No work again today as it’s a public holiday in the UK, although I’ve had some slightly OCD anxiety about it and keep checking my diary and phone to see that it really is a holiday. Sigh. I went to bed very late again last night (this morning, really), because I got upset and agitated late at night, as sometimes happens. Then I overslept this morning. It was a struggle to get up again. I think there was some mild depersonalization. I wanted to get up, but my legs wouldn’t move and for a brief period they some seemed not to belong to me. Things like this happen to me occasionally. It’s a bit disturbing, although it’s hard to tell how much is actual depersonalization from my depression and how much is me thinking it’s happening from the fear that it is happening, if that makes sense.
I achieved one or two things, like doing more Torah study/preparation for the forthcoming Yomim Noraim (High Holidays) and going for a run, but my heart was not really in anything. So much of my life seems to be done by rote, out of obligation or need rather than desire or will (ratzon). I suppose this goes back to my rabbi’s questions on Shabbat (the Sabbath): what would I ask for if God offered me one wish? And what, when I get it, can I never have enough of? I have some ideas what the answers to these questions are, but they aren’t anything I can currently get in the way I want and feel I need.
I’ve started thinking seriously about my cheshbon nafesh (self-analysis of what I’ve done and how I’ve grown over the last year). On the whole, I would have to say it was a good year. I brought my depression and OCD under control (to varying extents, but I stopped being suicidal and self-harming), I got a new job with much longer hours in a very different environment and seem to have adapted to it and to getting up earlier reasonably well. I continued living by myself and managed to keep up with cooking, cleaning and shopping. I kept up with my religious obligations (prayer, study including my Talmud shiur (class)) to some extent and I now to get to shul (synagogue) for every service on Shabbat. I made a couple of new friends, began to fit in better to my new community, coped with my sister’s engagement and had a significantly less stressful Pesach (Passover) than I’ve had for the past couple of years. I started writing a book, or at least making one out of blog posts. I started this blog and have a couple of regular readers and I write fewer drama queen comments on Hevria now I can write here instead.
Still, it is difficult not to see the negatives too: I still work significantly less than full-time, I still don’t daven (pray) as often as I would like, with as good kavannah (concentration) as I would like or, on weekdays, with a minyan (prayer quorum). I still feel lonely, but I’m on the point of giving up on making new friends or dating again because they are so hard and they hurt so much. I still get tired very easily and I still have some religious problem areas, mostly triggered by stress or depression, but probably not excusable (e.g. irritability and sarcasm at times, particularly towards my parents). Like I said, so much of my life seems to come from routine rather than passion. My life at times runs like clockwork, which is certainly an improvement from the depths of paralyzing depression, but it’s about as interesting and joyous as clockwork too. I’m still lonely and miserable a lot of the time and I still feel like a misfit in too many situations, particularly among my co-religionists. Perhaps related to this stagnation, my creativity has suffered. I write here about how I feel and I’m working on re-writing and editing that Doctor Who book, but I have not written much in the way of poetry or fiction or articles for Hevria. I still feel blocked creatively, partly from experiencing rejection (it all comes down to rejection with me).
Going back to my rabbi’s questions, I enjoy work quite a bit, but not fully; I can tell, because I clock-watch a lot. I enjoy jogging and cooking sometimes (not simultaneously!), but they also both feel like chores a lot of the time. I’m not sure whether I enjoy writing or I just need to do it, I feel a compulsion to get my feelings down on paper (I think I do enjoy writing about Doctor Who, but it’s increasingly hard to feel I have something new to say, and I feel my style of writing doesn’t really fit in with the trends in critical thought in fandom). Religiously, I do enjoy Torah study at times, but not as much as I feel I should. I don’t really enjoy prayer or find it meaningful much of the time, I do it from obligation and because I know that to get to the few times when it is meaningful, I have to go through all the times when it is not. I don’t get much in the way of simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments). I meet my religious obligations not from fear, habit or social conformity, but from strong belief, understanding and acceptance of the teachings of the Torah and perhaps from love of God and Judaism, which is all good, but I don’t perform them from joy, as I should do. I have been told by my rabbi that I won’t be able to feel simcha shel mitzvah until I’m over the depression, but I don’t think I will ever fully be over the depression.
I can’t tell how much of this is depressive anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure, caused by depression) and how much is that I’m living the wrong life, doing the wrong things, trying to please the wrong people. I know that I love Judaism (not just the religion, but the history, the culture and the people, frustrating though all that can be at times) and I could never be happy without it, but I wonder if I need a different approach, somehow, but I’ve never really got into mussar and I can’t see myself as a Hasid and non-Orthodox Judaism wouldn’t work for me on multiple levels, would, in fact exacerbate my problems.
On another note, albeit related to personal growth and forcing myself to do things, I watched more of King Lear. It was probably not the best thing to watch, not just because it’s bleak, tragic and violent (“Out, vile jelly!”), but because it probably requires too much attention in my current state. It’s hard to tell what to do about serious culture when I’m depressed. I like reading big nineteenth century novels and reading and watching Shakespeare, but when I’m depressed it can be hard to get into the appropriate state of mind. However, I don’t want to give up on them long-term (given that I don’t think I will ever be fully recovered), so every so often I steel myself and try them, as with my currently reading Daniel Deronda and watching this. I guess it’s like jogging and writing and Torah study and prayer: I have to put a lot of effort in to get something out of it eventually and I just hope the cost-benefit ratio is good enough. I think I’m still getting something out of King Lear, though. It’s not my favourite Shakespeare play, but I think it is the most powerful in some ways. It’s a play that takes us to the limits of betrayal and madness, and beyond. It has a sort of nightmarish power even when I can’t take in the poetry and I’m going on my memory of the plot rather than what I see. And the production I’m watching is very well-acted.