I seem to have fallen down a deep depression hole again.
I feel like I’m not only in the wrong job, but the wrong life. It’s hard to imagine a job that could be good for me, unless I somehow do manage to end up as a professional writer, which doesn’t seem very likely. Which has a knock-on effect on relationships, the possibility of having children, the possibility of ever being independent of my family and so on.
I feel like I’m being punished, and I know what I’m being punished for (or I have some idea anyway, at least some of the time), but it’s for things that I feel I can’t avoid doing, given how my life has gone. But all the Jewish sources say HaShem (God) doesn’t give a challenge a person can’t meet. This is trotted out as a mantra by frum people (I suspect the original source is somewhere in the Talmud), sometimes at insensitive times. The only source I’ve heard of that contradicts this is the nineteenth century mystic, Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, but I haven’t studied his writings to know what he meant. But I do feel like my biggest mistakes (if you want to call them that rather than the more loaded ‘sins’ which lots of people are allergic to these days) are things I was to some extent at least pushed in to by my mental health issues and borderline autism.
I am supposed to trust HaShem that everything will turn out OK in the end, but it’s hard when things seem so bad so much of the time and where “in the end” could mean “on another plane of existence in seventy years’ time after I’m dead.” And that’s assuming that I haven’t really lost my share in Olam HaBa (the next world) as I fear.
It’s getting harder not to hear the voice of my yetzer hara (evil inclination) when I start feeling depressed (or more depressed than usual). Lately he sounds like Richard Dawkins. He’s telling me that I’ve been frum (religious) for about half my life, about fifteen years or so. In that time I’ve been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder that has never gone away for more than a couple of months and with religious OCD which is mostly under control, but flares up at times of stress. I haven’t acquired the benefits that people are supposed to accrue from religion in general and Orthodox Judaism in particular: family, friends, community, joy, inner peace, equanimity, purpose, meaning, trust in God, gratitude, removal of doubts, belief that my life will continue in some state after death and the feeling that I will be rewarded for my effort and my suffering in some way at some point. (The one benefit I do have is Shabbat, it must be said, and I wouldn’t survive a week without it. Even so, I spend most of it asleep these days.) Nevertheless, I am still paying all the Orthodox dues, in money, time, energy, guilt and opportunity costs (particularly opportunity costs relating to relationships and career).
It is very hard to keep going sometimes. The Dawkins-yetzer hara tells me that not only is Torah irrational (I would disagree with this, but haven’t really got the strength to argue right now), but it isn’t even giving me the material and emotional benefits I’m supposed to gain from it. So why don’t I just leave? It’s not like anyone would care. I’d maybe lose a few friends from shul (synagogue), but no one really close. My parents wouldn’t care and most of my friends are not frum or not Jewish. I could even still keep Shabbat if I wanted.
I’m not actually sure what keeps me going. Part of it is that Richard Dawkins annoys me and the more he takes up residence in my head, the more I’m going to davka go out of my way to be ultra-religious. It’s partly that I believe very strongly that God exists and that He wrote the Torah. I also think that God wants me to be miserable and as He’s omnipotent and I’m not, I don’t see that rebelling will change that. At least this way there’s possibly an end point, if I behave myself (but as I don’t always think I’m being punished or that I’m growing from all this suffering, it’s hard to see what that point is.) But it’s mainly that I have a strong sense of duty and integrity and feeling myself commanded to be Jewish, and having made a start in being frum, I feel obligated to God and to myself to continue. This is probably not a particularly rational way of ordering my life, but I’m not sure that I can do it any other way. I believe and I at least try to serve. Inwardly I feel angry and doubting and hurt, but I’m not sure that I can live any other way. It’s probably just as well that I don’t have any children, though, because this isn’t much of a religious inheritance to bequeath them. I’m certainly not much of a poster-boy for Judaism right now and I’m a bit scared to put this out there for fear of the reaction it will create and what people will think.