having nullified my ability to see G‑d's work, to struggle with finding meaning in the good and believing that the bad was beyond my human comprehension. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, the true Judge.

We made an appointment for a follow-up visit. And I started to take antidepressant medication that I called my "happy" pills. Anger spurred me on. There was just no way that I was going to go "crazy" and start breaking commandments. I walked away and for the first time in a long while, I thanked G‑d. I cried for all the "angels" in my life. For my husband, my sisters, my friends, my eccentric Jewish psychiatrist... little human Post-It notes from G‑d to remind me the Big Ear is always listening.

One thing that the Hispanic and Jewish communities I have lived in have had in common, as I think most communities do, is that there is a great stigma in being mentally ill or being a little more sad than usual. People don't really know how to react, especially those who have never been depressed or who've seen family or friends through a mental illness. I can understand that.

My worst fear growing up was becoming "crazy" like my mother. I thought that mental illness was a sign of weakness. Depression, from the outside looking in, seemed like an "F" on the report card of life. It meant that a person couldn't handle life anymore.

But mental illness is a really double-edged sword. It is sometimes a cry for help as much as it is a test of our collective humanity. Like physical illness, it is a loud reminder that we were put on this earth to help each other. Illness is not polite. It doesn't care what one person can handle. But together, as a group, family, friends, acquaintances, we are stronger than what one person can handle. We are a force to be reckoned with.

Today, I can see how my suffering has made me empathize with people who would otherwise be far removed from my realm of understanding. People have felt comfortable sharing their pain with me because they know that I, too, have struggled. So I've stopped suffering in silence and started sharing my experiences. I hope that those around us will realize that they can stop suffering alone, too.

*Some names and information have been changed.