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The Ultimate Ezer K’Negdo: One Woman’s Battle With Her Husband’s Mental Illness

Barbara Bensoussan

When Ahuva F. discovered her husband had a mental illness, she was tempted to run away. Instead, she joined forces with him to slay the inner dragon. Family First explores her story for our special "Beyond the Confines" theme section.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A woman in Ramat Beit Shemesh who’d often hosted Ahuva for Shabbos proposed a shidduch with Dovid, a baal teshuvah from Toronto. Dovid was tall and broad, with a philosophical bent; he’d majored in mathematics at a prestigious university before dropping out to learn Torah in Jerusalem. He had a quirky sense of humor that Ahuva enjoyed, and shared her love of books and the arts.

“He was six years older, had traveled extensively, and was far and away the most brilliant guy I’d ever met,” Ahuva says. “I was told he was one of the best learners in his yeshivah. One person hinted that he was a little eccentric, but that got passed off as a consequence of being so smart, and an older bochur.”

Everybody helped the couple pull off a simple, no-frills yeshivish wedding. They found a tiny apartment, and Ahuva, who’d studied economics and marketing, found bookkeeping work at an American yeshivah. But red flags began to unfurl even during sheva brachos.

“I picked up on a certain oddness, even at the very beginning,” Ahuva admits. “Okay, Dovid was still my brilliant, exciting new husband. But he had absolutely no inclination to get out and do anything. It went beyond being a homebody — it bordered on reclusive. It worried me, but I wanted things to be smooth, so I didn’t say anything that might rock the boat.

“One day he told me he had to go to the doctor — not the one near us, but in Tel Aviv! He realized he had to explain why he needed to schlep all the way to Tel Aviv for a regular doctor’s appointment, and after hemming and hawing, finally confessed that he took Prozac, and that doctor wrote the prescriptions.”

Ahuva bursts out laughing at the memory. “My reaction was, ‘Is that all?’ As far as I could tell, the entire world was on Prozac! I thought, what’s the big deal?”

She could live with Dovid’s Prozac-popping. The more pressing issue was parnassah: their savings were running out. They agreed that Dovid would continue learning, but also enroll in a technical training course to learn accounting.

Ahuva sighs, and stirs her coffee.

“Dovid was kind of pushed into this by a friend who sincerely wanted to help; he paid for the classes. But Dovid is simply not the accounting type. His friend also had no clue that by then ...” She shakes her head, closes her eyes for a second. “By then both of us were coming apart at the seams.”


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