I just had a difficult therapy session. I don’t really write about therapy here much, probably because I have it on Friday (over Skype) and then it’s a rush to get ready for Shabbat (the Sabbath), so I don’t have time, but I feel I really need to write this and my therapist was encouraging me to do so. It’s difficult to shift from therapy mode to Shabbat mode today and I need to try to move on a bit.
We started with my mistake (which wasn’t really a mistake) at shiur (Bible class) yesterday. I only intended to mention it in passing, but as sometimes happens, it became the dominant topic. We spoke about what it means to make a mistake, especially in front of people I want to impress. We spoke about why it’s harder to fit in with other frum (religious) Jews than with non-Jewish work colleagues (or people I know through Doctor Who fandom or mental health blogging, although I didn’t mention that). We said I put other people on a pedestal and think that I’m inferior to them, particularly frum Jews, who I see as completely perfect, even though I know that that’s not the case. I feel that if I admit to mental health issues, or missing shul (synagogue) because of those issues, or to religious doubts, or committing sins, or thinking that God hates me or anything like that, frum people will reject me. If I see myself as human, I see other people as angels; if I see other people as human, I see myself as… I don’t know, some kind of animal I guess (perhaps fortunately we don’t have devils in the Christian sense in Judaism so I can’t see myself as one of those). I can’t connect with people because I’m too ashamed to show them my real self for fear of rejection.
It’s even worse with dating, because I put frum women on an even higher pedestal than frum men, thinking that not only do they not sin, but that they are full of chessed (kindness) and pure faith and are also all very pretty, far out of my league in terms of personality, religious standing and looks and that none of them would ever come down to my level to marry me or even date me.
However, I there is a part of me that also sees myself as better than everyone else. I see myself as some kind of Romantic hero (Romantic in the artistic, sturm und drang, sense), fighting an epic battle with my internal demons, with mental health issues, temptation and doubt and that other people living ordinary lives could never hope to understand my deep and difficult struggles. So from this point of view I’m above everyone else, a sort of hero struggling with forces beyond the comprehension of the average person (maybe that’s why I’m a Doctor Who fan…). So again it’s hard to relate to other people, because I feel that I’m on a level far above ordinary mortals and that no one could understand what I have gone through. (World War I often appears as a metaphor for my depression and I sometimes feel like those who fought in the war and returned unable to describe their experiences or relate to those who were too young, too old, too infirm or too female to fight).
That was really where the session ended. We ran out of time. I felt really tense talking about this, clenching my hands, curling up my legs a bit, bending my spine and really just wanting to curl up in a ball and stop talking, so it was obviously really difficult and important for me to say this. I don’t really know how to process these thoughts (hence writing them down). I don’t know where I go from here. My experience is that understanding myself doesn’t necessarily lead to changing how I live, especially in very emotionally challenging areas such as this, so it is hard to know how I can move on from this outlook and adopt a healthier one. I guess it’s a bit of a catch-22 situation, that until I can relate to other people, particularly other frum people, more as real people, I won’t be able to open up to them, but until I open up to them (and encourage them to possibly open up to me), I won’t be able to relate to them more as real people.