First, I emailed my boss today to arrange a time to talk about my sister’s wedding. I’m putting it in the context of my mental health (and its deterioration) generally, rather than specifically asking for leniency regarding the wedding. We shall see what happens.
I was given some personal/religious tests over the weekend and I failed them. I won’t go into many details. The hardest one might have been a test I could never have passed, only one should not say such things. At any rate, I failed it, and even if I was set up to fail, I might have done better than I did. This all makes me feel singularly unprepared to date for marriage (rather than for fun), which is what I am on the point of doing, assuming that rabbi ever gets back to me. I am not in the best of moods at times at the moment and I continually feel burnt out. I miss shul and do not always daven (pray) at home in full or with kavannah (concentration). I skip Torah study. I skip household chores. I have little time to relax. I feel at the end of my tether at times. How can I date like this? How could I be remotely attractive or ready to marry? Certainly how can I date a frum woman? How could she be remotely interested in me?
My parents think that dating will help me, arguing that if I find someone to love me, I will feel better. This may be true, but I doubt anyone could love my current irritable, sarcastic, burnt out self. Everything I’ve read about dating for marriage (which is the Orthodox way of dating) says that one should be ready for marriage and its demands, that one should have resolved one’s inner problems and know who one is. I have not resolved my inner problems, and given that I have been struggling with them for perhaps twenty years or more, I probably never will do so. Which means I will never be ready to marry or be loved.
Someone whose blog I read is contemplating divorce from a husband of many years, on the grounds that his depression makes him emotionally distant and unresponsive. She married him to fix him and now realises that she can’t fix him. I fear that that could be me and my wife if I got married.
Related to this is the issue of values, of knowing one’s mission in life. I have heard from a couple of sources that one can find this by looking at what you would do if you had a very large sum of money (millions) and six hours a day to do what you want. Related to this is what, of all the things you have done, has brought you the most pleasure.
I have no idea what I would do with a large sum of money. If I had free time and no financial needs, I might write, but then again my self-criticism of my writing is strong enough that I might not, and even if I did, I don’t know what I would write about. I have no confidence in my writing. I enjoy writing about Doctor Who, but I can’t imagine that is my mission in life, nor that I can do it particularly well in a crowded marketplace; I feel it is unlikely that I will manage to sell my book if I finish it. Other than that, I don’t know.
I can’t tell what has brought me most pleasure in life, because so few things have got through the depressive anhedonia and brought me any pleasure, at least as an adult. I like helping people, but I’m not terribly good at it and I have to fight the social anxiety to do it. My parents would probably say that I don’t help that much, that I’m always too eager to scurry off to my private world. Certainly I struggle to deduce other people’s needs, to think of supplying them and to get the motivation to neglect my own tasks to help (Asperger’s again, perhaps). Sadly, introspection is not a divinely-inspired life mission, nor does it make me happy, but more agitated and depressed. I like playing with children, but think I’m unlikely ever to have any of my own and I’m wary of searching out opportunities to work or volunteer with them because I don’t feel that I’m good with them and worry about being responsible if something goes wrong as I have no real experience of being an adult responsible for young children, my sister being only a little younger than me and my cousins largely growing up abroad.
I used to enjoy being involved in my old shul, where I led services and gave drashot (short classes), but I feel too religiously inadequate in my current community to put myself forward for anything like that, even when the opportunities are available. In my old community, I was one of a very small number of religiously capable people, but here everyone else is much better at that sort of thing that I am, so I leave them to it. Anyway, I used to feel bad for enjoying those things, as it felt too much like showing off.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think love and intimacy are what I’m looking for in life, but it’s hard to be sure when they are so fraught with danger for me and hard to find so I don’t really know what they are like very well. I don’t know if getting married and having a family can be one’s life mission; at any rate, this article, suggests otherwise, that family is a general mission everyone has, not one’s unique, divinely ordained purpose in being here. Anyway, if it is my life mission, I’m failing at it spectacularly.
A number of books I was cataloguing today had Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in them, which I was already familiar with, but which reminded me again how few of my needs are being met. On the lowest level of the pyramid, my basic physiological needs are met, except for sex. In theory my safety needs are met, except that my financial position is precarious (and still dependent on my parents), but my social anxiety often leaves me feeling unsafe. On the third, level, love and belonging, I have some friends and relatives I am somewhat close to, but my friends tend to live far away and be inaccessible, while friends and family alike do not always understand me, nor do I always understand them. Certainly my love and belonging needs are not met enough even if they are met in part. As for the highest levels of esteem and self-actualisation, I have zero self-esteem (I don’t know if I have respect from others) and no self-actualisation – as I say, I don’t know what self-actualisation would look like for me.
So there you go, I feel pretty useless and despairing today. I struggled to do my work because I was feeling depressed and I spent part of my lunch break drafting this, which was a mistake, as it put me in a bad state of mind for the afternoon rather, whereas working on my book in my break is somewhat refreshing. I suppose I’ll muddle through, I usually do, but I’m fed up of muddling through. I want to have a proper, stable life, with love (of all kinds), friendship, stability, self-esteem and maybe even one day elements of self-actualisation.