By Danielle Lane, Managing Editor
A few weeks ago I was struggling with my mental health in a deep and profound way. I was unable to go about my daily routine in my typical manner as a result of the unbearable weight resting on my shoulders. After a few days of self-care, sleeping in, and being wholly unproductive, a friend sent me a text that said “nobody is coming to save you. Get up. Be your own hero.” Once the initial shock of getting such a blunt text wore off, I spent time thinking about their message and realized how right they were. No one was coming to save me. No one was going to make me get up, get dressed, and do what needed to be done. In those moments I had to save myself and be my own hero.
Since that experience, I have been thinking almost non-stop about the phrase “if you wanted to, you would.” In the days after receiving that text I repeatedly reminded myself that if I really wanted to do something, I would do it. Whether it was getting out of bed and washing my face, or sending a difficult message to set a necessary boundary with someone who threatened my inner peace. I have come to realize that in our hands, we hold the power to change our reality. And if we choose to use that power, we can do great things.
I wish the solution to changing one’s mindset was as easy as getting a blunt text or making a conscious decision to think differently. I wish the cure for all mental health ailments was consciously repeating the same affirmation until the light at the end of the tunnel becomes visible. It would be irresponsible to imply that it is easy or simple to pull yourself out of a dark place. As much as I wish it were, it’s incredibly difficult to heal and protect your peace. Regardless of how difficult it is, I truly believe that if you wanted to, you would.
My proof comes from the commandment of “mishenichnas Adar, marbim b’simcha” [when Adar arrives, we should increase our happiness]. During the month of Adar, we have an inherent commandment to increase our happiness. We are told that during this one month, or two month (depending on the year), period we are meant to elevate our baseline level of happiness and be MORE happy. How is that possible? How is that a reasonable request? Every year we are told to put whatever other emotions we are feeling on hold in order to increase our happiness. We make a conscious choice to choose happiness through meals with friends, gift-giving, and charity. This is because Hashem knows that we have the tools necessary to change if we really try. If Hashem has the faith in us that we can make the decision to choose to change our mentality, then why don’t we have the same faith in ourselves? Hashem recognizes our ability to break from our typical way and change.
This idea of making a pointed effort to change does not just apply to mental health. There is almost no area of our lives that we could not change if we really wanted. The real struggle is having the integrity to take responsibility for creating the change you want to see. Whether it’s waking up and choosing happiness, communicating in a relationship when it’s difficult, or going to the gym after a long day. We must take responsibility for our lives and recognize that we are autonomous individuals who have agency over our trajectory.
It is hard to admit that if we really wanted to change our situation, we could. It is easier to pass blame to everyone and everything around us. It is easy to say I can’t commit to a relationship because I have too much other stuff going on in my life or I can’t eat healthy because I don’t know how to cook or I can’t daven today because I can’t wake up that early is easier than facing the reality that you are too weak-minded to put in effort when it counts. The reality is if you wanted to, you would. It’s hard to confront the fact that you have the power to change, it’s easier to pass blame.
During this time of year, there is no room to pass blame. We are tasked with the seemingly impossible requirement of choosing happiness. During a time of year when it is cold and rainy, midterms are breathing down our necks, and there is nothing exciting on the horizon, we must choose to wake up and make the decision to go after what we want. It is never too late to start choosing ourselves. We must choose ourselves because no one is coming to save us. So get up and be your own hero.