Questions, Questions

“Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself.” – The Prisoner (various episodes)

I haven’t posted here for a couple of days.  I actually drafted something yesterday, but I’m not sure yet whether to post it.   Not a lot has happened.  I’m not as depressed as I was last week, but mornings are still very difficult in terms of the depression and I still struggle with anxiety at work, particularly social anxiety in interactions with students and anxiety about how well I am doing my job.  I also still feel lonely at times and anything about love, marriage, sex or children can set me off.  Today I was weeding a section of the library that had books on health for children and adolescents.  The photos of babies made me feel vaguely broody, although not as much as in the past; the books for teenagers on navigating sex and relationships, while stressing the need to avoid feeling that one “must” have sex because “everyone else is doing it” just paradoxically reinforced my feeling of having permanently missed the boat when it comes to sex, relationships and marriage, but, again, not quite as much as in the past.

I feel vaguely stable today, but that brings a load of other questions to the fore, now that I can think a bit rather than just emote:

  1. What should I do about dating?  Should I take up my rabbi’s offer of advice?  Should I email the US-based health-specialist shadchanim (matchmakers) to see if they know people in Europe or contact UK-based ‘normal’ shadchanim to see if they can help someone with mental health issues?  Should I even summon up the courage for trans-Atlantic dating?  Or am I just too mentally ill to date?
  2. Should I try to get my medication changed again as one friend suggested?  I have been on so many drugs and combinations of drugs over the last fifteen years and I have had two psychiatrists basically say that medication will, at best, keep me from the worst of the depression, rather than “cure” me.  Should I risk things getting worse from coming off my current drugs in the hope new ones will help?  And do I want new ones, given the ones I haven’t tried have side-effects, dietary restrictions or suicide risks?  And what happens six months down the line when those tablets stop working, as all the previous ones have done?
  3. Is there a way to shut off the frequent (not quite continual) depressive/anxious/autistic monologues in my head?  Because they really annoy me.
  4. Should I contemplate changing, not just my job, but also my career if my contract is not renewed in April?  Do I enjoy my job?  Do I know what type of job I would enjoy?
  5. Actually, do I even know what I might enjoy in terms of career or relationships or even hobbies?  Do I even know what enjoyment is?  When did I last enjoy something, really enjoy it?  Pre-depression?  When was that?  Nineteen years old, sixteen, thirteen?  Primary school?  How would I recognise enjoyment if I experienced it?
  6. Speaking of hobbies, a friend of my parents’ complimented me on the photos I took at my sister’s wedding, which reminds me that I’ve often felt that I could have had photography as a hobby, but always let other things interfere, both other hobbies and my confusion and fear of the technical side of photography, the whole light-levels-and-shutter-speed side of things, as well as my feeling that I never see anything worth photographing.  To be honest, I probably have a fear of doing anything new, which probably feeds in to most of these questions.
  7. Looking at other hobbies, am I ever going to do anything with my writing?  Is the book I’m writing going to be publishable?  And what of the ideas for further Doctor Who books I’ve been kicking around – are they worth pursuing and how?

Questions, questions.  No answers, though.

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My Day

2.20am  I finally got to bed, having been up late eating porridge and watching Doctor Who (but not as much as I wanted) and texting my non-biological twin about stuff that makes me depressed and anxious.

ca12.30pm  Woke up.  Laid in bed for a bit, feeling anxious about work (see below) and basically wishing I was dead.  Got up after a bit.

1.55pm  After eating two bowls of cereal, I finally feel a bit awake, although still somewhat tired and rather depressed and also somewhat faint and low blood sugar level-ish.  I don’t want to eat lunch in my pyjamas (it just feels wrong), which means gathering my energy to get dressed when I just want to go back to bed and avoid the world.  I’m anxious about work stuff and especially about Purim, the upcoming minor Jewish festival, which means I can go to work, but there are extended services in the evening and morning to read Megillat Esther/The Book of Esther so I would like to ask to leave work early/arrive late those days so I can go, but asking makes me nervous. Plus Purim, being basically the nearest thing to Carnival in Judaism, is tough when you’re depressed (I wrote about it last year here, although it turned out to be not as bad as I feared it would).

3.00pm  Read some depressing stuff about Donald Trump.  Read some stuff about depression that probably should have made me more forgiving of myself, but for some reason rubbed me up the wrong way.  I suppose I don’t feel that non-mentally ill, non-autistic people don’t deserve to have their misunderstandings reflected back at them angrily.  I don’t think anger really helps anything very much, although I do feel it.  Back to bed briefly a couple of times.  I feel like a post-regenerative Time Lord in urgent need of a Zero Room.

3.50pm Dressed, at last.  But also tearful and still somewhat low blood sugar level-ish.  I put on tallit and tefillin and davened Mincha (said afternoon prayers), but it was very difficult, not just impossible to concentrate, but almost impossible even to get the energy to speak.

4.20pm  Finally had lunch, while watching the first half of Resurrection of the Daleks.  Not the greatest Doctor Who story ever told, but easy enough to watch.

5.20pm  Aimless internet browsing.  Unfortunately, this ended up getting political and depressing because I end up looking at the sites of political friends in the hope that they post something else.  A lot about abuse, which upsets me.  Also some stuff that just seemed a bit self-obsessed and unthinking.  But I’m just too depressed to get up and do anything else, though.

6.10pm  Feel depressed that the day is virtually over and I have done none of the things I intended.  No haircut (when am I going to do that?  I’m drifting towards the Einstein/Jewfro stage), no shopping done (too late now, so no oranges today), no bank accounts not sorted (another thing being delayed until half-term, two weeks off).  I don’t feel able to email my rabbi about talking about dating.  It seems pointless anyway, as I don’t feel able to date in this state.  I thought about going for a walk, but it is cold and dark out and getting late and I have work tomorrow.  I wish it was summer.

6.35pm  Skimmed (too depressed to read properly) an article on dating after divorce on Aish.  I’m not divorced, but according to this article, I’ve pretty much never been able to date and probably never will be:

Some aspects of healing you can look for include: feeling optimistic more often than feeling depressed; not grieving for what you no longer have [I never had it in the first place!]; being able to let go of your more intense feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness; and not being preoccupied with thoughts about what was or what could have been. Above all, it’s vital for you… to feel that you’ve developed a new equilibrium and are relatively comfortable in the routine you’ve established…  If you want to be in a healthy relationship, one that’s built on a foundation of mutual caring and respect, you have to be able to feel that you are a valuable and deserving person… Do I have a vision for my future?

I fail almost every question!  I am seriously messed up and unlovable.  I wish God had made me asexual, it would have made things so much easier.  Although, if I wasn’t so lonely, I might have been more lovable.

6.50pm   Shave.  It’s a bit ridiculous shaving at this time of day, but it does make me feel a bit better and this way  if I’m too depressed/tired/late to shave tomorrow morning I won’t go into work with three day’s worth of beard, looking a shlokh (mess).

6.55pm   Daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers) with zero kavannah (concentration, attention) and study Torah for less than five minutes.

19.15pm  Cook dinner (vegetarian kedgeree, or rice with curry powder, eggs and sweetcorn.  If I had been up to going shopping, I would have bought veggie sausages to replace the tinned tuna in the actual recipe).  This is pretty much the easiest recipe I know and has carbohydrates, protein and vegetables and also keeps so I can have it tomorrow too (I usually cook for two days, it’s not much more effort and saves worrying about what to eat the next day).

19.40  Dinner and more Doctor Who.

20.50 Blog on my non-anonymous Doctor Who blog, which was naughty of me when I have done so little and it is getting late.

21.10  Make lunch for tomorrow, pack.

21.30  Mindfulness meditation which went OK, not great) and hitbodedut spontaneous prayer/meditation, which went very bad, hardly spoke, my mind was racing thinking about all the major Bad Things that happened to me in my childhood and adolescence and then when I had a girlfriend, how hurt I’ve been, bullied, emotionally neglected, boundaries ignored, the decades of loneliness and emotional pain that I’m carrying…  but then also feeling that I’ve never been the victim of actual abuse or criminal neglect and I have nothing to feel depressed about.  Also feeling angry with God, wondering why He does this to me, what have I done wrong?  I have done some bad things, but no more so than most people.  In any case, my depression started before I was twenty (possibly long before) and there’s an idea in Judaism that you get a period of grace in your teens when you are legally responsible for your actions, but not punished.  If you repent before twenty, then your misdeeds are wiped out.  I was depressed before I was twenty, so it can’t be a punishment, or not only a punishment.  I don’t believe in reincarnation, but some Jews do, so I wondered if I was a reincarnation of someone awful.  This did not cheer me up.  I drifted deeper into depression and couldn’t speak at all, except odd words and phrases.  I punched the wall once, but other than that didn’t even have the energy to self-harm and ended my session a minute or two early because I was just sitting watching the clock and feeling awful.

All in all a pretty awful day, with occasional moments of OKness.  I wish I had at least got out of the flat for a bit (other than throwing stuff in the bin).

22.00  Read this back and realised it’s garbage, but too tired to do anything other than hit “Publish!”

Another Day of Excruciating Brutality

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!”

And Now For Something Completely Similar

It was interesting that yesterday, in listing my former ambitions, I forgot to list ‘become a tzaddik (saintly person)’ because for a long time this was my only real ambition.  Somehow merely being religious seemed inadequate; I had to be superlatively saintly or I had failed.  I wanted to completely fulfil my potential; maybe I wanted to do more than was actually feasible for me, given my issues.  Realising that I was never going to be a tzaddik was probably one of the factors that precipitated my current crisis, which is largely based around feeling religiously inadequate and useless and hated by God.  I find it hard to understand what I can realistically hope to achieve with my life.  We are taught to want to be like the Avot (the Patriarchs) or Moshe (Moses), even though we acknowledge that we won’t manage that, the most we can manage is to meet 100% of our potential just as they met 100% of their much greater potential.  But I don’t know how to interpret this in the complexity of my life, where sometimes I don’t feel I can do anything at all and other times my sins make me seem so loathsome that I can’t bear myself, let alone imagine what HaShem (God) thinks of me.

I felt similarly incompetent at work today.  My boss told me that I was cataloguing too slowly, which I knew already and was trying to compensate for, but obviously was not doing well enough.  I am still having difficulties being on the library issue desk too.  I am seeing the college occupational health team tomorrow to discuss my issues, but I don’t know what I can say.  I don’t want to say that I think I simply can’t do the job and should never have been hired, even though it’s what I feel (in the last few days I keep fantasising of resigning, because I’m afraid if I don’t I will be fired).  I feel that I am generally incompetent beyond the depression.  If I had to pick out specific things then while the slowness is partly depression, it’s also partly my personality.  The key problems I have on the issue desk are social anxiety and Asperger’s Syndrome/autistic spectrum disorder as much as anything else and I don’t have a diagnosis of either of those and so feel unable to ask for help; in fact, I have two diagnoses of being allistic (not being on the autistic spectrum) despite the persistence of the belief that I am on the spectrum (both my belief and that of my former psychiatrist and my current therapist).

The other thing I have been beating myself up for today is my sexuality (again).  I’ve got stuck in one of those ruts where finding anyone vaguely attractive makes me beat my self up for being a misogynist and religiously sinful.  I’ve been told it’s normal (finding people attractive, not beating oneself up about it), but I find it hard to believe that everyone feels like this to the same extent and frequency as I do (it’s a complete myth that men think of sex every seven seconds!).  Sometimes it feels like God was making a bad joke when he made me heterosexual rather than asexual.  It’s just a waste of time, energy and brainpower for me.  Although maybe the problem is that I’m not heterosexual enough.  If I had more testosterone, maybe I would be more forceful at work and more attractive to women (I couldn’t be any less attractive to women).

Sometimes I wish I could to a wise man or a rabbi or someone and ask for advice about where my life is going and whether I’m a good person.  I did try to have that conversation with my rabbi mentor on Sunday, but he was resistant to directly answering my question about how frum (religious) I am, which I guess is his training as a counsellor.  I don’t believe in the Charedi version of da’at Torah (the semi-supernatural ability of rabbis to answer even non-religious questions with spiritual insight), but sometimes I just wish someone with great authority could convince me that I am a good person, because I don’t believe it at all.  Likewise that someone could guide me to my life’s mission, because I feel so distant from it.  I don’t know what I should be doing with my life, nor what I could be doing with it, except that I increasingly feel that I simply can’t cope with the pressure of the world of work.  But if that is the case, then where can I go and what can I do?

Freudian Slip?

Oh, I did have one other ambition when I was younger that I forgot in my last post: to be a tzaddik (saintly person).  I think it was realising that I was never going to even come close that helped precipitate my current collapse.  So it’s odd that I forgot it.

Self-Harm

After my last post I went to bed fully dressed.  I think I must have dozed off, because I lost an hour.  I got up and ate dinner.  A friend texted to continue a conversation from days ago that I had forgotten, asking if I had ambitions that didn’t involve someone else (i.e. not marrying and procreating).  I said no.  My therapist has noticed this too.  My ambitions growing up were to watch the whole of Doctor Who (done, as far as is possible), to get to Oxbridge (done, and I was thoroughly miserable there) and that was it really.  I have at different times had vague ideas of being a historian or a writer, but nothing ever materialised, because my self-esteem was too low to push through the setbacks and the thinking-I’m-awful-ness.  I guess I did push through some of the setbacks to be a librarian, but nowadays it feels like a job, not a career, and I wonder how long it will be before I get fired.

All of which is nothing to do with why I opened WordPress up again, which is to say that I just scratched my arm with (blunt) scissors, which I haven’t done for a while.  Even drew a little drop of blood, which is rare (they’re very blunt scissors).  I have a lot of anger and frustration inside of me right now, and I’m not sure who it’s directed at: myself, God, my job, my friends, people online, all of the above…  It is a release of tension.  It’s also a cry for help, but no one really seems to know what I should do and people who don’t read this are only vaguely aware that there’s even an issue (I did just feel I should phone my Mum, but I didn’t tell her about scratching myself).  I don’t really want to be hospitalised and I know from experience they won’t hospitalise me unless I’ve more or less got the drugs in my hands to overdose with, but I don’t know what I do want.  I just can’t cope right now and both work and not-work are pushing me over the brink in different ways, which makes it hard to know what to do.  Likewise religion and thinking about not being religious are pulling me too hard in opposite directions.  On which note, I did daven Ma’ariv (said evening prayers) this evening, but I was too tired to do any Torah study, which hasn’t happened for something like thirteen years and I will probably skip my hitbodedut (unstructured prayer) too, which is also rare.  I just haven’t got the energy or really the inclination – I just feel sure that God hates me and doesn’t want anything from me and I probably feel too angry with Him.

Sometimes I want to hurt myself visibly so people can see how bad I feel and take me seriously.  I think most of the time I don’t really want to die either, I just want to make a failed suicide attempt so people would take me seriously, even though I know that the usual reaction to failed suicide attempts on the part of friends and family is anger, not sympathy or empathy.  Or maybe I just want to move things to a crisis, in the hope (probably inspired by fiction) that if I did that there would be some kind of catharsis.  But I nearly attempted suicide fourteen years ago and I still haven’t really moved on.

I vaguely feel that I want to hurt myself again, but I feel too tired, which is probably a sign I should shower and go to bed.  I suppose I ought to clear up those scratches first as they bled.

Russian Roulette

I was going to act out.  I was going to write a furious post, full of anger and bad language and vague suicidal threats.  It was in my head on the way home.  Already now I’m calming down, as I always do.  Sometimes I wish I had the energy to just do it, do the crazy thing, isolate everyone from me, even try to kill myself, but at least to express to everyone that I feel my life is screwed up and I can’t bear it a moment longer.  But it never happens.

Rewind to last night.  I was agitated.  I wrote a blog post and then deleted it ten minutes later, worried about who might read it (some of you might have seen it, one way or another).  I was angry with HaShem (God), I said things that I probably shouldn’t have said.  I don’t even remember what they were, just that I was feeling hopeless and hated by Him and wanted to last out at Him.  I don’t think I even said anything that bad.  I’m pretty repressed, even at this stage.

And today I felt He was punishing me again.

I was too depressed and lethargic to get going this morning.  Somehow I managed to get to work on time (just).  I didn’t have time to put on tallit and tefillin, though, and I hurried through a couple of prayers briefly on the Tube, sitting when I should have been standing.  I felt guilty for this, but not guilty enough.  Moments later the train suddenly changed destination and I had to change, nearly making me late.  He can be quick when He wants to be.  I didn’t have time to shave either and felt a mess the whole day.

I could hardly function at work.  I somehow did some work, but I am fairly worried that at some stage it will emerge that it was substandard.  I had to stop at times because I was just overwhelmed and couldn’t concentrate.  I made mistakes.  I felt that I am not good enough at my job, which led on to thinking that I am also not good enough at my religion or my life.  I thought of resigning.  I had frequent, vivid thoughts of suicide and death.  I self-harmed a bit (this is still at work), pulling my hair and hitting myself when no one could see.  I wanted to go to the toilet and make myself sick, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure why I didn’t.  I fantasised about being beaten up, I wanted to hurt myself physically because I deserve it and because I want to blot out the emotional pain.

The final straw was finding out someone I once asked out got married.  I couldn’t even go into a real sulk, because I also found out her mother died a few months before, so that made me feel bad for being envious and frustrated.

This morning (this was actually before work, but it probably coloured the day, subconsciously) I felt that I could see all the great figures of Jewish history, everyone I respect and revere, from Avraham Avinu (Abraham our father) to my rabbi mentor judging me, angry and disappointed in me.  I’m sure that HaShem hates me.  I’m not a functioning Jew any more.  I should just die.  I thought of overdosing, but thought I probably don’t have enough pills and I would probably tell someone (I’m too much of  a  drama queen not to) and they’d pump my stomach, which would be painful, but I would survive.  Jumping in front of a bus or train was dismissed as too painful and unfair to others, but I nearly got hit by a car twice on the way home – accidents, but I’ve clearly got a death wish.  I don’t know how it’s possible to keep functioning while having such frequent suicidal ideation.

I feel as if I’m playing Russian roulette.  I’m the only player and the game goes on indefinitely, which means that sooner or later I’m certain to shoot myself.  Whenever I tell anyone this, they don’t believe me or they blame me or they try to stop me, but they can’t do the necessary thing and take the gun away from me.

I wish I could write what I feel.  I mean really write it, in a book or at least a coherent blog, instead of these inane ramblings.  I’ve long dreamed of writing a graphic novel about my depression, but I couldn’t do it and anyway, the idea has been done.  As I said in the first paragraph, on the way home I kicked around ideas for a post with language like… I actually can’t remember what it was.  It was very angry and graphic, with lots of use of the f-word (which I never use, I have literally never used it aloud) and complaints that everyone else is happy and everyone else is sexually fulfilled (neither of which is true, obviously, although it feels like they are at times; it also feels like almost everyone is more happy and more sexually fulfilled than I am).  But that doesn’t feel like me now.  In the security of my flat, as opposed to the depressive- socially anxious- and autistic-Hell of work and the London Underground during rush hour, I feel calmer.  I don’t like myself, but I don’t particularly feel like killing myself or losing my temper with my friends or leaving self-pitying comments on other people’s blogs or self-harming or making myself sick or generally acting out in other self-destructive ways that I was thinking of doing at work or on the way home.  I suppose this is how I manage to stay out of hospital: work and the commute and shul push me almost, but not quite, over the brink, then a few hours of relaxation leave me set to start all over again the next day.  Nothing is ever resolved, I never try to kill myself, but I never get better either.  The ‘stuckness’ remains.  It’s just a question of how long I can go on like this without something giving, and what will happen when it does.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7/All good children go to Heaven”

I spent a lot of time blogging, here and on my Doctor Who blog, last night.  I should have known better than to blog late at night as it always takes longer than I expect.  I’m also frustrated that I get such little feedback on my blogs.  I tried turning off the ‘like’ notification on this blog to stop me obsessing about how many likes I get.  To be honest, I don’t know why so many people seem to follow this blog, as it’s just me moaning about my life.  I’d like to write other things about mental health and the Jewish community, but how I’m feeling on any given day drowns out more objective sociological thoughts.  I guess that’s why I’d like feedback, to try and understand what people who ‘follow’ or ‘like’ this blog think about it.  I’d also like feedback on my other blog to see what people think of my thoughts on Doctor Who as I try to turn some of the posts there into writing that ideally I’d like to have published and get paid for.  Blogging, it has to be said, is not really a medium that suits me.  I’m not good at search engine optimisation and publicising the blog.  I’d rather get a publisher to do that for a share of my profits.

I spoke to my rabbinic mentor today about my guilt and frustration with my religious life.  I’m still processing it, I think.  He felt I’m a good judge of my own level of growth, but my judgement is disrupted when the depression is bad.  I don’t know.  I tell myself that I feel that HaShem (God) hates me because of things in my childhood and my loneliness, but it doesn’t stop it feeling real.  Also, when I’m very depressed or anxious, I act out in different ways.  Nothing really bad or criminal, but I hate myself for the things I do.  I don’t know how much this is me setting too high standards for myself, considering everything that is going on in my life or whether I really should be better.

One thing that occurred to me while I was talking to my rabbinic mentor was that I don’t really know other frum men with mental illness to compare myself with, to see if I’m doing above or below average.  I know a couple of frum women, but that’s apples and oranges a bit because in the Orthodox world men and women have different obligations and it’s not such a bad thing for women to pray less or without a minyan (prayer quorum) or not to learn Torah.  When I compare myself to men at shul, I’m comparing myself to men who are probably much more functional than I am.  The only other frum people I know with mental health issues are some of the Hevria.com writers and they are mostly managing their issues infinitely better than I am even though they’re mostly my age or younger i.e. they have spouses and children and learn Torah and even do crazy creative stuff with a Jewish flavour… it’s not stuff I could do right now and perhaps not ever.  I would like to know how they cope, but I don’t dare to ask.  I guess that’s why the site provokes such mixed emotions in me, aside from the issue of my being rejected as a regular writer.  It makes me feel that it’s saying, “We do all this stuff, Jewish stuff, creative stuff, social stuff, and we have mental health issues.  You have no excuse whatsoever for not doing the same.”  So I feel angry and useless and end up posting comments there going on about how mentally ill I am to justify (to myself as much as to them) the fact that I’m not doing all the things they’re doing.  And then when they talk about the miracles God does for them to intervene in their lives and make them better, I just go to pieces, feeling God hates me and they (the Hevria writers) must hate me and I’m going to be useless and lonely forever.

My only other achievement today has been to cook chilli (which I burnt…), which I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks.  I feel disappointed, but Sundays at the moment are just a write-off: too dark, cold and wet to shift my mood out of my depression and post-work exhaustion, particularly when, as today, I’m extra exhausted from Shabbat and perhaps also from having a migraine late last night.  As a result, most of today has been a washout with me too depressed and exhausted to really do anything: daven (pray) much or with kavannah (concentration), learn Torah, do chores, exercise or even leave the flat…  I haven’t even bought my friend a wedding present, which I keep putting off, no doubt because I’m upset at being reminded that I’m still single.  Speaking of which, I was planning on emailing the rabbis at my shul and asking if they know of a shadchan (matchmaker) who deals with people with health issues in the UK, but I haven’t got around to that either, presumably because I’m ashamed of having to ask, everyone my age being married already.  They know I have issues, but it’s uncomfortable to have to spell out what a failure I am and of course there is the fear that they won’t get back to me and I’ll be stuck again.

Once again, I feel like I’ve let everyone down.  I’ve let my parents down by being mentally ill, employed only part-time and single, I’ve let my community down by not being involved and helping, I’ve let my rabbis down by not being frum enough, I’ve let God down by acting out and not meeting my religious obligations and I’ve let myself down by all of the above.  It’s hard to see that as depression-influenced judgement and not as an objective reflection of reality.

Appeal to the Wisdom of Crowds (Comment Email Issue)

I’ve had an issue here for a while that I can’t solve.  I can’t contact WordPress about it as I don’t have a paid account.

While I receive comment notifications for comments on my blog and I receive notifications for ‘likes’ on my comments on other people’s blogs, I don’t receive notification when someone replies to a comment of mine on someone else’s blog, even if I tick the box to be notified about this.  I’m not sure what to do.  I tried googling and looking in the online forum, but all the answers I found were complicated and seemed to rely on my rewriting code, which I don’t want to have to do.

Has anyone else had this problem and, if so, how did you solve it?

The Shul Dinner

I managed to go to the Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner at my shul (synagogue) on Friday.  It was reasonably good.  I mean, the meal was very good, and my mental health while there was reasonably good.  There was set seating and I was worried that I would be with people I didn’t know and be too shy to talk all evening, but I was put opposite one of the people I usually sit with in services, the person in the community who I would most consider a friend.  I have eaten at his house a few times, so I know his wife as well, who was with him.  I was also seated next to the rabbi.  I’m not sure whether to read anything into that.  I think they just needed to slot me in where there was a space, as I was the only person over eighteen there who wasn’t with his/her spouse.  Still, I don’t worry about talking to rabbis the way some people do.

The food was good.  I managed to speak to some people during and before the meal, both people I already knew, like my friend, his wife and the rabbi and people I recognised by sight, but had never spoken to before.  There was some social anxiety about talking to new people or just talking generally, but I managed to get through it.  I shook a little to start with from anxiety (I spilt grape juice all over my plate at kiddush), but I don’t think anyone noticed and after a while I relaxed and felt better.  The organisers had the good idea of serving the young children their main course first and then some of the teenage girls took them off to play or do some kind of activities somewhere else so the adults could converse uninterrupted.  After the main course people moved around a bit to talk to friends on other tables and I began to feel a bit lost and lonely as the people I knew moved away.  The rabbis and some of the men started singing zmirot (Shabbat songs) at one table.  I went over to join them, but they were mostly singing songs I didn’t know, or words I knew to tunes I didn’t know, so I couldn’t join in.

Still, on the whole it was a success and I enjoyed most of it, although I was lucky in who I was seated with.

When I left I was feeling that I needed to get away from the crowd a bit, as I had had enough of being in a big group, but it would be nice if there were one or two people I could discuss it with.  I thought of going to my parents’ house to see if they were back from the dinner they went to at their shul, but I thought that if they weren’t in, it would be a twenty minute detour in the cold and dark, which I didn’t fancy (as it happens, they would not be home for another hour or so, so I did the right thing).  When I got home I was feeling a bit lonely, wishing I had a wife to talk to and thinking about various things that had happened at the dinner connected with that.  As I said, I was the only single adult there and many people had children there too.  The assistant rabbi had given a short dvar Torah (religious thought) where he mentioned the importance of “friends, a spouse, a rov (rabbi), a community” to focus on the important things in life and I was thinking that I have these things tenuously or not at all.  Likewise, the person sitting next to me (not the rabbi, on the other side) was getting annoyed that his children kept interrupting him when he tried to speak and I was thinking “If only I could be upset that my children interrupt me.”

I did my hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer for about an hour, which is much longer than usual.  I usually only do about ten minutes, but I felt I had a lot to say to HaShem (God), mostly about this loneliness.  I was also thinking about something the assistant rabbi said in his shiur (class) this week, about the ultimate kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name) being when a person refrains from sin in private, even though no one would know what he had done.  This tied in with something I have been thinking about a lot recently, from the Babylon 5 episode Comes the Inquisitor, which turns around the idea that some people would be willing to die for a cause in public, if they would become a posthumous hero, but that true heroism is willingness to die for what is right even if no one ever knows.  So I was thinking a lot about what my life means if it is lived by myself, trying to do the right thing and often failing, but occasionally doing something right and whether that is good enough, even if no one else would ever know.  I didn’t really come to any great conclusions.

I read for a bit after this, as I was tired, but also a bit hungry and not ready to go to sleep, needing to ‘come down’ from the dinner and also from the intensity of my hitbodedut experience.  I got to bed about 1.00am, which was rather too late.

I woke up early enough to go to shul today, but I felt too depressed and exhausted after Friday, so I went back to sleep.  By the time I got up it was about 1.30pm.  I struggled to get going and get dressed.  I davened (prayed) a tiny bit, had lunch, davened Minchah (prayed the afternoon service) and had seudah (the third Shabbat meal).  The flat was very cold by this stage, even though I had the heater on a time-switch, so I went back to bed and promptly fell asleep for another hour and a half, until long past the end of Shabbat.  I might have to take a sleeping tablet tonight to avoid my sleep pattern being messed up again.  I’m glad I managed to clean my flat during the week, as I was supposed to do it tonight, but I’m far too lethargic to do so.  I also seem to be getting a migraine.  It’s a shame that today has been difficult, as yesterday was good.

Smile Away

(An ironically-intended use of the title of a cheerful song I have been listening to a lot today to deal with stress.)

I often wonder what people really think of me.  Then I usually feel glad that I don’t know, because it’s probably even worse than even I think.  That seems to sum up today.

The day started badly with train delays.  I’ll spare you that particular, rather dull, story.  Suffice to say that I arrived at work on time, but already somewhat stressed.  I was also feeling a bit ashamed of commenting on Hevria yesterday, a rather self-pitying and attention-seeking post (I think I’ve become the village idiot of the Hevria community).  I don’t know if I’m looking for people to confirm my self-loathing and pessimism or to find convincing reasons against them.  I’m not sure that either would satisfy me.  I suppose that goes for these posts too, although people here at least know what they’re getting.  When I got to work there was some drama that upset me that I can’t go into here.  I was not directly involved, but even seeing other people caught up in it was upsetting and even a bit frightening to me.

After that my boss was showing me something on the cataloguing system.  I was slow and confused moving from one window to another and my boss said that I keep losing concentration (it was not the first time this has happened when she has been showing me how to do something), which just made me feel more self-conscious.  I have noticed this problem before and there are several possible reasons for it.  It could be poor concentration from the depression, but I think it is more likely the Asperger’s, with poor executive function making it hard for me to mentally ‘change gears’ when moving from one part of a task to another.  Even when working on the catalogue by myself, I find I open windows and forget why I have opened them, open the wrong windows, go back and forth between windows trying to remember what I’m doing and so forth.  The other possible culprit, again from the Asperger’s, is difficulty in picking up implied, unstated commands.  If I already have window X open and boss says to me, “Open window Y then do Z,” it seems that I don’t necessarily pick up on the unstated command “Open window Y then do Z in window Y, not window X” and I’ll be waiting for more instructions because I have two windows to choose from and am not sure which she means while she’s waiting for me to get on with the task.  Whatever the reason, it is made worse by the social anxiety.  I would feel awkward with anyone next to me, but the fact that it’s my boss is even more anxiety-provoking.

This leaves me wishing that I had a proper diagnosis of Asperger’s, although I’m not sure what kind of consideration I would ask for if I did have it.  The other thing I take from this is that I probably have been too hard on my parents, particularly my Dad, over the years when I complain that their instructions and conversations leap around in ways that I can’t follow.  Perhaps they were more comprehensible and it was the Asperger’s that made it hard for me to keep up.  I always assumed that this aspect of Asperger’s doesn’t affect me, but it looks like it does, at least in a relatively low-key way.

The other problem I had at work was anxious shaking.  I was showing a couple of students how to search in the catalogue and I shook a bit while talking to them.  I’m not sure if they noticed.  I hope they didn’t, otherwise they probably think I’m a freak.  I nervously gabbled through the explanation , but they said they could follow.  I probably gave them a more comprehensive explanation than I would normally give, because I was determined not to give in to the anxiety, so I made sure I dealt with every point in detail.  It’s a shame, because it’s always good to find students who genuinely want to use the library, so it would have been nice to enjoy the interaction more.

Reading Hevria again on the way home made me feel like a fake Jew, a wannabe Jew who acts frum (religious), but isn’t actually doing anything properly and will probably stop being frum at some point from loneliness and self-loathing.  So that didn’t make me feel much better.

Then at shiur (Torah class) tonight pretty much all of today’s issues came together.  I was worried about shaking every time the assistant rabbi (who gives the shiur) caught my eye, which he does a lot (he’s good at looking around everyone there – it’s only a few of us around his dining room table).  I don’t think I did, but I was worried that I was going to.  I tried to focus on his forehead rather than his eyes, but it didn’t really work as I was instinctively trying to make eye contact (even though I usually find that hard!).  For the second week running, he said something which seemed really relevant to me and the struggles that I’m currently going through while making eye contact, like he knew my issues and was directly talking to me, but then on reflection I thought it was probably coincidence and me looking for signs in a desperate attempt to convince myself that HaShem (God) loves me.  Then on the way out, he said that he doesn’t know what I’m thinking during the shiur, if I’m agreeing, disagreeing or what because I don’t have any readable body language.  I guess that might be Asperger’s too, or struggling against social anxiety, trying to look confident and mask anxious body language.

I was thinking of messaging the assistant rabbi to explain some of my issues and how they impact on my body language, but now I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.  I am trying to open up to people more (and generally not succeeding), but I always wonder if it’s a good idea to hit people with this stuff out of the blue, especially as he might think that he upset me, which he did not.

I’m in the flat by myself over Shabbat (the Sabbath) this week.  My parents and I are going to different shul dinners on Friday night and my parents are out for Shabbat lunch too, so there seemed little point in staying with them as I usually do.  I’m a bit worried about being lonely and depressed as tends to happen when I’m alone on Shabbat, but I’m more worried about the shul dinner I have signed up for.  I’m worried that I won’t be able to sit with people I know, that I won’t have anything to say or that I’ll be overwhelmed by the noise and people and want to go home.  I have to stay, though, as I won’t have any other food prepared for dinner.

Resonances

It has been a stressful day.  A couple of things happened at work that I can’t write about here, but the upshot was that I realised (or had confirmed, as I already suspected it) that work is triggering because common experiences I have at work resonate strongly with memories with bad childhood experiences of school and family life.  I am not sure how to deal with this.  One thing I can write a little bit about here is a couple of students who are acting very friendly to me, despite the fact that they are not the quietest and I have had to ask them to keep the noise down a few times.  I am more than slightly suspicious of their motives and wonder if they think that befriending me will mean I am lenient with them or if there is some kind of joke going on at my expense that I don’t know about.  This feels very much how I felt much of the time at school, confused and anxious that everyone was laughing at me.

Similarly illuminating are two comments on British Prime Minister Edward Heath seen in The Prime Ministers: The Office and its Holders since 1945 by Peter Hennessy.  According to Lord Carrington, Heath was, “a somewhat lonely man… [who]… needed friendship yet found it hard to unbutton himself to others.”  Whereas Hennessy describes him as having “the combination of shyness and defensiveness that can, in Roy Jenkins’ marvellous phrase, produce the Heath ‘affronted penguin’ impression.”  I think the first quote describes me; I fear the second one does too, more than I would like anyway.

Uniting my first two paragraphs, to the Calvin Coolidge method of dealing with students, I can now add the Clement Attlee method: “A period of silence on your part would be most welcome.”

 

I think I just drama queened again on Hevria.  I can’t actually tell any more.  Mea culpa.

Misery, Matches and Miracles

I feel very depleted, very depressed and I was quite anxious for a while, although I seem to have become too exhausted to continue feeling anxious.  I spent four hours on the issue desks at two different sites today while covering staff training.  Being on the issue desk always leaves me depleted as does being at our secondary campus, so I’ve had a double blow today.

In the real world, the news is full of murder and child abuse, which depresses me no end.  I would avoid it, but I see other people’s newspapers when I’m commuting.  I have been very anxious/agitated/angry about political antisemitism over the last twenty-four hours or so.  It was so bad last night that I had to take one of the sleeping tablets the doctor prescribed.  I don’t want to make this a political blog, but I feel I want to say, “If you think women should tell their stories without judgement, if you think black people should tell their stories without judgement, if you think transexuals should tell their stories without judgement, why are you too scared to let Jews tell their stories?”  But They wouldn’t listen because They are sure that They are right and we are wrong.  I should avoid this too, but it’s in my head and in my life, so I can’t.

[End of politics]

I emailed the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues again last night.  Still no response.  I will give it until Shabbat (the Sabbath) and then go elsewhere, if I feel well enough to date.  I have a couple of email addresses for shadchanim for people with health issues, but the one I contacted was the only one I had seen other than on blogs and the like, so I’m not sure how reliable they are (particularly after this).  I also don’t know if they deal with people with mental (as opposed to physical) health issues and whether they deal with ‘modern’ people or just Charedim (ultra-Orthodox), nor whether they deal with people in Europe or just the USA (they all seem to be US-based).  I guess there is only one way to find out.  I’m tempted to just email all of them (not a group email, one at a time, but all in one day), because emailing one at a time and waiting to hear is painful.  If they want payment upfront, I can always back out.  As I understand it, most shadchanim either expect payment on results (so to speak) or do it as a mitzvah and don’t expect payment at all (although they do accept gifts, which is fair enough).  The alternative to all this is a site that is something of a mix between a dating website and a traditional shadchan, in that you decide whether to meet based on profiles, but it’s the shadchan who picks out the profiles and sends them to you.  I have mixed feelings about this too, but at least it’s Europe-based.

I found a £10 note on the pavement this morning.  There was no one remotely nearby who it might have belonged to and there were no distinguishing marks on it, so I felt confident in taking it, albeit worried that there might be a hidden camera somewhere.  However, I always feel guilty in claiming found money, even when legally/morally justified (not that I’ve ever found this much before.  I think three pound coins was my previous maximum) and so have resolved to give it to charity, to sponsor someone who is running a marathon for charity.  It occurred to me that this could be one of the miracles that I complain of not receiving and I’m giving it away.  I don’t know if this is a fault with the miracle, so to speak (because I always give found money away, it’s just not usually this much, so there was virtually zero chance of me keeping it) or a fault in myself, that I can’t let good things happen to me.  Although giving £10 to charity is a good deed in itself, so I suppose I am benefiting in some way, if I can accept that my good deeds are meaningful and rewarded, which is difficult.  But it makes me think something that I have thought before when thinking about miracles, that I don’t like to be given things, I prefer to earn them myself.  I just don’t know how to “earn” better mental health, friends, love, etc.  I’ve tried working, not working, diet, exercise, different medications, different therapies, dating, not dating, going to social events, being involved with my religious community… nothing seems to work.

Stuck

My day was going OK.  No real problems at work (one or two small mistakes… it’s possible I over-emphasise ‘mistakes’ here) and I wrote 500 words or so of my Doctor Who book during lunch (on Black Orchid… come back Nick Pegg, all is forgiven), but I had growing anxiety once the day was over and I was leaving, which seemed bizarre, then a torrent of unfocused agitation, anxiety and despair on the way home.  At least, I think that’s what it was.  It was hard to tell.  It was just feelings without words and I’m not good and describing and understanding those.  I felt like I was imploding.  I couldn’t concentrate on the book I was reading, although to be fair it was pretty heavy-going.

The doctor phoned while I was on the way home, a follow-up from last week’s appointment.  I agreed with him that changing medication probably wouldn’t do anything, but I silently disagreed that I would naturally feel better over time.  I probably didn’t stress enough that this episode has lasted for about six months now, long before my sister’s wedding and even before the work stress really started.  However, as I’m not convinced there is much he (or even a psychiatrist) can do for me, I don’t really feel inclined to make another appointment at this time.

I hope to speak to my rabbi mentor on Sunday.  The whole situation is silly.  I want to be a frum (religious) Jew.  According to objective analysis, I’m probably doing at least some of the things a frum Jew should be doing, insofar as I can with my mental health issues.  But I’m convinced that I’m a terrible Jew with no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World/Heaven) and that there is no reason for me to carry on living because I’m just accumulating sins.  It’s hard to disprove a belief that’s so nebulous, but so persuasive.

I feel like I need to do something to fight the inertia and misery that have taken over my life in the last six or seven months.  I’m not sure what.  I don’t have a career as such.  I don’t really have the energy for career-furthering things.  I can barely cope with having a job, let alone a career, and I have no expectation of rising particularly high up the promotion ladder.  Looking at books on childcare at work to decide whether to withdraw them makes me feel broody.  The thought occurs to me that I should chase the shadchan (matchmaker) to whom I sent my dating profile over a fortnight ago without even getting an acknowledgement back, but I’m too ashamed (of what?  Why?  I don’t know) and pessimistic, not to mention convinced that I’m unlovable and half convinced that I’m about to go off the derekh (stop being frum) and shouldn’t go near either frum women for fear that I will end up non-frum.  It’s also painful to feel attracted to women in a normal way when I know that no one could find me attractive, physically or as a person.  That said, I was better when I was dating in spring and early summer of 2017 and breaking up with the person I thought I was building a relationship with (even though we only went on four dates) was the trigger for this episode of depression or at least for an existing episode to worsen.  So that inclines me to try again, but also makes me worry what will happen if (when) I get dumped again.

Actually, it’s very hard to go on in any way when I think I’m going to be stuck forever.  It’s hard to succeed at work or carry on religiously or contact friends or be involved with community or contact family when life seems so bleak and intransigent.  I suppose I carry on somehow, or, at any rate, I have done for fifteen years or more, but I’m not sure how.

News from Somewhere Else

It turned out that I didn’t have the tinned tomatoes I needed for the chilli I was going to cook and it was too late to buy them, so I went to see my parents, sister and brother-in-law.  Unfortunately, the conversation was mostly about work stress and weddings (my sister’s and other people’s), and I got a bit overwhelmed by the noise, even though there were only five of us, so I just felt more depressed and maybe anxious and consequently ate too much of my Mum’s homemade chocolate cake.

On days like this, I don’t know how I can cope indefinitely.  The ‘stuckness’ feeling comes back and I can’t see any end to this endless routine of work-anxiety-eat-sleep-work-anxiety-eat-sleep-weekend-shul-eat-depression-sleep-work… except, eventually, death.  I don’t feel suicidal right now, but it’s hard to see anything good in my life.  As I’ve said, I don’t get any joy out of my religious practices, I don’t really have long-term career plans, nor can I see myself ever having the family life I want and even writing books on Doctor Who seems like a dream, albeit one I’m actually working on at the moment.

Stay calm.  Remember to breathe.  Try to ignore the voices saying, “Nobody likes you.  Nobody cares about you.  You can’t cope.  You’re screwing everything up.”  Keep going.

The News from Nowhere

There’s not much to report from this weekend, but I feel the need to reach out.  I managed to get to shul (synagogue) without much trouble on Friday night, but I missed Saturday morning, this time explicitly because of social anxiety.  I did at least manage to shake hands with the rabbi and the assistant rabbi after the service on Friday night, something I hadn’t managed for several weeks, maybe even a couple of months, because of social anxiety and fear of being judged.

I did get very depressed again while doing my hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer on Friday night.  Speaking of meditation, I’ve gone back to trying to do some mindfulness meditation before my hitbodedut, just for three minutes, to see if I can manage it without getting agitated.  It’s hard and I’m not sure what benefit I really get from it, but it seems to be one of those things that depressed people are expected to do, even if it hurts and doesn’t help, in order to be taken seriously by non-depressed people (like exercising and “making an effort”).

Today I slept late again.  Even once awake it took me hours to get dressed.  I pottered around the flat, skimming books on Doctor Who, browsing aimlessly online, trying to resist the temptation to eat too much.  although I have almost no actual junk food in the flat, I can easily eat too many nuts or dried apricots.  Dried apricots in particular have a lot of sugar, albeit natural rather than refined sugar.  I was supposed to go to my parents’ house this afternoon to see them, my sister and my brother-in-law, but I wasn’t up to going.  I should be cooking chilli for dinner as I haven’t cooked much lately, but instead I’m writing this and feeling awful.

After two weeks, the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues still hasn’t got back to me, not even to acknowledge receipt of my shidduch (dating) profile.  I would chase it, except that I feel in no fit state to be dating anyway.

I emailed my rabbi mentor last night to see if we could speak about my feeling that God hates me and that I have no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World/Heaven).  I don’t know if he could really change the way I think, though.  It’s becoming very hard to stay frum (religious) as I feel so religiously inadequate compared with the other people at shul and on Hevria, feeling that I am going backwards rather than forwards in my spiritual development, that I am simply not doing enough that God must really hate me.  At the moment I don’t really feel anything except a vague depressive sadness and lethargy, but I think deep down I want to be a good Jew, but  I feel like I’ve been set up to fail almost since I was born, if not earlier.  Only I should not say so.  I should take responsibility for my actions.  I can’t believe that anyone who really knows me could love me or forgive me.  My evidence for this is that only two “people” really know me.  I’m one and I don’t love or forgive myself.  The other is HaShem (God) and it often feels like He doesn’t love or forgive me either.

Blog Award Nominations

Ashley of the Mental Health at Home blog nominated me for some blog awards, “all or any of” the Liebster, Mystery Blogger and Awesome Blogger Awards.  There’s a big overlap between them, and I don’t really want to do the Mystery Blogger Award thing of listing facts about myself (I’m already open about my mental health and what I haven’t said, I don’t really want to say here because of my anonymity).  I also feel a bit awkward as to whether I qualify for awards for inspiring or happiness-spreading posts.  So I’m going to stick with the Liebster Award for now.

Leibster Award

Apparently there are different versions of the rules, so I’m going with her version.

  • Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you.
  • Provide a link to their blog.
  • Include the award graphic.
  • Answer the questions provided.
  • Nominate 10 recently followed bloggers and share your post with them, so they can see it.
  • Make a new set of 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

 

I haven’t got ten recently followed bloggers and I don’t really have ten people to nominate, but I’ll nominate a few fairly recent finds and one I’ve been following for a decade or so.  I’m not entirely sure who follows my blog, and lots of the blogs I follow are written by people with mental health issues and severe lack of energy so if anyone I nominate who doesn’t have the time/energy/desire to do this, please don’t feel under any pressure.  Also, I’m really rubbish at ‘small talk’ type questions of the kind that usually go in these things (Asperger’s again) so please just answer the questions I was asked.

Anyway, here goes:

I nominate:

  1. An Anonymous Escape from Life
  2. My Anxiety Matters
  3. Insomnia Girl
  4. Reflecting on Well-Being/A Lone Wolf and Mental Well Being
  5. Luthien the Green
  6. I’m Fine, Stop Asking
  7. The Silent Wave
  8. And Purple Cat (because I’ve ‘known’ her online for years, but never tagged her on anything before).

Sorry that that leaves me two down, but I’m not sure who else I can nominate.

Now, my answers (I’ll try to keep them brief):

  1. What changes would you like to see in the world within the next ten years?  Ignoring unlikely things like world peace, and anything that would start a political argument… people accepting that it’s OK for other people to have different religious/political/cultural views and that that doesn’t make them bad people.
  2. Do you own any pets? If so, what kind? No.  I had a couple of goldfish as a child, but that was it.
  3. What is your least liked thing about blogging? It takes me a lot of time to write my posts.  As most of my posting is driven by the compulsion to relieve strong feelings of depression, despair or anxiety, it means I spend ages on venting posts and not as much time on my other writing projects or even on writing more general/objective posts about mental illness here.
  4. How in touch are you with your surroundings?  Very little, I suspect.  My Mum used to call me her Absent Minded Professor (AMP).
  5. What is your favourite social media site? I don’t really use social media other than for blogging.  I came off Facebook years ago because it was too triggering for me.  I don’t know if this is really what the question had in mind, but I do like (Jewish collaborative religious/cultural blog) Hevria.
  6. Do you wake up early or like to sleep late?  On work days I wake up very early.  The rest of the time I sleep very late.  I have the type of depression that makes me hibernate: eat too much and sleep far too much.
  7. Where would you most like to visit and why? I used to have an English teacher at school who said he would like to visit Antarctica for the afternoon only and I would agree with that.  More realistically, I’ve been thinking about making a trip to New York to meet some online friends I have there who I have never met in person.
  8. If you could have a drink (can be water) with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose? The Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk).  Nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi who possibly had mental health issues (he spent the last nineteen years of his life living in his study, barely seeing anyone), noted for his pithy sayings.  He stressed individuality to an extent that is very unusual for a Hasidic rebbe, particularly one living so long ago.
  9. What is your favourite book? Don’t ask a librarian this!  There are too many to chose from… religious books, novels, history books, short stories… Just because I was complaining about the film version last week, I’ll go for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy: a great thriller and a superb novel of character and the definitive ‘state of the nation’ book on Britain’s post-war, post-imperial decline.  Runners up: almost anything by Jorge Luis Borges and quite a bit by Philip K. Dick.
  10. If you could be any animal what would you be? I don’t really see myself as an animal, but I guess maybe an orangutan.  Sit around all day eating fruit and thinking deep thoughts.  (I vaguely recall having a poster of an orangutan on my wall as a child, alongside the Mir space-station and a lot of dinosaur and Doctor Who pictures.

A Few Quick Thoughts

Just a quick note to say that I had a lot of anxiety at work again today.  I felt like I was going to start shaking while talking to my boss and while talking to students.  I didn’t, but I’m not quite sure how I avoided it.  There’s some stuff that I don’t want to talk about publicly that upset me too.

I went to my shiur (Torah class).  I was wondering if I should tell the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, about my mental health, as part of my attempts to open up a bit more about it to people, especially at shul (synagogue).  It was academic, as when I got there he was struggling with his printer and by the time he gave up and decided to use his ipad for his source sheet, other people had turned up and I’m not ready to make such a public declaration.  Some of what he said is sort of relevant to what I’ve been brooding over lately, about having no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World) and he looked right in my eyes when he said some of it, which was a bit unnerving (I guess this is as close as I get to the miracles that people talk about on Hevria.com), but I think I need time to process it before I say anything here.

One last thing: I realised today that my depression is a moody adolescent, despairing, self-pitying and sometimes angry, but my anxiety is an anxious little child, I guess about four years old.  I hope that isn’t too twee or silly.  I think my therapist will appreciate it when we speak tomorrow.  I actually have as my computer wallpaper a photo of me age three years old and my sister aged six months.  The photo is an old analogue one that my Dad scanned and the resolution isn’t really good enough for full screen, so it looks a bit pixellated, unless you stand further away from it, but I keep it there because I like it.  We’re wearing matching New York outfits that my uncle bought for us.  I have my arm around my sister, less from brotherly love and more because she hadn’t got the hang of the whole ‘sitting upright’ thing and was prone to falling over if left unsupported for more than a few seconds.  I like the photo because I’m smiling, really beaming.  That happiness would ebb away with the stresses of the coming years, but in that photo I’m happy and I like that.

On Not Being SMART

I had my meeting with my boss today about my mental health.  I think it went OK.  I think I struggled to express that I on some level at least I know my anxieties about perfectionism (and being fired, although I didn’t say that) are not rational, but they still persist because anxiety isn’t rational.  I think she couldn’t quite understand why I’m still worried about not being good enough at my job when she has said that she would tell me if there was an issue and, so far, she has not had to tell me that.  I do worry that these fears about being fired are in the process of turning into a full-blown anxiety disorder, the way my OCD (which is also an anxiety disorder) appeared almost from no where a few years back (I had had pure O thoughts before, but not obsessions and compulsions centred on Jewish dietary laws the way the OCD was).  I don’t think I’m at that stage yet, but I’m trying to monitor the situation and work out what to do before it gets to that stage.  Obviously these things are better to treat if nipped in the bud before they become major disorders.  I think there is some hope there.  Last year I was worried that I was becoming anxious about travelling on the London Underground at rush hour because of the lack of room, but I persisted in travelling then and those anxieties have subsided.  So I am hopeful that if I continue with my job, these anxieties about being fired will go away.  That’s also why I’m not asking to spend less time on the issue desk, which is the most anxiety-provoking part of my job and probably the part that I’m least good at, because I know that if I give in, things will get worse (plus it would really mess up the team rota and the workplace division of labour if I asked to get out of it).

The irony was that even during the meeting at which my boss was trying to reassure me that things were OK, I was worrying that I was upsetting her (by not being reassured and also by a misunderstanding about which phone line I was supposed to phone her on yesterday to say I was going to the doctor).  I find it very difficult to read people generally (borderline Asperger’s and it fuels the social anxiety), but I find my boss particularly hard to read.  Some of that may be a personality thing, some may be that she is my manager and probably deliberately keeps a bit of distance from the rest of the team.  I did come out of the meeting still feeling quite anxious and worried about being fired, and beating myself up because I could see that I was over-reacting enormously, but I didn’t know how to stop feeling like that.  I think I’ve become a lot better at reading my emotions in recent months, but it’s definitely hard to deal with the ones that I can see are irrational and harmful.  I guess my therapist would say not to “deal with them,” but to experience them and move on.

I feel a bit upset from all this.  At Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) over three months ago, I made three resolutions: to say the beginnings of the three most important prayers with greater kavannah (concentration, devotion); to study one Mishnah a day; and to work on my depression and social anxiety.  I have largely messed up the first one, the second one varies a lot depending on how depressed I am and whether I’m at work (I use being stuck on the train for the morning commute to force myself to do some study unless I’m incredibly depressed, whereas at home at the weekends or on holiday it is easier to convince myself I’m too depressed and short of time), but the third one, working on my depression and social anxiety, I haven’t even begun to deal with, not least because I couldn’t think of any SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals to break it down into.  And now it looks like I’m having to add more anxieties into the mix, although I guess you could argue that my fear of being fired is just an extreme social anxiety with some depressive low self-esteem mixed in, as it stems from not being able to read my boss and colleagues to gauge if I’m liked and trusted and fearing that I will mess up work-related social interactions in such a way as to jeopardise my job, whether interactions with library users (staff, students) or with library staff (particularly my boss).

As ever, I seem to be much better at articulating these fears here than I am in expressing them in person, whether to my boss or to my parents and also better at articulating them than in living with them and not letting them rule my life.

Appointment with the Doctor

Apologies for the boringly prosaic and descriptive title.  I was going to call this post ‘Post-Mortem’, but then I realised that yesterday I was writing about being suicidal, so it might be misinterpreted.  I guess ‘The Story of the Day I Went to the Doctor About My Depression (Again)’ is a bit wordy.

I was up late last night talking to my parents about my mental health and what to do about it.  My Mum was very keen on me going to see the doctor and I thought she was right.  Really I was just waiting for someone to tell me to go, as I always worry in these situations whether I’m bad enough to justify seeking help, bearing in mind that I’ve been very depressed for most of my adult life, so it’s hard to recognise the point where it’s bad enough to take action.  I spent some time last night working out what to say to the doctor and also to my boss, realising that I would have to explain why I was missing work (I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get an appointment at such short notice, so I was potentially missing the whole day).  One of my parents, I can’t remember which, suggested emailing my boss last night so that she would have something as soon as she got in to explain my absence, in case I was held up in phoning; as an additional bonus, it meant I wouldn’t have to explain too much over the phone, as I can get nervous and semi-incoherent when talking to people over the phone (social anxiety and/or Asperger’s again).  All this took a lot of time and I don’t think I got to bed until around 1.00am, especially as, after my experiences on Sunday (when I went to bed early without relaxing and couldn’t sleep) I made sure to shower and relax a bit before bed after a rather traumatic day.

I managed to get a doctor’s appointment for late morning today.  Fortunately when I was suicidal a year ago, the doctor put a note on my file saying I’m an ‘at risk’ patient (depressed young male living alone) and in an emergency I’m to be given an appointment that day, otherwise I could have been waiting days to be seen.  I got to see my preferred doctor too, which was good.  He was very sympathetic as I explained that my condition has worsened in recent weeks, building up to intense thoughts of self-harm and suicide yesterday.  I explained about family stress (my sister’s wedding) and work stress (relatively new job, my worry over making mistakes and my boss finding out about my blog and self-harm) and how this has all felt like it had reached an unbearable point yesterday afternoon, probably compounded by disrupted sleep over my long weekend (from Friday to Sunday I dozed every afternoon/early evening and then ended up going to bed late and/or struggling to sleep at the right time).

The doctor felt there was no reason to change my medication, which I sort of agree with and sort of not.  I think it’s doing something as if we change the dose or I forget to take it, I go downhill rapidly, but I wouldn’t describe my condition as ‘good.’  I was feeling a lot better from being put on clomipramine last winter until the summer, but since then I have been very depressed, albeit functional and not in danger of hurting myself (until yesterday).  It seems that, as with all the medication I have taken, it either does nothing or produces some improvement until an external event pushes me back into the depression, at which point it at best keeps a degree of stability and functionality, but not positive mood.

Then again, I would agree with the psychiatrists I have seen in the past who say that medication can only help me so much; I need to make changes to my life.  This is the hard part, as I’m not sure what to change or how, particularly when obstructed by social anxiety and my borderline Asperger’s.  Hence all the recent posts musing idly about career changes, volunteering or emigration and more seriously about trying to find a romantic relationship while also struggling to integrate better into my religious community (which currently feels like one step forward and two backwards – I haven’t been to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat morning (Saturday) for a couple of months now, as I’ve been too exhausted, but I suspect that is covering depression and socially anxiety that I need to confront at some point).  The result is a feeling of ‘stuckness’ which I guess I should raise with my therapist this week (a shame I only just thought of it now, not during my appointment with the doctor).

The doctor did, however, think that the immediate trigger for my agitation was my disturbed sleep over the weekend.  This may be true, as I know I need seven to eight hours of sleep a night just to be functional and any kind of physical need (fatigue, hunger, dehydration) can trigger mental health issues very quickly in me (depression, anxiety, OCD).  Still, I think a more likely trigger is the issue with my blog being discovered by my boss and the college hierarchy last week, which is further in the past than the sleep disruption, but Monday was my first full day at work since it happened, which may have been triggering, particularly as I was doing some (non-blog) writing during my lunch break, right before the agitated and self-harming thoughts started, which may have reminded me of writing my blog during my lunch break and inadvertently being ‘caught.’  I did mention some of this to the doctor, but he didn’t change his mind.  He did prescribe sleeping tablets for a few nights, saying I don’t have to take them if I don’t want to.  I think I’ll probably wait until a night when I can’t sleep or my sleep pattern gets messed up (more likely to be during the weekend, as on weekdays I sleep, if not the sleep of the just, then at least the sleep of the exhausted).  I do wonder if they will give me more refreshing sleep, as for many years the depression has made me sleep for long periods, but not refreshing sleep – I wake up as tired or even more tired than I went to bed.

I felt that this was positive overall, especially as the doctor booked in a follow-up appointment (by phone, so I won’t have to miss more time off work) for next Monday.

This took me to lunchtime.  I phoned my boss to let her know what happened and got no answer, just as I had got no answer when phoning in this morning to explain my absence.  I left a message (as I had done earlier too) and a few minutes later she phoned back, saying she was out of the office and had only just got my message (at the time I assumed she meant the message of a few minutes earlier, but in retrospect, she might have meant the first phone message and even the email of the previous night).  She said that she would like to see me tomorrow, which I’m a bit nervous about, but probably shouldn’t be.  She also said there was no point in my going in this afternoon, as by the time I arrived it would be nearly time to come home again, but I said I think I would like the structure of going to work; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck home alone again with my thoughts as I was on Sunday and over the winter holidays.  So I went to work for two hours, spending more time commuting than actually at work, but I think it was the right decision for my health.  It also gave me the opportunity to open up to another of my colleagues about my depression (but not the suicidal thoughts), which was a positive thing as well.

So now I’m home, feeling vaguely anxious about my meeting tomorrow.  I feel I should have some kind of positive action plan to put in place and I don’t have a clue what that would be.  As I mentioned yesterday, employers are supposed to make “reasonable adjustment” to illness under UK diversity law, but it’s hard to tell what is reasonable; also what would be running away from my problems.  For example, I think that even if I could somehow escape from being on the issue desk, it would be a backwards step to do so.  I need to have those anxiety-provoking and mistake-making experiences for growth (something else the doctor said today, actually).  The only real adjustments I can think of are some leniency if I’m a few minutes late to work (which has only happened twice in nearly eight months) or if I need to stop work for a few minutes to calm myself or just to be able to ‘shift gears’ between two different tasks (as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not sure how much this is a depressive problem or an Asperger’s one; I guess it doesn’t really matter what it comes from).

Appointments

I summoned up the courage to phone my parents.  When I said I was having suicidal thoughts, my Mum straight away said I should get an emergency appointment with the doctor tomorrow and see if I can get referred back to the psychiatrist or have my medication changed (although my experience of doctors on the NHS in the UK is that they tend to leave medication to the psychiatrist if possible). I should be able to get an appointment with the doctor tomorrow, even though there’s normally a huge waiting list, as when I was suicidal last winter, my doctor put a note on my file saying that I’m a priority and have to be given an appointment that day if I say it’s an emergency (young men living on their own are a massive suicide risk anyway, plus I have a long history of suicidal ideation).  I’ll have to phone my boss first thing in the morning to explain the situation, including mentioning the suicidal thoughts, otherwise it won’t seem bad enough for me to justify missing a day of work (or possibly a half-day if I can get  seen earlier).  I am dreading this.  I have just sent an email to explain the situation so that my phone call won’t be totally out of the blue, because I know I can get panicky and not completely coherent on the phone (not sure if that’s social anxiety or Asperger’s) and I don’t want it to sound as if I’m skiving.

I’m having self-critical thoughts saying I shouldn’t have gone from three days to four a week at work or even that I shouldn’t have left my old job, but I guess I did have to try to push myself and I was doing OK in the spring.  I made decisions based on the information available to me and although I knew there was a possibility of relapse, I didn’t know it would be this bad.  In some respects, I’m just glad it didn’t hit me until the winter break, after my sister’s wedding, as it would have been awful to miss that.  I just hope I can find a way to stick with this job.

I don’t know if there are still medication options.  There might be older tricyclic antidepressants I could try.  There’s MAOI antidepressants, which are a pain because of dietary restrictions, but they might help.  And there’s ECT although in my experience you have to be more or less totally non-functional before psychiatrists will prescribe that.  Still, my thinking – and my therapist agrees with me – is that medication can only keep me stable at best.  Beyond that, I need talking therapy and I need to somehow shift things in my life so I feel better about myself.  It’s hard to see where that could come from when I twist everything to fuel my self-loathing and where my efforts to deal with social anxiety and low self-esteem seem to continually hit the wall of depression and borderline Asperger’s symptoms.

So, I will try to remain positive and hope my appointment tomorrow is helpful.  I will just take some notes based on my previous blog post so that I’m not incoherent when I see the doctor and then get ready for bed.

“I am but mad north-north west”

I’ve had an awful twenty-four hours.  It’s hard to indicate how disturbed and agitated my thoughts have been.  I don’t want to write in detail and worry everyone… but then, I do feel the need to reach out.  Then again, even if I wanted to, I doubt I could replicate the fast, choppy, agitated and often visual thoughts going through my head this afternoon.

Picking up from yesterday’s post I was very depressed before going to bed.  I didn’t really want to do my hitbodedut spontaneous prayer; in the end I did a few minutes before giving up.  I think I went to bed around 11pm, but I couldn’t sleep and ended up getting up and watching Doctor Who and somehow getting a stomach ache from I don’t know what.

The bottom line was that I overslept this morning and didn’t have time to daven (pray).  I got to work before 9am, so I was able to say the Shema and the Amidah and Alenu prayers in the little conference room, but I couldn’t put on tallit and tefillin today.  On the train in, I was too depressed to read (either Mishnah or recreational reading) or to listen to music.  I just sat with my eyes scrunched shut.  I wondered if I was losing my ability to be frum (religious).  If I believe in God and the Torah surely it should follow automatically that I would at least try to be frum, but apparently not.  It’s as hard to do it now as when the religious OCD was at its worst, but this time with no obvious reason.

I struggled through the morning feeling shattered and having great difficulty concentrating, but it was afternoon when everything really went wrong.  I kept texting myself brief notes of what I was thinking, primarily to write this post, but it strikes me that I do have a timecoded record of my thoughts in case I decide to go to a doctor about this.

Shortly after I got back from lunch at 2pm, I was still struggling to concentrate and feeling exhausted (so no energy boost from lunch).  My anxiety spiked and I started worrying that I was going to be fired or even be arrested.  I haven’t really mentioned this here, but as well as OCD worries about kashrut and other Jewish things, I have anxieties that I might have committed a crime without realising it and I’m going to get arrested for it, or that I will commit a crime or a sackable offence at work.  Mixed in with this were some more or less rational worries about the political situation, but the OCD and related anxieties were more worrying for coming out of nowhere and dominating.  OK, not quite nowhere, as they are clearly based on my experience last week of my boss finding out about my blog, but these types of thoughts had been dormant for a while and I thought I had largely beaten them.

Shortly afterwards, I was crying and thinking about resigning my job.  I can’t remember why this seemed like a good idea, but it was probably because I feel I just can’t cope with it.  I was the only person in the office at this point; I didn’t want to be seen crying… but part of me did, just to get it out in the open.

By half-past three, I was feeling the feeling I refer to as being ‘sunk’, when I feel like a sunk ship at the bottom of the sea, unable to move or do anything.  I was feeling overwhelmed by despair.  Strangely, I was still working with this going on in the background.  I would work for a few minutes, struggle with my thoughts for a bit, work some more… I think the amount of cataloguing I did wasn’t particularly bad.  I doubt my boss will complain or think anything amiss if I don’t tell her what a bad time I was having.

It was around this time (3.40pm) that I was having thoughts of hurting myself.  Either actual thoughts of self-harm and later of suicide, or images of being beaten up by my doppelganger.  The thoughts were vivid enough to make me wince sometimes.  I can’t remember at what point I started thinking about overdosing on my medication, but it persisted through the afternoon.

By the time I finished work at 5pm, I was having intense thoughts of hurting myself/being hurt and of suicide.  I usually phone my parents most days, but I didn’t phone them yesterday and I was trying to think of how to avoid phoning them today, because I feel I have let them down, and that I’ve let the college I work for down too.  I feel I’ve pretty much let everyone down and that I’m not really capable of doing anything right.

Then on the way home I was reminded of a major mistake I made fifteen years ago… the story is too long, not to mention too embarrassing, to mention here, but it makes me feel like I can never escape my mistakes, that they will always come back to haunt me.

I’ve written this down and, as I feared, it sounds fairly rational.  What I can’t really communicate is how frightening this is.  I know I’m not psychotic, but my thoughts are so agitated and violent, they come so quickly and so (apparently) outside of my control that they frighten me, especially when I start thinking of throwing myself in front of a train or overdosing on my meds, even if I don’t really intend to follow through on those thoughts.  It’s the fear that I might have a moment of weakness and act on them.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if I can really go to the doctor having had two or three bad days, particularly as I would have to miss work to do so, possibly most of a day, as I would be an emergency appointment squeezed in when they had time.  And getting time off for an appointment means telling my boss and, realistically, my parents (a) because I tell my parents all my major news and (b) because I’m not sure how much of a fit state I’m in to coordinate making an appointment and getting to it on time without at least having the potential of a lift to the doctor if I’m running late.  I do feel like I’ve let everyone down.

Then there’s the question of what would happen if I did go to the doctor.  I do have a sympathetic GP, but I know from experience that there isn’t much he can do for me when I’m in distress, but not actually hurting myself.  He might refer me back to the psychiatrist, but there’s a waiting list for that.  He might send the crisis team round, but they’re completely inadequate.  I’ve been here before.  All they do is turn up some time during the day to make sure you haven’t killed yourself in the last twenty-four hours.  They’re useless timekeepers too: if they say that they will come at 10.00am, they could turn up at any time from 10.00 to 3.00pm… unless you assume they’re coming late and stay in bed, in which case they’ll arrive at 9.30am.  To be fair I can see that their day would be hard to schedule, but it makes carrying on with work and my routine difficult even though the main thing they say is to carry on with one’s routine and work.  So that would require more time off work.

I’d rather go to work if I can, given that I think being off work for two weeks was what triggered this episode, or at least worsened it.  I’d like to ask for something to be made easier, but I don’t know what is both a “reasonable adjustment” that work will agree to, and which doesn’t render my job meaningless.  What upsets me about work is screwing everything up, so reducing the workload isn’t going to make that fear go away, because however little I do, I will still be afraid of screwing it up.  I could potentially ask to be kept off the issue desk for a while, as that’s the most anxiety-inducing part of the job, but (a) I think that might go beyond “reasonable adjustment”, (b) it would advertise to all my colleagues that I have issues and (c) I don’t think running away is a particularly good strategy.

So I feel fairly stuck.  I don’t feel as agitated as I did earlier, when I was worried that I would become suicidal, but at the same time, I sometimes feel it would be better if I stayed agitated and fantasising of self-harm because that would be easier to deal with than having my mood change all the time.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Having made the decision/mistake to stay up late blogging last night and then got sidetracked into reading news sites with horrified fascination, I didn’t wake up until 11.00am today.  Even then it took another hour to feel well enough to get out of bed and a couple more hours of eating breakfast, going back to bed, getting up again, procrastinating by reading online (mostly political news, mostly horrifying) before I could get dressed.  When my depression is bad, I try to avoid the news, but then I feel ill-informed and a Bad Citizen, so I go back to reading it and get depressed.  I don’t like to talk about politics here, but, whatever one’s views, it does seem that we live in a much more unstable world since the upheavals of a few years ago (Credit Crunch, Arab Spring) where anything can happen (Brexit, Trump, Corbyn) except, of course, what all the pundits expect.  I don’t know whether the Chinese really consider it a curse to live in “interesting times,” but it feels like one to me.

Something else I’ve read today indicates that depression really is making me stupider.  So at least it’s not my imagination.  I do wonder what my IQ is these days.  I certainly seem to have more trouble with reasoning and problem-solving, although as most of my problem-solving is at work, it’s hard to tell what is social anxiety panicking me into making mistakes and what is depression making me less intelligent.  I guess I did get both my BA and my MA while very depressed, so I can’t be that stupid, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.

The only thing I really achieved today was a only partially successful shopping expedition.  I ran into a load of people I knew who I would rather not have met, particularly the person several years younger than me who was out with his three children, just to make me feel more inadequate.  I had a partial breakdown in the kosher deli, trying to buy bread (the kosher baker was long-since shut).  They didn’t have the wholemeal bread I wanted and I stood there for what felt like an age trying to work out if I should buy granary bread or ask my parents to buy a loaf for me tomorrow (I get home from work long after the baker is shut).  It was only after I had bought the granary bread that I realised that I had other, better, options: come back to the deli tomorrow or buy kosher hechshered bread from the supermarket (not everyone agrees that that’s OK and I always feel vaguely uncomfortable about it even though my rabbi mentor says it’s fine; I suspect that a lot of people at my shul would not eat it, but then I suspect they wouldn’t buy ordinary milk either and I do that… another instance of not quite fitting in to my community).

My iPod battery had died without me noticing, so I didn’t have music to distract me when I was walking to the shops (I don’t drive), so I got my full depressive internal monologue unadulterated for half an hour or more.  I was thinking that I don’t know how I am going to do any cooking tonight or to get to work tomorrow, which led me to feel that I am failing with my life, that I should just resign my job and tell the shadchan (matchmaker) not to bother to set me up with anyone (not that she’s got back to me yet anyway) and generally stop trying to be a grown up because I can’t cope with it.  I had thoughts of self-harm, more to do with trying to avoid work than because I really wanted to hurt myself.  There was some movement towards mental monologuing, but at least I shut that off.

I’m supposed to be cooking chilli for dinner, but I don’t have the energy to do it.  I don’t even have the energy to cook macaroni cheese, which is my standby ‘easy’ recipe.  I’m not sure I can even just cook plain pasta.  I have to think strategically about food now, because I’m too tired and too lacking in time to cook on workday evenings, have limited “freezer” space (I don’t have a freezer, just a small freezer compartment in my small fridge) for convenience food (which I try not to eat too much anyway) or cooking for the freezer and have now lost some easy meals now I don’t eat fish except on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  I need to save easy meals for workdays, but that means I really should be cooking for two days on Sundays, when I feel depressed and exhausted.

I feel very listless.  It’s hard to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes.  I can’t really read properly.  It’s hard to feel motivated to do anything, even just to watch TV.  I just want to go back to bed, but I won’t sleep.  I want to be alone, but I also want someone to reassure me somehow, even though I doubt anyone could.  At any rate, when people try to reassure me here, it doesn’t work, at least not for long.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about these lost Sundays, as it does no good.  I really do think I need the time to recover from the work week.  Still, I wish I could do more and, if I don’t actively do things, I wish I would sit and read a book or watch a DVD rather than browse aimlessly online until I find something that upsets me.  Sometimes it feels like I want to make myself depressed.  But on days like today it’s hard to concentrate on anything or to get the motivation to do something.

I wrote the above on and off during the afternoon.  At 6.20pm, I turned off the lights and went to bed fully clothed, because I couldn’t face being up any more.  I lay there for a long time too depressed to do anything and eventually fell asleep.  I got up a few minutes ago.  I feel a little bit better, although it’s too late to salvage anything from the day.  I’ll scavenge something for dinner and then go to bed and try to go to work tomorrow.

Struggling to Understand Emotions

I wasn’t planning on writing, certainly not at midnight (1am now – writing this took a while and then I got distracted reading hilarious-but-terrifying New Yorker articles about the most powerful man in the world and his enormous ego) but I feel depressed and want to try to get my thoughts out of my head.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was hard again.  I struggled in shul (synagogue) on Friday night, feeling quite depressed and socially anxious and not really concentrating on the prayers.  I managed to avoid going to bed when I got home, which I’ve done for the last few weeks (this would be around 5pm), but I still went to bed right after dinner, about 8.30pm.  I told myself I wanted to think about things, but really I wanted to wallow in the depression and sleep.  I did both.  I woke up about an hour later, feeling bad about what I had done.  I did my hitbodedut (speaking to God).  I can’t remember what I said, but I know I spent a lot of the time crying.  I think it was loneliness and feelings of inadequacy and wanting to know that God loves me.  I went to bed late because of this.  Hitbodedut on Friday nights can be like this.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m in more of a spiritual mode or something else, but I get much more emotional and often more depressed, but also sometimes I feel some connection with HaShem (God) which I don’t normally feel.  During the week my it’s a struggle to get my hitbodedut to last the ten minutes I try to do and I’m often tired and feel like I’m talking to myself, whereas on Fridays I can speak for thirty or forty minutes and I don’t usually feel tired whatever time it is and sometimes there’s a bit of a connection.  I don’t quite know what to make of this.

Nor do I know what to make of the dreams I had last night.  I don’t normally remember my dreams, but every so often I go through phases of remembering bits and pieces of them.  I know I had odd dreams last night with religious undertones, or maybe even overtones – I don’t remember enough detail.  I woke up with a phrase in my head that I thought was a great chiddush (novel interpretation of a religious text) and its arrival in my head might just be a sign that God was communicating His love to me.  Still, I was sceptical, as I always am of things like that, and as the day wore on, the supposed chiddush seemed less and less coherent or justifiable.  Eventually I dismissed it as an irrational thought from my subconscious, perhaps trying to make myself feel better, rather than anything more supernatural.

I missed shul in the morning again.  I woke up on time, but I felt too bad to get out of bad.  I say “bad” because it’s hard for me to tell if I’m avoiding it because of exhaustion, depression or social anxiety.  I know I’m going to have to face shul again sooner or later, but I can’t find the inner strength to do so.

Another thing I don’t understand is my reaction to films.  I wrote in a previous post that this might be sensory overload in the cinema, but this evening I was watching a film on TV with my parents and felt depressed when it finished without being sure why, or even being sure of what exactly I was feeling, except knowing that it did not feel good.  Other potential reasons why the film might have upset me today was that I didn’t like it  very much (it made a mess of one of my absolute favourite novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré; read the book or watch the TV adaptation with Alec Guinness as George Smiley, very faithful to the novel and beautifully acted, unlike the film) and that I abandoned my semi-diet and had an ice cream because I was so disappointed by the film; I’ve mentioned before that I worry that eating too much sugary food can trigger a dip in my mood as my blood sugar level goes up and down and I suppose that could have happened here, although it would have had to have happened very fast.

So it’s gone 1.00am and I’m left feeling a bit tired, but not really sleepy, if that makes sense, a bit lonely and depressed and very hungry (why?!  I’ve done nothing but eat or sleep all day!), but not sure what to do about it.  I don’t know why films and theatre seem to make me depressed in way that books and TV don’t or if sugar really does affect my mood so much.  I wish I wasn’t single and alone at the moment.  I don’t really want to talk and certainly not to do anything physical, just to have someone I feel comfortable being around and being quiet with, if that makes sense.  Someone who can just accept me.  But I know that that won’t happen until I can accept myself.  The problem is that I don’t know how to do that.  I went on a self-esteem course years ago and while it did give me hints about how to say “No” and deal with recalcitrant students at work, the CBT-style hints about self-esteem (say positive affirmations about yourself, congratulate yourself on even trivial achievements) have never really helped me.  My self-loathing seems to be too deeply-rooted for anything to shift it.  Nor has years of psychotherapy helped me, leading me to fear a solitary and self-loathing existence for the rest of my life.

Angry with God

A while ago, when I started writing about not knowing what my mission is in life, Louise Dennis commented to say that testifying might be part of it.  This seemed meaningful to me, but it is hard to know what exactly I am testifying to, how I am supposed to do it and how big a part of my life it is supposed to be.  I mention this because I am in two minds about this post and this perspective of testimony only makes me more confused.  Is what I am about to write a meaningful testimony, or does it even undermine what I have said until now?  I am not sure.

Last night, I felt very angry with God.  This is not new and I think I have even mentioned it here before, but what did seem new was the ferocity with which I felt it and my willingness to express it.  I felt really ‘mad’ with anger, not something that I often feel.  I should point out that being angry with God is not the same as atheism.  Even the ‘New Atheists’ like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens are arguably not angry with God.  Angry with religious believers, certainly (and Hitchens’ preference for disease metaphors when discussing Jews was notorious – he surely knew that the Nazis had done the same thing in their antisemitic propaganda), perhaps angry that the concept of God persists, but to be angry with someone, you first have to concede the existence of what you hate.  No one ever got angry with Sherlock Holmes.

I acknowledge that my anger stems from incomplete knowledge and from ‘trivial’ personal reasons.  In Judaism there is a conceptual difference between emunah, belief that God exists, and bitachon, trust that God intervenes in a positive way in your life.  I believe very strongly that God exists, that He wrote the Torah, that I should live my life according to the Torah and so on through the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith.  Conceptually, I completely agree that God is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent and that whatever happens that seems bad is only a product of our lack of omniscience; if we could adopt God’s perspective, we would see the event’s necessity (albeit that that necessity might be “Action X is bad, but removing man’s free will by miraculously preventing his bad actions would be worse” – the classic ‘free will’ answer to theodicy).

However, knowing that someone is doing something for a good reason is an intellectual process.  It doesn’t deal with the emotions aroused by the actions and indeed I have heard rabbis speak of the need to distinguish between intellectual and emotional questions about suffering and to respond in the correct way, not because one is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’, but because emotional questions can not be answered intellectually and vice versa.  To pick a mundane example, if you are running late for a meeting and have to pull over to allow an ambulance to pass, you might still get angry, even though intellectually you realise that the ambulance’s need for access is greater than yours.

Emotionally, I feel very angry with the way my life has gone.  I feel that I have spent most of my adult life, perhaps most of my whole life, lonely and depressed while others who seem no better than me (and sometimes rather worse) have achieved success in many areas where I want to succeed.  The roots of my depression go deep back into childhood experiences of bullying and mild emotional neglect and I used to feel anger at the people involved, both those who actively perpetrated them and at the adults who let those situations develop; although I thought I had put those feelings behind me, yesterday evening, probably not for the first time, I extended that anger to God, Who at the very least let the situations arise.

Yesterday this spilt out into active anger.  I can’t remember what the trigger was.  Perhaps there wasn’t an obvious one.  I just felt really angry late in the evening.  I thought that I needed to express the anger rather than just let it bubble up inside of me, so I hurried to my hitbodedut (spontaneous prayers) to say how angry I felt.  Interestingly, once I did that, a number of other emotions were, so to speak, dragged up from my unconscious with the anger: depression, leading to crying, and intense anxiety leading to my unhealthy coping mechanisms for anxiety, notably mild self-harm (hitting myself, hitting my head on the wall) even while I was still talking.  I do not experience anger like this very often, so it is hard to know how much of this was from the anger itself and how much was from my guilt over being angry specifically with God.

Afterwards, I felt upset and exhausted, as after a draining therapy session, but it was late, so I hurried to bed.  In retrospect, I should have watched TV or read something light to ‘come down,’ as I couldn’t sleep and when I did fall asleep, it was not refreshing sleep and I could not get out of bed in the morning.

I drafted the above paragraphs on my lunch break today at work.  I had intended to continue with some thoughts about where I go from here with these feelings, but I can’t remember what I intended to write because I’m too upset about what happened next.

About 3.30pm, my boss asked if she could have a word with me.  “Don’t worry, it’s not a disciplinary matter,” she said, which immediately got me worried about what I might have done that is nearly, but not quite, a disciplinary matter.

It turns out she knew about the blog.  I was anxious to stress that I only write during my lunch hour, which she knew already.  The issue was that the computers in the college can detect key words being used online and they had been picking up some of my blog posts.  I don’t know what the words in question are, but I would imagine that ‘self-harm’ and ‘suicide’ are on the list as today was apparently not the first time my blog posts have been detected.  (No, I didn’t write any of the posts about being scared of sex and frustrated by my virginity in college.  I’m not that naive.)  Copies of suspect material are automatically sent to HR who sent it on to (in my case) my boss, my boss’ boss and the principal of the college.  Short of sending copies to Scotland Yard, the Home Office and MI5, I’m not sure I can imagine a more embarrassing scenario.  So now everyone I work for knows I’m a mentally ill, melodramatic, religious hypocrite and loser with a childish prose style and a self-destructive streak.  I think I can say goodbye to any chances of my contract being extended beyond April.  My Dad (because I was so upset that as soon as I finished work at 5pm I had to phone my parents and vent, thereby adding another two people to the list who know of my frailties and mistakes), eager to put a positive spin on things, says that maybe they’ll make me a mental health ambassador.  It doesn’t seem very likely that I’ll be any kind of ambassador for anything, ever.

The main good thing to come out of this is that it has reminded my boss that I have issues and that she promised to refer me to the college occupational health team, something she had forgotten.   My boss also stressed that I’m free to continue blogging in my lunch hour, but I should be aware that what I write may be scrutinised, and it’s an automatic process that they can’t stop.

I suppose I should be careful what I wish for, as I have reflected here in the past that I sometimes wish that other people could know that I am struggling without my having to find the courage to tell them.  Somehow I didn’t think it would happen like this.  And I don’t know which old posts showed up, whether they included anything about the social anxiety and borderline Asperger’s or just the depression and self-harm/suicide.  I suppose I should be grateful that at least I didn’t write anything that might have been a sackable offence.  I tend to be careful what I say online because I’ve always been aware that my anonymity was far from secure (I’m a fundamentally honest person and bad at keeping secrets like that and I’m too honest and open about myself here to hide crucial information that could identify me to anyone who really wanted to find out).  Anyway, it isn’t in my personality to go around complaining about other people, only about myself.

Still, it does reinforce my anxiety, which I had again only this morning, that I’m going to be fired for something at some point.  And also my feeling that God is punishing me, although I’m not sure that I’ve said anything actually sinful here; I’ve heard from rabbis in the past that it’s OK to be angry with God.

I Want To Break Free

I felt quite a lot better today.  I went to bed at about 10.20pm last night, because I was too depressed to stay up any longer, even to watch TV.  I must have slept for about seven and a half hours.  I don’t know whether it was due to that or to my new imitation sunrise alarm clock (which I’ve only had for a few days and am still experimenting with to see if it helps my depression, as one psychiatry website said it might), but I woke up feeling quite refreshed, rather than depressed and lethargic as I have been for a long while.  I managed to daven (pray) a bit more of Shacharit (the morning prayers) than usual before leaving for work, as I was up earlier and I felt less tired and depressed than usual throughout the morning.

I also want to thank everyone who contacted me after my last post.  Some people commented here and my non-biological sisters (I call them that, but we’re not related, just friends and similar in some ways) texted to ask if I wanted to speak, but I was feeling too depressed to communicate other than in brief texts.  I worry, when I feel like that, how I would cope in a relationship, where there would be someone around that I would need to interact with.  Maybe I am better off single.  (On that note: still nothing from the shadchan (matchmaker).  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.)

I was fine at work today, but on the way home again my mood dipped, possibly related to blood sugar level.  The religious OCD, which has been floating in the background for the last couple of days, threatened to come out again at a few points during the day, although I think I mostly kept it under control.  I do still worry sometimes for various reasons that my parents’ house is treif (non-kosher) and my flat is treif.  This feeds into my belief that I have no share in Olam HaBa (Heaven),  although that’s an overarching belief that goes beyond the specifics of kashrut.

On a more prosaic level, I feel stuck in a rut and unsure what to do.  I worry that I’m not in the right job.  There isn’t exactly anything wrong with my job, just that I worry that I’m not as happy as I might be, that I shouldn’t have left librarianship in higher education for further education or even that it’s too difficult to keep Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Yom Tov (the festivals) in this career.  But I don’t know what else I could do.  I’m not really very qualified for anything, even regardless of my mental health issues, which are still there in interactions with staff and students.  I would say that I feel stuck in my career, but I’m not sure I have a career, just a job.  I think my sister and my brother-in-law have a much clearer idea of where they want to be in five years than I do.

I don’t even know if my job is the problem.  It might not be.  It’s just that my job is really the only thing in my life at the moment, so it’s easy to get fixated on changing it.  I don’t have friends I see regularly, I don’t really have hobbies, I’m semi-detached from my religious community, I see my parents on Shabbat only and my sister more rarely.  I  don’t really know where I’d like to be in five  years, except employed and hopefully (but improbably) married.  Occasionally crazy thoughts come into my head like making aliyah (moving to Israel), going to study in yeshiva  (rabbinical seminary, not necessarily for a career) or retraining as something else entirely.  None of these possibilities are particularly likely; aliyah is the most likely, which gives you an idea of how remote the others are, particularly as I have told myself that, while part of me would like to make aliyah, I would never do it while single (notwithstanding knowing English people who made aliyah and then married someone originally from somewhere else entirely) and possibly not while feeling so worried about the whole political situation in the Middle East.

I avoided buying chocolate when I did my shopping on the way home.  I am not sure if this is good.  In the year that I have been taking clomipramine, I have gone from heading towards being underweight to being very nearly overweight without really changing my eating habits.  Clomipramine tends to do this to people.  I didn’t eat much junk except on Shabbat anyway; now I try to cut it out entirely except Shabbat, when admittedly I eat too much, largely because my parents insist on putting lots out, despite my requests not to do so.  I don’t know if I eat it out of boredom or anxiety or just because it’s there and I’m not distracted from it.  So cutting out junk during the week should be positive, but it just makes me feel more miserable because that was something that gave me a tiny bit of pleasure and now that’s gone too and what do I have left in my life to enjoy?  Doctor Who, I suppose, despite my misgivings about the way the new series is going, and the fact that my viewing of old episodes for research for my book has gone past a lot of my favourite episodes now.  Sigh.

Crying for Help

I feel terrible.  Part of me wants to cry, but I feel too emotionally drained.  My brain is just not working; my head feels like  it’s stuffed with cotton wool.  Too depressed and tired to do anything, even cook dinner.  I’m not sure I’ve even got the energy to eat dinner.  I want to go for a walk, but it’s too late and I’m too tired.

I tried contacting friends (well, a friend) and family, but everyone is busy with their lives and no one seems to really understand how I feel.  I don’t seem to be able to explain myself in such a way that anyone can understand me in real life, and probably not here either.  Anyway, I feel I should be able to look after myself without help from others.

I feel my life is falling to pieces.  I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next term.   I don’t know how I’m going to avoid getting fired or at least not having my contract renewed.  Away from work, the shadchan (matchmaker) hasn’t got back to me yet.  I guess two days isn’t that long, but I’m worried it means that I’m too ‘modern’ for her clientele and she’s quietly dropping me.

It’s hard to think of anything in my life that I really enjoy or find meaningful.  I try to tell myself I do have friends and family who care, but they often seem to be far away, literally or in terms of personality, outlook and understanding.  I still feel like the little lost child.

On days like this, just surviving seems a great achievement, but it’s hard to tell other people that.  Depression is supposed to be an easily treatable illness, but I seem to have been stuck with it for fifteen or twenty years.  It’s hard to keep going when everything seems to stay the same, year after year.  Even when things do change (like my job), my mood seems to stay terrible.  I hate my life, but I don’t know how to change it.  I feel like I’ve tried everything short of ECT.  I honestly don’t know what to do any more.

I just shaved, which I hadn’t done since Sunday.  Dinner (plain pasta, that’s all I could make) is cooking.  But every movement feels like walking barefoot on broken glass while carrying rocks.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life to be ‘normal’/’healthy’ like everyone else.

New Year, Old Habits

We’re 1/365 through 2018!  Roll on 2019!

You might infer from this that I’m not having a good time this year.

Today is my last day of holiday.  It hasn’t felt much like a holiday.  I have done most of the chores I set out to do, but I was so depressed that I have done little else except procrastinate.  I have done little in the way of cooking or Torah study and no exercise.  I have barely been out of the flat for two weeks, which isn’t good, although the weather and the short days hardly encourages anyone to leave at this time of the year and I’ve been sleeping so late that I have barely seen daylight – sunset is before 4pm here; I don’t open my curtains until I’m dressed and even if I get up at 12.30pm, it might (as today) take two or three hours just to eat breakfast and get dressed as I just feel so depressed and lethargic that my body simply won’t cooperate.

I set myself targets, but as they are essentially artificial, it’s hard to stick to them.  For example, I want to cook chilli for dinner tonight, but I doubt if I will, as I feel very depressed and I know that if I don’t cook, I won’t go hungry as I can eat something else that I don’t have to cook.  I don’t have the threat of being sacked, as I do at work.  I feel pretty awful right now and to be honest, I don’t really want to do much more today than just watch Doctor Who (I’m currently up to Earthshock in my research viewing, which is undemanding, but disturbingly macho and probably not the story that I would have ideally picked to cheer me up).  Reading upbeat blogs just makes me feel guilty and inadequate for being mentally ill and generally not getting my life together the way that other people seem to be able to do.  I’ve been depressed for fifteen years straight now (probably longer) with only two or three six month interludes of wellness.

I haven’t even watched a huge amount of Doctor Who as I have been procrastinating and feeling depressed more than actually relaxing, so progress on my Doctor Who non-fiction book has not advanced much more than it had a few weeks ago, although I have finished a second draft of another chapter and have four pages of notes to type up.  I feel pessimistic about the whole thing, though.  I doubt I can say anything original enough to find a place in a crowded marketplace, especially when I’m out of sync with trends in fan criticism.  But I have said all this before, and still I plod on with it.  I’m not sure if I’m persistent or just bad at revising plans.

In terms of social stuff, I did nothing over the holiday except see my parents and my sister.  I even tried to avoid seeing people at shul as much as possible.  However, it looks like I did manage to pay for the shul Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner in a few weeks, so I’m committed to go to that.  I also sent my shidduch (dating) profile to the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues, but I’m sceptical of anything good coming of that either.  I have said most of this before too.  I started reading a CBT book on social anxiety, but haven’t got very far with it yet and am worried that I’m not going to be brave enough to do the exercises in it.

I did read some books on Asperger’s Syndrome over the break and just ended up more confused than ever about whether I’m on the spectrum.  I don’t know if I am neurotypical with some autistic traits or if I’m autistic, but have learnt good coping skills over the years.  I’ve certainly been boring myself by monologuing in my head a lot.  When I say boring myself, that’s not depressive low self-esteem, I really do bore myself with set speeches about politics, antisemitism, religion, society, Doctor Who… I just don’t know how to shut my brain off once it gets going (which may have contributed to insomnia the night I forgot to take my meds).  I’m just glad I’m socially-literate, or more likely socially anxious, enough not to say this stuff aloud.

We might have just started 2018, but we’re already over a quarter of the way through the Jewish year of 5778.  I haven’t really been successful in my new year’s resolutions there: to say the first paragraphs of the ShemaAmidah and bentsching with more kavannah (concentration, meaning), to study one Mishnah a day and to make some improvements in my mental health.  I’ve hardly achieved the first target at all and on non-work days I regularly miss Shacharit (morning prayers) completely (I even missed other prayers this holiday), the second I can do most work days on the commute in to work, but it’s hard to get the motivation on non-work days and on any day concentration and comprehension is usually poor.  As for my mental health, I haven’t even been able to identify a concrete target to focus on.

I don’t feel any nearer to finding my life’s mission, happiness, simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments), community, friendship, romantic/sexual love or any of the other things I want.  I suppose I should be grateful that I have a couple of friends, even if they are largely long distance email/text friendships, and that my parents and sister care about me, even if our different personalities and outlooks can cause friction.  I feel that I’m just selfish for wanting to be happy, fulfilled and loved romantically.

I feel just as burnt out as I did at the start of the holiday, maybe even more so.  Worse, I feel chewed up and spat out, as if I’ve gone through an ordeal and been rejected as inedible.  I’m dreading going back to work and social events (really just shiur (Torah class)) and people asking how my break was and having to lie about it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living my life completely the wrong way.  Sometimes I fantasise about going to live on a religious kibbutz somewhere out of the way in Israel, but I know I could never do it.  The upheaval!  The dislocation!  The Aspie-destroying change!  Living in a war zone! (Although it’s probably no more dangerous than any Western city these days.)  And I’m definitely no farmer.  But I do feel I need to change something big in my life, I just don’t know what or how.

Be It Ever So Humble (Picspam and Achievements)

This is basically picspam, but with too many digressions.  Here goes…

I slept for about eleven hours again last night/this morning and woke up feeling incredibly exhausted and depressed after an anxiety dream about work, too exhausted really even to move, struggling to eat breakfast and get dressed.  My holiday is nearly over (I go back to work on Wednesday) and I don’t feel at all rested and relaxed.  I’ve hardly been out the flat for two weeks, which isn’t good.  I didn’t feel up to doing much exercise, which is bad, and I didn’t get any opportunity to socialise, except with family.  I ran into an acquaintance while shopping yesterday; just talking for a few minutes in the street seemed positive.  Unfortunately, virtually all my friends live outside of London.  I’m just struggling to get through all the chores I’m supposed to be doing.  I did at least send my shidduch (dating) profile to the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with health issues yesterday.  I hope that wasn’t a mistake.

I don’t really want to write another repetitive blog post about feeling depressed, so I thought I would experiment with embedding photos in a blog post for the first time.  I took some photos of my flat.  I can’t post photos of myself because of my anonymity, but I thought I could show you what I see while writing these posts or just while sitting and feeling depressed.

I live in a converted garage.  It’s my landlords’ garage, not my parents’, as some people assume, although my parents live about a fifteen minute walk away.  This is the less than enthralling view from my only clear window (the other windows are frosted so no one can see in.

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No wonder I struggle to get up and out in the mornings.

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The inside of my flat.  I’m not allowed to put anything on the walls.  I originally left the wardrobe doors blank too, but it felt too much like living in prison cell or padded cell, just stark white blankness so I put up the posters (Doctor Who and Ghostbusters).  The other papers stuck to the doors are printed off quotes from other people saying positive things about me in emails or blog comments that I periodically print out and stick up to try to boost my self-esteem.  The photos in the photo frames on top of the wardrobe are family photos, except for one photo I took myself of the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism) at twilight that I really like.  The big books on top of the cupboard are Hebrew-English and Aramaic-English dictionaries.  Most of my books are at my parents’ house.  About 50 are here, in the cupboard, but I had to take the dictionaries out to make more room for other books.

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All the Doctors!  This poster is already out of date.  Ah well…

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My teeny tiny kitchenette.  I also have a microwave/convection oven, toaster and kettle, not in shot, so I’m more or less OK for any cooking I might want to do, it’s just cramped and I have to think strategically when getting out a lot of ingredients to have enough surfaces.

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This one is for two people who know who they are.

OK, picspam over.

I have at least managed to do a few things today:

  1. Cleaned the flat for the first time in too long.  It took a long time and I had to keep stopping for breaks, but I did it.
  2. Replied to the invitation to a friend’s wedding that I can’t go to because I can’t take time off work.  I was procrastinating over sending this reply.  I’m not sure if it was because I was worried he would be upset I can’t go or because I can’t cope with more people getting married and leaving me alone.
  3. Tried to book for my shul‘s (synagogue’s) Friday night communal dinner in a few weeks.  Something went wrong (internet connection problems?  I had them a while back, had to have my software reinstalled and have had them again since Microsoft ran an update a few weeks ago) and it didn’t work, so I’ve got to try again in a few days, once I’m sure that there was no transaction.  This is frustrating.  Having summoned up the courage to do this (I’ve seen the list of who has booked so far and I’m 99% sure I’m the only unmarried person over the age of twenty going – it’s billed as a “Family” event), it’s frustrating that it didn’t work, but I did at least try.  I will try again soon.
  4. Five minutes of Torah study.  I would have liked to have done more, but my limited energy reserves went on cleaning the flat instead.
  5. Checked online and discovered that I don’t really need to pay more National Insurance contributions for the years I was too depressed to work, which is good.  And I was glad I managed to get the HMRC website to work properly this time, having realised I misunderstood one of the questions they were asking me when I tried this a few weeks ago.
  6. Spent half an hour adding birthdays, anniversaries, yortzeits (death anniversaries), school holidays and Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) to my 2018 diary, plus notes to buy cards or phone parents where relevant.  If I don’t do this, I forget all this stuff.  I suppose I ought to work out how to put all this on my phone, although I’d still have to enter Jewish festivals and school dates manually every year (I’m running on three calendars: Jewish, academic and Gregorian-with-British-public-holidays).  But I prefer them in hard copy, where I can see them easily when entering things in my diary.
  7. Went into a panic at the amount of time I’m going to need off for Yom Tovim during term-time in September for the autumn festivals right at the busiest time of the academic year and panicking that I won’t be allowed to take them off and will have to resign (the Muslims only ask for one or two days off a year, the Christians get theirs automatically), then thinking I should be more worried that I might not even have a job after my contract expires in April, then worrying about being made unemployed and not getting the time off for Yom Tov even though the two worries are mutually exclusive.
  8. Oh, and spent too long reading about the politics behind Doctor Who Magazine and how it’s probably about to become much less interesting, then feeling bad for searching for gossip.

I’m now feeling awake and reasonably good for the first time today and ready to do things.  The problem is, it’s 11.30pm and I should be going to bed to get in to a better sleep pattern for going back to work…