I haven’t written for a couple of days because I’ve been busy. On Friday I went for a run without a cap because why would you need a hat in London in April? I got sunstroke. Ouch. Climate change! It left me feeling so ill that I missed shul (synagogue) in the evening, which I felt bad about.
Yesterday I overslept and missed morning shul again, but I did at least stay awake in the afternoon instead of napping, which gave me time for extra Torah study and a stroll outdoors. I went to a sheva brachos (marriage celebration) in shul between Mincha and Ma’ariv (the afternoon and evening services) for a couple I didn’t know, but I wanted to be part of the community, who were all invited. This is a normal type of thing to do in frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) circles. It was difficult, as I didn’t get to sit with the people I knew best and made awkward small talk with some people I didn’t know so well. The father of the bride used so much Yiddish in his speech that I couldn’t really understand all he said, which made me feel a bit of a misfit, then the groom’s best friend made a speech that made me feel even more of a misfit, because it was basically about how we should only learn Torah and not have outside interests. This tied in with what one of the people next to me had said, that he used to be a bookworm before he was frum, but now he only reads Torah and Talmud. It made me wonder if I am in the right community, although I don’t know of another that fits me better, and at least I share some values even if I can’t always live up to them with my mental health issues. Then I spent the evening writing an email and having serious conversations with my parents and then eating lots when I suddenly got really hungry late at night, so I didn’t get to bed until nearly 3.30am. Admittedly watching Doctor Who late at night didn’t help (I’ve finished the ninth Doctor’s run now, but have several pages of notes to write up for my book because I haven’t had long enough lunch breaks at work to work on it), but I needed to unwind after the sheva brachos and serious conversations.
I went jogging again today and still did poorly. I’ve been jogging for about three years now, maybe four (admittedly I barely went out for the last eight or nine months), but I still can’t go more than a couple of minutes without slowing to a walk because of pain and exhaustion. I can’t work out how other people can push through this. Am I a wimp? Do I have a low pain threshold (possible, as I think there is some evidence that depressed people are more sensitive to pain)? Or do I have some undiagnosed physical health condition (that’s probably hypochondria)? Certainly at school we had to do a fitness test every term. I was never amazingly fit, but when I was about thirteen, my fitness suddenly dropped dramatically and never recovered. No one ever followed it up; the PE teachers were not the best and they ignored me because I was bad at PE; probably there was a government regulation that a fitness test must be given each term, but no regulation that the results should be analysed and followed through, so no one did. Still, in retrospect, I wonder if that marked the start of my depression.
I found out today that the son of the rabbi of my parents’ shul got engaged. He must be only a little more than half my age. I’m trying hard to feel happy for him, and for the couple yesterday (who I’m guessing were also young, although probably not quite so young), but it’s hard. I don’t want to take away anyone’s happiness, and I tell myself that the world is so painful and upsetting for so many people that more bracha and simcha (blessing and happiness) in it can only be a good thing for everyone, but I feel left out and wonder if I will ever experience real joy or romantic love.
It’s funny, I tell myself that the Orthodox world contains many diverse and varied types of people, with different opinions and interests and if I took my time to get to know more of them better, I would find many interesting and unusual people… yet the ease with which so many frum people manage to pair off and marry at such a young age makes me wonder if 80% of them are basically interchangeable in terms of personality, values and interests (if they have any interests outside of Torah and chesed (acts of kindness) as per that speech yesterday) and can basically marry almost anyone else in the community. It’s only the 20% of us who are quirky and eccentric (or freakish and weird, if you want to be less charitable) who end up alone.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that over the last few weeks, I’ve been describing my emotions to myself and trying to accept them for what they are, which seems to help a little with the depression and alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding emotions). I guess it’s a kind of mindfulness technique although, while I’ve tried mindfulness before, I don’t think I saw this technique anywhere in exactly this way. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing it is that I have a lot more emotions than I thought I did. I thought I was mostly feeling depression, loneliness and despair, with a bit of anxiety at times, but actually there are a lot more emotions in there. Many of them are very difficult to deal with, like loneliness and lust (because I don’t really have an outlet for them) or depression and anxiety (because I don’t really have any practical way of coping with them), but just narrating them to myself does help a bit. I’m also trying to learn how not to judge myself for feeling things, because emotions are just emotions, although it’s hard when they lead on to actions that are not ideal e.g. when I get depressed and irritable and am sarcastic and short with my parents.
I feel depressed again now, which I hadn’t felt for most of the weekend. I don’t know if getting tired jogging triggered me or something else. I could just be hungry. I know I seem very open about my issues here, but there’s a lot that I don’t share, because it’s too personal, or because it involves other people, or because I don’t understand it well enough to articulate it, or because it’s too shameful. Quite a few of those lights are flashing now and it’s always frustrating when that happens, as blogging is one of my few ways of at least trying to deal with my feelings. A lot of it boils down to feeling that I will be alone and unloved forever, and not knowing how I will live with that, and how I can live with my human desire to give and accept love (physically and emotionally) when no one is willing to receive or give to me. There’s also a fear that just maybe there is someone out there for me, but because of my social ineptitude or procrastination I will somehow miss her and we will both be alone forever, which somehow seems even worse than there simply not being anyone weird enough to take me.
I started this post saying that I had been busy, but now I feel depressed, I feel I haven’t done much this weekend, between losing a chunk of Friday to sunstroke, oversleeping on Saturday morning (yet again) and oversleeping this morning (yet again). I went to the sheva brachos yesterday and did some Torah study (at home and in the new Talmud shiur at shul, where I actually understood the topic for a few minutes), wrote an email, went for a not terribly successful run today and cooked dinner. I guess that’s not nothing, but it’s not everything I wanted to do either: I didn’t book the holiday I want to go on or do any Torah study so far today (I wanted to get a proper look at this week’s page of Talmud in advance of next Shabbat’s shiur). I guess I should be thankful for small victories, and I try to be, but it’s hard and I never seem to get any credit for trying. Actually that’s not quite true as my Mum praised me for going to the sheva brachos and trying to talk to people yesterday. It is hard to be happy with who I am, though.