“And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,/And in short, I was afraid.”

I’ve been having morbid thoughts all day.  I basically write my blog posts over the day.  If I’m at home, I have a blog window open on my computer and add to it across the day.  If I’m out, I send myself texts with notes of what I want to say.  The stuff I wanted to say today, particularly the stuff I was thinking about when I was walking home just now, was morbid in the extreme, stuff about wanting to die and everyone being better off without me and my not having done anything even vaguely good with my life and the unlikelihood of things ever changing.  I feel a bit better now I’m home.  I guess I still feel I do want to die, just not so urgently.  I don’t know whether I’ve done anything good or whether everyone would be better off without me.  It’s hard to tell, which is pretty damning in itself.

It is hard for me to believe that things could get better.  I don’t even believe my life will be better in Olam HaBa (The Next World).  I have said this a number of times, but I’ve never explained it.  It probably started when my religious OCD was bad.  I was fixated on the laws of Pesach (Passover), when the dietary laws are even more intense and complex than usual.  Certainly when I was growing up we did not keep these laws properly.  The punishment for not obeying them properly is karet, which is an ambiguous term, but probably means not having a share in Olam HaBa.  I had been told that no one gets karet these days because we’re on such a low spiritual level that we don’t have the level of conscious, knowledgeable hatred of God and Torah needed to incur it (I’ve never seen a source for that belief, but it seems to be widespread among Orthodox Jews).  I had likewise been told that you get karet for deliberately breaking the Pesach laws, not for not knowing the correct laws or making a mistake with them.  Nevertheless, I was sure I had incurred karet (although not my family, which also makes little sense).

Even though the OCD is less intense now and even though we probably do keep Pesach properly now, the feeling of being hated and punished by HaShem (God) persists.  I guess my life has been so awful for so long that I can’t believe that anything good could ever happen to me, and the only way that could be the case is if HaShem does not exist or desires to make me miserable.  As I strongly believe that He does exist, it is easy to feel He wants to make me miserable forever.  I know there are reasons why a good person might suffer, but I find them hard to internalise when the depression (and maybe pure O OCD) are going full-strength.  Even so, if my mission in life is to endure in misery, it is hard to see that as a positive thing, even if it is “only” for another fifty or sixty years before my eternal reward.  Fifty years of misery is not long compared to eternal reward, but fifty years is long compared to the fifteen or twenty years of depression I have already endured and I don’t know how I could get through another fifty years like the last fifteen.

That said, I doubt I would believe myself to be a good person even if HaShem told me I was.  I had disgusting thoughts on the way home and while I know on some level that they are OCD, it is hard not to think that I have corrupted myself over the years with bad behaviour and thoughts to the point where I can no longer control my thoughts.  I just hope I don’t lose control of my actions.

I avoid the news at the moment, but I saw a report last night that triggered conflicting emotions.  It was about disruptive children being placed in solitary confinement in schools so they can’t disrupt other children’s lessons.  The reporter made it quite clear that he thought that this was wrong.  Skipping over the fact that the solitary confinement booths looked a lot like the workspaces at my college library at Oxford, this left me conflicted.  The opponents of this disciplinary procedure argued that many of the disruptive students have mental health or developmental disorders such as autism/Asperger’s (the only condition named).  Obviously I felt sympathy to people with autism, but at the same time, I was conscious that the type of students being disciplined were basically the ones who made my life hell when I was at school and I would dearly have loved some of them to be shut up far away from me so I could work.  In particular, they interviewed one student about the treatment he received and the mental health issues that developed from prolonged solitary confinement, but they didn’t ask him what he did that was so disruptive that he was disciplined in this way.  This is the trouble I have when thinking about people who hurt me when I was younger.  As an adult, I know they most likely had “issues” of some kind of their own, but the fact is that I am dealing with decades-worth of misery and mental illness because of the behaviour of other people, people who have never asked for my forgiveness or perhaps even realised that they hurt me.  This is difficult.  At the same time, I know I have probably hurt other people, maybe as much as I was hurt.  This is also difficult.

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My Family and Other Animals

At work this morning I realised I messed up my timesheet last week.  I think it’s OK; I forgot to date it and only put my name twice when they wanted it three times (twice printed and once signed).  But it makes me feel like a useless idiot again who can’t get anything right.  I hope it’s just depression-lowered concentration.  I feel a lot more stupid than I used to be.  I did at least process about 135 records even though I was feeling very depressed and working slowly.  I had thoughts of wanting to die, though.  I really can’t see my life getting any better.

My parents keep suggesting to me that I should become a primary school teacher (this is the teacher training course they want me to do). I really don’t know what to do about this.  It’s a nice idea, but I can’t see myself doing it at the moment.  I can’t really see myself doing it at all unless I have more experience with children.  I’m also scared of flitting from one career to another without settling on anything.  My sister suggested becoming a teaching assistant first and I thought of looking for another volunteering opportunity with children, although they seem to be few and far between, but I don’t think I feel I could even do that right now.  I don’t really want to be responsible for children while I feel this bad, for all that I do tend to cheer up when I’m with children.

On the other hand, my Mum’s doubts about my ability to look after a pet has taken the wind out of my sails regarding getting one, that and social anxiety about going to a pet shop and asking to hold the animals and buy equipment.  I know little about pets and I have an image in my head of going to a pet shop being like that Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch where Mel Smith goes to a shop to buy “a gramophone” and gets mocked by shop assistants Rowan Atkinson and Griff Rhys Jones for his total lack of technological savvy.

I know I shouldn’t rely on my parents so much for my self-esteem (such as it is) and for advice at my age, but I find it hard not to.  My relationship with them is complicated, to put it mildly.  It’s at times like this that I wish I was still in therapy, but I’ve stopped seeing my psychodynamic psychotherapist for a while so I can see if CBT might help, although I heard recently that people on the autistic spectrum (which may or may not include me) struggle with CBT because they don’t notice their mood changes until they have got quite extreme.  That fits me whether or not I’m on the spectrum.

Plus, as I just noted on the Mental Health at Home blog, I’m still dependent financially on my parents and  I don’t know what will happen to me when my parents are gone, given that I don’t seem to be able to hold down a regular job, but am apparently not sick enough to claim benefits.

There is a lot more I could say, but I’d better not say more in a semi-public setting.  Actually, despite all I write here, there’s so much that I can’t say, for one reason or another.  It’s hard, because writing is the way I process and release emotions, but I’m constrained by the laws of lashon hara (malicious speech) and kibbud av ve’em (honouring parents), as well as by accept conventions of what is OK to talk about in polite society and my fear that if people knew the real me, they would not want anything to do with me.

Fierce Dogs in the Cellar

Nietzsche described depression as having “fierce dogs in the cellar.”  I feel like I have a whole pack of fierce dogs in my cellar: depression, anxiety, OCD, and they’re all baying for my blood at the moment.  Even the OCD, which I thought I’d got rid of, has come back.

***

I went to bed late last night (about 1.30am) because I was writing a job application and (I admit) blogging, but I woke up at 6.30am with a headache that wouldn’t shift.  I watched TV for a bit until the headache went, but trying to go back to sleep after that didn’t work; I just lay in bed feeling depressed and having OCD thoughts: I made a kashrut (Jewish dietary law) mistake recently and am waiting to hear back whether I need to do anything practical about it.  I guess it’s a big improvement on how I was two years ago, as then I would be in a total panic, thinking I had treifed up the entire house (made all the crockery etc. non-kosher), whereas now I think there’s probably nothing practical to do, except feeling stupid for making a mistake.  I wish I could accept mistakes as part of life rather than beating myself up endlessly for them.  I try not to get angry with other people for their mistakes, but, as I’ve noted before, I treat myself much worse than I treat other people and worry that if I forgive myself for anything I’ll just become complacent and end up as a terrible person.

***

I tell myself that I don’t care how many people read my blog and to some extent that’s true.  I’m not generally agonising over follower numbers or likes the way I used to.  Still, once I get followers (and I’ve acquired a few recently), I worry about losing them.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really understand why anyone would read my blog.  I worry about being “too much” for people.  Too Jewish, too geeky, too mentally ill.  I look back at some posts (e.g. yesterday’s) and shudder at how much I give rein to what I feel without thinking what other people will think of me.  I don’t have much confidence in my writing ability, especially here, where I give freer rein to my thoughts than in more ‘formal’ writing situations.  I suppose I don’t have confidence in my self as someone other people would want to know, through my blog or in real life.  I guess it’s the classic Jewish thing of not wanting (as Groucho Marx said) to belong to any club that will accept me as a member, a mindset that dogs pretty much all my social interactions.  As with most of my issues, it stems from low self-esteem and a childhood of being bullied and ostracised, but I don’t know how to move on from it.  I’m hoping if I can get some CBT soon it might help, but I’m worried it won’t.

***

Part of my trouble in finding a correct diagnosis is my the difficulty I have in describing what I feel and in understanding how other people experience the world, what is ‘normal.’  This can be particularly true with my religious life, given that religious Jews are rarely portrayed in fiction and are usually presented negatively when they are.  For example, it occurred to me a while back that I have always felt uncomfortable with my tefillin on.  I just thought that this was one of those things, perhaps even a bad reflection on me that I felt uncomfortable performing a mitzvah (commandment).  But now I wonder if it is autistic sensory sensitivity.  Or it could be something that everyone who puts on tefillin feels, but no one talks about it because it’s too mundane and taken for granted.  I think my father finds his tefillin uncomfortable, but he binds his far too tightly.  I’ve never had the courage to ask anyone else.  Likewise, when my OCD was bad, it was a relief to discover I’m not the only frum (religious) Jew who struggles with seeing images of Jesus and Buddha while davening (praying) thanks to OCD.

***

My instinct is to say that I’m a loner, but I’m not sure that it’s true.  I dislike crowds, but I think I need a few good friends.  But I’ve spent much of my life feeling very lonely.  According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology, loneliness, from a health/mortality perspective, is “comparable to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day… It exceeds the risk of alcohol consumption, it exceeds the risk of physical inactivity, obesity, and it exceeds the risk of air pollution.”  Whoops.  One article I saw suggested that people who don’t fit into their community should move to another one, but that isn’t always possible.  Certainly in my case, my choice of community, although wide by the standards of where I used to live, does not provide any community that would be a perfect fit for me.  My shul (synagogue) has positives and negatives and I have to learn to live with that.  I can’t find a “shul for weirdos” as that author of that article was able to do.

***

I sent off a job application.  I just feel anxiety and despair about the whole job hunt process.  I want to have a job and be financially independent, something I haven’t managed in thirty-five years (I’ve never worked full-time and even when working I’ve still had my income supplemented by my parents because I have never earned enough to be fully self-sufficient), but my experience of my current and previous jobs are too negative: too many mistakes, some of them stemming from social anxiety, but many through sheer carelessness.  I hope that’s due to depression (at any rate in the past I was not a careless person), but I worry that I’ve become a careless person and ultimately whether the carelessness is due to depression or not doesn’t really make a difference to the fact that I don’t feel capable of doing a job well.  In the job before that I made fewer careless mistakes (or maybe they just weren’t found as I wasn’t being supervised so carefully), but was frequently absent due to depression and anxiety, which is not encouraging either.

Looking to complete a second application this weekend, I found myself having to choose between a job I was not really qualified for; a job I probably was qualified for, but for which the employer wanted a recent graduate straight out of library school; a job that had all the negative aspects of the revised job description I turned down at my previous job because I didn’t think I could cope with it, but only on a three month contract (the job seems far too complicated and involved to be done in just three months); another job I’m technically over-qualified for, but which I suspect would still push me to my limits, given how I feel right now; and one I’m applying for out of desperation because it doesn’t seem as obviously a bad a fit as the others.  Actually, on second thoughts, it also looks worryingly similar to the job they were turning my old job into and which I (and my then boss) didn’t think I could do.  I worry – again – that the librarianship profession has changed.  I could have been a great academic librarian… fifty years ago, before the internet, when librarianship was about managing a collection of hard copy books and knowing how to search card catalogues and reference works to answer reader queries.  But now academic librarianship is about teaching information literacy, managing online resources and marketing library services to staff and students.  But I’ve started the application now and will finish it.

I did procrastinate a lot over the application.  I hate the fact that I essentially have two jobs at the moment: my part-time (four days a week) paid job and my unpaid job on non-work days (bar Shabbat (the Sabbath)), applying for a new job.  I don’t have time to tackle various chores that need doing, let alone relax, yet because of my mental health situation, I need time to relax a lot.  So I end up procrastinating and neither applying for jobs or truly relaxing.

Someone at work, interviewing applicants for a position, remarked that there’s a clear difference between candidates who want a job and candidates who want the job.  I fear I’m in the former category.  I don’t actually know what job I could do well and at the moment have very little confidence that I could do anything.  At the moment I don’t really have any ambition.  At times it feels that the only thing I want is… perhaps not to die exactly, but not to be here.  To be on another plane of existence.  Not to deal with the heartache and the thousand shocks that flesh is heir to, and which I seem to be singularly bad at dealing with.  I vaguely want to have a career, friends, community, marriage, children, but I have no real plan of how to get any of these things and I doubt I would know what to do with them if I did get them.  I don’t see myself as really competent to work (although officially I’m fit to work and don’t qualify for benefits) and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to marry me, unless it was someone who was ‘settling’ because she was desperate for children.

***

Walking to the shops, I visualise myself watching my own funeral in ghostly sort of way.  This is a morbid fantasy I have when I’m very depressed, or even mildly depressed.  I worry whether there will be anyone there, or whether I will be so alone that I won’t get a minyan (prayer quorum).  I worry what the eulogies will say, because I can’t think of very much that is positive that one could say about me.

***

I fear this blog is getting tiresome.  The same topics – my ambiguous relationship with autism, my anxieties about work, my loneliness and fear of being single forever, my belief that I am a reprehensible person, my struggles to fit into the community I have chosen for myself – seem to dominate week after week.  It bores me, let alone my readers, but I am not sure what I can do about this.  It all stems from my poor mental health and consequent lack of direction.  Actually, even my mental health may not be the primary issue; it increasingly seems to me that my low self-esteem and lack of self-knowledge is at the root of the depression, rather than the other way around.  I don’t know who I am, and I don’t like what I do know.  I can’t take my friends or family seriously, because they all like me a lot more than I do.

Jewish and Whoish

I’ve often written about my feelings of having a fractured identity.  It’s like there are parts of my life that don’t go together.  Being geeky and a Doctor Who fan doesn’t fit terribly well with being a frum (religious Orthodox) Jew, particularly in a somewhat Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) community that isn’t always a good fit for me in itself.  And so far my attempts at paid employment have not fitted terribly well with my mental health issues and borderline autism, while identifying as autistic makes me feel a fraud, given that two assessments have ended with my being classified as neurotypical, but with a lot of autistic symptoms (but, of course, I can’t access help for those symptoms because I don’t have the appropriate diagnosis).

I started this blog thinking it would be a Jewish blog about mental health, but it turned out to be a mental health blog with Jewish overtones (and Hebrew/Yiddish vocabulary).  My assumption was that most of my readers would be Jews with mental health issues, but so far as I can tell that isn’t the case.  Most of my readers are non-Jews with mental health issues or autism (I didn’t even expect to blog much about autism, given my non-diagnosis).

It’s confusing to know who I am sometimes.  A lot of the time, really.  Maybe that’s why I like being with young children and want a pet (more on both of those things below); young children and animals just accept you as you are without feeling the need to stick a label on you or force your square pegs into their round holes.

(Although I’m aware that the person who labels and forces me the most is myself.)

Working my way backwards through things that happened to me during and after Shabbat, I’ve started another job application, for a cataloguing role.  Good pay, but only an eight month contract.  I’ve applied, even though I feel very negative about my ability to do any job competently at the moment.  The online application form is really badly designed and annoying.  Actually, I can feel my anxiety level rising as I fill the form in.  This is due to my anxiety about coping with work, not the badly designed form, although that doesn’t help.  I’m procrastinating a lot, again out of anxiety; it took an hour and a half just to fill in basic details about my qualifications and previous employment because I keep getting distracted because I don’t want to focus on it.

Someone who lives in our road gave me a lift home from shul (synagogue) tonight.  I accepted because it was pouring with rain.  It was awkward, though.  He had music on very loud and I struggled to hear what he was saying.  I don’t know how much of that was autistic sensory sensitivity, how much was social anxiety (when I’m socially anxious I get so caught up in my anxious thoughts that I don’t take in what the other person is saying) and how much was just that the music was very loud.  I suppose I could have asked him to turn it down, but it honestly didn’t occur to me.  He saw I had a Gemarah (volume of Talmud) with me (because I’d gone to Talmud shiur (class) before shul) and asked what I was learning (Orthodox Jews always talk of “learning” Torah rather than “studying,” a habit that irritates me no end).  He asked which perek (chapter) I was up to and I struggled to answer, as I had noted my progress more by page number and, in any case, I’m struggling to keep up with the shul’s weekly Talmud study programme and am only vaguely aware of what I’m studying (admittedly I understand aggadata (the non-legal part of the Talmud) more than halakhah (the legal part)).  I couldn’t remember the chapter names at all (the chapters are always named after the first two or three words of the chapter) and felt rather stupid, as I generally seem to end up feeling when I talk to people I don’t know well.  This is why I usually try to avoid being given lifts, because I don’t like being trapped in a conversation with someone.

Our shul, like most shuls in the UK, has volunteer security (sadly, the risk of attack is very high and the shooting in Pittsburgh has just reinforced this).  I had asked to be taken off the security rota for health reasons.  My depression and social anxiety mean that I haven’t made it to shul for a morning service for a long time.  I haven’t specified what my health reasons are though.  I didn’t realise that I was supposed to be on duty this morning.  I don’t know if I wasn’t told or if I just deleted the email without reading it because I thought I was not on the rota.  At any rate, in the evening I was told that I had missed my slot.  They weren’t angry about it, but I felt bad, because I don’t like to let people down and also because I think I’m going to have to open up more about the nature of my health issues and say that just because I can make it to shul for Shabbat (Sabbath) evening services, doesn’t mean that they can assume I am well enough to make it for morning services.  I still struggle to tell people about my issues, though, even after all these years.  It’s hard to tell why.  I guess I worry how people will react and I suppose I feel weak and useless for still being depressed after fifteen or twenty years.  I feel that I should have got over it by now.  Maybe that’s why I’m desperate for an autism diagnosis, because then I’ll have something that I won’t need to feel guilty for not being able to change because it’s not something you can cure.  Or maybe I just want to pile up as many diagnoses as possible to justify why I’m not still functioning properly after all this time and treatment.

I feel the same reticence with job applications.  Diversity rules mean employers have to ask if you have medical issues requiring “reasonable adjustment” to do a job, but I never mention the depression because I’m worried they won’t employ me, even though that’s illegal.

Over Shabbat dinner my parents were encouraging me to become a primary school kodesh (Jewish studies) teacher.  They’re trying to be helpful, but I can’t really see myself doing that.  They say I’m gifted with children, but I find that hard to believe.  I enjoy being with young children (pre-teen), but I get scared that I’m going to accidentally hurt them or let them hurt themselves somehow (this is probably pure O OCD) and I can’t see myself handling a class of thirty children.  I can see that teaching would be fulfilling, though, and teaching kodesh would mean working in a Jewish school, which would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about having time off for Jewish festivals and Friday afternoons in the winter, when Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts mid-afternoon.  However, I feel I need more experience around children before I make a decision that big, plus I’m not happy about retraining – teacher training, but I’d also have to brush up my Hebrew, particularly my grammar (modern Hebrew and biblical Hebrew have different verb conjugations and I get confused between the two, inasmuch as I can remember either).  I also suspect that I would have difficulty getting accepted as a kodesh teacher, given that I never went to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) as most Orthodox Jewish men do for at least a year.

Going to yeshiva is a big thing for Jewish men.  People form their intellectual out look, meet friends and find role models, but, more than that, in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world people will, rightly or wrongly, read a lot into a person’s choice of yeshiva: their religious outlook (how modern or fundamentalist), their politics (how Zionist), even I think their personality type.  Who a person gets set up with on dates is based a lot on one’s choice of yeshiva or sem (girls’ religious seminary).  If you go to Gush or Mir or YU, people make assumptions about you.

Of course, I know deep down that I would probably have had a lousy time at yeshiva.  I struggle to study Talmud and even in a modern yeshiva that wasn’t opposed to Western culture, there would have been little time for secular interests, certainly not Doctor Who.  Plus the style of study in a yeshivaBatei Midrash (study halls) of hundreds of pairs of students loudly arguing about texts is not good for someone either autistic or socially anxious.  And I wasn’t even that frum when I was old enough to go (which of course is one reason I didn’t go), although I suppose had I not been depressed when I finished at university, I might have gone for yeshiva for a while as some of my peers at Oxford did.

It’s funny, actually.  Although not going to yeshiva has had a huge effect on my life (or at least has convinced me that it’s had a huge negative effect on my life, which may not be the same thing), the actual studies are not really what I regret missing out on.  It’s actually spending time with holy people, great talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), to learn from their characters.  This is the envy I have when someone says that they knew rabbi so-and-so at yeshiva.  I think a lot about what it would be like to meet one of my heroes from Jewish history.  The answer, I suppose, is that I would be too shy to talk.

On a related note, someone whose blog I read is struggling with religious matters (it’s not fair for me to go into details here and they aren’t really relevant), which reminded me of when I had a lot of religious questions, earlier in my depression and felt like I could lose my faith.  I can’t remember how it ended; probably there wasn’t a day when I woke up and said I didn’t have any major doubts.  I found some answers, but mostly I think I found Jewish religious existentialism, although it was a long time before I found a philosophical name to put to specific Jewish teachers whose writings made sense to me, and that helped reframe the question.

Religious existentialism teaches that doubt and questioning are part of life and that the search for answers is the religious life, not something you go through to become religious.  I realised that ‘proof’ is not how real human beings live their lives, that we base our lives on experience and human interactions, not abstract reasoning (although this is hard for someone who has difficulty with social interactions).  I still struggle with certain passages in Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and things like the problem of suffering or biblical archaeology, but I realised that the God of my religious heroes, the God of Hillel and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and the Kotzker Rebbe – is a loving God because a violent, abusive God would not have compassionate, just and loving followers.  Any questions I had came to seem less important to me than trying to be a good Jew like my great ancestors.  I’m not sure if this makes sense to anyone else. I think in matters of personal philosophy, everyone has to find their own answers, and the answer that satisfies one person won’t satisfy another (which is quite existentialist in itself).  I suppose what I’m saying is that my Yiddishkeit (Jewish-ness) is bound up with the history of my people and the example of great tzaddikim (holy people) much more than abstract philosophical reasoning or the details of texts (which is very Jewish).

I suppose the big question is why, if I’ve learnt to live with doubt, uncertainty and big questions in my religious life, and to some extent in my political life (I don’t really affiliate with any party any more), why do I struggle so much with doubt in my personal life: doubts whether I am autistic, doubts about my career, doubts about relationships and marriage, doubts above all about whether I’m a good person.  Really it’s more like certainty that I’m not a good person, even though lots of people have told me otherwise.

Some of it is low self-esteem and consciousness of the way that my mental health issues sometimes result in my acting in a way that I don’t agree with and would not do if I was not undergoing stress of some kind.  Some of it is what I said before about not fitting in.  I don’t feel that I fit in to any of the communities I find myself on the fringes of.  I don’t feel a fully religious Jew because of my geeky Doctor Who fannishness, but sometimes I don’t feel that I belong in the fan community, which has a lot of vocal militant atheists.  Plus the laws of Shabbat and kashrut (dietary laws) make interacting with non-Jews difficult.  I won’t go to conventions on a Saturday and going anywhere with food is problematic (a problem at my depression group too, where I can’t go to the more social meetings, which are on Saturdays and often involve food).  Although the main thing keeping me from Doctor Who conventions is social anxiety.

On an unrelated note, I spoke to my parents about getting guinea pigs.  My Dad felt I should go to a pet shop first and check I’m OK handling them, which makes sense.  My Mum was worried that I would be too depressed to care for pets or would neglect my job hunting if I was caring for them, which seemed a bit of a remote possibility.  I’m not sure if she’s completely happy with the idea.  Then again, I’m not sure how happy she needs to be, given that the guinea pigs would be in my room.  I probably do care too much about what my family think of me sometimes e.g. part of the reason I gave up on online dating was that my sister was so opposed to me doing it.  For what it’s worth, my rabbi mentor was really enthusiastic about my buying a pet and I trust his judgement on most things.

I suppose I just worry that my Mum might be right and I won’t be able to look after a pet.  I mean, with most things (dating, work etc.) my parents say I have certain abilities, but I find it hard to accept.  Here, Mum is suggesting that I might not be able to do this, so logically I should have absolutely no confidence in my ability, which makes me wonder if this is just a silly idea.  We’ve never had pets other than goldfish (I think my Dad had a budgie as a young child), so I have no idea how I would react to pets, whether I could care for them or what they would do for my mood.  I hope they would make me feel better, but they might not.

Silent Screaming

I think I got about eight hours sleep (I’m not sure, as I can’t remember when I went to bed), but I woke up feeling very tired and depressed and glad that I don’t work on Fridays.  I just feel wiped out by another work week, really (with added psychiatric review and major work mistake), and glad that my contract is nearly over.  I don’t know how I would work in a permanent job for four days a week, let alone five.  Unfortunately, it seems part-time work is hard to find, at least in areas I might be good at.  I’m still not convinced I’m in the right career, but don’t know what else to do.  The idea of doing a PhD in antisemitism and then going to work for a Jewish thinktank has a certain amount of appeal, especially after Pittsburgh, but I’m not sure I could cope with it practically or emotionally (immersing myself in antisemitism), socially useful though it would be.  My Mum still thinks I should retrain as a primary school teacher and it’s true that I find young children restoring rather than depleting, but the prospect of being responsible for thirty children at once terrifies me.  I don’t feel I cope that well with three or four children at the asylum seekers drop-in centre, and that’s only for a couple of hours a month.

Someone on BBC News drew her OCD as a cartoon character.  I’m not an artist, but my depression would probably look like an anthropomorphic cloud, dark (despairing) with downturned mouth (depressed), and rain (tears) and lightning (irritability/anger).

The shiur (religious Torah class) last night was interesting.  I thought over some of the issues that came indirectly out of it afterwards.  I don’t want to go into details, as it’s private, but it did help me a bit to understand how I could understand my suffering without seeing it as a sign that God hates me and is angry with me, which I’ve felt for years, although sadly it seemed to indicate that my main role on Earth is to suffer.  I hope I’m wrong about that.

I talk a lot about Jewish community stuff here, but I tend to shy away from detailed descriptions of Crazy Jewish Ritual, partly because I know most of my readers aren’t Jewish.  Maybe I shouldn’t do that.  Anyway, here is something Crazy I’ve been doing this week, although I don’t think it’s a common thing to do.  Maybe it will help other people psychologically even without the underlying beliefs.

I have mentioned struggling a lot with my religious life lately, feeling guilty, feeling angry with HaShem (God), struggling to daven (pray) and to study Torah.  I came across this passage in The Empty Chair: Finding Hope and Joy: Timeless Wisdom from a Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:

The Rebbe said: When do I have my meditation?  When everyone is around me, that’s when I seclude myself with God.  I know how to cry out in a silent scream.  What I say is heard from one end of the world to the other, yet those around me hear nothing!

Anyone can do this.  Imagine the sound of such a scream in your mind.  Just as the throat brings a scream from your lungs to your lips, there are nerves that draw sound into your head.  When you do this, you are shouting inside your brain. Direct that shout to the One above and it will open Heaven’s gate.

I had heard of this before, but not tried it.  When I was struggling with my hitbodedut meditation this week I tried this, thinking of everything in the world that makes me depressed and anxious and self-hating and just screaming silently in my head.  I don’t know what it does religiously, but it was surprisingly cathartic psychologically.  I’ve been doing it for a few nights now.  It does feel like a real release of tension, particularly as I open my mouth as wide as I can, as if I was letting out a really loud scream, tensing all the muscles in my jaw.

One of those socially-awkward things that seem to happen to me a lot: I commented on a friend’s Doctor Who blog, forgetting I was logged into this account rather than the one for my non-anonymous Doctor Who blog (I’m always getting my two identities mixed up.  I could never be a spy or a superhero).  He’s now following this blog.  I don’t have a problem with that (my anonymity here is more to hide me from potential employers/dates (ha ha) rather than friends), but I don’t know if he realises this is me, if you know what I mean.  I worry that unless I can find a way to broach the subject in a way that doesn’t embarrass him some confusion will result down the line.

Over the weekend I hope to broach the subject of getting a pet (guinea pigs) with my parents more forcefully than before.  We aren’t really a pet family and my parents are wary of my getting a pet (I think they’re mainly worried how I will cope if/when it dies), but I really think it might help my loneliness and depression, especially as I’m likely to be home in my room alone a lot when my contract ends.  Wish me luck…

NHS Woes

I’m just back from the psychiatrist.  It was not great.

The doctor had a thick Eastern European accent and I couldn’t always understand her.  She couldn’t always understand me either and I worried what might get lost in translation (she certainly misheard ‘autism’ as ‘OCD’ at one point).  She said I should stay on clomipramine even though it’s not doing much and the pharmacy is finding it hard to get hold of, as she thinks my OCD will get worse if I come off it (clomipramine helps OCD as well as depression).  She said she will write to my GP and tell him what to prescribe if they can’t get any more.  I think she said sertraline or venlafaxine, neither of which, to my lay knowledge, are like clomipramine (they’re new generation drugs, SSRIs; clomipramine is an older tricyclic) and both of which I think I’ve been on before (I’ve been on so many antidepressants I can’t remember which ones I’ve had.  My notes should say, but my experience is that my notes are incomplete, if not outright wrong, (“We love the NHS!”)).  The psychiatrist said that medication won’t help me much anyway (a previous psychiatrist said much the same) and encouraged me to get some CBT.  She did at least tell me how I could have that on the NHS with a relatively short waiting time.

I did ask about alternative diagnoses.  She said that if the Maudsley Hospital assessed me and said I’m not on the autistic spectrum, there isn’t a lot else that can be done, as they are the experts.  I was rather afraid of that.  I did ask if there is anything else that I might have to explain my condition, but she was pretty insistent on it just being treatment-resistant depression.  I feel that the psychiatrists must have missed something.  I guess I feel like I have psychiatric man flu.  I feel like ‘mere’ depression shouldn’t go on this long, or be this painful.  Maybe I just have as many prejudices about depression (and myself) as non-sufferers.

That was that, really.  She said she could discharge me or see me again in three months.  I opted for the latter, as I’m worried my condition will worsen when my contract ends in two weeks time and I remembered how hard it was to get into the system to get this appointment.  I reasoned that cancelling an existing appointment if a miracle happens and I feel a lot better will be much easier than getting a new appointment if I feel worse.  The receptionist who I was supposed to tell about the appointment hadn’t got a 2019 diary yet (don’t ask why they’re still using hardcopy diaries.  “We love the NHS!”) and wrote my name in the back of the 2018 diary.  My Mum, mindful of the problems I had getting this appointment (the phone calls and missing letters), was worried that I would get forgotten.  Unfortunately, the receptionist became angry and the confrontation became heated, making me feel uncomfortable (OK, making me wish the ground would swallow me up).  I think my Mum might write to complain.  I’m not a libertarian, but if I was the whole incident would seem to confirm a view of the NHS as an inefficient, under-equipped, unhelpful and bureaucratic organisation.  We love the NHS!

My Mum reminded me that I’m apparently supposed to have a meeting at The Network on 5 December.  So far as I can tell, this is a slightly Orwellian-named service for occupational therapy and support with work or other community-based activity for those with mental health issues.  It is perhaps worth pursuing, if they ever send me a letter telling me about my appointment.

I was so upset by the everything that happened that it didn’t occur to me for another hour afterwards that the appointment had finished early enough that I could have gone back to work for an hour or two.  I’m paid per hour, so it doesn’t make much difference to my employer, but the money might have been useful to me.  Now it’s too late to go back, which is probably just as well, as I still feel tense.  Tea has been consumed (if chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, then tea is English prozac), but retail therapy will probably be required after the stresses of yesterday and today (regarding yesterday’s events, my boss emailed me back from honeymoon saying I should just leave the data as it is.  I still think that she must regret hiring me, but my Mum told me not to mind-read).  I plan on buying cheap second-hand box sets of some of Sherlock and Jonathan Creek and possibly a volume of The Complete Peanuts as I fancy crime dramas to alternate with the Doctor Who episodes I’m watching for the book I’m writing (one could probably make the argument that Jonathan Creek is closer to the spirit of the prose Sherlock Holmes stories than Sherlock).  Other than that, I should use my free afternoon to try to self-refer for CBT and to catch up with emails, as much clearing out my inbox than actually writing to anyone.  I hope to get to shiur (Torah class) tonight too.

Am I a Disappointment?

Today was just awful.  I struggled to get up, struggled to stay awake on the train to work (I didn’t read at all, not Mishnah, not autism book and not fiction).  Then, when I got to work I discovered that I’ve made a mistake, potentially through all my work over the ten or so weeks I’ve been in this job.  I don’t know exactly how serious the mistake is.  I sent an email to apologise, but my boss is away until after my contract finishes.  The person standing in for her didn’t think it was so bad, but she wasn’t sure.  I started catastrophising and worried about them suing me to get my wages back or even my going to jail because the mistake involved potential infringement of GDPR regulations – if this sounds excessive, it’s worth noting that I have a history of pure O OCD fears that I’ve committed a crime without realising it and will go to jail, so that’s probably where that came from (Wikipedia has reassured me that a written warning is the most one would get for a first or accidental offence).

I spent the rest of the day struggling with this anxiety (some of which, as I say, was probably OCD), alongside despair, shame and self-loathing.  Years ago I went to a confidence class where I was told that everyone except brain surgeons and airline pilots has the right to make mistakes in their work, but I seem to do nothing but make mistakes.  Even this mistake came from over-compensating from previous mistakes, trying to avoid making them.  I’m seriously wondering if I should even be in the workforce at the moment, given that my depression-occluded concentration makes it so hard for me to avoid mistakes, even without struggling with depression and anxiety all day.  But I’m not sure what the alternative is.  I don’t qualify for benefits (or I didn’t last time I was assessed) and I don’t want to live off my parents.

I feel such a huge disappointment to everyone.  I was sure my boss regretted hiring me even before today.  I’m pretty certain my boss in my previous job came to regret hiring me.  She more or less told me that she didn’t think I could do my job, at least not the parts that involved interactions with staff and students.  I worry that I’m a disappointment to my parents too.  They say I’m not, but I can’t help but compare myself negatively with my (younger) sister, with a steadily-progressing career, a husband and now a house.  I wonder if I’m a disappointment to my religious community and rabbis.  It seems likely, as I don’t do the things a frum (religious) Jew should do.  I don’t know if I’m a disappointment to my friends.  They probably have minimal expectations for me, so don’t get disappointed, which is probably just as well.  But I feel like I’m a disappointment to everyone else I come into contact with.  I guess even this blog is a disappointment to anyone looking for genuine insight into mental illness, or anything other than self-absorbed navel-gazing, really.

Pavlovian Responses

I overslept a bit this morning.  Despite having had nearly eight hours sleep, I woke up depressed, thinking morbid thoughts about wanting to die.  I still believe that Judaism, lived properly, is a joyous and meaningful way of life, maybe the most joyous and meaningful way of life, but I feel that I’m prevented from living it properly by depression and social anxiety: I don’t daven (pray) as I should, study Torah as I should, do acts of kindness or have the right kind of family and community to live a Jewish life properly.

Today I also felt a lot of what I suppose you could call anxiety or perhaps even obsession, but of a peculiar kind that afflicts me every so often, worrying about all the books and DVDs I want to own and read or watch, or re-read and re-watch.  I realised today that it’s about completism rather than enjoyment or materialism.  I get anxious about not ticking these things off my ‘to read/watch’ list as much as anything else.  There’s also autistic obsession/special interests in there too, the desire to collect something and feeling that things are wrong if the collection is incomplete.  It’s why I get annoyed when series of books or TV programmes I like extend indefinitely, when I should want that to happen.  I want to contemplate the series in its entirety and (less positively) know I own all of it, which isn’t possible with ongoing series.  It doesn’t help that I basically see my favourite books and DVDs as my friends and want to spend more time with them, going back to favourite stories multiple times if I can justify the time.  Books and DVDs are at least always there for me, whereas friends have a tendency to disappear, or at least to live far away.  People are harder to understand than books and DVDs too, and less amenable to being repeated until I do understand them.

At work I processed about 130 records (good), but also discovered that the other temp has been processing about 200 records a day for weeks, which made me feel more depressed.  I feel sure that my boss regrets hiring me, although I have no objective proof of this.  The temp is going on to a permanent job elsewhere from next week.  I have ten work days left until unemployment.   I will be glad to get out of the office, though.  Today the people next to me spent an hour or more chatting, which was both distracting and depressing, depressing because I realised that other people can afford to waste time, whereas I’m working flat out just to do the bare minimum of work, and that with mistakes.

I think my OCD is trying to come back.  There has been some worry about kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), which was the main focus in the past, but also worrying about pronouncing words properly in davening (prayer).  I’m currently trying to cope with some kashrut anxiety and attendant guilt over some omega-3 supplements that may not be kosher because I misunderstood the London Beit Din’s guidelines.  I don’t think that this could treif up any of our crockery, but I’m not sure.  I emailed the Beit Din about it, but they haven’t got back to me yet.

Today I was reminded of someone I used to have a terrible crush on (all my crushes are terrible) when I was at university.  I realise now that we are not remotely suitable for each other (actually, it would be hard to think of someone less suitable).  We’re still friends, but I’m quite happy to go a year at a time without seeing her, something that would have seemed unbearable seventeen years ago.  Perhaps – perhaps – one day all my crushes will seem so irrelevant and I’ll be glad that nothing came of them.  Perhaps one day I’ll even understand why God thinks I have to be so lonely and miserable, and be glad of it.  Perhaps.  On which note, I managed to comment on this post without the usual Pavlovian response of wallowing in lonely self-pity whenever anyone says the word ‘marriage,’ although I couldn’t shake the “I’m-never-going-to-get-married” thoughts.

Crazy Cat Lady

My letter from the psychiatrist arrived, so I now officially have an appointment on Thursday!  It’s annoyingly at lunch time, which means I will go to work in the morning, come home at noon and go to my appointment, but – unless it’s over very quickly (which has happened to me before with NHS psychiatrists who just want to ‘process’ their patients ASAP) – I won’t be able to go back to work in the afternoon because by the time I get into town, it will practically be time to come back.  As I’m paid hourly, that is a financial loss, but to postpone the appointment would have meant waiting until January for another one.

On the whole I felt better today.  I got through over 130 records at work, which is an improvement on most of last week.  I think I mostly got through the morning by thinking about whether I could own guinea pigs in the back of my mind while working; in the afternoon I was a bit more down and began to doubt whether I could keep them and whether my parents will agree to my getting them (thus far Mum has cautiously expressed abstract approval and Dad has said nothing at all).  I’m glad that my rabbi mentor thinks that my owning a pet is “a wonderful idea” as, while he’s not infallible, he is usually right and he makes me feel a bit more confident that this isn’t a crazy idea.  We’re not really a pet-owning family, though, and I don’t think my parents really understand why this idea has suddenly gripped me.

Reading The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome at lunch brought me down a little, as I worry again that I won’t be diagnosed on the autistic spectrum – or with anything else unexpected – and will be left floating again with treatment-resistant depression and no help from the NHS other than drugs.  I feel there must be something going on other than pure unipolar depression, but I’m not a psychiatrist and I don’t know what it might be, other than guessing at autism or trauma.  But I’ve been wrong about things like this before.  I wish I had a psychiatrist I trusted and knew well, but the NHS doesn’t work like that.  I had one for a while, but only because she broke the rules by continuing to see me.  She thought I was autistic, but didn’t give me an official diagnosis and I think she came to see me as a frustrating problem patient.  She certainly seemed to stop listening to me after a while.

On the way home I felt a bit more down, probably from tiredness and hunger.  I found myself thinking of the wave of recent engagements of people doubtless ten or more years younger than me in my community.  While I try to be open to the idea that there might possibly be someone female out there of compatible age, religious outlook and personality who can at least tolerate my geekiness, borderline autism, social anxiety and depression, however improbable that seems, it is difficult to imagine how I could ever meet her and get talking to her.  I know someone who insists that there is nothing proactive whatever one can do to get married; it is completely up to God when and how you will meet your mate, but you will meet eventually.  I find this hard to accept.  Some people simply don’t get married and, in any case, in Judaism we are supposed to be proactive with our lives, at least up to a point (she accepted proactivity only in accepting arranged dates, but, as I’ve said, people aren’t arranging dates for me).  In any case, without a well-paying job that would let me support a family, talk of marriage seems pointlessly premature.  And without finding out what is wrong with me and finding a way of coping with it, it seems unlikely that I will ever manage much in the way of a career.   I guess this is the problem: that my issues are interlinked and it’s impossible to deal with one at a time.

Well, I seem to have brought myself down pretty well now.  I’m very tired and still somewhat hungry even after dinner.  I want to go for seconds, but I’ve put on a huge amount of weight on clomipramine and am wary of eating too much.  Life can be very frustrating.  I fear I’m going to turn into the male equivalent of a crazy cat lady.

Here We Go Round

I feel utterly wiped out.  I felt so weak on waking that I nearly had two breakfasts, but on reflection I decided that I was probably drained from the activity of the last few days rather than having low blood sugar, so I only had one bowl of cereal, not two.

My thoughts go round in circles.  If it’s not how awful (and increasingly antisemitic) the world is, it’s how awful my life is.  I know I’ve said this before, many times, but I feel like I missed the boat.  My childhood and adolescence, far from being “the best days of my life” were problematic.  I think at the time I would have said I was fine, but in retrospect I can see the signs of loneliness, depression and possible autism.  However, it’s hard to be sure my memories aren’t being coloured by how things are now.  Certainly by my late teens I was clinically depressed and have been almost constantly ever since.

Now people ten years younger than me are moving on with careers, marrying, having children and I feel left behind (since typing that sentence another mazal tov (congratulations) on an engagement at my shul (synagogue) has come through on the shul’s WhatsApp group).  I was miserable throughout my twenties and early thirties, sometimes suicidally so, and it’s easy to think things can never get better.  I’m trying to move my mindset from ‘wanting a career-marriage-children’ to ‘accepting who I am,’ but it’s hard when, in different ways, both the frum (religious Jewish) world and the secular Western world have such expectations.  In both communities ‘being happy with your lot’ tends to take, at best, second place to ‘fitting in, running the rat race, doing what everyone else is doing.’

‘Being happy with my lot’ would, I think, be the right thing to do, but it’s difficult when there doesn’t seem to be much good in my life right now.  I have my physical health, but my mental health is so terrible that it seems impossible to think of myself as a healthy person overall.  I have some friends, but most of them live far away and I can’t see them, and socialising even with people I like is a struggle from depression, social anxiety and borderline autism.  I’m lucky that I don’t have imminent financial issues because my parents are supporting me, but that just makes me feel like a sponge when my younger sister has long since flown the nest.  I don’t know what to think, really.  I worry that thinking about getting pets is just another thing that would seem good until I actually get it and then it will seem bad, which is one of the things holding me back from it.  (Happiness is a warm guinea pig?)

I reflected today that one of the themes of Bereshit (Genesis), which is the Torah reading at this time of year, is sibling envy and wanting to be someone you’re not, and the problems that result from that.  But I don’t know what to make of it, except that I should try to be happy being myself, which is hard.  I do think – and I realise how unpopular this will be in today’s climate – that on the whole people are better off accepting who they are rather than trying to be someone they aren’t.  Trying to be someone you aren’t is difficult, often impossible and never satisfying.  At any rate, that’s my experience.  I don’t think people should be stopped from doing things, but I think on the whole it’s better to embrace who you are rather than trying to be someone you’re not.  But I’m struggling to do that because I dislike myself so much, even though I know I have never really managed to be anyone else and haven’t enjoyed trying.

I just feel so tired.  It’s hard to do anything.

The emeritus life president of my previous shul (synagogue), the one from before we moved to this area three years ago, died.  He was ninety-eight or ninety-nine.  He was sprightly when I last saw him (probably about four years ago), but had lost most of his long-term memory after a fall some months earlier.  I felt torn, as I should go to the funeral, as I did know him, but I also needed to apply for jobs and I didn’t have the time or energy to do both.  In the end I decided to stay at home, both to apply for jobs and because doing another social thing this weekend would not good for me.  It’s a struggle to get through work even when I am rested, let alone after a lot of social activity.

Staying home and working on job applications is depressing, as I can’t see myself being able to do any of the jobs I’m applying for and it’s a struggle to force my CV and cover letter templates to fit these jobs.  I’m very bad at the type of ‘creative’ thinking needed to modify CVs and cover letters to fit job specifications.  I find it hard enough to admit I can do anything, let alone present myself positively.  In the end I applied for three jobs, but none of them look like a good fit and I can’t really see myself even being called for interview at many of them.  I found myself holding back the tears again in frustration and despair, something that usually only happens at work or while commuting, not at home.  I found myself writing that I had “honed my strong interpersonal skills”, before deciding that, even on a job application, I didn’t have the chutzpah to say that I have “strong” interpersonal skills and took the adjective out.

Growing up, my self-esteem was largely based on being clever and doing well academically.  Then I went to Oxford and found that I wasn’t actually that clever; there were thousands of people as clever than me and more so, and most of them had more vibrant and enjoyable social/romantic lives and better social skills.  I’ve got to a stage in my life where ‘achievement’ is less about academic knowledge and more about experience, continual professional development and soft skills that are often linked to social skills and/or neurotypical or mentally healthy outlooks: people skills, leadership, flexibility, decisiveness, self-motivation…  And even if you say that career isn’t anything (but bear in mind that I have never had a job that allowed me to support myself without the financial support of my parents), I still fail at friendships, relationships, family, community…

It’s hard to know what I can fix my self-esteem on that won’t leave me feeling like a total failure.  I don’t think that I succeed at anything at the moment, not even that nebulous thing, ‘being a good person.’  I know it’s a trap to say, “If I get this job/relationship/child/purchase I will be happy and think I’m a good person,” but I don’t know how to find healthy self-esteem when I feel so useless and incompetent.  As I’ve said before, I don’t feel myself to be the answer to anyone’s question, whether in terms of job, friendships or relationships.

Thousand Word Essays

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?’  Then a voice comes to me out of the dark, and says, ‘We hate to tell you this, but life is a thousand word essay.'” The Complete Peanuts: 1999 to 2000, Charles M. Schulz p. 30

I feel very drained today.  Yesterday evening my sister, brother-in-law and my sister’s mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law all came for dinner.  It was fun and I managed to join in (I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with them), but the evening lasted something like four or five hours which, after an intense work week, was too long for me and I was burnt out by the end.

Today I slept through the morning again, felt exhausted, but forced my self to go to Talmud shiur (class) and Ma’ariv (the evening service) at shul (synagogue) and to help tidy up at home afterwards, but now just want to curl up.  I should really be writing job applications or at least emailing the friend who sent me a very long email some time ago that I haven’t had the time/energy/concentration to respond to yet, but I don’t have the energy for anything other than TV.  I didn’t even read much over Shabbat, just Peanuts cartoons, because I was too drained for even a novel.  Likewise during the week, although I usually read on the train, I have often been too tired to do so this week, or I’ve read The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome instead, so I’m making slow progress through Robots and Empire, the book where Isaac Asimov tried to tie together his RobotGalactic Empire and Foundation series.  It doesn’t help that, 150 pages in (out of over 500), it hasn’t really captured my attention yet.  (I think Asimov was better at short stories and short novels than long novels.)

I had an autistic moment at the start of Talmud shiur when the assistant rabbi said they missed me at the parasha shiur on Thursday and I wasn’t sure whether that was an implied question asking if I’m OK or what I was doing.  I was actually at depression support group on Thursday evening.  The people who were there at the time know (a little bit) about my problems, but I was still too shy to say anything.

My sister, brother-in-law, my sister’s brother-in-law, his wife and their young children have gone to see fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night tonight.  I kind of wish I could have gone to fireworks with someone.  I haven’t really done Guy Fawkes Night for twenty years or so.  (Actually, that correlates approximately with the time that I’ve been depressed…)  I can here fireworks from my room right now, but I can’t see them.  I also find it weird that my sister now has a whole family that aren’t related to me, including nieces and a nephew.  This just makes me feel how unlikely it is that I will ever get married.  I thought again about going to a shadchan (matchmaker), but that seemed pointless until I have a more secure job, which in turn seems unlikely to happen until I have the depression under control and some idea of whether there really is anything else going on in my head that I need to deal with (autism, trauma etc.).  I’m still thinking of getting guinea pigs, so I can have some company and someone to care for, but I’m scared of what it would entail.  I don’t even know where there’s a pet shop.

The only other thing I can think of today is how depressing the world is.  I think all the bad news has just merged in my head into one big, ongoing piece of badness.  Brexitrumputincorbynsaudiran.  As Jews we believe that even small acts of goodness can turn the tide against evil, but sometimes it’s hard to see anything positive happening in the world.

I feel so tired.  It’s not yet 8.00pm but I feel ready to go to bed, although I probably wouldn’t sleep if I did, bearing in mind that I slept for twelve hours or so last night.  I don’t really think it’s a good idea to go to bed right now, so I’m going to watch DVDs instead.  I need to find the energy to make something to eat.

End of the Week Bits and Pieces

I forgot to mention yesterday that I changed where I was sitting in the office (we hotdesk), so that the two people who pace up and down while on the phone were in front of me rather than behind me.  This seems to have helped.  They’re just as audible, but not so distracting.  It seems that noise behind me makes me more alert and anxious than noise in front of me.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee about where I’ll be able to sit over the next three weeks.

I just got phoned by a variation on this scam.  Luckily I was suspicious and googled them rather than phoning them back.

I wish I could be as non-judgemental of myself as I am of others.  That said, I am judgemental of others, but then I make myself think about things and realise that what they have done isn’t so bad and they probably have extenuating circumstances.  But I can’t even do that with myself.  I feel that I know that I’m a bad person and that while it isn’t my concern what other people do, it is my concern to make sure that I do the right thing, so I should beat myself up until I change, which never works.  I don’t know what a better method is, though.

Before my meeting with the new psychiatrist on Thursday, I’m trying to write two lists.  I don’t always remember what I want to say and I’m worried I’m not going to be confident about talking about alternative diagnoses, so I want to have something written I can give him/her.  One list is of the depression symptoms, the other is other problems I’ve been having and other things that make me think I’m on the autistic spectrum, although I’m not sure whether I’ll say that I think I’m autistic.  Please let me know if there’s anything I talk about here that I’ve forgotten.

The depression list is:

  • Very low mood.
  • Despair.
  • Occasional thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Anxiety, especially social anxiety and anxiety related to work.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Easily and frequently exhausted.
  • Inability to experience pleasure.
  • Loneliness.
  • Disrupted sleep at weekends, albeit primarily on non-work days.
  • Panic attacks on the way to work the other week.

The other list of symptoms is:

  • Difficulty understanding and describing my emotions.
  • Difficulty making eye contact.
  • Difficulty reading body language.
  • Body language and voice tone that makes others think I’m angry or upset even when I’m not.
  • Intense interests.
  • Difficulty moving from one task to another and multitasking.
  • Poor spatial awareness/get lost easily.
  • Difficulty holding a conversation without a prepared ‘script,’ especially small talk.
  • Sensory overload from noise at work, in restaurants, etc.
  • Fidgeting and stereotyped/repetitive movements (spin on chair, move feet and hands, stroke face, deliberately press on fingers or put in desk drawer).
  • Tactile – I like feeling certain objects with my hands or even lips.
  • I can’t always tell when people are joking.
  • Difficulty remembering or understanding long and/or implicit instructions.
  • I tend to stick to routines.

Some of these could be depressive, some I think point towards autism, but it’s hard to be sure.  I’ve been told that I didn’t experience all of these as a child, which is one reason why I wasn’t diagnosed with autism in the past.

For some of these symptoms I know the technical terms (alexithymia, ideation, anhedonia etc.).  I’ve been to so many psychiatrists and therapists and read so many books I’ve picked stuff up.  But I was worried that if I used the terms, I would seem pretentious and showing off and maybe would make the psychiatrist think I was telling him/her what to do.  But on the other hand they might be helpful and show that I have done some research.  What do you think?

The Language of Music and the Music of Language

I got to depression group this evening.  It was good to speak to people who understand depression, to be heard and to hear others.

I’ve been listening to classical music in the office.  I’ve always felt that classical music is somehow ‘richer’ than the popular music I usually listen to (mostly rock), but I always feel that I don’t have the time or attention to listen to it while walking to the station or doing housework.  I mention this here, because I realised that classical music is a good analogy for me.  I want to describe why I feel classical music has more ‘depth’ and ‘richness’ to it than rock, but I can’t, because I have no musical training and consequently don’t have a vocabulary to describe what I hear and feel.  Even words like ‘depth’ and ‘richness’ do not accurately describe what I feel, they merely evoke it, and that imperfectly.

It is the same for me with emotions.  I don’t understand my emotions, I am not always fully aware of them, and I lack a vocabulary to fully describe them.  People on the autistic spectrum can lack the vocabulary to describe emotions beyond the most basic.    This is why I struggle to express to other people what I feel.  It is particularly bad with my parents, because they have to endure the consequences my bad moods without me being able to explain to them what I am feeling to make them understand why I am not always behaving well.  This is particularly true when speaking; in writing I can take my time and think about the write words and I have the confidence to write at length without being afraid that people will lose interest, whereas when speaking I tend not to speak at length, particularly about mental health.

Quick Update

Today was more successful than yesterday.  I got to work on time despite train delays, thanks to getting a lift to the station from  Mum, which I don’t normally ask for, to save time.  I’ve been relying on my parents for lifts home from the station in the evening too, because I’m so exhausted when I come home.  I feel bad about that.  Still, I processed about 110 records today as opposed to 89 yesterday, which is good, although still below the 120-130 I was averaging a week or so ago.  I really feel that work is having a negative cumulative effect on me.  By 4.00pm today I was feeling not just exhausted but actually ill and I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to make it to the end of the work day.  Even after having been home for hours and having eaten dinner and watched some TV, I still feel exhausted and somewhat ill.

I can’t describe what ‘ill’ feels like, tired and faint, but more than that.  I just want to rest in a dark, quiet room.  This hasn’t really happened to me before and I wonder if reading about autism and other conditions to try to understand myself has made me into a hypochondriac or if I would have benefited from sensory calm in the past, but it just never occurred to me to try it.  Similarly, I don’t know if I really have a problem with fluorescent lights or if that’s just something else my mind has fastened on.  At any rate, on the train home I was largely too tired to read and too overwhelmed to keep my eyes open in the train lights or to listen to my iPod.

I had the thought on the way home that I should move to Israel and live on a religious kibbutz, which is a silly fantasy rather than a serious plan, but I feel I would benefit from being around nature a bit more and around artificial light and noise a bit less, even if I suspect I couldn’t stand the rustic life for long (and I wouldn’t cope with the communalist aspect of kibbutz life).  I’m not sure how it compares with getting a pet in the realism stakes.

Tomorrow I hope I shall feel well enough to get to depression support group after work.  I haven’t been since June, I think, and I feel a bit nervous about going, especially as I feel I want to talk about autism, but I’m not sure how people will respond.  I hope to get the confidence to speak first, which is selfish, because the main facilitator is a bad timekeeper and the people who speak first get to speak more than those left until the end and I feel I would rather not be hurried, even though I’m not sure how much I want to say.  Usually no one wants to go first and there’s an awkward pause, so I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.

“I Told You I Was Ill”

Ugh, I don’t know if I can write today.  I feel totally drained.  At work I usually get through about 130 records; on a good day, I think I’ve done up to 150.  Today I managed 89.  I’m not sure how much of that was because I felt terrible (depressed and sensory overload – I really wanted to strangle some noisy people.  I’m not usually an angry person, but I was feeling very angry towards them) and how much was that it was just a difficult batch of data.  Unfortunately, the next few lots look just as bad.  If my boss was here and if my contract didn’t end in less than a month, I would probably be having the “I need to talk about my mental health” talk.  The one I hate having, but keep having to have at different universities and workplaces.  Asking for “reasonable adjustments” (ugh again).  Then my Dad gave me a lift home from the station and I bickered with him.  It’s my fault, but I guess his autism-unfriendly style of talking was not something I could cope with when feeling drained and overwhelmed after a difficult day at work and a difficult journey on the Tube.  Then I argued with my Mum, which was less my fault, but not entirely.

I feel so tense today, like elastic stretched to breaking point.  I worry what will tip me over the edge and what will happen if I go there.  The fear I’ve had for years that if I get stretched too far, I’ll become unpleasant or even violent.  Or that I’ll become psychotic or spiral downwards into worse mental illness.  I feel like I have so many rules.  My rules, family rules, friends’ rules, society’s rules, Jewish rules, playground rules…   Honour your parents.  Love HaShem your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.  Love your neighbour (and not his wife).  Stand up straight.  Always be punctual.  Pray and study and do good deeds.  Read improving books and a newspaper you don’t agree with.  Eat your fruit and veg and not processed sugar.  Never be cruel or cowardly, never give up or give in.  Don’t let them see you cry.  Keep silent or make small talk, but don’t talk about what matters.  Don’t lose your temper.  Don’t be stupid, but don’t be too clever.  Don’t show off, but don’t shirk duty.  Don’t conform, but don’t stand out.

Don’t think that, don’t think that.  Don’t even feel it.  Not ever.

I just wish everything wasn’t so difficult for me.  I don’t know how I was so functional at school and am so dysfunctional now.  I guess that’s one reason I would like an autism diagnosis, so I wouldn’t feel completely rude and incompetent the whole time.  To show myself and others that I have a reason to be screwed up.  Hence my fantasies of not just getting an autism diagnosis, but sharing it with people: the first woman I asked out, my first girlfriend, my former boss… everyone who I think saw me at my worst and probably thought badly of me as a result.  I don’t know if that’s an apology on my part (“I’m sorry for being screwed up and for screwing up our interactions”), a desire for understanding or a somewhat defiant explanation.  I don’t think it’s revenge.  But it also makes me question whether I really am autistic.  If I’m this sensitive to things (fluorescent lights, noise, stress, people, multitasking), shouldn’t it have been more obvious when I was growing up?  I was just shy, perhaps socially anxious and almost certainly alexithymic, but I didn’t react the way I do now.  I don’t know the answer (as usual).

Man Out of Time

You find me on the horns of a dilemma.  After yesterday I felt I should spend my downtime after work in a quiet, not-over-bright room, avoiding excessive stimulation, because of autism (or whatever it is that makes working in a noisy, electric-lit open plan office staring at a computer screen all day so painful for me).  This is to improve my mental health.  Unfortunately, my mental health also requires me to write about my feelings to try to deal with them.  So I’m caught between autism (stay off the computer) and depression (blog).  Hmm.  At any rate, if you write one of the blogs I read and my comments and likes become less frequent, then it’s nothing personal, I’m just trying to cut down on internet time (which should also help with depression, as internet time becomes procrastination until I see something that triggers depression, usually about politics or religion).

I had a very stressful day.  I had some minor changes to my routine because of the evacuation of Moorgate Station, but while changing trains at King’s Cross instead, I decided it would be quicker to walk up the stationary escalator as if it was a staircase rather than deal with the slowness and crowding on the moving escalator (there were three escalators, up, down and stationary).  About halfway up I suddenly had a panic attack, or something approaching one, and felt I was going to fall off and plummet to my death or at least severe injury.  I somehow forced myself to keep climbing, while having visions of being stuck halfway up, unable to go up or down and I did eventually get to the top, but then on the platform overcrowding meant that I was standing right on the edge and I nearly had another panic attack fearing that I was going to fall in front of the train.  I don’t know what triggered all of that.  Usually anxiety for me is tied strongly to either social interactions or OCD thoughts, not straightforward fears like these.  I was still shaken when I got to work and didn’t really calm down until nearly lunch time.

I remained anxious much of the day.  I did not cope any better with the noisy environment and wanted to shout at people to shut up.  There are a couple of people who pace up and down the office while on the phone, presumably on the grounds that if they sit still and make a call they annoy a few people around them, but if they walk up and down they can annoy the whole office.  I really want to pace up and down behind them making exaggerated imitative gestures like Harpo Marx, but so far I have lacked the courage to do so.

I felt overwhelmed all day.  It’s hard to tease out what made me feel so bad; I would guess noise, social anxiety, fear that I was doing my job badly and going to get in trouble with my boss and maybe some other things (I’m trying to work out how I feel about the fluorescent lighting, autistically-speaking.  I’m not sure).  As it went on, it got worse, because the more depressed and anxious I got, the harder it became to work, which increased the fear that I was going to screw it all up and get in trouble, which made me more depressed and anxious.  I ended up wanting to self-harm and biting my fingers, although that may have been autistic stimming/attempted self-soothing as much as self-harm.  I did think some masochistic thoughts about being hurt.

My boss is now on holiday until after my contract expires, so if my work is bad, she’ll only be able to complain behind my back.  Unless it’s really bad and they sue me for my wages.

On the way home I reflected that I don’t fit in to the world.  I feel like a man in the wrong time.  I don’t think this is my world, but, realistically, I don’t think it ever was.  I’m not nostalgic for a real or imagined past.  I used to think my utopia lay in the future, but now I’m not sure.  As an Orthodox Jew I believe in a utopian future, but it is hard to see how we could get to it from here and even if it happens, I can’t see myself living in utopia, being happy and carefree.

I also reflected that I envied the wicked, but then corrected that thought.  I don’t envy the wicked, I envy people who are joyous and content.  I’m not entirely convinced that there are many wicked people among the truly joyous.  I think joy comes from meaning and love and I don’t think the wicked have that (hence they chase money, sex, power, fame and other inadequate substitutes).  I don’t really have meaning in my life.  I thought I did, but I don’t.  I don’t regret keeping the mitzvot (commandments), but they don’t bring me meaning and joy the way they are supposed to.  I know the Midrash and the Talmud would say that this is my fault, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do differently (“If it is an empty matter, it is from you,” “If someone says ‘I sought and did not find,’ do not believe him” – I’m quoting from memory, but that’s the gist).

I guess I do have love, but it’s always fraught with difficulty.  The friends who care most about me are the furthest geographically and I rarely, if ever, get to spend time with them.  I don’t think I will ever experience the special loves of marital love or the love for children.  As for my family, they do care about me, but there is a barrier of communication between us.  I’m not sure if it’s autistic vs. neurotypical or very depressed vs. more mentally healthy or just plain old personality and communication differences (it’s not male vs. female as I have trouble understanding and being understood by my Dad as much as my Mum and my sister), but it’s hard to understand them and to make myself understood by them.

So, that’s where I am tonight.  Not really very different from every other workday night.  Overstimulated, exhausted, depressed.  Not anxious, but I will be in twelve hours.  Oh, and I still haven’t heard when or where my psychiatric appointment is other than “some time next Thursday (8 November).”  I just sent another letter, not as angry as it should be, but I used bold italics.  I somehow kept a straight face when typing, “Thank you for your help.”

“Maybe I’m nervous. Or just socially awkward. I’m still working myself out.”

I listened to music in the semi-darkness for a bit.  I’m not sure how long.  My attempt at finding soothing music was not so successful.  I probably have some amongst the 135 classical pieces I recently downloaded, but I’m not good at remembering the names of classical pieces, or much about them, and most of my other music is louder and rockier (unexpectedly, I discovered in recent years that I like (some) loud rock.  But after a while I find the noise too much and turn it down/off).  But it seemed a better strategy than my usual depressive strategy of idly surfing online, getting progressively more depressed, whether from upsetting things in the world or comparing myself to others (one way or another) or from witnessing online arguments (which always upsets me for some reason).  After a while I got up and played patience (what Americans call solitaire) for a while (without winning), which was also calming.

Probably I should limit myself to one session online per day.  I go online to try to connect to people, but, while I do have successful ‘connections’ online, mostly they happen when other people reach out to me (usually by commenting on my blog, or emailing me after reading it) or sometimes when I read mental health blogs, but not when I read other stuff online, particularly news, politics or stuff about Jewish society.  And I should stay away from the nightmare that is Twitter!  (I used to say that the only thing worth reading with 140 characters is War and Peace, but now Twitter has expanded their letter-count so that joke doesn’t really work any more.)  I’m pessimistic about my ability to do this, as I’ve often resolved to reduce my depressive internet usage/procrastination in the past, without success.  The only thing that works is being more active and having less time to spend procrastinating and less depression and loneliness to try to alleviate with random internet surfing/blog reading, but I can’t will myself into that state.

I watched tonight’s new episode of Doctor Who, which was good, but it left me tense and anxious and I’m not sure why.  I’m not afraid of spiders (tonight’s monster) and lived in a spider-infested flat for two years without a problem.  Partly there was some dialogue that should have been cut in the light of the shooting in the shul (synagogue) in Philadelphia yesterday, but I wonder if modern TV drama, or just modern Doctor Who (compared with twentieth century Who) is not autistic friendly, with lots of noise and fast dialogue that is hard to follow and lots of emotional drama.  I don’t know.  I don’t know about a lot of things at the moment.  Still, it gave me the quote in this post’s title.  I did at least spend forty-five minutes or so working on my Doctor Who book before bed, writing about 800 words, which was very good.  So, not a good day, but I managed to salvage some of it.

Blogging Too Much (Sorry)

My head feels like someone stole my brain and replaced it with cotton wool.  I went for a walk for about twenty minutes.  Bought tomatoes.  I motivated myself to go by saying that I would go into the charity shop afterwards and browse the books, but it was shut.  The sign said “Back in 5m (ish)” but I didn’t want to wait.  Walking was difficult, I was so drained.  I’m worried about getting to work tomorrow.  I could see myself getting signed off work again.  On the way to the shops I passed someone I know from shiur and his kids.  He was driving, so I didn’t have to talk to him or feel guilty for not talking, but it just reminded me that other people my age (he is somewhat younger than me – I was at kindergarten with his elder brother) have lives and children.

I feel I missed the boat with my life.  People say that childhood is the happiest time.   Mine wasn’t awful, but in retrospect it seems quite difficult.  So I wonder how I will ever have any joy in my life if those were the happiest days of my life.  Plus our culture (I guess I mean secular Western popular culture) sends out the message that it’s only possible to find love (or enjoy sex, for that matter) if you’re under forty, and I’m aware that I’m climbing closer to forty than thirty.  And frum (religious Jewish) culture assumes everyone is happily married by twenty-five.

Lying on my bed with music playing.  I don’t really want to listen to music.  I don’t really feel like doing anything.  Part of me wants to read or watch a DVD, but I can’t get involved in anything.  Just feeling overwhelmed at the thought of reading one book or one DVD.  I want to read/watch everything… and nothing.  I just don’t have the energy/concentration/motivation.  I also can barely keep my eyes open, even though I’m not tired in the sleepy sense.  I had to daven Mincha (say the afternoon prayers) largely by rote before because I couldn’t focus on my siddur (prayerbook).  So, blogging too much today, because I can that without thinking (which says a lot about this blog…).  Sorry for taking too much space on your blog reader/inbox.  Maybe I’ve been over-stimulated this week.  I just made a playlist of music to listen to for a bit, so I don’t have to keep getting up and skipping a track.  Draw the curtains and lie in the dark with my eyes shut and the music on quietly.

“Nothing will come of nothing”

I didn’t go volunteering.  I just have no energy or concentration or motivation or anything, really.  I felt that I would not be able to look after children, let alone speak to adults and that I would be more of a liability than an asset.  I just feel so drained today.  My Mum wanted me to go.  She gave me the same talk about “forcing myself” to do social things that I’ve had since childhood.  I guess this is why I want some kind of diagnosis of autism or social communication disorder, so other people might understand me better.  Or, I guess, so that I would be more forgiving of myself, because I feel bad for not going.  I want to at least work on my Doctor Who book, but I haven’t got the energy or concentration for that either.  I tried watching TV, but even a comedy programme was triggering.  I feel that I should just go back to bed.  I’ve got nothing to say, but I want attention/sympathy/love/I-don’t-know-what-but-I-haven’t-got-it.

I’m going to force myself to go for a walk in a minute, although I don’t feel like it.  The only think I really feel like doing is sleeping.  Not even vegetating in front of the TV or eating junk.  Just tuning out of the world.  I haven’t been this bad in a long while and I wonder how I will get to work this week.

Effort : Reward

The news is so depressing today.  Sometimes it’s hard to work out where my life ends and the world begins, they’re so awful.  I’m not sure if that even makes sense.  I mean… actually I don’t know what I mean.  I don’t think that the world is a product of my depressed mind (which would be solipsism and/or psychosis).  But I don’t quite mean that my depression is a product of the world (although on one level it is).  I guess I mean that they complement each other in a disturbing way.  That the world is bad enough to fit my mood, and my mood is bad enough to fit the world.

A few people have said that I should focus not on the religious stuff I don’t achieve, but on how much I’m achieving compared to the effort I put in and my abilities, taking into account depression, social anxiety, possible autism or social communication disorder and so on.  To be honest, this is a Jewish idea.  The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot says that the reward is proportional to the effort and I have heard from a couple of sources that the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz), one of the leading Orthodox rabbis and halakhicists of the twentieth century, would stand for someone with Down Syndrome out of respect because they are serving God on their level better than other people.  However, it’s hard for me to hold on to it, because I have no realistic understanding of what I should be able to achieve and how much effort I put in.  Sometimes I feel like I’m working flat out, putting in all the effort I can, but mostly it doesn’t feel like that.  I have no objective way of knowing, I can only compare myself with other people – my peers – who are doing so much more than me, even though I don’t know how much effort they put or how much effort they can put in.

I still feel very lonely.  It’s hard to work out what that loneliness is.  If I say I want to connect with someone, that feels OK, but if I say I want (to be blunt) to have sex with someone, that feels not OK, even though both Judaism and psychiatry recognise sex as a basic human need, and even though for me the desire for sex is connected to the desire for love and intimacy (I couldn’t be promiscuous, just from my personality).  Mind you, sometimes even saying I want to be loved feels selfish and wrong.  I should just love other people without expectation of return.  I find it hard to love people.  I guess it’s the autism, and the alexithymia.  It’s hard to understand what I feel.  E. said I was an “amazing boyfriend” but that still wasn’t good enough.  I don’t know how I could ever love someone properly, or have someone love me the way I need.

I’m supposed to go to volunteer at the asylum seekers drop-in centre (I can never work out if there should be an apostrophe in that – I would think so, but the organisers don’t seem to put one in) , but I don’t feel up to it.  I just want to go back to bed.  I’m still in my pyjamas at 11am, even though I need to leave in half an hour.

Ramblings

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK, but this evening has been tough.  The shooting at a shul (synagogue) in America has really upset and depressed me (for what it’s worth, it’s already been knocked off the top story spot on BBC news online by a football club owner’s helicopter crash).  I keep going back to the news online, but I don’t know why.  It can only get worse.  I suppose I want to understand why someone would want to do something like that.

I had a waffley paragraph of political despair here, which I decided to cut (it wasn’t controversial, just rambling), but I do worry about the way the world is going, polarising between equally repulsive far-right and far-left views.  As a natural centrist (albeit with a bit of an anarchist streak), it is hard to feel comfortable in the world.

I guess it all does make going to volunteer at the asylum seekers drop-in centre tomorrow (today now) seem more important.  At least I’m helping people, and people who are different from me in terms of race and religion.  I just hope it makes a difference somehow, even a very small difference.

More banally finishing the job application for a major British public institution proved very difficult, although I’ve sent it off now.  I answered some questions badly and one I could not really answer at all.  I just fudged it.  I won’t even be called to interview, but it’s too late tonight to start another application somewhere else.  I don’t know if I’ll have time tomorrow, as I’m volunteering and I need to cook dinner when I get home as Mum and Dad are out (and, yes a new episode of Doctor Who is on in the evening).  And then I got a migraine that thankfully responded quickly to painkillers, but made me feel worse for a while and slowed down the job application writing.

I didn’t mention that I got a rejection this week for more or less the only job that I’ve applied for recently that I really wanted to get.

A friend emailed me out of the blue to see how I’m doing, which was nice, but on the whole I’m still feeling very lonely, although it’s hard to tease apart exactly what the loneliness is, how much is about friendship, love, sex, attention, empathy, support or what.  I’m thinking more and more seriously about getting a pet (guinea pigs at the moment) but I’m unsure.  Mum turned out to be open to the idea when I raised it, but Dad didn’t say anything.  My worries are that I read that they need really big cages ideally and I’m not sure how much space I have in my room.  Plus, given that I daven (pray) and study Torah in my bedroom, I would have to ask a halakhic question about whether that is permissible with guinea pig litter around.  But I don’t know if getting a pet is a good idea.  Would it help me and be a step on the road to finding a wife and kids or would it cement my life as a loner, the male equivalent of the Crazy Cat Lady?  Can pets even help someone who really wants a meaningful adult romantic relationship?

I still feel really confused about what is ‘wrong’ with me and whether I can ever get the help I need.  Even if I don’t have autism, I have a lot of the symptoms, yet because I don’t have a diagnosis, I can’t access any support services (not that I’m sure that there is much for adults on the spectrum – it seems to be mostly geared up to children).  Yolanda commented on a previous post to say that a diagnosis might help me to be kinder to myself.  I responded that I was thinking the exact same thing today, but that really my depression diagnosis should also allow me to be kinder to myself, but I still beat myself up for being depressed for so long, for not managing to do things I could do years ago (although I do other things I didn’t do then), for not managing as well as other people with mental health issues might be managing and so on.

Still, at least we get an extra hour tonight.  I wish that happened more often than once a year.  I don’t need material things much more than the basics (food, shelter, books and science fiction DVDs), but I wish people could buy me more time for Chanukah or my birthday.

Quote

I guess this is an addendum to the previous post.  I’d been meaning to google to look up this quote, which has been in my head in a mangled form lately, but it was the events of tonight that made me remember to do it:

“The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.” – Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Going Round in Circles

I managed to phone the private clinic where I’d like to try and do some CBT to work on my self-esteem and social anxiety.  They said I need to be seen by their psychiatrist first who would assess my needs and the most appropriate type of therapy.  When I said I was seeing an NHS psychiatrist in two weeks, they said to go to that appointment and try to get a referral.  I phoned the NHS psychiatrist too, twice, to have another go at finding out when my appointment is, but I got voicemail both times.  I didn’t bother to leave a message as I know they won’t get back to me.

I’m nervous about being pushed down the wrong therapy path at the private clinic or having my understanding of my needs ignored by either the private clinic or the NHS psychiatrist.  Worried about being told something about myself that doesn’t fit my self-image, although that image is so confused that I’m not sure what being told something that doesn’t fit would entail.  (I think I have autism, except when I don’t.)  There’s something horrible about being told you aren’t who you think you are.  It’s why identity politics is so much more explosive than ordinary politics.  I guess I identify myself on some level as being depressed and autistic, which makes it hard to move on from the former and from my non-diagnosis of the latter.  I guess the only thing I would feel as strongly is if someone said I wasn’t really Jewish.  I’ve had some good psychiatrists and therapists over the years, but also some who have blundered around telling me what they think is wrong with me and what I should do without listening to me (plus one or two who have moved from one group to the other).  It’s quite scary not knowing which category the next appointment will be in and, in the case of the NHS, not easily being able to change and find someone else.

I’m trying to work on the job application for a librarian role at an major public institution that I started last weekend and have not had enough energy to finish yet.  It’s hard.  I feel pretty useless and unlikely to get the job, but I feel I ought to try now I’ve started, even though I’ve subsequently found other potential jobs I have (marginally) more chance of getting.  I hate questions like being told to show I have “Demonstrable enthusiasm for the Library and Information Management profession and an interest in the information needs of a … Library” or show an “Aptitude for enquiry work using a range of information resources and tools, including the ability to find, evaluate and explain information”, both questions to be answered with relation to specific tasks and situations and with reference to the required characteristics for the job.

The Great Clomipramine Shortage of 2018

The Great Clomipramine Shortage of 2018 is continuing.  To cut a very long and boring story short, I should be able to get a repeat prescription tomorrow, but not the 50mg tablets I want and had been prescribed initially or the 10mg tablets the doctor prescribed as a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ fallback, but 25mg tablets.  The pharmacy are at least saving them for me while the surgery comes up with the requisite paperwork.  But I think when I see the psychiatrist on 8 November (if the NHS ever deigns to tell me when my appointment is…) I need to talk seriously about changing meds, because these aren’t available and aren’t doing much when they are available.  No idea where we go from here though.  MAOIs?  ECT?

The other thing I need to talk to the psychiatrist about is alternative diagnoses.  I’m still going back and forth in my mind about autism and social communication disorder.  Tony Attwood writes in The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome that diagnosis is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  When it is 80% complete (enough diagnostic criteria are met), the jigsaw is considered completed, BUT only if the corners and edges are in place too (certain criteria have to be met, regardless of how many other criteria are met).  I have the 80% complete, but I don’t have all the corners and edges, there are some symptoms I just don’t have, or not at a high enough level, to count as autistic.  I can see the autism picture, but because I haven’t got the right pieces, no one will give me any help with it.  So maybe social communication disorder is a better bet, or going to a CBT therapist and trying to work directly with self-esteem and social anxiety.

The other thing I get from reading the book at the moment is gratitude.  I thought my childhood was not great, but it could have been so much worse.  The bullying could have been even more intense and violent, I could have been unable to defend myself in any way except violence (which would have got me in bigger trouble) and, most of all, I could have been without my “mentor friend” who guided and protected me (literally protected me – he was tall and strong and even though he was a geek, he wasn’t bullied as much as I was).  No wonder I used to get upset and maybe even anxious if he missed a day of school.  My Mum wanted to split us up, because she thought he was holding back my social development and I would make more friends in another class or school, but I suspect I would just have been even more alone if that had happened.

Speaking of mentor figures, Attwood says of romantic partners sought by people with autism, “The partner they seek is someone who understands them and provides emotional support and guidance in the social world – someone to be a ‘mother figure’ and mentor.”  I’ve realised this before about myself.  It makes me pessimistic.  I’m a weird enough person to be trying to matched up as it is, without putting pressure on women to mentor me and even mother me (even without getting into the complexity of my far-from-straightforward relationship with my actual mother).  This seems like asking too much.  I can’t imagine anyone ever consenting to marry me on those terms.  But I worry about what will happen when my parents are gone.  Complex though my current relationship with them is, they are still doing a lot of mentoring and guiding, e.g. today, when Mum came to resolve the clomipramine prescription confusion at the doctor’s surgery, when my social anxiety/autism/social communication disorder/shyness/whatever was just making me shutdown and run away.

I just got back from shiur (religious class).  It’s become quite difficult.  I really enjoy the content, but the number of people going has gone up and I feel uncomfortable with the number of people in the room, especially as some are noisy and constantly interrupting with questions and interjections (Jews don’t really do quiet listening).  I don’t really cope very well with people who like to talk for the sake of talking, or because they like the sound of their voices, doubly so if I’m trying to concentrate on someone else talking.  Plus just being around so many people is anxiety-provoking for me – Attwood says that for autistic people the difficulty of being around people, in terms of energy needed in alertness, anxiety and reasoning out the correct social interactions on the spot, increases exponentially (rather than linearly) with the number of people.  At shiur, as well as normal fears of a social faux pas, I’m worried about a religious faux pas too.  Just to make things worse, I’m juggling more balls because some people at the shiur know a bit about my mental health issues and some don’t and some have been acquaintances since childhood and some have not, so there is a lot to think about.

I’ve been thinking again about pets.  Attwood recommends them as affectionate and understandable companions for autistic children (unlike neurotypical children, who are difficult to understand).  I’ve see them recommended for people with depression too.  As a child I had a couple of goldfish, but that was it.  My family aren’t really pet people.  But now I wonder if it would help me to have a pet.  It would also let me see if I can cope with responsibility, given that I want to have children one day (although, as I say, that seems unlikely to happen).  Small mammals seem the best bet, guinea pigs or rabbits (both are social animals and should ideally be kept with at least two – I’ve done some reading on this already).  But I haven’t got the confidence to mention this to my parents (who in any case think the pet will die and leave me even more depressed), not least because I worry whether I am non-depressed enough to look after a pet, especially when I come home from work exhausted.  And then there’s the financial cost.

In other news, my contract isn’t being renewed at work, if I happen not to have finished the work by the end of my current contract (23 November).  I was told it was because of internal problems and bureaucracy, but I worry that it was secretly because I was a disappointment and they aren’t happy with my work and the mistakes I make.  It’s rather academic, as I strongly suspect I will be more or less finished by 23 November anyway.  To be honest, I think I might be self-sabotaging my job hunting.  I don’t really feel capable of working, at least not until I have dealt with my self-esteem and social anxiety issues and the autism/social communication disorder/whatever issues, plus I’m just plain exhausted from two months (with another to come) of constant alertness and anxiety to deal with social interactions and noise at work.  I need to stop for a bit and calm down and get my bearings.  I know that sounds lazy and entitled, but I feel like I’m at breaking point and I need time out – more than the three day weekends I have (which tend to be spent on chores and job applications and sometimes volunteering).  Although I was tempted by the job I saw advertised for Information and Records Manager for MI5 and MI6.  I want to be licensed to kill people who talk in the library or bring back books late.

Planet NHS, Planet Autism

On Planet NHS:

Me: 

Hi,

I was referred to the psychiatrist by my doctor some weeks ago.   In early October, I spoke on the phone to Mr …. who referred me through the … Team.  However, I have not been sent an appointment letter yet.

My mother phoned last Tuesday and was told I have an appointment for 8 November, but the person she spoke to would not tell her the time of the appointment, saying it would be written in the letter.  However, I have still not received any letter.

Please could you let me know as soon as possible when my psychiatrist appointment is, as I need to arrange time off with my employer.

Thank you and regards,

Luftmentsch

Him:

8th November with Dr …

Me:

Hi …

Thank you, but please could you let me know the time of my appointment on 8 November with Dr …

Regards,

Luftmentsch

Him:

A letter will be sent to you with all the details once booked on the system.

Me: 

Please could you let me know when this is likely to be as I need to clear the time off with my employer.

Regards,

Luftmentsch

Him:

8th November will be the day.

Me:

[Stunned silence.]

This is why I get so annoyed at the idolatry of the NHS that goes on.  If, as someone said, the NHS is the religion of the British people, then I’m definitely agnostic.

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

Work was OK today, or at least not unbearably awful.  It was hard, but I felt a bit more together and I got by without any coffee at work (although I had one at home at breakfast and a couple of cups of tea) and without crying.  I did shake slightly when talking to my boss, and when drinking tea (both of which were completely due to psyching myself out by realising how bad it would be to start shaking).  My boss goes on honeymoon on Tuesday and will be away until after my contract is due to finish and her boss finished working there today, so my boss from next week will be someone I know slightly, but not well.  Change makes me anxious (another autistic trait).

A previous psychiatrist, the one who felt I was somewhere on the autistic spectrum (but didn’t give me a proper assessment or diagnosis) once told me that “You can’t understand people, so stop trying.”  It’s possible that my whole life has been trying to understand people, like the robot Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  At any rate it explains why I ended up on the humanities/social sciences side, unlike many autistic people, despite being good at science at school.

Other autism-related thoughts today: I mentioned yesterday having a few geeky but non-autistic friends at school.  One very much fitted Tony Attwood’s idea of a non-autistic mentor friend who helps with socialisation.  We were friends from age five and are still occasionally in touch, although we haven’t seen each other in person in some years.  We were best friends until we were about fourteen, when we drifted apart a bit.  I remember being upset when we were told to write a passage about our best friend in Hebrew class and he read his out and it was about someone other than me.  It would be an exaggeration to say that that was a key moment in my life, but it probably was another step down a very long road.  As Attwood suggests, once the mentor friend is gone (in my case this really happened when I went to university and he, although going to the same university, went on a gap year first), social integration becomes much harder, particularly as in my case it coincided with living away from home for the first time.

I realised today that I had such limited social interactions in my first job, that it was no wonder that I found it so much easier than my current and immediately previous one.  I rarely had to deal with more than one or two people at a time, my boss was understanding, I rarely saw other staff members, library users were mature adults and the library was quiet (perhaps too quiet as I could get lonely sitting in the basement all afternoon).  Plus I did three days a week of three hours each, very different to my hours in my other jobs which are much closer to full-time.  Even so, I sometimes went off to cry in the toilet or didn’t get to work because I had a panic attack on the way.  This, I think, disguised my autistic socialisation problems and made me think I had workarounds until I got to my previous job, especially as university was also a somewhat protected environment.  It was only in my previous job, when my socialisation problems became more apparent, when I started thinking seriously about being misdiagnosed when told that I was not autistic, and thinking that the misdiagnosis could matter rather than being an abstract problem.  In particular, it became obvious that I have problems with certain types or levels of noise and with interpersonal interactions beyond simple shyness and that I’m not great with vague or implicit instructions or dealing with grey areas.

I also think my sensory sensitivity has been greater than I realised previously.  As a child, I found wool uncomfortable.  I often find wearing my watch uncomfortable (sometimes at work I take it off and put it in my pocket) and I’ve gone through periods of thinking that way about shoes.  I think mostly I’ve just soldiered on until I get inured to these feelings, although I still avoid wearing wool against my skin.

Emotional Pain

I cried at work again.  I’m in constant emotional pain, at least at work, but I can’t describe it to people, so I don’t get taken seriously.  (EDIT: not “taken seriously” is a bit harsh.  But I can’t tell even my parents how I feel, how I spend my whole time at work struggling just to keep my head above the water, let alone actually do my work.  See the quote below about autistic people being in a constant state of alertness and anxiety.)  Things aren’t so bad at home, but work is unbearable.  I feel trapped in my life.  At times I really don’t want to live, but I won’t commit suicide either, so I’m stalemated.  One of the Renaissance writers, someone like Sir Thomas More, said that the worst test God can give a person is to make him think that God wants him to kill himself.  I don’t think God wants me to kill myself, but I don’t know what he does want me to do.

I don’t want to think of myself as a victim, but the alternative seems to be thinking of myself as a failure, because I seem to fail at everything I try.

I wanted to go to a shiur (religious) class tonight, but I feel too exhausted, even a little faint (even after dinner), which might possibly be psychosomatic from the depression or, more likely, social anxiety.  I should fight it, but I don’t think now is the time.  I’m too tired and depressed at the moment and I worry that if I stay out late tonight, work tomorrow will be impossible.  The shiur was on sadness in Jewish thought, which might have been helpful, but might have been problematic, as ‘sadness’ isn’t the same as ‘depression’ and I could have ended up guilt-tripping myself into feeling that I am a bad person for being depressed, or for being depressed in the ‘wrong’ way.

More autism stuff that could be written about me from The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome:

“One of the problems faced by children with Asperger’s Syndrome who use their intellect rather than intuition to succeed in some social situations is that they may be in an almost constant state of alertness and anxiety, leading to a risk of mental and physical exhaustion.” (p. 29)

“Blame [for social difficulties] is directed at oneself: ‘I am stupid’; or others: ‘It’s your fault.'” (p. 30)

“”The child, sometimes as young as seven years old, may develop a clinical depression as a result of insight into being different and perceiving him- or herself as socially defective.” (p. 35)

The book also states that autistic children can use fantasy as an escape.  I think Doctor Who and Star Trek were for me escapes into a world where intelligence, difference and even eccentricity were prized, very different to my school.  I had a couple of geeky-but-non-autistic friends at school (primary and secondary), which probably kept me sane, although even there I kept somewhat distant from some of them and I think I was a bit nervous about going to other people’s houses if I didn’t know them well.  I did fantasise a lot, though.  Strangely (or perhaps not), I think my Walter Mitty life started in my teens, when most people are moving away from fantasy.  My friends were getting into things I had no interest in (wargaming, RPGing) and was sometimes scared by (girls, soft drugs), so I retreated into fantasy scenarios of saving the school from Daleks.  As I got older, aliens turned into terrorists and wish-fulfilment fantasies of escaping without a scratch like James Bond turned into masochistic fantasies of being hurt and on to suicidal fantasies of redemptive death, or just death.

My romantic life has largely been fantasy too, necessarily so, but problematically so.  Having such little real experience of relationships makes it harder that I ever will manage to adjust my expectations, and meet someone else’s expectations of me.

The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome also says that people with sub-diagnostic autism symptoms (which realistically is what I probably have and what I’m currently diagnosed with) can benefit from the same help that people with a diagnosis get, which is good, if I can find a way of getting help.  It’s also interesting that my sister and my Dad have some sub-diagnostic symptoms, which again is supposed to be common in families of people on the spectrum.  Although no one is going to mistake someone who likes small talk and hates silence as much as my Dad for someone on the autistic spectrum.  I guess that’s another reason why I want a diagnosis.  Growing  up my parents told me that they were shy as children and I should just ‘push myself’ to talk to other people and that it would get easier with practise.  It never did, and I suppose if I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, that would be a kind of justification for failing to master small talk and social skills.  Maybe that’s not a good thing, maybe it will just encourage me to isolate myself.  I don’t know.  I don’t really know about a lot of things right now.

Stuff and Nonsense

Today’s autism speculation: the book I’m reading reminded me that children with autism often use pedantic and ‘adult-seeming’ language and are mocked for it.  As a child, I was told off by Adult Authority Figures for being pedantic and using long words (it was wrongly thought that I was trying to show off and belittle everyone else).  I also used to get teased a lot by other kids at school for a variety of reasons, but sometimes for “speaking posh.”   I assumed that this was because of my accent; I don’t have a particularly posh accent, but my peers mostly assumed Estuary English and I did not, but perhaps they meant my vocabulary.  Even today I struggle to use slang in my writing, even something as informal as blogging.  Sometimes I write something with slang and then edit it into something more formal.  It took years to get me to use contractions in my writing.

Then again, I’ve always read a lot and at an advanced level for my years, so maybe that explains it.  Certainly today is a “I don’t think I am autistic after all” day, which leads to, “Then how did I end up this messed up?”  I still don’t think I can cope with careers and relationships.  Just the thought that it could be ten years before I’m ready to date again is depressing me, both from loneliness and the thought that I will probably never have children (everyone laughs at me for saying that, given that I’m a man, but I can’t see myself marrying someone twenty years younger than me).  I don’t know how I get through this.

I feel I should try to think positively about recovery, career, dating, everything, if I’m to stand a chance of changing anything, but my life has been so miserable for so long that it’s hard to see things ever changing.  I’m trying to get back into applying for jobs, as my contract expires in a month, and I’ve found a couple of good-seeming ones, but I can’t see myself getting them, let alone managing to do them (even ignoring the fact that they’re all full-time and working just four days a week is already fuelling my depression and stress).  Even reading the job specs, I feel panicked and out of my depth.  I don’t even know what career I should be pursuing.  It seems silly to give up on librarianship having fought so hard to qualify as a librarian, but I’m really not sure it’s right for me.  But is anything right for me?  The ongoing antisemitism furore makes me feel an obligation to do some kind of PhD on antisemitism and then work for someone like the CST (the NGO that monitors and tries to prevent antisemitism in the UK) or a Jewish think-tank, but that doesn’t seem quite right either.  And my Mum is still trying to encourage me to be a primary school teacher, but that’s not any more right than the others.  And comparing my writing about Doctor Who with that of others only makes me despair of selling anything else I write.  I must be here on this Earth for some reason, but I don’t know what it is.  All I can do is write about myself.  I fear I have made myself and my neuroses into my autistic special interest.

I emailed my rabbi mentor about my feelings that God hates me and he said he feels it’s tied up in my general emotional state and feeling so depressed.  He felt that I need to find “meaning and success” in everyday activities like work and a healthy home environment.  I’m not sure how I can manage that right now, though.  At least I felt a certain amount of satisfaction reviewing this week’s Doctor Who episode for my other blog, but then, as I said, it feels inferior to what other people write, so why bother?

Failure to Thrive

I did not sleep well last night, waking up in the middle of the night with a headache, not being able to get back sleep, getting up and doing some things before suddenly dozing off when I finally thought I would get dressed and start the day.  My uncle and my sister came over for lunch (my brother-in-law is unwell) and we ate together.  Surprisingly, it was warm enough to eat in the garden.  The resultant mental hangover may have contributed to low mood in the afternoon.  At any rate, I was over-analysing things, wondering if I was contributing enough to the conversation, if I was over-sensitive to the sunlight and judging everything through the prisms of autism and social communication disorder.  The conversation got onto the topic of the new series of Doctor Who at some point, and the older generation opined that it was “too politically correct.”  I don’t particularly agree (although I agreed about the lack of Jews in general and frum (religious) Jews in particular in Western culture), but as usual with dissent I withdrew from the conversation rather than state an opposing view, from fear of being attacked or rejected.  This is not particularly healthy.

After lunch (which went on until after 4pm), I went for a walk.  I was feeling very miserable (perhaps from socialising, perhaps from eating too much ice cream, getting  a sugar rush and then crashing), feeling that the world does not have anything to offer me and that I would really like to die (while I was thinking this, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy came on my iPod…).  Then I ran into one of our neighbours with his young children (aged I guess about eighteen months and three or four years) and they were very curious and wanted to talk to me, so I played with them for a few minutes and I did feel somewhat better after that.  Maybe my Mum is right that I should be looking for a job working with young children, I just don’t feel confident to look after other people’s children, let alone teaching them.  On which note, the asylum seekers drop-in group I volunteer at is taking place on Sunday.  I was thinking of skipping this time, because I need to apply for jobs and because I’ve hardly done any cooking in weeks because of Yom Tov and various other things, but I’ve agreed to go now.

After returning home I spent a while working on a job application at a very prestigious public body.  I very much doubt that I have the experience and skills needed to get the job, or even to be called for interview, but I’m trying to fill out the application.  I have quite a bit still to do, but I’ve run out of time tonight, although it has been hard to stay focused on working on the task when the thought of getting the job, or even being called for interview, while appealing on some levels, is also terrifying.  Family lunch plus walk plus application plus (I admit) procrastination means little time for Torah study, which I feel bad about, and possibly a later night than I would like before work, as I ‘timeshifted’ watching tonight’s Doctor Who episode to later to concentrate on the application.

In Jewish thought God interacts with a person according to how much he or she wants Him to do so; He doesn’t force Himself on a person.  To some extent at at least a person receives overt divine intervention (as opposed to things happening apparently by ‘chance’, which is really also divine intervention of a different kind) in proportion to how much he or she wants it and is willing to let God in.  I think this is something of a simplification of a complex idea and God does not act in this way 100% of the time, but aside from the question of the difference between overt and covert intervention, it seems to me that this would act against people who can’t trust from their experiences (e.g. me).  I can understand philosophically that everything God does is for the good and even my suffering must have a purpose, but I find it hard to just trust Him; I assume His plan for me involves much more suffering and very few pleasant experiences, and that He hates me for my sins.  It is very hard to abandon myself to belief that I can recover from mental illness, find a job I can do, marry and have children and generally be happy.  It seems this is another way that the bullies of my childhood win.  Not only did they make me miserable at the time, but they have trained me to expect only the worse for myself, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether for religious reasons or just psychological ones.  Even viewing the matter from a secular perspective, lots of cognitive psychologists would say that one’s experiences come to meet one’s thoughts and expectations, rather than the other way around.  I try to tell myself that my life could get better – and it could – but I can’t believe that it will get better or that God wants it to get better or that I deserve it to get better.

I feel I should be doing a lot better than I am with my life.  I had a whole paragraph here which I would have liked to have kept in, but which I thought was probably lashon hara (malicious speech) so I cut it.  But I feel a lack of affection and love in my life.  “Failure to thrive” was the term used when (I think this was in the 1950s) excessive hygiene fears led to parents and nurses being discouraged from holding babies for fear of passing on germs, resulting in unnecessary premature deaths, because babies need hugs and love as well as milk and warmth.  I feel a bit like that, that I’m failing to thrive in many senses of the term, particularly from lack of support, although it seems unfair to write that as I have some support and it is hard to state what exactly I want.  Certainly, despite doing so well at school, I have failed to thrive in any sense since going to university and especially since leaving it.

Feeling a Useless Waste of Space

Well, that was horrible.

My usual way of dealing with difficult emotions is blogging, particularly as I don’t currently have a therapist to talk to.  But I can’t talk about my Shabbat (Sabbath) because of various Jewish laws, particularly lashon hara (malicious talk).  So I have to bottle up what I feel (somehow writing for myself doesn’t work; even though hardly anyone reads my blog, knowing that it can be read somehow makes all the difference).  Anger.  Humiliation.  Loneliness.  Being ignored.  Despair.  Self-hatred, possibly.  Probably more feelings that I can’t identify.  I’m supposed to be catching up on various chores tonight, but I’m not sure I have the psychological strength.  Still, these events, that happen every so often, do at least remind me that my mental health issues didn’t appear in a vacuum; you have to be treated very badly for a prolonged period to end up this self-loathing.  I just don’t know if I can get help to stop hating myself so much, and certainly there isn’t any way at the moment to stop these things from happening.

(It occurred to me after writing this that I could have phoned the Samaritans helpline, but it’s a bit late now.)

I feel that my parents and my rabbi mentor, although trying to support me, sometimes make things worse, because they say that things are getting better when I don’t feel that.  It’s true that I’m doing more; from 2005 to about 2008, I did nothing at all because I was so depressed (nothing in terms of paid or voluntary work – I was doing almost as much davening (prayer) and I think more Torah study then as now) and now I’m working four days a week (while it lasts), but I still feel painfully depressed and self-loathing so much of the time.  But because people can’t see into my mind and see how depressed I am, they assume things are improving, unless I get so upset that I start being rude and aggressive.  Yes, I have a job, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling well.   I feel that I have to really push myself to go to work; without a huge effort, I would not manage it.  In many ways I feel further from recovery than I did a few months ago.  I don’t know what my diagnosis is any more.  I’m sure there’s something other than depression and social anxiety, but I don’t know what any more.  The Asperger’s book is making me doubt whether I have autism after all; there may be complex trauma, but maybe not; perhaps there is something else?  Social communication disorder?  Something I haven’t even heard of?  I don’t know.  I do not feel confident about being diagnosed and treated correctly on the NHS any more, though.

I wish I knew what I was good at.  I want to do something worthwhile with my life, but I don’t feel competent to do anything, particularly given how badly I’m screwing stuff up at work, in both my current and previous jobs.  My shul (synagogue) was asking for help with various things, but the only I could do was repair talletot (prayer shawls), assuming they just want people to re-wind and re-tie the knots in the tzitzit (fringes), but I’m too scared to do that for other people in case I mess that up too and they don’t fulfil the mitzvah (commandment) properly.  And I can’t imagine anyone could love me, or at least not enough to actually want to marry me with all that entails rather than just being friends.  Because my recent dating experience has always involved being dumped for being too depressed or too weird.  The stupid thing is that I can see myself as a decent husband and father more than a decent librarian, academic, writer or other job I might consider.  Maybe that’s just because I haven’t had a chance to fail at it yet; I don’t think I’m a good son or brother, and I used to think I would be a good librarian, until I actually started being one.

I wish sometimes that I could meet some kind of prophet, gadol or rebbe who could tell me that I really am a good and worthwhile person and a good Jew, because I don’t believe it myself and I don’t think I could believe it unless it was from someone who had some kind of divinely-inspired insight.

I feel such a useless waste of space.

Reflections

I seem to be in the habit of long days (Sunday evening until Thursday afternoon), going to bed at 11pm and getting up at 6.20am and trying to pack my day with work and whatever Torah study and prayer I can manage, and shorter days (extended weekends from Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon), going to bed any time after midnight and sleeping for ten to twelve hours and trying to do more Torah study and prayer, as well as household chores, than I can manage on work days, but generally feeling too burnt out to do very much.  Long work days are filled with intense depression and I think also anxiety (although it can be hard to tell — alexithymia again) at work, but the fear of missing work and getting in trouble keeps me going somehow.  Weekend days have less intense emotions, at least most of the time, but also a general feeling of lassitude and difficulty in getting motivated to do anything, even though I have lots to do, just not as obviously urgent as on work days, or at least things that won’t lead to immediate conflict if I miss it or am late.  Consequently, I don’t have time for hobbies (working much on my Doctor Who book and blog, cooking, jogging, painting miniatures) and I still don’t have much energy for prayer or Torah study.  Often the lack of time on the Tube that I can use to read Mishnayot means I do less on non-work days, while I usually sleep through Shacharit (morning prayers) on these days although I do at least get to a couple of shiurim (classes) which I can’t seem to manage on work nights and I tend to get shul (synagogue) at some point on Shabbat (the Sabbath) which I don’t manage at all on work days.  This routine is not healthy, but I don’t know how else to get through the week right now.

I don’t think it’s particularly feasible for me to be thinking about dating while my mental health is so unbalanced and my income stream (such as it is) is about to be cut off in five weeks when my contract ends, but I’m still quite lonely (although I’ve been worse) and I wish I had a wife and children to love and share my life with.  I suspect I’m a more affectionate person than I’ve ever really had the chance to demonstrate, if I could find the right woman.

Other than general lassitude (and consciousness that it’s getting close to Shabbat, which starts about 5.40pm today), I feel some social anxiety and inadequacy.  I feel that my boss must surely regret hiring me and that the people at my shul (synagogue) community might look down on me; even if they don’t, I look down on myself for not davening (praying) or studying Torah as much or as well as they do.

Further to what I wrote yesterday about finding something I can do well, my Mum is trying to encourage me to consider retraining as a primary school teacher, specifically limudei kodesh (Jewish studies) in a Jewish school.  I’m not convinced that I’m as good with children as she thinks, though, or that I could handle working full-time in a school.  Also, the thought of being in charge of a whole class of children terrifies me; I get nervous enough looking after a handful at the asylum seekers drop-in centre, and their parents are only in the next room.

I tried to phone a local private therapy centre (the ones who were supposed to phone me back last week, but didn’t) about CBT for low self-esteem and social anxiety.  It was a struggle with my social anxiety just to make the call about treating my social anxiety (!), but they were shut anyway (they may shut early on Fridays because I think the practice owner is Jewish and frum (religious) although I don’t think all the staff are).  I shall have to try earlier next week, but I was just too exhausted to phone earlier today.