Continued from the last post.
I could not sleep last night. I got to bed late anyway, after 1am, but my mind was full of thoughts about yesterday evening and anxieties about today and my date next week. Eventually I realized I was not going to sleep and got up and Doctor Who-ed to calm my mind down, finally falling asleep some time around 2.20am.
I could not sleep in this morning, though, as I wanted to get to an early Shacharit (morning service) and Megillah (Book of Esther) reading. I managed to do this, getting up at 6.50am (on a Sunday!). It mostly went well, but I had a bit of an OCD panic. One is supposed to hear every single word of the Megillah and while I had heard every word, my mind drifted at one point and one word didn’t register properly – I heard it, but I didn’t register what it was until my reading caught up a second later. I initially thought this was OK, but by the time I got home afterwards I was caught in the spiral of OCD doubt and was ready to find a later reading to hear it all again. Fortunately, I decided to phone my rabbi first to check if this repetition was necessary and he assured me that everyone’s mind drifts during the reading and it is enough to have been there and heard every word. Even so, part of me felt, “Maybe I didn’t ask the question properly. Maybe I should go to another reading to be sure”, but I have been playing the OCD game long enough to know that there is no escape that way. If I went to another reading, I would surely find another problem to make me think that I had not fulfilled the mitzvah (commandment). This is the tricky thing about OCD, the way it tells you that you are doing the right thing, that you can never be too careful. Give in just once and you are laying yourself open to an endless cycle of doubt and checking. I have been trying very hard lately not to ask a rabbi a question unless I am quite sure that there is a legitimate doubt about what I should do and certainly only to ask the question once, not repeating the question because I think I have not explained myself properly or that I have not been understood. I tell myself that asking a rabbi creates a halakhic (legal) reality; my job is to follow the ruling I have been given, not to second-guess the rabbi who gave it. This is hard, but it is the only way to beat the OCD cycle.
There was then a sombre interval, when we found out that my great-aunt had died. I did not know her particularly well, but my Dad was close to her and especially to my great-uncle (who died about a year ago). This cast a shadow over the day.
I then managed to go to a Purim seudah (meal/party) with my sister, her boyfriend, her flatmate and various other people. I had been at Oxford with a couple of people there and as I have mentioned in previous posts, I was worried that they would remember me negatively as aloof and standoffish (although I was actually desperately shy and depressed). At any rate, they either did not remember me or did not think negatively of me. I surprised myself by joining in the conversation a lot, even cracking a couple of well-received jokes and my jester’s hat proved a great hit (fancy dress being a Purim tradition dating from the Middle Ages). It was an extremely positive experience, setting me up well for my blind date next week by making me feel that I can talk to strangers.
Now I’m slowly coming down, hoping that I won’t crash, either tonight or tomorrow morning, which is possible (what I call a mental hangover, when socializing or other activity one day leads to a worsening of the depression and lethargy the next). Hopefully this is a sign of improvements in my mental health and ability to socialize that I will be able to build on in the future.