I had a rather… combative session with my therapist.  It didn’t help that it was marred by technical problems.  I have therapy over Skype now and Skype had somehow lost my contact list when I logged in so I couldn’t call my therapist, then we had connection problems, so I logged out and tried to log in on my old computer, but it wouldn’t accept the password it had accepted on my current computer two minutes earlier.  We did eventually connect and have most of a session.

We spoke about dating.  My therapist thinks that I try to tell people about my mental health issues too early.  I don’t deliberately try to do that, but it almost invariably comes up by the second date, simply because it’s shaped my life so much that it’s hard to have a conversation about who I am without it coming up.  So, of course, they get overwhelmed and can’t cope and dump me.  We didn’t really have a solution to this, except that I shouldn’t tell people early in a relationship, which is pretty much impossible to do without lying (which I also shouldn’t do).  She wasn’t too happy with me telling a shadchan (matchmaker), but I felt there is a moral obligation; shadchanim do say that you should tell them about long-term health issues and it affects who they set you up with.

Then we got on to socialising with people in general.  My therapist felt that I shouldn’t talk about my issues to people at shul (synagogue) or shiur (class), again because it’s off-putting for people, but she felt I should still be honest and just say I’m feeling sad, lonely, worried etc.  I’m not quite sure how that will work, or that I would have the confidence to do it.  I feel that we’re English, the only acceptable answer to “How are you?” is “Fine, how are you” (or at least “Mustn’t grumble”),  not an honest answer and to be honest about feeling bad without using my mental health to explain that is just inviting trouble.  I actually cope OK with talking to people at work without talking about my issues, because we have work in common to talk about, but I don’t know what I can talk to people at shul about (if I even get the confidence to talk to them at all).  My therapist says not to talk about my mental health, I can’t talk about Judaism because mention of it just makes me feel inferior to everyone else who knows and does a hundred times more than I do (because of the mental health issues which I’m not allowed to mention…) and I can’t talk about Doctor Who because being a total fanboy is embarrassing enough in general circles, but in frum (religious) circles one shouldn’t even admit to watching TV.  So I’m not sure what I can actually talk about, which is why in the two years I’ve been going to this shul, I’ve hardly said a word to anyone.

My therapist says that this is rooted in my childhood experiences, being a brainy and intellectual, somewhat autistic, child who tried to talk about his special interests, particularly history and Doctor Who only to be dubbed an “intellectual elitist” by adult authority figures and bullied and stigmatised by my peers.  My therapist says that I’m not a child any more and people won’t bully me, but I find it hard to believe.  My therapist is insistent that this is the only way forward, and I kind of see her point, but I don’t know what to do to have these conversations, which just bring out the socially anxious autistic child in me.  My therapist also said that I want to be special, so I make out that there’s no one like me, when I’m actually fairly normal, which may also be true.  At any rate a friend implied as much recently.  However, it’s hard to accept that I might be the same as everyone else when so much of my self-esteem is based on feeling myself to be different – better, worse or more intense, but at least different.

So I don’t really know what to do.  I’d like to try to get to shul tomorrow morning, less for the davening (praying) and more to see if I can talk to people at the kiddush, but I’m not sure if this will happen or if depression and social anxiety will defeat me again as they have been doing almost every Shabbat (Sabbath) this winter.

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4 thoughts on “Socialising

  1. Man, today I thought about how people keep telling me that I shouldn’t talk to others about my issues in this regard but I just don’t think it’s fair. I don’t want to hide who I really am from people but there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to trust people with this kind of stuff anymore. I pretended to be a really happy person a few weeks ago but I realized that I was faking it and so, I stopped being that way. I became sadder, more gutsy and said ‘No’ to things that I didn’t want. I’m much happier now because I’m being who I really want to be. It’s kinda sad how sometimes, we can’t talk to people about our problems openly and honestly without fearing that they will judge us and leave. Peace, my friend. I know you can get through this. All my support 🙂

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  2. I’m rather dubious about your therapist’s suggestion not to talk to others about your mental health stuff. It’s one thing to leave nitty gritty details like suicidality until you’ve gotten to know someone, but for me mental illness is part of the package and if someone has a problem with that I want to know right off the bat because that’s not the kind of person I would want in my life. And in terms of being different, I don’t thinking having “normal” problems and being a unique individual have to be mutually exclusive.

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  3. I half agree about talking about mental health. I think my therapist was primarily worried about me hiding behind the depression rather than not wanting me to mention it at all, but it’s hard to know where to draw the line. One of my work colleagues is open about having anxiety issues and claustrophobia (she won’t use the lift without someone else going with her) and I do sometimes feel that I could mention my own issues in that context, although I haven’t yet. I suspect my therapist would say that that is OK, as I’ve been talking to this person for a year without mentioning my mental health, but I’m not sure.

    It’s not so much normal problems that are the issue as thinking that there isn’t anything other than my problems that makes me a unique individual.

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