Luftmentsch Versus Social Anxiety

Things I’ve done to fight the social anxiety in the last couple of days:

Dug out booklet on CBT for social anxiety that I remembered I bought at university;

Spoke to people at Kiddush (blessing said before dinner and lunch on the Sabbath, by extension the refreshments served with the Kiddush blessing after the morning service on the Sabbath) and Seudah Shlishit (third Sabbath meal, often eaten communally at the synagogue) at shul (synagogue);

Spoke to the frum  man who started a conversation with me on the bus, even though I wanted to read and was nervous that he would judge me negatively;

Responded politely when said frum man blessed me that I would get married soon even though I thought it was a bit of a personal thing to say (I think it was meant well and who knows, maybe it will work);

Phoned someone to arrange a date, even though I was very nervous (I haven’t really asked someone out for years, the other dates I’ve been on recently were blind dates arranged by other people although to be fair my sister had checked with this person (a friend of my sister) that she was willing to go out with me before giving me her phone number);

Tried deep breathing when I started shaking at the barber’s and mostly got it under control (I’ve been told the shaking is probably a minor panic attack, but also that it’s caused by medication side-effects; I’m not sure how they interact.  This hasn’t been a problem for some years, so it felt a bit of a retrograde step, but I tried not to let it worry me);

Answered questions at Talmud shiur (class);

Went  to a coffee morning for the OCD support group I go to (or used to go to – I haven’t been for a while, partly because it’s been hard with work, partly because I’ve been a lot better).

The half-time score: Luftmentsch 8, social anxiety 1.

It Is What It Is

“It is what it is” is a phrase I’ve encountered in a couple of places recently.  On the one hand, it’s a silly platitude.  Obviously it is what it is; what else could it be?  Still, as with most platitudes, there is some truth in there.  Sometimes things just are what they are.

In an ideal world, I would be working full time or at least four days a week, sleeping no less than seven hours on work nights and no more than eight hours on non-work nights.  I would be doing an hour and a half of Torah study a day, mostly “serious” stuff, Talmud and Tanakh (Bible) with commentaries.  I would be davening (praying) on time and usually with a minyan (prayer quorum).  I would be working regularly on the book I’m writing and jogging for half an hour a couple of times a week.  I would socialize sometimes and get to my depression support group regularly.

The reality is very different.  I am not achieving any of these targets.  Some, like my sleep, need to be changed urgently (when I am consistently getting only six or even five hours of sleep before work, I come close to falling asleep at my desk mid-morning, especially as I don’t drink coffee!  Bananas are good for waking up, I’ve discovered).   Others feasibly could wait a bit.  For instance, Torah study tends to be an average of about forty-five minutes a day, which isn’t too bad, but some days I do considerably more and other days considerably less.

I’m trying to accept that I can’t turn my life around overnight.  I’ve been depressed pretty much all my adult life.  Work and leisure time patterns that most people build up slowly in their teens and early twenties are suddenly being thrust upon me (and this is without the stresses and time consumption of dating – I’m phoning someone today to try to arrange a date, hopefully).  I’m trying to keep my head above the water and not relapse into depression and OCD, although this is harder some days that others.  Sometimes “It is what it is” is all there is to hold on to.

Faith and Trust in Dating

I haven’t got used to public blogging again after many years.  I think I need to be more careful about saying things that can be traced to recognizable people, especially as my pseudonym is hardly completely secure and I do tend to let personal information drift out.  I just edited an old post to remove something that shouldn’t have gone in, and I edited and deleted some other people’s comments too, which I feel bad about, but I felt it was necessary.  I must be more careful in the future.

I feel all washed out today, struggling with depression and OCD a bit.  I’ve been fighting a cold for a fortnight now; it’s nearly gone, but it’s still lingering a bit; the sudden heatwave only makes it worse.  My flat, which is a converted garage, is very cold in the winter, but very hot in the summer and humid all year round.  I also find that the depression and loneliness are worst on days when I don’t go into work, like today (I’m also off all week next week as it’s half-term and I’m only contracted for term time plus two weeks in the summer), which I may have mentioned before.  I want to go for a run too,  but I really don’t feel up to it, physically or emotionally, which only makes me feel worse.

Yesterday we (me, my parents and my sister – her fiancé is away) went out for dinner for Mum’s birthday, but I found it stressful, partly for reasons I can’t explain given my rules for not revealing personal information, partly because most of the conversation was about my sister’s wedding.  I think this will happen a lot over the next six months.  This is probably also feeding in to the washed out feeling today.

What I really wanted to blog about was dating.  With my tighter rules about what I can say here, I’m actually limited in terms of what I can write, but I tried to get a woman’s number recently, although because this is me, it’s been far more complicated than going up to her and saying, “I like you, would you like to go on a date?  Please could I have your number?” (I have never done that.)  Not least, it’s a couple of months since I last saw her.  I did try to get her number earlier, but encountered an obstacle and gave up, but now I wonder if I gave up too easily and am trying again, but it’s obviously harder now.  Maybe one day I can tell the full story, but for now I’m just waiting and wondering if I made a huge mistake.  Logically, I can’t see what harm could result.  The worst that could happen is she says “No”, or she agrees to go on a date but we have a boring hour or two in a restaurant and agree not to meet again.  But someone I know and trust who also knows the woman told me it was a bad idea, which makes me panic, even though other people have told me to go for it.

There is a concept in Judaism of soul-mates, someone you are meant to marry and to be with.  Admittedly while the popular version of this concept is that you will definitely marry this person and stay married, the more serious theological versions are less definite, saying you will meet him/her and have the opportunity to marry, but you might not or it might not work out and some thinkers reject the concept in its entirety, which makes sense to me as some people do never marry.  So, I suppose I should trust God that I will meet the right woman at the right time and we will get married, but it is hard.  Aside from those theological doubts, I find it really hard to trust God.

In Judaism, there is a conceptual difference between emunah, faith in God and bitachon, trusting God.  Emunah is about knowing that God exists and acting on that knowledge.  Bitachon is about trusting God and accepting that everything that happens is for the best.  Despite having some doubts and questions, I have in recent years found that I have surprising resevoirs of emunah, but I have very little bitachon.  This is partly from a childhood where I felt unable to trust various authority figures in my life to give me the attention and care I needed, partly because I’m a control freak and don’t like to trust myself to other people generally.  The two are related, of course.  (Funnily enough, in another sense I am very trusting: I’m a bit naive and generally assume other people are always telling me the truth and mean me no harm, even when others are suspicious of them.  This is despite my social anxiety and fear of rejection – I’m not really sure how they fit together and have been meaning to blog about that too, but that will have to wait for now.)   I find it very hard to look over my life and say, “Gam zu le-tova, this is all towards the good” and I find it incredibly hard to say, “OK, God, I know You love me and want the best for me, so I’m just going to trust You to sort this out” particularly regarding marriage.

Of course, it’s complicated by the fact that, while we believe in Divine Providence, we Jews also believe that human effort is necessary.  If you want to eat, you need to look for a job and trust to God that you will find one; you can’t just rely on God to make you win the lottery.  And if you want to get married, you have to ask women out, even if you aren’t 100% sure they’re right for you.  This is hard!  It’s something I really need to work and sometimes I wonder if all the troubles of my life aren’t just to teach me this one concept of bitachon.


I feel very depressed today and I’m not really sure why.  I slept in, but woke depressed and tired.  Aside from therapy over Skype, I’ve largely spent the day pottering about in my room/flat (my flat is really one small room with an attached tiny kitchenette and equally tiny bathroom) and trying not to comfort eat (not usually a problem for me, but it has been lately – perhaps because my current antidepressants are linked to carbohydrate craving and weight gain).  I’m reluctant to say too much, as I fear I have said too much here recently; I went back and heavily edited a post that said too much about a third party.  But I suspect part of it is because my sister has booked the hall for her wedding in December now.  It all seems very real, and I seem more alone and unloveable than ever.

I have made good progress with my depression and OCD in recent months, but I think there is one last knot in my mind that needs to be undone.  I am still being held back by fear of what other people will think of me.  This stops me from writing, from trying to make friends and from dating, although paradoxically with dating my sense of honesty tends to prompt me to reveal my mental health issues too early on as well.  I’m not sure if I’m more scared of criticism or praise, acceptance or rejection.  Both are pretty overwhelming.

Then (oh dear) I got really agitated and depressed and wrote a long stupid comment on  Then I felt bad for writing it, but wanted to leave it because I felt I wanted someone to tell me if there’s something wrong with me (like mania), so I wrote a long introduction apologizing for writing it and saying I was going to delete it, but I wanted to leave it there so someone can tell me if I’m going crazy, but that the moderators should feel free to delete it if they want to.  I haven’t done something crazy like that for a while, and certainly I have never been climbing on people’s walls as I was doing on the way home today.

EDIT: I’ve now deleted the comment because I’ve calmed down and I’m probably not really manic (I’ve been told repeatedly I don’t have bipolar disorder).  I’ve saved a copy on my laptop just in case, though.

Nice Jewish Fanboy Would Like To Meet

Recently I’ve been listening to the Nice Jewish Fangirls podcasts, which is a new thing for me, as I have rarely listened to podcasts before, and never fan-produced ones.  It’s very good, but it makes me feel inadequate and lonely (OK, everything makes me feel inadequate and lonely, but this in particular).  It’s partly because the three presenters all seem really enthusiastic about all sorts of new and upcoming things, whereas I’m mainly enthusiastic about things I’ve already read or seen, especially old Doctor Who.  I care most about things that are known quantities that won’t disappoint me, episodes of Doctor Who from the sixties or seventies that I have seen dozens of times and which will always be the same.  I suppose I’ve been let down too many times, even by new Doctor Who (I basically left online fandom around 2007 because I didn’t enjoy the new episodes any more and I didn’t want to be a troll making everyone miserable and although I’ve enjoyed it a lot more since around 2010 or 2011, I haven’t really moved back).

The Nice Jewish Fangirls also go to conventions and make Shabbat and kashrut work there, whereas I’ve always used those as excuses not to go, but really I don’t go because I’m terrified of the crowds and the noise and not fitting in.  And they use slang which just makes me feel stuffy and overly formal.  I have no idea why I talk and write in such a stilted way; it’s possibly one of my borderline autistic traits, but I find using slang in writing almost impossible.  I’m not sure how much I use it in speech; definitely a bit, but possibly not as much as other people, I’m not sure, but I rarely use very modern and internet-influenced slang.  And their successful writing and podcasting careers just reminds me that since my Hevria rejection two years ago, I’ve let what little talent I have stagnate as I’ve given in to the writer’s block, which is really an just excuse for fear of rejection or possibly for fear of acceptance.  I am at least making progress with my non-fiction Doctor Who book, although if I seriously thought there was a chance of getting it published, I’m sure I would find it harder to work on it.

But mostly the loneliness comes from listening to these three interesting, clever, enthusiastic, witty Nice Jewish Fangirls and wishing I had an interesting, clever, enthusiastic, witty Nice Jewish Fangirlfriend and feeling that I never will, that even if I somehow got to meet someone like that (I don’t necessarily mean one of the women from the podcast, but someone clever and interesting and geeky as well as frum and female) she would be out of my league and uninterested in a weird and broken person like me.  I mean, I’m not even a “normal” geeky person, even aside from the brokeness and mental health issues, there’s a lot of geeky stuff that I know nothing about and, I suppose, some non-geeky stuff I’m interested in.

I do at least have a couple of frum geeky email penfriends now who I can “talk” to online, which is an improvement, although it comes at the same time as I’ve lost other friends (or realized that I probably lost them a long time ago, which isn’t the same thing).  I don’t mean to operate a “one in, one out” policy with my friends, but it seems like I’m unable to maintain more than one vaguely close friendship and a couple of loose acquaintanceships at the same time.  I am a bit of a loner and I don’t want an enormous social circle, but I’d like to have a few friends and one special person to give to, to share my life with, someone really on my wavelength.  I’ve been feeling that more and more since my sister got engaged and it’s quite painful now and I just don’t know what to do about it, except maybe to go to a shadchan in a few weeks (when I’m more settled in my new job) and see if she knows any frum geeky girls in London, but I don’t have much hope – as I’ve said before, the Anglo-Jewish population is so tiny to begin with that frum geeks would be a tiny minority within a tiny minority.

Ophelia to My Hamlet. Without Us Splitting Up and Then Dying Horribly. So, Not Really Like Ophelia and Hamlet At All, But All My Other Heroes Are Asexual.

Just once I’d like to meet a (compatible) woman who is as into me as I’m into her.  Just once.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently.

To be fair, I may have had my once already.  (I may have also met a one or two non-compatible women who liked me a bit, which in some ways is just as frustrating, if marginally less painful.)


[Edited to remove references to someone, see private journal.]

Feeling Stupid

I was going to post something along the lines of, “This is why I can’t be trusted with the internet, or with meeting people, because if I meet people, in person or online, I want them to be my friends and sometimes I get crushes on them, but I’m too weird and broken for anyone to like, let alone love.”  Then I discovered that I forgot to take my anti-depressants this morning, which probably explains why I wasted the day in procrastination, social anxiety and self-loathing.  Whoops.  I seem to do this more and more frequently, although not very frequently, perhaps because I’m taking so much medication right now, particularly as I’m currently taking cold remedies too.

I do still feel too weird and broken to be liked or loved, though.

Ten More Episodes of Patrick Troughton

“Some kind of solitude is measured out in you./You think you know me, but you haven’t got a clue.” – Hey Bulldog, The Beatles

My cold continues to persist (or persists in continuing), but I feel a lot better.  I feel better moodwise too, although I still brood on whether I will get married and generally feel I won’t.  I’m more accepting of my sister’s marriage, but I’m developing another crush that won’t work out, so the less said about that the better.  I hate the fact that I move from crush to crush without ever developing a real relationship (OK, once I managed that) and usually without even getting a date out of it.  It all feels so superficial and adolescent, a way of life that I should have moved on from years ago.  I want to develop meaningful relationships, but I can’t.  I was thinking yesterday that I actually have quite a developed personality, in terms of emotional maturity, wide interests and interesting views on a number of topics, but I don’t have anyone to share them with.  To be honest, today I feel a lot less positive about myself, but I still feel desperately alone.  I don’t just mean romantic relationships either; a couple of people tried talking to me at shul (synagogue) over Shabbat (the Sabbath), but I was too shy and nervous to respond particularly coherently.  I did at least answer a couple of questions at the shiur (religious class), albeit shyly and quietly and after letting several questions I knew the answer to go.

I’ve been trying to be more creative, starting to write mini sagas (fifty word stories) with a view to sending them to  Normally with creativity I lose my nerve part-way through and give up on what I’m writing, convinced that it’s awful or I just run out of imagination and enthusiasm, but mini sagas seem to be short enough to carry me through them to completion.  I am also still carrying on with my Doctor Who book, both watching episodes (the title of this post marks my progress towards the end of sixties Who), redrafting the existing essays that will form the bulk of the book and looking into secondary material, although I’m not sure how much of that will be utilized in the end.  It’s going to take me a long time though.  Even just looking at television episodes without the spin-offs, not to mention the enormous secondary literature,  Doctor Who is big.  Really big.  According to Wikipedia (I was too lazy to count) it’s 833 episodes* as of yesterday (with seven more due this year) comprising 270 stories** and 36 seasons.  I’m up to season six, story 50, episode 243 and it’s taken me about six months to get this far…


* Episodes vary in length, but original series episodes are usually about 25 minutes; new series episodes are usually 45 to 50 minutes.

** Although counting stories in the new series, with individual episode titles, but no overall story titles can be hard.  Is Utopia part of The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords?  What about Face the Raven, Heaven Sent and Hell Bent – one, two or three stories?  And let’s not get started on the “Is Shada canon, and if so which version?” debate.

Humpty Dumpty

Today was a stressful day.  I feel I should be more settled in my new job, although I have only been there for three weeks.  I made some stupid mistakes at work.  The biggest was beginning to walk away from the library issue desk at lunchtime before being relieved, until called back by my boss.  The stupid thing is that I do normally know that the library issue desk should not be left unmanned.  I was even thinking about it previously.  I don’t know what caused my momentary lapse, but I spent the afternoon feeling ill (I feel as if I’m coming down with a bad cold: runny nose and eyes, muscle aches, blowing hot and cold, tired; I’ve probably run my immune system down as I only get about six hours of sleep before work days at the moment) and I was already feeling bad then, so it’s possible that I wasn’t thinking straight and there was just an instinctive impulse to get out in the fresh air and eat something to feel less ill.  I soldiered on all afternoon, but felt too ill to accomplish much after about 3.30pm.

As a result of childhood experiences, I tend to assume that if I am not perfect I will not be accepted and if people get momentarily annoyed with me (or if I even suspect they are annoyed, when they might really be tired, irritable or distracted), I tend to assume that they are still annoyed with me unless and until they explicitly tell me that they aren’t annoyed with me, which can result in my giving a wide berth to people for long periods for no good reason.  It is also worrying how quickly my mind moves from “I made a mistake” to “I’m a failure” to “I deserve to die” to “I want to kill myself” (I wasn’t actually suicidal per se, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up).

The other thing that happened today was that I texted my date from last week to see what was happening.  My mother told me not to do this, but I decided I needed closure (I hate all these arcane incomprehensible rules for dating, which only seem to exist to trip up people like me).  My date sent me a vague text that seemed to be telling me that she can’t cope with my mental health issues (although it took a second reading to be sure of this) and she seemed surprised that I was contacting her, even though when we last met she had said she wanted to think about things, not that she was definitely not interested.  I suspect she was too scared to dump me outright, which I sort of understand, but it is still upsetting to be left hanging on for days on end and then to be sent a vague text which is still not 100% clear about what is actually going on.

Once again, I feel that I am too broken to get married, but too honest to try to hide my issues.  I would in theory be open to holding them back until a relationship begins to develop, but they tend to come out earlier, probably because they have defined the whole of my adult life and I am too honest and too bad a liar to cover that up effectively.  My only relationship was with someone who had issues of her own, but that didn’t work because she didn’t help me with my issues, nor did she take care of herself, so I ended up dealing with two sets of issues (mine and hers) without any help from her.  If I date someone with issues (which I am open to doing – most people have them, particularly by their thirties) I think she has to be dealing with them at least as well as I am dealing with mine.  I do not think that that is an unreasonable request.  But if she was dealing with her issues, why would she want to date a screw up like me?  And this is without taking into account my weirdness, my poor social skills (see the first paragraph), my non-attendance of yeshiva and uncertain place on the frum spectrum, my looks, the sins and guilty conscience I wrote about yesterday… all the other reasons that count against me finding someone.  When I wrote about this previously a friend emailed to say that finding a partner is not about not being broken, but I that is what my experience has been until now.

The plan is to rest from dating for a couple of weeks to get settled into the new job and then go to a matchmaker, but I am not very hopeful, both because I feel like a screw up and because I’m sceptical about how successful matchmakers actually are, even though they are the norm in the frum world, which is, after all, where I am looking for a partner.

Still, while there’s life, there’s Doctor Who, so I’m having vegetarian chicken soup, pizza and more of The Invasion this evening to try to cheer myself up.

Reflections in a Tube Carriage

I realized today that I am acting a bit as if my sister is dying, not as if she is getting married.  I feel I won’t see her again, at least not alone, because her husband will always be around.  I suppose it matters to me because, while we have not been very close, she is the only person I can really banter with.  I struggle to talk to most people (and to be fair, I can’t always talk easily to her, particularly about emotional things), but I can banter lightly with her in a way that I can’t do with my parents or my friends.  It’s funny that I have to have felt like I’m losing her to realize what she means to me.

*  *  *

I feel quite a bit better today, depression-wise, at least after a terrible early morning when I considered skipping Shacharit (morning prayers) to watch Doctor Who instead.  In the event I was so late that I only managed about ten minutes of davening (prayer): tallit, tefillin, birkhat hashachar, Shema (without the brachas), Amidah, Alenu.  I feel a bit guilty about this.  Once again work helped a lot in distracting me.

*  *  *

Not for the first time, I feel as if I am being punished for things.   I even know what things.  I could say, but no one would talk to me again.  The crime is a consequence of the punishment, in a recursive loop i.e. the punishment prompts me to sin again.  I feel I deserve to be punished, yet I long to be free, free of punishment and free of the temptation to sin.  I feel inadequate as a frum man.  I’m a hypocrite and I loathe hypocrisy, especially in myself.  I don’t know how to break this cycle and years of therapy have not helped.