Life passes so quickly. How well I recall my beloved mother, may she rest in peace, quoting Thomas Jefferson, "Edie, don't put off tomorrow what you can do today." How right they both were.

I turned fifty this past February. I always meant to address my mental health issues, but I was too ashamed. It may appear to some that going to a therapist isn't any different than going to any other doctor, but in reality it is. Society as a whole has yet to overcome the stigma associated with mental illness.

Though our cries are silent, G‑d listensThere is this unspoken vow that exists amongst many a family, but I have noticed amongst Jewish families in particular, which creates a world of its own. I think of it as the souls who suffer in silence. Though our cries are silent, G‑d listens with compassion as He will never leave us nor forsake us.

I, too, was raised with good, old-fashioned values. But something has tormented my soul for many a year. I tried to live by the adage that what happens in the family stays in the family. I always wanted to honor my parents. It is one of the Ten Commandments: Thou Shall Honor Thy Mother and Father. So, nu, here I am fifty years old and even though both my parents are in the next world I still feel that to tell a family secret would be a terrible sin.

I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I have been a prisoner of my own mind. I experience nightmares so terrifying that I wake up shaking and disoriented in the middle of the night. I live in constant fear that the past could once again become a reality. At times my thoughts feel almost possessed—to the point where I'm imagining dangerous acts of violence being imminent, though I sadly try to understand that these are my fears of many yesterdays.

I live in constant fearI was just a child when the abuse took place, but children never forget. Never. Bad things can happen to children. I never told my parents but, just the same, they knew I suffered. They saw my rage. I thought myself to be worthless.

There is a voice that lies deep within my mind whispering that what happened was my fault. I have ached inside wanting desperately to shed the sign that I was sure was branded on my forehead: "Damaged Goods." Being around people felt unsafe and therefore isolation became my best friend. I ache to the very core of my being, wanting so desperately to be accepted. Sometimes I join the world for a few hours even though it is intimidating—more often than not, it is quite nice.

The inner conflict this has created has inhibited me from experiencing freedom as a whole person. Without realizing it, I have become my own judge and jury. The sentence I gave myself was life—and I almost threw away the key. But I had forgotten to ask one important question: Was it really my fault?

If I could be granted the magical opportunity to reverse the years and go back to my thirties, without a doubt I would go for treatment for PTSD. The mind is a blessed tool from our Creator and my mind totally blocked out the traumatic events of my childhood to protect me. Out of the blue one day I just remembered. Oh G‑d what a shock it was to recall the blemished memories. I didn't know where or whom to turn to. I knew no comfort. My survival became denial. My worth was non-existent.

I have missed so much I have missed so much. I have so many regrets about the relationships I could have had, and the difference I could have made in the world. I try to imagine what life could have been like for me. I even get a glimpse from time to time of the person locked inside. When I do, I see she is absolutely amazing. I can't wait until she thinks so, too. I'll tell you a little secret about her. She has this delightful way with children. They gravitate to her as if she is one of them. I think she longs for the innocence of childhood that was stolen so long ago. And adults, well lets just say she can make their blood pressure rise— but when they look, really look, they see an oh so loving soul.

G‑d wants all His children, young and old, to know freedom. For when we are silent a voice of despair becomes our only friend. But I am thrilled to report that after much research and many tries, I believe I have found the right therapist who specializes in PTSD. I am about to embark on the most miraculous journey—my life!


Editor's Note:Below are some of the many organizations working to prevent abuse and help survivors of abuse to heal. This list was orginally compiled by Miriam Karp for a related article on abuse:

Jsafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting An Abuse Free Environment is an organization led by Rabbi Mark Dratch, which provides a certification program for communal institutions, publications and educational initiatives. Jsafe.org

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services of Brooklyn, NY, has therapy and treatment programs for both victims and perpetrators, sensitive to Jewish needs. (800)603-OHEL

The Awareness Center is a coalition of Jewish mental health practitioners dedicated to building awareness in the Jewish community. They also offer an extensive online collection of articles on issues affecting survivors of sexual abuse. Awarenesscenter.org

The SOVRI Helpline is an anonymous and confidential helpline staffed by trained volunteers who provide help, information, support, and referrals to survivors of sexual abuse. We don't have caller ID. Our volunteers are trained to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. They also have training in listening and counseling skills, emergency department protocol, legal protocol, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and incest, and recommending appropriate resources. Our volunteers are supervised by licensed social workers with extensive experience in dealing with these issues. SOVRI Helpline is under the auspices of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The helpline is open Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:30pm and Friday 9:30am-1:30pm. The phone number is (212)844-1495.

Shalom Task Force Hotline provides information on rabbinic, legal and counseling services for victims of abuse in the Jewish community. (888)883-2323.

Faith Trust Institute is a clearinghouse for information on domestic violence and clergy abuse in the Jewish community. Faithtrustinstitute.org.

Association of Jewish Family and Children Services (AJFCA). (800)634-7346. ajfca@ajfca.org

National Center for Victims of Crime (800)FYI-CALL.

National Child Abuse Hotline (800)4-A-CHILD.

National Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault (800)656-HOPE.

National Organization for Victim Assistance (800)TRY-NOVA.

Find Jewish resources by state at jewishwomen.org/directory/state_res.htm

Sources for internet and general safety include kidsafe.com

Much additional information is readily available online, through family service agencies, and in the library.