blog and podcasts
Matana Jacobs – How to Use Your Mental Health Struggles to Help Others:
Matana Jacobs was born in Illinois, but at the age of two her family decided to move to Israel. Her parents were on the modern orthodox side of Judaism but when they got to Israel they shifted to the black and white community. Growing up, Matana went to an extreme Bais Yaakov school and was the perfect poster child, however she hated every moment of it. There was a stigma in the Chassidish schools that the Americans were modern and all Matana wanted to do was fit in. She was ashamed that her parents were American. At school events she didn’t let her parents speak in fear of being exposed. Matana went to the “Israeli BJJ” for high school and after high school she decided to learn on her own and volunteer at a special-ed school in the morning. There, she befriended a Lubavitch girl who convinced Matana to go with her to Hong Kong for a year and this experience changed her life.
Matana always had a yearning for exploration but her family was too poor to allow her to travel. While living in Hong Kong, Matana lived in the Chabad house and taught during the day. Through this experience, she began to see the Orthodox world through a different light. After Hong Kong, Matana finished her degree in computer graphics and digital printing and got her first job. At the time, her sisters were working for a woman named Rachel Devir who was a widow that had started a software company for Orthodox women. Rachel convinced Matana to come work for her and she became her mentor. Matana was placed as project manager of implementing the software in government agencies. Within a year she had 40 employees underneath her and was given a raise, with a company car and cellphone. Matana was 23 years old at the time. Her friends were all getting married and having kids but Matana thought marriage would stop her passion in life and wasn’t ready for that.
Matana got married at 25 and experienced tremendous hashgacha in meeting her husband. They moved to America and had 3 children. Matana’s husband was working but Matana decided not to work at all. Rachel would yell at Matana to go back to work. Matana came home from Israel erev Shavuos and Shavuos night she had her first panic attack. She thought she was having a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. Within a month, Matana learned that she was struggling with anxiety and depression but she wasn’t sure why. A month after this discovery, she was in such a bad state that she couldn’t walk on her own, she couldn’t swallow, and she couldn’t sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time.
What was happening? At the time, she wasn’t aware that she was battling early ovarian failure, which is similar to pre-menopause. She went on birth control to regulate her period and the doctors kept elevating her dose. Her body couldn’t take the amount of hormones she was pumping into it. Internally, she was having a tug of war between constantly being in niddah or wanting her mental health back. There’s not enough open conversation on the loneliness that happens when you want to connect but you’re not allowed. She decided to stop the birth control and start healing. Matana used to sit under her blankets all day in severe depression and her friends would open the shades. She didn’t eat for months and eventually her husband got her every type of protein shake until she found one she wouldn’t throw up from anxiety. She took one sip every 15 minutes and if she finished the protein shake by the end of the day, she wouldn’t die. Some time passed and Matana had enough. She asked her mother to come in from Israel to take her to the top doctors in America.
The support that Matana had during her struggle was tremendous. Her husband was amazing and offered her full support, while taking care of the kids. Everyday he would ask her if she needed anything with no judgement involved. Matana struggled for years to get out of that low place. She did online courses, took medication, and practiced mindfulness. Matana and her family moved to Florida for a year when she was 80% better and off her medication. She thought the sun would do the trick, but this ended up being the worst year. The experience taught her that the work must come from within and you can’t run away from your struggles.
Matana had tried every kind of therapy and nothing was working. She slept through her depression but she was numb and wanted to feel alive. Matana would sleep 8 hours a day after fighting anxiety the entire night. She came across the book “The Secret’ and read it 5 times. The book is about the law of attraction and practicing gratitude but it didn’t feel right to her. She started to take courses on it, and learn whatever she could find on the topic. Matana was feeling tremendous despair and didn’t know how to find gratitude in her situation. Slowly, she began to find small moments of gratitude she could tap into. In the beginning, it was very forced. She kept on increasing the gratitude until it began to create a warm, cozy feeling inside her. Everyday, so much can go wrong but when you practice gratitude you begin to dwell on what’s good. Matana’s life before her mental illness struggle was great, but nothing could compare to the thriving life she has now. Now her challenges are greater than before, but her joy is greater as well. Now she sees every moment as a gift and she feels a connection with Hashem that is stronger than ever.
Matana believes that if she never had this hiccup in her life, she would never be the happy person that she is now. Beforehand, Matana constantly felt depleted because she based her worthiness on how much she gave. She battled with her worthiness as a result of being different from her family. All of the giving she did when she didn’t want to, built up resentment and eventually led to a breakdown. She created her podcast “Hope to Recharge ” for anyone struggling but also for their loved ones. If you’re battling with mental illness, know that your loved one is suffering too, if not more, because they can’t save you. Your struggle makes them feel like a nobody so make sure to remain empathetic.
When someone supports you through a mental struggle, don’t take this for granted. This person has to now relate to their loved one in a place where they have no education. They are going through loss over the person that they knew and this is hard. Most people that get married or have kids have an image of what that will be like. When that expectation changes, they lose themselves and they lose the relationship. If someone is supporting you in a hard time, be grateful to them because they are lost as you are!
When Matana started to heal, she was always open with her journey and many people were reaching out. She would be on the phone for hours at a time. Matana had knowledge to share but not enough time to share it. Her coach explained that she can create a platform to share information. Matana began a podcast to share her story for people who are struggling and want to make a change. She decided to help others implement what she did and custom-make the tools for themselves. Most of the people that Matana works with are on medication and have gone through years of therapy but want to go through therapy with a happier mindset. We don’t need to be happy all the time but we need to be mindful. Creating healthy boundaries is so important. The podcast has turned into a business because Matana put so much energy into it.
Check out Matana’s amazing podcast, where she interviews so many people – openly speaking about their mental health challenges and tips and tricks that help them, check it out here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hope-to-recharge/id1464788845
Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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