I am a young woman suffering deeply from depression and anxiety after having gone through cancer treatment and surgery. I have much guilt about my state of mind and heart. I wish so much to feel grateful instead of angry and sad. I fear my faith has run away and left me very lonely. I'm constantly wondering why I have to be here on this earth.

Do you have any suggestion for ridding me of these thoughts?


What you describe is not unusual for survivors of cancer and other illnesses. Not feeling well, being diagnosed with cancer, facing the reality, undergoing the treatment... I can only imagine the whole cocktail of emotions. Yet, during all that time the focus was on healing. And now that that's been done, you find yourself depressed and anxious, angry and sad. Surviving an illness is not just about curing the body, it's also about healing the mind and heart. And there are steps you can take to accomplish that.

First, as you've already done, it's important to acknowledge your feelings. Understand that they are normal and common. Many survivors fear recurrence of the illness, are anxious about possible symptoms. Anger, undirected or misdirected anger, is often an emotional byproduct. A feeling of loneliness, too—not because of lack of faith, but because you live in a reality that's not shared with those around you. Eventually, though, these feelings become less and less pronounced, and although they may never completely disappear, they do begin to fade. Accept that your feelings are a normal part of the process of healing. And realize that these feelings are not antithetical to feelings of gratitude to G‑d. These feelings do not, in any way, indicate a loss of faith. Your feeling of loneliness in no way mitigates G‑d's actual presence.

There's a Yiddish saying, "Tracht gut vet zein gut," if you think positive thoughts, it will be positive. Two opposing thoughts cannot coexist in your mind. So, make a list of positive thoughts. Really, an actual list. And practice these thoughts. It may help to say them aloud, and then think them. One at a time. Over and over again. And like any exercise, as you use them, they get stronger. And then, when a negative thought enters your mind, willfully bring to the forefront of consciousness one of the positive thoughts you've been practicing. This means that you don't have to start searching for positive feelings—you've got your list of thoughts ready to be accessed.

Be around positive people. And if someone around you, even someone near and dear, gives off a negative vibe, banish that person from your presence. Allow only positive vibes to surround you. And if it's yourself that's giving off a negative vibe, dance a little jig. Really, use your feet if you have the strength, or your hands... your shoulders... your body—get your body to act as if your mind were feeling happy. Whistle a happy tune. Snap your fingers in rhythm. Use your knees as bongos. Practice the behaviors of "happy."

Pay particular attention to a specific mitzvah. Choose either one, or all three, of the mitzvot that are traditionally a woman's mitzvah: Separating challah (this is representative of the mitzvah of kosher), lighting candles for Shabbat, and/or mikvah. If these are not yet part of your life, incorporate them. And if they are part of your life, then take it up a notch—perhaps by introducing someone else to one of them, perhaps by doing some additional learning about it, perhaps by taking the time, when performing the mitzvah, to add an additional thought for G‑d.

Wishing you all the best, Shabbat shalom,

Bronya Shaffer for