“He talks to himself sometimes because he’s the only one who understands what he’s talking about.” Doctor Who: The Ark in Space by Robert Holmes

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Pretty much immediately after havdalah I spent over an hour writing a blog post to try to get my anxiety out of my system, then spent half an hour looking at the news (depressing) then I watched some Doctor Who to unwind from everything else which probably amounted to far too much blue light late at night and certainly amounted to being up too late, which, combined with self-loathing and agitation, meant I didn’t fall asleep until some time around 3.30am.  I don’t remember what I was thinking about when I was trying to fall asleep, but I got pretty agitated about something to do with my depression and mental health.

Whatever hope I might have had yesterday that I have some kind of share in Olam HaBa (the next world) has dissipated.  Thinking about my posts about not knowing what my mission is (which is obviously connected to having a share in Olam HaBa – our reward depends on fulfilling our missions) – I found this article I’d saved to my bookmarks ages ago and forgotten about which asks two questions to find your mission:

Rabbi Nivin offers two methods for discovering your mission:

  1. Ask yourself (and write down): What were the five or ten most pleasurable moments in my life?
  2. Ask yourself: If I inherited a billion dollars and had six hours a day of discretionary time, what would I do with the time and money?

I honestly don’t know the answer to either question.  Regarding the former, I find it hard to remember any pleasurable moments in my life since adulthood.  Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) is a key symptom of depression.  I think I’ve found socializing with known friends somewhat pleasurable, but I can’t do that for long without needing to be alone to recharge and anyway it can’t be my mission to socialize and it’s almost impossible for me to socialize anyway, due to lack of friends and social anxiety about making new ones or getting in contact with existing ones.  Likewise it’s doubtful that watching and writing about science fiction counts.  Before I moved communities two years ago, I used to get something from leading services in shul and giving drashot (religious talks), but with one very tiny exception, I haven’t done that since moving, partly from lack of opportunity, partly from lack of confidence now I’m in a much frummer community, partly from the fear that enjoying doing them was pride and that it would be punished by my making a fool of myself if I ever tried to them again.  Other than that, things I might enjoy are mostly stuff that I wouldn’t want to encourage myself to do, like self-harm (which can be a real release) or posting self-loathing comments here and on Hevria.  Jogging?  We’re getting silly now.  As for the second question, I don’t have a clue at all.  I know I’m supposed to say Torah study or maybe chessed (acts of kindness), but I know I wouldn’t do that really.

This is why I will have no share in Olam HaBa, because when I die they’re going to ask me, “Why didn’t you do X?” and I’ll say, “Because I didn’t think I was good enough to do it” or even “I never even thought about doing it.”  I want to be a husband and a father, but I don’t think that’s a life mission (otherwise most people would not have a mission beyond that) and it’s not going to happen anyway.

I just tried looking at some blog posts about how to hate myself less, but they either list things I’ve tried without success (think of my skills, achievements and virtues; write a list of my values; say positive affirmations every day) or stuff that I don’t think I can do (worry less about what other people think of me (this was why I got dumped a few weeks ago); accept other people’s positive views of myself as being as valid as my negative ones (why should I when they clearly don’t know me as well as I know myself?  And what about people’s negative views of me – how can I accept one and not the other)).  In particular, everyone says not to care what other people think of me, but no one can give me a practical way of reaching this zen-like state.  What’s the point of telling me, as one site did, “You may be in a tough place right now where you feel lonely or like a loser. No worries, we’ve all been there. But it’s time for you to realize how common these things are, and that they’re experienced by even the most successful and happiest people in the world. Those people get past them, and you will too” when for twenty years I haven’t managed to get past these feelings?

This article says that when you criticize yourself you should imagine part of you shouting abuse at the other part of you, perpetrator and victim, so you can see you have learned the hatred (the perpetrator) and direct love at the victim part of you.  The problem is, when I was thinking “Luftmentsch, why don’t you just **** off and DIE!” I tried to imagine seeing the perpetrator-me and tell him to **** off himself, but I automatically imagined him shouting it back at me (the real me, not the victim-me) so vividly and loudly that I actually flinched in real life.  Now I’m being bullied by imaginary people…  Maybe some people are just messed up beyond all hope?

I managed to go for a jog, at least and now feel too exhausted to hurt myself, which I suppose is good, although I also feel too exhausted to make dinner, which is less good.

Tune in tomorrow when you can see how much flak I’ll have taken for my poem on antisemitism on Hevria…

2 thoughts on “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down

  1. Have you considered that your vocation may be in bearing witness? At least online you are very open about your faith, your mental health, your love of Doctor Who and related shows and the way they interrelate and inform your experience.

    Your writings have changed my views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and informed me about anti-semitism on the left. They have increased my empathy with the experience of depression, and have provided new perspectives on Doctor Who. I hope these changes are reflected, in turn, in the way I discuss issues and interact with people I meet.

    Moreover if you didn’t watch and write about science fiction, I would never have been here (or in other places) to read about the other stuff.


  2. Hi Louise, I didn’t know you were reading this! Good to hear from you.

    It’s interesting you mention bearing witness. I actually saw something on Friday afternoon relevant to that, but I didn’t have time to blog about it before Shabbat and then after Shabbat I was too caught up in my social anxiety from Shabbat itself to remember it.

    There were articles in both the weekly Jewish newspapers we read about mental health in Charedi circles. The survey was done by a university (can’t remember which) and was too small to be statistically significant, but the main thing that came out of it was that there is still a huge amount of stigma in the Charedi community around mental illness: people reluctant to get treatment because of stigma, fear of being ostracized, fear of not being marriable or their siblings/children/grandchildren/etc not being marriable. Now, I’m not Charedi, but I do now move a bit in moderate Charedi circles (the shul I want to join and the kolel where I go for my weekly Talmud shiur are both Charedi) and much of my experience here would be understandable from a Charedi viewpoint, so I took this as saying that I should carry on writing here, even though I don’t seem to be doing anything more profound than just expressing my frustrations in the hope that people (sufferers and those around them) might be able to understand mental health issues better. And I’m sure that while there is probably less stigma in the Modern Orthodox world, there is some, not least because there’s stigma around mental health everywhere, unfortunately.

    I’m glad I’ve managed to communicate some of what I think and feel to you. I sometimes wonder how much I’m able to do that. I do already have more followers on this blog than I ever did on Livejournal and most of my posts get a handful of likes and I have already made a couple of friends through the blog, so some people are reading and interacting, but sometimes I do sit here wondering if I’m making any kind of difference, so it’s good to hear from you that I have.

    I guess I’m reluctant to take on the mantle of ‘bearing witness’ because it makes it seem that my struggles will be unending, that I will have to keep struggling with my mental health in order to keep bearing witness to it. Or perhaps one can have a different vocation at different times of life? I vaguely recall reading that somewhere. I suppose I also wonder how well I’m bearing witness, as while I do have followers here, I’m very bad at promoting my blog and doing SEO stuff to get it noticed. I do have some Jewish followers, but I seem to be good at reaching out to people with very different backgrounds which is not a bad thing per se (as you indicate), but rather goes against what I wrote about about wanting to bear witness within the Jewish community rather than outside it. I’ve asked for my blog address to be included in my potted biography in my poem on Jewish cultural/religious site Hevria.com tomorrow so I’m hoping that might attract some interest from there, given that I’m quite well-known on the site, albeit perhaps not for the best reasons (I’m known for writing tenuously-related comments about my mental health which I describe as “drama queening”, but I’ve had a lot of positive feedback over the years from other writers about how much they like my comments and find them insightful and that they admire my honesty and openness, so I suppose I must be doing something right).


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