Half-Term Halfway

Hi!  I’m still here!  I haven’t written much lately because my relationship with E. continues to be great and I’m scared of tempting fate by writing about it (not that I believe in fate, but you know what I mean), but the rest of life is a struggle at times.  I’m on half-term this week.  It had been going OK, but not great, catching up on chores I don’t have time to do in term time and wishing I could have a proper break, but today has been difficult.  I’ve been slipping further behind with my chores (I wanted to work on a short story I started writing months ago and haven’t even been able to sit down to it; likewise I haven’t done much of the Torah study I had planned), but today I found I couldn’t find one of the ingredients for a recipe E. recommended, so I can’t make it and now I have the other ingredients sitting in my fridge with me not sure what I can do with them.  (If anyone knows of uses for corn flour, spring onions, feta cheese and yoghurt, I would like to hear from them.  The spring onions and maybe the yoghurt are the only ones I think I could eat by themselves, although maybe I should summon up the courage to try the feta by itself.)

The rest of my shopping trip today was more successful, resulting in a new tie (a very belated Chanukah present from my parents), two new pairs of work trousers (sadly a larger size than in the past with the weight I’ve put on since being put on clomipramine), a new drainer for the kitchen and a picture frame to replace one I broke nearly three years ago and had been unable to replace (it’s an unusual shape, being nearly square).  And my Mum said she really enjoyed going shopping with me as a mother-son bonding thing.   So that was all positive.

What was less positive was the drive home, which took about fifty minutes, two or three times longer than it should have done.  By the time I got home, I was feeling incredibly depleted from the drive home and from the shopping itself.  I don’t find shopping centres as difficult as some autistic people do, but the noise, the people and perhaps also the lighting do seem to be tiring for me after a while and I spent about three hours shopping today.  So it probably isn’t a surprise that I feel depleted, doubly so as I feel vaguely as if I’m coming down with a cold.

I also felt bad that E. is having a bad day, and I felt powerless to do anything practical to help her, stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.  She was very good natured about it (because she’s awesome), but I felt a bit like a bad boyfriend, even though I know it’s not really my fault.  It’s at times like this that I wish I could find better words, though.  I know I can write about depression and Judaism and Doctor Who, but it’s hard sometimes to express how I feel, even to myself, let alone to anyone else.

I’m going to have dinner in a minute, watch some Doctor Who and write off the rest of the day.  Things seem a bit better just for writing this down and putting it in perspective: I can see that the day wasn’t so bad.  And whatsapping E. has cheered both of us up, I think.  I just wish that I didn’t spiral so easily down into the black hole of depression, anxiety and autistic traits.

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Anxious Child Mode

I guess I’m in my anxious child mode again.  Shavuot  was quite good, but one day later it feels like ancient history besides work.  Work at the moment is dull.  I haven’t been blogging about it much because it’s persistently dull.  There’s stuff that needs doing and I’m doing it, but it’s dull and no one could possibly enjoy doing it, at least, not to the extent that I’m required to do it.  I tell myself that if it was fun, they wouldn’t pay me to do it.  I also have to do my first exam invigilation this week, which I’m dreading, partly because I’m worried I’ll do something so disastrously wrong that the exam will be voided, all the students will be failed and the college will lose the right to hold any exams in the future, but mostly because I have to get up half an hour earlier, when I’m persistently unable to get up any earlier than I usually do.  I also come home from work exhausted and depleted, which just triggers depression and anxiety.

The other reason I’m in anxious child mode is the Big Secret I’ve been alluding to in recent weeks.  The secret, in case anyone didn’t guess, is that I’m in a relationship for only the second time in my life.  This is very good and happiness-inducing, but also anxiety-provoking because (a) relationships are scary, (b) this is a long-distance relationship, which I’ve never had before and (c) because there’s a big difference in our respective religious levels (my girlfriend has a strong Jewish identity, she just doesn’t express it so much religiously).  We set out our red lines regarding points (b) and (c) before starting the relationship and we seemed to have a basic level of compatibility, but it’s still a scary thing to go into a relationship with, particularly for someone with minimal relationship experience like me.   Everything else is amazing; my girlfriend (I’ll call her E.) is everything I could have wanted: gentle, caring, intelligent, interesting and fun to talk to, understanding of my mental health and borderline Asperger’s, encouraging of my writing ambitions and, weirdly, really into me.   But I still worry that nothing really good ever happens to me, that something will go wrong sooner or later.

The journey home from work turns out to be the real killer, when I’m exhausted and hungry and stressed and probably a bit dehydrated and packed into a tiny Tube train with a thousand other exhausted, hungry, stressed people, fighting for space, not to mention air… it’s easy to give in to catastrophising in such a situation.  I have sufficiently little successful dating experience, or any dating experience, really, that it’s easy to convince myself that I’m feeling the ‘wrong’ thing or the ‘wrong’ amount of the ‘right’ thing.  It’s a lot harder to just relax and enjoy the ride, which is what my parents and my rabbi mentor said to do (yes, my rabbi mentor has been actively encouraging me to date E., religious differences notwithstanding!).

This whole situation made me aware of an aspect of my personality that I hadn’t really noticed before.  Some people are rational and some people are emotional, and in and of themselves, both modes of thought have their advantages and disadvantages.  However, I’m emotional, but I’m convinced that I’m rational (or have been until the last week or so), which means that I get overwhelmed by emotional inputs (particularly due to depression, anxiety, alexithymia etc.), but I treat them as if they are rational data points.  This has a particular tendency to happen on that journey home, when I start thinking, “I’m really anxious that this won’t work, therefore there must be strong logical reasons that this won’t work” or “I don’t feel as overwhelmingly ‘in love’ as I did this morning, therefore I’m not feeling anything romantic any more.”  It’s rather crazy as it’s clearly being driven by my anxiety and by other factors affecting my mood (tiredness, hunger, etc.), but I’m treating it as if it’s an objective fact.  I’m trying not to pay too much attention to these thoughts, but as someone who overanalyses himself, it’s hard.

If I can get through this work week, next week is half-term.  I don’t have anything particularly exciting planned, aside from my Mum’s birthday dinner, but it will be good to have more time to Skype E. and to plan a trans-Atlantic trip for later in the year to meet her in person.  Naturally, I’m catastrophising on that already, from “What if I get lost?” to “What if I get mugged?” to “What if E. breaks up with me and I’m left on a romantic holiday by myself?”  However, trans-Atlantic trips can’t be planned at the last minute, so eventually one has to hope and pray that the relationship will last the next two and a bit months (at least).

Bijou Postette

Today has been hard.  Lately the exciting-but-anxiety-provoking-thing has been if anything even more exciting and slightly less anxiety provoking, but I think yesterday I had a surfeit of good feelings (for once) and ended up feeling totally burnt out and depressed today.  I went to bed late, slept for ten hours or more and struggled to get up and get dressed (I didn’t have work today as my boss asked me to work on this coming Friday, which I don’t normally do, instead of today).  I had hoped to do various important chores, but was just too burnt out.  It’s good that I can recognise these days when they come and accept that there isn’t much I can do other than sit with my feelings and exhaustion and try not to beat myself up too much about not doing things, but it is difficult that I am still prone to these types of depression days, even when things are going better.  At least I went shopping (more for something to do and to get out than because I needed much) and cooked dinner and felt a bit better after that.  I’m going to bed soon, as I feel less depressed, but completely exhausted.

Brave and Impulsive

I’m still all over the place, emotionally.  It’s funny how something can be amazingly good and amazingly terrifying at the same time, although I suppose ‘good’ and ‘terrifying’ aren’t opposites, so there’s no reason something can’t tick both boxes at once.

Anyway, totally unrelated to that, I have an article up on Hevria today.  It’s not really relevant to the content of the blog (i.e. it’s about my peculiar relationship with Jewish mysticism rather than mental health), but I thought some people here might be interested.

I actually wrote it years ago, intended to pitch it to Hevria, but never had the guts.  At the time they weren’t running guest posts so it would have been a bold move on my part.  Then it sat on my computer for years until a conversation with one of my non-biological sisters made me remember it.  I sent it to her to see what she thought and she said I should submit it.  I knew that if I intended to revise it, I would just procrastinate, so I sent it in without really looking at it, which is incredibly brave and impulsive for me (hmm, I was uncharacteristically brave and impulsive with the emotionally-all-over-the-place thing too).  And there it is!  I do feel a bit funny about something that is so old and not 100% what I feel now going up on the internet, but I suppose I can think of it as a sort of time capsule.

The Blog Post That Dares Not Speak Its Name

I know, I’m still not blogging much.  And when I do, I’m still alluding to things without spelling them out.  The anxiety-provoking-thing is still provoking some anxiety, but is also really amazing and wonderful.  Although I’m still not going to talk about it in detail for fear that it will evaporate if I do.  Work is tedious at the moment, as I’m mostly scanning and tagging books that will need to move to our secondary site in the summer as part of a massive reorganisation of the college.  It’s just scan, click, click, scan, click, click all day, with long spells on the issue desk (my least favourite part of the job), because we’re understaffed as one of my colleagues is still off sick (actually, we’re understaffed even if she’s here, but her being off just makes it worse).  It’s all tedious, but very necessary.  Actually, there’s an anxiety-provoking-but-hopeful thing at work too, but I don’t want to talk about that yet either.

I’m trying really hard to have bitachon (trust) in HaShem (God).  The main anxiety-provoking-but-hopeful thing came about through a concatenation* of different events, so I’m pretty sure that, for whatever reason, this is where HaShem wants me to be right now; He’s made this happen very deliberately.  The hard part is accepting the hope that He wants this to turn out well for me and that He hasn’t taken me up the mountain just to make it hurt more when He throws me off the peak.  I’m trying really hard to trust that He’s doing this because He loves me and wants me to be happy, but whenever I start thinking that, I tell myself that I’m too bad to deserve to be happy and, anyway, my life so far seems to indicate that He wants me to be miserable, for whatever reason.  The hopeful thing (or one of them) is that a lot of the miserable events in my life have led me to the anxiety-provoking-but-hopeful thing, so perhaps they were necessary to get me here to have things go well.  Hopefully…

* I like that word.

Update

I haven’t blogged publicly for a few days, and this is really just a pause to draw breath.  Some very anxiety-provoking stuff is going on and while some of it could be very good indeed, I don’t really want to talk about it, partly for magical thinking reasons (if I say it’s good, it will go wrong), partly because I don’t know what I want to say or what I should say.  Also, work is really tedious at the moment, with me spending all day scanning and tagging books to help plan a site move, which is about as exciting as it sounds, interspersed with hours-long stints on the issue desk where I feel I regularly make a fool of myself in front of other people by not knowing how do my job and also get humiliated by teenagers.  Those are jobs that need doing, and my boss is doing them too, but they just fuel my depression, especially as my brain is unoccupied by much of this work leaving it free to wander into all kinds of anxieties.

I came home today in a bit of a state: exhausted (despite having slept for eight hours last night, oversleeping this morning), stressed, hungry and probably a bit dehydrated, resulting in my being very depressed and anxious.  I feel a bit better now and I want to get to bed, but I have various things still to do.  I’m only getting through the mornings on coffee at the moment because I’m so tired.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I’m glad it’s a bank holiday next Monday, as the flat needs a good clean, which it hasn’t had for a month and the mould is spreading in the bathroom again.  Oh, and watching Doctor Who in order to research my book, I’m stuck in my least favourite period of the show (2006-2009) and I’m reading book I’m not enjoying much (Voyage by Stephen Baxter), but I don’t like leaving books half-read and I’m getting vaguely invested in the characters (at page 200 or therabouts!), so even relaxation isn’t much fun at the moment.

The sensible thing would be to do nothing (as per one of my desert island Doctor Who stories, Warriors’ Gate).  I mean that seriously.  OK, not literally nothing, but to keep on as I am, do the work I have to do, do the housework that needs to be done, meet the religious obligations that I can meet and let the anxiety-provoking things work themselves through in their own time, let the good ones happen (or not) and don’t do anything about the bad ones until nearer the time, when there are actually things I can do about them, because few of the anxiety-provoking things are imminent enough to do much about them yet.  That’s hard, though.

Hey, it’s Lag Ba’Omer, so I can listen to music and shave again!  That’s positive!