Confusion

I feel a bit apprehensive writing about being a virgin in his mid-thirties, although I have written several times about it (I’m hoping this post doesn’t just duplicate the previous ones.  I suspect it might, as sometimes I need to work at an inner feeling or thought process for a long time, years even, until I understand it or see the flaws behind it).  I guess it’s considered an embarrassing subject.  In the frum (Orthodox Jewish and religious) community it’s very unusual to be a virgin at this age, as everyone is supposed to be married by now.  In mainstream Western society marriage is not such an inevitable feature of life at this stage, but everyone seems to be assumed to have been sexually active since their teens.  Certainly when I was an undergraduate (back in the era of dodos if not dinosaurs) the assumption seemed to be that everyone was having sex and the discussion, so much as there was any, was about safe sex.  I’m assuming these days undergraduates are exposed to a lot more discussion about what constitutes consent, but either way the assumption is that everyone is sexually active and the only question is how to manage that safely, not whether there are circumstances in which celibacy is acceptable, let alone preferable.  Even at the secondary school I went to, which was Jewish, but not particularly religious, the discussion of sex was fairly minimal and largely limited to the biological facts.  I doubt anyone really wanted fifteen or sixteen year old children sleeping around, but the emotional issues around sex or even dating weren’t discussed in class (I don’t know what the students discussed, because I didn’t get involved in those kinds of conversations).

I don’t know why this is such a big issue for me, although I have made a few suggestions in the past.  I don’t drink, due to fear of alcohol as much as the fact that alcohol is a depressant and that I’m on medication, but I don’t obsess on how much I’m missing out on by not having a whisky with the men at kiddush after shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (the Sabbath).  I want to discuss my sexuality in therapy, but I rarely seem to get around to it and I struggle to find the words, including when I post about it.  I’ve posted about it multiple times because I’ve never been able to really understand or articulate the vague and inchoate things I feel, to the extent that I’m wondering if this is some Freudian mechanism and I’m unconsciously stopping myself from talking about it properly, both on the blog and in therapy.

Obviously, unless you’re actually asexual (which I’m not) sex is going to figure in your life in some way, probably quite a big one.  I read somewhere that sex is like water: if you’ve got it, you don’t think about it, but if you haven’t got it, you can’t think about anything else.  That’s how I feel a lot of the time.   I don’t want to think about sex, but often I can’t not think about it.  It doesn’t help that we live in a highly sexualised society compared with even a couple of decades ago.  I went into Smiths (newsagents/stationery shop) to buy writing paper and as I walked past the magazines the covers were yelling at me that they had tips to improve my sex life (well, I guess it couldn’t get any worse).  I feel very guilty if I feel attracted to someone passing by without my really being able to articulate why I feel guilty.  I guess it’s partly halakhic (Jewish law) reasons and partly feminism, but also that it makes me feel so lonely and unlovable.  And I guess there are a load of subsidiary fears, like if I somehow do manage to get married, will my wife even fancy me, let alone love me, or will she just ‘settle’ for me because I’m not an awful person and she’s lonely and wants children?  I don’t want someone to settle for me, I want to be loved for who I am (which I guess is the downside for going to a shadchan (matchmaker) for people with ‘issues’ – the fear that we’re both settling because we have issues).

Partly, as I’ve said before, it’s about being an adult more than being about sex per se.  Sex is practically the most adult thing one can do, I suppose, aside from having a baby.  So it becomes symbolic of all the other adult things I can’t or don’t do: drive, work full-time, drink, pay a mortgage, have dinner guests…  Doubly so now my (younger) sister is married.  But I think I would rather be sexually satisfied than drive or drink alcohol.  I do often feel like a fraud, someone ‘passing’ as an adult rather than really being one.  When my colleagues at work, all of whom have children and all bar one of whom are married or in a relationship, talk about their home lives with children and significant others, I feel infantilised, as if I’m not truly an adult because I do not have a partner or child.  I actually feel much younger than all of them, even though one of my colleagues is my age and another is only two years older.  That feeling is partly from being the newest one to the team, of course, and the fact that I am still learning the ropes at work, but being unable to join in with discussions about home life in the same way doesn’t help.

Beyond that, I suppose I don’t really know how to deal with my inner drives in general.  I’ve mentioned before that I seem to have alexithymia, an inability to understand my own emotions.  Certainly the emotions around sex are particularly difficult to understand, with it provoking love, lust, curiosity, fear, desire, guilt, shame, despair, anxiety, worthlessness, tenderness, perhaps even anger, a whole cocktail of emotions that I don’t really understand or know how to deal with and which I am not always fully aware of.  Often I just feel bad when I find someone attractive and it’s only lately, now that I’m really trying to probe my emotions to deal with the alexithymia, that I can begi to identify these feelings.

It is doubly difficult when the feelings surround a ‘real’ person I’m crushing on (rather than a daydream or famous person I’m attracted to), because I don’t really know how to express those feelings to someone, particularly if they aren’t interested.  I’ve only ever dated six people anyway, but of those six I was set up on blind dates with two and two approached me on a dating site, so there were only two that I actually asked out myself.  I have asked other women who turned me down, including a couple who I thought liked me (one of whom I had an anxiety dream about last night.  It seems that well over a decade later, I’m not fully over the situation, even though I know she’s married to someone else now), but I still find it hard to ask women out, hence part of the reason I’m going to a shadchan (matchmaker), because singles events are a non-starter for me, even beyond the fact that events in the Orthodox world are increasingly gender-segregated (which I think is a massive mistake and totally unnecessary, but that’s a subject for another time).

Freudian psychology is out of fashion, I think, in academia and certainly Freud and Judaism are seen as opposed (by Freud as well as by rabbis).  But I think there is common ground in a number of areas, from my limited knowledge of each.  One thing Freudian psychology and Orthodox Judaism have in common is the sense of the importance of the libido as a key component of the human psyche (libido in psychological terms is not synonymous with sex drive, but sex is a big part of it).  In Judaism there is an acknowledgement that sex within marriage is a positive, healthy thing, essential for psychological well-being.  There is also an acknowledgement that more highly achieving people tend to have higher libidos, which can get them into trouble if they aren’t careful and that curbing the sex drive is very difficult and it is better sublimated than totally repressed.  Hence the whole machinery of Jewish sexual interactions, both active (e.g. early marriage) and precautionary (e.g. limiting interactions between men and women who aren’t married to each other or close blood relations).

Where this becomes difficult is this sense that I have powerful urges inside of me that I fear that I can’t control.  I guess it’s like waking up and discovering that one is flying a 747 with no knowledge of how to fly even a little glider.  I’m frightened of sex, as I’m frightened by any sense of power that I might have (hence avoiding davening from the amud (leading prayers in shul), showing off my knowledge whether Torah or secular etc.).  It’s hard to know what to do or who I can talk to or how to talk about things I have no vocabulary to talk about.  I have no vocabulary because in frum circles sex is simply not talked about, whereas in mainstream circles it’s not spoken about with a vocabulary I feel comfortable using or in language I can understand (not having experienced it and with alexithymia that means that descriptions of emotions are not always helpful to me).  I wouldn’t know who to talk to about it and I don’t know what I would ask.

I guess a lot of it is ‘unknown unknowns’ again, which I can’t prepare for, the biggest being whether I would be able to give to someone in that way and whether I would feel comfortable being ‘known’ so intimately by someone or whether it would feel uncomfortable or invasive.  My highly limited and tame experiences in this regard in the past are not encouraging in this respect.  I want to be accepted and sex and love might feel like acceptance, but then they might be yet more things that make me feel uncomfortable and which I am incompetent at.  It’s impossible to tell, which I suppose makes it such a scary, unknowable thing.

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“I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing”

I had a difficult Shabbat (Sabbath).  I struggled to get to shul (synagogue) on Friday evening.  I just felt too depressed and socially anxious.  I got into a whole load of social anxiety about my kippah (skullcap).  To understand this, you have to understand that in the Orthodox world, one’s style of kippah is often a signal of religious and even political identity, but I just wear things I like without worrying too much about what others think (or trying not to).  I was wearing the kippah my aunt and uncle bought me a few weeks ago, a very large, white crocheted one, which is the style associated with the Religious Zionist movement (with which I do not entirely identify).  I was worried that by wearing this, the rabbis of the shul, who I suspect are non- or anti-Zionist, would think negatively of me.  In the end, I didn’t go up to them after the service to shake hands and wish them a “Gut Shabbes.”  I haven’t done this for about two months, because of social anxiety, so the kippah was not the sole issue here, but it was a contributory factor.  It’s difficult to be frum sometimes when frum people seem determined to make it much harder to fit in that it should be.  Being frum is definitely a lot more than just “Read these books and keep these laws.”  There’s a lot of social etiquette that isn’t written down anywhere and newcomers are expected to learn as they go along, which is probably difficult even if you aren’t borderline autistic and have problems reading and learning social cues.

I spent most of Shabbat wrestling with upsetting thoughts.  I put on a brave face during meals, but before and afterwards I spent a lot of time in bed, feeling overwhelmed.  (It didn’t help that my room was so dark with just the dim Shabbos lamp for company.)  I spent a lot of time thinking about the people on Hevria.com who insist that if you promise to serve HaShem (God), all kinds of miracles will immediately come your way, and thinking as this doesn’t happen to me, HaShem must hate me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about dictators and serial killers and trying to work out if I was better than they were.  Probably, but it’s hard to be sure.  I couldn’t sleep at night, so I had lots of time to lie awake thinking about this.  The insomnia was probably because I forgot to take my medication, which doesn’t do very much except knock me out at night.  To be fair, as I’ve said in the past, it probably does turn ‘unbearable suicidal depression with zero functionality’ into ‘slightly more bearable non-suicidal depression with enough functionality to do boring things like go to work, but not actually enjoy myself or get a life.’  Which I guess is something.  But not much when it’s 2.30am and I’m lying in bed trying to work out who is worse: Jack the Ripper, Hitler or me?  OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, as by 2.30am I’d given up on trying to sleep and was reading about Harold Macmillan and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which probably wasn’t the best thing to make me fall asleep, but was at least more interesting than proving to myself that God really hates me and I won’t have any share in Olam HaBa (the next world i.e. Heaven) for the umpteenth time.  There is a part of me that thinks that this is probably exaggeration and I can’t really be that bad, but whenever I try to look at things calmly and assess how good I am more objectively, the answer always seems to come out that I’m the most evil person ever (or one of them, at any rate) and I can’t find the mistake in my workings.

The other thing I was thinking about was whether I’m the last person from my school year to lose his/her virginity.  Why this seemed so important to me is beyond me, but I do feel inadequate even though I don’t know for sure it’s true (although it’s very likely to be true).  I do feel that I’m not an adult for being perennially single, not fitting in to a frum community and only working part-time in a fairly lowly job (even when I’m not worried about being fired because of some depression-, social anxiety- or Asperger’s-related incident).  I do think I’m going to be the last one from my school year to die, but that’s mostly because I have a feeling I’m going to end up like the Wandering Jew, Flying Dutchman or Ancient Mariner and just end up going on in loneliness and misery long after everyone I know has shuffled off this mortal coil.  This is as irrational as the whole ‘I’m worse than Hitler’ thing, but it feels emotionally true nonetheless.  I do feel so much older than everyone else, even though a lot of my friends are chronologically older than me.  I feel like I’ve been here for centuries.  The world does not improve with age.

I did a little bit of Torah study on Friday night and I got to shul for Ma’ariv (the evening service), but not Mincha (the afternoon service), but I missed shul today.  In fact, I missed Shacharit and Musaf (the morning and additional services) entirely and did truncated versions of Mincha and Ma’ariv at home because I didn’t have the energy to do the whole thing.  I didn’t even have the energy to feel particularly guilty about this.  I do wonder if I should be thinking about dating in this state, though, partly as I’m sure anyone frum enough for me to want to date would want someone more committed to davening and Torah illnesses notwithstanding and partly because I don’t really feel in a good enough state to worry about it.  I haven’t sent my shidduch profile off yet, so I suppose I can always back out.

I had a list of chores to do after Shabbat finished this evening, but most of them had to wait as I had to help with preparations for my room at my parents’ house being redecorated this week.  I’m a bit grumpy about this, as I don’t really want it decorated and resent the work I’m having to put in to get it ready, and the much bigger hassle of putting the books (nearly 1,000, excluding the 150 or so downstairs and another 50 or so in the flat) and DVDs (a couple of hundred) back in the right order in a few weeks’ time.  I’m sufficiently autistic that the upheaval itself depresses me and I only live there one day a week now, as does the thought of books going back in the wrong order and me not noticing.  I suppose in a few weeks time it will look better when I’m there, which will be nice, but I’m not sure that the cost/benefit trade off is really in my favour; as with my sister’s wedding and as with work, it’s another stressful, mental health-triggering thing that I have to do more than I want to do and I have to just get through it as best as I can.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I shouldn’t be blogging.  It’s Shabbat in two hours, I need to pack and go to my parents’ house, I’ve been up less than an hour and I’m still more than half asleep, I should be in the shower.  But I feel exhausted and very depressed and need to vent.  I guess seeing my sister yesterday was more draining than I thought, even before I stayed up late working on my shidduch (dating) profile.

All kinds of thoughts are going through my head, just slowly, because I’m so lethargic.  I had another anxiety dream, this time about my sister’s wedding, which is silly as it was nearly a month ago and I didn’t have to make a speech like I did in the dream.  I guess it was difficult for me and I’m still working it through.

I was thinking about my childhood best friend, probably because my sister asked about him yesterday.   We’re still friends, but haven’t seen each other for a couple of years, between my depression and his busy job.  We drifted apart in secondary school, though.  My Mum always wanted to split us up; he wasn’t a bad influence (far from it), but she felt I just hung around with him and didn’t make any new friends.  I think if she had sent me to a different school, I would just have made no friends, which is sort of what happened at Oxford.  OK, I made a couple of friends, but I didn’t really recognise them as friends until we left and they wanted to stay in touch, to my surprise, plus one or two who I lost contact with, but who then found me online and resumed the friendship.  I probably should have been separated from him though.  I was in his shadow, Ernie Wise to his Eric Morecambe, and it probably fuelled my low self-esteem, on an unconscious level.  He’s an intensely charismatic, intelligent, active, positive person and I’ve never been able to compete with him.  All the teachers knew him, even the ones who didn’t teach him, whereas even the teachers who had taught me tended not to forget me.  He’s had his share of problems, but he always seems to push through them and sort them out relatively quickly (within a year or so, compared to me struggling for half my lifetime or more with mental health issues).  He’s married to his school sweetheart, the only girl he ever dated, they have two children, he has a great job… his life is sort of the one I thought I would get, being married with children and a fulfilling job.  He’s a great person too, much better than me, kind, thoughtful and empathetic.  I shouldn’t compare myself, but it’s hard not to sometimes.

I sometimes wonder what happened to my friends and peers (including the ones who bullied me).  I drifted away from my other friends when they got interested in girls, alcohol and, in some cases, drugs.  Or when they went to the other extreme and went off to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I was scared of all those things.  I wonder what they are doing,  how many are married, how many have children, how many are happy… I know some are married, some in relationships, some with children.  I’m guessing most are working, although you can’t tell these days.  I think I came across a book by one of my old friends in my previous library job.  It was hard to be sure as his name is fairly common and the author picture on the inside flap looked different to how he looked at thirteen (bald and with a beard).  I certainly heard that he was a professional historian at Oxford.  My subject, my university.  Sigh.

This is when I start feeling solipsistic.  It’s easier to tell myself that everyone else is a figment of my imagination than to confront the fact that everyone is doing better than I am.  I can’t even say, “Well, at least I’m happy.”  Because I’m not.

I wonder if they ever think about me, and what they think when they do.  Do the bullies still mock me?

I’m sorry, I’m too morose today.  Thinking about school reminds me that my friends at school use to tease me about being a Doctor Who fan (except the friend above, he would never do that, in fact he got me into the programme), saying I would marry a Dalek.  To be honest, marrying a Dalek seems more likely today than marrying a sweet, frum, geeky girl.  If I had been more into Star Trek, maybe they would have said I would marry a Klingon, which would be kind of sexy.  Although a boring Vulcan would probably be more my level.

“You can’t mend people, can you?”

Whatever it was that upset me yesterday has really taken it’s toll, much more than I expected.  I went to bed about 1am, which was ridiculously late, having stayed up late working on my shidduch (dating) profile and blogging.  (Weirdly, I got eight likes on the post that I thought was melodramatic and awful.  Shows what I know.)  I woke up about 7.20am, freezing cold.  After half an hour in bed I decided to get up, even though I was very tired, but then decided to try making a hot water bottle first.  Of course, I fell asleep again.  I woke up a couple of times in the morning, each time after strange and disturbing anxiety dreams that I only vaguely remember now, if at all (but partly connected with work, I think), but I didn’t wake up and get up until gone 1pm.  Even then I only really got up out of necessity as I knew I had a lot to do and a time limit, as I was meeting my sister for dinner.  Still, it was almost impossible to get going.  I just felt drained: exhausted and depressed (with a touch of loneliness) without really knowing why.  It’s hard sometimes to work out what exactly triggers me; it doesn’t help that I have multiple and uncertain diagnoses, aside from severe, treatment-resistant depression, which is pretty obvious.  I think that’s the only thing I’ve ever been “officially” diagnosed with; all the others (OCD, social anxiety, Asperger’s) have been conjecture on my part, although the OCD in particular was obvious enough that I don’t have any doubts about it unlike the Asperger’s; the social anxiety is somewhere between the two.

It was hard to get dressed.  I was still in my pyjamas at 3.15pm.  I surfed online without really being able to read anything properly, played music without listening, picked up a graphic novel and put it down again, went back to bed repeatedly and got up repeatedly.  I cried a bit.  One of my friends sent me a link about anxiety; if, as it said, pacing is a sign of anxiety, then I was very anxious.  (Actually, if pacing and irritability are signs of anxiety, then I’m generally much more anxious than I thought I was.)  I davened Mincha (said afternoon prayers) at the last minute, with zero kavannah (concentration), davening largely by heart, even though I hate doing that, because I was too exhausted and depressed to focus on the words on the page.  I had lunch at 4pm, which was silly when I was due to go out for dinner at 7pm, but I needed to restore low blood sugar.

I had several major jobs to do today (clean the flat, do more window shopping of books (online this time) for work, work on my shidduch profile) and some minor ones.  All I did was daven a little bit and eat, then go out to eat more with my sister.

I have done very little this holiday, although I guess it’s a hard holiday to do anything, particularly if you don’t celebrate anything: cold and dark and everything shut.  I haven’t even done much work on my book, because I’m reluctant to sit and just watch TV, even in the name of research.  I just set myself targets to do things and then feel depressed and procrastinate and do nothing and then beat myself up for falling short of my targets, when I should at least just sit and watch a DVD and enjoy myself.  I spent my term waiting for the holiday to get away from the stress of work and now I’m more than halfway through my holiday waiting, albeit nervously, for work to restart to get some structure back into my life.

I did manage to drag myself out the flat and off to have dinner with my sister, the first time I’ve seen her without other family members since she got married a few weeks ago (her husband being out for the evening).  She seems very happy, which is good, if a little stressed by having to move all her things from her old flat to her husband’s flat, discarding things for which there is no room as well as dealing with the email backlog from her honeymoon.  We had a good time and I actually felt happy (I think… ironically, someone was just asking me about my alexithymia (inability to identify emotions)) for the first time in far too long.  I guess there’s a lesson in there about my need to socialise, albeit in one-to-one or small group situations.

I decided to work on my shidduch (dating) profile when I got home, despite it being late as I felt wide awake.  I never know how to pitch these type of things (dating profiles).  My inclination is always to be quite specific in order to weed out people who are a really obviously bad fit before it even gets to a date.  So I’ve put that I’m interested in the thought of various contemporary rabbis (which is true) all of whom are controversial for various reasons, so anyone who reads the profile who sees them as too ‘modern’, ‘secular’ or ‘Zionist’ would not want to date me.  (I didn’t put them because they were controversial; rather, they are thinkers who matter to me, but who I know are considered controversial).  I would consider this a worthwhile move, saving me a date that will go nowhere (which I think most people would want even if they didn’t have social anxiety or Asperger’s), but I’m worried the shadchan (matchmaker) will tell me to be more general so as not to put people off.  This type of thing can get very silly and political (in a broad sense): if I mention this, they’ll assume I do that, but if say I follow him, they’ll assume I think the other.  I’ve found myself using more Hebrew than I normally would in general conversation, to say, “Look, I may not have gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), but I can still talk the talk!”  I didn’t mention Doctor Who either, although I did mention being a science fiction fan.  I don’t specifically need to marry a Doctor Who fan and I didn’t want to risk sounding like I do (or sounding like an obsessive fan with no other interests).

This type of thing is a can of worms even for people who don’t have borderline autistic issues with communication!  It doesn’t help that I’m not too sure what is required.  I wrote quite a bit about myself (basically a job application for the job of “husband to a sweet, frum, geeky girl”), but from the comments I’ve seen online, I think that should only be a short paragraph and the main thing is to write about the religious backgrounds of one’s parents (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not).

Also, I’ve discovered that I’m a more interesting person than I thought I was.  I look forward to meeting myself one day and maybe finally becoming friends.

I feel the usual mixture of excitement and fear about dating.  I’m excited that maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who is an amazing match for me and maybe I’m even an amazing match for her.  However, I’m scared about dating.  I’m scared about doing the wrong thing.  I’m scared of rejection.  I’m scared that I’m not ready for dating and I’m certainly not ready for marriage and I’m going to hurt myself and, worse, someone else.  I’m scared about the “unknown unknowns” I don’t even know to worry about yet.  I’m scared that the only person who could love me is someone even more messed up than I am, who would ignore me when I need help and would expect more from me than I can give and would trample all over my boundaries (this has happened to me before).  I suppose one just has to dive in sometimes and hope for the best, alien though that is to how I usually like to behave.

Apology

It’s always questionable whether one should return to a blog post one regrets after finishing it, or if one becomes a fool returning to his folly (like a dog returning to its vomit, according to Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible).  I sort of regret the last post, but I’m leaving it up because I don’t fully regret it.  I regret ending on such a pessimistic and self-loathing note, but I do genuinely think I will be alone forever, and jumping through shidduch (matchmaking) hoops becomes harder when I can’t see a positive outcome.

I don’t know why I got into such a dark place this evening.  It may be that going to the cinema was a mistake.  I always seem to come away from the theatre or the cinema feeling a bit melancholy, but I always assumed it was to do with the content of the play or film or envy of seeing the performers applauded on stage in the case of the theatre and wishing someone would applaud me and my work/life.  But maybe it is an autistic thing about noise and sensory overload or a social anxiety thing about crowds.  I don’t want to cut yet another thing out of my life, though, especially as I only go to the cinema once or twice a year, the theatre probably even less frequently.

Despite this, today I’m thinking that I’m probably not really on the autistic spectrum at all.  I just finished reading another book on Asperger’s (Aspertools) and felt that the advice in there was either obvious things I’ve been doing for years and don’t associate with my possible Asperger’s (break tasks into little steps; write lists) or things that are clearly written for people with much more serious issues than I have which just makes me feel guilty about poor functionality when I might not even be on the spectrum.

Anyway, something overwhelmed me today, whether it was just depression or noise or crowds and I sunk into the usual pit of despair.  I shouldn’t have broadcast it all here though.  When I’m very depressed, I suppose I just look to provoke a response from people, either to tell me that things will improve, or, better, to agree that they are hopeless (better because I don’t believe they will improve).  I shouldn’t play games like this, but I do and have done for years.  I was reflecting today that I have long since forgiven the people who hurt me as a child, but I can’t move on from the feelings of being worthless and hopeless that they created.  I do worry that if I got married, not only would I not be able to feel any better, I would discount the relationship in the way that, when the depression is bad, I find it hard to remember that my parents love me and that I do have a few friends who seem to like me at least a bit.  To be fair, I don’t think I really did that when I was in a relationship or when I was in a semi-relationship this summer.  Also, I find it harder to discount relationships when someone is actually there being friendly or loving to me.  This is why it’s so problematic that most of my friends live away from London.

I ate dinner and watched Doctor Who (which I wouldn’t normally do after spending three hours in the cinema, but I was desperate) and felt a bit better.  I have started to write my shidduch profile.  So far I’ve just done the personal details, which took long enough.  The actual who-I-am-and-what-I’m-looking-for bit will have to wait, although I can just edit from previous online dating profiles.  In the end I decided to leave out a lot of information about my family.  If I’m asked for it, I will give it, but it was intrusive enough having to give my parents’ names and shul affiliation.  I wasn’t going to list their educational background just to feel even more of a useless ba’al teshuva (penitent, but in this context someone raised non-religious who became religious later in life).  I already feel bad that I haven’t got a yeshiva on there and that my secondary school, although Jewish and Orthodox, was not at all religious.   Even going to Oxford seems like a bad thing in this context.  A frum person would have gone to a London university so he could stay with his parents in a frum community – or not gone to university at all, of course.  I do at least have rabbis for references, but it probably looks suspicious that I don’t have any references who are “friends, roommates, chavrusas (study partners)”.  I don’t have many friends, almost none I could ask to give me a reference and almost all my friends are problematic in frum terms, being not frum, not Jewish or not male (I’m not sure which of these would be worst).

On the plus side, I have discovered that I have the contact details for eight rabbis plus one rabbinic trainee.  Nearly a minyan.  If I ever get arrested, I’m going to have so many character witnesses!  Of course, shidduch dating also requires character references, for much the same reason.

Anyway, this was supposed to be an apology post, but it has mutated into another general post, even though I was trying to stop posting twice a day.  Also, it’s twenty past eleven and I was originally planning to get an early night, ha ha.

Prufrock

I went to the cinema today to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  It was difficult.  Just getting the energy to go there was hard enough.  I nearly turned back at the bus stop.  The shopping centre the cinema is in was full of sales shopper, far too busy for me.  The film did not really hold my attention and I suddenly started crying in the middle of it (silently, thankfully).  My mind kept wandering to other thoughts, some prompted by the film, others just coming out of nowhere.  Well, not really nowhere, they are the thoughts I have all the time, but they weren’t directly sparked by the film.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is the concepts of yeud and tikkun (destiny/mission and rectification) in Judaism.  The concepts are particularly associated with kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and mussar (ethical character development), but are not unique to them.  Yeud is one’s mission or purpose in life and is a positive action to be done; tikkun is a the key character flaw that one has to rectify in oneself and often manifests as an action to be avoided.

I have been thinking about them with regard to dating and more generally.  I don’t know what my yeud or tikkun are.  I have heard that to find your yeud, you should think about what you would do with unlimited time and money.  I honestly don’t know what I would do.  Going by what I enjoy doesn’t help as depressive anhedonia means that I don’t really enjoy anything very much.  I suppose enjoy writing; at any rate, I give up my lunch breaks at work to write (my book or my blog), so I guess it must have some meaning and joy for me.  But I’m a very bad writer and over a decade of practise hasn’t got me very far.  I very much doubt I will ever get that book published, for example.  In any case, I can’t imagine HaShem (God) put me on earth to write about Doctor Who or to witter on endlessly about how depressed and lonely I am.  When I was too depressed to work I had lots of time (albeit with limited money and no energy and poor concentration and motivation) and I did do a lot of writing.  However, it never really got me anywhere, bar getting a couple of readers who are still with me on this blog.  Even then I spent a lot of time just idly surfing the net, looking for something but not knowing what.  I guess this is where a lot of people start looking at religion, to find meaning or purpose, except that I already have religion and it doesn’t help me in these respects.  Maybe it would be different if I could write something decent and meaningful: poetry, fiction, criticism, mental health-related writing – I have tried all without much success (success both in terms of number of readers and feeling I have achieved something/happiness with what I have done).

As for my tikkun, that’s just as hard to find.  I can think of lots of character flaws or religious flaws that I have.  Working out which is the most serious is rather harder.  Maybe if I understood properly I would see they come under a general heading like, “Be accepting of others” or even “Be accepting of yourself.”

I have been thinking a lot recently of Lord Lundy who, according to Hillaire Belloc (a raging antisemite, but we’ll ignore that for now) “was too freely moved to tears and thereby ruined his political career” and not just because I cry a lot at the moment.  It’s this verse I keep thinking of: “‘Sir! you have disappointed us!/We had intended you to be/The next Prime Minister but three:/The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:/The Middle Class was quite prepared./But as it is! . . . My language fails!/Go out and govern New South Wales!”  I don’t think anyone was literally expecting me to be the next Prime Minister but three, but I have long felt myself to be a disappointment to my parents and teachers.  My parents deny this and most of my teachers have probably forgotten me (they could barely remember me when I was still in school/university), but still the feeling persists.  The feeling that I should have done something with my life, more than just being “a poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian” at an FE college somewhere.  That I had the brains and background to make something of my life, and I lost it because of my mental health.  I look at my peers (the few I’m still in touch with) and see doctors, lawyers, rabbis, executives of big charities, civil servants, political speechwriters…  It’s very dispiriting to compare myself.  I know, I shouldn’t compare myself.  But as long as I can’t find my yeud, my mission and be satisfied that I’m doing something worthwhile, in fact what I was put here to do, the best thing that it is possible for me to do, I will keep comparing myself.  And, of course, I fear any woman I might be interested in is comparing me negatively with a lot of other, more eligible, men.

On a somewhat related note: on a whim I decided to email the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with medical issues a second time before going to the general matchmaking site.  I didn’t think anything would come of it, but within a couple of hours she had replied.  She wants me to send a “shidduch profile”.  I was aware that I would have to write one, but I’m only vaguely aware of what goes on it.  Basic stuff I suppose, as on a CV, like age, height, profession, interests.  What one is looking for in a spouse.  I suppose a man should put what yeshiva he went to, but obviously I can’t.  I’ve done this kind of thing before for online dating, but I don’t know if there are specific frummie (religious) things I should be putting on there and I don’t know who to ask.

This page is helpful, but also frightening.  Do they really need to know my parents’ shul (synagogue)?  And my sister’s name and spouse?  I was aware that this sort of thing goes on in the frum world, but somehow I hoped to avoid it.  Do I put this stuff in or wait to be asked for it?  And I guess I count as having a “non-standard background”.  The frum world really annoys me sometimes.

I feel thoroughly pessimistic about this whole thing.  I sat in the cinema today feeling thoroughly lonely and miserable, thinking that no one could ever love me.  On the way home, I got the email from the shadchan, which just made me feel worse.  I’m sure I’m going to fall foul of an “unknown unknown,” some arcane aspect of frum protocol that has no basis in halakhah (Jewish law), but which I would know if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or if I was better integrated into frum society.  If I somehow fail to do that, my issues and freakish personality will see off anyone who might be interested in my profile.  I feel I shouldn’t even bother writing the profile, but just accept that I’m going to be lonely forever and do something else with my life, something productive.  But, as we’ve seen, I’m not actually capable of doing anything productive.

I suspect I’m going to spend the rest of the evening in a miserable funk.  I’m vaguely sorry for writing such a ridiculously self-pitying post, but I guess it’s my blog and I’m not making anyone read it.  I guess it’s better to write this than go back to self-harming.

“Life depends on change and renewal”

(The title is another Doctor Who quote, from The Power of the Daleks by David Whitaker.)

I spoke to my rabbi mentor this morning.  It was a fairly brief call, as he was on the way to a meeting, but I spoke a bit about dating and my struggle with motivation to daven (pray) and study Torah, although I wish we had had more time to talk about my feeling hated by HaShem (God).  He felt very strongly that I should look into dating again.  He felt that one should hold back from dating if one has an immediate crisis that severely impedes functioning, whereas my issues are long-term and I have a reasonable degree of functionality (admittedly this feels the case more during term time and on work days than during holiday time and weekends, as at the moment).

He also felt that there was no ethical obligation or practical need to tell the shadchan (matchmaker) about the possible Asperger’s as I have not been diagnosed (have in fact been assessed and told I don’t have it) and there seemed to be little to gain from mentioning it and that labels are not always helpful.  Although this does make me wonder again about where I fit in on the spectrum and if I am a fraud for writing about it here as if I am somewhere on the spectrum.  ‘Asperger’s’ or ‘autism’ is a useful shorthand for various traits that are otherwise difficult to label, or that don’t seem (to others) as difficult to deal with as they actually feel to me.  For what it’s worth, the most used labels on the public part of my blog are: depression (148 uses), anxiety (110 uses), Judaism (74), dating (70), loneliness (67) and then Asperger’s in sixth place (54 uses).  Asperger’s narrowly comes in ahead of OCD and family (52 uses each) and work (50).  I guess that gives a snapshot of what I write about and about what’s going in my head at the moment.

I do regret that I didn’t get to speak to my rabbi mentor more about feeling that HaShem hates me.  He seemed to feel it was connected with a lack of structure at when off work and a lack of simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments) from the depression, whereas I worry that it’s something deeper than that.  I don’t think I’m losing my faith in God or Judaism – I still believe very strongly (more than at some times in the past) and Shabbat and kashrut are no problem for me (kashrut is actually much easier than a year ago, when the kashrut OCD was bad).  If anything, I’ve lost my faith in myself.  I don’t know how someone, even God, could love me, given the things I have done/still do.  This would obviously have an impact on dating.  I’ve been told I need to love myself before anyone else could love me, but I don’t know how I can love myself when I hate myself so much and when I’ve experienced so much rejection.  It’s hard to believe that everyone who hated, bullied or rejected me was wrong.  It seems like a catch-22 situation: I can’t be loved without loving myself, but I can’t love myself without being loved.  I know other people who had low self-esteem who felt better after finding their partner, but I doubt that anything that good could ever happen to me.

I did some shopping this afternoon, but once I got home, around sunset, I felt burnt out, whether from being out shopping or from the darkness.  The long nights at this time of year do get to me.  I spent too long online reading upsetting stuff about racism and trying to distract myself by looking at reviews of yesterday’s Doctor Who only to discover most people liked it (I didn’t) except for the few who hate Steven Moffat’s whole time as showrunner (I don’t), so I was stuck in-between.  I tried to do some Torah study, but I just felt burnt out and aware that I needed what little energy I have for cooking dinner.  I was noshing fruit, trying not to feel like I wanted to eat carbohydrates or sugar.  I have deliberately made sure there is no junk food in the flat (except three small dark chocolate coins), as I’ve put on weight since being prescribed clomipramine, although as my weight seems to have stabilised despite the extra eating of the last few weeks (wedding, Chanukah) that might be just pointlessly denying myself one of the few things I can still enjoy (food) for no good reason.  Which wouldn’t be out of character for me.

The long winter nights increase my depressive desire to hibernate: eat lots of carbohydrates and sleep for hours on end.  Or maybe it’s just feeling, from my reading and speaking to people today, that maybe I’m not on the spectrum, in which case I find it hard to understand myself, let alone forgive myself.  I feel that if I have a disorder then it’s OK for me to be socially anxious and awkward and avoid big gatherings, but if not, then I’m just shy and a freak and running away from things that scare me.  I should ‘man up’ (to use a horrible phrase) and force myself to do things I don’t want to do, like socialise e.g. going to the Friday night dinner at shul (synagogue) that I still haven’t signed up for.

I did eventually manage about half an hour of Torah study, the most I have done since Friday.  I actually got through a difficult chapter from the end of Yechezkel/Ezekiel, the really difficult bit with the measurements of the Temple and all the architectural words, in Hebrew.  Admittedly I cheated.  Normally I would go over each verse until I could understand it properly in Hebrew before going on to the next one; here I worked phrase by phrase instead and didn’t push myself too hard to remember all the difficult words (bear in mind that even the Jewish Publication Society Bible struggles with this bit, lots of terms whose precise meaning is lost).  I also cooked vegetable curry for dinner too, which I haven’t done for a while.

I feel I should be revising my dating profile for the shadchan/dating site I now feel I ought to be using, but I just feel too depressed and exhausted to care, even to care about feeling lonely and unloved forever.  I have mixed feelings about I want to dating right now, even though my parents, friends and rabbi mentor have all suggested that dating might give me something other than work and my mental health issues to focus on, which I desperately need at the moment.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I would like to date, I just don’t feel able to do so.  I guess I want to have a significant other, but I’m scared that I’m too messed up for anyone to want to be with me.  Because looking at my dating history so far, it’s not encouraging.

I just used the word “feel”  or “feeling” six times in one paragraph, modified by “depressed”, “exhausted”, “lonely and unloved” and not able.  For someone who professes to focus on the intellectual over the emotional (because the emotional confuses and frightens me, with or without alexithymia and Asperger’s), I’m driven a lot by emotion right now, and difficult, scary emotions at that.

Exhaustion and Upheavals

Yesterday, you may remember, I felt terrible most of the day, but I started to feel better in the evening and managed to do some chores.  In the end I stayed up late doing more chores, knowing I might not have the energy to do them today.  (It’s silly that my holiday is mostly spent doing things I don’t want to do that I don’t have time to do while working, rather than relaxing, but there you go.  Maybe I’ll get a proper holiday one day.  Although not doing anything at all just gives time for the depressive thoughts to come out.)  As I expected, I went to bed late and got up late today.  I think I slept for over ten hours again.  I think I’ve been having upsetting dreams lately, but I don’t remember them, I just have flashes of strange, impossible memories during the day without being able to place them properly.  Anyway, I woke up feeling depressed and lethargic, also faint, which was probably low blood sugar, but didn’t get much better even after eating breakfast.  I just feel limp and unable to do anything, like a rag doll.

It’s hard to explain how difficult everything is at the  moment.  Just getting dressed, for instance, is a lengthy and difficult procedure.  I can’t just ‘get dressed’; whether I want to or not, it gets broken down into smaller tasks and I have to stop in between, say, getting out my clothes and taking off my pyjamas.  Tasks that can’t easily be broken down are extra hard, which I guess is part of the reason davening (praying) is so hard, as I can’t stop for a break part-way through, particularly when I’m wearing tefillin (I don’t like wearing tefillin and I get slightly amused that for some women, wearing them is a feminist thing, as I would avoid wearing them if I could.  It may be an Aspie thing, as I find wearing them quite uncomfortable and distracting).  But my brain is still going, although perhaps not as normal.  Sometimes I can think as normal or even have bursts of rapid agitated thought, other times my thoughts are as sluggish as my actions.  I think – it’s hard to be sure, as I sort of drift into a timeless zone when I’m depressed and not doing anything and it’s hard to keep track of my thoughts, although they usually go to negative places.

I have had some positive future-oriented thoughts, which is good, but I doubt I will act on them.  I am torn about the Doctor Who book I am writing, whether it will be good or not (publishable or not).  The blog posts it’s based on got some positive feedback, but not much and I worry it’s not innovative enough.  I would also like to write about the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, which is very important to me.   I’d also like to write a proper analytical article for every Doctor Who story.  I tried that years ago, but looking back at those posts, they were variable and often just lists of things I did or didn’t like.  I’d like to be more analytical, although I don’t know if I have something to say about every story and, again, whether it would be innovative enough to sell.  I also had a vague idea for writing a more personal book about Doctor Who or maybe science fiction TV in general and my mental health and Asperger’s (The Neurodivergent Guide to Telefantasy?), as it’s been a key coping strategy, but I’m not sure what to do with that at all, whether it ties into the review/analysis idea or should be something else entirely.

I get frustrated that ideas don’t come to me fully-formed, but need to be worked at, although even good authors have to work on their ideas.  I cut a huge amount from yesterday’s blog post, including a load about being Jewish at Christmas that just didn’t belong there.  But somehow that feels like failure, like I should get everything right first time.  When I get an idea I sometimes think it is really great for a bit, but soon enough I’m sure it’s silly, or it’s good, but I won’t be able to get it to work.  Sometimes I jump to the ‘it’s silly’ stage without the ‘good’ stage first.  I wish I could feel comfortable talking about these ideas with someone who might understand them.

I thought Doctor Who today was more than slightly rubbish (Steven Moffatt apparently having done his research by watching precisely zero first Doctor stories and just listening to people bad-mouthing William Hartnell), which has probably brought my mood down further.  This has combined with the realisation that I’m going to have extra work to do soon because my parents have insisted on having my room at their house redecorated in January.  I don’t particularly want it done and don’t know when I’m going to have the time/energy to pack and unpack my 1,000 or so books and countless DVDs (literally countless, because how many do you count box sets as?).  Dad volunteered to do the packing and unpacking, but I suspect that if I want everything put back as I want it in, I’m going to have to do it myself, although I’ve just photographed all the bookshelves so in theory he could do it.  I don’t even live here any more, except for Shabbat, so why would I want the room decorated?  Admittedly it is in a bad shape from the previous owners and it’s my parents’ house and they’ve almost completely redecorated it in the two and a bit years since they moved in.  Just my room and the spare bedroom left.  I say spare bedroom, it’s actually functioning as a lumber room with nine packed boxes of stuff from the old house (so you see why I’m worried about what will happen to my boxes of stuff).  Dad just predicted three months of upheaval (so that means four or five…).  Sometimes I wonder if my parents fully understand the whole ‘depressive Aspie just holding on to his life with the tips of his fingers’ thing and why I can’t cope with upheaval, especially several upheavals in rapid succession (and for me starting to work longer hours, my sister’s wedding and the redecoration within six months counts as rapid succession).

And tomorrow I’m supposed to ask my rabbi mentor if he thinks I should be dating.  I wish I could easily say, “No,” because a part of me thinks I just can’t cope, but I can sort of see the point of the people who think I need to change my life around and at least that has the potential to be a significantly positive change (unlike the bedroom), even if it could also be very negative.  I wasn’t particularly lonely today, in the sense of wanting someone to talk to, but I did find myself wishing there was someone around even though I didn’t want to talk, just being there.  It’s hard to decide what to do, because I want to be in a relationship, but I’m also frightened that I can’t cope with one and, being frum, this would be dating-for-marriage so the idea of just going out with someone for a year or two for fun and to take things slowly is not an option.  Instead, I have to panic thinking that I could end up going to another big wedding and I won’t be able to slip away from this one.

Bleak Midwinter

An enormous, rambling, probably incoherent account of a day in which nothing really happened.  It’s like Waiting for Godot as a blog post.

I don’t know what time I got to bed last night.  It was very late, I know that.  It was going to be late anyway, as I’d been ambushed by loneliness and despair and had the usual trade-off between doing chores late at night and oversleeping the next day or going to bed early and trying to get up early to add them to tomorrow’s to-do list.  I stayed up late trying to do things, but largely being stopping by events outside my control.  Among other things, I discovered my membership of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals has shot up and I’m not sure if I can afford to renew it.  My attempt to remove what I recently realised (probably too late) was mould on my wood flooring was only partially successful and my toilet suddenly got blocked and kept me up much longer.  I think I sorted it, but I worry about having to call a plumber in; it’s my landlords’ responsibility to pay, so I’m not worried about that, only about the hassle of having to stay in, and the annoyance of having someone in the flat, which triggers my Aspie hatred of having my space invaded and can trigger the religious OCD (as the kitchen is right by the bathroom).  And then to make matters worse, by around 1.00am I was tired, but also insatiably hungry and I stayed up late eating kosher pot noodle and cereal (not at the same time) and reading The Prime Ministers: The Office and its Holders since 1945.

I woke up around 12.30pm today.  I probably had something between nine and ten hours sleep after even more the day before, but I was exhausted and only got up because my phone rang.  By 2.20pm, I’d had breakfast and read a few pages of a Doctor Who review book but was still in my pyjamas and feeling as if I could fall asleep at any minute.  Thoughts rattled around my head for a while.  I wrote a paragraph or so of my Doctor Who book.  By 3.30pm I was still in my pyjamas.  I gave up on putting on tefillin and davening Mincha (saying the afternoon service) today as I was too tired to get dressed before sunset.  I decided to have a shower to see if that would wake me up.  I spent about twenty minutes in the shower (I usually only take five, ten at most), fighting OCD thoughts that I haven’t had for a while, the fear that I may have done something illegal without realising it.  My thoughts rattle to depressing places, from the antisemitism of Jeremy Corbyn to George Orwell (one of my favourite political writers) to Stalin.  After a while I sit on the floor because it’s too draining to stand up and I don’t want to go out of the warmth.  I want to cry, but can’t; it’s easier to breathe with my mouth open, but doing so I inhale water vapour.  It’s like being at the swimming pool.  I punch the wall and stick my face under the jet until it feels like I’m drowning.  A lyric from an Elvis Costello song comes into my head: “You said, ‘Young man, I do believe you’re dying.'”  If someone told me I was dying, I would probably believe them.  Eventually I struggle to my feet and get out.

I want to talk to someone, yet I also want to be alone and the thought of talking to someone else fills me with dread.  My family are all out anyway.  By 4.20pm I’m finally dressed, more or less.  I feel a little faint and should probably have something to eat.  Lunch, although it’s nearly supper time.  Indulge in melted cheese on toast.  I ought to shave, but shaving is always a disproportionate effort when I’m depressed, I’m not sure why.  Same as putting on tefillin, which is why I didn’t do so today.  I feel bad about that, as it’s the first time I’ve missed it for years, despite the depression.

Some of my tasks for today are write-offs.  Last week we (the library staff, the few who weren’t off sick) were window-shopping in bookshops for books to buy; I had a panic that I hadn’t found enough, and that those I had found were not suitable for the target audience (my boss told me to remember I wasn’t buying for myself; I couldn’t work out if she was teasing me or not; another Asperger’s moment no doubt, but it worried me, particularly as I wasn’t sure I could think like a ‘normal’ teenager to choose books) so I wanted to find some more on Amazon, but I didn’t feel up to it.

Days like this fuel my solipsism.  I’ve had the blinds down all day because I was undressed until after dark and, aside from briefly talking on the phone to Mum twice, I haven’t spoken to anyone all day.  It’s easy to believe that I am the only living person in the universe.  I don’t feel too lonely today, maybe because I just want to retreat to my depressive/autistic man-cave and watch Doctor Who or other vintage TV science fiction until bedtime.  I guess the time of the year doesn’t help, the cold, dark midwinter when everyone else seems to be celebrating something, but my religious celebrations are over (and were rather overshadowed this year by my sister’s wedding, with everything that that entailed).

Angelfish wrote on yesterday’s post, “You are a much better person than you think you are… You aren’t lazy, you just mis-label yourself as that because of self-esteem issues. I can tell from what you write that you try very hard to do things. You try very hard to keep going whilst struggling with the huge burden that is depression. You deserve praise for it – but again it’s hard to see it.”  Similarly, one of my non-biological sisters wrote me a lengthy text of praise.  But it’s hard to see what other people see in me.  Particularly on days like today, when I can hardly keep my eyes open and the only thoughts I seem able to follow are upsetting ones (self-critical or about unpleasant things in the world).  And I wish I wasn’t so dependent on others for my self-esteem.

By 6.00pm I’ve davened Ma’ariv (the evening prayers) with zero kavannah (concentration) and done literally two minutes of Torah study and was trying to work out what I can do with the rest of the day, given I feel exhausted, but don’t want to sleep (it’s not that kind of exhaustion anyway).  I did somehow manage to do some work on my Doctor Who book for forty-five minutes or so, finishing off the second draft of chapter nine (taking me to the early eighties and the end of Tom Baker’s time on the show).  I then spent another forty-five minutes sorting out emails and standing orders for various things.  I have now officially stopped going to the Monday night Gemarah shiur (class) i.e. I’m not paying them any more.  As well as sending a formal email to the organisers, I left a message on the What’sApp group which briefly mentioned health issues without giving details as well as changed work hours as reasons for my leaving.  I hope that was not a bad idea.  At any rate, I’m increasing the number of people who know a little about my issues (most of the people from shiur also go to my shul, so I’ll see them again).  I’m still procrastinating over going to the shul Friday night dinner, though.

I also decided to pay to renew my membership of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) even though it costs a lot more than it did last year now I’m working longer hours and earning more, doubly so as their graduated pay scale has, I think, changed.  I think there used to be various levels at which you paid, depending on income, whereas now there are only two levels, “Member” and “Member (concession)”.  I now earn too much to count as a concession, without feeling particularly rich.

Around 8.50pm, I shaved, which was probably silly (shaving at night), but my two day’s worth of stubble was annoying me and I knew I needed to shave to help me focus to cook dinner.  I cooked pasta (to go with a bought sauce) and finished reading Asperger Syndrome in Adults, except I got distracted proof-reading this post and the water in my saucepan boiled away.  Asperger Syndrome in Adults makes having a romantic relationship where one partner is on the spectrum sound almost impossible.  I did better than that in my previous relationship.  Then again, I also got badly hurt by that relationship, which just makes me think that only someone even needier and more damaged than myself would choose to be in a relationship with me.  Maybe that was what the first woman I asked out meant when she turned me down, saying if I liked myself more, I would want to date someone more like myself: more messed up, like myself.  I couldn’t work out what she meant otherwise, as I thought we had things in common, at least as much or as little as I have in common with most people, which is not very much.  The main thing I have in common with my close friends is depression, which is probably not a healthy basis for a romantic relationship; with others it’s shared memories of school or Oxford and we don’t actually meet up or email very much, just occasionally get together to catch up on what we’ve done since we last met and then go our separate ways for a year.

I can’t imagine having a relationship with someone who has common values and  interests with me, because I know so few people, if any, like that, people that I have a lot of things in common with.  Actually, the book reminds me of someone else I asked out a long time ago who turned me down because she said I would be able to meet her needs when she voiced them, but she wanted a partner who could anticipate her needs without her needing to voice them.  This sounded unrealistic to me even without the Asperger’s, but there you go.  It does make me wonder if I could manage a relationship again, particularly as I seem to be in a liminal area, neither fully autistic nor neurotypical, so I would likely find it hard to have a relationship with either a neurotypical or Aspie woman.

Well, my day is nearly over, by the clock, but I’ve only just woken up.  Three days off and I’m already nocturnal again.  I’m not sure what to do, stay up late or go to bed and hope to sleep despite having slept for well over twenty hours out of the last forty-eight.  The intrusive anxious/depressive thoughts are, of course, likely to get (even) worse now, as they always worsen in the evenings.  At any rate, I ought to eat dinner now that I’ve cooked it (assuming it is edible despite my incompetence in letting the water boil over).

Vices

Some days I merely hate myself.  Some days I can even forget about myself for a while, usually at work, or while watching Doctor Who.

Other days I hate, loathe, detest and despise myself.

Today is in the latter category.

My grandfather used to tease me, saying I was too good, that I had no vices.  He was wrong, although to be fair, none of my vices are illegal or particularly extreme and certainly they are all common, even (especially) the ones I don’t want to talk about her.

I sleep too much, particularly when depressed.  I hurt myself sometimes.  I am self-critical.  I find it hard to keep up with my self-imposed targets for prayer and religious study.  I avoid things that make me socially anxious rather than confronting them.  I go on too much about my issues.  I procrastinate.  I want to be loved, but I get too scared to take the steps to find someone who might love me and let me love her.  When I’m lonely, it’s too easy to fall into fantasy and avoid reality, both pleasant fantasies and also unpleasant fantasies, suicidal ones or simply self-loathing ones that make me out to be worse than I actually am.

I did most of these over Shabbat and in the hours afterwards, as well as other things that I won’t go into.  It’s easy to convince myself that I’m a bad person.  I’m certainly acting contrary to halakhah (Jewish law) in numerous respects (e.g. missing shul due to depressive oversleeping and socially anxious avoidance).  It’s particularly hard at the moment to keep up with davening (prayer) and studying Torah – it’s hard to try to connect with a God who I’m convinced hates me and turns down all my requests.  I haven’t done any Torah study yet today; I did a bit amount yesterday, but almost none on Thursday.  It’s very hard to get the energy to daven at the right time, particularly in the morning.  It’s hard to carry on generally.  I thought I was losing my faith, but I’m not, it’s just hard to get the energy together to start on davening or Torah study.  I’m just too depressed, but I’m afraid of going backwards in my recovery (which is arguably not a recovery; for all that I’m still a lot better than I was this time last year, I’m a lot worse than I was in the spring and early summer).

My parents and my non-biological sisters are encouraging me to go to a different shadchan (matchmaker) after the one who didn’t get back to me.  I’m tempted, but all the frum (religious Jewish) books/websites/teachers say don’t date when suffering from serious illness.  Wait until you’re over it.  Particularly for mental illness, which can change your whole persona.  Except that I don’t think I’m ever going to be ‘over’ my depression.  It’s just a question of trying to manage it.  And at the moment I don’t feel like I’m managing it well.

I just feel I have so many marks against me when dating, that it’s not even worth trying.  I have depression.  I have social anxiety.  I may be on the autistic spectrum and even if I’m not, I have a lot of autistic traits.  I still get occasional flare-ups of OCD (religious OCD and pure O).  I don’t daven or learn Torah enough.  I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I’m too sarcastic and irritable at times.  I’m needy and emotional.  I’m extremely introverted.  I procrastinate.  I have other vices.  I can’t see why someone would go out with me.  I have nothing really in my favour, except that I’m not violent, which isn’t very much.  I should just give up, but I’m so lonely.  I really hope there’s someone out there who I can connect with, in a way that I don’t really connect with my parents or my friends.  Someone really on my wavelength.  Someone willing to make space in her life for me.  Someone I can communicate with without the autistic communication difficulties I get into with my parents, or the fact that I can only see most of my friends for short periods at long intervals for fear of running out of things to say.  That’s probably asking too much, though.  Everything seems to be asking too much.

I probably will sign on the matchmaking site I’ve identified later in the week, although I want to talk to my rabbi mentor about it first.  I feel like I’m signing up under false pretences i.e. that I am a psychologically healthy, normal, attractive person when I’m not.  It all seems very pointless, but I suppose I need to go through the motions.  The site offers various matchmakers; I read their mini-biographies and found one studying counselling and psychotherapy, so I hope she will be more understanding of my situation.  It’s a fairly arbitrary choice, as all the matchmakers have access to the same database of clients.

I don’t really know how to end this post.  I guess I’m just complaining about my issues (another one of my vices).  I wish I was the super-adept frum Jew I want to be.  Tonight I was supposed to go to shul, study some Torah, do various chores and get an early night.  I missed shul, struggled to daven at home, have done no Torah study, no chores, am unlikely to get to bed early (and unlikely to sleep, given how much I slept over Shabbat) and will probably have to postpone most of tonight’s chores to tomorrow, making tomorrow even more of a rush than it should be.  I’ve only started my ‘holiday’ and already I’m behind on my chores, and very lonely and depressed.  I feel like I’m just rambling.  This post probably needs editing and re-ordering, or deleting, but I’m too fed up and tired.

“Asperger Syndrome in Adults”

I’ve been skimming through Asperger Syndrome in Adults: A Guide to Realizing Your Potential by Dr Ruth Searle (skimming as it’s a library book and I don’t have time to read properly and a lot of it was familiar or uninteresting to me anyway) and as with all things about autism/Asperger’s, I find some things that aren’t me at all, but other things that are exactly me.  I haven’t quite finished the book (I’m reading the section on romantic relationships, which is useful for me), but here are a few things I learnt about myself and about Asperger’s so far:

  1. Aspies tend to feel more comfortable with opposite sex friendships than same sex ones.  It is suggested female Aspies prefer to talk to men, because there is less obligation to talk about emotions, while male Aspies prefer to talk to women, because they are more tolerant of lack of confidence.  While I don’t quite understand why these tendencies don’t apply the other way around (so Aspie men prefer unemotional men and Aspie women prefer tolerant women), this definitely describes me.  Since I was at university, and despite my general lack of friends, at any time I have almost always had one strong friendship, always with a woman, generally non-romantic/non-sexual, although in at least one case it was ruined by my wanting to make it a romantic relationship.  The woman in question usually has some personal experience of mental health issues and/or is borderline autistic herself.  A disproportionate number of my other friends are women too.  This is difficult in the frum (Orthodox Jewish religious) world where cross-gender friendships (other than marriage) are discouraged and rare, because of fears that they will lead to extra-marital sex.  I struggle with this and wonder how I will find a wife who will let me keep my female friends.  I wouldn’t break off my friendships just to get married.
  2. Aspies tend to latch on to one person in a social situation.  If forced to go to parties or networking events, we find one person who seems to tolerate us and don’t let them out of our sight.  I do this a lot too, but I’m sufficiently self-aware these days to try not to outstay my welcome or take people away from their other halves.  A number of the friendships referred to in my last point started this way.
  3. I think systematically.  Dr Baron-Cohen, one of the UK’s leading autism experts, is famous/notorious for thinking that the autistic brain is an extreme “male” brain, assuming men think more systematically than women.  Ignoring the gender essentialism (which I have my own views on, but I don’t want to start a fight about it), I always thought that this was evidence against my having Asperger’s, as I am not conscious of thinking particularly systematically.  I suppose I do like all-encompassing religious, political or historical theories, but I have grown wary of them and suspect that they are often untrue, although I do still sometimes resort to them.  But the book quotes Baron-Cohen as listing six different types of system that the human brain can construct and that autistic people might like.  Type five is “organizable systems: a taxonomy, a collection, a library etc.” (emphasis added).  This is my job!  I am an assistant librarian, I catalogue and my work reorganising the subjects and keywords on our OPAC (online public access catalogue) is essentially creating a simple taxonomy.  While I have said for a while that I deliberately ended up in a (mostly) autism-friendly job, I hadn’t seen it written down so starkly before, and presented as a type of system that is ‘legitimately’ systematic/autistic.  I suppose I was resistant to thinking of myself as systematic as I tend to associate systematising with mathematical systems and in my family it’s my Dad and my sister who love those, not me – ever since childhood my father has stereotyped me as the artistic child and my sister as the scientific/mathematical one, even though we were both science/humanities/arts all-rounders at school.
  4. I have emotional issues.  OK, I knew that already.  But there is a list in the book of thirty-nine emotional states.  The idea is to try and remember when you last felt them, to understand emotions better.  I found it really hard to associate feelings with memories; I could remember situations, but not the emotions I felt in them.  Some of the emotions I knew only intellectually and a lot of them seemed very similar to me.  I’m not sure of the difference between being angry and being mad or perplexed and puzzled and while I know intellectually the difference between being distressed and anxious or terrified and afraid, I’m not sure how well I could identify them if I was feeling them.  I don’t know how much of this is Asperger’s and alexithymia (the inability to identify one’s emotions) and how much is depressive blunting of all emotions except a handful of negative ones (depression, despair, anxiety, loneliness).

(I’ve written a proper summary for this post that should come up in people’s readers.  If this works, I will try to write one for future posts, as I know my titles can be a bit cryptic.  Let me know what you think, please!)

The Other ABC: Asperger’s, Bullying and Communication

I’ve been thinking yesterday and today about bullying and Asperger’s/autism.  Not so much in the obvious way, whether being on the spectrum left me open to bullying (although obviously it did), but whether it contributed to it in a more subtle way.

When I was about thirteen, I was bullied by two girls who were friends with each other.  I don’t remember much of what they said or did to me.  I guess I’ve blotted it out.  I imagine it was a lot of verbal harassment (the usual pattern for when I was bullied), although I do have vivid memories of them throwing bits of broken saw blade at me in woodwork class.  After a couple of weeks I went to the teacher to complain about them, only to discover that they had already complained about me.  One of the girls was black and they said that I was bullying her because I was racist and bullying her friend for being friends with her.  This horrified me and I didn’t know what to say.  When the teacher asked if I was racist, my self-doubt kicked in and all I could say was that I didn’t think so.

At the time I was very upset by all of this.  In retrospect, I feel the teachers could have handled it better, maybe getting her to tell why she thought I was racist and what she thought I had been doing to bully her.  Lately I’ve been wondering if my Asperger’s played a part.  At the time, I assumed that the racism allegation was a deliberate lie to get me in trouble and to avoid being punished for their own bullying of me.  Now I wonder if it was a misunderstanding.  As virtually the only black girl in a Jewish school, I’m sure the girl who bullied me was on the receiving end of bullying herself.  This thought didn’t occur to me at the time, when I divided the world into bullies and victims with no movement from one side to the other; I probably also only associated racism with neo-Nazi extremists, not the more subtle everyday racism many people experience.  I wonder if, primed by her own experience of being bullied, my bully took my social anxiety and possible autistic spectrum disorder as evidence of deliberate rudeness to her on my part.  I can’t remember if she ever tried to be friendly towards me and I reacted awkwardly, but it certainly could have happened.

The pain and confusion around the incident still hurts, though, and the racism accusation may well have fed in to my pure O (pure obsession) OCD, my belief/fear that I could do terrible things and my pure O and depressive/low self-esteem thoughts that I am a terrible person.  By a curious chance, I happen to know that she seemed to turn out OK, becoming an actor and musician.  I saw her on TV a couple of times, although IMBD and Wikipedia don’t list her as having done anything for a couple of years, so I don’t know if she is still working in those industries.  I used to feel resentful about that, but now it’s just yet another instance of other people doing well while I stay lonely and in psychological distress.

Even many years on, my inter-personal communication is not always good.  I can be blunt and to the point at times; at other times I over-compensate by becoming too verbose.  I just had a conversation with my parents which went downhill rapidly, probably in part because of communication differences.  It was over the phone, which I always struggle with anyway, but I like focused conversation, whereas my parents like to ramble, with all kinds of unnecessary details and tangents.  I think they also like to talk for the sake of talking, to get things off their chests or just to create a social interaction, whereas I, like many autistic people, assume that every conversation has a point my interlocutor wants to get across or a problem to solve and I become confused, frustrated and/or irritable if I can’t find the point of what they are saying.

I also tend to be precise with my language and I can be quite pedantic about things like grammar and correct word usage, whereas my parents, my father in particular, can make mistakes in grammar and use malapropisms.  These annoy me a lot, even though I know they shouldn’t.  I can usually understand what they are saying, but part of my brain says that this is not standard English and I can’t understand it, so I query it, resulting in annoyance for them as well as for me, as they think I’m being pedantic and deliberately obtuse, which I suppose I am in a way.  They also make huge jumps from one subject to another and sometimes back again later that make sense in their heads, but not in mine or, again, I sort of understand what they are talking about, but find myself impelled to question to be sure.  I’m not quite sure how many of these communication issues are autistic, but I know some of them are.

Otherwise today has been a difficult day.  I had a blood test in the morning and an eye test in the afternoon.  The latter was very problematic because I shook again, which I haven’t done for a while.  It’s probably a medication interaction, but triggered by anxiety.  Before the test I had to stare into various machines for physical measurements of my eyes and when the puffed air into my eyes to check their pressure, I shook a little from the shock of it.  This probably set me up to feel that I would shake in the eye test itself, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Sure enough, I felt my space was being invaded when the optician was changing the lenses I was wearing or held anything over my eye and I shook, which I guess is Asperger’s again, as it’s the sense of space being invaded that creates the anxiety.  I hope that didn’t change the outcome of the test, because apparently I need new lenses in my glasses.

Small Victory

I had a whole post in my head, but I didn’t want to post two big things in one day, plus I’m too tired to write at the moment.  I’ll see if I am willing/able to post it tomorrow.

However, I do want to note that, with a lot of effort and willpower, I avoided writing a manipulatively self-loathing and drama queening comment on this Hevria post (the one I referred to in my last post).  It’s a Pyrrhic victory, as I self-loathed and drama queened here instead, but it’s better here, where at least people know what they’re letting themselves in for, than there.  Although to be honest I think most regular writers and readers of Hevria know what to expect from me too by now.

I feel bad about the way my depression and self-loathing sometimes manipulates me into trying to manipulate others into feeding me compliments or agreeing with my self-loathing.  I think I really want the self-loathing support rather than the compliments, believe it or not.  I guess because then my depression makes sense, becomes a rational response to my freakish and wicked uselessness rather than a painful, but apparently random event, or, if not random, part of some divine plan too esoteric to be of any comfort to me.  If everyone agrees that I’m a useless freak, then my self-loathing and depression are justified and I might as well give up on trying to recover.  But if people think I’m a good person, a good writer, a good anything, then I have to decide if and how I’m going to play to my strengths.  But I’ve spent about seventeen years – half my life! – struggling with severe depression, loneliness and self-loathing, feeling that I just can’t escape the dark side of my psyche/soul.  So if people say that they can see good in me despite that, then I have a duty to myself and to others to somehow accentuate the good and ‘recover’.  But I don’t know how to ‘recover’ and other people tend to be short on useful advice.  So I’m left struggling by myself.

Ugh, sorry, this has turned into another long and incoherent post.  (There I go self-loathing again.)  It’s really just the second paragraph that’s the important bit.  The rest is just self-justification, really.  I should go back to watching Doctor Who, but Castrovalva just isn’t that good.

On Not Belonging to Clubs that Would Have Me as a Member

I feel exhausted, physically and emotionally.  The last two days have been difficult, and I have a stack of mostly boring chores to do during my thirteen days off (“holiday” if you like, but I’m not going away and probably not relaxing much, between depression and chores, although I intend to enjoy not having to get up around 6.30am).  I can’t go into all the details publicly, but here is what I can say.

I was over-stretched at work yesterday because three people were off sick out of a team of seven, so I spent five and a half hours (out of seven excluding lunch) on the issue desk to cover for them, which was very difficult.  I found it hard to concentrate on my other work: I tried to catalogue while on the issue desk, but it was difficult and cataloguing meant I was less aware of students coming up and asking questions or returning books, so I kept having to respond to coughs as they tried to attract my attention; eventually I gave up on cataloguing there.  I am still having difficulty with some requests and have to ask my colleagues for help or advice, which I feel bad about.  I feel I should be settled in the job by now.  I also tend to mis-hear requests or need to ask people to repeat what they said because I’m so socially anxious that I can’t concentrate on what they are asking at first, because I’m too busy thinking “Oh no, someone’s talking to me!  What should I do?”  I was upset by something unpleasant one student said (not about me, but it was still upsetting to hear), which I had better not repeat here.  One adult student said I’m friendly, though, which was nice and unexpected.

Yesterday was the last day of teaching, but I had a staff development day today before my holiday starts.  It was OK, not really worth talking about here.  We had an activity in the afternoon that has left me completely exhausted, not helped by disrupted sleep the last few nights.  I keep waking up in the middle of the night and when I look at the clock, no matter what time it is, I think I’ve overslept and then think maybe I haven’t overslept after all and can not remember what time I’m supposed to get up and what order the numbers come in.  This isn’t insomnia and it’s not exactly depressive ‘early waking’ either as I fall asleep afterwards.  I don’t know what it is, or if anyone else suffers from it.

I should probably cut this paragraph, because I don’t come out of it particularly well, but here goes: I just saw a post on Hevria that upset me, through no fault of its own.  They are really building up a community there and I feel excluded on multiple counts: because I don’t live in New York to take part in meetings, because I would be too socially anxious to go even if I did live in New York; because I’m not sure I can justify to myself donating the money they are asking for on my current income; and because I really wanted to write regularly for them at one point.  To be fair, Elad did say a while back that he would like me to write more regularly for them, but nowadays I don’t see myself as a Hevria writer.  I’m too depressed and depressing, not creative, radical, optimistic and spiritual.  Anyway, I’m a very bad writer.  And all my writing time (such as it is) goes on my Doctor Who book (which will never get published because it’s a saturated market and, as I said, I’m a very bad writer) or blogging, which is procrastination and venting, really, but necessary to get stuff out of my system and function, like sneezing (and about as literary).  Like this post, really, which is just a blatant attempt to fish for compliments (again).

Still, it upsets me to see this big club which I’ve never quite managed to join, even though I know a lot of the people involved are really nice and I would like to be friends with them, but they live on another continent and they wouldn’t want to know me if they met me in person, because I’m weird and boring and not creative, radical, spiritual, optimistic etc. etc. etc.  I do wish I had a community, though (I also wish someone would pay me for my writing, which is vulgar, but it’s about being valued as much as the money).  My shul is doing  a communal Friday night dinner in a few weeks and I know I should go, but I also know I will feel lonely and depressed because I will be practically the only single, childless person there (it’s billed as a family event) and will probably be too shy to talk all evening and maybe not even able to sit with anyone I like, so I’ve been procrastinating on paying for a space.  I feel such a freak sometimes always.

On a related note, various friends and relatives are trying to persuade me to go to a shadchan (matchmaker) after the one I contacted a few weeks ago did not get back to me.  I feel reluctant to, because the service it makes most sense for me to go to requires a monthly payment (it’s essentially a cross between the traditional shadchan and online dating) and because I’m a freak (I may have mentioned this before*) and not only do I feel unable to mention my Doctor Who geekery, yeshiva non-attendance, mental health issues (and their religious impact) and general religious struggles to a date, I don’t even feel I could mention them to the shadchan because I feel so ashamed of who I am and what I do.  But I don’t have any other way of meeting suitable women, so it’s either go or be single forever.  I do wonder if I’m too depressed to date, too lacking in energy, concentration and time.  I’ve been told energy and so on will come if I start dating, which doesn’t seem very likely.  I’ve also read that one shouldn’t date when very depressed, which would mean never dating in my case, as my non-depressed periods only last a couple of months;  just as I think I’ve “recovered” (whatever that means) and can think about moving on with my life, I start feeling depressed again.

I suppose I might as well admit that I’ve been having vague suicidal thoughts again.  I don’t want to kill myself, but sometimes I fantasise about doing so in an unrealistic way and a lot of the time I just wish that I wasn’t here.  There doesn’t seem to be very much going on in my life that makes me want to look forward to 2018, let alone 2020, 2030 or 2050 and, as I’ve said before, I don’t feel I have the usual religious get-out of reward in the next world, because I think I’ve sinned too much and that God just hates me.  I feel guilty about this as I know I have a few friends and family who would be upset and in any case, I don’t approve of suicide religiously, but I can’t really control where my mind goes (the reason CBT never worked for my depression) and trying to do so just provokes guilt for thinking of ‘forbidden’ thoughts.

This post sounds so adolescent, I can’t believe I’ll thirty-five next year.  I feel like a sixteen year old.  Actually, I wasn’t even this adolescent when I genuinely was a depressed sixteen year old.  Be that as it may, pizza and the start of Peter Davison’s time on Doctor Who beckons, if I can get the energy and motivation to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers) and actually cook the pizza.

* Wasn’t I trying to stop the negative self-talk?  It’s very difficult, because it seems so true.

Overwhelmed by Emotions (written over two days)

Written Sunday 17 December:

I feel very depressed today and I don’t know why.  I just want to curl up in bed and sleep.  It’s pretty much impossible to do anything, even to read.  I managed a little bit of work on my Doctor Who book and three minutes (!) of Torah study and a few minutes sorting some stuff on online banking, but that was about it.

I took another Asperger’s test online.  As with many of these things, I came out quite neurotypical in some ways, quite autistic in others.  I might have come out more neurodivergent if some of the questions hadn’t been oddly worded, and there hadn’t been so many questions about relationships and sex that I couldn’t answer properly from lack of experience.

One of my non-biological sisters sent me a link to a page with “15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like ****“.  The problem is I do or have done almost all of them.  One or two help a little bit (e.g. exercise, which I haven’t done for too long), but most of them don’t help much, or at best make sure I’m ‘merely’ very depressed and not suicidally depressed.  Another article on the same site (which I gave up on) stressed the importance of exercise and social interaction, but the former is hard when you have no time because of work, a long commute and religious obligations and it’s cold and dark out when you’re not at work (I can’t afford to join a gym) and the latter is almost impossible with social anxiety and Asperger’s (and when you’re a freak who doesn’t know how to talk to other people and that no one wants to talk to anyway).

Written Monday 18 December:

I’m still in the office.  I have finished work for the day, but I need to type to try to get rid of some of my thoughts.  I was more or less OK this morning, although it was hard to concentrate (end of term, I guess) and I had some OCD at lunch, but the afternoon has been hard.  About 2.30pm one of my colleagues came to the office to talk to the second in command in the library (my boss being at the other campus).  They went into the conference room and I could hear my colleague crying.  I don’t know what she was so upset about, but I nearly burst into tears in sympathy just from hearing her.  She went home shortly afterwards, so I ended up being on the issue desk for most of the afternoon to cover for her.  I didn’t know what to say to her when she left, and felt bad for not handling the situation well.

My social interactions on the issue desk were difficult again and I made some mistakes.  I am probably beating myself up for trivial things, but I feel that I am not coping here.  I suddenly started feeling really anxious about three quarters of an hour ago and I don’t know why.  I guess it’s partly guilt/self-criticism for the mistakes and partly from the books I was cataloguing.  I was cataloguing a book about the use of psychological profiling to help the police solve serious crimes.  I started worrying about my own dark side and whether that corresponded with those profiles.  Worrying if I would ever commit a serious crime.  This is probably OCD (pure O – obsessional worrying without compulsions) and indeed I did have some religious OCD today too.  But that doesn’t make it easier to live with when you are beating yourself up for crimes you haven’t committed.  It’s not too out of control, I can see they are just thoughts, but it’s still hard.  For the last half-hour or so my muscles have been painfully tense and my brain is just not working.  For the last five or ten minutes of the work day I couldn’t really do much more than just try to breathe because I felt so tense and anxious.  I haven’t felt this bad for nearly a year, when I was often missing work in my old job.  I hoped I wouldn’t be that bad in this job.  I’m glad that we are almost at the end of term, because I feel I can’t cope.

For the first time, I have borrowed some books from the library where I work to read over the holiday: two books on Asperger’s Syndrome (to try to understand myself better and find some tips on coping with social interactions – one book has a whole section on romantic relationships) and one on Gothic fiction (as background research for my Doctor Who book).

Sex, Love, Virginity and Fear of Missing Out

(My first scheduled post, I hope it posts OK.  Apologies if it hasn’t.)

I’ve noticed that, without really intending it, I’ve mentioned more than a few times here that I’m in my mid-thirties and a virgin.  It’s been on my mind a lot recently.  I think it comes out here because, outside of therapy, I don’t have anywhere to voice these thoughts.  I have never really been able to talk to my parents about sex and relationships.  I don’t really have friends that I feel comfortable talking to much about them either, certainly not to send them stuff like this out of the blue.  Actually, that’s not quite true, I talk to my non-biological sisters a bit about it, but then I feel embarrassed afterwards and wonder if I said too much and even then I don’t do it often.  Obviously I can’t talk about it at work, although sometimes I feel conscious that all my colleagues have at least one child, so they have all had sex at least once (let’s limit ourselves to the observable facts here, Watson.  And discount IVF for the moment).

I feel bad about mentioning it.  I feel I should be, somehow, above such things.  As a frum (religious) Jew, I’m supposed to think that sex is really good and important, but only in marriage and even in the context of marriage, one shouldn’t talk about it.  (It can be quite comical watching rabbis struggling with euphemisms when they have to talk about sex in sermons and drashas, although I still prefer such bowdlerisations to the stark vulgarity of postmodern slang.)  So within the frum community people are supposed to be having a lot of (marital) sex, but no one ever mentions it, even as the number of children ever multiplies.  And no one ever stops to talk about what the people who aren’t married should be doing (or shouldn’t be doing).

Beyond that… well, I’m probably somewhat autistic, so I’m not good at understanding and expressing interpersonal and emotional stuff at all.  So I can’t really understand what love and sex means to other people and I struggle to say what it means to me (hence this rambling post, as I try to understand what I think and express it somehow to you).  And I have mentioned that a lot of the fiction that resonated with me growing up implicitly celebrated celibacy: Tintin, Sherlock Holmes, the original Doctor Who (before Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffatt decided that the Doctor was a babe-magnet and that the original series was flawed for not featuring enough romance (I am actually worried about what incoming show-runner Chris Chibnall will do to the programme, given his track record, but that’s a subject for another time and another blog, when I’m ready to face the flame war).  Star Trek is an odd one, as Kirk was obviously a womaniser, but I was much more interested in Spock and later Data, both asexual (mostly).  I liked James Bond, but fast-forwarded through the sex until I got to about eighteen and realised I loathed everything about the character.

I doubt that this fiction messed me up emotionally.  More likely I looked (unconsciously) for heroes who also didn’t know what to say to girls and weren’t really interested anyway.  There was a reasonably big gap for me between hitting puberty physically and being emotionally interested in girls, about two or three years where I could have been dating but had no real interest in doing so.  That golden age eventually ended and I discovered that girls simply didn’t like me (actually I spent several years pining after them, but being too shy to ask them out, or really to talk to them at all), so asexual fiction became an escape from my intuition that I would be alone forever.

(I will add parenthetically that when Doctor Who came back in 2005 with a libido, those of us who felt uncomfortable with this were often branded online as emotionally-retarded freaks who couldn’t get girlfriends.  The fact that I already saw myself as an emotionally-retarded freak who had never had a girlfriend did not make me feel less ashamed or stigmatised.)

These days I think the fact that I can’t stop thinking about, and feeling vaguely ashamed of, being a thirty-something single virgin has less to do with sex, however.  To some extent, it’s about love, about wanting to love and be loved, to be accepted, and instead feeling ignored and forgotten by those around me.  But I think it’s largely about fear of missing out.  Feeling that being a single virgin makes me inadequate, proof that I’m a freak and emotionally disturbed and that no sensible woman would ever go near me.  Fear that I’m missing out on a world of adult pleasures both in terms of sex and love and the less-romantic things that follow on from that (home-building, child-rearing, being part of a community that tends to see single people as exceptions in need of help in conforming by being partnered up).

But also that sex comes to stand for various other pleasures and experiences that I have never had and probably never will have, because the depression, the social anxiety and the Asperger’s/autism get in the way.  This is a list of stuff that I’ve never done and in some cases would never want to do (usually because of the Asperger’s) but which many people in the Western world have done at least once and are considered highly enjoyable and/or meaningful (in no particular order):

  1. drunk alcohol (excluding kiddish wine, one or two sips of my parents’ drinks when I was a child and a shot of whisky I downed by mistake in kiddish once having mistaken it for grape juice);
  2. gone to a rock concert;
  3. really enjoyed a party, without having to go outside to escape at times (as an adult);
  4. had a friend who is close enough, emotionally and geographically, that we can just pop round to each others’ houses for a chat or tea;
  5. had a ‘peak experience’ (in Maslow’s terms);
  6. had an intense religious experience (not the borderline-psychotic experiences I had at university, where for a second or two I believed I was mashiach (the messiah);
  7. gone travelling by myself or with a friend/partner (not family);
  8. been able to meditate properly (I’ve tried.  I’ve managed a bit when the depression isn’t bad);
  9. flirted with someone (I’m only vaguely aware of what flirting is.  My therapist said I flirted with my ex a bit and I once ended up saying something that sounded more flirtatious than I intended to a girl I had a crush on at Oxford, so maybe that should be flirted successfully with someone);
  10. had someone flirt with me (my ex tried a few times, I think, but she came across too strong and explicit and used to scare me.  This was probably part of the reason she thought I was frigid);
  11. been kissed properly and enjoyed it (not what happened that felt more like abuse);
  12. exercised properly (I run a little bit, but can only run for a minute or two without dropping back into a walk, which worries me enough to make me wonder if I have undiagnosed physical health problems.  I haven’t done any real exercise since starting to work longer hours, though);
  13. talk meaningfully to a stranger;
  14. had a pet other than goldfish.  I mean a pet I can pet, like a cat or a rabbit;
  15. been loved romantically, properly;
  16. brought up children;
  17. been happy for a reasonably prolonged period rather than just vaguely content and not depressed (although I would settle for content and not depressed right now);
  18. really felt part of a community.

Some of these things are trivial; others are major parts of the human condition.  Some I suppose I may have experienced a bit (I did qualify several of them), but others, like sex, are totally unknown to me.  I feel like I’m missing out a big part of life and my virginity is emblematic of that.

I don’t know what to do about this.  By this stage I feel that I don’t know how to become a mentally-healthy person and never will know.  Which in turn means that no one could ever love me and I probably wouldn’t be capable of truly loving someone else.  My parents were encouraging me to go to another shadchan (matchmaker) after the one who didn’t get back to me recently, but I don’t feel much inclined to do so.  My Mum said, what if there is a woman out there who is perfect for me wondering if she will meet someone, but I doubt it and if she is there I doubt I could meet her anyway.  It seems easier just to give up and resign myself to being single forever.

I guess I better stop there, as writing this post has brought up a lot of difficult feelings that I had suppressed and did not understand for a long time and I actually feel very depressed, despairing, agitated and anxious (I think – alexithymia again) just thinking about these things.

Leaping Souls

I’m writing this idly while waiting for Mum to wake up so we can light Chanukah candles (she’s not feeling well, so we haven’t lit yet).  I wasn’t planning on writing as I don’t really have much to say today, or rather, I do, but I need time to process things, discuss them with my therapist (who is away until January now) and internalise them and even then some of them may be too personal to write.  But I’m at a loose end, so I’ll write a bit of what I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks and especially over Shabbat (the Sabbath).

Shabbat was hard again.  I felt quite depressed and socially anxious in shul (synagogue) on Friday night again and slept through Shabbat morning after insomnia on Friday night.  The depression really does hit me in shul on Shabbat evening, when I’m away from the displacement activity of work.  I felt better during dinner, but felt very depressed and anxious during my hitbodedut.  Hitbodedut (literally ‘making oneself alone’) combines elements of prayer, meditation and, I guess, therapy.  Whereas prayer in Judaism usually means set prayers, in Hebrew, with a minyan (prayer quorum), hitbodedut is just talking to God in the vernacular, for as long as you want, saying whatever you want.  During the week it’s been very hard to do lately, partly from tiredness, partly from the ‘blocked’ nature of so much of my life, particularly my religious life, at the moment.  But on Shabbat it all comes out.  A lot of pain and depression and guilt and probably some anxiety and maybe sometimes anger.  Feelings of inadequacy and wondering how I can go on.

Lately I wonder how I can go on, why I’m still a frum (religious) Jew when Judaism probably causes me some pain and certainly uses a lot of energy, motivation and concentration that is in short supply with the depression, social anxiety and Asperger’s.  It’s not for reward, because I feel like God hates me and wants to punish me and that I don’t deserve a share in Olam HaBa (the Next World).  It’s not for fear of punishment, because even though I know rationally that punishment in Olam HaBa is worse than anything in this world, what I have been suffering over the last seventeen years or so seems as bad as anything else I could suffer; anyway, suffering in Olam HaBa only lasts one year, then you go to your reward or, if you’re really bad, your soul just stops existing.  That seems better than what I’m going through now, which has been going on for seventeen years (at least) and could go on for another seventy. It’s not for family reasons, because I’m the most religious person in my immediate family, so I’m not fitting in with the others.  It’s not from peer pressure, because most of my friends are not frum or not Jewish and most of the Jewish friendships have been made after things got hard for me.  It’s not for community, because I don’t feel I belong to one.  It’s not for simcha shel mitzvah (the joy of performing the commandments) because I don’t generally feel it because of the depression, although I do love Shabbat.

All I know is the story told by the Kotzker Rebbe (my hero), that all the souls come down to Earth from Heaven and the angel pulls up the ladder behind them.  God says, “Leap up to Heaven.”  Some souls say, “It’s impossible to leap from Earth to Heaven” and don’t even try.  Some try for a bit, but soon give up.  But some say, “If God tells me to leap into Heaven, I must keep trying” and they try and try and eventually God has mercy on them and reaches down and pulls them into Heaven.

I guess for me the jumping is an end in itself.  It’s the triumph of will over experience.  I believe in God and in the divine authorship of the Torah, so I jump, even though it hurts and even though I don’t expect to get anything positive out of it.

Anyway, I can’t imagine not being a Jew and I can’t imagine Judaism without halakhah (Jewish law/practice) – all attempts at creating cultural or non-halakhic Judaisms seem to me to be problematic and question-begging.  So I keep halakhah to be a Jew, because I am a Jew and I know I want to be a Jew.  Maybe it doesn’t have to be any deeper than that.

Too Much Too Much

I made some mistakes at work again.  They weren’t really awful, in the grand scheme of things, but I probably beat myself up about them more than I should.  One of the students said I had a bad attitude.  I suspect she was projecting her own anger and bad attitude onto me, but I felt guilty in case she was right and my tone of voice was harsher than I intended.  This does happen to me sometimes, probably a lot more when I was a child. I understand that it’s another Asperger’s/autism trait.  Poor executive function (another Asperger’s issue) has been a problem at work lately too.  I used to think that this wasn’t a problem for me, but now I increasingly suspect it is.  I know I’m indecisive, but I thought that was just my personality, but it could be the Asperger’s.  More pertinently, while I’m very self-motivated, I do find it hard to get down to things and to switch from one thing to another.  It’s another reason I hate being on the issue desk, because I will be doing some work and then a student will come up and ask a question or return a book and I have to go back and forth from one task to another, involving a multitude of windows and programs on my computer and I get lost.  I worry that I made a fool of myself to my boss today getting confused when switching windows and doing different tasks while we were working on something together on my computer.

Then WordPress recommended one far-right antisemitic blog and one far-left anti-Zionist/borderline antisemitic blog to me.  I think WordPress’ recommendation algorithm picked up the word ‘Jews’ and decided they must be like my blog.  This stuff upsets me more than it should.  I should be immune to antisemitism by now, having experienced so much of it, but it always gets to me.  I think it’s the injustice of it that hurts me, because unlike other unjustified criticism (e.g. that student who thought I had a bad attitude) I don’t really worry that it might be true (well, maybe some anti-Zionist criticism, but not the blog that argued that Donald Trump is a puppet of the international Jewish conspiracy and will convert to Judaism any day now).  Anyway, I don’t want to make this into a political blog, so I’ll stop there, but I can internal-monologue on this for hours (Asperger’s again).  Sigh.  As an aside, there don’t seem to be many Jewish blogs on WordPress, judging by the blogs I get recommended and the people who follow my blog, who seem to come mainly via recommendations on WordPress, so far as I can tell.  Few people seem to come here from my comments on Hevria.

I’ve had a few things I’ve wanted to blog about the last few days, but I haven’t really had the time with Chanukah and work.  I’ve been at my parents’ house for ‘candle’ lighting every night (candle in inverted commas because I actually use olive oil lamps).  This has been good but it takes a whole chunk out of my evening.  I’m desperately trying to get to the end of term in one piece.  I’ve just got to get through two ‘proper’ work days and one staff development day, then I have thirteen days off.  Thirteen days to sleep in and to work on my Doctor Who book and maybe do some of the exercising and cooking I have been neglecting lately, but also thirteen days to potentially be depressed and lonely – the depression, loneliness and self-loathing have been lurking in the background again lately.  I’ve been using very negative self-talk in my internal monologues again.  I don’t think I ever stopped really, but I think I might have done it less for a bit, but am doing more again.  I’m calling myself a “freak” a lot again, thinking I’ll never get married (the shadchan (matchmaker) I contacted never got back to me).  My parents were all excited that they have three weddings of friends’ children to go to next year and it was hard for me not to say something inappropriate about how depressed they were making me feel.  At least my sister’s marriage is out of the way, but I still need to deal with my friend’s wedding next year.  It’s a year (pretty much exactly) since I last felt suicidal, but I was feeling a bit that way today.  Not that I actually wanted to kill myself, but that I wished I wasn’t here.  The pure O (obsession/OCD) thoughts of throwing myself under a train, which is normally just a distraction that doesn’t bother me much somehow seem more worrying, less a fear that I will go crazy and impulsively jump for no reason and more a worry that one day I might really jump from real despair.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about tonight (this post has been a massive digression to vent so far) is something that happened at shiur tonight.  I realised that I knew quite a bit, Jewishly and secularly, but that I was too scared to share it.  Scared of being wrong (I did answer one question incorrectly, probably due to nerves/social anxiety as I did know the right answer), but also scared of being right and seeming ‘too clever’, like I was bullied and told off for being when I was growing up, especially if I say that someone else is wrong.  Also scared of knowing something I shouldn’t.  I’ll explain the last two points.

The shiur was about ChanukahChanukah, for those who don’t know, commemorates when the Greeks who ruled the land of Israel (actually the Seleucid (Greek-descended) rulers of Syria, but their culture was Hellenic/Greek) tried to impose Hellenic culture on the Jews there and basically destroy Judaism as a religion, or at least turn it into something less monotheistic and distinctively Jewish and more pagan and universalist.  The Jews rebelled and won, purified the Temple and struggled to light the menorah (lamp) because the Greeks had defiled all the olive oil, but found a tiny jar of pure oil that miraculously burned for eight days, exactly the time needed for them to prepare more oil.

The rabbi who gave the shiur constructed a whole philosophical structure around this about Greek culture, what it was and how it compares with Jewish culture.  It was interesting, but I had two problems.  One was I had heard a different interpretation, probably a complementary one, I haven’t really thought it through, which I was too scared to share with people in case it looked like I was criticising the rabbi or showing off.  There was also some general discussion at the end that I could have joined in with, but was scared to for the same reason.  But there were also things I was scared to say for fear of showing off secular knowledge and privileging that over Torah.  I wasn’t 100% convinced that his analysis of Hellenic culture fitted with what I have read in secular sources and I certainly wasn’t convinced that his analysis of Sadducee religion, which he brought in, was at all correct.  The Sadducees were a Jewish sect in late antiquity.  He was correct that they were heavily influenced by Hellenism, unlike the Pharisees, the ancestors of rabbinic Judaism, but I’m not convinced that they didn’t want to serve God; rather they were textual literalists who rejected the oral tradition, which isn’t the same thing to my way of thinking, even if it did lead to major differences in belief and practice from Pharisaic/rabbinic Judaism.  I suppose it says something about me that I’m still thinking about this, trying to find a way to reconcile what the rabbi said with what I have read and learnt elsewhere rather than just saying he’s wrong.  But I’m scared to ask the question for fear of looking too ‘modern’ and secular-influenced and for fear of looking like I’m attacking him with my degree in history (not that I studied ancient history or Jewish history at university).

I do feel that I often have things to share with people (comments, jokes, even quotations that I feel are appropriate or amusing), but I hold back for fear of what people would think.  Too intellectual.  Too elitist.  Too geeky.   Too weird.  Too religious.  Too secular.  Too irritating.  Maybe this is wrong of me.  Maybe I hold too much of myself back for anyone to be able to get to know, and maybe even like, the real me, let alone to build up intimacy and friendship.  But I’m too scared of rejection, from my childhood experiences and from my experiences on dates where I have opened up to women and tried to show them a bit of the real me (not the intense things I share here, but just my knowledge and personality, plus sometimes the existence of my mental health issues), only to be rejected.  I know I share a lot of things here, but I think I don’t really believe that other people are going to read this when I write, at least on some level and I do hold some things back, actually in some ways more now that I know that I have more readers and I can try to predict what they want to read (so fewer irrelevant quotations from Doctor Who, for example).

It is hard to know how I can open up to more people in an appropriate way in the future.  I guess this is something that the book I bought on social anxiety might be able to help me with (I haven’t started using it yet because I’ve been too busy), but I worry that the Asperger’s prevents me from judging when it is appropriate to say something and so I err on the side of caution and say nothing.  I worry that this is impossible to change and so I will never fit in, make friends, find a community or get married.

Chanukah Present

It’s Chanukah!  The present I would most like (apart from things like world peace and health and happiness for my friends and family) is to be set up on a date with a woman who actually likes me and is suitable for me.  Doesn’t look like happening though.  The woman my Mum was trying to set me up with doesn’t seem to be interested and I’m still waiting to hear back from the shadchanit (matchmaker) who specialises in people with health issues or other ‘sensitive’ circumstances.  I don’t know where I go from here, as I was pinning a lot of my hopes on one of those two working.  I suppose I should go to an ordinary shadchan who might turn me away or try to set me up with a “normal” woman (we know how well that works).  Sigh.  The possibility of ever getting married seems to recede into the distance…

Addiction (Books Do Furnish a Room)

I don’t have many vices, or indeed things I enjoy, but I have an addiction to buying second-hand books.  Being a librarian allows me to feed my addiction, as I can buy cheap books off the withdrawn pile.  But whatever slight boost I get from buying them (and it is a slight boost, my anhedonia sees to that) is eroded later when I realise I’m never going to read all the books I buy.

Today I ended up with four books from the “for sale” pile.  One on Islamism, one on politics and economics (deliberately buying something that will challenge my political views, vague and contradictory as they are), one on political history (probably the most interesting-looking) and one on psychology: one of Maslow’s books on self-actualisation.  I thought should at least own the book, given that I use his hierarchy of needs to beat myself up about the impossibility of my ever being happy and having “peak experiences” when so many of my basic needs can not be met.

Goodness knows when I will get to read the books.  I don’t have much time for recreational reading as it is between my job, the book I’m writing, my blog (which is often a need for self-expression rather than a luxury) and my religious obligations; when I do have time to read I’m often too tired or too depressed to do so, and all these books look heavy-going.  I already have a huge ‘too read’ pile (or piles, plural, as I’m a re-reader – it often takes me two goes to really ‘get’ a serious book, whether fiction or non-fiction; the same goes for TV and film, incidentally) and I’m getting stack more books for Chanukah, possibly indicative of a lack of imagination on my part.  There was no point asking for DVDs as I’m going to be stuck watching Doctor Who for another year or so as research for my book.  I would like a new tie for shul, but other than that I hate getting clothes for presents, as I have little interest in them.  I wanted something I would enjoy after a difficult, tiring term with resurgent depression and lots of little somethings on several nights of Chanukah (rather than one big one on first night) so I could feel I had some parental attention after my sister’s wedding even if the monetary cost to them is the same.  We don’t do surprise presents very much in my family and anyway my sister is the only person I really trust to buy me surprise presents, so I had to choose something.  Anyway, the librarian doth protest too much, methinks.

Still, I once worked out I spend about £1 a week on books.  Even if I spend twice that, it’s still only about £100 a year and I do at least read some of them.  As hobbies go, it’s cheaper than most.  £100 would be fewer than ten trips to the cinema, and I must get more than 30 hours of pleasure out of a year’s worth of books.

Feeling like a Depressive Autistic Freak

I’m mildly snowed in, but I’ve got to go out soon to see some friends and do urgent food shopping.  It has at least stopped snowing now.  I haven’t really done anything all day except sleep and eat.  I feel depressed and lacking in motivation.  I did email the shadchanit for people with health issues.  I will have to wait and see how that turns out.

I did manage to clean the flat.  This doesn’t take very long in a flat this tiny, but it takes a lot of effort to get going, which could be depressive lack of motivation and energy, or autistic poor executive function or plain procrastination/laziness.

I texted my boss to check that college will be open tomorrow despite the snow.  I had to ask, or else risk a long trip across London for no purpose, but I’m worried she will think I’m hoping to skive (again).

Added 8.45pm: I’m just back from dinner with some friends.  I feel the Asperger’s and the social anxiety won out over me.  My friends asked about my sister’s wedding and I was unable to answer the way they wanted.  Things like the food, the decor and my sister’s dress don’t matter much to me and I didn’t really notice much or have the vocabulary to describe what I did notice.  I was surprised that one (female) friend who has never shown much interest in fashion or the like before was suddenly desperate to find out what my sister’s dress looked like (it was white and had a long train and beyond that I neither know nor really care).

One of my other friends who was there recently got engaged and his fiancée came.  I had not known of her existence until I heard they were engaged a few weeks ago, but apparently they have been together for three years.  You may guess from this that most (all?) of my friendships are not close.  I can’t go to the wedding because it’s in another city in term time and I won’t be able to get the time off work, but I didn’t say anything because I’m too embarrassed and ashamed, although I don’t know why.  Maybe because part of me is secretly glad not to have to go to another party.

I tried to make a good impression on his fiancée, but found myself unable to say much; when she tried to engage me in conversation directly, I was unable to say anything other than “yes” and “no,” although I wanted to be more communicative.  My friend pointed out that I was wearing my college scarf (we were at the same Oxford college) and she asked if I’ve ever been back.  I said yes and she asked if I enjoyed going back; I didn’t like to say that I felt terrible when I went back because all I could think of were the places where I was lonely, the places where I was despairing, the places where I was suicidal…  Then I had to run off to catch my bus to avoid waiting in the cold for twenty minutes, which was probably rude.  So she probably thinks I’m a freak (she would be correct).

I’m glad that my friend has got engaged, but I feel secretly envious that he has a pretty, friendly and intelligent fiancée and I’m a freak who will be lonely forever.  I also felt envious that everyone at the table had a good job, whereas I’m a “poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian”.  That said, I wouldn’t want to be a property or tax lawyer, but I did envy the doctor and the academic.  I don’t even work full-time.

The score from the weekend: Luftmentsch 1, depression 1, social anxiety 1, Asperger’s 1.  So Luftmentsch 1, mental health and developmental disorders 3.  And that’s probably being generous to myself.

(I wonder if this bad mood is entirely from feeling I did badly from a socialising point of view or whether the rich chocolate mousse-meringue-cake I had for dessert has led me to have a blood sugar crash?  I always crash when I eat out with friends or family and I always assumed it was from feeling lonely and incompetent (I worry about saying the wrong thing at the meal, eating with people reminds me how rarely I see friends, and seeing couples out makes me feel painfully single), but maybe it’s a blood sugar thing.  In which case I will have to cut back on one of my few pleasant luxuries, the occasional piggy chocolate dessert.  Blast.)

Thoughts I’ve had this Evening

Someone as messed up as me doesn’t deserve to be happy…

…so it’s just as well that I can’t ever be happy.

I just want someone to tell me I’m a good person…

…and let myself believe them, which is harder.

I feel so lonely…

…I wish there was someone here with me…

…which I can now understand as wanting someone I feel comfortable talking to or just being with, but also someone I feel comfortable touching and letting her touch me, gently and affectionately more than just sexually…

…One of my (female) friends once said that I tend to fall for “alpha women” who aren’t interested in me.  I’m not sure if that’s completely true (about them being alpha women, they certainly aren’t interested in me), but I guess some of them would qualify…

…but saying I’m looking for someone gentle, caring, quiet and family-focused is hard, because I feel like I’m saying that I’m looking for some stereotyped pre-feminist Victorian Stepford Wife, when really all I’m saying is that I want to marry someone like myself (I’m not sure if I’m caring, but I’m gentle, quiet and family-focused)…

…for the record, I cook, clean, grocery shop and can launder, iron and sew (the latter very badly).  I’m not looking for a domestic servant or living doll.  I have no problem with my wife going to work leaving me as a house-husband if it makes economic sense for us.  I just want to meet someone like me, someone I would feel able to trust: thoughtful, intelligent, gentle, caring, quiet, family-focused and with a sense of integrity both in terms of being honest and in terms of being true to herself and her unique character…

…Maybe if I show that last paragraph to the shadchanit she might know someone suitable?

On a different note, I spent much of the evening downloading photos from my sister’s wedding.  I didn’t even take that many, and some came out blurred because of problems with my camera’s flash, or off-centre because I had to stay out of the way of the official photographer.  Oh well.  I don’t know if anyone’s interested in seeing them.  I can’t put them up here because of my anonymity and because there are photos of young children that I wouldn’t put up without their parents’ permission, but if anyone I know in real life (or have known online for a long time) wants the Snapfish link, please email me.  I didn’t take many photos (even fewer once I weeded out the really bad ones).  Maybe I was too busy experiencing the event or maybe I just felt too nervous too much of the time.  I’m not sure.  Certainly I spent a lot of the evening elsewhere, during the dancing.

New Perspectives

I had a fairly awful Shabbat (Sabbath), but I think I realised some new things about myself.  Firstly, I seem to be OK during the work week.  In the mornings I feel depressed, but I have to rush to work.  Then work is a distraction and in the evenings I’m exhausted and just eat and go to bed.  On Thursday evening I can begin to wind down a bit and Friday is rushing with therapy and Shabbat preparations, but then I go to shul and suddenly I have limited distractions for the next twenty-five hours and not much distraction for a day or so after that and things can get difficult.

In shul I was feeling very depressed and self-critical.  I can’t remember exactly what I was feeling, but it was stuff like, “I’m a freak, I’m a bad person, God hates me, I’m much worse than everyone else in my community, I have no share in Olam HaBa (the World to Come i.e. Heaven)…”  I started thinking about what would happen if, It’s a Wonderful Life-style (I’ve never seen the film, but I know the plot),  I was shown what life would be like for those around me if I had never been born.  I found it hard to imagine that it would be much different.  My parents would still have my sister.  My friends all have other friends.  I’ve done one or two good things in my life, but not many, certainly not many that were difficult enough that I can really take credit for the effort involved.  I carried on thinking like this until I got home, depressed enough that I crawled into bed fully dressed (this would be about five o’clock) and eventually dozed until dinner at six.  (This meant I couldn’t sleep later.)  I felt better at dinner, but was probably a bit irritable and felt worse for quite a while after dinner, although I improved before bed.

I woke up at 8.00am today and should have gone to shul (synagogue), but was feeling too depressed and just went back to sleep.  I didn’t get up until something like 1.00pm and it took even longer to get dressed, even after I’d had some breakfast.  By that time there were only a couple of hours of Shabbat left, so that was spent mainly eating and davening (praying).  I didn’t do much Torah study as I have a bit of headache, not a bad one, but it won’t shift.  I was too tired/depressed/lazy to go back to shul for Ma’ariv (the evening service).

I hadn’t felt that self-loathing and depressed for a while.  I had decided that I was going to email the shadchan (matchmaker) I found who specialises in people with medical and other ‘issues’ (having given up waiting for my parents to contact the friends whose daughter they want to set me up with and not being at all sure that she is frum (religious) enough for me anyway), but now I wonder if that’s at all a good idea.

The other thing worth noting happened today when I realised that what I describe is loneliness really is loneliness, but also sexual frustration.  It’s hard for me to describe that because, being a virgin (at thirty-four!) I don’t really know what I want nor do I have a vocabulary to describe it (even without alexithymia making it hard to understand what I feel), plus as a frum Jew I’m not supposed to talk about sex at all, really, especially as I’m single; it’s something that is supposed to happen between husband and wife and isn’t supposed to be mentioned outside that context.  When I had an essay published on Hevria about being scared of sex, I didn’t show my family for fear of what they would say and I didn’t let Hevria publish it under my real name.  I wanted to talk about sex to my therapist this week, but somehow we got distracted on to something else, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to say anyway.

I’ve mentioned that sex for me is tied up with feelings like love, intimacy and acceptance.  I can’t imagine that I could ever be promiscuous, even if I wasn’t frum.  So it’s easy to see that sexual frustration is part of what I feel when I experience what I call ‘loneliness’, because my desire for love, intimacy and acceptance (loneliness) is inseparable from my desire for sex.  It might (I’ll put it no stronger than that) explain why, since I was eighteen (i.e. about half my life) all my closest friends have been women.  Since then I’ve generally had one close friend (inasmuch as I have close friends) who ‘happens’ to be female, and usually I feel that, if things were different, I would like to go out with her.  Usually I can’t because she’s not Jewish or not frum or not interested in me like that; sometimes there’s some other reason of incompatibility.  It’s very frustrating.

Right now I’m supposed to be downloading my photos from my sister’s wedding or doing some Torah study (now my headache has mostly gone), but I just want to go to bed (my flat is freezing – I’ve got my dressing gown on over my clothes (several layers) and I’m thinking of boiling some water on the hob just to warm the flat up!) or, failing that, watch Doctor Who, which is probably a better idea given what happened yesterday when I went to bed early (i.e. insomnia later).

More Psychologically-Inspired Thoughts (Empathy, Alexithymia and Asperger’s)

I mentioned the other day that I wonder if I have a proper theory of mind (intuitive understanding that other people think differently to me, thought to be absent in autistic people – I’m going to assume for this post (and in most of my posts) that Asperger’s Syndrome is synonymous with high functioning autism).  Today I was flicking through a book at work, deciding whether to withdraw it, and came across a theory of mind test.  It is hard for me to analyse myself properly using these, as I have seen them before and know the right answer (when I first saw them, I was unaware that I might be autistic and did not use them to test myself), but I was skim reading fast enough that I was not so aware of the context.  I think I failed it (i.e. failed to realise that another person would not know something I knew, indicating that I might be autistic), with the caveat that I was skimming very fast and so (a) am not 100% sure what I answered and (b) am not 100% sure whether I read the question properly.  So the result is rather suspect, but suggests that I might be more autistic than I thought.  I suspect that I have learnt logically how to work out what other people might be thinking to avoid obvious social blunders, which would fit with specifically high functioning autism.

This prompted me to go online to see if I could find a version of the theory of mind test that I hadn’t seen before to get a more objective answer.  I could not find one, but I did find tests of empathy and alexithymia (inability to identify, describe and interpret emotions) and the scores did not surprise me at all with the caveat that these tests done online are not always scientific and even scientific ones can be controversial in what they test, how they test for it and how they interpret the results.  So take this post with a pinch of salt.  I scored somewhat below average for empathy, again indicating Asperger’s/autism.  I do feel some empathy; when the depression is bad, I avoid the news because it is so depressing.  However, I find it hard to know intuitively what other people are thinking.  I think I have learnt how to hypothesise what other people are feeling (from experience observing other people and their actions and from reading novels, which are a way of learning what other people’s inner worlds look like) and to interpret their cues in a very laboured and conscious way, rather than an intuitive way like neurotypical people.  Again, this mixture of problems with empathy and moderately successful workarounds fits with being both autistic and high functioning, as I understand it.

The alexithymia score was even less surprising as my therapist identified that a long time ago, in a context separate from autism without knowing the name, although she was pleased when I told her, as she knows I like labels; she may have been being slightly teasing or ironic (in a friendly way), I’m not sure – another autistic trait.  I scored highly overall for alexithymic traits, which was really not a surprise.  There is a detailed breakdown into different categories: I have high alexithymic traits for identifying, describing and interpreting feelings (definitely all true and what my therapist noticed), as well as for externally-orientated thinking, which apparently is about focusing on external rather than internal events and experiences.  I am not sure about that, as I do think a lot about what I feel, but that could be a product of keeping a daily mood diary for over a decade to assess my progress with the depression.  I certainly do find it hard to say how I feel about external events e.g. my sister’s wedding.  It’s easier for me to say “Everyone else enjoyed it” or “I was not as depressed as I feared I would be” than “It went well for me; I enjoyed it.”  I also scored high for restricted imagination, which is interesting as I did well at school in English, which requires a lot of imagination and I used to write stories and poetry for fun.  However, I do find it hard to find inspiration; I’m not one of those writers who is overflowing with ideas and I am frequently ‘blocked’ and have been for most of the last couple of years, with brief intervals of inspiration.  Certainly my imagination goes round in restricted circles and probably piggybacks on ideas I have seen in books and on TV.  I apparently have some alexithymic traits in sexuality, although I found these questions impossible to answer, as I am still a virgin.  I do have my experience of moderately sexual experiences (hugging, kissing) with my ex-girlfriend, but that was complicated by other emotions and thoughts surrounding it.  I do still worry about being frigid, having scored so highly on most of the other alexithymic traits; I think the moderate score here comes from me answering ‘undecided’ in the absence of a ‘I don’t know, I’m a virgin’ button.  I do apparently have no alexithymic traits regarding problematic interpersonal relationships, but I’m not quite sure what that means.  From the questions, I think it means that my difficulty understanding emotions does not lead to conflict with others; they don’t complain that I don’t meet their emotional needs.  I think that this was more of a problem when I was a child, based on some childhood memories.  I suspect that, as with some of the empathy questionnaire questions, I have learnt rules and workarounds to let me identify what other people are feeling and respond appropriately e.g. when Mum has yortzeit (anniversary of a death), expect her to be upset and possibly irritable; phone and see how she is making sure to listen to her emotions before telling her how I feel.

I suppose that I still don’t know, and probably never will know for sure, whether I have Asperger’s, but it probably does show that I am neurodivergent in various ways.  What I do with the information is another question.  I doubt it will cause me to make allowances for how I feel/think, let alone stop beating myself up about my difficulties interacting with others and taking care of my emotional needs.

Get Out of That

There is so much I want to say here sometimes, and so much that I can’t say because it will hurt other people or because it will probably hurt me or at least make people think badly of me (and rightly so).  I think I write because I think writing will stop things hurting or at least provide some release, but it doesn’t really.  I want to get a response, more than just likes, but on the rare occasions I get a comment, they don’t help much either.  I suppose they can’t, as I want people to agree with me that my life is awful and I’m awful, but also to contradict me and tell me that the future will be good.  Maybe on some level I think that if I write about my fears for the future, they won’t materialise.  Maybe I even think that if I write about my past it will unhappen.  It’s no good though.  The past is set in stone and no one has yet reassured me that my worst fears for the future won’t happen.  “But at my back I always hear/Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”  The future is coming, and sooner than you think…

Psychologically-Inspired Thoughts

This had various thoughts today, perhaps because I was weeding the psychology collection at work and so I was looking at books about mental health, autism, emotions and so on, throwing up all kinds of thoughts after work.  I was too tired and depressed to read on the way home and so drafted this post on paper and thought a lot about it.

It wasn’t so much clear thoughts I was having as questions and fantasies.  Questions about Asperger’s: do I have an innate theory of mind or have I just learnt to guess what others might be thinking from experience?  (It is suggested people with Asperger’s Syndrome have impaired theory of mind.)  But if I do have Asperger’s, why was I very capable of imaginative play as a child?  Then again, if I don’t have it, why did I also love to make tableaux of my toys, which seems to be a cross between autistic and neurotypical play?

I also thought about relationships.  What would it be like to be in a proper,  mutually-loving relationship?  [I had stuff here about my relationship that didn’t work out, but I decided to redact it.  Suffice to say it wasn’t my fault it didn’t work out, but it leaves me wondering if anyone could ever really love me.]  What would it be like to come home to someone who loved me and wanted to see me rather than a cold and lonely flat?  At the risk of sounding vulgar, I even found myself wondering what sex feels like.  Would I enjoy it or would it be like every other ‘normal’ pleasure that my depressive anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) stops me enjoying?  Or another physical thing that is too difficult with my mental health issues, borderline Asperger’s and neuroses?  Like when my ex tried to kiss me and I hated it and found it initially disgusting and then when she tried to get me to trying again, I found myself literally unable to work out how to do it.  Am I frigid, as she suggested?  Will I ever get to find  out?  It seems unlikely, although I have sort of decided to go to a shadchan (matchmaker) soon if my parents don’t manage to set me up with the person they want to set me up with.

Sometimes it seems like vast, basic areas of human experience are shut off to me by my mental health, borderline Asperger’s and personality: love, sex, travel, alcohol, intense friendships, community… I don’t even remember my dreams most of the time, let alone have the kind of complex dreams with strong narratives and psychologically revealing symbolism that people like my father report.

I got upset and slightly scared by something at work which I’ve decided not to narrate as this post is too long and self-indulgent as it is (suffice to say I think I overheard some students being antisemitic).  As I mentioned above, I tried to read on the Tube home, but was overcome with sadness and tears without being sure why.  I don’t know why I write self-indulgent rubbish like this (which probably reveals too much about my ex, if anyone knows my real identity, which I don’t hide particularly well, but I need to try to process what happened to me somehow and it was several years ago, so I don’t know how many people who know me remember we dated).  I guess I want to hear that someone understands or cares.  I’m not sure that ‘likes’ on a blog post really do that,  though.

Off Sick and Romantic Probabilities

I’m home early today.  I made a cup of tea at work this morning.  I try not to drink tea in the morning except with my breakfast, as drinking it on an empty stomach seems to make me nauseous sometimes.  I thought I would be OK today as I had just eaten a banana, but within twenty minutes or so of finishing my tea, I was very sick.  I was going to stay at work, but when I asked my boss if someone could take over from me at the issue desk in case I was sick again, she insisted I go home in case it was a virus and I’m infectious.  I suppose it’s understandable that she doesn’t want to risk the whole team to going down with a virus at the same time, but I feel like I’m malingering, as I’m 99% sure it was just the tea.  I feel fine now, except for being a bit tired, probably because I went to bed a little later than intended last night and didn’t sleep well and/or the after-effects of the wedding.  So I have some time to kill this afternoon, perhaps to work on my book or download wedding photos.

One thing I was thinking about this morning which seemed too small a thought for the blog, but which can, I suppose, be added to the paragraph above to turn two small ideas into one post, concerns dating.  I have said that I haven’t dated many women and that most of the women I have dated haven’t been much like me.  I have also said that I despair of finding someone really like me: frum (Jewish-Orthodox-religious), geeky and with an understanding of mental health issues and Asperger’s, probably someone who has similar issues of her own so I’m not just making demands on her.  Every so often I meet someone who meets two of these categories or even all three, but it never works out, either because of the criterion they don’t meet or for some other reason.  I know that I should think that if I’ve met one or two women who meet some or even all of my criteria, then there must more women like that out there and I just need to work out how to meet them (which admittedly is difficult, but is another reason to go to a shadchan (matchmaker)).  However, I assume that there was only one such woman and now I’ve lost my only chance at happiness by messing up with her.  Sometimes I dangerously think I should have stayed with my ex, even though we clearly weren’t right for each other on multiple levels.

I’m not a statistician and I don’t know if it’s more true to say that the existence of one woman like me makes the existence of yet another like me more or less likely.  Does the existence of one or two frum, geeky mentally ill women mean that they are part of an existing subculture and there must be more out there for me to meet, or does it mean that I have met all (both) of them and they are unique?  I don’t know.  I also don’t know how much I need to meet someone who is geeky.  I know I need someone frum and probably with some kind of issue – not that I want her to have issues, but otherwise she is going to have to sacrifice a lot with little return which would unbalance the relationship.  But how much do I need to have interests in common with a spouse?  I don’t know.

The Wedding Part III: The Aftermath

Today has been harder than yesterday in some ways.  I woke up late, feeling OK, had breakfast and pottered around a bit.  I had stayed overnight at my parents’ house for convenience and my copy of the new Doctor Who: Shada DVD arrived there in the early afternoon (my post goes care of my parents because my flat doesn’t have a postal address, it’s just my landlords’ garage).  As the day went on my mood slipped lower and lower, especially now I am back in the flat and feeling quite depressed and lonely.  Shada provided some distraction, but I only had the energy for five minutes of Torah study and I’m missing both dinner out with my extended family and/or Talmud shiur (class) as I’m just too tired to go out, let alone be in a big, noisy group.  I don’t know what I’m going to eat for dinner, as I’m too tired to cook anything.

I just stopped myself from saying something I shouldn’t say online.  There was a post on Hevria about post-partum depression and the author was saying that until she had her baby, she was “a rockstar” religiously, going to seminary, studying a lot, davening (praying) a lot and so on and now she can’t do any of that.  She got support from people who said that pre-marriage life is “amazing” because you have no responsibilities and “you can spend hours learning Torah”.  My pre-married life (i.e. all my life) is far from “amazing.”  It’s hard to do or enjoy anything, let alone “spend hours learning Torah”.  She now feels a lot better on medication, whereas I’m on medication that makes me feel ‘awful’ instead of ‘suicidally awful’.  I wanted to say that I never went to yeshiva (although that was not entirely due to poor mental health, if at all), can’t study and can’t daven either, plus I don’t have a supportive spouse.  But it would be rude to say that and I feel bad for even thinking it.  I do really feel sorry for her and am glad she’s doing better.  But it did push my buttons, making me think that I must be so useless that even when I’m well, I can’t meet all my obligations and be a religious superstar or even just enjoy things.  And it makes me feel like a freak for being stuck in this depression for decades when other people can come out of it as soon as they get the courage to ask for a pill.

I may go to the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues soon, or I may just give up on dating entirely, I don’t know.  It does seem very unlikely that there could be anyone out there for me.

Tomorrow work beckons and at some point I will have to revisit the wedding to download my photos.  For now I guess I should forget the wedding, make some dinner, watch the rest of Shada, get ready for work and try to get an early night.  Although I fear I may just procrastinate.

The Wedding Part II: The Big Day

I’m drafting much of this post old style, with pen and paper, on Sunday 3 December in the yichud room of the vast and labyrinthine shul were my sister got married a few hours ago.  The yichud room is the room an Orthodox couple go to briefly after the wedding ceremony to be alone; we have arranged with the shul to use it all evening (the party is here too) as a storage room and a ‘chill out’ room for myself and a cousin who also has mental health issues to retreat to if it all gets too much for us.  It is probably the closest I’ll ever be to being in a yichud room properly (I am literally alone here).  It is the middle of the wedding party and meal.

The day actually went reasonably well for me in the end.  I was nervous in the chatan’s tisch (refreshments for the groom and some male friends and relatives) and didn’t really talk to anyone, even the people I knew.  I was emotional in the ceremony, where I got to stand by the chuppah (marriage canopy; my brother-in-law (as he now is) has a family custom to position men at each corner pole of the chuppah) but I’m not sure why because I couldn’t separate out my feelings.  I think I felt happy for my sister, lonely for myself (thinking I will never get married), anxious from standing in front of 250 people and even upset by the thought of the many tragedies of Jewish history when the groom broke the glass to symbolise our mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  All these feelings and maybe more bled into each other.

While my sister and brother-in-law were in the yichud room, I got to meet my sister’s new nephew and nieces.  They took a bit of a shine to me, particularly one of the two year old twins who smiled whenever she saw me.  Eventually my sister and b-i-l came out and we had various family photos taken.  I avoided shaking as I feared I would.  In fact, I think the only time I really shook badly was when one of my b-i-l’s friends pinned a buttonhole flower on me where the anxiety was probably from a total stranger invading my personal space.

I took some photos here and throughout the evening.  Most didn’t come out that well as people were moving  and the lighting was very dim.  I was worried, perhaps unnecessarily, about shaking when asking people to pose, so I tried to surreptitiously take ‘action shots’, but most came out blurred, perhaps due to the long shutter time on that light level or simply due to the very dim lighting.  I got a few nice photos of four of my cousins, although the youngest was camera shy and kept pulling faces.  Got a lovely photo of cousin 1 (the trainee rabbi) looking very rabbinical as if he is pondering a complex Talmudic problem, although he was actually opening the wine. I also got a quite nice shot of my sister’s twin nieces facing each other which looks initially like a trick shot of one girl and her reflection until you realise they are standing at different angles.

After we had our photos taken, I was supposed to go into the reception, but ran into friends of mine who are also friends with my sister, along with their baby daughter.  I chatted with them for a while and let their daughter try out her emerging teeth on my finger.  She was also very cute and smiled at me a lot.  It makes me wonder again that if I can’t have my own children, I should try to find a way of volunteering with children because I can let my guard down with them in a way that I can’t with adults despite my fears of not knowing what to do if there is a problem.  Most of the bits of the wedding I enjoyed most were playing with the children, to be honest.

There was Israeli dancing/simcha dancing before dinner.  I stood and watched for a long time before eventually forcing myself and tentatively joining in.  I mainly did it for my Dad and my sister and I didn’t really enjoy it.  It was OK if a bit anxiety-triggering to dance arm in arm with my Dad and cousin 1 (I felt a bit stupid), but doing circle dancing with people is hard as I don’t like holding hands with strangers or putting my arms around them and having them put their arms around me.  I guess the world didn’t end, but I do wish I could be the type of person who found this type of thing easier or more fun.

The dinner/dancing hall was very noise with music and guests and I felt a bit overwhelmed especially during the dancing when the music was very loud.  It’s hard when my parents’ friends and family keep coming up to wish me mazal tov and I feel funny, I’m not sure why.  I suppose I feel I don’t deserve that or something.  Only one person wished me “Please God by your wedding” (note to non-Jewish readers: “please God by you” is an awful insensitive phrase that people say to unmarried people at weddings or childless couples at brits (circumcisions) and baby-welcoming parties.  It’s well-meant, but really insensitive to a lot of single or infertile people).  At any rate, I think she’ll have a long wait for my wedding, and I wouldn’t want a big party like this anyway (not that I’ll get much say if it ever happens).

I made motzei (the blessing on bread) for everyone OK, except that there was some confusion about where I was supposed to wash my hands (ritually) beforehand, which meant everyone had to wait while I went out, washed and come back in again, which looked unprofessional on my part, even though I was told the wrong thing.

I spent much of the second half of the party in the yichud room, drafting this post and reading the latest Jewish Review of Books.  I was pleased to get texts from three friends during the evening checking that I was OK, so I guess a few people care about me.  I did go back for the cake-cutting and speeches, so I heard b-i-l compliment me on my “sharp, insightful humour.”

Overall, the wedding went better than I expected.  I enjoyed bits of it, particularly playing with children and eating (the vegetarian option was very good) and I was glad that my sister, b-i-l, their parents and b-i-l’s siblings all seemed to have a good time.  I managed to keep going when I had to and put on a brave face for a few people, but when I stopped I sometimes felt depressed and lonely again, beating myself up over silly things and feeling tired.

The Wedding Part I: Prologue

My Israeli family (uncle, aunt, five cousins aged between twenty-five and eleven) are in the country for my sister’s wedding.  They came for dinner on Thursday night.  They are a very loud and boisterous family (one cousin has ADHD and we strongly suspect that another also has it and that a third has ADD; my uncle might have one or the other too).  Hyperactivity, argumentativeness and shouting do not always mix well with Asperger’s and social anxiety, even within family.  The first hour was good, but after that I felt I needed to get away.  I chatted with my Dad in another room for a bit.  By the time I got back to my flat, I was very overwhelmed and depressed.  I don’t remember what I did exactly; I think I procrastinated online for a bit, read a bit, maybe watched a DVD.  Whatever I did, I didn’t get to bed until gone 3.00am which was very bad of me.  Having to go to bed and get up early for work often seems to provoke a reaction in the opposite direction on non-work nights.

My extended family stayed with my parents for Shabbat (the Sabbath).  I stayed in the flat so people could sleep in my room and walked over for meals.  Friday night was good.  Really good.  Everyone was in a good mood, we had a long dinner, lots of talking and joking.  I discovered that cousin number 4 is also turning in to a bit of a geek.  I saw the cover of the book she was reading and asked her if it was fantasy fiction and she said yes “because realism is boring!”  (Her eldest cousin, No. 1 is already a bit of a geek; he’s a sofer (religious scribe) and is also training as a rabbi and is about to start training as a civil engineer (if this sounds a strange combination, bear in mind that ‘rabbi’ in the Orthodox world is an educational qualification like a PhD, not a vocation like priestly ordination.  Lots of rabbis get smikhah (rabbinical ordination) and then go and work in the private sector e.g. my rabbi mentor.)  Cousin No. 5 (the eleven year old) gave me mussar, telling me, “It doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at something – if you enjoy it, do it!”  I wish I could think like that.

However, by the time I got back to my flat, I was exhausted from being around people for so long.  I read for a while, did some Torah study and just lay on the bed too tired to move, but the wrong sort of tiredness to sleep, if that makes sense (if the train companies can complain of the “wrong sort of snow”…).  I went to bed at about 12.20am, which wasn’t too bad.  It was better than Thursday night at any rate.  However, I overslept (one alarm briefly woke me, but the other two didn’t even manage that) and I didn’t get up until something like 11.30am, maybe even later.  I had some breakfast, which I needed as I was feeling drained, dressed and davened before walking over to my parents’ house.

I had missed shul, which I was a bit upset about as my Dad was giving a dvar Torah (Torah thought) and various relatives were leading parts of the service.  I got to my parents’ house a bit late, only to discover my Dad was walking over to my flat to find me even though I had been told they were not waiting for me.  Unfortunately, we missed each other (there is one point where you can walk down one of two parallel roads and we both took different ones) and we had to wait half an hour for him to return.

Lunch was harder.  There were some kashrut issues which I think were genuine and not my OCD, but I was given short shrift.  I think they were OK in the end, but they did genuinely need thinking through and I feel uncomfortable enough that I want to double check my reasoning with my rabbi mentor.  (My extended family is as frum as my parents, but they don’t know my parents’ kitchen or cooking habits as well as they think they do and sometimes put the wrong spoons in things without asking first.)  The noise and bickering was more exhausting this time around.  I gave a little dvar Torah, not a chiddush (novel interpretation) of my own, just something from Rav Kook that I read last night, but I managed to make it segue into a blessing for my sister and her fiancé (who wasn’t here, the custom being for the bride and groom not to see one another for a week before the wedding).

I made it back to shul for Ma’ariv (the evening service) with cousin No.1, which I did mainly because I needed to get out of the house.  I had been thinking of singing havdalah (the end of Shabbat prayer) at home for my sister, but I had a headache and let my cousin do it, but it just reminded me of how little I will be doing tomorrow.  I’m making motzei (the blessing on the bread) and that’s it.  I was offered one of the sheva brakhot (seven blessings on the newlywed couple) at the meal, but turned it down because one has to hold a full cup of wine to make it and I was worried my anxiety would make me shake as happened when I did one of the sheva brakhot for a friend a number of years ago (this was originally to do with drug side-effects rather than pure social anxiety, but now it has happened so often in different situations that simply being in certain situations can trigger it) so I turned it down.  Other than that, I am to stand by one of the poles of the chuppah (wedding canopy) during the service and that’s it.  There are people much more distant from the bride and groom who are doing more than me.  I feel surplus to requirements, but I’m also worry that I will get so nervous that I won’t even be able to make motzei.

I’m worried about the wedding tomorrow.  I have a headache (which is finally shifting) and I’m not sure if it’s from anxiety about tomorrow or the noise today.  Apparently there will be what my parents are calling a ‘chill out room’ for me tomorrow and potentially for another of my cousins, who also has mental health issues, but it is still going to be a tough day.

For now I need to have something to eat, take my medication and get an early night.  I plan to watch a DVD, but I’m not sure what (my Doctor Who viewing is on pause while I wait for Shada‘s DVD release on Monday*, it having come at the exact right time on schedule.  I do feel strange tonight, though.  Not lonely exactly, but wishing I had a frum, geeky, calm wife to watch a geeky DVD with.  There has to be one single, frum, geeky, Asperger’s-and-mental-illness-accepting, family-centred woman my age out there somewhere, right?  Except somehow it doesn’t seem likely that there is, or that I could meet her if she does exist.

* For those who don’t know Shada is a Doctor Who story written by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams that, uniquely, was only partially filmed and so never broadcast due to a strike at the BBC.  Every ten years or so it gets sort-of completed in another format (video of the filmed footage with added narration to bridge the gaps; an audio drama with primitive animations; a novelisation) and everyone goes wild about it ‘finally’ being as finished as it ever will be, even though most fans don’t even like Adams’ other work on the show (not me though, I really like it).  This latest version marries the filmed footage to new animation voiced by the surviving cast members.  It is being released on Monday exactly in the place it would have been broadcast in my viewing of all of Doctor Who as research for my book.  To be honest (and don’t tell my family I said this), but it’s mostly the thought that I have Monday off work to recuperate and watch the DVD that is getting me through the wedding weekend..