Tisha Be’Av and Feeling Hated By God

Tonight is the start of the fast of Tisha Be’Av, commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the exile of the Jews from the land of Israel and pretty much every bad thing that ever happened to the Jews, down to antisemitism and terrorism today (which is a lot of bad stuff).  It’s the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and a strict fast.  I’m not allowed to fast on the minor fasts like this one because I’m taking lithium tablets and it’s dangerous for me to get dehydrated.  I usually fast on Tisha Be’Av until midday (halakhic midday, the midpoint of daylight hours, which is around 1pm in London in the summer), but I suddenly realized about fifteen minutes into the fast that I had forgotten to take my medication before the fast started.  I can usually swallow pills without water, but my lithium tablets are enormous and I have to take water with them.  So I had to break my fast almost immediately, feeling stupid and guilty (again).  Still, it was better to break the fast than to skip the tablets and risk becoming suicidal.

We aren’t really supposed to do anything fun today.  I normally would not blog, but I’m struggling already today and I need to get my thoughts down or I won’t sleep.  I am conscious that I am often posting multiple times a day at the moment, which isn’t very fair on my readers, even if I have a lot to offload while my therapist is away, so I will try to post only once a day in future.

I suspect the reason I forgot to take the tablets is that I was feeling quite anxious about going to shul (synagogue), which in turn led me to feel anxious about some quite trivial things – I think the shul anxiety was displaced (if that’s the right term) onto something else. It was very hard to go to shul.  I nearly turned back while walking there.  I was consumed with anxiety and self-hatred.  The anxiety about shul was displaced again, this time into agitation about feeling sinful and being hated and rejected by God.  As I mentioned, on Tisha Be’Av we mourn the destruction of the Temples.  Jewish tradition ascribes the destruction of the first Temple to the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry and sexual immorality (meaning primarily, in this context, adultery) and the destruction of the second Temple to baseless hatred.  I felt (and I have felt this a bit recently) that I am guilty of all four of these sins, in a manner of speaking.  Obviously I have not literally murdered someone or slept with a married woman, but I feel I have done things tantamount to these sins, such as speaking gossip and embarrassing others, which the Talmud considers equivalent to murder.  All this was probably worsened by my guilt over taking my tablets after the fast started.

I started thinking again about the people I know through Hevria.com who talk about all the miracles they have experienced.  I wondered again why I do not experience miracles.   Perhaps miracles happen all the time, but it takes a certain mindset to realize that it is a miracle, not a chance event or a coincidence.  This makes me feel ungrateful for what I have (my job, my flat, my friends) and for downplaying what I have (saying my friends are not my friends) and focusing on what I don’t have (a wife and children).  However, the people on Hevria do seem to describe miracles far greater than anything I have ever experienced.  This makes me feel like God hates me, reinforced by my feeling guilty of all those sins (murder, sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred).

By the time I got to shul, I was already quite distressed.  When I got there, there were no chairs.  I should explain that until midday on Tisha Be’Av we sit on low chairs as a sign of mourning (I am writing this sitting on the floor of my flat, with my laptop on the bed).  All the special low chairs were gone, so I had to sit on the dirty floor, although this probably turned out well for a couple of reasons that I will explain later.

After the beginning of Ma’ariv (the evening prayers), Megillat Eichah (the Book of Lamentations) was read.  Normally I would follow this in Hebrew, translating in my head and looking across to the English translation for the difficult words (of which there are quite a few).  However, I quickly realized that I could not follow it at all, not even just reading the Hebrew without translating.  I was too distressed.  I thought of leaving, but from where I was sitting, it was impossible to just slip out; I would have had to stand up and cross the whole room and ask people to move out of my way (the shul was quite packed) and I couldn’t face making such a fuss and having everyone notice me, so I just sat there on the floor, thinking my distressed thoughts.  I self-harmed a bit for the first time in some months, biting my fingers, pulling at the hairs on my arm and digging my finger nails into my hands and arm.  Because I was sitting on the floor, no one could really see me.

I thought for a bit about chapter three of Eichah, which says:

It is good for a man that he bear a yoke in his youth.  Let him sit solitary and wait, for He has laid [it] upon him.  Let him put his mouth into the dust; there may yet be hope.  Let him offer his cheek to his smiter; let him be filled with reproach.  For the Lord will not cast [him] off forever.  Though he cause grief, He will yet have compassion according to the abundance of His kindness. (3.27-32, translation from here)

This is a passage I think about sometimes.  I suppose it should be hopeful for me, as it suggests that if you have to suffer, it is better to do so when you are young, not least because it allows God to show compassion to you later.  However, I wonder if I have really internalized the message of my suffering and used it to repent and become a better person so that I will be worthy of God’s kindness in the future.  This is one reason I sometimes wonder if I will ever get married, because I feel too sinful to be blessed with meeting the right woman.  I started wondering about my mission in life, something I have been thinking about recently in terms of dating and trying to find a wife with a  compatible life mission.  I don’t know what my mission is.  People help me, but I am not able to help other mentally ill people very much.  I try to support my friends who have mental health issues, but they don’t usually turn to me and I don’t blame them.  So I don’t know what the reason for my suffering is.

Sometimes I feel totally rejected by God for my sins, but strangely this does not make me want to stop being frum (religious).  I think it is worth being a good Jew even without hope of reward.  I don’t believe I can exempt myself from my obligations just because I don’t often manage to meet those obligations.

Once we got to the end of Eichah, we read the kinnot (elegies).  In other shuls I have been to, these are read aloud by a reader, as was done with Eichah, but here they were read privately.  I did not have the head for this.  I tried reading one in Hebrew, could not concentrate and switched to English, read another one in English, but skipped the other two.  Again, because no one could see me, I didn’t worry about this.  Still, we got through this quite quickly compared with shuls where they read it aloud.

At the end of the service, the rabbi announced that the small chairs were actually too high for anyone to be sitting on them today, so I suppose I had a lucky escape, as being on the floor meant I didn’t feel guilty for sitting on a higher chair (even inadvertently), and it allowed me to get away with not feeling a part of the service.  On the other hand, it also encouraged me to disappear into my anxious and agitated thoughts and to self-harm.  So perhaps my lack of a chair was one of those hidden miracles (because I didn’t feel guilty), but it is a strange miracle that makes it easier for me to self-harm and to get lost in anxiety and despair instead of following the service.  This is what I mean about not having miracles the way other people do.

I don’t plan on going to shul in the morning.  The morning service will go on until about 1pm with kinnot – not just reading them as there is going to be some explanation (which is useful as they are written in very obscure, allusive Medieval Hebrew, sometimes with reference to largely-forgotten events), but I think I will just be depressed, distressed or anxious if I go.  I may go in the evening, I am not sure.  I do not know what I will do all day.  Really one should not do anything enjoyable.  Usually I read depressing texts like Eichah and Iyov (Job) or books on the tragic parts of Jewish history e.g. the Holocaust, but I am not sure I can face that this year.  I feel bad about this, as I have been more deperessed in the past and not ‘chickened out’ of doing and reading appropriate things, but I just don’t feel that I can face making myself depressed this year and I can’t explain why except that I feel I have reached some kind of internal limit and to push myself further will tip me over the edge back into extreme depression again.

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Social Anxiety and Assumptions

I survived the hygienist and the dentist today.  I wasn’t worried about my teeth, but about shaking (from anxiety and olanzapine).  There was some slight tremor, but if the hygienist or dentist noticed it, they didn’t say.  I’m saving my energy for shul tonight, planning on spending a quiet afternoon blogging and watching TV so I have my best chance at getting to shul (synagogue) tonight for Ma’ariv (the evening service), Eichah (The Book of Lamentations) and kinnot (elegies) and staying there for the whole service.  If nothing else, it’s a chance to monitor and record my social anxiety on a day when I can write soon after experiencing the anxiety.  As for tomorrow, I will play it by ear.  I do feel a little better today, which might be from getting out and doing something, which would indicate that I need to press on with at least some of my plans for the summer, even on days when I feel very depressed and despairing, and try to achieve at least some things even if I can’t do everything I want to do.

I reflected some more on my social anxiety after my post yesterday.  Not for the first time, I found myself wishing I could be more like I am online when I meet people in person.  Online I can hold a conversation, talk about a variety of things (Judaism, history, politics, culture and geek culture), make jokes and reveal details about myself to encourage greater intimacy (to be honest, I probably reveal too much online, here and especially on Hevria).

I have an email folder for emails and blog comments from people saying nice things about me.  I know this sounds pathetic, but I do sometimes look through it when I feel depressed and need encouragement.  I even printed out three A4 sheets-worth of them and blue tacked them to my wardrobe doors so I can see them when I feel down and at other times when I need a boost.  Most are from people I know, at least online, but I have a couple from complete strangers on my Hevria.com posts.  It’s strange to think that people know me from there and like me, considering I have, over the years, spent a lot of time there finding slender pretexts to complain about how bad my life is.  I’ve been told that people appreciate my honesty, and people with similar problems find that I can express what it feels like to be depressed or socially anxious in a way that they are not always able to do.  I suppose this must be true, or people wouldn’t say it to me, but it is hard to believe it.  I imagine there are also people who roll their eyes heavenwards when I comment; at any rate, someone challenged me a while back, asking if I had some kind of “agenda,” but most of the feedback I’ve received has been positive.

The problem is that I can’t translate any of the confidence or eloquence I have online into the real world.  When I met up with my non-biological older sisters last week, who I had known only online and via email, they said I was a lot more socially functional than the impression I give of myself online when describing myself as socially dysfunctional and friendless.  Still, I felt I said very little all evening.  Usually when I’m in a social situation, I stay pretty quiet and let the others talk.  Sometimes I think of interesting or witty things to say, but I usually keep quiet about them.  This is particularly true when I’m around other frum (religious Orthodox) people: I keep quiet about secular things, for fear of talking about something I’m not “supposed” to talk about (e.g. TV, literature) and I keep quiet about religious things because I assume they all know more than I do and I don’t want to make a mistake or say something that they all think is too obvious to need saying.

There are probably a number of false assumptions here and elsewhere that fuel the social anxiety: that everyoneis judgmental, especially all frum people; that I have nothing interesting to say; in particular that I am an am ha’aretz (religious ignoramus); that I can’t be funny or clever; that people are waiting to catch me out; that I have few or no friends and that they tolerate me at best, rather than really liking me.  A lot of these assumptions stem from things I learnt the hard way as a child, from years of bullying and emotional neglect.  It is very hard to change something that has been internalized so painfully and for so long, particularly when being lectured about my incorrect assumptions (I’m thinking of my date telling me to be more confident and not scared of her shortly before dumping me last week) just feels like proving the idea that I’m stupid and no one likes me.

I do certainly under-value the friendships I do have, assuming my friends don’t like me or think about me when I’m not around, then upsetting them by saying I have no friends, although these days I find it hard to maintain friendships for long periods, as increasingly my friends seem to get married and/or move away, which I suppose is why I was so upset by my sister’s engagement.  My friends tend not to initiate contact with me, which encourages me to think that they don’t really like me and also means that it’s easier to avoid them.  Perhaps that’s one reason I get so focused on marriage, because it is supposed to have more permanence.  If someone chooses to marry me, then she’s expressed affection for me in a major and lasting way, although I suppose I would still be insecure even if I was married (again, I’m thinking of my date).  I have a friend with low self-esteem who is married to someone with low self-esteem; early on in their relationship, they spent a lot of time look for reassurance from each other that they weren’t about to split up.  I can imagine doing that to my girlfriend/wife and I’m sure it would drive her nuts unless she had similar problems.

I saw a cartoon years ago of a guy on a unicycle about to go on a TV talent show and the director is saying to him, “Remember, millions of people are waiting to see you fall flat on your face.”  That’s how I feel all the time in public, so it’s no surprise that I prefer to be in my flat by myself, lonely though that often is.  I don’t know what to do about this, as psychodynamic therapy hasn’t really helped deal with the symptoms of social anxiety, although it’s helped me to understand the causes.  I will try the CBT book I have and I suppose I could always go back to the CBT therapist who helped with the OCD, although it will be harder to find the time when I am working four days a week.

Social Anxiety, Again

I’m loath to blog again today, but I just remembered something that happened on Shabbat that I should have mentioned.  As usual, I didn’t stay long at the kiddush (refreshments) after the morning service at shul (synagogue).  As I walked out, briskly, as is my wont (not least because I was struggling a bit with social anxiety and more with OCD), someone called after me, “You’re always in a hurry to leave!”  This was the same guy who said a while back that I should have gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), thus reinforcing a lot of negative thoughts I have about myself and my social and romantic prospects because of that decision; now he was reinforcing my social anxiety by saying I should stay at events even when no one is talking to me and I’m feeling really out of place, or perhaps that I shouldn’t walk quickly home (even though it was raining!).

I thought of several sarcastic or meaningful retorts to the “You’re always in a hurry” comment on my way home, but was too late to say them (l’esprit de l’escalier).  Of course, I would have been too shy to say them even if I had thought of them in time.  But I guess what comes to mind now is, “Yes, I am always in a hurry to leave, because I have no friends here and I’m worried about people judging me.  Like you did just now.”  It’s all very well my former date and my parents saying I shouldn’t care what other people think, but sometimes it hurts.  Likewise, it’s hard to accept the advice of my CBT book that I should be able to ‘prove’ to myself that other people don’t think negatively of me when I have a lot of evidence that they do and while some of this evidence is perhaps out of date (coming from my childhood), as this incident shows, some of it is more recent.

I don’t know if this is related to why I’ve been so down since getting dumped, when I coped pretty well with several previous romantic rejections in the last six months or so, being a bit down for a few days, but not so depressed and certainly not for such a long period.  Granted there was a bit more of a relationship this time and my hopes for the relationship were higher, but perhaps some of the depression is related to being lectured on how I could be more eligible if I was less “frightened” of other people and cared less about what they thought of me.  It was probably meant well (but then most bad things are), but it left me feeling not “We aren’t right for each other” but, “I’m broken, no one could ever be right for me.”  Then again, that’s really no different from the woman who dumped me over my mental health issues (and chickened out of telling me straight) and I think I got over that much more quickly.  Of course, it doesn’t help that my therapist is away.

Incidentally, I don’t know if I really don’t have any friends in shul.  There are a couple of people I talk to a little and who seem to like me a bit, but I find it hard to sustain a real conversation.  Does that mean they aren’t my friends?  I don’t know.  I haven’t had many Shabbat meal invitations (one and a half, really in about seventeen months going to this shul) whereas single people at Orthodox shuls are, I understand, usually inundated with them, although I suppose things are complicated by my wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) which normally denotes that a man is, or has been, married, so maybe some people don’t realize I’m single.

Miscellany 2

“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

I went back to bed for half an hour or so this afternoon.  I was too tired and depressed to do very much.  I only got up to answer the phone, otherwise I might still be there.  I wanted to go for a run, but didn’t have the energy.  I’m worried that I still let life get to me, that I can’t accept my alone-ness as a fact of life.  I’m not the only thirty-odd year old virgin and I’m certainly not the only lonely person in the world.  I just can’t see how I can actually meet someone.  To be honest, at the moment I can’t see how I can get through the next week, or go back to work in August, let alone worry about something as abstract as dating.  Forget dating, I can’t even make dinner: I boiled some eggs for lunch, hoping to use some of them to make kedgeree this evening (about the easiest recipe I know that actually is a recipe not just cheese on toast), but it took all afternoon before I could face cooking the rice to go with it and it threatened to spark off kashrut OCD.  I did manage to daven Mincha (say the afternoon prayers), but I had zero kavannah (concentration), even with Tehillim/Psalms 6 which should have expressed what I was feeling.  I managed some Torah study for ten or fifteen minutes, but it was basic and poor; it was hard to read and translate Hebrew, even from my bar mitzvah sedra.   I did at least spend half an hour or so working on the Doctor Who book and I feel I’m getting to grips with the current chapter.

The rabbi was talking yesterday about the need to know oneself before one can grow in any way.  I don’t know that I know myself very well.  In some ways I do understand myself, I think I know what my core values are and I know what triggers the mental health issues (which is not the same as being able to cope with the triggers).  However, I think I might overestimate my negative points and underestimate my good ones.  I don’t actually think I have any good points.  One friend said today that I’m “lovely”, another that I’m “saintly”.  I find it hard to accept any of this.  Not that I would accuse them of lying, just that I think they don’t know me well enough or are trying to cheer me up (I think I already upset both of them for different reasons today without calling them liars too…).  I certainly don’t know what my purpose is in life or how I find out (years of therapy haven’t really helped here).  I would say I don’t have one, except that my religious beliefs indicate that everyone has one.

I wanted to steer clear of dating until I understood myself better, but my CBT therapist felt I understood myself well enough and that frum (religious) couples who get married in their late teens or early twenties don’t know themselves any better than I do (this just adds more confusing feelings about frum people and married people).  Dating has been pretty disastrous, though, with most of the women I have asked out or gone out with this year have apparently decided that I’m too weird or too mentally ill for them.  Maybe there is someone out there who doesn’t think I’m weird (possible) or broken (unlikely… I really am a screw-up), but I think I’m too jaded and hurt to look for her by now.  And unless I marry someone a lot younger than myself (unlikely), a family looks less and less likely.

A friend got annoyed at me for saying on my blog that I have no one to show my writing to, when she would look at it.  I didn’t realize that she would, given that my other friends are unwilling to look at it (they don’t say they are unwilling, they even encourage me to send them stuff, they just don’t give me any feedback).  Anyway, at the moment I have not got the energy, motivation or concentration to write anything other than the Doctor Who book.  I don’t much feel like showing anyone my stuff at the moment anyway.  I’m not very good at taking criticism, it just makes me feel a bad writer and a bad person for even thinking I could write.  It’s bad enough I’ve got a poem coming out on Hevria soon.

I should try to socialize, but I think I hate myself too much to impose on anyone.  Anyway, I only have two friends in London, neither very close and both too busy to see me most of the time.  It was good to see my non-biological sisters last week, though.  If I’m well enough I’m hoping to go to the science fiction exhibition at The Barbican with my Dad later in the week, although I already suspect it is going to bore him and am feeling guilty about going.

I say I want to have people in my life, yet I spend all my time pushing them away.  I’m trying to deal with my social anxiety with a CBT book, but the problem is my social anxiety is worst on Shabbat, when I can’t write down how I feel (and even on other days it is hard to take out pen and paper and write down in a public place, which is where I feel socially anxious).  I bet I don’t even really want to get married to love someone, just to have sex.  As I’m sure I couldn’t cope with casual sex, even if it were religiously permitted, I don’t know what to do about that.

I want to eat junk food, but I don’t have much in the flat, fortunately.  Actually, it’s more that I want to eat, but don’t have the energy or motivation to actually eat anything.  I want to vegetate in front of the TV, but the Doctor Who story I’m watching (Planet of the Daleks) is not very good and I’m stuck watching it for my research for my book (the book that may never get finished…).  It was sufficiently bad that I posted something on my non-anonymous Doctor Who blog to complain, the first I’ve done that in a while (although I have posted some quotes there recently).  I feel the need to press on with the Doctor Who episodes so I can get on with writing the book, although if I’m too depressed to write that’s rather pointless.  I suppose I really want to get done quickly so I can tie it all up with the Peter Capaldi era of the show and not have to worry about writing more chapters for as-yet untransmitted seasons, because I’m not sure I have the ability to come up with new interpretations any more rather than just revising old posts.  I’m also scared that Doctor Who fandom, not always the friendliest place, is about to become very nasty with the new Doctor and I’m afraid that I won’t like the next series as the new show-runner and chief writer isn’t someone whose work I like.

So here I am, playing games of Ain’t It Awful again and waffling in a vaguely stream of consciousness way.  I sometimes wonder what other people’s interior monologues are like; mine are often focused on big religious/political/cultural questions and interspersed with high and popular cultural references (yes, especially Doctor Who), but when I’m depressed like today it becomes full of self-loathing and images of myself being hurt in various ways.  At least I’m doing this on my own blog and not on Hevria.  Last time I did it on Hevria someone said she was sorry that my life had been hard and it took me a couple of reads to realize that she meant it, as I was initially worried she was being sarcastic, which I suppose shows what I think of myself, that I deserve to be criticised and not taken seriously when I say I’m in pain.

Don’t Worry

I don’t know if anyone saw my previous post.  It wasn’t up very long.  I’ve put it on private because it worried someone.  I don’t want to spell out what I’m feeling any more than I did, but what I wrote was sufficiently ambiguous to make someone worry I was about to do something much worse than what I was thinking about doing.  I’m not about to do anything illegal or dangerous or harmful (to myself or others) or anything with serious long-term consequences.  I do feel at the end of my tether, though, and don’t really know what to do to feel better, other than vegetate in front of Doctor Who, my trusty comfort blanket.

A Descent for the Purpose of an Ascent?

I’m still feeling very depressed and I’m getting worried by how long it’s going on.  I wish I was at work, for the distraction, but I’m also worried that I won’t be able to get up at 6am when I do go back to work in three weeks.  My therapist is in Spain (her husband had to relocate there for work reasons due to Brexit so she goes there with her children during the school holidays), but she said that if I got depressed (she actually said if I broke up and got depressed, which just seemed to jinx the whole thing and I’m not even superstitious (or I tell myself I’m not)) I could email and try to arrange a Skype session.  I emailed yesterday, so I’m waiting to here back about when we could speak.

I wanted to go for a run today, but I just didn’t have the energy.  I went for a half-hour walk instead, in the wind and the drizzle, initially briskly, but after twenty minutes slowing down.  I listened all the while to a podcast on the history of Hell in different religions.  It’s OK, as Judaism doesn’t believe in eternal Hell.  In Judaism punishment (Gehennom) is internalized feelings of guilt and distance from God; in extreme cases, condemnation to non-existence.  For me, Hell/Gehennom is other people (Sartre), but also loneliness and aloneness (as well as guilt and self-loathing), so you see the quandry I’m in.

I’m apprehensive about this Shabbat, wondering whether I will be well enough to get to shul (synagogue) at all and how to respond when people ask how I am: open up to the truth or pretend everything is fine.  I usually do the latter, and hate myself for it, as most people don’t really want to know how I am, they are just being polite.  Next week will be very hard.  I have the dentist and the dental hygienist on Monday.   I don’t worry about that the way most people do, as I have good teeth, but I dislike the invasion of personal space and, the way I am at the moment, that could set off shaking from the olanzapine.  And then Monday night and Tuesday is the fast of 9 Av (Tisha Be’Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, when we mourn the destruction of our Temple in Jerusalem and the many, many tragedies of Jewish history.  I can’t actually fast because of the medication I’m on, but I will be cutting down and observing the many other restrictions of the day (basically, no fun stuff, including things that most people wouldn’t even associate with fun, like washing).  It’s a difficult day even if you aren’t feeling quite clinically depressed, and I won’t even be able to vegetate in front of the TV.  Not sure whether I will be able to get to shul, or for how long.  I intend to read Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust for as long as I can, but I don’t know what I’ll do if it all gets too depressing.

At least on Wednesday afternoon the restrictions of the Three Weeks of mourning fall away and I can shave and listen to music again (my beard itches).

I still feel that I’m unmarriable, too weird and broken to get married and have kids.  I keep thinking of my date telling me to stop being scared of her and wonder how anyone could date (let alone marry) someone as screwed up as I am.  Lots of Orthodox Jews are into segulot/segulahs, basically good luck rituals: do X for money, do Y to find a spouse etc.  You can find them all over the internet.  I think they are magical thinking at best, darkhei haEmori (borderline idol worship) at worst.  I don’t believe you can force God to let you get married by reciting Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) forty days straight or get rich by baking challah (bread) in the shape of a key (which is probably a Medieval Christian or even pagan practice anyway!) and thinking that doing a ritual will force God to give you the outcome you want is paganism, not Judaism.  Our rituals (I mean ritual mitzvot) are meant to teach and improve ourselves, not to bribe or force God, who is beyond coercion or bribery.  Still, sometimes it is tempting to look for the quick fix, for both the depression and being single.  One well-known segulah for marriage is to drink the wine at a sheva bracha celebration (celebration in the week after a wedding).  I have only been to one once, and I nearly got into an argument with some people who practically forced the single people there to drink!  I said I couldn’t because of medication because I didn’t want to cause an argument by calling it idolatry.  My sister rather unwillingly drank; it still took her several more years to meet her fiancée.  My scepticism is maintained.

More On Relationships and Depression

“You’re sorry for everybody, boy!  Is that why you resigned?” The Prisoner: Once Upon A Time by Patrick McGoohan

I managed to do my shopping, although on the walk back I kept just stopping in the street, I’m not sure why.  I think it was probably lack of motivation as much as lack of energy.

I seem to be stupidly emotional today and I’m not sure of the reason for that either.  I’m on the verge of tears again.  My Dad just came round to my flat to drop something off and I was trying to keep it all together until he’s gone.  I tell myself it’s because I don’t want him and Mum worrying about me, but really I’m ashamed to have fallen back into depression again, and for such a stupid reason, over a failed relationship, or two failed relationships, the one which failed after four dates and the one which probably won’t even get to a first date.  Both are probably my fault, on some level.  At least, if I had self-confidence, if I had ‘normal’ interests, whether ‘normal’ frum interests or ‘normal’ geeky interests or ‘normal’ cultured interests, instead of a mix of bits of all three, then maybe someone would want a relationship with me.  And if I didn’t fall for women so easily, I could date without getting hurt from every slight rejection.

I blame myself for everything.  I probably shouldn’t, but I do.

I don’t mind if God doesn’t want me to get married, I can cope by myself, but I’d like to know that I’m going to be single so I can plan and so I can stop wasting my time trying to find a partner and, above all, so I can stop the horrible hoping that things might get better, that this might be The One.  I have a relative who has a habit, when talking about weddings, of saying things like, “…and please God one day this will happen to you too…” which drives me mad because I think I would be better off if I could just accept the fact that I will be single and lonely and unloved and a virgin all my life.

There was just a beautiful rainbow outside my window, showing all the colours really clearly.  It only lasted five or ten minutes.  I suppose some people would take this as A Sign From Above about something or other, but I find it hard to do so.  The day has otherwise been cold and wet and I don’t think that’s significant either.

This is the end of the nine o’clock news and weather.

Tears Before Bedtime

I have just started crying, and I’m not sure why.  I felt like crying for no obvious reason a few minutes ago, thought I’d got past that and then I was looking at some old blog posts on my Doctor Who blog as research for my book and suddenly I can feel tears running down my face.  I need to pull myself together so I can go and do shopping.  I’m not sure why I’m crying, I think it’s something to do to reaching out to the woman who was possibly flirting with me on her podcast and feeling that she’s not going to get back to me and even if she does, nothing will come of it anyway.  I need a cup of tea, but I have to go out before the doctor’s surgery shuts as I need to collect a prescription and do shopping…

Entropy Increases

“The more you put things together, the more they keep falling apart, and that’s the essence of the second law of thermodynamics and I never heard a truer word spoken.” – Doctor Who: Logopolis, by Christopher H. Bidmead

It’s getting towards the end of my first week on holiday and I have done very little, except mooch around my tiny flat (it’s a converted garage) like the Doctor in Logopolis, Tom Baker’s last story in the lead role.  (With it’s themes of entropy and decay, Logopolis comes into my head a lot when I’m feeling depressed, even though it’s not really very good.)  I did at least manage to give the flat a quick clean yesterday and in the evening I met with my non-biological older sisters.  After initially worrying that I was going to be too shy to actually speak to them, I did manage to converse.  Apparently I’m not as socially dysfunctional as I say I am online.  So that was good.

Other than that though, the first week of my holiday feels like a waste.  I suppose that’s not strictly true, as I’ve just established that yesterday was not a total waste and Sunday wasn’t really a waste (I went on a date even if it did end in us breaking up) and there are still a couple more days of the week, if I can sort my sleep pattern out and get some things done.  I haven’t done much reading (I started Daniel Deronda last week, but have been too depressed to pick it up again for days, even though I left it in the middle of a chapter.  I did read the fantasy/SF graphic novel Nimona though, that was good and I just started reading The Complete Far Side which is weird and awesome).

I may have sort of emailed the woman who was maybe sort of flirting with me on her podcast (!).  It was probably a massive mistake inasmuch as she probably wasn’t seriously asking if I was single, I am probably still on the rebound from my last dates, we probably don’t have enough in common, she probably has the wrong personality for me, she probably wouldn’t like my weird politics (my politics are weird enough that I don’t think anyone would agree with them, and I don’t agree with any one party) and I probably couldn’t manage a long-distance relationship.  But she hasn’t emailed back yet and probably never will, so there isn’t much reason to worry!  Oh, yes.

The fact that no women want to go out with me does at least avoid more serious heartbreak down the line, like Oscar Wilde’s student deciding to avoid love for philosophy (“‘What a silly thing Love is,’ said the Student as he walked away. ‘It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.'” – The Nightingale and the Rose.  NB NEVER let children read Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales; they all end with someone dying horribly and everyone else being miserable.  This, from the man who wrote the hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest.)

Anyway, my mood is slowly improving, but by small increments and I worry about not being able to get out of this hole entirely, at least not until I go back to work, maybe not at all.  Historically, it doesn’t take much to undo the work of recovery and it can take years and medication changes to get back to where I was.  My sleep pattern is messed up again, going to bed any time between 1 and 3am, waking up between 10am and midday and getting up at any possible time after that, slowly having breakfast and getting dressed and davening little or nothing of Shacharit (morning prayers).  I worry how I will manage to get up at 6am when I go back to work.  I did at least manage to write a bit of my Doctor Who book today and I hope to do some shopping after lunch, write some important emails and finally buy a fire extinguisher and/or fire blanket for my flat.  My appetite is a bit reduced and I lack energy, concentration and motivation.  All classic depression signs.  It is what it is, I suppose, as I have reflected before; not particulary profound, but true anyway.

Lock Without a Key

“I hope you find the person with the key to your lock soon…she is bound for deep treasures…you both are…in the right time…may it be soon.” – D* in a comment to me on the first post I wrote on Hevria

I feel less depressed than I was, but still quite depressed.  I think I’m ruining my extended holiday, which is a waste, although I was mainly intending to use it for chores rather than anything fun (I have difficulty with “fun” and have had since adolescence).  Instead, I’m just feeling depressed and procrastinating.  I wish I was back at work, for the distraction.  I’m not doing anything useful, studying much Torah or enjoying myself (other than watching some Doctor Who, which I could do if I was working anyway).

Despite the Jewish belief in bashert (soul mates) I find it hard to believe there is a woman out there with a Luftmentsch-shaped hole in her life.  I was listening to Radio 4 while doing the (incredibly boring) stock take at work last week and a programme came on about polygamy, which is not something I would normally listen to, but I ended up listening and there was one woman who had been raised in a breakaway Mormon church that still practises polygamy and she was trapped in a polygamous marriage.  She ran away from the church and is now in a monogamous marriage and says her husband so great she would never share him with another woman.  And I just think, I wish someone felt like that about me.

Looking at the women who turned me down or broke up with me (those that gave a reason, anyway, or for whom I can make an educated guess at one, which may be incorrect) shows the following (question marks denote an educated guess from what they said when they didn’t give a clear reason):

  1. Not enough in common (?);
  2. Not enough in common (?); I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary);
  3. Already dating someone else (embarrassing);
  4. Already dating someone else (very embarrassing);
  5. Didn’t say;
  6. Didn’t feel anything for me;
  7. Didn’t say;
  8. Wanted a more physical relationship than I wanted;
  9. Not enough in common (?);
  10. Not enough in common;
  11. Didn’t want children;
  12. Couldn’t cope with my mental health issues;
  13. Didn’t want children; not enough in common (?); couldn’t cope with my low self-esteem (?).

Some of these are educated guesses and there are plenty of women who I didn’t even get the confidence to ask out, but the pattern seems to be that women can’t cope with my weird interests and my mental health (counting low self-esteem as a mental health issue).  I suppose you can also throw in the woman who I didn’t ask out who was interested in me and who I liked, but we both knew it couldn’t work because she wasn’t Jewish.  Number 5 on the list is extra odd, as I am fairly sure she was fliriting with me, from my limited experience of flirting (she repeatedly called me a “genius” and said I would have really cute children), but then turned me down and started blanking me when she saw me after I asked her out.  I really have no idea what happened there.

My weirdness and loneliness doesn’t just apply to dating and love.  There was an article on Hevria that quoted the author Jodi Picoult saying that she felt really tolerant and open-minded for having a black friend at college, but it was only years later that she realized that while she ate lunch with her friend, she never invited her to see a film or go to a party.  I read this and the stuff about race washed over me because I just thought that maybe two or three times in my three and a bit years at Oxford I got invited to the cinema or to a play.  I don’t know if I ever got invited to a party.  I maybe once got invited to hang out in the Jewish Society (JSOC) student lounge after Shabbat dinner or to a tisch.  And I never got invited out with my friends from my MA (to be fair, we were a really disparate group in age and background and probably wouldn’t have had much in common away from the university).

I’m not complaining, because I probably wouldn’t have gone if I had been asked.  I just mean to say that I’m not good at social things.  I certainly didn’t go to those things I did get invited to.  I also got invited to JSOC social events and generally didn’t go, but those felt different as it was usually people on the committee just drumming up trade generally rather than thinking, “Hey, Luftmentsch is a great guy, let’s ask him to come.”  I did go to JSOC meals, which were social, especially Shabbat meals and I did enjoy those at least until the depression and social anxiety stopped me enjoying them from my second year; I also enjoyed going to the Doctor Who Society, which I was involved in running, but again, I often prioritized work over going and enjoying myself with people and I didn’t socialize with them outside of the society (I am actually still friends with one person from there, but we became friends more through my old blog after I left Oxford).  Someone from the JSOC got really annoyed with me for not going on the committee, but he didn’t seem to wonder why I felt distanced from the society; he just seemed to assume I was anti-social and a sponge on other people’s efforts.  I don’t think he understood how shy and socially anxious I was.

The weird thing is, I’ve been blogging on and off, on different platforms, since 2006 and I seem to have the ability to reach out to people of very different backgrounds, in terms of religion and lifestyle.  I don’t know why that is.  I understand that my Doctor Who blog appealed to other fans who were mostly different to me; I suppose I find it harder to understand why people read this blog.  I suppose what I write must resonate with other people with mental health issues somehow, although mostly I write because no one else seems to be going through what I feel.  It does make me wonder how I find close friends and a wife, if the only people I can connect with have mental illness as the only common link.

On a related note, I’m going to meet up today with two women (sisters) who read my blog.  I call them my non-biological older sisters, because they’re like sisters to me, but I’ve never met them before, so I’m a bit nervous about that, but hopefully it will be good.

Shame

I watched an interesting TED talk by one of the great influences on my thought, Rabbi Lord Sacks.   Most of the talk is not relevant to this blog (although it’s definitely worth watching), but two things stood out to me.  One was where he mentions the best decision of  his life, meeting and eventually marrying a woman who was nothing like him: someone joyous and friendly when he was a self-obsessed young philosophy student.  My thought here was, “Why can’t something like that happen to me?”  I know I’d love to meet a frum woman who is joyous, friendly, gentle and kind who, for some strange reason, likes me.  I can’t imagine it happening.  I try to work on myself, to be more confident, friendly, outgoing and happy, but it doesn’t seem to help, as shown by my recent date dumping me apparently in part because I lack self-confidence.  I hope today to start work proper on the social anxiety CBT book I dug out a while back, but I’m not confident of it helping.

The other point, less wistful, is where he talks about the culture of the self and suggests replacing the self with the other, literally doing a “find and replace” in our minds and changing phrases like ‘self-worth’ and ‘self-esteem’ to ‘other-worth’ and ‘other-esteem’.  This is something I think about, because in recent years I’ve got into Jewish religious existentialist thinkers a bit and there the emphasis is on the redemption of solitude through helping the other.  The problem is that I’m very bad at this.  I try to be a good friend to my friends who are going through depression and other tough times, but there is a limit to how much I can do given that I am not a trained counsellor or therapist.  I just try to remember to email sometimes and to respond to their emails.  I’m too shy to really get involved in voluntary work or anything like that.  I wanted to get more involved in my depression support group, but because of pressure of work in my new job, I don’t have the time or energy to go very often any more and that pressure is only going to increase next term when I work four days a week.  I’d like to think I am reaching out to people and helping them with my blog, but deep down I know I do it only because I need release from all the words in my head, and maybe for the likes.

In any case, I’m not sure how sensible it is for me to replace ‘self-esteem’ with ‘other-esteem’.  I think my problem is I perhaps esteem others too much and certainly esteem myself too little.  I don’t trust my judgment on anything, but I find it hard to disagree with others, even if deep down I know they’re wrong.  I find it hard to stand out from the crowd.  As I said, I just got dumped apparently in part because my date thought I was “frightened” of her, frightened of disagreeing with her more than some abstract fear.  And she was probably right.

More than that, I feel actually ashamed of myself much of the time, at least when I’m in company.  Ashamed of my political views and perhaps occasionally of my religious views (where I am more ‘modern’ than my shul).  Ashamed of my hobbies and interests, which seem childish and a waste of time that would be better spent in prayer, Torah study and good deeds (from a religious point of view) or more cultured pursuits (from a secular one).  Ashamed of wasting what little creativity I have and also ashamed of wasting my time on it when I do devote some time to it.  That is why it’s safer to be in solitude, despite the loneliness this entails.  This is why I didn’t hang out with my peers in adolescence or at university.  This is why I can’t open up to people and make friends or find a partner.

Some Days All We Can Do Is Endure

I feel agitated and exhausted at the same time.  My Talmud shiur (class) got cancelled, so I don’t need to feel guilty about not going.

I feel lonely today, but I don’t feel particularly inclined to phone my parents, the only people who are realistically going to be around to listen to me.  I don’t know what to say, and my parents aren’t always on my wavelength anyway.  Very few people are.  It’s one reason why I can’t see myself getting married.  I can’t imagine someone who really understands me.  I suppose someone once did, but she was, by her own admission, using me, first emotionally (expecting me to be there for her, but not being around for me, again by her own admission) and then physically/sexually; don’t worry it didn’t quite go that far, but she did try to push it to that, which was when I realized I had to cut her out of my life, however painful that was at the time (and it was painful).

I wish I had more friends on my own wavelength.  Most of my friends have only one or two things in common with me, usually frumkeit (religiosity) or mental health issues.  Neither alone really lead to lasting friendships, or not for me.  I wish I could just sit and chill out with some friends.  I never did that when I was a teenager or at university.  My peers and my friends (I guess you could call them that – more than acquaintances, even if we weren’t really close) did, but I never joined in.  At this distance it’s hard to remember if I just wanted to be invited (not out of pride, but out of fear I would offend people by just turning up unasked, that they didn’t want me to be there) or if I was scared that if I hung around with people too long, they would come to be bored by me, even to hate me and would get rid of what friendship and closeness we did have.  I think it was probably a bit of both.  I guess I’m too old for just hanging out now anyway.  People my age are usually more worried about mortgages and kids and other things that don’t apply to me.  Being Peter Pan is no fun if you’re too depressed to enjoy it.

I tried to go to some onegs organized by my shul (synagogue) last year.  An oneg is basically a big chill out, a sort of Shabbat (Sabbath) party, a gathering for food, alcohol, singing, chat and the sharing of religious thoughts.  I managed to go to one, stood outside for fifteen minutes in the cold and dark because I was too shy to go in, then sort of forced myself to go in with someone else, sat mostly in silence, got upset by the guest speaker, spoke to one person (who I already knew anyway) and left after an hour.  Then a few weeks later there was another one and I didn’t even manage to get inside that one.  I just stood outside crying and eventually went home.  The guy I walked into the first oneg with saw me go.  I think he must think I’m basically nuts (he may be right).

At least I managed to get to the sheva brachos (why do I transliterate that as sheva brachos and not sheva brachot? Eh) a few weeks ago and speak to some people there and enjoy it.  That was progress.  Today I feel like however much progress I have made in the last seven or eight months has been eroded.  I’m glad I have a month to get myself together again before I go back to work, because I think I’m going to need it.

I saw something on Twitter today that really annoyed me (I hate Twitter, I don’t think you can say very much that’s original, interesting and meaningful in 140 characters). “Mental illness is so common for creatives and musicians. We need to destigmatize the conversation around it. It’s okay to not be okay.”  Which is true, but it feels rather utilitarian.  As if to say that if, like me, you are not a great creative, but merely a lowly assistant librarian, you aren’t worth rescuing from the black dog.  Sadly, the myth of the tormented genius means that mental illness is romanticized in some quarters.

Truth be told, I worry about my creativity.  I believe I probably have a tiny amount of talent for writing that I might be able to work into something better if I had the confidence to go on a writing course, to show my work to more people (or any people… of course, this would require having friends and family interested in my work and able to critique meaningfully, which I don’t have) and, above all, to keep working at it.  I don’t have the confidence or, when the depression is bad, the energy and concentration (I wanted to work on my book today, but it’s easier to churn out this drivel instead).  I think my writing is awful and I don’t work at it, except for these rambling nonsense posts that, sensibly, no one reads or takes seriously.  I’m still smarting from my Hevria.com rejection even though the people who rejected me don’t even remember doing it or why they did it.  Sigh.  David Bowie said that the worst thing God can do to you is to make you an artist, but a mediocre artist; I think I know what he meant, although being lonely is worse (I guess the two can be connected).

Watch Me Beat Myself Up About My Romantic Inadequacies (Again)

I woke up around 10.30, which wasn’t as late as I expected, but I just couldn’t get going.  Too lonely, exhausted and depressed, too plain numb to feel or do anything.  I did something almost unprecedented for me, which was watch a DVD over breakfast because I was feeling so depressed.  It didn’t help much.

About two months ago I wrote an email to the makers of a podcast I enjoyed, three frum (religious and Orthodox Jewish) and geeky women.  In the next podcast, they said that my email was “awesome” and one of them asked if I was single.  I didn’t reply, partly because I thought they were joking (I’m vague on the difference between flirting and teasing as women don’t generally flirt with me and I definitely don’t flirt with them.  And certainly no one flirts with me in public, on a podcast) and partly because I was seeing someone by that stage (the woman I broke up with yesterday).  Now I’m wondering if I should email back or if it’s too late, whether we really have anything in common (from her Twitter account, I’m not convinced we do; even within the boundaries science fiction and fantasy, we like different things and I think she might object to my politics), how long I should wait to avoid a rebound relationship, whether I could really have a long-distance relationship with someone on another continent…

As is usual when I meet someone I like, but who inevitably turns out to have very little in common with me, I wonder if we have enough there for a relationship, if it is time to “settle” as I said yesterday, to make do with someone who isn’t my dream girl (whoever that could be) and pick someone vaguely right who seems to tolerate me.  It’s usually academic, as I have yet to meet the woman desperate enough to settle for me (OK, not strictly true, my ex seemed to like me a lot, until her issues got in the way, but that’s one person in a lifetime of waiting).  I know most Jews believe in bashert (destiny, soul mates), but I do find it hard to believe that there is someone out there for me, in all my strangeness and brokeness.

I do honestly believe that God wants me to be alone forever.  Maybe as some kind of kapparah (atonement) for something, although I don’t know what.  I don’t believe in reincarnation, but many Jews do and sometimes I wonder if I was an adulterer in a past life and now I’m being punished by being alone and celibate forever.  Whatever the reason, I only hope it’s worth it.  At shul on Shabbat I overheard the assistant rabbi say to the guest speaker rabbi, “That’s Luftmentsch… he’s not married…” I have no idea what the question was that provoked that response and it was probably innocuous and not intended as some kind of moral judgment on my life, but I do feel like I have “SINGLE” carved on my heart.  Maybe it would be better if I had it on my forehead, maybe then single frum women might come up to talk to me, or someone might set me up on a date (not that that went well when I tried it).

There’s a game I play with myself sometimes where I ask myself, “If I was single, lonely and miserable for twenty years and then was happy and loved for forty years would it be worth it?”  The answer is obviously, yes.  So then I go down to thirty years of happiness, twenty, ten… I usually keep answering yes until I get to about a year.  Even one year of love and happiness would be worth it, I feel.  Less than that and I think the price is too great, although sometimes I hold out for a full decade of happiness in recompense for a lifetime of misery.  But I worry that I won’t get even that year of happiness.  I had a birthday recently and I’m now undeniably in my mid-thirties, older than anyone else in my immediate family when they got married.  The year I have just completed had a sort of totemic significance for me, as it was the age my maternal grandparents both were when they married, and the age of my uncle when he got married.  So I do feel a bit that time is running out.  I do want to have children and while I don’t have a biological clock, per se, my wife will and as I have no desire (or ability) to go cradle-snatching, that could be an issue, particularly as lately the women I have met aren’t interested in starting a family.

On the plus side, I have began to plan out my “holiday” (a chunk of which will be taken up with chores, but there we go).  I feel a bit better for having set down that to do list, even if I might not manage stick to it if the depression persists for more than a few days.  I intend to go out shopping in a minute, more to get out of the flat than because I urgently need anything.  Although it is not encouraging when half an hour after writing the to do list, I am already running twenty minutes late.

Licking My Wounds

That Thing, you’ve probably guessed by now, was a date, or a series of dates with one woman (I am not very good at keeping secrets.  George Smiley I am not).  We just broke up, if it was even a relationship.  For a while things seemed to be going well and then today they just unravelled.  I feel pretty normal for post-breakup, i.e. lonely and miserable.

The late Israeli President, Shimon Peres, was once asked if he could see a light at the end of the tunnel of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  He replied, “I can see the light, the problem is, there’s no tunnel” which I take to mean that the final resolution of the conflict is known, but there is no clear way to get to it.  Similarly, I know the type of woman I’m looking for, I just don’t know how to find her.  I guess I’m looking for someone like me, someone in her early thirties, very frum with a Modern Orthodox outlook, quiet, intelligent, thoughtful, gentle, caring.  Someone who puts family ahead of career, is focused on personal growth and who has a strong sense of integrity.  Someone who shares a few common interests with me, preferably Doctor Who or at least science fiction.  Someone who can accept my mental health issues, probably because she’s had challenges of her own that she’s overcome, not necessarily the same as mine (I don’t think I’d have much in common with someone who had never had any issues, considering how my life has been defined by my mental health).

The problem – the missing tunnel – is that I can’t seem to meet women like this.  Most of the women I’ve dated haven’t been like this at all, and most of them have got rid of me pretty quickly.  The only one who came close to meeting a significant number of these criteria was my ex, although there was also one woman I didn’t date who met most of them, but we realized before even going out that there was a major life choice that we had different views about that would prevent a relationship.  With all the other women I dated, I was assuming that I would never meet the right woman, the woman who met most of my criteria, so I should just date women who are vaguely right in the hope that we could bridge the gap.  As my sister says, my interests are “niche”; I’m beginning to suspect my personality and values are niche too.  I mean, who lists “integrity” as something that they want in a partner?  Who says that “integrity” is their greatest virtue?  It is hardly a “sexy” virtue like kindness, compassion or generosity.

We singles, particularly in the frum world, where 26 is on the shelf and mid-thirties (where I am) is ancient, are told to “settle” which seems to mean accepting the first person who comes along who doesn’t seem to be a serial killer.  A (very frum) book I read suggested that two people should compare their values on paper before meeting; if there are no significant mismatches, they should meet and if they feel comfortable with each other, they should marry and not worry about meeting lists of criteria.  Unfortunately, trying to settle and meet someone I just feel comfortable with really hasn’t worked out for me at all and I don’t know what to do.  It seems selfish and picky to hold out for someone who meets most of my criteria, particularly at my age as the dating pool shrinks further and further, but I just know that anyone else is not going to be interested in me long-term.

Sooner or later, I will probably sign up for a professional matchmaker.  I’ve been set up on blind dates before, but never by a professional matchmaker.   Hopefully s/he can find someone on his/her database who has at least got some things in common with me.  I should probably wait a bit for the emotional aftermath of this relationship to die down before doing anything.  I’m torn between striking while the iron is hot or waiting a few months.  Currently I feel lonely which gives me the impetus to date, especially as once we get to August people will be away and then afterwards there is coping with my extended hours at work and then the autumn chaggim (festivals).  On the other hand, maybe it would be better to wait a few months until after the chaggim or at least after I have started working longer hours, to see how I am coping with that.  The problem is, I get lonely, doubly so with constant wedding talk from my sister and parents (I was hoping to have a plus one to take with, which now seems unlikely).  I want to meet someone soon and it is hard to wait after having been single and lonely for so long.

Post-dating bad habits have reasserted themselves tonight, especially as I don’t have work tomorrow, my usual bad habits when lonely and depressed.  It is late and I have not eaten yet or even made dinner.  I will probably let myself go to bed very late and watch Doctor Who – unfortunately my regimented trip through the series in order for the book I am writing has currently left me in The Time Monster, probably the silliest story of the seventies (Greek gods, Atlantis, the Master seducing the queen of Atlantis, a minotaur played by Darth Vader, UNIT being ineffective, the inevitable comic yokel, a TARDIS landing inside a TARDIS, time distortions, a pile of junk jamming complex scientific equipment, psychedelia… Doctor Who is its own crack fic).  But it beats sitting around feeling that no one could ever love me.

Anyway, if by any chance anyone reading this knows someone who meets my criteria, do let me know.  And please do post questions on my “Ask me anything” post so that I can actually have some to answer!

Here Goes… Ask Me Anything!

I’m slightly nervous about doing this, but I wanted to find a way to connect more with my readers.  I’ve seen a couple of other bloggers do this, so here goes: you can ask me anything in the comments to this post.  Then, in a few days, I’ll answer them in a new post.

You can ask me literally anything: about depression, OCD, social anxiety, Judaism, Doctor Who, librarianship, you name it!  I reserve the right not to answer anything too personal especially if it will give my real identity away or involve me in improper speech against identifiable individuals.

(Hat-tip to Chaviva and Elad for the idea.)

Plus and Minus

On the plus side, I have now finished a whole term at my new job without needing to take a single sick day!  I overslept a few times and sometimes missed most of Shacharit (morning prayers) as a result, but I think I was only late once and that was because I got lost going to the secondary campus for the first time rather than because of depression.  My new contract arrived yesterday and I am definitely doing four days a week from September, although it only counts as 0.67 of full time rather than 0.8 because I’m not employed for most of the school holidays, unlike some library staff (to be honest, I would rather have shorter holidays and earn more, if only for the structure in my day, but I’ll take what I can get given my health and the job market).

On the minus side, I was up late last night.  I had an enjoyable dinner with my family at my favourite restaurant, but when I came home I had various things I wanted to do (and, I admit, I got distracted by having some new books, espeically The Complete Far Side).  I got to bed very late, around 2.20am.  I then slept for eleven hours and got up about 1.40pm (I missed Shacharit to my annoyance).  An hour a half on and after breakfast, I am still in my pyjamas and still feel lethargic and a bit down.  Some of it may be from taking my meds very late last night (I forgot to take them when I came in from the restaurant) and this morning (because I got up late and then got distracted by the internet!).  Some of it may be crashing from a very sugary dessert last night (three layers of chocolate mousse, milk, dark and white, between layers of meringue plus chocolate sprinkles and nuts) – I hope not, as I would rather not  have to cut this stuff out totally.  Some of it is probably a bit of relief from being on holiday.

That said, I’m not sure how much of a holiday it will be, as I have a lot to do in the next four weeks, including meeting with the rabbi to change shul membership, opening a new bank account, working on my Doctor Who book (I have a substantial and growing pile of notes to write up dealing with just a few Jon Pertwee stories!), dealing with the mould in my bathroom and repainting the area by my bathroom sink that has got very water-damaged.  I want to organize my folder of work notes and maybe type up some of my handwritten notes about library procedures to make them easier to access.  And try and socialize a bit!  It’s making me a bit anxious, especially combined with That Thing which hopefully will be taking up some time too.  I need to write a plan or at least a proper to do list, maybe later today.

I would like at least to clean my flat before Shabbat today, but I’m not even sure if that will happen.  I try not to beat myself up too much when I have days like this; as Billy Joel sang, “Everyone goes south/Every now and then”, but as I said a few days ago, it’s a reminder that I’m in recovery, not recovered, with the fear of relapse that that can entail.

I guess it all shows that I’ve come a long way, but also that I have a long way still to go.

Miscellany

Sorry, I’m posting multiple times in one day again, sigh.  But I need to get my thoughts down.

I woke up very late and then couldn’t get going.  I missed Shacharit (morning prayers) completely for the first time in quite a while.  I wrote the previous post piecemeal in the two hours after waking while struggling to have breakfast and get dressed.  I had hoped that writing about my anxieties would make me feel less lonely today, but if anything it has had the opposite effect.  Sigh.  Sometimes I probably just need to be hugged.

I wanted to do various chores and cook a proper dinner today, but felt too tired and down.  I’m worried by the fact that I still feel depressed and wonder how long it will take for the higher dose of olanzapine to kick in.  I hope it kicks in soon, there are things I need to do.  My holiday starts next week and I have a lot of chores to do.  I’d like to have some fun too, given that I can’t actually go on holiday somewhere, but I worry that that is unlikely to happen much.  “Having fun” like “socializing”, “dating” and “hanging out with people” is something I never really got the hang of.

I did at least manage to go for a run, albeit only for twenty minutes due to lack of time and energy.  I did listen to music while running; apparently it’s OK to listen during the Three Weeks for exercise, although it’s better to listen to music you don’t like.  As I don’t own music I don’t like, I listened to a playlist I made of music from TV and films, as it’s more functional and less like “actual” music, although I felt bad that a couple of songs I really like came up.

I wanted to do some significant Torah study today, to look over what we did in Talmud shiur (class) yesterday and also to catch up what I missed last week when I didn’t go to shiur because I was feeling under the weather, but I wasn’t up to it.  I managed about ten minutes of Chumash (The Five Books of Moses) and that was it.  I feel bad about this too and wonder when I will be able to catch up.  Today is a day when almost everything seems to have got on top of me: loneliness, mild depression, housework, exercise, cooking. Torah study, prayer…  It’s a day when all I can do is try my best, which isn’t very much, and hope things improve soon.  I just hope it’s enough.

I don’t feel tired now, although it’s getting late, probably because I slept for over eleven hours last night and have done very little to tire me out all day.  I’m not sure whether to go to bed or to watch TV in the hope that if I relax a little I will sleep better.

XXX The Unknown

I have wanted to write something for some time about my celibacy, but I have been unsure about where to write it (here, on Hevria.com or on Geeks vs. Loneliness – each has advantages and disadvantages) or what to say.  This probably isn’t it, but maybe, depending on the reaction it gets, it will nudge me in the right direction.  I’m very worried about how people will react to it.  I know I have a few religious Jews and Christians reading who will probably ‘get’ it, but I know I also have some less religious people (including a couple who blog about sex and relationships) who might not.  Please be gentle with me.  I don’t want to offend anyone with a different lifestyle, just to be open about my feelings.

First, it might be worth looking at this Hevria post I wrote a while back about being scared of sex.

Tehillim/Psalms 56.9 states that “You [God] have put my tears in Your bottle”.  It’s a lovely image and a surprisingly vivid and innovative one.  I wonder if those are just tears from sadness and suffering or also from frustration.  I’m not sure whether I have ever literally cried from being single and celibate, but I would hope that my frustration is stored too.  Not that I want reward, but that I don’t want it to be wasted.  (I don’t want my tears from my depression, OCD and social anxieties to be wasted either, but it seems less likely that they would be somehow.  Like those were deliberate tests and this is just a side-effect of halakhah and my unattractiveness, as if there were something God does not consider.)

We live in a world where sexual satisfaction is seen as essential for psychological functioning and as a basic human right and that is probably correct.  At any rate, Judaism is not hostile to sex.  Sex is a mitzvah (positive commandment) and one of the physical delights that one is supposed to use to celebrate Shabbat (the Sabbath), alongside good clothes, sleep, meat and wine.  On the other hand, it’s only supposed to happen within marriage.  Which in theory I don’t have a problem with, but it’s hard when one is as unmarriable as I am.

I can see the reason for remaining celibate outside marriage.  I do believe that marriage and sex are holy, although it’s hard to describe why to anyone who isn’t religious; not only is sex seen as mundane (which is the opposite of holy), but the whole concept of holiness doesn’t really exist in the vocabulary of the Western world any more.

I also know myself.  I know I tend to fall for women easily and that while I find it hard to open up to people (I’m talking in general, not just romance/sex), when I do, I bond quickly and strongly, so the last thing I want to do is have a fling or a one night stand, hook up with someone, bond with her and then never see her again.  I know I could never have a one night stand, even if it were somehow halakhically permitted.  That would be the most painful thing for me (I’m thinking of the Billy Joel song All for Leyna about this exact topic).  Plus given the uncertainty I have about dating, the last thing I want to do with someone is flood my brain with hormones that alter how I perceive her before I’ve decided that I want to spend my life with her.  Even aside from what Judaism teaches, by this stage I’m definitely dating to find my life partner, not just to have “a good time” and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my main goal for the sake of a night of pleasure.

What doesn’t really get talked about is how difficult this all is, living in perhaps the most sexualized culture the world has ever seen (as someone with a degree in history, I usually avoid such generalizations, but here it’s unavoidable.  Unlike some ancient pagan cultures, we don’t have sacred prostitution, but that’s about it).  It’s hard to walk down the street sometimes without being bombared by sexual images from the media.  I disapprove of Charedi Judaism’s avoidance of Western culture, but sometimes I can see their point.  It seems like sex is used to sell everything and no film or TV programme is complete without eye-candy (I hate that term).  It sometimes feels like society is trying to create a permanent sense of arousal.  But where does all that life-energy go if you don’t have an outlet for it?

It’s hard to talk about this.  In Westen society, being a prude is about the worst insult you can throw at someone.  Orthodox Judaism preaches early marriage and doesn’t really talk about what happens to those who can’t get married in their late teens or early twenties (non-Orthodox Judaism has no problem with non-marital sex so far as I can see and has basically adopted Western sexual mores).  Anyway, as I say, Judaism isn’t anti-sex, it just wants to tame it by keeping it within marriage.  I look forward to the day when I can have a meaningful emotional and physical relationship with the woman I love and to whom I have consecrated my life.  But it seems very far away.

There is, I guess, a fear of sexual inadequacy which I touched on in the Hevria article I linked to above, beyond my general fears of being unattractive physically and in terms of personality.  The fear that just getting married wouldn’t be the end of my troubles.  I worry about being able to satisfy my wife.  It seems difficult.  I’m not good at emotional stuff (borderline Asperger’s again) or, for that matter, physical stuff (I mean physical things in general, like sports), and I worry about not being good enough for her.  About being inadequate, on multiple levels.  I want her to be happy more than I want myself to be happy.   I know that losing my virginity is going to be awkward, but I wonder if it will ever get easier.  As I said, I care less for myself and more for my wife.  I get nervous about the whole thing.  A while back two Orthodox sex therapists produced this book, a sex manual aimed at Orthodox couples who would typically be virgins at their marriage.  I think it looks really good; it deals with the emotional and mundane sides of sex as well as the sexy stuff.  My therapist advised me to buy the book and read it to put to rest some of my anxieties.  I actually bought it, but Amazon didn’t despatch it and I got nervous that I was being told not to buy it before I get married so I didn’t try to buy it again.  I would like to read it with my wife, though.

There is probably more to say, but I think I’ve said enough for now, both in terms of this post being quite long and also because (a) it’s possible someone I’m dating might see this one day and (b) I’ve been writing this piecemeal since waking up to try to deal with feeling lonely and frustrated today, but I think it’s making things worse.  I’m conscious that I overslept (I woke up about 12.30, having slept for over eleven hours, but being too tired and down to get going, which was all very bad of me) and I am wary of losing the whole day to this post, so I’m hitting the publish button now.  Like I said, please be gentle with me and just as I don’t judge people with different lifestyles, please don’t judge me.  I’m just trying to do the right thing by myself, by God and especially by my future wife (if she exists),  however difficult it seems.

Better

I went back on the higher dose of olanzapine this morning.  I was a bit down when I woke up and very sluggish; ate breakfast before davening Shacharit (saying the morning prayers) and said a very truncated Shacharit at that.  I was a couple of minutes late leaving for work and missed my train, but I made up for lost time and got to work on time.

I don’t know if it was the placebo effect, but the olanzapine seemed to help and I got through the day OK.  We are doing stock taking at work, so I spent most of the day scanning books into the library management system.  Very tedious and I can’t even listen to music while I do it because of the Three Weeks.  I think I was a bit slow, but got faster as I went along.  There is still some OCD fear that I have made an unspecified and hence uncorrectable mistake.  I also felt sick again after drinking tea; I am not quite sure how to work out if it is from the water or something else (what?).

I managed to get to my Talmud shiur (class) admittedly a bit late and very tired; it was hard to concentrate.

I have had a poem accepted by Hevria.com, which will be my third post and my first poem there.  I am rather nervous as this time it is somewhat political, about antisemitism.

I am also building up a stack of notes for my Doctor Who book again; I need to integrate them into the material I already have written up.  My boss asked if I was “devastated” about the new Doctor being a woman.  I’m not devastated, but I’m not sure what to think.  I’m a bit scared to say anything at all for fear of being called misogynistic or transphobic.  I do feel that Doctor Who fandom can be an oppressive place sometimes though, or at least parts of it can; very stridently “progressive” and abusive of anyone who doesn’t share the same views (political views and views on Doctor Who).   I think I’m OK with the female Doctor, but I also think someone I know online had a point when he suggested that the Doctor is virtually the only male role model for boys who is intelligent, non-violent and who does the right thing because it’s right, not for revenge or to get the girl, so taking him away might not be such a good idea.  All that said, I’m going to wait for the episodes before rushing to judgment.  I do wonder if it has disconcerted me on some level, though; part of my childhood and my identity, my sense of masculinity and self, being challenged.  I think I was more upset at having the Doctor sexualized, though.  I hope the new Doctor goes back to being asexual, unlike every other post-1989 Doctor.  That’s a bigger part of my identity.

Liveblogging Depression 6

20.01 Doctor Who: The Sea Devils: Episode 2.  Old Doctor Who is better than new Doctor Who.  Swordfight!  Bad jokes!  Also, squishing stress ball (Evel Kneidel, the stress matzah ball) – helpful.

20.27 I suspect this experiment isn’t working, so I’ll stop clogging up everyone’s feeds and go back to doing one post.

20.40 Lying on the bed again, for the umpteenth time today, feeling awful and worrying.  Worries I won’t recover.  Worried I will never be able to speak my mind about anything for fear of being demonized and losing friends.  Terrified that no one could ever love me, that admitting my mental health issues will just lead to rejection.  Even worried that this liveblogging experiment failure will lose me my small base of followers.  I trust that God’s will will come to pass, but what if He wants me to be lonely and unloved?  That is, after all, how He seems to have wanted me to feel for so much of my life.

20.46 Not at all hungry, even a little nauseous, but feel I ought to eat something, so opting for cereal (muesli).  More Doctor Who.

20.58 Still haven’t actually got around to eating and DVD.  Parents aren’t answering phones.  Might well take more olanzapine tomorrow without waiting to hear from psychiatrist.

21.06 Just spoke to Mum, she agreed with me that I should just take the olanzapine tomorrow morning and tell the psychiatrist rather than waiting for him to email me back, otherwise the depression might get worse and I might miss work.

21.11 Emailed the psychiatrist.  Worried he will tell me I should have stayed on the lower dose for longer, but feel I know my mind and my body better than a doctor (this is halakhah, incidentally).

21.16 Ma’ariv.  Poor kavannah (concentration).  Worried that no one really reads what I write here.  Worried about That Thing, that I will never find someone who can love me for the broken person that I am.

ca21.25 Text from friend offering support, feel a bit better.

21.37 Dinner and Doctor Who, interspersed with texting friend.  Also, make lunch for tomorrow, pack.

Still to do: shower, hitbodedut, bed.

Liveblogging Depression 5

ca19.50 Daven Mincha.  Zero kavannah.  Still afraid that this isn’t just withdrawal and that I’m permanently depressed again, or that it was triggered by withdrawal, but will not be cured by increasing the dosage of the olanzapine.

20.00 Ought to have dinner, but really not hungry.

Liveblogging Depression

18.52 Doing Torah study, Bamidbar/Numbers 31.13-54, hardly the most inspiring passage (and I hate having to translate long numbers from Hebrew, I always get confused), but where I am in my daily parasha reading.

19.06 Web-browsing again.  I’m making myself feel depressed, but I’m scared to say what is depressing me.  “I tolerate this century, but I don’t enjoy it.” Doctor Who: 100,000 B.C., Anthony Coburn

Liveblogging Depression (Sort Of)

17.45 To blog or not to blog?  I have already written one post today and I am worried that if write another in this state, I will write something I will later regret, whether something private or something political or controversial.  I don’t have many readers, but I’ve noticed that those I do have come from diverse ethnic, national and religious backgrounds; I’m guessing their political backgrounds differ too.  To write about something other than mental health is to open myself to criticism and rejection.  Doubly so on a day like today, when I am not thinking coherently and probably could not construct a meaningful argument for anything I believe in.

I tried to watch Doctor Who (The Sea Devils) earlier, but lost concentration after ten minutes, which is pretty much unheard of.  Did drift back towards it later.

18.09 Reading politics online, really should know better.  Given up hope of running today.  Worried about getting to work tomorrow.

18.41 Finally tidying up ‘lunch’, feeling that I have to hide who I am to be accepted.  Can’t go into detail even here, for fear of being rejected.  Feel unbearable tension inside me, not sure how to cope with it.  I wish… but I had better not say it.

OK, I was, as I say, “sort of” liveblogging because I was writing this periodically, but only planning on hitting ‘publish’ before bed.  I have been editing a bit too.  I’m going to take the plunge now and post little snippets throughout the evening, so, in the unlikely event that anyone wants to interact in real time via the comments, they can.  Apologies in advance for taking up a lot of your friends feed.

“It is only a beginning, always”

It seems a bit weird to quote Richard Nixon in the title line of a post, but I came across the quote (apparently a favourite of the disgraced President’s) in a newspaper article today and it seemed something worth holding on to.  The last few days have been difficult.  My OCD has rocketed up and my anxiety has been higher too.  There’s been some guilt over stuff I probably shouldn’t feel guilty about.  The Thing That I Seem To Talk About A Lot For A Thing That I Don’t Talk About has loomed large in a more negative way, connected with the guilt and anxiety.  The high OCD levels led to some tension with my parents, particularly my father; I am worrying about him as several months after being made redundant it looks like he won’t find a new job and he’s taking it badly (he was distracted for a while with job searching, but he’s grown despondent about that, and also with house decorations and planning my sister’s wedding, but those have reached a temporary lull, with things being as far advanced as they can be for now and not likely to be resumed in earnest for a while).  So I feel guilty for bickering with him, even as I felt that it was hard not to at times.

I went to bed very late last night, having stayed up for over an hour blogging and another hour watching Doctor Who; after last week I told myself I wouldn’t do either, at least not to the same extent, but I did anyway.  I must have more self-control next week, at least while Shabbat is going out so late.  Shabbat finishes about 10.20pm at the moment in London; factor in Ma’ariv (the evening service), walking home from shul (synagogue) and tidying up and it’s about half-past eleven or later before I even sit down to blog and it always takes longer than expected.

Inevitably, I woke up late this morning feeling very lethargic.  I slept for about ten hours, so it was not entirely due to going to bed late; depression is probably a factor there too.  My mood is somewhat low today, more depressed than anxious/OCD, although there is some of that too.  I want to try to go for a run, even if I do nothing else, but I am not sure if I will manage it.  I feel like I just want to go back to bed.

I’m worried about drifting back into depression, as I seem to have been doing in the last week or so.  A few factors are possible.  The ongoing stresses of That Thing.  Reducing the dosage of olanzapine, which may have been doing more good than I thought (supporting evidence: last time I tried to come off it, I also got worse and I am only trying again because my psychiatrist was insistent).  Exhaustion at working three full days a week for a full term with only one week off, itself interrupted by Yom Tov.  The start of the Three Weeks of mourning, which always brings my mood down and stops me listening to music to cheer myself up.  A general sense of loneliness and feeling that I still haven’t got my life where I want it to be, particularly religiously – feeling other people (FFB and BT) are innately more religious and pleasing to God than I am, that my mental health issues cripple me religiously and stop me getting to where I should be, to where God wants me to be (again, the Three Weeks and the start of what I think of as the long road to Yom Kippur exacerbates this).  And it all becomes a vicious circle where feeling a bit depressed and anxious sets of the OCD, which makes me feel more depressed and anxious, which makes me worry that I am falling back into mental illness, which makes me more depressed, anxious and OCD…

Hence the quote in the title, trying to see this as a new beginning not a return to negativity.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, another nineteenth century rabbi I admire greatly, spoke a lot about this, about starting anew every day.  “If your tomorrow is the same as your today, what need have you for tomorrow?” (Quoting from memory as my books on Breslov are all at my parents’ house.)  It’s hard to hold on to that when I just feel stuck, however.

Introspection

It’s funny, when I started writing this blog, I expected to be writing little essays on Judaism and mental health.  The way it has turned out, I’m writing more of a journal of my feelings of depression, OCD, anxiety and borderline Asperger’s while in recovery.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t really fit the image I had of myself and my writing style.  Of course, that’s partly because the “essay writing” side of my brain has been occupied working on my Doctor Who non-fiction book and I have generally been busy with and tired from my new job.  I don’t seem to have many readers (so far as I can tell from page views, likes and followers), but I think I’m OK with that.  I’m really bad at the marketing/SEO side of blogging and neither of my previous blogs had many readers (although if anyone wants to link to me on their own blogs, I won’t say no!).  I used to worry about that more; here I think I’m glad I have half a dozen or maybe a dozen readers who seem to read most of what I write and get something out of it, even if I do wonder what people find to enjoy in my ramblings about life, mental health and working in a library (I now have the official title of “Assistant Librarian (Collection Managment)” which sounds very formal and important!).

Anyway, today is another lethargic day, but not really depressed emotionally.  I feel OK, I just haven’t got the energy to do anything.  I think I’m still recovering from the week, so I’m awarding myself another quiet day and not going for a run, as I would normally try to do on a Friday.  I just don’t have the energy.  I plan to watch Doctor Who (The Curse of Peladon) until I need to get ready for Shabbat.  I overslept ridiculously, partly because I went to bed very late (1.00am), but even so, I slept for about eleven and a half hours, which I think I needed.

I have to tell myself that I am still in recovery, not recovered.  Maybe I will always be vulnerable (I won’t say weak) and have to take care of myself.  I hope I can find a wife who can be accepting of that, given that earlier this year I dated someone who couldn’t cope with it, which makes me scared of opening up in the future about my depression.  (As an aside, I found a cool children’s book at work to explain about depression to very young children.  I made a note of that; hopefully it will be useful one day.)  Maybe I won’t be able to work completely full-time, or not for a while.  I just hope I can manage the transition from three to four full days a week in September.  At any rate, I have coped with a full term of working three days a week, which is good.  I have another week left before the long summer holiday, which I’m not actually contracted to do, I’m working extra for TOIL (Time Off In Lieu) so that I can take three days of Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) off as unpaid leave in the next term.  Also, being around for the library stock take is probably good work experience for me, as I’ve never done a stock take before.  But I think I really do need at least some of this long holiday to recuperate before the next term, which I guess is the advantage of working in a college library, even if the reduced pay (obviously I don’t get paid for those weeks) is a pain.

Closer to Optimal

I have eaten dinner and watched half a Doctor Who story (Day of the Daleks; the second two episodes, tonight, were rather better than the first two yesterday, unusual as most Doctor Who stories get worse as they go along, particularly in the original series.  But I digress.  As usual).  I feel rather better.  While I think today’s kashrut worries were real, I think I over-reacted to my fears and have them more in proportion now.  I feel a lot calmer and not so bothered about my sister’s wedding (I have just eaten the last of the leftovers that I had from the engagement party; it was a chocolate brownie that was still delicious nearly three weeks on).  I do still feel some of yesterday’s loneliness, though, the wish to have someone to hold my hand and snuggle with.  I don’t know why I suddenly feel so lonely, except that I do feel lonely when under mental strain, when I feel alone facing a scary world, which is how I felt today.

Tired now, bed I think.

Sub-Optimal

Today was a fairly stressful day, although I suppose I can look back on it and say that at least I survived it without tipping back into full depression (so far).

After the physical and emotional stresses of yesterday, it is not surprised that I am a bit sensitive today.  I am not sure if I actually overslept, but I certainly struggled to get up and get going, having very little time for Shacharit (the morning prayer service), which I davened (prayed) in a highly abbreviated form (again).  I dashed out and just caught my train.

I spent a chunk of the work day shuttling around the building dealing with Kafkaesque bureucracy as I tried to get paid my travelling expenses for my trip to Oxford a couple of weeks ago.  The sum involved was significant enough for it to be worth the bother, but was still pretty paltry, so my socially anxious self nearly gave up.  I suppose it was a victory that I managed to run around, talk to strangers, and get my money.  I won’t bore you with the full story (not least because it’s so confusing that I’m not sure I can actually tell it coherently), but it took up a chunk of time I would rather have spent actually doing my job.

That said, my job today was not terribly exciting.  It was necessary, but not terribly exciting.  The problem for me being in a job that involves books is that it is easy to get distracted and I was probably distracted more than I should have been today.  I probably set too high a standard of concentration for myself (no one concentrates without interruption for three or four hours), but I don’t know what else to do.  I thought my boss was annoyed with me about something (not my being distracted).  She probably wasn’t and was just stressed, but I get depressed, guilty and ashamed when I think I have upset someone.  The whole situation ends up triggering unconscious memories of difficult family situations and I regress back to childhood/depression (which are closely linked for me).  For an hour or two this afternoon I was quite depressed and struggled to work and wondered if I was going to have to go home.  And then as suddenly as it had started, it stopped and I was able to have a reasonably productive final hour, or would have done had I not had to venture out to try to get my expenses for the third (and then fourth) time today.

Add to that a kashrut question that came up at work, which has worried me a little and which in turn is reminding me of some (probably OCD) questions that are likely to remain unanswered for a while (as my rabbi mentor is busy with his family, his grandmother having just died) and I feel a bit down.  By this stage I probably need food and should make some dinner.  I was going to make scrambled eggs, but am not sure I have the energy even for that; convenience food doubtless awaits, alongside some slightly uninspiring Doctor Who (the downside of watching the programme in order for my book project is that sometimes, as recently, I get stuck in a run of bad stories).

I’ve also just remembered that my sister and her fiancée no longer want Mincha (the afternoon service) at their wedding.  I wouldn’t mind, but I volunteered to lead Mincha and it was going to be the main thing I did to participate, to show my love for them and to share in their simcha (simcha in the double sense of “their happiness” and “their party”).  I understand why they don’t want to do it, but I wonder what I can do instead.  Bentsching (leading grace after meals) has already gone to the groom’s family and I’m wary of leading one of the sheva brachos (the seven wedding blessings) because one has to hold a full glass of wine when saying them and my fear of shaking is sure to cause me to shake, as happened on the one previous occasion when I was asked to say one of the sheva brachos.  On that occasion I actually had to put the glass on the table I was shaking so much; I still worry that that my bracha didn’t ‘count’ because of that.  I’m not sure that I really want to do the toast to the queen (yes, English Jews still do this, we’re very conservative in our customs!) and I think it may have been given to someone else anyway and I think the toast to the State of Israel has gone, appropriately, to my Israeli cousins.    I guess I need to find something else to do to feel involved, but I don’t know what.  Or maybe I should just turn up, stick around as long as I can and then slip out when no one is looking?  That’s my usual tactic for unavoidable parties (I may have mentioned that I hate parties).   Of course, I might manage to find a “plus one” to bring and talk to by December… here’s hoping.

I think I had more to say, but I can’t actually think straight and am slipping back into the pit of despair, which probably is a sign that I’m tired and that my blood sugar level is dropping and that food and relaxation would be a good thing now, so I’ll leave it there for now and maybe come back with another post later tonight or tomorrow if I can think of anything else to say.

“You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”

Today was odd.  Something unusual happened last night which I’m not going to go into, but which prompted difficult and guilt-inducing thoughts today, even though realistically I had nothing to feel guilty about.  Then today was a “team building” exercise at work, which basically meant that all the library staff went to a big Victorian cemetery and did weeding (of the gardening kind, not the library kind!).  It was quite fun initially, but also tiring and I’m glad to have come home and had a shower, but I’m still very tired.  I intend to spend the evening with Doctor Who.

On the plus side, I sat and ate my kosher food with the team while they ate their halal food without having an OCD freak out (I was more concerned that it was disrespectful to eat in the cemetery, but I wasn’t sure what else to do).  I brought my bottles and food boxes home without panicking about potential grease or crumbs on them and I even did some grocery shopping and put the food in my bag with said unwashed bottles and boxes.  I was also able to chat to my colleagues without social anxieties, although I have to say that I have adapted well to the new team and find it easier to talk to them than it was to talk to people at my old job (maybe because here I have lots of colleagues doing similar things whereas at my old job it was just me, my boss and other people doing very different jobs).

Incidentally, I think one of my team may have undiagnosed OCD from what she was saying, but I didn’t think it was my place to say anything to her.  Maybe I was wrong, I don’t know.

I do feel lonely now, though.  Someone special to me did text me at lunch to see how I was getting on, which was nice, but I wish I had someone to come home to and snuggle with in front of the TV tonight.  I usually don’t mind living by myself in my tiny converted garage-flat, but sometimes I would like the company.