So here we go again with social anxiety. Having discovered that I haven’t alienated my friends yesterday I’m now plunged into worrying what I should do about some events that are happening at shul (synagogue) over Shabbat (the Sabbath). First is an oneg (Shabbat party thing) on Friday night, then a “family seudah” (the third Shabbat meal) on Saturday afternoon. I would unhesitatingly go to the seudah, as I go to them every week that we have them (spring/summer time), except that it’s billed as a “family” seudah, which makes me worry that I’m going to be virtually the only unmarried and childless person there over the age of eighteen, which will prompt thoughts about being unloveable and alone forever. Even if there is nothing out of the ordinary about the seudah, I’ve now been prepared to feel like this by the name. But I get the impression that there is a quiz for the children at the very least.
I was going to try to go to the oneg, largely because of my resolution to try to do more social things to attack the social anxiety but, having been depressed all week, I’m not sure I can face it. My parents are out for dinner, so I’m not sure I wouldn’t be better off having a quiet evening in by myself. I’ve been so depressed I’ve barely opened a book all week, so it would be good to read for a bit. However, I’ve a feeling I will end up guilt-tripping myself into going and either having a lousy time not talking to anyone or standing outside crying, unable to get the courage to go in, both of which have happened on previous occasions when I tried to go to onegs.
I find it hard to say, “I don’t like social things and I don’t want to go to them” not least because it isn’t quite true. I do enjoy some social things, it’s just hard to predict in advance which ones I will like and which ones to avoid. Also, I was pushed to go to a lot of social things I disliked by my parents when I was younger and I’ve internalised the voice that says I must go to these things, even though I can’t find a good reason why I must go.
I sometimes wish I could be more open about my mental health issues and possible autistic spectrum disorder at work and at shul. My life might be a bit easier if people knew. At the very least, it might make me less paranoid that people are judging me when I turn up late for shul or miss it completely and it would save me having to lie about how I feel at work. I have told my boss, my rabbi and one other person at shul a bit about my mental health, but not everything; I have not told anyone about the Asperger’s because it seems wrong to bring it up when I was told I don’t have it. I think I have only briefly mentioned to my parents that I’ve been thinking a lot more about it. In any case, I’m worried that if I say too much about my mental health or Asperger’s at work they will find a pretext to fire me. That’s probably paranoia, but I do worry that if I say, “Look, I struggle with being on the issue desk and dealing with students sometimes because I’m autistic and not always good at social interactions and thinking on my feet” that will be seen as making excuses or, worse, they will say I won’t get better with time and will fire me.
It isn’t just the fear of dismissal (in all senses of the term) and stigma that keep me from admitting to my mental health issues and the Asperger’s. It’s just a big subject to ‘casually’ drop into the conversation, especially when you have poor social skills as I do. And the more I delay having the conversation, the harder it gets to say it. I only told my boss about the depression because I thought it was relevant to my work and my rabbi because he said something about depression in his shiur (class) and I wanted to ask him something about it. I did mention the Asperger’s at depression support group tonight (going there was also anxiety-provoking as I haven’t been for some months because it’s hard to go after work although going today it was quite positive in the end), but I think I only managed that because I knew that someone there had a child on the autistic spectrum which made me feel more confident about it. Someone said there was a good programme on TV the other week about Asperger’s that I might try to watch on iPlayer when I’m at my parents’ house after Shabbat (I don’t have a TV in my flat (I play DVDs on my laptop) so if I watch iPlayer I can get arrested “because of the unique way the BBC
extorts money is funded”).