I can’t believe that it’s so long ago already, but it’s around two years ago that I had my terrible ‘year of fear’. If you go to the archived articles and click on ‘Fallen Fear’ you can read all about it, if you’re in the mood.
Two years’ ago, I hit spiritual rock bottom. Two years’ ago, all the fears and the worries and the paranoia that I’d been trying not to look at or notice or deal with for as long as I can remember, roared out at 400 miles per hour.
I was a shaking, quivering, sleepless, haggard, nervous wreck. It was so bad, for so many weeks, that in sheer desperation, my husband booked a week off work and booked me a ticket for my first trip to Uman, to the grave of Rebbe Nachman.
When I had my ‘year of fear’, I’d already been doing a lot of hitbodedut, at least an hour a day, for a good couple of years. I tried praying my fear away. I tried dancing my fear away. I tried painting my fear away. I tried ‘thanking’ my fear away – and nothing worked.
As the fears continued to multiply, and my ability to cope with them continued to diminish, I felt completely lost. Nothing was helping. I did one pidyon hanefesh (redemption of the soul) after another, and they barely made a dint. I called my Rav a couple of times, but after the last conversation, I realised that G-d had fixed it that I had to face all these fears on my own. There was no-one to turn to. Nowhere to run, where I could get away from myself and the terrible darkness that was literally gushing out of my soul like a spiritual haemorrhage.
Uman was my last resort. If Uman didn’t ‘fix’ what was happening, then I really didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. All I can tell you, is that I was starting to understand how people could chuck themselves off bridges, G-d forbid, to gain some ‘temporary’ relief from it all.
I prayed pretty much non-stop in Uman, begging G-d to help me. I don’t know how many times I’ve been around the block, how many reincarnations I’ve had – and failed miserably at. All I can tell you is that by February of 2010, it felt like all those mistakes, all the heresy, all the ‘doing it my way’ from all the times before had finally caught up with me. Who knows who I was or what I did previously, but the darkness of that ‘before time’ was so all-encompassing, so apparently never-ending, that I was beginning to doubt whether there was any way out of it.
And then, I went to Uman.
I’m not going to put on rosy glasses and pretend that it all went away within 10 seconds of being there; it didn’t. What did happen, though, is that I felt that ‘someone else’ was helping me to shoulder the impossibly heavy burden of being a seriously sick soul.
As time went on, the certainty that ‘someone else’ was stepping in to divert the spiritual flack off me grew. Things got easier. I stopped having a ‘bad day’ every single day, and started to have the odd hour here and there where I wasn’t frozen with fear.
Slowly, slowly, that huge spiritual wound from who-knows-how-long-ago started to heal. I had a few minor setbacks here and there, but two years’ later, I feel like a different person.
I fought a huge, ginormous, massive war within myself, and thanks to Rebbe Nachman, I just about came through it in one piece.
So then I started to wonder: is it just me that has all this terrible darkness inside, that needs fixing? I would talk to other people, particularly my husband, and wonder how it was that they were apparently ‘fixed’ without having to have had their own momentous moment of truth.
But that’s how it seemed to be.
Until a few months’ ago, when my husband’s dad died unexpectedly straight after Succot, and all of a sudden, the person I’d been married to for 14 years and thought I knew really well, just kind of disappeared into a black hole.
He was still praying, he was still talking to G-d, he was still learning and working and dunking in a mikva every day. But his soul – that crucial, key part of each of us, that really is the ‘real’ us – had somehow gone missing.
That’s the only way to describe it. It’s not my story to tell in all the gory details, but after lots of praying, and lots of talking and lots more praying, I was talking to G-d one morning, when He told me I needed to send my husband to Uman, pronto.
My husband has been going to Uman for Rosh Hashana for the last five years’ straight. Uman is not a ‘new’ concept for him or for me. But Uman Rosh Hashana is a very different beast from Uman the rest of the year.
My husband needed to go, and to sit by the grave of Rebbe Nachman, and pray that the Doctor of the soul would also help him to heal the terrible darkness that all of a sudden had cracked open inside him.
We’re on a really tight budget at the moment (I know, I write that pretty much every second article…) – but paying for the trip to the Ukraine wasn’t a ‘luxury’ – I really was starting to feel it was spiritual life-or-death.
My husband went for Shabbat Chanuka, one of the three times a year when traditionally, Breslev Chassidim would go and visit the Rebbe.
He had a great trip. He arrived with a big parcel of pain and sadness and darkness and despair, that neither he nor I knew how we could solve or resolve. He left lighter, much lighter, well on the path to being healed of a big chunk of all the ‘stuff’ that’s been weighing him down for years, albeit unknowingly.
This Chanuka, each time we lit the candles I asked the members of my family to say something that they were particularly happy about, or grateful about. The day after he came back, my husband said: “That we have a Rebbe like that, with such light.”
My husband has never been a big fan of holy graves; in the past, he’s gone to these places because I’ve dragged him, and he likes to humour me. Uman was different. Uman was always different.
I tell people about the light in Uman, and a lot of people tell me that ‘holy graves really don’t do it for them’. They just can’t relate. I don’t push it – there’s no point. What I do know, though, is that there are no spiritual short-cuts. If you haven’t yet faced your moment of truth, that means you haven’t yet got to the bottom of what you really came down here to fix.
Some people – most people, even - never do.
But if you’re not one of them, and you do have your terrifying moment of truth, remember that you don’t have to face it alone: there is a Rebbe, a Doctor of the soul, that can help you to heal from even the worst spiritual disease.
All you have to do is make an appointment to see him.