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Fearing My Trauma Made Me a Fraud

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September 17, 2020
Photo by Getty Stock Images.

I need help. Recently, while watching television with my 12-year-old son, Hillel, I gasped when one character slit another’s throat. My body seized in terror and I howled, “Turn it off, damn it. Enough. I can’t watch that crap. You’ve never had a knife at your throat.”

Hillel started to cry. “But Mom, it’s just a show.”

“Shut up. You don’t understand. You’ve never been kidnapped.”

He ran to his room and slammed the door. I collapsed and cried in shame.

I’ve never dealt with the trauma of being kidnapped on my honeymoon 24 years ago. Nor have I processed the traumatic, humiliating end to my marriage 18 years later. There already was too much trauma in my childhood, which included family members with drug addiction and bipolar behavior.

My past traumas often erupt when I watch a scary TV show or movie. I’ve become a master at shutting my eyes right before a violent scene. But sometimes, I don’t see it coming. When they hit, the flashbacks feel like virtual reality. In that moment with my son, I could feel my own throat being slit.

As I lay sobbing, I realized that my many years of forgetting my fears have made me a fraud. I’m not the resilient woman I project. I’ve hidden my trauma from my sons, friends and every man I’ve dated since my divorce. But there is one I cannot hide from: God.

As I prepare for Rosh Hashanah, I feel vulnerable and alone. 

As I prepare for Rosh Hashanah, I feel vulnerable and alone. I long to hear the sound of the shofar to remind me I am God’s beloved. Rosh Hashanah is when I release the vows I made to God during the past year and write new ones. Unlike my marriage, with God, I get another chance every year.

My sacred, spiritual meditation of annulling my vows to God is called Hatarat Nedarim. This Jewish ritual of introspection will free me from my past promises to be brave, strong and benevolent. Last year, I thought I could best serve God by doing mitzvahs and ignoring my wounded soul. I judged others for going to therapy and “doing the work.” “Hah,” I’ve thought. “They’re weak. Look at me. I’ve gone through hell and I’m fine. No — I’m amazing.”

In reality, I’m a fantastic liar — to myself and to everyone. I’m not amazing. I’m terrified to do “the work” because I don’t want to relive my pain. But before I ask God’s forgiveness for judgment and false pride (I have to save something for Yom Kippur), I want to stand emotionally naked in front of God and renew my soul. Rosh Hashanah is when I remember the sacred relationship with God and, like any good relationship, it’s a partnership. I can pray, but I must take action and do my part to make it work, too.

So my action this year is to work with a trauma therapist. I believe there are talented healers who allow God to work through their words, hands and energy. He or she is just waiting for me to show up.

God, I promise that this coming year, I will be true to you, true to myself and true to the ones I love. With your love, I will find the courage to seek help, face my fears and overcome my past traumas with humility and grace.

But first, I had to apologize to my son.

I knocked on Hillel’s door and walked into his room with a tear-stained smile. “Honey, it’s Mom.” His expression changed from anger to compassion. “I’m so sorry I yelled at you, sweetheart. It’s not OK. I’m not OK.”

“Mom,” he said, “I want you to get better. I know you can get better. Remember, it’s OK to ask for help.”

“I promise you, God willing, I will.”

“No, Mom, God won’t will it. You need to find a solution. God will make sure it works.”

Sometimes, I think God speaks through my son. So now it’s time to pray — and find a good therapist.


Audrey Jacobs is a financial adviser and has three sons. 

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