I’m three-quarters of the way through my holiday and I feel I’ve wasted it all in depression. To be honest, I’m anxious to go back to work, despite my nervousness over working on enrollment when I return and the vague (probably OCD) worry that I’ve got the wrong date for restarting. All support staff have to help with exam invigilation and enrollment of new students. I will be given a job for enrollment pretty much at random when I get to work next Monday. I’m hoping it’s something like entering data rather than speaking to new students or, my absolute fear, directing people around the building. It’s not a huge building, but it is a rabbit warren and after a couple of months there I know where the library is and where reception and HR are and not much else. Given that my depression has got worse over the last few weeks, I am worried about whether I will be able to get up in time and do a full day’s work at the moment, even before I move from three to four days a week in September, as well as whether I will end up in the library office quietly weeping, but I think having a routine, something to focus on and (maybe) feel good about and being around other people will help to dispel at least some of the extreme depression I’m currently experiencing. It will also give me an opportunity to try to work more on my social anxiety in smaller steps than I can take at the moment, where the opportunities are more ‘all or nothing’ (see below).
I suppose the holiday hasn’t been a total waste. I survived being dumped on virtually my first day off, even if it did push me into depression again. I survived Tisha Be’Av too. I’ve continued going to shul on Shabbat, even managing to go on Shabbat mornings, when the depression and social anxiety would have stopped me in the past, although I feel frustrated that I haven’t managed to go on weekdays as I originally intended. I did a tiny bit of socializing. I want jogging less often that I would have liked, but more often than would have been the case if I’d let my depression win. I said I was going to work on my Doctor Who book and while initially I feared I was just going to be watching old episodes, I think I must have written somewhere between two and four thousand words in three weeks, probably nearer the latter, having gone through a lot of television episodes and taken a fair amount of notes on them. I still have my concerns about what I’ve written (there’s definitely a fear that cutting and pasting new observations into an existing structure could lead to a very bitty and incoherent argument, but that’s something to work on at the third draft stage, I think, when I’ve finished all the research and the bulk of the writing. I also worry about not being able to expand the later chapters enough or to write a new chapter covering the last few seasons), but on the whole I’m making progress, and faster than I expected. I’ve blogged a great deal. Whether that’s a good thing is open to question, I suppose, but at least writing here has largely stopped me drama queening on Hevria and elsewhere.
I tried going through more of my social anxiety self-help book. It’s difficult, as it’s cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and I’m having the same difficulty I’ve had with CBT for depression: CBT tries to replace negative or anxious thoughts with more helpful ones, but my negative thoughts are so deep-rooted that it’s hard to change them. I believe them too much. It’s worth noting here that the CBT I had for the OCD was very different, being exposure therapy, where you expose yourself to the things that provoke the OCD anxiety until the anxiety naturally disipates rather than trying consciously to change how you think about things. Incidentally, I guess it’s worth noting that even though my depression and social anxiety have been bad over the summer, the OCD is mostly under control, which is something positive. I still have obsessive, anxious thoughts, but I’m better at fighting against them rather than looking for reassurance from my parents or rabbis.
In a comment on yesterday’s post, my friend Louise said that maybe I should see bearing witness as my life’s mission. It’s a tempting idea. I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet, though. I mentioned in my response a study covered in the Jewish press that found mental health sufferers stigmatized and ignored in the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world and while I am not Charedi, I do have a foot in that world these days and maybe just writing here from a Jewish perspective will help someone, although at the moment I only know of a couple of Jewish readers.
On the surface, bearing witness seems, I suppose, more of a Christian idea than a Jewish one. It is certainly found in biblical and rabbinic Judaism but in a modern context is used for Holocaust commemoration more than for anything religious. I suppose my writing is a form of bearing witness (which was Louise’s point), I’m just not sure where to take it from there. Certainly my posts on Hevria have all been about bearing witness to feelings that are marginalized in one way or another (sexual anxiety, loneliness, the experience of antisemitism).
Still, today has been a mixture of positive and negative. I overslept again (unsurprising given that I didn’t go to bed until after 2.30am) and struggled to get going again. I drifted into depressive thoughts while out shopping, thinking morbid thoughts about my own funeral (I think about that a lot, wondering if there will be anyone there and what the eulogies will be) as well as some OCD thoughts (having already written here that I was doing well on that front), which fortunately I managed to push away fairly quickly.
On the plus side, I read a few pages of Daniel Deronda over lunch for the first time in weeks (it’s very well-written and I hope to read more of it). I’ve nearly finished Horeb, at last (hopefully by the end of the week IF I can keep reading ten pages a day, which is a big if). And my therapist is back in the UK and we have a session tomorrow, my first since my break-up. The depression always gets worse when she’s on holiday and unfortunately she now takes longer holidays, as, due to Brexit, her husband has had to relocate to the continent, so whenever her children are on school holidays she goes off to Spain.
The final good thing (at least, I hope it’s good) is that, for better or for worse, my poem about antisemitism is up on Hevria. I think people will assume that it’s about Donald Trump and the alt-right in the USA and/or about Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum on the hard left in the UK, but actually I wrote the poem back in June 2013, when Trump was just a property tycoon and reality TV star and Corbyn was an obscure backbench MP, although recent events did push it back into my mind and prompted me to dig the poem out and submit it. Unfortunately, the events of Saturday have made it more relevant, although the discussion of the events have largely ignored the antisemitism of the white supremacists to focus on the race issue (the race issue is obviously very real, but the antisemitism should be covered too – the flyer for the rally called on people to “end Jewish influence in America”). I can’t remember exactly what caused me to write the poem, but a lot of the feelings in it come from my personal experience of antisemitic abuse on the streets (the use of profanity, which I would not normally use, is partly a direct quotation of things shouted at me).
I can’t bear to re-read the poem now it’s up and I’m nervous about what kind of response it will get, both artistically and politically. So far it’s had a couple of likes and shares on Facebook, but nothing more. Maybe I’m being greedy after my last two posts had more readers. My first post was about sex, so inevitably it got a lot of readers… Whenever I get something published on Hevria, I feel a bit of an interloper, as everyone there seems comfortable in their Yiddishkeit (Jewishness), very creative, very open, self-confident and optimistic. Well, I suppose I’m open about my feelings here, and on Hevria, in my posts and comments (too open, probably), even if it’s a depressive sort of openness, which doesn’t seem very ‘Hevrian’ somehow. Still, I have made friends through Hevria, from my comments there as much as from my posts, which is something, even if I do wonder about people who want to befriend me after my drama queening, although I suppose my comments aren’t all drama queening, I do try to write perceptive comments most of the time, it’s just that if I’m having a bad time or someone writes something that triggers me, it’s hard to hold back my feelings.