I’ve been feeling a little better the last couple of days, less despairing and self-critical, or at least concentrating those feelings into smaller periods. That said, I’ve been recording my negative self-critical thoughts as a CBT experiment and I’ve had a few already, even though I only started recording them twenty-four hours ago. And I did cry at work again this morning, in the strange way I do, silent tears rolling down my face. Still, when I was put on clomipramine, my mood improved very rapidly; perhaps increasing the dosage has done the same thing. (I’m trying not to think about what happens when I hit an obstacle and feel depressed again – the dosage only goes so high…) That said, I drafted this at lunch time and when I got home, I discovered that I rushed out so fast this morning, I forgot to take the morning dose, which I guess might explain why I felt so depressed late this afternoon. I had thought the trigger was having to withdraw unread books to make way for more books that probably won’t get read, and being slightly disturbed by some of the students sitting in the library and worrying that they might be being radicalised, without hearing anything concrete to report.
Tomorrow evening is the minor Jewish festival of Purim. I’m not looking forward to it, as the carnival atmosphere is difficult with depression and social anxiety and the various commandments can be a trigger for religious OCD (particularly the requirement to hear every single word of Megillat Esther, the book of Esther, once in the evening and again in the morning), but I have booked to go to my shul‘s (synagogue’s) Purim party tomorrow evening. I probably won’t be able to report on how it went until Thursday, though, as when I get home tomorrow I’ll need to rush to bed to be up in time for the morning Megillah reading and then on to work (it’s a minor festival, so one can work).
I had an interesting thought today about socialising. At work, I can talk reasonably freely to my colleagues, albeit that there are some topics I avoid because I don’t know how they will react (politics, Doctor Who – strangely, I don’t mind talking about religion). On the other hand, I find it hard to speak to anyone at shul (synagogue), even the one or two people I have seen a bit socially outside of shul and shiurim (religious classes). I can chat a little bit, but I find it hard to make small talk generally and here more serious subjects seem too fraught with danger.
Doubtless familiarity is partly responsible for the difference. I see my work colleagues all day, four days a week, while my shul friends I only see once or twice a week, for shorter periods. But I think part of the problem is that at work I have a distinct place in the team. Other than my boss, I’m the only qualified librarian on the team. While I was worried initially that my different educational and cultural background might make it hard to talk to my colleagues, in practice, I feel like I have a niche where I fit on the team and am reasonably comfortable in that role, at least from an interpersonal point of view even if I do worry about not doing my job well enough or fast enough. I still have to ask for help sometimes, but my colleagues sometimes come to me with questions about cataloguing and the like, which feels weird, but good, and I can join in the banter. And maybe this is my imagination, but I feel there is a place for me as a bookish person in the library (some of my colleagues don’t read much).
However, at shul, I don’t know where I stand. I feel unable to judge the complexities of the social and cultural life in the frum (religious) community. I find myself fearing that I am being judged for not being stringent enough and too open to influences from the outside world: watching TV, reading novels and non-Orthodox religious books, having non-religious and non-Jewish friends – all things that can be looked down upon in parts of the frum world, albeit to varying extents in different communities, and I doubt that many people in any community I am a part of would explicitly say that these things were forbidden, just unusual, with the slight distaste that conformist communities can have for the unusual. Not for nothing did George Orwell argue that peer pressure was a more effective method of social control than a secret police force, the most effectively totalitarian state being one were everyone freely chooses to obey because the alternative is social ostracism.
I don’t know what to make of this thought yet. I guess it’s a work in progress, but it feels quite important without my knowing just how yet.