Mikve Night with OCD by Anonymous
I received this article yesterday, and it really warmed my heart to read how the author helped her friend with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder prepare for the mikve, transforming mikve for her from a difficult mitzvah into a more enjoyable one.
As I climbed the stairs to the mikve that wintery Friday night, I was met by 2 other women who were waiting for the mikve attendant to arrive.
“How long did it take you to prepare today?” inquired one of the women.
Sheepishly, I replied that since the children were home from school that short winter Friday, I had to cut my preparations down to a bare minimum.
“Nu, so how long was that?” she asked.
“Well, I managed 45 minutes,” was my reply.
I could see she was shocked.
“Don’t think I am any frummer than you because it took me longer. I’m just trying to figure out how you could do your preparations in such a short time. Tell me exactly what you did.”
I realized something was not quite right. It’s not a usual question. It came tumbling out of her mouth as soon as she saw me. Her voice sounded frustrated and annoyed!
We talked for a few minutes more, until the mikve lady arrived. The realization that someone Chassidish could get ready for the mikve in a reasonable amount of time while it took her 3 hours was very depressing for her. Why did it take her that long?!
As a result of her insecurities she spent so much time preparing that it made her resent this important mitzvah. She would become jittery and even panicky at the thought of having to prepare.
From that conversation I learned that my friend has OCD- obsessive-compulsive disorder. No. Not for everything. But when it comes to mikve preparations she becomes illogical and her preparations take forever.
After that time we met, we had monthly conversations. Each time I gave her a few tips on how she could cut down the time she spent preparing for this important mitzvah without compromising on the halacha. I spoke several times with an experienced Mikve lady and got advice which I would pass on to my friend. Each time she thanked me for the amount of time I had helped her cut down from her mikve preparations- half an hour, an hour. We were getting somewhere.
One month, we met in the fish store…..
Again she asked me quietly “So tell me again, what exactly do you do? Tell me, from the beginning of your preparations.”
After I finished my purchase, we stepped outside the store and spoke at length. “First I take a shower and wash my hair. That takes 5 minutes. Then I get into the bath for half an hour. In the bath I do all the rest. Wash myself, cut nails, brush and floss teeth, clean ears.. Then I get out and comb hair and check in the mirror. That takes another few minutes. Then I shower to rinse off and I’m done.”
I could tell from her questions that she was probably going to the mikve following next day. The same day as me…
My mind started racing as I walked away from her. Should I tell her? Should I prepare with her? All the rest of the day my mind was preoccupied with these thoughts.
Am I allowed to tell her that I am going? Usually, under normal circumstances, a woman never tells anyone which night is her mikve night for modesty reasons. However this situation felt different.
How could I not do it? It seemed to me that this was the only way to cure my friend, by going through the process with her, step by step.
When else would she have this opportunity? Isn’t it Hashgacha Protis (Divine Providence) that we happened to be going on the same night?!
Isn’t it Hashgacha Protis that we met that Friday night and that she opened up to me?
How else would I have known and been able to help her? And now I have the chance to really help! So what am I deliberating about? The next morning I woke up and made my decision based on the good old Chassidic teachings in the Hayom Yom: If you’re not sure if something is coming from your Yetser Hora (evil inclination) or Yetser HaTov (good inclination), look at the outcome of your deeds. So I did, and I knew that only good would come out of this.
I sent my friend a text message. Safest way. I didn’t want to put her on the spot. Maybe she’s was going to the mikve but didn’t want me to know?
A few hours later, I got a text message back. She was also going that night! And yes she would love to take me up on the offer to do the preparations together. What Hashgacha Protis!
That afternoon we discussed the logistics. I read my friend’s checklist to see if all was in order. I gently crossed out an item or two that were unnecessary. I called the mikve attendant and asked her to reserve 2 rooms at the back- away from the other rooms so no one would hear us. We both made sure that our phones were recharged. We both left our homes in time to arrive at the mikve a half hour earlier than I usually come, and about an hour later than she was accustomed to.
Together we prepared. We called or texted after each part:
“OK, bath now. ONLY HALF AN HOUR.”
I erased those texts we sent back and forth from my phone (so they wouldn’t be viewed by others). But they are kept in my mind. The feeling of being able to help someone else at the same time that I myself was preparing for the mikve was incredible and incomparable.
We were ready only a few minutes after toiveling time!! I wanted her to go first so she wouldn’t have time to look back and decide to clean anything over again, but she wasn’t quite ready. When I got back to my room I could hear that she was ready, so I left reassured to know that she had completed her journey.
Yes, I call it a journey for it wasn’t just that night that she managed to prepare in a normal amount of time. Since then she has been able to prepare in a healthy way on her own. She just needed someone to hold her hand that once. To go through it step by step.
Incidently, that night I became pregnant. Hashem approved!