“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7/All good children go to Heaven”

I spent a lot of time blogging, here and on my Doctor Who blog, last night.  I should have known better than to blog late at night as it always takes longer than I expect.  I’m also frustrated that I get such little feedback on my blogs.  I tried turning off the ‘like’ notification on this blog to stop me obsessing about how many likes I get.  To be honest, I don’t know why so many people seem to follow this blog, as it’s just me moaning about my life.  I’d like to write other things about mental health and the Jewish community, but how I’m feeling on any given day drowns out more objective sociological thoughts.  I guess that’s why I’d like feedback, to try and understand what people who ‘follow’ or ‘like’ this blog think about it.  I’d also like feedback on my other blog to see what people think of my thoughts on Doctor Who as I try to turn some of the posts there into writing that ideally I’d like to have published and get paid for.  Blogging, it has to be said, is not really a medium that suits me.  I’m not good at search engine optimisation and publicising the blog.  I’d rather get a publisher to do that for a share of my profits.

I spoke to my rabbinic mentor today about my guilt and frustration with my religious life.  I’m still processing it, I think.  He felt I’m a good judge of my own level of growth, but my judgement is disrupted when the depression is bad.  I don’t know.  I tell myself that I feel that HaShem (God) hates me because of things in my childhood and my loneliness, but it doesn’t stop it feeling real.  Also, when I’m very depressed or anxious, I act out in different ways.  Nothing really bad or criminal, but I hate myself for the things I do.  I don’t know how much this is me setting too high standards for myself, considering everything that is going on in my life or whether I really should be better.

One thing that occurred to me while I was talking to my rabbinic mentor was that I don’t really know other frum men with mental illness to compare myself with, to see if I’m doing above or below average.  I know a couple of frum women, but that’s apples and oranges a bit because in the Orthodox world men and women have different obligations and it’s not such a bad thing for women to pray less or without a minyan (prayer quorum) or not to learn Torah.  When I compare myself to men at shul, I’m comparing myself to men who are probably much more functional than I am.  The only other frum people I know with mental health issues are some of the Hevria.com writers and they are mostly managing their issues infinitely better than I am even though they’re mostly my age or younger i.e. they have spouses and children and learn Torah and even do crazy creative stuff with a Jewish flavour… it’s not stuff I could do right now and perhaps not ever.  I would like to know how they cope, but I don’t dare to ask.  I guess that’s why the site provokes such mixed emotions in me, aside from the issue of my being rejected as a regular writer.  It makes me feel that it’s saying, “We do all this stuff, Jewish stuff, creative stuff, social stuff, and we have mental health issues.  You have no excuse whatsoever for not doing the same.”  So I feel angry and useless and end up posting comments there going on about how mentally ill I am to justify (to myself as much as to them) the fact that I’m not doing all the things they’re doing.  And then when they talk about the miracles God does for them to intervene in their lives and make them better, I just go to pieces, feeling God hates me and they (the Hevria writers) must hate me and I’m going to be useless and lonely forever.

My only other achievement today has been to cook chilli (which I burnt…), which I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks.  I feel disappointed, but Sundays at the moment are just a write-off: too dark, cold and wet to shift my mood out of my depression and post-work exhaustion, particularly when, as today, I’m extra exhausted from Shabbat and perhaps also from having a migraine late last night.  As a result, most of today has been a washout with me too depressed and exhausted to really do anything: daven (pray) much or with kavannah (concentration), learn Torah, do chores, exercise or even leave the flat…  I haven’t even bought my friend a wedding present, which I keep putting off, no doubt because I’m upset at being reminded that I’m still single.  Speaking of which, I was planning on emailing the rabbis at my shul and asking if they know of a shadchan (matchmaker) who deals with people with health issues in the UK, but I haven’t got around to that either, presumably because I’m ashamed of having to ask, everyone my age being married already.  They know I have issues, but it’s uncomfortable to have to spell out what a failure I am and of course there is the fear that they won’t get back to me and I’ll be stuck again.

Once again, I feel like I’ve let everyone down.  I’ve let my parents down by being mentally ill, employed only part-time and single, I’ve let my community down by not being involved and helping, I’ve let my rabbis down by not being frum enough, I’ve let God down by acting out and not meeting my religious obligations and I’ve let myself down by all of the above.  It’s hard to see that as depression-influenced judgement and not as an objective reflection of reality.

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Appeal to the Wisdom of Crowds (Comment Email Issue)

I’ve had an issue here for a while that I can’t solve.  I can’t contact WordPress about it as I don’t have a paid account.

While I receive comment notifications for comments on my blog and I receive notifications for ‘likes’ on my comments on other people’s blogs, I don’t receive notification when someone replies to a comment of mine on someone else’s blog, even if I tick the box to be notified about this.  I’m not sure what to do.  I tried googling and looking in the online forum, but all the answers I found were complicated and seemed to rely on my rewriting code, which I don’t want to have to do.

Has anyone else had this problem and, if so, how did you solve it?

The Shul Dinner

I managed to go to the Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner at my shul (synagogue) on Friday.  It was reasonably good.  I mean, the meal was very good, and my mental health while there was reasonably good.  There was set seating and I was worried that I would be with people I didn’t know and be too shy to talk all evening, but I was put opposite one of the people I usually sit with in services, the person in the community who I would most consider a friend.  I have eaten at his house a few times, so I know his wife as well, who was with him.  I was also seated next to the rabbi.  I’m not sure whether to read anything into that.  I think they just needed to slot me in where there was a space, as I was the only person over eighteen there who wasn’t with his/her spouse.  Still, I don’t worry about talking to rabbis the way some people do.

The food was good.  I managed to speak to some people during and before the meal, both people I already knew, like my friend, his wife and the rabbi and people I recognised by sight, but had never spoken to before.  There was some social anxiety about talking to new people or just talking generally, but I managed to get through it.  I shook a little to start with from anxiety (I spilt grape juice all over my plate at kiddush), but I don’t think anyone noticed and after a while I relaxed and felt better.  The organisers had the good idea of serving the young children their main course first and then some of the teenage girls took them off to play or do some kind of activities somewhere else so the adults could converse uninterrupted.  After the main course people moved around a bit to talk to friends on other tables and I began to feel a bit lost and lonely as the people I knew moved away.  The rabbis and some of the men started singing zmirot (Shabbat songs) at one table.  I went over to join them, but they were mostly singing songs I didn’t know, or words I knew to tunes I didn’t know, so I couldn’t join in.

Still, on the whole it was a success and I enjoyed most of it, although I was lucky in who I was seated with.

When I left I was feeling that I needed to get away from the crowd a bit, as I had had enough of being in a big group, but it would be nice if there were one or two people I could discuss it with.  I thought of going to my parents’ house to see if they were back from the dinner they went to at their shul, but I thought that if they weren’t in, it would be a twenty minute detour in the cold and dark, which I didn’t fancy (as it happens, they would not be home for another hour or so, so I did the right thing).  When I got home I was feeling a bit lonely, wishing I had a wife to talk to and thinking about various things that had happened at the dinner connected with that.  As I said, I was the only single adult there and many people had children there too.  The assistant rabbi had given a short dvar Torah (religious thought) where he mentioned the importance of “friends, a spouse, a rov (rabbi), a community” to focus on the important things in life and I was thinking that I have these things tenuously or not at all.  Likewise, the person sitting next to me (not the rabbi, on the other side) was getting annoyed that his children kept interrupting him when he tried to speak and I was thinking “If only I could be upset that my children interrupt me.”

I did my hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer for about an hour, which is much longer than usual.  I usually only do about ten minutes, but I felt I had a lot to say to HaShem (God), mostly about this loneliness.  I was also thinking about something the assistant rabbi said in his shiur (class) this week, about the ultimate kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name) being when a person refrains from sin in private, even though no one would know what he had done.  This tied in with something I have been thinking about a lot recently, from the Babylon 5 episode Comes the Inquisitor, which turns around the idea that some people would be willing to die for a cause in public, if they would become a posthumous hero, but that true heroism is willingness to die for what is right even if no one ever knows.  So I was thinking a lot about what my life means if it is lived by myself, trying to do the right thing and often failing, but occasionally doing something right and whether that is good enough, even if no one else would ever know.  I didn’t really come to any great conclusions.

I read for a bit after this, as I was tired, but also a bit hungry and not ready to go to sleep, needing to ‘come down’ from the dinner and also from the intensity of my hitbodedut experience.  I got to bed about 1.00am, which was rather too late.

I woke up early enough to go to shul today, but I felt too depressed and exhausted after Friday, so I went back to sleep.  By the time I got up it was about 1.30pm.  I struggled to get going and get dressed.  I davened (prayed) a tiny bit, had lunch, davened Minchah (prayed the afternoon service) and had seudah (the third Shabbat meal).  The flat was very cold by this stage, even though I had the heater on a time-switch, so I went back to bed and promptly fell asleep for another hour and a half, until long past the end of Shabbat.  I might have to take a sleeping tablet tonight to avoid my sleep pattern being messed up again.  I’m glad I managed to clean my flat during the week, as I was supposed to do it tonight, but I’m far too lethargic to do so.  I also seem to be getting a migraine.  It’s a shame that today has been difficult, as yesterday was good.

Smile Away

(An ironically-intended use of the title of a cheerful song I have been listening to a lot today to deal with stress.)

I often wonder what people really think of me.  Then I usually feel glad that I don’t know, because it’s probably even worse than even I think.  That seems to sum up today.

The day started badly with train delays.  I’ll spare you that particular, rather dull, story.  Suffice to say that I arrived at work on time, but already somewhat stressed.  I was also feeling a bit ashamed of commenting on Hevria yesterday, a rather self-pitying and attention-seeking post (I think I’ve become the village idiot of the Hevria community).  I don’t know if I’m looking for people to confirm my self-loathing and pessimism or to find convincing reasons against them.  I’m not sure that either would satisfy me.  I suppose that goes for these posts too, although people here at least know what they’re getting.  When I got to work there was some drama that upset me that I can’t go into here.  I was not directly involved, but even seeing other people caught up in it was upsetting and even a bit frightening to me.

After that my boss was showing me something on the cataloguing system.  I was slow and confused moving from one window to another and my boss said that I keep losing concentration (it was not the first time this has happened when she has been showing me how to do something), which just made me feel more self-conscious.  I have noticed this problem before and there are several possible reasons for it.  It could be poor concentration from the depression, but I think it is more likely the Asperger’s, with poor executive function making it hard for me to mentally ‘change gears’ when moving from one part of a task to another.  Even when working on the catalogue by myself, I find I open windows and forget why I have opened them, open the wrong windows, go back and forth between windows trying to remember what I’m doing and so forth.  The other possible culprit, again from the Asperger’s, is difficulty in picking up implied, unstated commands.  If I already have window X open and boss says to me, “Open window Y then do Z,” it seems that I don’t necessarily pick up on the unstated command “Open window Y then do Z in window Y, not window X” and I’ll be waiting for more instructions because I have two windows to choose from and am not sure which she means while she’s waiting for me to get on with the task.  Whatever the reason, it is made worse by the social anxiety.  I would feel awkward with anyone next to me, but the fact that it’s my boss is even more anxiety-provoking.

This leaves me wishing that I had a proper diagnosis of Asperger’s, although I’m not sure what kind of consideration I would ask for if I did have it.  The other thing I take from this is that I probably have been too hard on my parents, particularly my Dad, over the years when I complain that their instructions and conversations leap around in ways that I can’t follow.  Perhaps they were more comprehensible and it was the Asperger’s that made it hard for me to keep up.  I always assumed that this aspect of Asperger’s doesn’t affect me, but it looks like it does, at least in a relatively low-key way.

The other problem I had at work was anxious shaking.  I was showing a couple of students how to search in the catalogue and I shook a bit while talking to them.  I’m not sure if they noticed.  I hope they didn’t, otherwise they probably think I’m a freak.  I nervously gabbled through the explanation , but they said they could follow.  I probably gave them a more comprehensive explanation than I would normally give, because I was determined not to give in to the anxiety, so I made sure I dealt with every point in detail.  It’s a shame, because it’s always good to find students who genuinely want to use the library, so it would have been nice to enjoy the interaction more.

Reading Hevria again on the way home made me feel like a fake Jew, a wannabe Jew who acts frum (religious), but isn’t actually doing anything properly and will probably stop being frum at some point from loneliness and self-loathing.  So that didn’t make me feel much better.

Then at shiur (Torah class) tonight pretty much all of today’s issues came together.  I was worried about shaking every time the assistant rabbi (who gives the shiur) caught my eye, which he does a lot (he’s good at looking around everyone there – it’s only a few of us around his dining room table).  I don’t think I did, but I was worried that I was going to.  I tried to focus on his forehead rather than his eyes, but it didn’t really work as I was instinctively trying to make eye contact (even though I usually find that hard!).  For the second week running, he said something which seemed really relevant to me and the struggles that I’m currently going through while making eye contact, like he knew my issues and was directly talking to me, but then on reflection I thought it was probably coincidence and me looking for signs in a desperate attempt to convince myself that HaShem (God) loves me.  Then on the way out, he said that he doesn’t know what I’m thinking during the shiur, if I’m agreeing, disagreeing or what because I don’t have any readable body language.  I guess that might be Asperger’s too, or struggling against social anxiety, trying to look confident and mask anxious body language.

I was thinking of messaging the assistant rabbi to explain some of my issues and how they impact on my body language, but now I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.  I am trying to open up to people more (and generally not succeeding), but I always wonder if it’s a good idea to hit people with this stuff out of the blue, especially as he might think that he upset me, which he did not.

I’m in the flat by myself over Shabbat (the Sabbath) this week.  My parents and I are going to different shul dinners on Friday night and my parents are out for Shabbat lunch too, so there seemed little point in staying with them as I usually do.  I’m a bit worried about being lonely and depressed as tends to happen when I’m alone on Shabbat, but I’m more worried about the shul dinner I have signed up for.  I’m worried that I won’t be able to sit with people I know, that I won’t have anything to say or that I’ll be overwhelmed by the noise and people and want to go home.  I have to stay, though, as I won’t have any other food prepared for dinner.

Resonances

It has been a stressful day.  A couple of things happened at work that I can’t write about here, but the upshot was that I realised (or had confirmed, as I already suspected it) that work is triggering because common experiences I have at work resonate strongly with memories with bad childhood experiences of school and family life.  I am not sure how to deal with this.  One thing I can write a little bit about here is a couple of students who are acting very friendly to me, despite the fact that they are not the quietest and I have had to ask them to keep the noise down a few times.  I am more than slightly suspicious of their motives and wonder if they think that befriending me will mean I am lenient with them or if there is some kind of joke going on at my expense that I don’t know about.  This feels very much how I felt much of the time at school, confused and anxious that everyone was laughing at me.

Similarly illuminating are two comments on British Prime Minister Edward Heath seen in The Prime Ministers: The Office and its Holders since 1945 by Peter Hennessy.  According to Lord Carrington, Heath was, “a somewhat lonely man… [who]… needed friendship yet found it hard to unbutton himself to others.”  Whereas Hennessy describes him as having “the combination of shyness and defensiveness that can, in Roy Jenkins’ marvellous phrase, produce the Heath ‘affronted penguin’ impression.”  I think the first quote describes me; I fear the second one does too, more than I would like anyway.

Uniting my first two paragraphs, to the Calvin Coolidge method of dealing with students, I can now add the Clement Attlee method: “A period of silence on your part would be most welcome.”

 

I think I just drama queened again on Hevria.  I can’t actually tell any more.  Mea culpa.

Misery, Matches and Miracles

I feel very depleted, very depressed and I was quite anxious for a while, although I seem to have become too exhausted to continue feeling anxious.  I spent four hours on the issue desks at two different sites today while covering staff training.  Being on the issue desk always leaves me depleted as does being at our secondary campus, so I’ve had a double blow today.

In the real world, the news is full of murder and child abuse, which depresses me no end.  I would avoid it, but I see other people’s newspapers when I’m commuting.  I have been very anxious/agitated/angry about political antisemitism over the last twenty-four hours or so.  It was so bad last night that I had to take one of the sleeping tablets the doctor prescribed.  I don’t want to make this a political blog, but I feel I want to say, “If you think women should tell their stories without judgement, if you think black people should tell their stories without judgement, if you think transexuals should tell their stories without judgement, why are you too scared to let Jews tell their stories?”  But They wouldn’t listen because They are sure that They are right and we are wrong.  I should avoid this too, but it’s in my head and in my life, so I can’t.

[End of politics]

I emailed the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues again last night.  Still no response.  I will give it until Shabbat (the Sabbath) and then go elsewhere, if I feel well enough to date.  I have a couple of email addresses for shadchanim for people with health issues, but the one I contacted was the only one I had seen other than on blogs and the like, so I’m not sure how reliable they are (particularly after this).  I also don’t know if they deal with people with mental (as opposed to physical) health issues and whether they deal with ‘modern’ people or just Charedim (ultra-Orthodox), nor whether they deal with people in Europe or just the USA (they all seem to be US-based).  I guess there is only one way to find out.  I’m tempted to just email all of them (not a group email, one at a time, but all in one day), because emailing one at a time and waiting to hear is painful.  If they want payment upfront, I can always back out.  As I understand it, most shadchanim either expect payment on results (so to speak) or do it as a mitzvah and don’t expect payment at all (although they do accept gifts, which is fair enough).  The alternative to all this is a site that is something of a mix between a dating website and a traditional shadchan, in that you decide whether to meet based on profiles, but it’s the shadchan who picks out the profiles and sends them to you.  I have mixed feelings about this too, but at least it’s Europe-based.

I found a £10 note on the pavement this morning.  There was no one remotely nearby who it might have belonged to and there were no distinguishing marks on it, so I felt confident in taking it, albeit worried that there might be a hidden camera somewhere.  However, I always feel guilty in claiming found money, even when legally/morally justified (not that I’ve ever found this much before.  I think three pound coins was my previous maximum) and so have resolved to give it to charity, to sponsor someone who is running a marathon for charity.  It occurred to me that this could be one of the miracles that I complain of not receiving and I’m giving it away.  I don’t know if this is a fault with the miracle, so to speak (because I always give found money away, it’s just not usually this much, so there was virtually zero chance of me keeping it) or a fault in myself, that I can’t let good things happen to me.  Although giving £10 to charity is a good deed in itself, so I suppose I am benefiting in some way, if I can accept that my good deeds are meaningful and rewarded, which is difficult.  But it makes me think something that I have thought before when thinking about miracles, that I don’t like to be given things, I prefer to earn them myself.  I just don’t know how to “earn” better mental health, friends, love, etc.  I’ve tried working, not working, diet, exercise, different medications, different therapies, dating, not dating, going to social events, being involved with my religious community… nothing seems to work.

Stuck

My day was going OK.  No real problems at work (one or two small mistakes… it’s possible I over-emphasise ‘mistakes’ here) and I wrote 500 words or so of my Doctor Who book during lunch (on Black Orchid… come back Nick Pegg, all is forgiven), but I had growing anxiety once the day was over and I was leaving, which seemed bizarre, then a torrent of unfocused agitation, anxiety and despair on the way home.  At least, I think that’s what it was.  It was hard to tell.  It was just feelings without words and I’m not good and describing and understanding those.  I felt like I was imploding.  I couldn’t concentrate on the book I was reading, although to be fair it was pretty heavy-going.

The doctor phoned while I was on the way home, a follow-up from last week’s appointment.  I agreed with him that changing medication probably wouldn’t do anything, but I silently disagreed that I would naturally feel better over time.  I probably didn’t stress enough that this episode has lasted for about six months now, long before my sister’s wedding and even before the work stress really started.  However, as I’m not convinced there is much he (or even a psychiatrist) can do for me, I don’t really feel inclined to make another appointment at this time.

I hope to speak to my rabbi mentor on Sunday.  The whole situation is silly.  I want to be a frum (religious) Jew.  According to objective analysis, I’m probably doing at least some of the things a frum Jew should be doing, insofar as I can with my mental health issues.  But I’m convinced that I’m a terrible Jew with no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World/Heaven) and that there is no reason for me to carry on living because I’m just accumulating sins.  It’s hard to disprove a belief that’s so nebulous, but so persuasive.

I feel like I need to do something to fight the inertia and misery that have taken over my life in the last six or seven months.  I’m not sure what.  I don’t have a career as such.  I don’t really have the energy for career-furthering things.  I can barely cope with having a job, let alone a career, and I have no expectation of rising particularly high up the promotion ladder.  Looking at books on childcare at work to decide whether to withdraw them makes me feel broody.  The thought occurs to me that I should chase the shadchan (matchmaker) to whom I sent my dating profile over a fortnight ago without even getting an acknowledgement back, but I’m too ashamed (of what?  Why?  I don’t know) and pessimistic, not to mention convinced that I’m unlovable and half convinced that I’m about to go off the derekh (stop being frum) and shouldn’t go near either frum women for fear that I will end up non-frum.  It’s also painful to feel attracted to women in a normal way when I know that no one could find me attractive, physically or as a person.  That said, I was better when I was dating in spring and early summer of 2017 and breaking up with the person I thought I was building a relationship with (even though we only went on four dates) was the trigger for this episode of depression or at least for an existing episode to worsen.  So that inclines me to try again, but also makes me worry what will happen if (when) I get dumped again.

Actually, it’s very hard to go on in any way when I think I’m going to be stuck forever.  It’s hard to succeed at work or carry on religiously or contact friends or be involved with community or contact family when life seems so bleak and intransigent.  I suppose I carry on somehow, or, at any rate, I have done for fifteen years or more, but I’m not sure how.

News from Somewhere Else

It turned out that I didn’t have the tinned tomatoes I needed for the chilli I was going to cook and it was too late to buy them, so I went to see my parents, sister and brother-in-law.  Unfortunately, the conversation was mostly about work stress and weddings (my sister’s and other people’s), and I got a bit overwhelmed by the noise, even though there were only five of us, so I just felt more depressed and maybe anxious and consequently ate too much of my Mum’s homemade chocolate cake.

On days like this, I don’t know how I can cope indefinitely.  The ‘stuckness’ feeling comes back and I can’t see any end to this endless routine of work-anxiety-eat-sleep-work-anxiety-eat-sleep-weekend-shul-eat-depression-sleep-work… except, eventually, death.  I don’t feel suicidal right now, but it’s hard to see anything good in my life.  As I’ve said, I don’t get any joy out of my religious practices, I don’t really have long-term career plans, nor can I see myself ever having the family life I want and even writing books on Doctor Who seems like a dream, albeit one I’m actually working on at the moment.

Stay calm.  Remember to breathe.  Try to ignore the voices saying, “Nobody likes you.  Nobody cares about you.  You can’t cope.  You’re screwing everything up.”  Keep going.

The News from Nowhere

There’s not much to report from this weekend, but I feel the need to reach out.  I managed to get to shul (synagogue) without much trouble on Friday night, but I missed Saturday morning, this time explicitly because of social anxiety.  I did at least manage to shake hands with the rabbi and the assistant rabbi after the service on Friday night, something I hadn’t managed for several weeks, maybe even a couple of months, because of social anxiety and fear of being judged.

I did get very depressed again while doing my hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer on Friday night.  Speaking of meditation, I’ve gone back to trying to do some mindfulness meditation before my hitbodedut, just for three minutes, to see if I can manage it without getting agitated.  It’s hard and I’m not sure what benefit I really get from it, but it seems to be one of those things that depressed people are expected to do, even if it hurts and doesn’t help, in order to be taken seriously by non-depressed people (like exercising and “making an effort”).

Today I slept late again.  Even once awake it took me hours to get dressed.  I pottered around the flat, skimming books on Doctor Who, browsing aimlessly online, trying to resist the temptation to eat too much.  although I have almost no actual junk food in the flat, I can easily eat too many nuts or dried apricots.  Dried apricots in particular have a lot of sugar, albeit natural rather than refined sugar.  I was supposed to go to my parents’ house this afternoon to see them, my sister and my brother-in-law, but I wasn’t up to going.  I should be cooking chilli for dinner as I haven’t cooked much lately, but instead I’m writing this and feeling awful.

After two weeks, the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues still hasn’t got back to me, not even to acknowledge receipt of my shidduch (dating) profile.  I would chase it, except that I feel in no fit state to be dating anyway.

I emailed my rabbi mentor last night to see if we could speak about my feeling that God hates me and that I have no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World/Heaven).  I don’t know if he could really change the way I think, though.  It’s becoming very hard to stay frum (religious) as I feel so religiously inadequate compared with the other people at shul and on Hevria, feeling that I am going backwards rather than forwards in my spiritual development, that I am simply not doing enough that God must really hate me.  At the moment I don’t really feel anything except a vague depressive sadness and lethargy, but I think deep down I want to be a good Jew, but  I feel like I’ve been set up to fail almost since I was born, if not earlier.  Only I should not say so.  I should take responsibility for my actions.  I can’t believe that anyone who really knows me could love me or forgive me.  My evidence for this is that only two “people” really know me.  I’m one and I don’t love or forgive myself.  The other is HaShem (God) and it often feels like He doesn’t love or forgive me either.

Blog Award Nominations

Ashley of the Mental Health at Home blog nominated me for some blog awards, “all or any of” the Liebster, Mystery Blogger and Awesome Blogger Awards.  There’s a big overlap between them, and I don’t really want to do the Mystery Blogger Award thing of listing facts about myself (I’m already open about my mental health and what I haven’t said, I don’t really want to say here because of my anonymity).  I also feel a bit awkward as to whether I qualify for awards for inspiring or happiness-spreading posts.  So I’m going to stick with the Liebster Award for now.

Leibster Award

Apparently there are different versions of the rules, so I’m going with her version.

  • Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you.
  • Provide a link to their blog.
  • Include the award graphic.
  • Answer the questions provided.
  • Nominate 10 recently followed bloggers and share your post with them, so they can see it.
  • Make a new set of 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

 

I haven’t got ten recently followed bloggers and I don’t really have ten people to nominate, but I’ll nominate a few fairly recent finds and one I’ve been following for a decade or so.  I’m not entirely sure who follows my blog, and lots of the blogs I follow are written by people with mental health issues and severe lack of energy so if anyone I nominate who doesn’t have the time/energy/desire to do this, please don’t feel under any pressure.  Also, I’m really rubbish at ‘small talk’ type questions of the kind that usually go in these things (Asperger’s again) so please just answer the questions I was asked.

Anyway, here goes:

I nominate:

  1. An Anonymous Escape from Life
  2. My Anxiety Matters
  3. Insomnia Girl
  4. Reflecting on Well-Being/A Lone Wolf and Mental Well Being
  5. Luthien the Green
  6. I’m Fine, Stop Asking
  7. The Silent Wave
  8. And Purple Cat (because I’ve ‘known’ her online for years, but never tagged her on anything before).

Sorry that that leaves me two down, but I’m not sure who else I can nominate.

Now, my answers (I’ll try to keep them brief):

  1. What changes would you like to see in the world within the next ten years?  Ignoring unlikely things like world peace, and anything that would start a political argument… people accepting that it’s OK for other people to have different religious/political/cultural views and that that doesn’t make them bad people.
  2. Do you own any pets? If so, what kind? No.  I had a couple of goldfish as a child, but that was it.
  3. What is your least liked thing about blogging? It takes me a lot of time to write my posts.  As most of my posting is driven by the compulsion to relieve strong feelings of depression, despair or anxiety, it means I spend ages on venting posts and not as much time on my other writing projects or even on writing more general/objective posts about mental illness here.
  4. How in touch are you with your surroundings?  Very little, I suspect.  My Mum used to call me her Absent Minded Professor (AMP).
  5. What is your favourite social media site? I don’t really use social media other than for blogging.  I came off Facebook years ago because it was too triggering for me.  I don’t know if this is really what the question had in mind, but I do like (Jewish collaborative religious/cultural blog) Hevria.
  6. Do you wake up early or like to sleep late?  On work days I wake up very early.  The rest of the time I sleep very late.  I have the type of depression that makes me hibernate: eat too much and sleep far too much.
  7. Where would you most like to visit and why? I used to have an English teacher at school who said he would like to visit Antarctica for the afternoon only and I would agree with that.  More realistically, I’ve been thinking about making a trip to New York to meet some online friends I have there who I have never met in person.
  8. If you could have a drink (can be water) with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose? The Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk).  Nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi who possibly had mental health issues (he spent the last nineteen years of his life living in his study, barely seeing anyone), noted for his pithy sayings.  He stressed individuality to an extent that is very unusual for a Hasidic rebbe, particularly one living so long ago.
  9. What is your favourite book? Don’t ask a librarian this!  There are too many to chose from… religious books, novels, history books, short stories… Just because I was complaining about the film version last week, I’ll go for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy: a great thriller and a superb novel of character and the definitive ‘state of the nation’ book on Britain’s post-war, post-imperial decline.  Runners up: almost anything by Jorge Luis Borges and quite a bit by Philip K. Dick.
  10. If you could be any animal what would you be? I don’t really see myself as an animal, but I guess maybe an orangutan.  Sit around all day eating fruit and thinking deep thoughts.  (I vaguely recall having a poster of an orangutan on my wall as a child, alongside the Mir space-station and a lot of dinosaur and Doctor Who pictures.

A Few Quick Thoughts

Just a quick note to say that I had a lot of anxiety at work again today.  I felt like I was going to start shaking while talking to my boss and while talking to students.  I didn’t, but I’m not quite sure how I avoided it.  There’s some stuff that I don’t want to talk about publicly that upset me too.

I went to my shiur (Torah class).  I was wondering if I should tell the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, about my mental health, as part of my attempts to open up a bit more about it to people, especially at shul (synagogue).  It was academic, as when I got there he was struggling with his printer and by the time he gave up and decided to use his ipad for his source sheet, other people had turned up and I’m not ready to make such a public declaration.  Some of what he said is sort of relevant to what I’ve been brooding over lately, about having no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World) and he looked right in my eyes when he said some of it, which was a bit unnerving (I guess this is as close as I get to the miracles that people talk about on Hevria.com), but I think I need time to process it before I say anything here.

One last thing: I realised today that my depression is a moody adolescent, despairing, self-pitying and sometimes angry, but my anxiety is an anxious little child, I guess about four years old.  I hope that isn’t too twee or silly.  I think my therapist will appreciate it when we speak tomorrow.  I actually have as my computer wallpaper a photo of me age three years old and my sister aged six months.  The photo is an old analogue one that my Dad scanned and the resolution isn’t really good enough for full screen, so it looks a bit pixellated, unless you stand further away from it, but I keep it there because I like it.  We’re wearing matching New York outfits that my uncle bought for us.  I have my arm around my sister, less from brotherly love and more because she hadn’t got the hang of the whole ‘sitting upright’ thing and was prone to falling over if left unsupported for more than a few seconds.  I like the photo because I’m smiling, really beaming.  That happiness would ebb away with the stresses of the coming years, but in that photo I’m happy and I like that.

On Not Being SMART

I had my meeting with my boss today about my mental health.  I think it went OK.  I think I struggled to express that I on some level at least I know my anxieties about perfectionism (and being fired, although I didn’t say that) are not rational, but they still persist because anxiety isn’t rational.  I think she couldn’t quite understand why I’m still worried about not being good enough at my job when she has said that she would tell me if there was an issue and, so far, she has not had to tell me that.  I do worry that these fears about being fired are in the process of turning into a full-blown anxiety disorder, the way my OCD (which is also an anxiety disorder) appeared almost from no where a few years back (I had had pure O thoughts before, but not obsessions and compulsions centred on Jewish dietary laws the way the OCD was).  I don’t think I’m at that stage yet, but I’m trying to monitor the situation and work out what to do before it gets to that stage.  Obviously these things are better to treat if nipped in the bud before they become major disorders.  I think there is some hope there.  Last year I was worried that I was becoming anxious about travelling on the London Underground at rush hour because of the lack of room, but I persisted in travelling then and those anxieties have subsided.  So I am hopeful that if I continue with my job, these anxieties about being fired will go away.  That’s also why I’m not asking to spend less time on the issue desk, which is the most anxiety-provoking part of my job and probably the part that I’m least good at, because I know that if I give in, things will get worse (plus it would really mess up the team rota and the workplace division of labour if I asked to get out of it).

The irony was that even during the meeting at which my boss was trying to reassure me that things were OK, I was worrying that I was upsetting her (by not being reassured and also by a misunderstanding about which phone line I was supposed to phone her on yesterday to say I was going to the doctor).  I find it very difficult to read people generally (borderline Asperger’s and it fuels the social anxiety), but I find my boss particularly hard to read.  Some of that may be a personality thing, some may be that she is my manager and probably deliberately keeps a bit of distance from the rest of the team.  I did come out of the meeting still feeling quite anxious and worried about being fired, and beating myself up because I could see that I was over-reacting enormously, but I didn’t know how to stop feeling like that.  I think I’ve become a lot better at reading my emotions in recent months, but it’s definitely hard to deal with the ones that I can see are irrational and harmful.  I guess my therapist would say not to “deal with them,” but to experience them and move on.

I feel a bit upset from all this.  At Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) over three months ago, I made three resolutions: to say the beginnings of the three most important prayers with greater kavannah (concentration, devotion); to study one Mishnah a day; and to work on my depression and social anxiety.  I have largely messed up the first one, the second one varies a lot depending on how depressed I am and whether I’m at work (I use being stuck on the train for the morning commute to force myself to do some study unless I’m incredibly depressed, whereas at home at the weekends or on holiday it is easier to convince myself I’m too depressed and short of time), but the third one, working on my depression and social anxiety, I haven’t even begun to deal with, not least because I couldn’t think of any SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals to break it down into.  And now it looks like I’m having to add more anxieties into the mix, although I guess you could argue that my fear of being fired is just an extreme social anxiety with some depressive low self-esteem mixed in, as it stems from not being able to read my boss and colleagues to gauge if I’m liked and trusted and fearing that I will mess up work-related social interactions in such a way as to jeopardise my job, whether interactions with library users (staff, students) or with library staff (particularly my boss).

As ever, I seem to be much better at articulating these fears here than I am in expressing them in person, whether to my boss or to my parents and also better at articulating them than in living with them and not letting them rule my life.

Appointment with the Doctor

Apologies for the boringly prosaic and descriptive title.  I was going to call this post ‘Post-Mortem’, but then I realised that yesterday I was writing about being suicidal, so it might be misinterpreted.  I guess ‘The Story of the Day I Went to the Doctor About My Depression (Again)’ is a bit wordy.

I was up late last night talking to my parents about my mental health and what to do about it.  My Mum was very keen on me going to see the doctor and I thought she was right.  Really I was just waiting for someone to tell me to go, as I always worry in these situations whether I’m bad enough to justify seeking help, bearing in mind that I’ve been very depressed for most of my adult life, so it’s hard to recognise the point where it’s bad enough to take action.  I spent some time last night working out what to say to the doctor and also to my boss, realising that I would have to explain why I was missing work (I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get an appointment at such short notice, so I was potentially missing the whole day).  One of my parents, I can’t remember which, suggested emailing my boss last night so that she would have something as soon as she got in to explain my absence, in case I was held up in phoning; as an additional bonus, it meant I wouldn’t have to explain too much over the phone, as I can get nervous and semi-incoherent when talking to people over the phone (social anxiety and/or Asperger’s again).  All this took a lot of time and I don’t think I got to bed until around 1.00am, especially as, after my experiences on Sunday (when I went to bed early without relaxing and couldn’t sleep) I made sure to shower and relax a bit before bed after a rather traumatic day.

I managed to get a doctor’s appointment for late morning today.  Fortunately when I was suicidal a year ago, the doctor put a note on my file saying I’m an ‘at risk’ patient (depressed young male living alone) and in an emergency I’m to be given an appointment that day, otherwise I could have been waiting days to be seen.  I got to see my preferred doctor too, which was good.  He was very sympathetic as I explained that my condition has worsened in recent weeks, building up to intense thoughts of self-harm and suicide yesterday.  I explained about family stress (my sister’s wedding) and work stress (relatively new job, my worry over making mistakes and my boss finding out about my blog and self-harm) and how this has all felt like it had reached an unbearable point yesterday afternoon, probably compounded by disrupted sleep over my long weekend (from Friday to Sunday I dozed every afternoon/early evening and then ended up going to bed late and/or struggling to sleep at the right time).

The doctor felt there was no reason to change my medication, which I sort of agree with and sort of not.  I think it’s doing something as if we change the dose or I forget to take it, I go downhill rapidly, but I wouldn’t describe my condition as ‘good.’  I was feeling a lot better from being put on clomipramine last winter until the summer, but since then I have been very depressed, albeit functional and not in danger of hurting myself (until yesterday).  It seems that, as with all the medication I have taken, it either does nothing or produces some improvement until an external event pushes me back into the depression, at which point it at best keeps a degree of stability and functionality, but not positive mood.

Then again, I would agree with the psychiatrists I have seen in the past who say that medication can only help me so much; I need to make changes to my life.  This is the hard part, as I’m not sure what to change or how, particularly when obstructed by social anxiety and my borderline Asperger’s.  Hence all the recent posts musing idly about career changes, volunteering or emigration and more seriously about trying to find a romantic relationship while also struggling to integrate better into my religious community (which currently feels like one step forward and two backwards – I haven’t been to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat morning (Saturday) for a couple of months now, as I’ve been too exhausted, but I suspect that is covering depression and socially anxiety that I need to confront at some point).  The result is a feeling of ‘stuckness’ which I guess I should raise with my therapist this week (a shame I only just thought of it now, not during my appointment with the doctor).

The doctor did, however, think that the immediate trigger for my agitation was my disturbed sleep over the weekend.  This may be true, as I know I need seven to eight hours of sleep a night just to be functional and any kind of physical need (fatigue, hunger, dehydration) can trigger mental health issues very quickly in me (depression, anxiety, OCD).  Still, I think a more likely trigger is the issue with my blog being discovered by my boss and the college hierarchy last week, which is further in the past than the sleep disruption, but Monday was my first full day at work since it happened, which may have been triggering, particularly as I was doing some (non-blog) writing during my lunch break, right before the agitated and self-harming thoughts started, which may have reminded me of writing my blog during my lunch break and inadvertently being ‘caught.’  I did mention some of this to the doctor, but he didn’t change his mind.  He did prescribe sleeping tablets for a few nights, saying I don’t have to take them if I don’t want to.  I think I’ll probably wait until a night when I can’t sleep or my sleep pattern gets messed up (more likely to be during the weekend, as on weekdays I sleep, if not the sleep of the just, then at least the sleep of the exhausted).  I do wonder if they will give me more refreshing sleep, as for many years the depression has made me sleep for long periods, but not refreshing sleep – I wake up as tired or even more tired than I went to bed.

I felt that this was positive overall, especially as the doctor booked in a follow-up appointment (by phone, so I won’t have to miss more time off work) for next Monday.

This took me to lunchtime.  I phoned my boss to let her know what happened and got no answer, just as I had got no answer when phoning in this morning to explain my absence.  I left a message (as I had done earlier too) and a few minutes later she phoned back, saying she was out of the office and had only just got my message (at the time I assumed she meant the message of a few minutes earlier, but in retrospect, she might have meant the first phone message and even the email of the previous night).  She said that she would like to see me tomorrow, which I’m a bit nervous about, but probably shouldn’t be.  She also said there was no point in my going in this afternoon, as by the time I arrived it would be nearly time to come home again, but I said I think I would like the structure of going to work; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck home alone again with my thoughts as I was on Sunday and over the winter holidays.  So I went to work for two hours, spending more time commuting than actually at work, but I think it was the right decision for my health.  It also gave me the opportunity to open up to another of my colleagues about my depression (but not the suicidal thoughts), which was a positive thing as well.

So now I’m home, feeling vaguely anxious about my meeting tomorrow.  I feel I should have some kind of positive action plan to put in place and I don’t have a clue what that would be.  As I mentioned yesterday, employers are supposed to make “reasonable adjustment” to illness under UK diversity law, but it’s hard to tell what is reasonable; also what would be running away from my problems.  For example, I think that even if I could somehow escape from being on the issue desk, it would be a backwards step to do so.  I need to have those anxiety-provoking and mistake-making experiences for growth (something else the doctor said today, actually).  The only real adjustments I can think of are some leniency if I’m a few minutes late to work (which has only happened twice in nearly eight months) or if I need to stop work for a few minutes to calm myself or just to be able to ‘shift gears’ between two different tasks (as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not sure how much this is a depressive problem or an Asperger’s one; I guess it doesn’t really matter what it comes from).

Appointments

I summoned up the courage to phone my parents.  When I said I was having suicidal thoughts, my Mum straight away said I should get an emergency appointment with the doctor tomorrow and see if I can get referred back to the psychiatrist or have my medication changed (although my experience of doctors on the NHS in the UK is that they tend to leave medication to the psychiatrist if possible). I should be able to get an appointment with the doctor tomorrow, even though there’s normally a huge waiting list, as when I was suicidal last winter, my doctor put a note on my file saying that I’m a priority and have to be given an appointment that day if I say it’s an emergency (young men living on their own are a massive suicide risk anyway, plus I have a long history of suicidal ideation).  I’ll have to phone my boss first thing in the morning to explain the situation, including mentioning the suicidal thoughts, otherwise it won’t seem bad enough for me to justify missing a day of work (or possibly a half-day if I can get  seen earlier).  I am dreading this.  I have just sent an email to explain the situation so that my phone call won’t be totally out of the blue, because I know I can get panicky and not completely coherent on the phone (not sure if that’s social anxiety or Asperger’s) and I don’t want it to sound as if I’m skiving.

I’m having self-critical thoughts saying I shouldn’t have gone from three days to four a week at work or even that I shouldn’t have left my old job, but I guess I did have to try to push myself and I was doing OK in the spring.  I made decisions based on the information available to me and although I knew there was a possibility of relapse, I didn’t know it would be this bad.  In some respects, I’m just glad it didn’t hit me until the winter break, after my sister’s wedding, as it would have been awful to miss that.  I just hope I can find a way to stick with this job.

I don’t know if there are still medication options.  There might be older tricyclic antidepressants I could try.  There’s MAOI antidepressants, which are a pain because of dietary restrictions, but they might help.  And there’s ECT although in my experience you have to be more or less totally non-functional before psychiatrists will prescribe that.  Still, my thinking – and my therapist agrees with me – is that medication can only keep me stable at best.  Beyond that, I need talking therapy and I need to somehow shift things in my life so I feel better about myself.  It’s hard to see where that could come from when I twist everything to fuel my self-loathing and where my efforts to deal with social anxiety and low self-esteem seem to continually hit the wall of depression and borderline Asperger’s symptoms.

So, I will try to remain positive and hope my appointment tomorrow is helpful.  I will just take some notes based on my previous blog post so that I’m not incoherent when I see the doctor and then get ready for bed.

“I am but mad north-north west”

I’ve had an awful twenty-four hours.  It’s hard to indicate how disturbed and agitated my thoughts have been.  I don’t want to write in detail and worry everyone… but then, I do feel the need to reach out.  Then again, even if I wanted to, I doubt I could replicate the fast, choppy, agitated and often visual thoughts going through my head this afternoon.

Picking up from yesterday’s post I was very depressed before going to bed.  I didn’t really want to do my hitbodedut spontaneous prayer; in the end I did a few minutes before giving up.  I think I went to bed around 11pm, but I couldn’t sleep and ended up getting up and watching Doctor Who and somehow getting a stomach ache from I don’t know what.

The bottom line was that I overslept this morning and didn’t have time to daven (pray).  I got to work before 9am, so I was able to say the Shema and the Amidah and Alenu prayers in the little conference room, but I couldn’t put on tallit and tefillin today.  On the train in, I was too depressed to read (either Mishnah or recreational reading) or to listen to music.  I just sat with my eyes scrunched shut.  I wondered if I was losing my ability to be frum (religious).  If I believe in God and the Torah surely it should follow automatically that I would at least try to be frum, but apparently not.  It’s as hard to do it now as when the religious OCD was at its worst, but this time with no obvious reason.

I struggled through the morning feeling shattered and having great difficulty concentrating, but it was afternoon when everything really went wrong.  I kept texting myself brief notes of what I was thinking, primarily to write this post, but it strikes me that I do have a timecoded record of my thoughts in case I decide to go to a doctor about this.

Shortly after I got back from lunch at 2pm, I was still struggling to concentrate and feeling exhausted (so no energy boost from lunch).  My anxiety spiked and I started worrying that I was going to be fired or even be arrested.  I haven’t really mentioned this here, but as well as OCD worries about kashrut and other Jewish things, I have anxieties that I might have committed a crime without realising it and I’m going to get arrested for it, or that I will commit a crime or a sackable offence at work.  Mixed in with this were some more or less rational worries about the political situation, but the OCD and related anxieties were more worrying for coming out of nowhere and dominating.  OK, not quite nowhere, as they are clearly based on my experience last week of my boss finding out about my blog, but these types of thoughts had been dormant for a while and I thought I had largely beaten them.

Shortly afterwards, I was crying and thinking about resigning my job.  I can’t remember why this seemed like a good idea, but it was probably because I feel I just can’t cope with it.  I was the only person in the office at this point; I didn’t want to be seen crying… but part of me did, just to get it out in the open.

By half-past three, I was feeling the feeling I refer to as being ‘sunk’, when I feel like a sunk ship at the bottom of the sea, unable to move or do anything.  I was feeling overwhelmed by despair.  Strangely, I was still working with this going on in the background.  I would work for a few minutes, struggle with my thoughts for a bit, work some more… I think the amount of cataloguing I did wasn’t particularly bad.  I doubt my boss will complain or think anything amiss if I don’t tell her what a bad time I was having.

It was around this time (3.40pm) that I was having thoughts of hurting myself.  Either actual thoughts of self-harm and later of suicide, or images of being beaten up by my doppelganger.  The thoughts were vivid enough to make me wince sometimes.  I can’t remember at what point I started thinking about overdosing on my medication, but it persisted through the afternoon.

By the time I finished work at 5pm, I was having intense thoughts of hurting myself/being hurt and of suicide.  I usually phone my parents most days, but I didn’t phone them yesterday and I was trying to think of how to avoid phoning them today, because I feel I have let them down, and that I’ve let the college I work for down too.  I feel I’ve pretty much let everyone down and that I’m not really capable of doing anything right.

Then on the way home I was reminded of a major mistake I made fifteen years ago… the story is too long, not to mention too embarrassing, to mention here, but it makes me feel like I can never escape my mistakes, that they will always come back to haunt me.

I’ve written this down and, as I feared, it sounds fairly rational.  What I can’t really communicate is how frightening this is.  I know I’m not psychotic, but my thoughts are so agitated and violent, they come so quickly and so (apparently) outside of my control that they frighten me, especially when I start thinking of throwing myself in front of a train or overdosing on my meds, even if I don’t really intend to follow through on those thoughts.  It’s the fear that I might have a moment of weakness and act on them.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if I can really go to the doctor having had two or three bad days, particularly as I would have to miss work to do so, possibly most of a day, as I would be an emergency appointment squeezed in when they had time.  And getting time off for an appointment means telling my boss and, realistically, my parents (a) because I tell my parents all my major news and (b) because I’m not sure how much of a fit state I’m in to coordinate making an appointment and getting to it on time without at least having the potential of a lift to the doctor if I’m running late.  I do feel like I’ve let everyone down.

Then there’s the question of what would happen if I did go to the doctor.  I do have a sympathetic GP, but I know from experience that there isn’t much he can do for me when I’m in distress, but not actually hurting myself.  He might refer me back to the psychiatrist, but there’s a waiting list for that.  He might send the crisis team round, but they’re completely inadequate.  I’ve been here before.  All they do is turn up some time during the day to make sure you haven’t killed yourself in the last twenty-four hours.  They’re useless timekeepers too: if they say that they will come at 10.00am, they could turn up at any time from 10.00 to 3.00pm… unless you assume they’re coming late and stay in bed, in which case they’ll arrive at 9.30am.  To be fair I can see that their day would be hard to schedule, but it makes carrying on with work and my routine difficult even though the main thing they say is to carry on with one’s routine and work.  So that would require more time off work.

I’d rather go to work if I can, given that I think being off work for two weeks was what triggered this episode, or at least worsened it.  I’d like to ask for something to be made easier, but I don’t know what is both a “reasonable adjustment” that work will agree to, and which doesn’t render my job meaningless.  What upsets me about work is screwing everything up, so reducing the workload isn’t going to make that fear go away, because however little I do, I will still be afraid of screwing it up.  I could potentially ask to be kept off the issue desk for a while, as that’s the most anxiety-inducing part of the job, but (a) I think that might go beyond “reasonable adjustment”, (b) it would advertise to all my colleagues that I have issues and (c) I don’t think running away is a particularly good strategy.

So I feel fairly stuck.  I don’t feel as agitated as I did earlier, when I was worried that I would become suicidal, but at the same time, I sometimes feel it would be better if I stayed agitated and fantasising of self-harm because that would be easier to deal with than having my mood change all the time.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Having made the decision/mistake to stay up late blogging last night and then got sidetracked into reading news sites with horrified fascination, I didn’t wake up until 11.00am today.  Even then it took another hour to feel well enough to get out of bed and a couple more hours of eating breakfast, going back to bed, getting up again, procrastinating by reading online (mostly political news, mostly horrifying) before I could get dressed.  When my depression is bad, I try to avoid the news, but then I feel ill-informed and a Bad Citizen, so I go back to reading it and get depressed.  I don’t like to talk about politics here, but, whatever one’s views, it does seem that we live in a much more unstable world since the upheavals of a few years ago (Credit Crunch, Arab Spring) where anything can happen (Brexit, Trump, Corbyn) except, of course, what all the pundits expect.  I don’t know whether the Chinese really consider it a curse to live in “interesting times,” but it feels like one to me.

Something else I’ve read today indicates that depression really is making me stupider.  So at least it’s not my imagination.  I do wonder what my IQ is these days.  I certainly seem to have more trouble with reasoning and problem-solving, although as most of my problem-solving is at work, it’s hard to tell what is social anxiety panicking me into making mistakes and what is depression making me less intelligent.  I guess I did get both my BA and my MA while very depressed, so I can’t be that stupid, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.

The only thing I really achieved today was a only partially successful shopping expedition.  I ran into a load of people I knew who I would rather not have met, particularly the person several years younger than me who was out with his three children, just to make me feel more inadequate.  I had a partial breakdown in the kosher deli, trying to buy bread (the kosher baker was long-since shut).  They didn’t have the wholemeal bread I wanted and I stood there for what felt like an age trying to work out if I should buy granary bread or ask my parents to buy a loaf for me tomorrow (I get home from work long after the baker is shut).  It was only after I had bought the granary bread that I realised that I had other, better, options: come back to the deli tomorrow or buy kosher hechshered bread from the supermarket (not everyone agrees that that’s OK and I always feel vaguely uncomfortable about it even though my rabbi mentor says it’s fine; I suspect that a lot of people at my shul would not eat it, but then I suspect they wouldn’t buy ordinary milk either and I do that… another instance of not quite fitting in to my community).

My iPod battery had died without me noticing, so I didn’t have music to distract me when I was walking to the shops (I don’t drive), so I got my full depressive internal monologue unadulterated for half an hour or more.  I was thinking that I don’t know how I am going to do any cooking tonight or to get to work tomorrow, which led me to feel that I am failing with my life, that I should just resign my job and tell the shadchan (matchmaker) not to bother to set me up with anyone (not that she’s got back to me yet anyway) and generally stop trying to be a grown up because I can’t cope with it.  I had thoughts of self-harm, more to do with trying to avoid work than because I really wanted to hurt myself.  There was some movement towards mental monologuing, but at least I shut that off.

I’m supposed to be cooking chilli for dinner, but I don’t have the energy to do it.  I don’t even have the energy to cook macaroni cheese, which is my standby ‘easy’ recipe.  I’m not sure I can even just cook plain pasta.  I have to think strategically about food now, because I’m too tired and too lacking in time to cook on workday evenings, have limited “freezer” space (I don’t have a freezer, just a small freezer compartment in my small fridge) for convenience food (which I try not to eat too much anyway) or cooking for the freezer and have now lost some easy meals now I don’t eat fish except on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  I need to save easy meals for workdays, but that means I really should be cooking for two days on Sundays, when I feel depressed and exhausted.

I feel very listless.  It’s hard to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes.  I can’t really read properly.  It’s hard to feel motivated to do anything, even just to watch TV.  I just want to go back to bed, but I won’t sleep.  I want to be alone, but I also want someone to reassure me somehow, even though I doubt anyone could.  At any rate, when people try to reassure me here, it doesn’t work, at least not for long.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about these lost Sundays, as it does no good.  I really do think I need the time to recover from the work week.  Still, I wish I could do more and, if I don’t actively do things, I wish I would sit and read a book or watch a DVD rather than browse aimlessly online until I find something that upsets me.  Sometimes it feels like I want to make myself depressed.  But on days like today it’s hard to concentrate on anything or to get the motivation to do something.

I wrote the above on and off during the afternoon.  At 6.20pm, I turned off the lights and went to bed fully clothed, because I couldn’t face being up any more.  I lay there for a long time too depressed to do anything and eventually fell asleep.  I got up a few minutes ago.  I feel a little bit better, although it’s too late to salvage anything from the day.  I’ll scavenge something for dinner and then go to bed and try to go to work tomorrow.

Struggling to Understand Emotions

I wasn’t planning on writing, certainly not at midnight (1am now – writing this took a while and then I got distracted reading hilarious-but-terrifying New Yorker articles about the most powerful man in the world and his enormous ego) but I feel depressed and want to try to get my thoughts out of my head.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was hard again.  I struggled in shul (synagogue) on Friday night, feeling quite depressed and socially anxious and not really concentrating on the prayers.  I managed to avoid going to bed when I got home, which I’ve done for the last few weeks (this would be around 5pm), but I still went to bed right after dinner, about 8.30pm.  I told myself I wanted to think about things, but really I wanted to wallow in the depression and sleep.  I did both.  I woke up about an hour later, feeling bad about what I had done.  I did my hitbodedut (speaking to God).  I can’t remember what I said, but I know I spent a lot of the time crying.  I think it was loneliness and feelings of inadequacy and wanting to know that God loves me.  I went to bed late because of this.  Hitbodedut on Friday nights can be like this.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m in more of a spiritual mode or something else, but I get much more emotional and often more depressed, but also sometimes I feel some connection with HaShem (God) which I don’t normally feel.  During the week my it’s a struggle to get my hitbodedut to last the ten minutes I try to do and I’m often tired and feel like I’m talking to myself, whereas on Fridays I can speak for thirty or forty minutes and I don’t usually feel tired whatever time it is and sometimes there’s a bit of a connection.  I don’t quite know what to make of this.

Nor do I know what to make of the dreams I had last night.  I don’t normally remember my dreams, but every so often I go through phases of remembering bits and pieces of them.  I know I had odd dreams last night with religious undertones, or maybe even overtones – I don’t remember enough detail.  I woke up with a phrase in my head that I thought was a great chiddush (novel interpretation of a religious text) and its arrival in my head might just be a sign that God was communicating His love to me.  Still, I was sceptical, as I always am of things like that, and as the day wore on, the supposed chiddush seemed less and less coherent or justifiable.  Eventually I dismissed it as an irrational thought from my subconscious, perhaps trying to make myself feel better, rather than anything more supernatural.

I missed shul in the morning again.  I woke up on time, but I felt too bad to get out of bad.  I say “bad” because it’s hard for me to tell if I’m avoiding it because of exhaustion, depression or social anxiety.  I know I’m going to have to face shul again sooner or later, but I can’t find the inner strength to do so.

Another thing I don’t understand is my reaction to films.  I wrote in a previous post that this might be sensory overload in the cinema, but this evening I was watching a film on TV with my parents and felt depressed when it finished without being sure why, or even being sure of what exactly I was feeling, except knowing that it did not feel good.  Other potential reasons why the film might have upset me today was that I didn’t like it  very much (it made a mess of one of my absolute favourite novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré; read the book or watch the TV adaptation with Alec Guinness as George Smiley, very faithful to the novel and beautifully acted, unlike the film) and that I abandoned my semi-diet and had an ice cream because I was so disappointed by the film; I’ve mentioned before that I worry that eating too much sugary food can trigger a dip in my mood as my blood sugar level goes up and down and I suppose that could have happened here, although it would have had to have happened very fast.

So it’s gone 1.00am and I’m left feeling a bit tired, but not really sleepy, if that makes sense, a bit lonely and depressed and very hungry (why?!  I’ve done nothing but eat or sleep all day!), but not sure what to do about it.  I don’t know why films and theatre seem to make me depressed in way that books and TV don’t or if sugar really does affect my mood so much.  I wish I wasn’t single and alone at the moment.  I don’t really want to talk and certainly not to do anything physical, just to have someone I feel comfortable being around and being quiet with, if that makes sense.  Someone who can just accept me.  But I know that that won’t happen until I can accept myself.  The problem is that I don’t know how to do that.  I went on a self-esteem course years ago and while it did give me hints about how to say “No” and deal with recalcitrant students at work, the CBT-style hints about self-esteem (say positive affirmations about yourself, congratulate yourself on even trivial achievements) have never really helped me.  My self-loathing seems to be too deeply-rooted for anything to shift it.  Nor has years of psychotherapy helped me, leading me to fear a solitary and self-loathing existence for the rest of my life.

Angry with God

A while ago, when I started writing about not knowing what my mission is in life, Louise Dennis commented to say that testifying might be part of it.  This seemed meaningful to me, but it is hard to know what exactly I am testifying to, how I am supposed to do it and how big a part of my life it is supposed to be.  I mention this because I am in two minds about this post and this perspective of testimony only makes me more confused.  Is what I am about to write a meaningful testimony, or does it even undermine what I have said until now?  I am not sure.

Last night, I felt very angry with God.  This is not new and I think I have even mentioned it here before, but what did seem new was the ferocity with which I felt it and my willingness to express it.  I felt really ‘mad’ with anger, not something that I often feel.  I should point out that being angry with God is not the same as atheism.  Even the ‘New Atheists’ like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens are arguably not angry with God.  Angry with religious believers, certainly (and Hitchens’ preference for disease metaphors when discussing Jews was notorious – he surely knew that the Nazis had done the same thing in their antisemitic propaganda), perhaps angry that the concept of God persists, but to be angry with someone, you first have to concede the existence of what you hate.  No one ever got angry with Sherlock Holmes.

I acknowledge that my anger stems from incomplete knowledge and from ‘trivial’ personal reasons.  In Judaism there is a conceptual difference between emunah, belief that God exists, and bitachon, trust that God intervenes in a positive way in your life.  I believe very strongly that God exists, that He wrote the Torah, that I should live my life according to the Torah and so on through the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith.  Conceptually, I completely agree that God is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent and that whatever happens that seems bad is only a product of our lack of omniscience; if we could adopt God’s perspective, we would see the event’s necessity (albeit that that necessity might be “Action X is bad, but removing man’s free will by miraculously preventing his bad actions would be worse” – the classic ‘free will’ answer to theodicy).

However, knowing that someone is doing something for a good reason is an intellectual process.  It doesn’t deal with the emotions aroused by the actions and indeed I have heard rabbis speak of the need to distinguish between intellectual and emotional questions about suffering and to respond in the correct way, not because one is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’, but because emotional questions can not be answered intellectually and vice versa.  To pick a mundane example, if you are running late for a meeting and have to pull over to allow an ambulance to pass, you might still get angry, even though intellectually you realise that the ambulance’s need for access is greater than yours.

Emotionally, I feel very angry with the way my life has gone.  I feel that I have spent most of my adult life, perhaps most of my whole life, lonely and depressed while others who seem no better than me (and sometimes rather worse) have achieved success in many areas where I want to succeed.  The roots of my depression go deep back into childhood experiences of bullying and mild emotional neglect and I used to feel anger at the people involved, both those who actively perpetrated them and at the adults who let those situations develop; although I thought I had put those feelings behind me, yesterday evening, probably not for the first time, I extended that anger to God, Who at the very least let the situations arise.

Yesterday this spilt out into active anger.  I can’t remember what the trigger was.  Perhaps there wasn’t an obvious one.  I just felt really angry late in the evening.  I thought that I needed to express the anger rather than just let it bubble up inside of me, so I hurried to my hitbodedut (spontaneous prayers) to say how angry I felt.  Interestingly, once I did that, a number of other emotions were, so to speak, dragged up from my unconscious with the anger: depression, leading to crying, and intense anxiety leading to my unhealthy coping mechanisms for anxiety, notably mild self-harm (hitting myself, hitting my head on the wall) even while I was still talking.  I do not experience anger like this very often, so it is hard to know how much of this was from the anger itself and how much was from my guilt over being angry specifically with God.

Afterwards, I felt upset and exhausted, as after a draining therapy session, but it was late, so I hurried to bed.  In retrospect, I should have watched TV or read something light to ‘come down,’ as I couldn’t sleep and when I did fall asleep, it was not refreshing sleep and I could not get out of bed in the morning.

I drafted the above paragraphs on my lunch break today at work.  I had intended to continue with some thoughts about where I go from here with these feelings, but I can’t remember what I intended to write because I’m too upset about what happened next.

About 3.30pm, my boss asked if she could have a word with me.  “Don’t worry, it’s not a disciplinary matter,” she said, which immediately got me worried about what I might have done that is nearly, but not quite, a disciplinary matter.

It turns out she knew about the blog.  I was anxious to stress that I only write during my lunch hour, which she knew already.  The issue was that the computers in the college can detect key words being used online and they had been picking up some of my blog posts.  I don’t know what the words in question are, but I would imagine that ‘self-harm’ and ‘suicide’ are on the list as today was apparently not the first time my blog posts have been detected.  (No, I didn’t write any of the posts about being scared of sex and frustrated by my virginity in college.  I’m not that naive.)  Copies of suspect material are automatically sent to HR who sent it on to (in my case) my boss, my boss’ boss and the principal of the college.  Short of sending copies to Scotland Yard, the Home Office and MI5, I’m not sure I can imagine a more embarrassing scenario.  So now everyone I work for knows I’m a mentally ill, melodramatic, religious hypocrite and loser with a childish prose style and a self-destructive streak.  I think I can say goodbye to any chances of my contract being extended beyond April.  My Dad (because I was so upset that as soon as I finished work at 5pm I had to phone my parents and vent, thereby adding another two people to the list who know of my frailties and mistakes), eager to put a positive spin on things, says that maybe they’ll make me a mental health ambassador.  It doesn’t seem very likely that I’ll be any kind of ambassador for anything, ever.

The main good thing to come out of this is that it has reminded my boss that I have issues and that she promised to refer me to the college occupational health team, something she had forgotten.   My boss also stressed that I’m free to continue blogging in my lunch hour, but I should be aware that what I write may be scrutinised, and it’s an automatic process that they can’t stop.

I suppose I should be careful what I wish for, as I have reflected here in the past that I sometimes wish that other people could know that I am struggling without my having to find the courage to tell them.  Somehow I didn’t think it would happen like this.  And I don’t know which old posts showed up, whether they included anything about the social anxiety and borderline Asperger’s or just the depression and self-harm/suicide.  I suppose I should be grateful that at least I didn’t write anything that might have been a sackable offence.  I tend to be careful what I say online because I’ve always been aware that my anonymity was far from secure (I’m a fundamentally honest person and bad at keeping secrets like that and I’m too honest and open about myself here to hide crucial information that could identify me to anyone who really wanted to find out).  Anyway, it isn’t in my personality to go around complaining about other people, only about myself.

Still, it does reinforce my anxiety, which I had again only this morning, that I’m going to be fired for something at some point.  And also my feeling that God is punishing me, although I’m not sure that I’ve said anything actually sinful here; I’ve heard from rabbis in the past that it’s OK to be angry with God.

I Want To Break Free

I felt quite a lot better today.  I went to bed at about 10.20pm last night, because I was too depressed to stay up any longer, even to watch TV.  I must have slept for about seven and a half hours.  I don’t know whether it was due to that or to my new imitation sunrise alarm clock (which I’ve only had for a few days and am still experimenting with to see if it helps my depression, as one psychiatry website said it might), but I woke up feeling quite refreshed, rather than depressed and lethargic as I have been for a long while.  I managed to daven (pray) a bit more of Shacharit (the morning prayers) than usual before leaving for work, as I was up earlier and I felt less tired and depressed than usual throughout the morning.

I also want to thank everyone who contacted me after my last post.  Some people commented here and my non-biological sisters (I call them that, but we’re not related, just friends and similar in some ways) texted to ask if I wanted to speak, but I was feeling too depressed to communicate other than in brief texts.  I worry, when I feel like that, how I would cope in a relationship, where there would be someone around that I would need to interact with.  Maybe I am better off single.  (On that note: still nothing from the shadchan (matchmaker).  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.)

I was fine at work today, but on the way home again my mood dipped, possibly related to blood sugar level.  The religious OCD, which has been floating in the background for the last couple of days, threatened to come out again at a few points during the day, although I think I mostly kept it under control.  I do still worry sometimes for various reasons that my parents’ house is treif (non-kosher) and my flat is treif.  This feeds into my belief that I have no share in Olam HaBa (Heaven),  although that’s an overarching belief that goes beyond the specifics of kashrut.

On a more prosaic level, I feel stuck in a rut and unsure what to do.  I worry that I’m not in the right job.  There isn’t exactly anything wrong with my job, just that I worry that I’m not as happy as I might be, that I shouldn’t have left librarianship in higher education for further education or even that it’s too difficult to keep Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Yom Tov (the festivals) in this career.  But I don’t know what else I could do.  I’m not really very qualified for anything, even regardless of my mental health issues, which are still there in interactions with staff and students.  I would say that I feel stuck in my career, but I’m not sure I have a career, just a job.  I think my sister and my brother-in-law have a much clearer idea of where they want to be in five years than I do.

I don’t even know if my job is the problem.  It might not be.  It’s just that my job is really the only thing in my life at the moment, so it’s easy to get fixated on changing it.  I don’t have friends I see regularly, I don’t really have hobbies, I’m semi-detached from my religious community, I see my parents on Shabbat only and my sister more rarely.  I  don’t really know where I’d like to be in five  years, except employed and hopefully (but improbably) married.  Occasionally crazy thoughts come into my head like making aliyah (moving to Israel), going to study in yeshiva  (rabbinical seminary, not necessarily for a career) or retraining as something else entirely.  None of these possibilities are particularly likely; aliyah is the most likely, which gives you an idea of how remote the others are, particularly as I have told myself that, while part of me would like to make aliyah, I would never do it while single (notwithstanding knowing English people who made aliyah and then married someone originally from somewhere else entirely) and possibly not while feeling so worried about the whole political situation in the Middle East.

I avoided buying chocolate when I did my shopping on the way home.  I am not sure if this is good.  In the year that I have been taking clomipramine, I have gone from heading towards being underweight to being very nearly overweight without really changing my eating habits.  Clomipramine tends to do this to people.  I didn’t eat much junk except on Shabbat anyway; now I try to cut it out entirely except Shabbat, when admittedly I eat too much, largely because my parents insist on putting lots out, despite my requests not to do so.  I don’t know if I eat it out of boredom or anxiety or just because it’s there and I’m not distracted from it.  So cutting out junk during the week should be positive, but it just makes me feel more miserable because that was something that gave me a tiny bit of pleasure and now that’s gone too and what do I have left in my life to enjoy?  Doctor Who, I suppose, despite my misgivings about the way the new series is going, and the fact that my viewing of old episodes for research for my book has gone past a lot of my favourite episodes now.  Sigh.

Crying for Help

I feel terrible.  Part of me wants to cry, but I feel too emotionally drained.  My brain is just not working; my head feels like  it’s stuffed with cotton wool.  Too depressed and tired to do anything, even cook dinner.  I’m not sure I’ve even got the energy to eat dinner.  I want to go for a walk, but it’s too late and I’m too tired.

I tried contacting friends (well, a friend) and family, but everyone is busy with their lives and no one seems to really understand how I feel.  I don’t seem to be able to explain myself in such a way that anyone can understand me in real life, and probably not here either.  Anyway, I feel I should be able to look after myself without help from others.

I feel my life is falling to pieces.  I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next term.   I don’t know how I’m going to avoid getting fired or at least not having my contract renewed.  Away from work, the shadchan (matchmaker) hasn’t got back to me yet.  I guess two days isn’t that long, but I’m worried it means that I’m too ‘modern’ for her clientele and she’s quietly dropping me.

It’s hard to think of anything in my life that I really enjoy or find meaningful.  I try to tell myself I do have friends and family who care, but they often seem to be far away, literally or in terms of personality, outlook and understanding.  I still feel like the little lost child.

On days like this, just surviving seems a great achievement, but it’s hard to tell other people that.  Depression is supposed to be an easily treatable illness, but I seem to have been stuck with it for fifteen or twenty years.  It’s hard to keep going when everything seems to stay the same, year after year.  Even when things do change (like my job), my mood seems to stay terrible.  I hate my life, but I don’t know how to change it.  I feel like I’ve tried everything short of ECT.  I honestly don’t know what to do any more.

I just shaved, which I hadn’t done since Sunday.  Dinner (plain pasta, that’s all I could make) is cooking.  But every movement feels like walking barefoot on broken glass while carrying rocks.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life to be ‘normal’/’healthy’ like everyone else.

New Year, Old Habits

We’re 1/365 through 2018!  Roll on 2019!

You might infer from this that I’m not having a good time this year.

Today is my last day of holiday.  It hasn’t felt much like a holiday.  I have done most of the chores I set out to do, but I was so depressed that I have done little else except procrastinate.  I have done little in the way of cooking or Torah study and no exercise.  I have barely been out of the flat for two weeks, which isn’t good, although the weather and the short days hardly encourages anyone to leave at this time of the year and I’ve been sleeping so late that I have barely seen daylight – sunset is before 4pm here; I don’t open my curtains until I’m dressed and even if I get up at 12.30pm, it might (as today) take two or three hours just to eat breakfast and get dressed as I just feel so depressed and lethargic that my body simply won’t cooperate.

I set myself targets, but as they are essentially artificial, it’s hard to stick to them.  For example, I want to cook chilli for dinner tonight, but I doubt if I will, as I feel very depressed and I know that if I don’t cook, I won’t go hungry as I can eat something else that I don’t have to cook.  I don’t have the threat of being sacked, as I do at work.  I feel pretty awful right now and to be honest, I don’t really want to do much more today than just watch Doctor Who (I’m currently up to Earthshock in my research viewing, which is undemanding, but disturbingly macho and probably not the story that I would have ideally picked to cheer me up).  Reading upbeat blogs just makes me feel guilty and inadequate for being mentally ill and generally not getting my life together the way that other people seem to be able to do.  I’ve been depressed for fifteen years straight now (probably longer) with only two or three six month interludes of wellness.

I haven’t even watched a huge amount of Doctor Who as I have been procrastinating and feeling depressed more than actually relaxing, so progress on my Doctor Who non-fiction book has not advanced much more than it had a few weeks ago, although I have finished a second draft of another chapter and have four pages of notes to type up.  I feel pessimistic about the whole thing, though.  I doubt I can say anything original enough to find a place in a crowded marketplace, especially when I’m out of sync with trends in fan criticism.  But I have said all this before, and still I plod on with it.  I’m not sure if I’m persistent or just bad at revising plans.

In terms of social stuff, I did nothing over the holiday except see my parents and my sister.  I even tried to avoid seeing people at shul as much as possible.  However, it looks like I did manage to pay for the shul Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner in a few weeks, so I’m committed to go to that.  I also sent my shidduch (dating) profile to the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues, but I’m sceptical of anything good coming of that either.  I have said most of this before too.  I started reading a CBT book on social anxiety, but haven’t got very far with it yet and am worried that I’m not going to be brave enough to do the exercises in it.

I did read some books on Asperger’s Syndrome over the break and just ended up more confused than ever about whether I’m on the spectrum.  I don’t know if I am neurotypical with some autistic traits or if I’m autistic, but have learnt good coping skills over the years.  I’ve certainly been boring myself by monologuing in my head a lot.  When I say boring myself, that’s not depressive low self-esteem, I really do bore myself with set speeches about politics, antisemitism, religion, society, Doctor Who… I just don’t know how to shut my brain off once it gets going (which may have contributed to insomnia the night I forgot to take my meds).  I’m just glad I’m socially-literate, or more likely socially anxious, enough not to say this stuff aloud.

We might have just started 2018, but we’re already over a quarter of the way through the Jewish year of 5778.  I haven’t really been successful in my new year’s resolutions there: to say the first paragraphs of the ShemaAmidah and bentsching with more kavannah (concentration, meaning), to study one Mishnah a day and to make some improvements in my mental health.  I’ve hardly achieved the first target at all and on non-work days I regularly miss Shacharit (morning prayers) completely (I even missed other prayers this holiday), the second I can do most work days on the commute in to work, but it’s hard to get the motivation on non-work days and on any day concentration and comprehension is usually poor.  As for my mental health, I haven’t even been able to identify a concrete target to focus on.

I don’t feel any nearer to finding my life’s mission, happiness, simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments), community, friendship, romantic/sexual love or any of the other things I want.  I suppose I should be grateful that I have a couple of friends, even if they are largely long distance email/text friendships, and that my parents and sister care about me, even if our different personalities and outlooks can cause friction.  I feel that I’m just selfish for wanting to be happy, fulfilled and loved romantically.

I feel just as burnt out as I did at the start of the holiday, maybe even more so.  Worse, I feel chewed up and spat out, as if I’ve gone through an ordeal and been rejected as inedible.  I’m dreading going back to work and social events (really just shiur (Torah class)) and people asking how my break was and having to lie about it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living my life completely the wrong way.  Sometimes I fantasise about going to live on a religious kibbutz somewhere out of the way in Israel, but I know I could never do it.  The upheaval!  The dislocation!  The Aspie-destroying change!  Living in a war zone! (Although it’s probably no more dangerous than any Western city these days.)  And I’m definitely no farmer.  But I do feel I need to change something big in my life, I just don’t know what or how.

Be It Ever So Humble (Picspam and Achievements)

This is basically picspam, but with too many digressions.  Here goes…

I slept for about eleven hours again last night/this morning and woke up feeling incredibly exhausted and depressed after an anxiety dream about work, too exhausted really even to move, struggling to eat breakfast and get dressed.  My holiday is nearly over (I go back to work on Wednesday) and I don’t feel at all rested and relaxed.  I’ve hardly been out the flat for two weeks, which isn’t good.  I didn’t feel up to doing much exercise, which is bad, and I didn’t get any opportunity to socialise, except with family.  I ran into an acquaintance while shopping yesterday; just talking for a few minutes in the street seemed positive.  Unfortunately, virtually all my friends live outside of London.  I’m just struggling to get through all the chores I’m supposed to be doing.  I did at least send my shidduch (dating) profile to the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues yesterday.  I hope that wasn’t a mistake.

I don’t really want to write another repetitive blog post about feeling depressed, so I thought I would experiment with embedding photos in a blog post for the first time.  I took some photos of my flat.  I can’t post photos of myself because of my anonymity, but I thought I could show you what I see while writing these posts or just while sitting and feeling depressed.

I live in a converted garage.  It’s my landlords’ garage, not my parents’, as some people assume, although my parents live about a fifteen minute walk away.  This is the less than enthralling view from my only clear window (the other windows are frosted so no one can see in.

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No wonder I struggle to get up and out in the mornings.

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The inside of my flat.  I’m not allowed to put anything on the walls.  I originally left the wardrobe doors blank too, but it felt too much like living in prison cell or padded cell, just stark white blankness so I put up the posters (Doctor Who and Ghostbusters).  The other papers stuck to the doors are printed off quotes from other people saying positive things about me in emails or blog comments that I periodically print out and stick up to try to boost my self-esteem.  The photos in the photo frames on top of the wardrobe are family photos, except for one photo I took myself of the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism) at twilight that I really like.  The big books on top of the cupboard are Hebrew-English and Aramaic-English dictionaries.  Most of my books are at my parents’ house.  About 50 are here, in the cupboard, but I had to take the dictionaries out to make more room for other books.

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All the Doctors!  This poster is already out of date.  Ah well…

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My teeny tiny kitchenette.  I also have a microwave/convection oven, toaster and kettle, not in shot, so I’m more or less OK for any cooking I might want to do, it’s just cramped and I have to think strategically when getting out a lot of ingredients to have enough surfaces.

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This one is for two people who know who they are.

OK, picspam over.

I have at least managed to do a few things today:

  1. Cleaned the flat for the first time in too long.  It took a long time and I had to keep stopping for breaks, but I did it.
  2. Replied to the invitation to a friend’s wedding that I can’t go to because I can’t take time off work.  I was procrastinating over sending this reply.  I’m not sure if it was because I was worried he would be upset I can’t go or because I can’t cope with more people getting married and leaving me alone.
  3. Tried to book for my shul‘s (synagogue’s) Friday night communal dinner in a few weeks.  Something went wrong (internet connection problems?  I had them a while back, had to have my software reinstalled and have had them again since Microsoft ran an update a few weeks ago) and it didn’t work, so I’ve got to try again in a few days, once I’m sure that there was no transaction.  This is frustrating.  Having summoned up the courage to do this (I’ve seen the list of who has booked so far and I’m 99% sure I’m the only unmarried person over the age of twenty going – it’s billed as a “Family” event), it’s frustrating that it didn’t work, but I did at least try.  I will try again soon.
  4. Five minutes of Torah study.  I would have liked to have done more, but my limited energy reserves went on cleaning the flat instead.
  5. Checked online and discovered that I don’t really need to pay more National Insurance contributions for the years I was too depressed to work, which is good.  And I was glad I managed to get the HMRC website to work properly this time, having realised I misunderstood one of the questions they were asking me when I tried this a few weeks ago.
  6. Spent half an hour adding birthdays, anniversaries, yortzeits (death anniversaries), school holidays and Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) to my 2018 diary, plus notes to buy cards or phone parents where relevant.  If I don’t do this, I forget all this stuff.  I suppose I ought to work out how to put all this on my phone, although I’d still have to enter Jewish festivals and school dates manually every year (I’m running on three calendars: Jewish, academic and Gregorian-with-British-public-holidays).  But I prefer them in hard copy, where I can see them easily when entering things in my diary.
  7. Went into a panic at the amount of time I’m going to need off for Yom Tovim during term-time in September for the autumn festivals right at the busiest time of the academic year and panicking that I won’t be allowed to take them off and will have to resign (the Muslims only ask for one or two days off a year, the Christians get theirs automatically), then thinking I should be more worried that I might not even have a job after my contract expires in April, then worrying about being made unemployed and not getting the time off for Yom Tov even though the two worries are mutually exclusive.
  8. Oh, and spent too long reading about the politics behind Doctor Who Magazine and how it’s probably about to become much less interesting, then feeling bad for searching for gossip.

I’m now feeling awake and reasonably good for the first time today and ready to do things.  The problem is, it’s 11.30pm and I should be going to bed to get in to a better sleep pattern for going back to work…

Confusion

I feel a bit apprehensive writing about being a virgin in his mid-thirties, although I have written several times about it (I’m hoping this post doesn’t just duplicate the previous ones.  I suspect it might, as sometimes I need to work at an inner feeling or thought process for a long time, years even, until I understand it or see the flaws behind it).  I guess it’s considered an embarrassing subject.  In the frum (Orthodox Jewish and religious) community it’s very unusual to be a virgin at this age, as everyone is supposed to be married by now.  In mainstream Western society marriage is not such an inevitable feature of life at this stage, but everyone seems to be assumed to have been sexually active since their teens.  Certainly when I was an undergraduate (back in the era of dodos if not dinosaurs) the assumption seemed to be that everyone was having sex and the discussion, so much as there was any, was about safe sex.  I’m assuming these days undergraduates are exposed to a lot more discussion about what constitutes consent, but either way the assumption is that everyone is sexually active and the only question is how to manage that safely, not whether there are circumstances in which celibacy is acceptable, let alone preferable.  Even at the secondary school I went to, which was Jewish, but not particularly religious, the discussion of sex was fairly minimal and largely limited to the biological facts.  I doubt anyone really wanted fifteen or sixteen year old children sleeping around, but the emotional issues around sex or even dating weren’t discussed in class (I don’t know what the students discussed, because I didn’t get involved in those kinds of conversations).

I don’t know why this is such a big issue for me, although I have made a few suggestions in the past.  I don’t drink, due to fear of alcohol as much as the fact that alcohol is a depressant and that I’m on medication, but I don’t obsess on how much I’m missing out on by not having a whisky with the men at kiddush after shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (the Sabbath).  I want to discuss my sexuality in therapy, but I rarely seem to get around to it and I struggle to find the words, including when I post about it.  I’ve posted about it multiple times because I’ve never been able to really understand or articulate the vague and inchoate things I feel, to the extent that I’m wondering if this is some Freudian mechanism and I’m unconsciously stopping myself from talking about it properly, both on the blog and in therapy.

Obviously, unless you’re actually asexual (which I’m not) sex is going to figure in your life in some way, probably quite a big one.  I read somewhere that sex is like water: if you’ve got it, you don’t think about it, but if you haven’t got it, you can’t think about anything else.  That’s how I feel a lot of the time.   I don’t want to think about sex, but often I can’t not think about it.  It doesn’t help that we live in a highly sexualised society compared with even a couple of decades ago.  I went into Smiths (newsagents/stationery shop) to buy writing paper and as I walked past the magazines the covers were yelling at me that they had tips to improve my sex life (well, I guess it couldn’t get any worse).  I feel very guilty if I feel attracted to someone passing by without my really being able to articulate why I feel guilty.  I guess it’s partly halakhic (Jewish law) reasons and partly feminism, but also that it makes me feel so lonely and unlovable.  And I guess there are a load of subsidiary fears, like if I somehow do manage to get married, will my wife even fancy me, let alone love me, or will she just ‘settle’ for me because I’m not an awful person and she’s lonely and wants children?  I don’t want someone to settle for me, I want to be loved for who I am (which I guess is the downside for going to a shadchan (matchmaker) for people with ‘issues’ – the fear that we’re both settling because we have issues).

Partly, as I’ve said before, it’s about being an adult more than being about sex per se.  Sex is practically the most adult thing one can do, I suppose, aside from having a baby.  So it becomes symbolic of all the other adult things I can’t or don’t do: drive, work full-time, drink, pay a mortgage, have dinner guests…  Doubly so now my (younger) sister is married.  But I think I would rather be sexually satisfied than drive or drink alcohol.  I do often feel like a fraud, someone ‘passing’ as an adult rather than really being one.  When my colleagues at work, all of whom have children and all bar one of whom are married or in a relationship, talk about their home lives with children and significant others, I feel infantilised, as if I’m not truly an adult because I do not have a partner or child.  I actually feel much younger than all of them, even though one of my colleagues is my age and another is only two years older.  That feeling is partly from being the newest one to the team, of course, and the fact that I am still learning the ropes at work, but being unable to join in with discussions about home life in the same way doesn’t help.

Beyond that, I suppose I don’t really know how to deal with my inner drives in general.  I’ve mentioned before that I seem to have alexithymia, an inability to understand my own emotions.  Certainly the emotions around sex are particularly difficult to understand, with it provoking love, lust, curiosity, fear, desire, guilt, shame, despair, anxiety, worthlessness, tenderness, perhaps even anger, a whole cocktail of emotions that I don’t really understand or know how to deal with and which I am not always fully aware of.  Often I just feel bad when I find someone attractive and it’s only lately, now that I’m really trying to probe my emotions to deal with the alexithymia, that I can begi to identify these feelings.

It is doubly difficult when the feelings surround a ‘real’ person I’m crushing on (rather than a daydream or famous person I’m attracted to), because I don’t really know how to express those feelings to someone, particularly if they aren’t interested.  I’ve only ever dated six people anyway, but of those six I was set up on blind dates with two and two approached me on a dating site, so there were only two that I actually asked out myself.  I have asked other women who turned me down, including a couple who I thought liked me (one of whom I had an anxiety dream about last night.  It seems that well over a decade later, I’m not fully over the situation, even though I know she’s married to someone else now), but I still find it hard to ask women out, hence part of the reason I’m going to a shadchan (matchmaker), because singles events are a non-starter for me, even beyond the fact that events in the Orthodox world are increasingly gender-segregated (which I think is a massive mistake and totally unnecessary, but that’s a subject for another time).

Freudian psychology is out of fashion, I think, in academia and certainly Freud and Judaism are seen as opposed (by Freud as well as by rabbis).  But I think there is common ground in a number of areas, from my limited knowledge of each.  One thing Freudian psychology and Orthodox Judaism have in common is the sense of the importance of the libido as a key component of the human psyche (libido in psychological terms is not synonymous with sex drive, but sex is a big part of it).  In Judaism there is an acknowledgement that sex within marriage is a positive, healthy thing, essential for psychological well-being.  There is also an acknowledgement that more highly achieving people tend to have higher libidos, which can get them into trouble if they aren’t careful and that curbing the sex drive is very difficult and it is better sublimated than totally repressed.  Hence the whole machinery of Jewish sexual interactions, both active (e.g. early marriage) and precautionary (e.g. limiting interactions between men and women who aren’t married to each other or close blood relations).

Where this becomes difficult is this sense that I have powerful urges inside of me that I fear that I can’t control.  I guess it’s like waking up and discovering that one is flying a 747 with no knowledge of how to fly even a little glider.  I’m frightened of sex, as I’m frightened by any sense of power that I might have (hence avoiding davening from the amud (leading prayers in shul), showing off my knowledge whether Torah or secular etc.).  It’s hard to know what to do or who I can talk to or how to talk about things I have no vocabulary to talk about.  I have no vocabulary because in frum circles sex is simply not talked about, whereas in mainstream circles it’s not spoken about with a vocabulary I feel comfortable using or in language I can understand (not having experienced it and with alexithymia that means that descriptions of emotions are not always helpful to me).  I wouldn’t know who to talk to about it and I don’t know what I would ask.

I guess a lot of it is ‘unknown unknowns’ again, which I can’t prepare for, the biggest being whether I would be able to give to someone in that way and whether I would feel comfortable being ‘known’ so intimately by someone or whether it would feel uncomfortable or invasive.  My highly limited and tame experiences in this regard in the past are not encouraging in this respect.  I want to be accepted and sex and love might feel like acceptance, but then they might be yet more things that make me feel uncomfortable and which I am incompetent at.  It’s impossible to tell, which I suppose makes it such a scary, unknowable thing.

“I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing”

I had a difficult Shabbat (Sabbath).  I struggled to get to shul (synagogue) on Friday evening.  I just felt too depressed and socially anxious.  I got into a whole load of social anxiety about my kippah (skullcap).  To understand this, you have to understand that in the Orthodox world, one’s style of kippah is often a signal of religious and even political identity, but I just wear things I like without worrying too much about what others think (or trying not to).  I was wearing the kippah my aunt and uncle bought me a few weeks ago, a very large, white crocheted one, which is the style associated with the Religious Zionist movement (with which I do not entirely identify).  I was worried that by wearing this, the rabbis of the shul, who I suspect are non- or anti-Zionist, would think negatively of me.  In the end, I didn’t go up to them after the service to shake hands and wish them a “Gut Shabbes.”  I haven’t done this for about two months, because of social anxiety, so the kippah was not the sole issue here, but it was a contributory factor.  It’s difficult to be frum sometimes when frum people seem determined to make it much harder to fit in that it should be.  Being frum is definitely a lot more than just “Read these books and keep these laws.”  There’s a lot of social etiquette that isn’t written down anywhere and newcomers are expected to learn as they go along, which is probably difficult even if you aren’t borderline autistic and have problems reading and learning social cues.

I spent most of Shabbat wrestling with upsetting thoughts.  I put on a brave face during meals, but before and afterwards I spent a lot of time in bed, feeling overwhelmed.  (It didn’t help that my room was so dark with just the dim Shabbos lamp for company.)  I spent a lot of time thinking about the people on Hevria.com who insist that if you promise to serve HaShem (God), all kinds of miracles will immediately come your way, and thinking as this doesn’t happen to me, HaShem must hate me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about dictators and serial killers and trying to work out if I was better than they were.  Probably, but it’s hard to be sure.  I couldn’t sleep at night, so I had lots of time to lie awake thinking about this.  The insomnia was probably because I forgot to take my medication, which doesn’t do very much except knock me out at night.  To be fair, as I’ve said in the past, it probably does turn ‘unbearable suicidal depression with zero functionality’ into ‘slightly more bearable non-suicidal depression with enough functionality to do boring things like go to work, but not actually enjoy myself or get a life.’  Which I guess is something.  But not much when it’s 2.30am and I’m lying in bed trying to work out who is worse: Jack the Ripper, Hitler or me?  OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, as by 2.30am I’d given up on trying to sleep and was reading about Harold Macmillan and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which probably wasn’t the best thing to make me fall asleep, but was at least more interesting than proving to myself that God really hates me and I won’t have any share in Olam HaBa (the next world i.e. Heaven) for the umpteenth time.  There is a part of me that thinks that this is probably exaggeration and I can’t really be that bad, but whenever I try to look at things calmly and assess how good I am more objectively, the answer always seems to come out that I’m the most evil person ever (or one of them, at any rate) and I can’t find the mistake in my workings.

The other thing I was thinking about was whether I’m the last person from my school year to lose his/her virginity.  Why this seemed so important to me is beyond me, but I do feel inadequate even though I don’t know for sure it’s true (although it’s very likely to be true).  I do feel that I’m not an adult for being perennially single, not fitting in to a frum community and only working part-time in a fairly lowly job (even when I’m not worried about being fired because of some depression-, social anxiety- or Asperger’s-related incident).  I do think I’m going to be the last one from my school year to die, but that’s mostly because I have a feeling I’m going to end up like the Wandering Jew, Flying Dutchman or Ancient Mariner and just end up going on in loneliness and misery long after everyone I know has shuffled off this mortal coil.  This is as irrational as the whole ‘I’m worse than Hitler’ thing, but it feels emotionally true nonetheless.  I do feel so much older than everyone else, even though a lot of my friends are chronologically older than me.  I feel like I’ve been here for centuries.  The world does not improve with age.

I did a little bit of Torah study on Friday night and I got to shul for Ma’ariv (the evening service), but not Mincha (the afternoon service), but I missed shul today.  In fact, I missed Shacharit and Musaf (the morning and additional services) entirely and did truncated versions of Mincha and Ma’ariv at home because I didn’t have the energy to do the whole thing.  I didn’t even have the energy to feel particularly guilty about this.  I do wonder if I should be thinking about dating in this state, though, partly as I’m sure anyone frum enough for me to want to date would want someone more committed to davening and Torah illnesses notwithstanding and partly because I don’t really feel in a good enough state to worry about it.  I haven’t sent my shidduch profile off yet, so I suppose I can always back out.

I had a list of chores to do after Shabbat finished this evening, but most of them had to wait as I had to help with preparations for my room at my parents’ house being redecorated this week.  I’m a bit grumpy about this, as I don’t really want it decorated and resent the work I’m having to put in to get it ready, and the much bigger hassle of putting the books (nearly 1,000, excluding the 150 or so downstairs and another 50 or so in the flat) and DVDs (a couple of hundred) back in the right order in a few weeks’ time.  I’m sufficiently autistic that the upheaval itself depresses me and I only live there one day a week now, as does the thought of books going back in the wrong order and me not noticing.  I suppose in a few weeks time it will look better when I’m there, which will be nice, but I’m not sure that the cost/benefit trade off is really in my favour; as with my sister’s wedding and as with work, it’s another stressful, mental health-triggering thing that I have to do more than I want to do and I have to just get through it as best as I can.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I shouldn’t be blogging.  It’s Shabbat in two hours, I need to pack and go to my parents’ house, I’ve been up less than an hour and I’m still more than half asleep, I should be in the shower.  But I feel exhausted and very depressed and need to vent.  I guess seeing my sister yesterday was more draining than I thought, even before I stayed up late working on my shidduch (dating) profile.

All kinds of thoughts are going through my head, just slowly, because I’m so lethargic.  I had another anxiety dream, this time about my sister’s wedding, which is silly as it was nearly a month ago and I didn’t have to make a speech like I did in the dream.  I guess it was difficult for me and I’m still working it through.

I was thinking about my childhood best friend, probably because my sister asked about him yesterday.   We’re still friends, but haven’t seen each other for a couple of years, between my depression and his busy job.  We drifted apart in secondary school, though.  My Mum always wanted to split us up; he wasn’t a bad influence (far from it), but she felt I just hung around with him and didn’t make any new friends.  I think if she had sent me to a different school, I would just have made no friends, which is sort of what happened at Oxford.  OK, I made a couple of friends, but I didn’t really recognise them as friends until we left and they wanted to stay in touch, to my surprise, plus one or two who I lost contact with, but who then found me online and resumed the friendship.  I probably should have been separated from him though.  I was in his shadow, Ernie Wise to his Eric Morecambe, and it probably fuelled my low self-esteem, on an unconscious level.  He’s an intensely charismatic, intelligent, active, positive person and I’ve never been able to compete with him.  All the teachers knew him, even the ones who didn’t teach him, whereas even the teachers who had taught me tended not to forget me.  He’s had his share of problems, but he always seems to push through them and sort them out relatively quickly (within a year or so, compared to me struggling for half my lifetime or more with mental health issues).  He’s married to his school sweetheart, the only girl he ever dated, they have two children, he has a great job… his life is sort of the one I thought I would get, being married with children and a fulfilling job.  He’s a great person too, much better than me, kind, thoughtful and empathetic.  I shouldn’t compare myself, but it’s hard not to sometimes.

I sometimes wonder what happened to my friends and peers (including the ones who bullied me).  I drifted away from my other friends when they got interested in girls, alcohol and, in some cases, drugs.  Or when they went to the other extreme and went off to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I was scared of all those things.  I wonder what they are doing,  how many are married, how many have children, how many are happy… I know some are married, some in relationships, some with children.  I’m guessing most are working, although you can’t tell these days.  I think I came across a book by one of my old friends in my previous library job.  It was hard to be sure as his name is fairly common and the author picture on the inside flap looked different to how he looked at thirteen (bald and with a beard).  I certainly heard that he was a professional historian at Oxford.  My subject, my university.  Sigh.

This is when I start feeling solipsistic.  It’s easier to tell myself that everyone else is a figment of my imagination than to confront the fact that everyone is doing better than I am.  I can’t even say, “Well, at least I’m happy.”  Because I’m not.

I wonder if they ever think about me, and what they think when they do.  Do the bullies still mock me?

I’m sorry, I’m too morose today.  Thinking about school reminds me that my friends at school use to tease me about being a Doctor Who fan (except the friend above, he would never do that, in fact he got me into the programme), saying I would marry a Dalek.  To be honest, marrying a Dalek seems more likely today than marrying a sweet, frum, geeky girl.  If I had been more into Star Trek, maybe they would have said I would marry a Klingon, which would be kind of sexy.  Although a boring Vulcan would probably be more my level.

“You can’t mend people, can you?”

Whatever it was that upset me yesterday has really taken it’s toll, much more than I expected.  I went to bed about 1am, which was ridiculously late, having stayed up late working on my shidduch (dating) profile and blogging.  (Weirdly, I got eight likes on the post that I thought was melodramatic and awful.  Shows what I know.)  I woke up about 7.20am, freezing cold.  After half an hour in bed I decided to get up, even though I was very tired, but then decided to try making a hot water bottle first.  Of course, I fell asleep again.  I woke up a couple of times in the morning, each time after strange and disturbing anxiety dreams that I only vaguely remember now, if at all (but partly connected with work, I think), but I didn’t wake up and get up until gone 1pm.  Even then I only really got up out of necessity as I knew I had a lot to do and a time limit, as I was meeting my sister for dinner.  Still, it was almost impossible to get going.  I just felt drained: exhausted and depressed (with a touch of loneliness) without really knowing why.  It’s hard sometimes to work out what exactly triggers me; it doesn’t help that I have multiple and uncertain diagnoses, aside from severe, treatment-resistant depression, which is pretty obvious.  I think that’s the only thing I’ve ever been “officially” diagnosed with; all the others (OCD, social anxiety, Asperger’s) have been conjecture on my part, although the OCD in particular was obvious enough that I don’t have any doubts about it unlike the Asperger’s; the social anxiety is somewhere between the two.

It was hard to get dressed.  I was still in my pyjamas at 3.15pm.  I surfed online without really being able to read anything properly, played music without listening, picked up a graphic novel and put it down again, went back to bed repeatedly and got up repeatedly.  I cried a bit.  One of my friends sent me a link about anxiety; if, as it said, pacing is a sign of anxiety, then I was very anxious.  (Actually, if pacing and irritability are signs of anxiety, then I’m generally much more anxious than I thought I was.)  I davened Mincha (said afternoon prayers) at the last minute, with zero kavannah (concentration), davening largely by heart, even though I hate doing that, because I was too exhausted and depressed to focus on the words on the page.  I had lunch at 4pm, which was silly when I was due to go out for dinner at 7pm, but I needed to restore low blood sugar.

I had several major jobs to do today (clean the flat, do more window shopping of books (online this time) for work, work on my shidduch profile) and some minor ones.  All I did was daven a little bit and eat, then go out to eat more with my sister.

I have done very little this holiday, although I guess it’s a hard holiday to do anything, particularly if you don’t celebrate anything: cold and dark and everything shut.  I haven’t even done much work on my book, because I’m reluctant to sit and just watch TV, even in the name of research.  I just set myself targets to do things and then feel depressed and procrastinate and do nothing and then beat myself up for falling short of my targets, when I should at least just sit and watch a DVD and enjoy myself.  I spent my term waiting for the holiday to get away from the stress of work and now I’m more than halfway through my holiday waiting, albeit nervously, for work to restart to get some structure back into my life.

I did manage to drag myself out the flat and off to have dinner with my sister, the first time I’ve seen her without other family members since she got married a few weeks ago (her husband being out for the evening).  She seems very happy, which is good, if a little stressed by having to move all her things from her old flat to her husband’s flat, discarding things for which there is no room as well as dealing with the email backlog from her honeymoon.  We had a good time and I actually felt happy (I think… ironically, someone was just asking me about my alexithymia (inability to identify emotions)) for the first time in far too long.  I guess there’s a lesson in there about my need to socialise, albeit in one-to-one or small group situations.

I decided to work on my shidduch (dating) profile when I got home, despite it being late as I felt wide awake.  I never know how to pitch these type of things (dating profiles).  My inclination is always to be quite specific in order to weed out people who are a really obviously bad fit before it even gets to a date.  So I’ve put that I’m interested in the thought of various contemporary rabbis (which is true) all of whom are controversial for various reasons, so anyone who reads the profile who sees them as too ‘modern’, ‘secular’ or ‘Zionist’ would not want to date me.  (I didn’t put them because they were controversial; rather, they are thinkers who matter to me, but who I know are considered controversial).  I would consider this a worthwhile move, saving me a date that will go nowhere (which I think most people would want even if they didn’t have social anxiety or Asperger’s), but I’m worried the shadchan (matchmaker) will tell me to be more general so as not to put people off.  This type of thing can get very silly and political (in a broad sense): if I mention this, they’ll assume I do that, but if say I follow him, they’ll assume I think the other.  I’ve found myself using more Hebrew than I normally would in general conversation, to say, “Look, I may not have gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), but I can still talk the talk!”  I didn’t mention Doctor Who either, although I did mention being a science fiction fan.  I don’t specifically need to marry a Doctor Who fan and I didn’t want to risk sounding like I do (or sounding like an obsessive fan with no other interests).

This type of thing is a can of worms even for people who don’t have borderline autistic issues with communication!  It doesn’t help that I’m not too sure what is required.  I wrote quite a bit about myself (basically a job application for the job of “husband to a sweet, frum, geeky girl”), but from the comments I’ve seen online, I think that should only be a short paragraph and the main thing is to write about the religious backgrounds of one’s parents (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not).

Also, I’ve discovered that I’m a more interesting person than I thought I was.  I look forward to meeting myself one day and maybe finally becoming friends.

I feel the usual mixture of excitement and fear about dating.  I’m excited that maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who is an amazing match for me and maybe I’m even an amazing match for her.  However, I’m scared about dating.  I’m scared about doing the wrong thing.  I’m scared of rejection.  I’m scared that I’m not ready for dating and I’m certainly not ready for marriage and I’m going to hurt myself and, worse, someone else.  I’m scared about the “unknown unknowns” I don’t even know to worry about yet.  I’m scared that the only person who could love me is someone even more messed up than I am, who would ignore me when I need help and would expect more from me than I can give and would trample all over my boundaries (this has happened to me before).  I suppose one just has to dive in sometimes and hope for the best, alien though that is to how I usually like to behave.

Apology

It’s always questionable whether one should return to a blog post one regrets after finishing it, or if one becomes a fool returning to his folly (like a dog returning to its vomit, according to Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible).  I sort of regret the last post, but I’m leaving it up because I don’t fully regret it.  I regret ending on such a pessimistic and self-loathing note, but I do genuinely think I will be alone forever, and jumping through shidduch (matchmaking) hoops becomes harder when I can’t see a positive outcome.

I don’t know why I got into such a dark place this evening.  It may be that going to the cinema was a mistake.  I always seem to come away from the theatre or the cinema feeling a bit melancholy, but I always assumed it was to do with the content of the play or film or envy of seeing the performers applauded on stage in the case of the theatre and wishing someone would applaud me and my work/life.  But maybe it is an autistic thing about noise and sensory overload or a social anxiety thing about crowds.  I don’t want to cut yet another thing out of my life, though, especially as I only go to the cinema once or twice a year, the theatre probably even less frequently.

Despite this, today I’m thinking that I’m probably not really on the autistic spectrum at all.  I just finished reading another book on Asperger’s (Aspertools) and felt that the advice in there was either obvious things I’ve been doing for years and don’t associate with my possible Asperger’s (break tasks into little steps; write lists) or things that are clearly written for people with much more serious issues than I have which just makes me feel guilty about poor functionality when I might not even be on the spectrum.

Anyway, something overwhelmed me today, whether it was just depression or noise or crowds and I sunk into the usual pit of despair.  I shouldn’t have broadcast it all here though.  When I’m very depressed, I suppose I just look to provoke a response from people, either to tell me that things will improve, or, better, to agree that they are hopeless (better because I don’t believe they will improve).  I shouldn’t play games like this, but I do and have done for years.  I was reflecting today that I have long since forgiven the people who hurt me as a child, but I can’t move on from the feelings of being worthless and hopeless that they created.  I do worry that if I got married, not only would I not be able to feel any better, I would discount the relationship in the way that, when the depression is bad, I find it hard to remember that my parents love me and that I do have a few friends who seem to like me at least a bit.  To be fair, I don’t think I really did that when I was in a relationship or when I was in a semi-relationship this summer.  Also, I find it harder to discount relationships when someone is actually there being friendly or loving to me.  This is why it’s so problematic that most of my friends live away from London.

I ate dinner and watched Doctor Who (which I wouldn’t normally do after spending three hours in the cinema, but I was desperate) and felt a bit better.  I have started to write my shidduch profile.  So far I’ve just done the personal details, which took long enough.  The actual who-I-am-and-what-I’m-looking-for bit will have to wait, although I can just edit from previous online dating profiles.  In the end I decided to leave out a lot of information about my family.  If I’m asked for it, I will give it, but it was intrusive enough having to give my parents’ names and shul affiliation.  I wasn’t going to list their educational background just to feel even more of a useless ba’al teshuva (penitent, but in this context someone raised non-religious who became religious later in life).  I already feel bad that I haven’t got a yeshiva on there and that my secondary school, although Jewish and Orthodox, was not at all religious.   Even going to Oxford seems like a bad thing in this context.  A frum person would have gone to a London university so he could stay with his parents in a frum community – or not gone to university at all, of course.  I do at least have rabbis for references, but it probably looks suspicious that I don’t have any references who are “friends, roommates, chavrusas (study partners)”.  I don’t have many friends, almost none I could ask to give me a reference and almost all my friends are problematic in frum terms, being not frum, not Jewish or not male (I’m not sure which of these would be worst).

On the plus side, I have discovered that I have the contact details for eight rabbis plus one rabbinic trainee.  Nearly a minyan.  If I ever get arrested, I’m going to have so many character witnesses!  Of course, shidduch dating also requires character references, for much the same reason.

Anyway, this was supposed to be an apology post, but it has mutated into another general post, even though I was trying to stop posting twice a day.  Also, it’s twenty past eleven and I was originally planning to get an early night, ha ha.

Prufrock

I went to the cinema today to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  It was difficult.  Just getting the energy to go there was hard enough.  I nearly turned back at the bus stop.  The shopping centre the cinema is in was full of sales shopper, far too busy for me.  The film did not really hold my attention and I suddenly started crying in the middle of it (silently, thankfully).  My mind kept wandering to other thoughts, some prompted by the film, others just coming out of nowhere.  Well, not really nowhere, they are the thoughts I have all the time, but they weren’t directly sparked by the film.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is the concepts of yeud and tikkun (destiny/mission and rectification) in Judaism.  The concepts are particularly associated with kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and mussar (ethical character development), but are not unique to them.  Yeud is one’s mission or purpose in life and is a positive action to be done; tikkun is a the key character flaw that one has to rectify in oneself and often manifests as an action to be avoided.

I have been thinking about them with regard to dating and more generally.  I don’t know what my yeud or tikkun are.  I have heard that to find your yeud, you should think about what you would do with unlimited time and money.  I honestly don’t know what I would do.  Going by what I enjoy doesn’t help as depressive anhedonia means that I don’t really enjoy anything very much.  I suppose enjoy writing; at any rate, I give up my lunch breaks at work to write (my book or my blog), so I guess it must have some meaning and joy for me.  But I’m a very bad writer and over a decade of practise hasn’t got me very far.  I very much doubt I will ever get that book published, for example.  In any case, I can’t imagine HaShem (God) put me on earth to write about Doctor Who or to witter on endlessly about how depressed and lonely I am.  When I was too depressed to work I had lots of time (albeit with limited money and no energy and poor concentration and motivation) and I did do a lot of writing.  However, it never really got me anywhere, bar getting a couple of readers who are still with me on this blog.  Even then I spent a lot of time just idly surfing the net, looking for something but not knowing what.  I guess this is where a lot of people start looking at religion, to find meaning or purpose, except that I already have religion and it doesn’t help me in these respects.  Maybe it would be different if I could write something decent and meaningful: poetry, fiction, criticism, mental health-related writing – I have tried all without much success (success both in terms of number of readers and feeling I have achieved something/happiness with what I have done).

As for my tikkun, that’s just as hard to find.  I can think of lots of character flaws or religious flaws that I have.  Working out which is the most serious is rather harder.  Maybe if I understood properly I would see they come under a general heading like, “Be accepting of others” or even “Be accepting of yourself.”

I have been thinking a lot recently of Lord Lundy who, according to Hillaire Belloc (a raging antisemite, but we’ll ignore that for now) “was too freely moved to tears and thereby ruined his political career” and not just because I cry a lot at the moment.  It’s this verse I keep thinking of: “‘Sir! you have disappointed us!/We had intended you to be/The next Prime Minister but three:/The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:/The Middle Class was quite prepared./But as it is! . . . My language fails!/Go out and govern New South Wales!”  I don’t think anyone was literally expecting me to be the next Prime Minister but three, but I have long felt myself to be a disappointment to my parents and teachers.  My parents deny this and most of my teachers have probably forgotten me (they could barely remember me when I was still in school/university), but still the feeling persists.  The feeling that I should have done something with my life, more than just being “a poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian” at an FE college somewhere.  That I had the brains and background to make something of my life, and I lost it because of my mental health.  I look at my peers (the few I’m still in touch with) and see doctors, lawyers, rabbis, executives of big charities, civil servants, political speechwriters…  It’s very dispiriting to compare myself.  I know, I shouldn’t compare myself.  But as long as I can’t find my yeud, my mission and be satisfied that I’m doing something worthwhile, in fact what I was put here to do, the best thing that it is possible for me to do, I will keep comparing myself.  And, of course, I fear any woman I might be interested in is comparing me negatively with a lot of other, more eligible, men.

On a somewhat related note: on a whim I decided to email the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with medical issues a second time before going to the general matchmaking site.  I didn’t think anything would come of it, but within a couple of hours she had replied.  She wants me to send a “shidduch profile”.  I was aware that I would have to write one, but I’m only vaguely aware of what goes on it.  Basic stuff I suppose, as on a CV, like age, height, profession, interests.  What one is looking for in a spouse.  I suppose a man should put what yeshiva he went to, but obviously I can’t.  I’ve done this kind of thing before for online dating, but I don’t know if there are specific frummie (religious) things I should be putting on there and I don’t know who to ask.

This page is helpful, but also frightening.  Do they really need to know my parents’ shul (synagogue)?  And my sister’s name and spouse?  I was aware that this sort of thing goes on in the frum world, but somehow I hoped to avoid it.  Do I put this stuff in or wait to be asked for it?  And I guess I count as having a “non-standard background”.  The frum world really annoys me sometimes.

I feel thoroughly pessimistic about this whole thing.  I sat in the cinema today feeling thoroughly lonely and miserable, thinking that no one could ever love me.  On the way home, I got the email from the shadchan, which just made me feel worse.  I’m sure I’m going to fall foul of an “unknown unknown,” some arcane aspect of frum protocol that has no basis in halakhah (Jewish law), but which I would know if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or if I was better integrated into frum society.  If I somehow fail to do that, my issues and freakish personality will see off anyone who might be interested in my profile.  I feel I shouldn’t even bother writing the profile, but just accept that I’m going to be lonely forever and do something else with my life, something productive.  But, as we’ve seen, I’m not actually capable of doing anything productive.

I suspect I’m going to spend the rest of the evening in a miserable funk.  I’m vaguely sorry for writing such a ridiculously self-pitying post, but I guess it’s my blog and I’m not making anyone read it.  I guess it’s better to write this than go back to self-harming.

“Life depends on change and renewal”

(The title is another Doctor Who quote, from The Power of the Daleks by David Whitaker.)

I spoke to my rabbi mentor this morning.  It was a fairly brief call, as he was on the way to a meeting, but I spoke a bit about dating and my struggle with motivation to daven (pray) and study Torah, although I wish we had had more time to talk about my feeling hated by HaShem (God).  He felt very strongly that I should look into dating again.  He felt that one should hold back from dating if one has an immediate crisis that severely impedes functioning, whereas my issues are long-term and I have a reasonable degree of functionality (admittedly this feels the case more during term time and on work days than during holiday time and weekends, as at the moment).

He also felt that there was no ethical obligation or practical need to tell the shadchan (matchmaker) about the possible Asperger’s as I have not been diagnosed (have in fact been assessed and told I don’t have it) and there seemed to be little to gain from mentioning it and that labels are not always helpful.  Although this does make me wonder again about where I fit in on the spectrum and if I am a fraud for writing about it here as if I am somewhere on the spectrum.  ‘Asperger’s’ or ‘autism’ is a useful shorthand for various traits that are otherwise difficult to label, or that don’t seem (to others) as difficult to deal with as they actually feel to me.  For what it’s worth, the most used labels on the public part of my blog are: depression (148 uses), anxiety (110 uses), Judaism (74), dating (70), loneliness (67) and then Asperger’s in sixth place (54 uses).  Asperger’s narrowly comes in ahead of OCD and family (52 uses each) and work (50).  I guess that gives a snapshot of what I write about and about what’s going in my head at the moment.

I do regret that I didn’t get to speak to my rabbi mentor more about feeling that HaShem hates me.  He seemed to feel it was connected with a lack of structure at when off work and a lack of simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments) from the depression, whereas I worry that it’s something deeper than that.  I don’t think I’m losing my faith in God or Judaism – I still believe very strongly (more than at some times in the past) and Shabbat and kashrut are no problem for me (kashrut is actually much easier than a year ago, when the kashrut OCD was bad).  If anything, I’ve lost my faith in myself.  I don’t know how someone, even God, could love me, given the things I have done/still do.  This would obviously have an impact on dating.  I’ve been told I need to love myself before anyone else could love me, but I don’t know how I can love myself when I hate myself so much and when I’ve experienced so much rejection.  It’s hard to believe that everyone who hated, bullied or rejected me was wrong.  It seems like a catch-22 situation: I can’t be loved without loving myself, but I can’t love myself without being loved.  I know other people who had low self-esteem who felt better after finding their partner, but I doubt that anything that good could ever happen to me.

I did some shopping this afternoon, but once I got home, around sunset, I felt burnt out, whether from being out shopping or from the darkness.  The long nights at this time of year do get to me.  I spent too long online reading upsetting stuff about racism and trying to distract myself by looking at reviews of yesterday’s Doctor Who only to discover most people liked it (I didn’t) except for the few who hate Steven Moffat’s whole time as showrunner (I don’t), so I was stuck in-between.  I tried to do some Torah study, but I just felt burnt out and aware that I needed what little energy I have for cooking dinner.  I was noshing fruit, trying not to feel like I wanted to eat carbohydrates or sugar.  I have deliberately made sure there is no junk food in the flat (except three small dark chocolate coins), as I’ve put on weight since being prescribed clomipramine, although as my weight seems to have stabilised despite the extra eating of the last few weeks (wedding, Chanukah) that might be just pointlessly denying myself one of the few things I can still enjoy (food) for no good reason.  Which wouldn’t be out of character for me.

The long winter nights increase my depressive desire to hibernate: eat lots of carbohydrates and sleep for hours on end.  Or maybe it’s just feeling, from my reading and speaking to people today, that maybe I’m not on the spectrum, in which case I find it hard to understand myself, let alone forgive myself.  I feel that if I have a disorder then it’s OK for me to be socially anxious and awkward and avoid big gatherings, but if not, then I’m just shy and a freak and running away from things that scare me.  I should ‘man up’ (to use a horrible phrase) and force myself to do things I don’t want to do, like socialise e.g. going to the Friday night dinner at shul (synagogue) that I still haven’t signed up for.

I did eventually manage about half an hour of Torah study, the most I have done since Friday.  I actually got through a difficult chapter from the end of Yechezkel/Ezekiel, the really difficult bit with the measurements of the Temple and all the architectural words, in Hebrew.  Admittedly I cheated.  Normally I would go over each verse until I could understand it properly in Hebrew before going on to the next one; here I worked phrase by phrase instead and didn’t push myself too hard to remember all the difficult words (bear in mind that even the Jewish Publication Society Bible struggles with this bit, lots of terms whose precise meaning is lost).  I also cooked vegetable curry for dinner too, which I haven’t done for a while.

I feel I should be revising my dating profile for the shadchan/dating site I now feel I ought to be using, but I just feel too depressed and exhausted to care, even to care about feeling lonely and unloved forever.  I have mixed feelings about I want to dating right now, even though my parents, friends and rabbi mentor have all suggested that dating might give me something other than work and my mental health issues to focus on, which I desperately need at the moment.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I would like to date, I just don’t feel able to do so.  I guess I want to have a significant other, but I’m scared that I’m too messed up for anyone to want to be with me.  Because looking at my dating history so far, it’s not encouraging.

I just used the word “feel”  or “feeling” six times in one paragraph, modified by “depressed”, “exhausted”, “lonely and unloved” and not able.  For someone who professes to focus on the intellectual over the emotional (because the emotional confuses and frightens me, with or without alexithymia and Asperger’s), I’m driven a lot by emotion right now, and difficult, scary emotions at that.

Exhaustion and Upheavals

Yesterday, you may remember, I felt terrible most of the day, but I started to feel better in the evening and managed to do some chores.  In the end I stayed up late doing more chores, knowing I might not have the energy to do them today.  (It’s silly that my holiday is mostly spent doing things I don’t want to do that I don’t have time to do while working, rather than relaxing, but there you go.  Maybe I’ll get a proper holiday one day.  Although not doing anything at all just gives time for the depressive thoughts to come out.)  As I expected, I went to bed late and got up late today.  I think I slept for over ten hours again.  I think I’ve been having upsetting dreams lately, but I don’t remember them, I just have flashes of strange, impossible memories during the day without being able to place them properly.  Anyway, I woke up feeling depressed and lethargic, also faint, which was probably low blood sugar, but didn’t get much better even after eating breakfast.  I just feel limp and unable to do anything, like a rag doll.

It’s hard to explain how difficult everything is at the  moment.  Just getting dressed, for instance, is a lengthy and difficult procedure.  I can’t just ‘get dressed’; whether I want to or not, it gets broken down into smaller tasks and I have to stop in between, say, getting out my clothes and taking off my pyjamas.  Tasks that can’t easily be broken down are extra hard, which I guess is part of the reason davening (praying) is so hard, as I can’t stop for a break part-way through, particularly when I’m wearing tefillin (I don’t like wearing tefillin and I get slightly amused that for some women, wearing them is a feminist thing, as I would avoid wearing them if I could.  It may be an Aspie thing, as I find wearing them quite uncomfortable and distracting).  But my brain is still going, although perhaps not as normal.  Sometimes I can think as normal or even have bursts of rapid agitated thought, other times my thoughts are as sluggish as my actions.  I think – it’s hard to be sure, as I sort of drift into a timeless zone when I’m depressed and not doing anything and it’s hard to keep track of my thoughts, although they usually go to negative places.

I have had some positive future-oriented thoughts, which is good, but I doubt I will act on them.  I am torn about the Doctor Who book I am writing, whether it will be good or not (publishable or not).  The blog posts it’s based on got some positive feedback, but not much and I worry it’s not innovative enough.  I would also like to write about the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, which is very important to me.   I’d also like to write a proper analytical article for every Doctor Who story.  I tried that years ago, but looking back at those posts, they were variable and often just lists of things I did or didn’t like.  I’d like to be more analytical, although I don’t know if I have something to say about every story and, again, whether it would be innovative enough to sell.  I also had a vague idea for writing a more personal book about Doctor Who or maybe science fiction TV in general and my mental health and Asperger’s (The Neurodivergent Guide to Telefantasy?), as it’s been a key coping strategy, but I’m not sure what to do with that at all, whether it ties into the review/analysis idea or should be something else entirely.

I get frustrated that ideas don’t come to me fully-formed, but need to be worked at, although even good authors have to work on their ideas.  I cut a huge amount from yesterday’s blog post, including a load about being Jewish at Christmas that just didn’t belong there.  But somehow that feels like failure, like I should get everything right first time.  When I get an idea I sometimes think it is really great for a bit, but soon enough I’m sure it’s silly, or it’s good, but I won’t be able to get it to work.  Sometimes I jump to the ‘it’s silly’ stage without the ‘good’ stage first.  I wish I could feel comfortable talking about these ideas with someone who might understand them.

I thought Doctor Who today was more than slightly rubbish (Steven Moffatt apparently having done his research by watching precisely zero first Doctor stories and just listening to people bad-mouthing William Hartnell), which has probably brought my mood down further.  This has combined with the realisation that I’m going to have extra work to do soon because my parents have insisted on having my room at their house redecorated in January.  I don’t particularly want it done and don’t know when I’m going to have the time/energy to pack and unpack my 1,000 or so books and countless DVDs (literally countless, because how many do you count box sets as?).  Dad volunteered to do the packing and unpacking, but I suspect that if I want everything put back as I want it in, I’m going to have to do it myself, although I’ve just photographed all the bookshelves so in theory he could do it.  I don’t even live here any more, except for Shabbat, so why would I want the room decorated?  Admittedly it is in a bad shape from the previous owners and it’s my parents’ house and they’ve almost completely redecorated it in the two and a bit years since they moved in.  Just my room and the spare bedroom left.  I say spare bedroom, it’s actually functioning as a lumber room with nine packed boxes of stuff from the old house (so you see why I’m worried about what will happen to my boxes of stuff).  Dad just predicted three months of upheaval (so that means four or five…).  Sometimes I wonder if my parents fully understand the whole ‘depressive Aspie just holding on to his life with the tips of his fingers’ thing and why I can’t cope with upheaval, especially several upheavals in rapid succession (and for me starting to work longer hours, my sister’s wedding and the redecoration within six months counts as rapid succession).

And tomorrow I’m supposed to ask my rabbi mentor if he thinks I should be dating.  I wish I could easily say, “No,” because a part of me thinks I just can’t cope, but I can sort of see the point of the people who think I need to change my life around and at least that has the potential to be a significantly positive change (unlike the bedroom), even if it could also be very negative.  I wasn’t particularly lonely today, in the sense of wanting someone to talk to, but I did find myself wishing there was someone around even though I didn’t want to talk, just being there.  It’s hard to decide what to do, because I want to be in a relationship, but I’m also frightened that I can’t cope with one and, being frum, this would be dating-for-marriage so the idea of just going out with someone for a year or two for fun and to take things slowly is not an option.  Instead, I have to panic thinking that I could end up going to another big wedding and I won’t be able to slip away from this one.