Note: This article is in no way a general Halachic leniency, as it is about a specific individual with her own Psak. Please consult your personal Rav for any Halachic questions regarding your own Mikvah experience.
If you are anything like me, and nearly 86% of American Adults, you likely have some sort of aqua-phobia. Like any phobia, there are different levels for a fear-of-water. Some people just cannot get water in their eyes and ears, whilst others have it so severe that they cannot even see a full bathtub without quaking.
But no one has a bigger problem with this phobia than the monthly Mikvah-go-er. And if ever there was something that ruined your day, this would probably top the charts.
Now I swim. In fact I love swimming…up until the water gets in my face. Funny in fact, is how I can swim a good 40 laps in a pool, but I cannot face the flow of water when I am in the shower. The slightest feeling that there is water on my eyes and near my nose makes me panic – cue nausea, sweaty palms, pounding heart and intense shakes.
But it never caused many problems until I started going to the Mikvah. At this point in my life, I have found several things that help keep me calm to be able to fulfill this Mitzvah, but it has not always been easy.
I used to just ‘sweat it out’ like many women. I am very open about my fear and you would be surprised by how many women I talk to, that actually confess to having this same problem.
Mikvah night used to mean a day of stress – including not being able to eat, nausea and shaking. But like any good Jewish wife, I had to do what had to be done. Until the time when I went to Mikvah and Hatzolah almost had to be called because I was hyperventilating….IN the water. That is right. 20 minutes to get 1 kosher dip (and there were 2 left to go). I had never cried so hard. I could barely choke out the Bracha. It took my husband hours to get me to calm down and I had nightmares for weeks.
That was when I got a hold of myself and said that is it. I put together a plan and spoke to my Rav and some kallah teachers and I cannot tell you in any words how different my Mikvah experience is now. But I hate keeping things to myself, so I want to share some tips with you now because although many of you might not have such severe fears, I am sure there are some of you who still shake and fast on the day of Mikvah, and not for religious purposes!
1: CALL YOUR RAV or your kallah teacher. I was told that if for any reason a lady cannot dip 3 times (cold water, ear infection, phobia!) she only needs to do it twice. And I was told by another person that if I cannot even face 2, I only need to do it once. But again, of course you need a Psak for this.
Many times, I end up dipping 3 or 4 times but only 1 or 2 of those are kosher dips. Which brings me to…
2: Talk talk talk to your Mikvah lady. Tell her you have a phobia. Tell her what your Rav told you. Tell her that you will try to do 2 but you may only do 1 and that it may take a while to get those but she should please understand.
When I told this to the Mikvah lady the first time, she looked at me and said “so many people are scared, take your time for I am in no rush.” She even took the time to show me how to stand to make it easier for me, how to put my hair and how to bend my knees efficiently.
3: Find a Mikvah that you are comfortable in. One of the reasons I had that major, life changing, panic attack was because I was in a new Mikvah and the lady had no time or patience. In fact, after 15 minutes she went to call another lady to ask her to ‘help’ me.
After that, I looked into Mikvah’s in the area and found one that had great reviews. I went there and have since, never gone elsewhere. The Mikvah Ladies are relaxed, calm and so helpful. In the water, they have a little hole in the wall that is filled with water so you can place your hand in there loosely and it supports you enough so that you do not feel like you are drowning.
4: Take small sips of water whilst you are in the preparation room, as your mouth and throat can get dry and that can make you feel more nauseous and can make it harder to dip.
5: Invest in some bachs rescue remedy. It is an herbal remedy and, say what you want, it works! Whether it is just psychological or actually healing, it helps you to calm down. It relaxes you and stops the shakes.
6: Take your time! No one is rushing you. Not even your husband outside waiting in the car. Not the Mikvah lady, not the ladies in the waiting room and not G-d. You can be there for 10 minutes or 30 minutes. It is your Mitzvah, you have to feel comfortable and you have to do it in the one and only way that Hashem wants you to and that is for it to be Kosher.
So take a deep breath, you will be fine. And after this, it is over for a whole month!