The title of this post comes from a quote from Patrick MacGoohan to Alexis Kanner on the troubled set for Fall Out, the final episode of The Prisoner, probably the second most influential TV programme in my life. So far as I can remember (the book I read it in is somewhere in a box at my parents’ house) MacGoohan would greet Kanner every morning with “Are you ready? Because it’s going to be another day of excruciating brutality!” (He may have used a different adjective, but you get the idea.) I think about this a lot at the moment, especially as my train pulls in to the station I get off from at work in the mornings.
Anyway, Thursday was a day of excruciating brutality. (I’m throwing Friday and Saturday, which weren’t as bad, into the post because I picked the title on Thursday, but ran out of time to post before Shabbat (the Sabbath).) On the way into work I was probably not thinking about Patrick MacGoohan, because I was too busy thinking about whether I should buy some razors to self-harm better or even buy some tablets to overdose with. This was partly from my daily anxiety about work and partly from anxiety about seeing the occupational health nurse there.
As it happened, the nurse turned out to be a really kind person. We discussed various strategies for work and ended up discarding most of them, as I expected. I thought that working reduced hours would make it harder to keep coming in rather than easier, just getting me out of the habit of work, and that avoiding the issue desk would just fuel the social anxiety (this comment would come back to haunt me later in the day). So in the end I just asked for more positive feedback from my boss (something else that would shortly come back to haunt me). Not much was achieved, but I was just glad to get something down on paper and sent to HR to confirm that, yes, I really am struggling and that I really do have depression.
The nurse also told me not to bang my head on the wall when depressed and anxious and she wasn’t exactly happy about my scratching myself either. I remembered later that animals in captivity bang their heads on the walls as a sign of boredom and distress…
In the afternoon, my boss pointed out some errors in my work and said that the need for greater speed that she pointed out to me earlier in the week should not come at the expense of accuracy. I began to worry in earnest that I can not do my job. As I commented to one of my non-biological sisters (close friends) later, I have a need for reassurance and an Aspie inability to tell the difference between isolated criticism and “I hate you and want to fire you.”
This was bad enough, but I was completely finished off later in the day. I was on the issue desk from 4pm to 5pm, which I regard as the graveyard slot even on days (like Thursday) when we are open until after 5pm. However, this time I did get one student with a problem that I had not come across yet who also had a problematic way of requesting help, not really saying what the problem was or what she wanted me to do about it and out-Coolidging me by staying silent until I cracked and started babbling.
By 5pm, I dashed to the toilets to phone my parents. I didn’t even wait until leaving college as I was so upset, I just wanted to resign and leave this college. They talked me round, saying that I only have three months left on my contract (and some of that is holiday). The college may not renew the contract anyway, which would save me worrying about it and they are certainly unlikely to fire me at this stage, as it would be easier just to put up with me for another three months.
Through text conversations with my non-biological sisters, the idea of a career in the research side of librarianship came up. I worry that I don’t have a good enough MA to do this (I passed with distinction, but it was not at a great university, which I worry could be held against me) and also that my research skills and knowledge are not good enough and that I should have a PhD in a specific subject to research. I also have a friend who works as a researcher (via academia rather than librarianship) and having seen his financial struggles I am wary of going down the same route as his problems stem from his personality which is very like mine, at least in terms of shyness, difficulty networking, bouts of depression, difficulty selling himself and concentrating on writing that is satisfying, but unpaid (blogging and writing for Doctor Who fan sites) rather than paid writing.
In the evening I was out for dinner with my family, the one good point of the day. Although it was for two family birthdays, we ended up talking about my work experiences quite a bit. My parents seemed positive about looking into doing research work. I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that if my contract is not renewed, I will look at research work; if it is renewed, I will accept the renewal, but think more slowly at changing careers in the future.
I mentioned all this to my therapist the next day. I’m not sure if she was just being contrary to challenge me, but she seemed a bit worried that I was just running away from things and said that I need to be around people, especially as I don’t live with family or have friends that I see frequently (most of my friends live far away and/or have busy careers that prevent socialising). I guess this is true, but no job is going to be perfect and this job is probably less Asperger’s-friendly (or my personality-friendly, if I don’t have Asperger’s) than I had thought.
I feel rather confused about all of this. I am vaguely excited about the thought of doing professional research, as I do enjoy that sort of thing, but I am conscious of the need to network and sell myself, to learn yet another load of skills and techniques and perhaps to find some kind of mentor. I’m a bit panicked, although I thought I would start by talking to my friend to ask how he got into research.
Friday evening was also difficult. The rabbi spoke to me after shul (synagogue), saying he got my email about looking for a shadchan (matchmaker) who deals with people with health issues. He said he doesn’t know anyone, but would be willing to talk to me anyway. I was too socially anxious to say much in response (I’m not good when people talk to me when I’m not prepared), so I didn’t ask what exactly he meant, but I guess he means tips about the best way to approach looking for someone like me, which might mean someone with ‘issues’ of some kind. I would be grateful for the help, as I still don’t really understand the shidduch dating process, but I’m pessimistic about the whole thing. I still thing that freaks like me don’t get married and people as wicked as I am don’t merit God’s attention.
My parents had friends over for Shabbat dinner which is rare for us. I didn’t really cope well. I was exhausted from the tough week and couldn’t cope with the noise and the people, even though there were only five of us. The talk was gossipy, not in the sense of talking behind people’s backs, but just talking about news of family and mutual friends, which I find incredibly tedious and depleting anyway, especially as the talk was of people important to my parents and their friends, not to me. I spent an hour in bed before dinner and another hour afterwards. I’m not sure if I dozed or if I just lay there mentally beating myself up. At any rate, I was too exhausted, depressed and self-critical to do much Torah study or to read much.
I thought a lot about my boss’ comment that my work rate is too slow and I began to wonder if I spend too long looking at the books I am cataloguing as she suggested. As a librarian, I find that I have to look at the books a bit, both to know the stock and be able to guide students to it and to allocate correct subject words as titles, back cover blurbs and even contents pages can be misleading. Still, one can get too absorbed in things. I came to the conclusion that if I had been spending too long on each book, this was tantamount to theft from my employer and my previous employer.
The Talmud talks of the six questions a person is asked after death to get to the afterlife, of which the first is “Were you honest in your business dealings?” I always thought that at least I could answer that one in the positive, even though it seemed unlikely that I could affirm the others, but now I wonder about even that. I felt that I had effectively “stolen” large amounts of money by not working 100%, even though I know that other people do things at work that I would never do, e.g. look at social media or have long conversations with colleagues about non-work matters. I try very hard to give my employers seven full hours of work a day, even when I am very depressed and exhausted, and now I was telling myself that I had “stolen” huge amounts of time (albeit in tiny minutes-long increments over a number of years). My previous employers seemed to be OK with my work rate and as an academic library, they probably needed more accurate and thorough subject words on their records, but I still felt bad about my time there and especially about my current job.
Today was similarly a wash out. I was too depressed to go to shul. I spent a lot of time in bed again, either sleeping or beating myself up about things. I had a little religious OCD regarding kashrut and I also came to the conclusion that the worry about not working fast enough being theft is probably also religious OCD, but I’m not sure. I only did about five minutes of Torah study. I just feel that I can’t be bothered to do more, or I can’t face it, which isn’t quite the same thing. I obviously slept through Shacharit (morning service) again, did a truncated Musaf (additional service) and struggled to get through the whole of Mincha and Ma’ariv (afternoon and evening services), although I did manage it, despite initially thinking that I wouldn’t. I don’t really praise myself enough for these things. It seems silly to praise myself for things that most frum (religious) men would consider basic, like saying, “I’m such an amazing tzaddik (righteous person), I didn’t murder anyone today!”