2 Tishrei 5781 / Sunday, September 20, 2020 | Torah Reading: Rosh Hashana
 
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HomeFamily & Daily LifePhysical and Emotional HealthShould You Take Medication?
 
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Should You Take Medication?    

Should You Take Medication?



I’ve often asked by newcomers to emuna who are taking psychiatric meds for many years whether they can throw away their pills now that they “have emuna”...

 



Michelle is a young lady, a holy soul, who is now keeping the seven Noahide laws. Michelle was raised as a catholic, but she got to a point where she knew she couldn't do it anymore, and she switched to become a Noahide. There are no other Bnei Noach  (children of Noah) in her community, so since she's made the switch, she's been quite isolated and alone, with no-one to really talk to who understands her, and where's she's coming from.

 

She's read all of the emuna books, she's listening to the emuna CDs, and she has a strong belief in the Creator of the world. But Michelle is suffering from a big problem: she has severe bouts of cyclical depression. For six months of the year, Michelle can function perfectly well, work, raise her kids, keep her home. Then the next six months, she's depressed and crying all the time, and her family has to take care of her.

 

Michelle has been taking a whole bunch of medications for years, to try and stay out of her severely depressive cycles, and they've been helping her. But now, she's made a decision that she doesn't want to take the meds anymore; she wants to stay depression-free using the power of emuna, alone.

 

Michelle has been doing personal prayer for a year, but she's still just starting out. When you're going against a chronic psychiatric illness that you've had for the last 20 years, it's usually going to take more spiritual stamina and emuna than you can build up even in a year.

 

Michelle contacted me, guilt-ridden, because she knew that “people with real emuna don't take medicine” - but she was starting to struggle badly to stay out of depression without her medication and it was putting a terrible burden on her children. I told her to give herself a break; she's got kids, she's only been doing personal prayer for a year; she has a big mountain to climb. G-d didn't want her fall back into severe depression!

 

That didn’t mean that Michelle should tell herself that she's got an “incurable” disease, and resign herself to being on meds for the rest of her life, or that the meds are the only solution to her problem. They aren't. But it takes time for a person to build themselves up spiritually, by talking to G-d every day. If she continues to talk to G-d for an hour a day, I have no doubt that Michelle will get to a point where she can stop taking her medications, and not fall back into her depression. But not now. Not yet.

 

I’ve often been asked by newcomers to emuna who have been taking psychiatric meds for a lot of years whether they can just throw away their pills now that they “found emuna.” When somebody has been on meds for many years and they have had some really tough times when they weren’t taking it, I always recommend caution. If they insist and tell me that they still want to chuck the pills, I suggest that they go and speak to Rabbi Arush about it first. Those people who have followed this advice and consulted with Rav Arush have always been told the same thing – “Don’t rush into this.” It’s good to want to be off medication but it takes time to build up some spiritual muscles first.

 

When Rebbe Nachman cautioned people about going to doctors, two hundred years ago, he was speaking to his close circle of followers who had lived and breathed Torah and emuna for years. Yes, they had built themselves up to such exalted spiritual levels that they didn’t have a need for doctors – but are we on such an exalted level yet? I don’t think so. And if Rebbe Nachman were alive today, I don’t think that he would give us the same advice that he gave his followers back then about not going to the doctor or taking medication.

 

Michelle felt so relieved that it was Okay to go back on her meds, knowing that not only was she not going against the Torah but that she actually was doing the right thing. I told her the special prayer that we say before we take any medicine, or undertake any medical treatment, because we have to recognize that “wonder drugs” aside, all healing really comes straight from G-d. There is only one Healer, there is only one Cure:

 

Before taking medicine say the following:

"May it be Your will, G-d, my G-d, that this medicine/herb/vitamin/treatment should bring me healing, for You send healing as a free gift."

 

Say after taking medicine:

''Blessed is the Healer of the sick." (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 230:4).

 

I heard from Michelle several months after she resumed taking her meds. She was back to her happy self again – working hard and functioning well as the great mom that she is. Michelle hasn’t given up on going off meds someday, she has just slowed herself down and is waiting for the right time. She still does her hour-a-day of personal prayer and keeps up with her regime of Rabbi Brody’s CDs and is very optimistic about the future.

 

 





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   See More Articles By Dr. Zev Ballen
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  5 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  1.
  Noahide
Sharon2/26/2019 10:21:13 PM
     
 
  2.
  Excellent article!
Anonymous,4/13/2016 7:24:12 PM
     
 
  3.
  why to keep away from doctors - today too and even more than ever before - cont'd
Yudit4/11/2016 11:16:59 AM
     
 
  4.
  why to keep away from doctors - today too and even more than ever before - cont'd
Yudit4/11/2016 11:13:36 AM
     
 
  5.
  why to keep away from doctors - today too and even more than ever before
Yudit4/11/2016 11:09:32 AM
     
 

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