I haven’t written my blog on my lunch break since my boss found out about it, but I’m very depressed today and need to off-load before I go on the issue desk for two hours this afternoon.
I spoke to my rabbi mentor last night. I mentioned my problems finding a shadchan (matchmaker) who will take me on. He asked why I need a professional shadchan, why people I know aren’t setting me up on dates informally, as is common in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world. I said that I don’t know many people in the frum world: most of my family are not religious or live abroad and I don’t have many friends and most of the ones I do have are not frum. He was a bit surprised and said who do I talk to about Doctor Who and other stuff that I’m interested in and I said most of the time I don’t talk about that stuff, certainly not at shul (synagogue) or shiur (religious class), which, other than work, are the main place I see people at the moment. I said I’ve been going to this shul for two years and there are two people I’m a bit friendly with and three or four more I’m slightly friendly with and that’s it.
I don’t talk about Doctor Who from a feeling that a frum person shouldn’t be obsessed with a TV programme, although I don’t really talk about it to non-religious people either, which I guess is a legacy of being bullied about it growing up, when it was not a popular thing to like. Actually, I don’t really talk much to people about anything at all, I usually just listen for fear of saying the wrong thing, particularly in frum circles, where I’m not always sure what is permissible to show an interest in. I don’t know how to explain my mental health issues to people at shul or work who don’t have the same issues (actually someone at work has anxiety and claustrophobia, but I still haven’t said anything to her about my issues because I don’t know how to bring it up). And I certainly don’t know how to explain to a ‘normal’ person that I’m obsessed with a children’s TV programme that I have been watching since I was eight years old and which has massively informed my worldview, shaped my wider cultural interests, brought me friends and perhaps helped me to interpret my depression and Asperger’s (it’s certainly helped me to survive them). I wouldn’t know how to say this to a ‘normal’ person, even though Doctor Who is now one of the most popular programmes on British TV, let alone a frum person who sees TV as a source of impurity, something that is owned as a concession to human weakness at best, ideally not brought into the house at all.
My rabbi mentor thought that this inability to open up about myself and my interests to others was really significant and that I should concentrate on dealing with this in therapy. He felt that if I really concentrate on improving my social skills, I could be significantly better in six months. However, I know that my therapist won’t give me practical advice (she has a traditional psychodynamic outlook) and I can’t change therapists because I won’t get one who can fit with my work times or who will charge me a significantly subsidised rate (because I’m on a low income) like my current therapist. It would be a huge upheaval too.
And I didn’t even mention to my rabbi mentor the way my possible Asperger’s Syndrome stops me ‘reading’ other people and communicating effectively with them because I know my rabbi mentor is a bit sceptical about my being on the spectrum. Autistic or not, I keep quite from fear of saying the wrong thing or misunderstanding what others are saying. Nor did I say that I think the social anxiety is itself rooted in my cripplingly low self-esteem. Actually, that’s putting it mildly: I loathe and hate myself and can’t stand being me. I know that no one will care for me until I care for myself, but I don’t know how to do that and it seems wrong to try, because I don’t deserve to care for myself (as proved by the fact other people don’t love me – circular logic).
I took this conversation to mean that I shouldn’t date until I sort out my social anxiety, which I can’t see ever happening, although my sister said it wouldn’t hurt to give my profile to a matchmaking website if it’s free. As I rely on others to guide me with difficult problems due to low self-esteem and (perhaps) Aspie poor executive function (or common indecisiveness), I’m not sure what to do about that. The whole conversation seemed to be saying that I can never have the wife-children-friends-community-happiness I want until I can open up to people about myself, which I will never be able to do because I was taught as a child that my interests are childish and stupid and I shouldn’t tell other people about them and, paradoxically, that I’m an “intellectual elitist” who can’t hold a “normal” conversation and who wants to be too serious all of the time (another childhood image of myself presented to me by others). At the root of all of this is my poor self-esteem and inability to feel that I am justified in being myself. I feel I try so hard, but nothing helps and no one, even those close to me, believes I’m trying. It’s always, “But if you tried X…” when I’ve usually tried X and failed with it.
I can’t even go off the derekh (become non-religious). Even though I’ve been slipping lately with prayer and Torah study because of the depression, I still push myself. I slipped in a big way over the weekend and feel terrible because of it. My soul said “Na’aseh venishmah (We will do and we will understand)” at Sinai, it just didn’t realise that it would be given a brain that couldn’t do or understand.