(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.

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2 thoughts on “Smile Away

  1. Thanks for this link. I feel a lot of that, although I suppose I haven’t directly come across much stigma personally, just worries that I will based on what other people have said, which is probably silly of me. It is one reason why I’m looking at matchmakers who deal with people with health issues, because I think I have a better chance of finding someone willing to marry me among people who have issues of their own, although that’s probably true in all communities. I’ve been lucky in finding sensitive rabbis, at least.

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