I don’t really feel like blogging, but I want to get my thoughts down from the last three days. We had another three day Yom Tov (Jewish festival: actually two days Yom Tov, one day Shabbat (Sabbath)) – the way the festivals this time of year are spaced out, if you get one three day Yom Tov, you get three (got another one to look forward to next week…) and those are draining even for people without mental health issues. Three days of prayer and over-eating is probably too much even for the super-frum (pious) (i.e. people not like me).
Tuesday night I went over to my parents’ house to help prepare for Sukkot (Tabernacles) and went to bed quite late as a result. Wednesday was spent hurrying around. I did six hours at work (my usual work day is seven hours, so this was nearly a full day) with only half an hour for lunch so I could leave at 3.30pm to get home in time to get ready for Yom Tov). I went to shul in the evening and atein the sukkah (the makeshift hut in the garden where we eat and ideally sleep (not usually in England, though!) during Sukkot to remember the Israelite’s life in the wilderness) was fine, with no real religious OCD (it was very bad at Sukkot last year).
However, by Thursday morning I was burnt out from a couple of busy days and couldn’t get up. I missed the whole of shul (synagogue) that morning. In the evening I was out to dinner at the sukkah of a friend from shul (I’ll call him H) with his family another shul friend. The OCD was a little worse, but mostly under control and I had a good time without social anxiety. When the second friend had left and the family had gone indoors I was sitting in the sukkah with H talking and I opened up a bit about my mental health issues. Not a lot, just a little bit to see if I could do it. That seemed to go OK. I don’t think I need to tell everyone all about my depression, OCD, social anxiety and borderline Asperger’s, but I think I can open up a little to selected individuals to explain things like why I wasn’t in shul that morning.
On Friday morning I got to shul very late, but I did make it. I hate walking in late feeling like everyone is judging me, but I managed it. I was given an honour of holding the Torah scroll when the community processes around the shul singing Hoshanah. This is usually given to a mourner (as they aren’t allowed to join the procession), but my shul is small and doesn’t always have a mourner present, which I guess was why they needed someone else, although I have no idea why the shammash picked me. I made the mistake of telling my Dad, though, as he gets superstitious about it – he was given the honour one year and his mother died a few months later, so I did wish I hadn’t said anything to him.
On Friday evening there was an oneg at the assistant rabbi’s sukkah. An oneg is a sort of Shabbat party with drinking, junk food, singing and religious stories and chat; this was combined with a Simchat Beit HaSho’evah which is a Sukkot party. I forced myself to go thinking I wouldn’t like it. I got in this time, which is more than I managed last time I tried to go to one. It was OK, but not great. I seemed to be very sensitive to the noise and found it uncomfortable; I can’t tell if I noticed this because I’ve been thinking about sensory sensitivity because I’ve been thinking about having Asperger’s lately or if I would have felt like this anyway. I also felt religiously inadequate compared with everyone else there. It was the usual feeling of feeling bad for not having gone to yeshivah, not doing enough Torah study or Torah study of a high enough standard (Talmud), not being married and not having kids unlike everyone else (in reality or in my head). Also a bit of envy of people who can keep and enjoy Yom Tov (simchat Yom Tov) as a Jew should without having OCD and anxiety about whether they have kept all the halakhot (laws) properly that stops me fully enjoying it. To make it worse, the assistant rabbi (whose house it was) and one other person there were people I was at school with and whenever I see them, I reflect on how our lives have led us in different directions, them to get smichah (ordination, although I don’t know if the second one works as a rabbi in some capacity or has a ‘normal’ job), get married and have children and me… not having any of those positive things. It didn’t help that I didn’t know many of the songs people were singing and I don’t drink so I don’t have the benefit of the good whisky that is always provided at these things and even a lot of the food didn’t really appeal and the food I really wanted was at the other end of the table and I was too shy to ask someone to pass it down.
I did manage to stay for an hour and I wasn’t crawling up the walls trying to escape, so I must have enjoyed it a bit on some level and I will probably try to go to another one before I give up on these things completely. At any rate, it was good to get seen as part of the community and participate in a collective event, but it was hard and it did make me a bit envious of people who can easily enjoy these types of social events and the camaraderie there is at them.
On the way home I saw a cat I used to see sometimes when I went to my parents’ shul. I stood in the road talking to the cat for some reason, making silly jokes, including one bilingual one. I am probably a bit crazy for speaking more to a cat than to the people in the oneg. I’m not even an animal person. The cat must have liked me, because it kept purring and trying to rub against my legs and get me to pet it, but the laws of petting animals you don’t own on Shabbat are complicated so I thought it was best not to touch it; I was also worried it would bite or scratch me. Maybe I’ll walk back to that road tomorrow and see if I can see it again so I can stroke it. I would have liked to have stroked it, I think.
I came home a bit depressed that the evening didn’t quite go the way I liked and I was still feeling that religious envy, wishing I could be a good Jew, feeling lonely and wishing I could get married and so on.
I was burnt out again today and missed shul in the morning again although I did go in the evening. I feel really bad about this. I also wonder if it means I shouldn’t date. I was trying to use the Yom Tovim to gauge whether I am ready to date, to see if I was able to get to shul, to socialise and if I was consumed with depression, OCD and social anxiety. I hoped I would get a clear answer, but it’s mixed: I have had some depression and social anxiety, but not all the time and the OCD has mostly been under control. Simchat Torah next week will probably be extra-hard and confuse things even more, but I will probably write more on that next week. My Mum said to contact the shadchanit (matchmaker) who specialises in people with health issues and see if she can match me with someone who might accept that I can’t always do the ‘normal’ frum male things (have spent serious time in yeshivah; daven three times a day every day, preferably in shul; go to shul on Shabbat and Yom Tov; do serious Torah study regularly if not every day). Of course, this makes me wonder if I’m mature enough to accept her issues because undoubtedly I will need to make compromises, more than in a ‘normal’ marriage… We were talking in the sukkah one night about how many of my parents’ friends children are now divorced. It’s scary. I was envious of them when they got married and now I’m scared I’ll end up like them, because I’m not great at interpersonal stuff, although I think like a lot of people with depression or Asperger’s, I’m very loyal to the few people I open up to.
I’m off to have a bite to eat in our sukkah, hopefully before it starts raining again. My parents have friends here in the sukkah, which is not ideal for me, but I get on with them so it should be OK. I would like to unwind in front of some Doctor Who later although I don’t know how much time I will get; unfortunately as I’m watching Doctor Who in order, I’m stuck on Underworld which is probably my least favourite story of the seventies. It isn’t even amusingly bad, it’s just D-U-L-L.