Good News/Bad New

I spent about three hours or more yesterday writing a job application for the first job that I’ve seen that I think I actually want to apply for (rather than applying because it’s a job and I need a job).  I ran out of time, though, so I had to send it today.

I ran out of time yesterday because I went with my Dad to clear out my flat.  We spent two hours there and we still didn’t clear it all out.  All my crockery and some of my non-perishable food is still there, plus the stuff in the bathroom.  The flat needs a good clean too, including the perpetual battle with mould in the bathroom.  I also need to empty many of the boxes we brought back yesterday, because I can’t live with them on my bedroom floor, from practical reasons but also because I hate mess.  I’m not sure where all the books I’ve acquired in the last two years are going to go, though, as I’m really pressed for shelf space.  It does really feel like I’ve moved back with my parents now.  Insert miserable face emoji here.

I went to bed late yesterday again.  Because of the job application and clearing out the flat (which was almost a full day’s work in total, but started midday because I overslept again) and because I needed to clear away a load of stuff from the flat that my Dad had put on or by my bed, I didn’t get to bed until 2.00am.  Actually, I fell asleep fully dressed.  I woke up again around 4.00am, quickly changed into my pyjamas and brushed my teeth and went to bed properly a few minutes later.  I have to be exhausted to fall asleep without doing my muscle relaxation exercises (except after Shabbat lunch, strangely).  Then, as usual, I slept for ten hours and even after getting up and drinking coffee, I still felt too exhausted to move.  I felt so exhausted that I felt physically frail and faint.  I guess I’m drained by moving, both physically and emotionally.

E. suggested treating my days like work days to get up earlier, but I find it impossible to treat an artificial deadline for getting up like a real deadline.  It’s not even conscious.  I set alarms, but I turn them off in my sleep or sleep through them (to the annoyance of my parents, as they sound for five minutes at a time, but I don’t hear).  When I had to get up by 7.00am for work, however, even if I slept through my alarms, I would naturally wake at 7.00am, however little sleep I had had.  I don’t know why this happens or how to use it to my advantage.

I feel bad about being tired all the time.  Even people who are understanding about the depression (my parents, E.) don’t always understand this, at least not to its full extent.  I think the equation is often (tiredness from depression) + (tiredness from having to socialise when possibly autistic and socially anxious) = constant tiredness, because one or the other is always there because when I’m less depressed, I’m often forcing myself into social situations instead, even if just work or shul (synagogue).  Depression just leads to a constant sense of exhaustion and I’ve been depressed for so long, I no longer know what my ‘normal’ energy level would be.

I had some OCD yesterday and today too.  I know it gets triggered by stress and upheaval and I have a lot of both right now, and I felt that I did bring it under control fairly swiftly, but I worry that it’s going to get worse again.

On an unrelated note, I was depressed by this article which argues that formal matchmaking by paid matchmakers in the Orthodox Jewish community only works for about 13% of the people who try it.  It seems that most people in the frum (religious) community are set up informally by people known to them.  The problem, as I’ve said many times, is that I keep myself too much to myself, and my parents’ social network is mostly the wrong age (children too young) and/or not religious enough for me to be set up with anyone suitable.  I’ve only ever been set up on four dates that way, two of which never happened because the women weren’t interested (well, one wasn’t interested and one I have absolutely no idea what happened).  So I have no idea how I could meet someone.  I actually got talking to a couple of women a little bit at volunteering on Sunday and I hope to see them next time, but I don’t know if I could ever actually ask one of them out.  I’m very bad at that sort of thing.

The real positive today was going to autism group.  It turned out to be a sort of a cross between a social group and a support group in that we sat together in one group, but spoke to each other in smaller, informal groups.  We spoke exclusively about our experiences of autism/Asperger’s, but in an informal, back and forth way rather than one person at a time to the whole group as in my other support groups.  I enjoyed it, though and found it useful.  I learned something about empathy, which had always confused me.  Autistic people, famously, have impaired empathy, but I know lots of autistic people say that this is not true.  Certainly, I know I feel empathy, even if I don’t know how to respond to other people’s emotions.  Someone at the group said there are two types of empathy, emotional empathy and cognitive empathy.  People on the autistic spectrum have the former, but not the latter, meaning that they can perceive and be moved by other people’s emotions, but don’t know how to respond and take their perspective.  I feel this fits how I am: I can recognise other people’s emotions sometimes quite strongly (I don’t like sad books and films because they make me sad), but I don’t know how to respond to those around me, sometimes to the annoyance of my family.  The person who said this said that both forms of empathy are innate, but looking online, some people seem to feel that only emotional empathy is innate; cognitive empathy can be learned, which may explain why I feel I’ve got better at perspective taking over the years rather than assuming that it means that I am not autistic, as I think some psychiatrists felt.

One other thing that came up was language use.  This is another area where I don’t register as autistic, because I’ve been told (including at the group tonight) that I have good language use.  I don’t know why this is the case, and I guess it is evidence against my being on the spectrum, which makes me feel more confused.  I had hoped to come away from the group with a clearer idea of whether I’m autistic or not, but I feel as confused as before about my diagnosis, albeit that I understand autism in the abstract a bit better.  Still, it was good to meet and flex my social muscles again so soon after volunteering and I hope to go back.

Tomorrow: pre-holiday haircut, unpack some stuff from the flat and sort out holiday stuff IF everything goes to plan, which lately it hasn’t.  I need to try to get some people who live in New York to understand that I’m coming next week and it would be really good if they spoke to me now about if/when they want to meet, as I’m not going to be easy to contact once I’m there.  Especially the landlord of the flat I’m renting for the last few days who still hasn’t told me where the apartment I’m renting actually is.  I’m really annoyed about how that part of the holiday is going, a couple of people have really let me down there, but I’d best not say more.

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Asylum

I volunteered today at an asylum seekers drop in centre run by an Orthodox Jewish shul (synagogue) organisation.  I was sorting donations of clothes and then looking after children in the play area.  I wanted to volunteer partly because I think it’s a good cause, particularly for Jews (Jews have been refugees enough times to know what it feels like and, to be blunt, the people using the service are likely to come from countries where Jews are not always held in great esteem, so it’s good to do something positive while identifying as Jewish, in an Orthodox shul), but also because I thought it was a way of working on my social anxiety.  I spoke a little bit to other volunteers, but I found it hard and there were times when I felt self-conscious when I thought that I had made a mistake, even a trivial one, or even when someone else thought that I had made a mistake when I had not.

It was good to play with the children.  I often find young children (pre-school and primary school) easier to be around that adults: they can be more accepting of people who don’t know all the social codes and rules (although when they don’t accept, they can be cruel) and it’s easy to make conversation with them: ask them what their teddy is called or what colour their jumper is.  Plus they have imagination and aren’t jaded by life, which is not always the case with adults, myself included – it’s good to be refreshed by them.  It got off to a bad start when someone passed me a baby and I picked him up badly (or possibly he was passed badly).  I get very nervous holding babies in particular because I worry about dropping them, so, again, this was something I wanted to work on and later a baby (the same one I think) got me to pick him up and seemed quite happy being held by me (although I was so nervous had some slight tremor in my legs), so I think that was a success overall.

I’ve been having weird anxiety dreams lately.  I won’t bore you with the details, but they were much more vivid and with a stronger narrative than my usual dreams (I usually do not remember my dreams and when I do they seem vague stream of consciousness impressions rather than narratives) and I woke up quite distressed.  On Saturday morning I woke up early enough that I could have gone to shul, but didn’t partly because I was distressed from a dream where my rabbi and/or community (I forget the details) disowned me because they found out I accept evolutionary theory.  It was vivid enough to trigger my social anxiety and keep me from going to shul, even though I was aware that it was just a dream.  It’s just another thing that underlined the fact that I don’t 100% fit in to the Jewish community.  I like the commitment to Torah and davening (prayer) and to Yiddishkeit (“Jewishness,” a somewhat wider term than ‘Judaism’) at my shul, which is probably moderately Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), but I find it insular sometimes (I suspect some people at my shul would not see helping Muslim refugees as a priority for time and money).  On the other hand, the more Modern Orthodox communities I grew up in and which run the drop in centre, while more open to the world, can be very lacking in serious commitment to Torah and davening.  It’s difficult to know where I fit in, even without my mental health and borderline autism making it harder for me to fit in and meet my obligations as a frum (religious) Jew.

I felt better last week than the week before, albeit still depressed at times and worried about my forthcoming trip to New York.  I wasn’t feeling suicidal any more, so I decided not to go to the doctor, while keeping the option in mind in case things get worse.  It probably wasn’t surprising I got so depressed; in the last few months I’ve lost my girlfriend, my job, my home and probably my therapist in rapid succession.  Part of me still feels weak and useless for being depressed, especially as I blame myself, on some level, for all four losses, and am not sure what I can do to move on.  Well, I know I need to get a new job before I can do anything else, but I’m struggling with that.

I feel a lot better for having volunteered today, for all that I struggled with moments of self-doubt and social anxiety at times.  Some people with depression and autism feel better with animals; with me, it seems to be small children.  I guess it’s the same feeling of freedom from social conventions, joy and cuteness.  I do feel utterly exhausted now, though, and I doubt I will be in a fit state to do much this evening.  I only hope I feel OK tomorrow, as I need to do some things for the holiday and move the bulk of my stuff from my flat to my parents’ house (my house now,  I guess) and deal with the huge pile of job search emails that have built up even over the weekend.

Tragical-Comical-Historical-Pastoral

I felt down on waking again today.  I really struggle in the heat, which leaves me feeling exhausted.  Welcome to global warming (the winter brings its own challenges, though, with depressing short days and little sunlight.  Spring is probably the best time of year for me).  The last few days I have overslept and procrastinated, then gone to bed very late trying to cram stuff in, without managing everything I wanted to do.  I spend what I see of the morning feeling lethargic and exhausted and wanting to go back to bed.  I am chuffed that yesterday’s post got twelve likes, which I think is a record for me, although I know other people regularly get far more than this.

Once I got going, things were a bit better.  I had to have another blood test.  I need blood tests every three months because I’m on lithium tablets, but when I went a week or two ago, they messed it up somehow and didn’t take enough blood (I don’t know if they missed the vein, although they tried on both arms).  So that got me out of the house and in the sunshine as I walked back from the hospital (about a thirty-five minute walk).

I joined another job site, this time one for part-time work.  It didn’t have ‘librarianship’ as a work category, which isn’t too surprising, but it didn’t have anything like ‘information management’ either.  I had to put myself down as working in ‘education’ and ‘research’ which aren’t quite right.  Not sure how many relevant results I’m going to get here.

I am worried about getting a job.  I would say ‘career’ except I think I just destroyed that (what little I had of it).  There aren’t many librarianship jobs around, those that are around are not at my level of qualification and experience and/or require a lot more interpersonal interactions than I feel comfortable with, or think I can manage (bearing in mind my ex-boss more or less told me outright that I’m not good with that side of things).  All the non-librarian jobs I’m looking at seem to presume experience of working in that area, which I obviously don’t have.  I’m beginning to suspect that writing and editing are jobs you fall into by accident, by knowing people who need someone for a job and think you can do it.  I don’t know anyone.

I just spent the last hour and a half or more setting up a new blog.  I won’t link to it, as it’s not anonymous, but it’s a Doctor Who and science fiction blog, intended to showcase my writing ability.  I decided it was worth paying for a domain name without ‘wordpress’ in it and for a site without adverts, as this is supposed to be a career-advancing site.  I’m quite excited about it.

I bought myself a birthday present.  When I was in my teens, my friends got obsessed with fantasy wargaming and I had to join in just to be able to talk to them (they didn’t talk about much else – it was probably around this time that the depression and certainly the loneliness began to kick in).  I didn’t enjoy playing the game very much, but I was good at painting the miniatures.  I drifted away from it as I got older and drifted away from my friends, but when we moved house three years ago, I found my paints and some unpainted miniatures and got back in to it.  It’s quite good to do while depressed, because it uses a different part of my brain and provides distraction from my thoughts.  Recently, a different company has brought out a Doctor Who wargame.  To be honest, the Doctor Who miniatures they’ve brought out so far don’t look that interesting to paint.  Most Doctor Who monsters are one colour, usually black or green.  But I noticed they had a deal: buy the first, fourth, fifth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth Doctors together and get a free K9.  The Doctor has crazy dress sense, which means that the miniatures are more interesting to paint.  So I treated myself to the set.  It arrived today and I’m looking forward to getting started painting.

I went to The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park with my Mum to see As You Like It.  We try to go to The Open Air Theatre every year as a mother-son thing, although there isn’t always something on we want to see.  I think it’s only been rained off once when we’ve gone.  As You Like It was very funny.  I was glad that I followed it as I hadn’t had time/energy/headspace to read it beforehand.  I was a bit melancholy at all the happy-ever-after marriages at the end (I’m not sure if you can spoiler something four hundred years old, but I don’t think it’s a great spoiler to say that there are weddings at the end of a Shakespearean comedy), thinking about myself and E.  Wishing we could just run off to the country and not have to worry about money and mental health.  I still think I will never find someone who can accept and support me as much as she did (and still does, even though we’re not dating any more).  I suppose there is still the chance that it will work out one day, but I can’t see how.

And now tonight we are going into Tu B’Av, a minor Jewish festival.  It’s not really celebrated now, but in ancient times it was a time when single Jewish women would go into the fields and dance and try to attract a husband, so it’s sort of become the frum (religious) Valentine’s Day in recent years.  So, again, I feel a bit wistful about me and E., but I don’t feel too bad, whereas a week ago I would probably have been inconsolable, so that’s an improvement.  I’m still sceptical about my ability to find a job (and a wife), but I’m feeling less depressed than I was a few days ago, certainly not having suicidal thoughts, so that’s good.  I know it won’t last forever, but I hope it lasts a while.  Through my holiday, at any rate.

Stuff and Nonsense

At the risk of turning this into a dream blog, I dreamt of having ‘pure O’ OCD last night.  I don’t usually have obvious mental health issues in my dreams, but here I was very worried that I would do something very wrong and whether I should avoid certain situations because they might give me an opportunity to do that wicked thing or whether I should actively seek out those situations because there was no real risk of doing anything wrong and I needed to expose myself to my fears to confront the OCD (exposure therapy).  I even wondered in the dream if I should go back to the CBT therapist I saw about the religious OCD to see if she could help with this.  It was possibly related to some volunteering I hope to do on Sunday and perhaps also to general anxiety.

Today I feel mostly OK, albeit a bit slow, mentally and physically, when doing chores around the house, making lunch, doing stuff for my blogs and so on, but as soon as I think about sitting down to the job hunt, a wave of sadness hits me.  It’s not even full on severe depression, just mild to moderate depression and melancholy, I suppose a bit of a sense of futility and despair, just not knowing where I belong in life and how to get there.  A slight prickling at my eyes and a bit of a lump in my throat, as if want to cry, but am not quite able.

It’s also hard to find work that suits me.  So many writing jobs turn out to be full time 9.00am-5.00pm in an office, which surprised me.  I thought I might find something more flexible.  I’m also not sure that I’m the right person to write copy for one of the world’s largest car brands, given that I’ve never even tried to learn to drive.  But I’m applying for a few things.  I feel like I should be applying for more, but even the ones I am applying for are jobs I don’t feel I can actually do, much less want to do.  I feel very under-qualified.  And I’m really not sure I’m culturally suited as a copywriter for the marketing company that boasts of a corporate culture with social nights out and annual trips to Ibiza for staff who achieve their annual targets.  I think the only thing I would hate more than a trip to Ibiza would be a compulsory trip to Ibiza with my boss.  Mind you, they were also offering an “Unlimited book allowance” which I assume is for research purposes, but you never know.  I’m trying to apply, once I work out how to tell them that I want a career in marketing when I don’t and that I have experience of writing copy, when I don’t have that either.

I do have an appointment with a careers advisor when I get back from New York.  I’m terrified about what he might say.  When I write stuff online people seem to like it, albeit that I probably write too much and too formally to really succeed as a blogger (as opposed to article writer), but I can’t find an outlet that will pay me for my work.

I spent a while setting up an online profile for a website that deals with freelance writers, but I got suspicious when it asked me to rate my previous employers.  It seemed dodgy and I left.

I did find some other sites for freelance writers to find work, but they weren’t as useful as I had hoped.  I decided I wouldn’t be able to write about pop culture in a fun, yet feminist, way containing photos and memes as one job required.  Nor did I feel able to write “identity pieces specific to the writer that a niche group can also relate to” as I don’t think “depressed, socially anxious autistics” are really a group advertisers would be hoping to attract.  Nor do I think I have a “deep passion” for “life in my 20s [I think I missed that boat]… pop-culture, social media, [or] staying on top of millennial trends.”  Nor do I think I can write about power tools or coffee.  It seems that there are some niche jobs out there, just none that fit my niche.  (I’ve had similar experiences dating.)  I did find a remote working copy editing job that I thought might be a start, but I don’t have the considerable experience they wanted.  I found a list of magazines that accept submissions.  Aside from it being American (not such a problem), they didn’t have any that specialise in mental health except for ADDitude Magazine.  A few people have suggested to me that I ought to writing a misery memoir, but I have no idea how to structure it, what aspects of my story people might be interested in or why other people would be interested at all.  I thought an article or two might be a start, but only if I can find somewhere to pitch it too.  I probably need a happier ending, though.  Or some kind of sense of an ending, not just unending depression.

I feel I made a massive mistake in leaving my job, but not enough to apply for the job I left as my family suggested yesterday.

I’m slowly relocating my life from the flat to my parents’ house.  I brought my big office chair home today, as I was getting back ache from my parents’ chair.  Continuing the theme of rearranging my life, I’m going to try to go to an Asperger’s “meet up” (I’m not sure if it’s exactly a support group) next week in town that Yolanda found for me.  They’re OK with the fact that I’ve got a complicated diagnosis situation, although I suspect I will still feel like a fraud.  I’m not sure if there is a charge though; one of their meetings is advertised as having a £30 charge (I assume for a speaker).  I have messaged to try to find out, but my message got mangled by email for some reason so I hope I get a reply.

I’m even thinking of going to a Doctor Who fan meet up soon.  (They used to be on Saturdays, but have moved them to Wednesdays since I last looked.)  That’s scarier than a support group, though.  When I go to a support group, I know other people there are struggling, but at the Doctor Who meet up people could be fairly normal, if geeky.

I set up a Gmail account to get a new email address so that I could set up a non-anonymous Doctor Who blog on WordPress, hopefully moving my current blog on LiveJournal to it.  Livejournal is mostly used by Russian language speakers these days and doesn’t look as good as WordPress.  Hopefully it will be a way of raising my profile as a writer and a fan.  I’m stuck for a title, though.  I was advised to find something not obscure (my Doctor Who references tend to be original series, not revived series) and immediately obvious as Doctor Who but also not something lots of other people have used for blogs and websites.  This has been proving difficult.  I’m not great with titles, as the often desperate titles of my blog posts show (e.g. the one on this post).

Sensitive, Depressed or Autistic?

I’m still job hunting.  I applied for two jobs yesterday and two today.  It seems the library sector was not as good a fit for a borderline autistic/Aspie as I thought.  Almost all the jobs going seem to require promoting the library service to other staff, which was the element of the renewed contract I was offered at my old job that I thought my boss was saying I would not be able to do, and which I felt I could not do.  It’s surprising how many librarianship jobs have a strong interpersonal element, or even an element of training others, but I have seen stuff in my professional training and development about the industry moving that way, towards teaching and education and away from classifying, cataloguing, maintaining and giving access to books.  I feel under-qualified and under-experienced for every job.  I increasingly feel that I should have stayed in the job I was offered, difficult though it seemed, because I’m not going to find anything to which I am better suited.  I applied for some jobs anyway, but I can feel myself hoping I won’t get called for interview, which is not the right mindset to go in with.

I just can’t see myself being able to do these jobs (a disproportionate number of which seem to involve law librarianship at very exclusive law practices), let alone doing them and being happy.  I feel my life took a wrong turn somewhere, probably a long time ago (university or even school) and I don’t know how to get back on track.  I try to job hunt, but I keep getting distracted and procrastinating, often blogging or wanting to blog, here or on my Doctor Who blog, which I guess is telling.

Looking at my CV and application, I seem to lack a lot of the skills I feel I should have acquired by now.  Looking at my experience, it seems to have been mostly trivial stuff, punctuated by the occasional brief moment of initiative or responsibility.  Is everyone’s first job or two like this, I wonder?  Perhaps they are.  I think my peers are all long past this level of work, though.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else.  It’s impossible not to, though, because I want to know how I am faring in the world and in the absence of an absolutely objective God’s-eye perspective, I can only judge myself against other people.

I want to write an honest CV that would read something like: An overly-rule bound individual who struggles to use his initiative, is pedantic to the point of missing unspoken instructions, is profoundly uncomfortable with social interactions and goes completely to pieces under pressure.  He is unable to make a decision, however trivial, without serious procrastination.  His skills are limited as a result of his training at a third-rate university and are increasingly out of date as he has done little professional development.  He suffers from mental health issues and, frankly, you’ll be lucky to get more than a couple of months consistent work out of him.  He won’t steal the office stationery, but there’s a strong chance you’ll catch him self-harming with it.  Plus it’s likely that any spoken instructions will be lost under the tidal wave of racing socially anxious thoughts that start up whenever someone talks to him.  He has yet to develop any serious Howard Hughes-type eccentricities, but give him time.  And whatever job you give him, he’ll probably be wishing he was blogging.

I also realised that I still can’t remember what my gross annual salary is.  To be fair, I can remember my net monthly salary, but I can’t remember the monthly gross and I have to work out the annual by multiplying the monthly.  I don’t think this is the biggest problem in the world, but it was one of the things that convinced E. that I was too unworldly for her.  It also necessitated a time-wasting walk back to my flat to retrieve my contract so I could check.

The world does often seem too miserable, sordid and complicated for someone like me to thrive in it.  When I was a child, I would often hear it said that I was “sensitive.”  It always seemed that being “sensitive” was not considered a good thing.  I do feel too sensitive to operate in the real world, which upsets me greatly, as I think people should function in the real world and not retreat to solipsism, fantasy or, except for certain select individuals, an ivory tower (my three great retreats).  I don’t know what the exact correlation is between ‘sensitive,’ ‘depressed’ and ‘autistic,’ but I suspect there is one.

I know I write about sex and being a virgin at thirty-five a lot (too much) for a frum (religious) Jew, but I feel it somehow symbolises a lot of my areas of ineptitude: that I can’t form lasting relationships, obviously, but also that I struggle with relationships in general (friendships, family relationships – obviously not the same as being married, but there is some overlap of intimacy, involvement and concern) and that I’m not good with the entire practical, concrete side of life (again, as E. noted).  Then there is the religious side of things that comes with marital sex being a mitzvah (commandment), both for spousal intimacy and for procreation, two areas where I have obviously failed which lead in turn to social dislocation from a community geared towards those who married and started a family in their early twenties or even late teens.  I was at a kosher restaurant this evening with my family and I could see the young frum women in there and in the street outside, and I felt so conscious that they could never love someone like me, and wondered how I will ever find someone who can accept me for who I am.  I felt that this would be a suitable topic for a poem, but I haven’t any poetry for years, not since being rejected as a writer for a website.  Also, when I wrote about sexuality for Hevria.com, I was told that I need to stop viewing women as “anxiety-inducing sexual objects.”  Obviously I ignore the many positive responses I had to the article from women and focus on that one critic (it was a nasty thing to say, though, and I hope ungrounded).

Even at dinner (it was to celebrate my birthday) I felt somewhat inadequate.  I enjoy eating out sometimes, but I do find the noise somewhat draining (a classic autistic trait).  I also felt that the conversation was a bit uncomfortable for me at times.  We spoke a bit about my leaving my job and my job hunt and whether I should have accepted that revised contract.  We also spoke a lot about my sister and my brother-in-law’s ongoing and complicated house move.  I felt that we were saying that I may have made a serious mistake with my life decision and gone backwards while they are moving forwards in a big way, moving up the property ladder (a big thing in the UK, especially in London where property prices are astronomical, although strictly speaking they were already on the ladder).

It feels that the more I try to work on my career, socialising, family, relationships and so on, the harder it becomes, rather than the easier.  I was told that the more I socialised, for example, the easier socialising would become, but it has stayed the same or even got harder for reasons I do not understand.  It is as if I pushed against the world, and it pushed me back, harder.  Similarly taking on new work responsibilities only led me to more social awkwardness and greater expectations of achievement (from myself and in others’ view of me), without actually making it easier to achieve anything.  Working less than two-thirds of full time would seem a backwards step after my previous job, but I am not at all sure that I can manage even those hours.  I wonder again if I should make a third attempt to get myself diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s or whether I just use that possibility as an excuse for living with my parents, being unemployed and being unmarried.  It is very difficult to know what to do, especially without being supported by my therapist.

Lost Love

I dreamt about someone last night.  I’m not quite sure how to describe her relationship to me.  I have described her as the first person I really loved, but I’m sure lots of people would take issue with that and say it was just infatuation, that as we were never in a real relationship, I could never have loved her.  At any rate, she was the first woman I asked out, when I was nineteen and at Oxford.  She turned me down.  She just wanted to be friends, except eventually she couldn’t cope with my mental health issues, particularly my suicidality and broke off the friendship, going so far as to cut me dead in the street and at Jewish Society meetings.  Which made me angry at the time, but I can understand it now.  I worry that all my relationships and friendships will end up like this eventually.

I dream about my first love a lot and rarely, if ever, about any of my other lost loves, so I think my subconscious tends to use her as a shorthand for all of them.  Which is a bit lazy of my subconscious, when you think about it.  It’s not like it would take much effort to whip up the dream form of anyone else.  Maybe it’s been long enough that I can cope with her better than with the others, although given that when I get depressed and lonely, I tend to google her (as I did the other day), I still may not be entirely over her, fifteen years on.

Apparently she now works for a charity that provides counselling and mentoring to teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds.  I wonder whether her experience with me influenced that job decision.

I dreamt that I met her again and she was divorced (in the real world, I believe she is married with a couple of children) and basically hinted that she was interested in me.  I think she touched me in a U-rated, but interested way.  Despite the fact that we had both clearly moved on from Oxford, we were back there, although I think the Jewish Society from my Oxford days merged with my current shiur (religious class) crowd.

The romantic side of the dream petered out into an anxiety dream about exams.  I don’t know why I was dreaming about exams; again, it was probably standing in for general anxiety.  I was worried I was going to fail my finals, because I hadn’t really looked at the work for years.  (This may have been triggered by finding an A4 ringbinder full of my old tutorial essays from Oxford and not knowing whether to throw it out or not.  It’s currently sitting on my floor, awaiting a decision.)  I think I must have woken up at this point.  My dreams tend not to have clear plots anyway, but to just flow from one thing to another in a way that makes them hard to recall on waking.

The fact that I googled her recently, along with find the Oxford work probably explains the dream, that and the fact that even fifteen years on, when I have dated (a little bit) and had two relationships, I still don’t really have my love life sorted out, at a time when most of my peers, even many of the non-frum ones, are settled.  As I’ve said, I can’t really ever see myself matched off and happy.  I don’t think anyone could be happy with me.  In the last eighteen months or so, I’ve dated someone who was OK with my mental health, but not with my geeky interests, someone who was OK with my geeky interests, but not my mental health and someone who was OK with neither (probably – it wasn’t clear) and someone who was OK with my interests and, broadly speaking, with my mental health, but needed me to have a full-time job because she also wasn’t well enough, emotionally, to be the main breadwinner.  Not to mention the super-frum woman who I was supposed to be set up with who spent a month trying to investigate me to see if I was suitable to even go out on a date with her (I eventually gave up waiting) and a couple of women who sent mixed signals, but things never went anywhere.  All of which convinced me that frum women who might be a match for me religiously aren’t interested in me because of my geekiness and religious non-conformity; that only women with emotional issues of their own will be able to see past mine, but that would not make for a good match; and no one is going to be interested in me unless I can get a full-time job and support a family, which may never happen and certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon, probably not soon enough for me to be able to have children.  Which is sad, but I’m not sure what I can do.  In Judaism, we believe in miracles, but we’re forbidden to pray for them.

I feel there ought to be some concluding paragraph here, but maybe it’s appropriate that it just tails off, unfinished, because that’s how so many of my relationships tend to feel, unfinished, things unsaid and undone, not least that non-relationship from Oxford.

Conforming and Job Hunting

I have essentially moved back in with my parents.  I had to give a month’s notice on the flat, so I’m technically still renting for another three and a bit weeks, but I was so lonely and depressed there, and the noise and smells from the building works next door were so disruptive, that I’ve moved a lot of my stuff back and am sleeping here.  If I’m not working, I don’t see the need to be woken up at 7.30am by builders.

I keep thinking about ways my life could have gone differently in all kinds of ways.  Just one example: I do wonder what would have happened if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) for a gap year the way I was ‘supposed’ to (i.e. the way the Jewish Studies teachers at my school expected me to do without ever saying anything to encourage me or help me choose one).  Eva said on one of my previous posts about this that I would have found yeshiva too extrovert and conformist.  I feel that that’s kind of the point, that it would have made me conform, so I actually fitted in to my religious community rather than sticking out from it (or, I suppose, pushed me into rebellion and secularism, although I don’t really see that as a positive).  Anyway, a more modern yeshiva might not have been so conformist.

I guess I feel that if I want to be accepted as part of the community, which includes being set up on dates with suitable women (if there are any left, which I very much doubt), I need to conform to the community’s rules: go to minyan more often, learn more Torah, especially Talmud, go to yeshiva, don’t have any unusual interests, dance on Simchat Torah even if I can’t stand it…  If I don’t conform, I can hardly be surprised when I have no close friends in the community and am not really noticed or helped.  I feel that I should have let myself be ‘brainwashed’ into conformity like so many of my peers when I was in my late teens/early twenties.  Then I would have a community, friends, a wife, children, things to talk about to them, like so many of my peers who I run into.  The self-esteem that comes from being accepted in a community and having friends and family around me.  If I had higher self-esteem, I probably would find it easier to get a job – plus I would probably have been like all the other frum men and got a boring job in accountancy or whatever rather than an unusual job with few prospects and difficulty being frum with it.  I might never have got depressed, or never realised that I was depressed (as I have probably been mildly depressed since my early teens).  Now I have my individuality, but I’m lonely and miserable and I hate myself.  I’m not sure that I got a good deal.

I don’t even know what frum (religious) men are allowed to be interested in.  When I try to listen in to other people’s conversations at shul (synagogue) or before shiur (religious class) starts, it’s usually about sport, sometimes about work or politics.  Occasionally about something religious.  That’s about it.  I guess they make ‘small talk’.  My Dad is big on small talk.  I find it confusing and irritating (one of my introvert/Aspie traits) and when he tries it on me, I find myself getting confused, bored and/or irritable very quickly.

Note: I wrote the previous two paragraphs before lunch.  A few hours later, I had been reminded of many of the negative aspects of conformity in parts of the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world, from opposition to secular studies, to anti-vaccine campaigning, to the ostracising of ‘outsiders’ and refusal to believe that ‘insiders’ (particularly rabbis) can have done wrong, even in the face of evidence and confessions.  So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be an outsider.  I guess really I would like it if there was a more vibrant Modern Orthodox movement in this country, as there is in Israel and the USA.  Here the centrist United Synagogue is rather stodgy and middle aged and, more to the point, it’s seats are largely filled by people whose relationship to Judaism is traditional and by rote at best, rather than passionately and diligently observant.  But moving to the US would be very difficult, as would moving to Israel, albeit for very different reasons.

I glanced through the latest magazine from CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, of which I am a member.  It was filled with stuff about becoming a chartered librarian and going to CILIP conferences… all stuff I ought to be doing, but which I find scary from a low self-esteem and social anxiety/Aspie viewpoint (ditto for going to Doctor Who conventions, which might be good for my writing career).  Perhaps fortunately, I have just made an appointment with a career advisor for next month.  I suppose I should have been an academic, had I been rather more gifted and substantially less mentally ill.  I hate this whole business of selling myself, whether for a job or a relationship.  It’s hard to sell oneself when one loathes oneself.  I have discovered that LinkedIn can be as depressing as Facebook for seeing one’s peers doing much better than you, but I summoned up the courage to ‘connect’ with someone who I did my librarianship MA with, on the grounds that she was very clever and has probably done well in her career and therefore is a good contact to have.  I feel mercenary.

Anyway, I applied for a couple of jobs.  One I’m over-qualified for, the others under-qualified, but I decided to go with them anyway.  I’m not sure if there’s not a lot out there or if I’m just not looking in the right places, or taking too negative a view of my skills and abilities.  Someone said I’m not in control of my life, which is true.  I feel like a child so much of the time, a rather anxious and timid child with poor social skills and perhaps autism.  I don’t know how to take control of my life.  I’m sure it would solve a lot of my problems if I could (career, friendship, community, marriage).  But I just don’t know how one becomes an independent adult.  It’s as if, while I was always academically gifted, beyond a certain point I just failed to learn social skills and, later, career skills.  I wonder again if there’s any point in pursuing yet another autism assessment.  I don’t know.

“Now cracks a noble heart”

I feel the need to blog without having much to say.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) was awful.  It was a struggle to get through the day.  I got agitated late last night again and struggled to sleep even after I got to bed, which at least shows that the agitation is not directly linked to using the internet or TV as I don’t do either of those over Shabbat.  I slept through most of today and laid in bed much of the time when I wasn’t asleep because I was too tired or depressed to read.  I ran in to two people I was at school with who are now very religious (one at least is a rabbi) and who now have children – quite old children, so they must have been married for a while.  I run into these people quite frequently (I assume they live locally) and I’m not sure if they remember me (I have never said anything to them; I don’t think they bullied me, but I had nothing in common with them at school and don’t expect to have anything in common with them now), but it always makes me feel bad that I don’t have a wife and children like a good Jewish man should.  I suppose part of me wonders if I should have gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) and become a rabbi like they did, although I can’t imagine ever succeeding if I tried to do that.

Over Shabbat I realised that really I want to die, but I can’t because a few people (friends and family) care about me.  I should feel relieved, but I feel I’m being forced to live a life that can only ever make me miserable.  I genuinely can’t ever see any hope for things getting better and I wonder if my therapist is right that I should not have turned down that job offer, regardless of the fact that I don’t think I could have managed to do the job.  However, as I have said before, there isn’t a method of suicide that is both certain and painless and with my luck if I attempted suicide I would doubtless end up alive and in terrible, perhaps permanent, physical pain, so between that and the people who care about me, I suppose I’m stuck here for the duration.  I feel as if I have been given a life sentence.

Shabbat was the 9th of the Jewish month of Av (Tisha B’Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the day when we mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the many, many, many tragedies of Jewish history.  This is usually a fast day (as in no food or drink), but because we don’t mourn on Shabbat, it gets postponed to the 10th, which is my Hebrew birthday, which somehow seems appropriate.  On the Fast of Av, pretty much everything remotely fun or enjoyable is forbidden.  I’ve always taken it very seriously, but I’m not sure that I have the energy this year.  I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to get through the day.  I was just crying in shul (synagogue).  My brain was pretty scrambled and I was crying over stuff in my life, the sad events mourned on the Fast of Av and sad things in the world in general, all at once, without really knowing what I was crying about or why.  I just cried a lot.  I couldn’t really follow the reading of Eichah (Lamentations) or read the kinot (laments) with the congregation.  I just feel alternately despairing and exhausted, with occasional bursts of anxiety about the future and the holiday I’m still trying to avoid cancelling.

I feel there is no hope for me.  I don’t feel at all integrated into the Jewish community.  I struggle at times to communicate with my family.  My friends are all distant geographically and often emotionally too.  I have three good friends, which is more than I had a few years ago, but just knowing people care about me turns out not to magically improve my mood or self-esteem as I had hoped it might.  I can’t see myself ever having anything approaching a full-time or ‘real’ job again.  I feel I have met my bashert (soulmate) only for her to be unable to cope with my mental health issues and consequent low income.  I don’t blame her as those are big things to cope with, but I can’t see anyone else ever being able to look past them.  I really can’t see anything good on the horizon and I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the next fifty or sixty years.

The Infinitely Deferred Marshmallow

I need to write, but don’t really feel able.  Just had therapy.  I sat in almost complete silence for forty-five minutes (like when I first went to counselling, more than half a lifetime ago), then ended the session early because there seemed no point in continuing.  I felt that my therapist was saying that I made the wrong decision in turning down the job and that there was nothing she could do to help me if I was moving backwards from employment and living independently.   This is probably true.  It underestimates how much I thought my boss was telling me not to take the job I was offered, though.  My therapist focused on my boss’ surprise when I turned the job down and ignored what I said about my boss making it very clear that she did not feel I had the people skills for the new job I was being offered.

I feel I’m just a screw up.  I feel I let everyone down: my therapist, my friends, my non-biological sisters, E., my sister and especially my parents.  Everyone was right: I should have taken a job that would have left me miserable, but would at least have had a steady income.  I can’t see myself getting a new job.  I certainly can’t see myself getting the other things I want in life (community, wife and kids).  I’m just a completely useless screw up.  I haven’t really succeeded since the sheltered, structured environment of school, which suited my (real or imagined) autism.  Even at Oxford, where initially I did well academically, I failed socially.  I used to cry in my room with loneliness, even in my first year, before the depression ‘officially’ began in my second year.

I used to cry in my job.   I don’t think my therapist believed me when I said that, or at least she didn’t think it was a good reason to give up on the job.  I don’t know how many people literally cry at work and whether they should all keep their jobs.

There’s a famous experiment where researchers offer children one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in twenty minutes.  Being able to wait for the second marshmallow is seen as a predictor of self-control and adult success.  I feel like my life is one whole string of infinitely deferred marshmallows, with other people stuffing their faces with their marshmallows and blaming me when I say it must surely be time for me to have one now.

My therapist seemed to make it clear that she can’t do anything else for me and doesn’t think we should continue meeting.  We’re not meeting next week while I think about it.

Today is my birthday.  Thirty-five.  Felicitations, ha ha ha.  I still feel like an anxious, emotionally neglected, bullied child.  I want to go back to bed.  I want to hurt myself.  I want to die.  I don’t have the energy to do any of these things.

I’ve let everyone down.  I’m such a screw up.

Suicidal Thoughts

I probably shouldn’t blog for a third time in one day, especially when the first post was long and drifted into incoherence (as of 10.00pm it hasn’t had a single ‘like’ which I don’t  think happened for a while – I usually get one or two) and the second was probably drifting along a line between neurosis and psychosis.  But I’m still agitated and my mind is still racing and I’m trying to cope.

I feel quite suicidal again.  I went to shiur (Torah class), but struggled.  I lied and said I was fine when I should have been honest about how I feel.  But how do you say to people that you don’t know well that everything is not fine, that everything is pretty awful all things considered and that the things they take for granted on waking up every day – family, job, income, community, life, sanity – I have to get up and fight for.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I didn’t jump off the pedestrian walkway onto the dual carriageway even though part of me really wanted to.  (It would be a horrible way to go, though.  About the opposite of dying painlessly in your sleep.)

I thought a lot about suicide during shiur.  The assistant rabbi spoke in the shiur about concepts that can’t be explained in words, either due to their inherent depth or the speaker not really understanding them.  For me suicide is only partly from despair, although total despair and lack of hope for any improvement in my life at all is a necessary precondition for feeling suicidal.  I am not sure, however, that it is a sufficient condition.

For me suicide, as I fantasise about it, is in part a performance, an action done to communicate an emotional state to other people.  Suicide comes from loneliness, but probably not from being utterly alone.  It comes from having things that I want to say to other people that I can not say, either due to shyness, inarticulacy or the fact that I no longer have any contact with them.  Inherent in my suicidal fantasies is the concept of somehow knowing that other people will hear of my suicide, that they will know and that they will understand a particular message, the message that I am unable to cope with life and, as a subtext, that they are partially to blame for my inability to cope.  Hence the fact that suicidal thoughts are linked strongly for me with googling to try to find out what peers from school and Oxford are now doing, people who on some level I blame for my problems.  (This does not reflect well on me, I know.)

Having been ignored most of my life, the desire to be known, the desire for my pain and my struggle to be known is almost overwhelming.  I want to scream; dying would be the biggest scream I can imagine, the only scream I could make that might have the chance of pushing Trump, Brexit and Syria off the news for a few minutes, at least for the small number of people who have met me at some point in my life.  And they might think, “I didn’t know he felt so bad.”  And they might think, “Maybe I should have said something to him.”

I understand that these feelings are quite common, common enough for suicide prevention charities to ask the media to downplay reports of suicide and avoid romanticising them or attaching any kind of aura of glory or fame to the deceased (see here).

Of course the idea of killing myself to communicate my inarticulable feelings to other people is based on several false premises.  One, that I can actually survive long enough to see and get some satisfaction from the result (I do sometimes fantasise about making a failed suicide attempt, but that would most likely result in people being angry with me, the usual response of friends and family to a failed suicide attempt).  It also assumes that my suicide can and will be understood the way I want, whereas it is likely that many of the people I would like to know about my death would never hear (the global Jewish community is small and close-knit, but we don’t all hear about each other).  Many people I remember have probably long-forgotten about me and even if they have not and they hear, they might still not draw the conclusions I want.  They might think, “I always knew he was weird/screwed up/a failure.”  They might assume that the trigger for my suicide came long after they knew me, which would not be entirely inaccurate.  Or they might descend into permanent blame and depression themselves, which I don’t really want because I’m not a sadist or vengeful.  I want to be understood, not ruin everyone else’s lives the way mine was ruined.

The other side of suicide, about which there is not much to say, is the idea of a redemptive death.  Suicide can’t really be construed in that way.  Since adolescence I have fantasised about a heroic death that would somehow save others.  It’s not likely to happen, not least because I know I’m a coward and could never do anything brave.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never gone through with a suicide attempt, although there have been a few close calls.  The first is a fear of pain.  I don’t fear death very much, but I do fear pain and the thought of a long, lingering death or a failed attempt resulting in permanent, painful injury is not pleasant.  Few methods of suicide seem even remotely painless and certain of success.  Second is not wanting to upset my family and, now, my close friends (it’s probably only in the last year or so that I feel I have friends close enough to care).  Third is the flipside of what I said about wanting people to feel guilty: I’m not a cruel person and I don’t really want people to feel guilty about my death for the rest of their lives.  It’s a fantasy when I feel very angry and alone, but not one I really want to come true.  I have no desire to hurt anyone, just to be understood.

The problem is that I don’t know how to communicate these feelings healthily.  I suppose I have therapy and I have this blog, but both run into barriers of articulacy – I can not articulate all the things I feel, because I am overwhelmed by my feelings and lack the vocabulary to describe them.  Plus neither is much of an audience.  Therapy is with one person and my blog is with a handful of people, most of whom don’t know me in real life.

Somehow I wish a bit of my feelings could be known to the people around me without having to go to the extreme of hurting myself or trying to kill myself, but without my needing to find the words and the confidence to say them.  Of course, people probably wouldn’t know how to react if I did tell them, even assuming that there is a type of reaction that I am looking for that wouldn’t leave me feeling embarrassed or useless.

I don’t have the words

I don’t have the words to describe what I feel.  Am I dissociating?  First I was googling ex-crushes and university peers, feeling angry in an inchoate way for things that really weren’t their fault, blaming them for how I feel.  Then doing the thing I do that I don’t have words for where I focus on a phrase or image, usually from fiction (nine times out of ten Doctor Who, which is where it is now) and play it over and over in my head, even putting myself into it as a vivid daydream.

This is where I am now:

The Master: It nearly beat me. Such a simple, brutal power. Just the power of tooth and claw. It nearly destroyed me, a Time Lord. But I won. I control that force, Doctor. And now, at last, I have the power to destroy you.

(Doctor Who: Survival by Rona Munro)

Over and over.  And snarling silently.  And hurting myself a bit and wanting to die, or to just explode, to act somehow, to do something to relieve this tension and agitation.

Hieronimo is Mad Againe

I technically have treatment-resistant depression, which means, as the name implies, that it doesn’t go away whatever I do to try to shift it.  I feel like I’ve tried everything over the last fifteen years: medication, psychotherapy, CBT, occupational therapy/work, diet, vitamin supplements, meditation, exercise, light therapy (admittedly with a sunrise alarm clock rather than a light box), trying to get alternative/supplementary diagnoses (bipolar disorder, autism), creativity, prayer… apart from ECT, which my psychiatrist, when I was seeing her, wouldn’t allow me to have, I’m not sure what else I can do (I don’t believe in alternative medicine (despite my attempt at light therapy) or segulot).  But, of course, strangers don’t know that and everyone has their method that “must” work, which is one reason I shy away from telling people about my depress

Not having a job or a spouse is depressing, but it’s hard to get either when you are depressed, which makes getting better very difficult.  Likewise, although perhaps not to the same extent, with loneliness.  I don’t think people like me can maintain friendships long-term or hold down jobs long-term, let alone date and marry.  Only recovery would hold any hope for me, but I have long since given up hope of recovery.

I feel I have let everyone down again.  I think I’m probably incapable of feeling love.  I’m too selfish.  Maybe people intuit that and stay away from me.

One of my non-biological sisters (friends who are like older sisters to me) read my post last night and said my only priority should be getting better.  I guess it should be, but I don’t know how.  I spent a few minutes proof-reading and posting a post I wrote a week or two ago, but never got around to posting, on my Doctor Who blog, about the narrow sub-genre of TV science fiction I enjoy so much.  For a few minutes, I forgot how depressed I am.  I need to find a way to get paid for doing this, even if it isn’t my main career.  I don’t really know how to get started though and I fear my interests are too narrow and my lack of awareness of academic cultural studies jargon and theory would be a fatal handicap.

Every so often I seem to think of the story of Jeff in this article from Aish that I read years ago, although today I came across it again by chance.  It upsets me.  Apparently, God doesn’t answer my prayers because I’m not “sincere” enough.  This is apparently shown by the fact that I don’t expect good things from him and don’t think myself worthy of good things.  Sigh.  I’ve been bullied and emotionally neglected from a young age.  I’ve been depressed for fifteen or twenty years or more.  I have learnt from this to have zero self-esteem and to think that I’m wicked and worthless.  How am I supposed to expect things to get better when all the evidence shows that God hates me (as does almost everyone else) and only wants difficult things for me?  It’s hurtful to say it’s all my own fault when I have faulty brain chemistry and a difficult mental health history.

How am I supposed to change what I believe?  I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, which is hard enough at times.  Ignoring the question of whether I should in fact be rewarded for that belief rather than punished, the only way I can square this with my life-long experience and pain is to believe this is somehow what I deserve or at least need.  So how do I believe that things will change when I have no evidence that I am less wicked, or that God has changed what He thinks about me, or that He wants me to do anything in this world other than suffer, for whatever reason?  All the evidence of my life points that way.  Whenever things seem to go better for a moment, like when I started my last job or was dating E. and I become thankful to God and hopeful that things will change, I seem to be punished and have everything taken away from me again.  There’s a concept in Judaism that while we believe in  miracles, we aren’t allowed to pray for them, only for natural salvation.  If you lose your job, you can pray for a new one, but if you lose your legs, you can’t pray that you spontaneously grow a new pair, not because God can’t do it, but because the average person is not worthy of such a miracle.  I think it’s clear by this stage that my depression is not going away by anything less than miraculous intervention.  Unfortunately, the article is nearly twenty years old and the rabbi who wrote it  has passed away, so I can’t ask him what I should do.

I have twice in the last twenty-four hours, without really intending it, found myself shouting at God to “F*** off,” at least in my head.  I don’t even feel guilty, as I feel He’s been saying the same to me for thirty-five years.  I feel agitated again.  I suddenly had a burst of energy and went for a brisk walk and after ten minutes I ran out of energy and had to get home somehow.  I thought about throwing myself under a car and I wasn’t sure if that was a serious suicidal thought, a symptom of the agitation or just more pure O OCD.  It’s hard to tell when it’s so quick, like I can’t really tell if I really want to tell God to f*** off or if it’s just my depressed/agitated/who-knows-what thoughts.

This article from Aish was more helpful than the other one, although I’m not sure I know how to use the ideas.  I can’t do things that make me happy, because nothing much makes me happy right now (anhedonia).  I did mention writing above, but I feel whatever energy and brainpower I have for that should be going on job hunting and I’m not sure I really have the concentration and motivation to write right anything coherent now (this post is increasingly incoherent).  I will try to accept that resilience takes time, although I don’t think I’ve grown more resilient over the many years that I have been depressed.  And while I accept there are major lows, there don’t seem to be any countervailing highs.  And the ‘new normal’ has been my normal for so long that it’s the good times that seem like the aberrations and I don’t know how to adjust to this.

I also came across an old Hevria post from last year that I had forgotten about.  It’s about being an introvert in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) community.  I had written a long self-hating comment there about not fitting in and generally being a useless person.  Someone commented back but I didn’t receive the comment at the time because he replied to the comment below mine by mistake.  S/he said that my introversion is part of my life mission.  This may be true, but as I have no idea what my life mission is, except that it seems to involve an inordinate amount of psychological pain and that no one can help me find out what it is, this is not terribly helpful.

I revised my CV, although there was not a lot to add to it from the last few months.  I really hate the personal interests section.  I don’t know why employers ask for it.  What they are basically asking is, “Please tell me that you have unusual and interesting hobbies, preferably ones that involve intelligence, extroversion and team work, but also imply that you rarely get a chance to pursue these hobbies because you’re so fanatically devoted to work.  Do not under any circumstances imply that you enjoy solitary, introvert things like reading, watching TV, blogging, going for walks (hiking in groups is acceptable) or just sitting idly with your thoughts.  Don’t even think about implying that you prefer your hobbies to your career and that in the ideal world, you would find a way of making your hobby into your job.”  Apparently, rather than just listing stuff I’ve been paid to do, I also need to highlight “Key Achievements”.  I have literally no idea what my key achievements are.  Sometimes (like this week) just getting through the day without hurting myself is an achievement, but that’s not really something to put there.

Stuff online reminds me that most people are having a lot more sex than I am.  Some people are even loved with it.  Mind you, the monks in The Name of the Rose were having more sex than I am, and they were supposed to be celibate.  I feel so lonely.  And, for all a a few people have said I’m a good writer, I find it hard to believe, given that I’ve had such little interest in my writing.  Nor does it seem better to me than the bulk of writing online and in the press, although to be fair it doesn’t seem much worse (and I use a lot less cliquey slang, although in these postmodern, anti-elitist times, that’s probably a criticism).  But I’m never going to be a literary novelist or even a literary essayist.  Even if my thoughts weren’t word soup.

Other stupid things I’ve done today: google my ex (not E., my first ex, from five years ago) even though I know she’s no longer religious and I would probably have very little in common with how her life has gone now, which makes me sad for reasons I can’t explain, and also because, as a bi-pride campaigner, she’s dealing with her sexuality issues in a rather more tangible way than I’ve ever managed to deal with mine.  Also: think about suicide, google to see how lethal my antidepressants are, and start counting up how many I had “just out of curiosity.”  Feeling very agitated and worried for myself again.

Trying to listen to calming classical music, but I don’t really know classical music, and what I do know is lively, so it was Pachelbel’s Canon again.  Music to go mad to, I suppose.  Dave Owen suggested years ago that one day the Doctor should regenerate because of insanity rather than physical injury.  I’d like to see that.  I suppose it would be considered unheroic nowadays.

So: agitation, can’t concentrate, racing thoughts, pacing, biting nails, wringing hands, hitting myself, thinking and reading about death and suicide… I should probably be on suicide watch, but I’m scared of telling my parents.  I was planning on being home from tomorrow afternoon to some time on Monday anyway for various reasons, so I guess that’s good, I can see what happens without telling anyone.

Top Priority

You know it’s a bad day, depression-wise, when putting on your shoes is too complex, energetic and difficult an action to manage.

Today was a wasted day.  I was supposed to do job hunting stuff, but all I managed was a few minutes of Torah study and a short walk to the shops, plus a cursory bit of davening (prayer).  I had to force myself to eat dinner and watch Doctor Who, I really just wanted to curl up in bed and withdraw from the world.

I’ve had a few thoughts:

  1. I think I need to go back to my parents’ home.  I’ve paid the rent at my flat for another month as I had to give a month’s notice, but at the moment I’m too lonely in the flat by myself, staying up too late and sleeping too late.  The noise (and sometimes smells) from the builders next door is disruptive too and the flat is uncomfortably hot too much of the time, especially as I can’t open the doors (the main means of ventilation) until I’m dressed, which is late, and I don’t like opening the front door while the builders are around.  Moving back in with my parents won’t solve all of that – and it will bring a load of new problems – but it might help with some of it.
  2. It was brought home to me how useless and self-hating I am at the moment and how off-putting that is to my friends and family, let alone women I might be interested in (not that I am right now).  I need to make recovery my top priority.  I just don’t have a clue how.
  3. I forced myself to walk to the shops to get milk, although I didn’t need any urgently.  It was a struggle.  I feel so unfit.  I need to make exercise my top priority, get back into running.  Being fitter will make me feel better.
  4. And getting a job, I need to make that my top priority too.  That would boost my self-esteem and income, which would be helpful.  It would also make me more attractive if I want to date again.
  5. And Jewish stuff should be my top priority too.  That would help me fit in to my community and make friends.  Making friends is a top priority for recovery.  And religion could give my life meaning, which is important for recovery.  And God said to do it, so it must be important and helpful.  So that should definitely be my top priority.
  6. And volunteering/helping others should be my top priority too.  Anyone who has read vaguely patronising stuff about depression knows that helping others is the best way to get better.

So, actually everything I was already trying and failing to do should be my top priority.  And I can barely get up and put some cereal in a bowl for breakfast.  About the only thing not my top priority is writing, which is about the only thing I enjoy and want to make a career from, although lately I don’t have the headspace for anything other than mental health blogging (I have a growing pile of notes for my book that I haven’t typed up yet).  No wonder I’ve spent the last few days feeling totally overwhelmed and in meltdown.  I honestly don’t know where to start, but I can’t do everything at once.

Also, I should stop reading the news, because it’s either terrifying stuff about geopolitics or banal stuff about untalented ‘celebrities’ who I have never heard of, often in articles using slang terms I don’t understand.  Sometimes it can be both types of article at the same time e.g. when an obscure reality TV star becomes most powerful man in the world.

I just feel wiped out.  I do feel that I won’t recover, find another job, fit in to my community, get married, have children… anything I want really.  This doesn’t seem like depressive catastrophisation, but a realistic assessment of the evidence.  People tell me otherwise, but they seem to be making an unrealistically positive assessment.  The history of the last fifteen or twenty years of my life seems to indicate otherwise to me.

I feel so ashamed of myself.  I feel that after fifteen or twenty years I should have moved on from this.  I feel people only tolerate me and my mental illnesses and my borderline (not even undiagnosed) autism up to a point and beyond that they treat me like I should have more control over my life.  But really I feel that I can’t do very much at all so much of the time. I feel if I can’t always convince my parents of this, how can I convince anyone else.  Sometimes I feel that people with physical illnesses aren’t treated like this, or with more serious mental illnesses.  Sometimes it seems a miracle to me that I can get through a day without even hurting myself, without trying to kill myself.  But it’s hard for other people to understand that.  I ‘only’ have depression, not a ‘real’ illness like cancer, or even a ‘real’ mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one where you’re behaviour is noticeably different.  I was pretty subdued, downbeat and lacking in self-esteem long before I was officially diagnosed with depression, hence my uncertainty as to whether I’ve been depressed for fifteen years or twenty or longer.  I feel so messed up today.  I just burst into tears watching Doctor Who.  Twice.  Admittedly it was The Day of the Doctor, but I have seen it before and knew what was coming.  I still cried a little when all the Doctors turned up and again when Tom Baker walked in.  Managed to laugh and cry then.  I’m such a wreck.

Screw Up

I stayed up late last night.  It was my fault.  I was doing various things, some necessary, some just acting out from my mental health issues, but also watching the Doctor Who episode Nightmare in Silver, which I found myself enjoying somewhat, even though in the past I have disliked it.  Usually re-watching stuff while very depressed makes it less enjoyable, but occasionally I get lucky.  Obviously that episode needed to be watched in  a “I’m exhausted, show me something silly and escapist that I won’t think about too seriously” frame of mind.

I was woken up early today, I think around 8.30am, maybe earlier, by the builders next door starting work noisily.  Very considerate of them.  Then they accidentally cut off the electricity to my flat and my landlord’s house and they had to come in to turn off the circuit breakers because I was too tired to get involved.  Unfortunately, once it was sorted I went back to sleep because I was too exhausted to stay awake.  I didn’t wake up until 3.00pm or later.  I must have slept for twelve or thirteen hours.  The builders had cleared off early.

I got an email from the careers advisor I applied to see last night (one of the job-related things I stayed up late to do).  My appointment is in the middle of my holiday in New York and there is no option to apply for a different slot.  I’m not cancelling a holiday that cost over £1000 for a careers advice slot, so I will email, but I’m worried they won’t let me change, only cancel.

I’ve been thinking about Hevria.com again and getting turned down as a writer.  At the time writing was just a hobby, but now I wonder if a regular writing gig, even unpaid (I believe Hevria writers are paid now, although they weren’t when I applied) would have helped my career.  It can’t have harmed it.  I don’t like to admit this, but getting turned down was a massive blow to my confidence as a writer and even several years on (I can’t remember exactly how many; it must be three or four) I still feel ‘blocked’ on some level.  I know I’ve hardly written any poetry since then, when I was writing a poem a week or so for eighteen months or so before it.

Mind you, Hevria is really political now, for a site that was never meant to be political, although by ‘political’ I mean ‘anti-Trump.’  I don’t like Donald Trump, but I don’t think he’s Hitler, and it’s a bit tedious continually being told he is, especially as I am neither an American citizen nor an American resident and have other things in my life.  That was another thing I thought I could offer Hevria, a reminder that not all Jews are North American or Israeli (though statistically about 90% are, to be fair).  Anyway, it was not to be, and I should let it go, like all the other things in my life that were not to be that I can’t let go (going to a different school, asking someone out when I was at school, going to yeshiva, sticking with counselling when I was sixteen, getting diagnosed with depression earlier, getting diagnosed with autism at all, staying in my job, E…. most of these things I turned down or self-sabotaged, so I can’t really blame anyone else).

Sigh.  It’sgone  5.30pm, I’m still in my pyjamas and the only thing I’ve done today that could be called worthwhile is tracking down a rogue quote from Doctor Who ex-showrunner Russell T Davies (just one word!) for my book.  The job hunt websites I stayed up late signing up to yesterday are sending me wildly inappropriate stuff, but maybe I’m just too unskilled, mentally ill, autistic and useless to do a real job.  I was just lying on my bed, trying and failing to cry, just thinking how much I hate myself and I hate my life and I wish things could go differently, the way other people’s lives go, but I don’t know how.  I’m just a screw up, in every sense.

Struggling

Warning: contains excessive self-loathing and self-pity which may induce vomiting.  Do not drive while reading.

I felt really agitated again late last night, although I managed not to post again, although that was a struggle.  Posting can be compulsive at times.  I overslept again and struggled to get up.  The heat still doesn’t help, but I’m so exhausted even when I wake after hours of sleep.

I’m crying again.

I feel guilty that my non-biological sisters and E. have been in touch yesterday and today and I still feel bad.  It doesn’t really help when I speak to my parents either; if anything, I feel they understand me less, but I feel I’ve let them down even more, which just makes me avoid talking to them, which never works.  I say I want people to be in contact, but when they do, I don’t know what to say and feel awkward and guilty for not feeling better after they message.  I also feel like I’m taking advantage of E.’s feelings for me to stay in contact with her and get her to message me when I’m down when really I should let her have a clean break from me.

Also, friends and parents being in touch means I continually have to tell people that I have a plan, I have a schedule, but in reality I’m just too depressed to stick to them.  I oversleep, take hours to get enough energy to get up and have breakfast, shamble around the flat like an extra in a zombie film, procrastinate (sometimes literally for hours), rush through the late afternoon trying to get stuff done, but also procrastinating, then I stay up late trying to do things and oversleep the next day.  Trying to cut my losses and going to bed early doesn’t usually lead to getting up earlier the next day, though, as exhaustion is due to depression rather than activity and lack of sleep and even if I do sort out my sleep, at the moment late summer Shabbat (Sabbath) times mean Friday and Saturday are guaranteed to be late nights (very late in the case of Saturday where I don’t get back from shul (synagogue) until gone 11.00pm) and disrupt everything again.

I feel stupid and useless.

I cleaned the flat, but felt frustrated that I could only do it half-heartedly.  I would feel better in a cleaner environment, but I don’t have the energy for really thorough cleaning and having a clean flat is lower down my list of priorities than job hunting or exercise (of which I have done very little lately).

The final chapter of my Doctor Who book is floundering on the fact that I can’t think of much original or interesting to say about Steven Moffat’s time on the show, particularly about Clara and about the monsters.  I feel even more stupid and useless.

I had dinner with a friend.  It took about an hour for me to adjust from feeling lonely/depressed/socially anxious to make reasonable conversation.  I have a lot of anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) at the moment.  I’m an introvert, so it’s unsurprising that I can find conversation hard, but I can’t enjoy watching DVDs or reading.  In fact, I can’t really concentrate to read properly at all (or write properly; I fear this is incoherent).

My friend is a researcher and writer so I asked him a bit about his research and writing jobs (historical and Doctor Who).  He said that they have come either from his PhD work or personal contacts, which is not good news for me.  I think I would go crazy and kill myself if I did a PhD and I am not involved enough in Doctor Who fandom to have contacts in it, for various reasons.  Online message boards can be time-consuming and full of craziness (I was more involved in online fandom years ago, when I was too depressed to even try to find a job).  I’ve been nervous about going to conventions, partly from practical religious reasons (Shabbat, kashrut), partly from social anxiety/autism reasons (crowds, strangers), partly because my experiences of fandom online makes me feel that I don’t really fit in any of the subcultures.  Still, my friend said he would see if he could put my name forward for some freelance work.

As well as that, I signed up to try to get some careers advice and for some more job alert emails from different agencies.

I feel as if I have let everyone down and I’m not even entirely sure how.  I’m avoiding my parents and my sister because I don’t know what to say to them.  E. and my non-biological sisters keep messaging and I feel that I’m not doing what they think I should be doing.  I feel so useless, professionally, personally and religiously.  I don’t feel that I’m the answer to anyone’s question, again professionally, personally and religiously.  I just want to cry.

Some depressed and/or unemployed people work with children or animals.  I like children (young children, not the teenagers I used to work with), but I’m nervous of working with them and they can set off my OCD.  I’m a bit scared of animals.  My family are pretty anti-pets.  I vaguely floated the idea of getting a cat when I move back with my parents only to have it shot down pretty quickly.  Plus they say I’ll just feel worse when it dies, which is probably true, although that seems like the kind of frightened running away they are always telling me not to do.

I sometimes wonder if I seem too functional for my own good.  I’ve met people online and then in person and I always warn them I’m not so functional in person as I am online, but they usually say I’m fine, just quiet.  I wonder if I come across as more functional than I actually am.  If I was just lying in bed all day feeling awful maybe people wouldn’t expect so much of me.  But I would still expect things of myself.  So, I get up every day, even when I don’t feel like it.

In the second Sapphire and Steel story, a malevolent entity, The Darkness, is feeding off the resentment of ghosts whose lives were wrongly cut short.  In the end, Steel rather ruthlessly deals with it by letting it consume innocent ghost-hunter Tully years before his time (this in a children’s programme!).  I feel that The Darkness would have a lot of resentment to feed on from me.  I feel I’ve lost fifteen or twenty years of my life and seem destined to lose the rest and I don’t know what to do about it.

Incoherent Ramblings of a Deranged Madman

I did eventually calm down and go to sleep last night, then slept through the whole morning, waking at 1.00pm, but being too tired to get up before 1.30, despite the noise from next door (I live in a converted garage; apparently the owners of the adjoining garage are converting their side into a flat too).

I feel exhausted and depressed.  I feel as if the immensity of everything, of possibly endless unemployment, the difficulties of self-employment and the loneliness of possibly permanent singledom (while carrying a torch for someone who just wants to be friends) has really hit me.  That said, I don’t feel any specific anxiety.  Yesterday’s agitation has been replaced with total lethargy and I can’t really think at all.

I just got a spammy email from PayPal telling me that a lot can happen in four months.  Indeed.  In four months I moved from single to in a relationship to single again and from employed and fairly sure I would still be employed in a few months if I wanted to unemployed.  Still depressed, though.

I wonder why I left my job, as it seems impossible even to feel non-depressed enough to find and apply for a job, let alone get one, and the thought of writing for a living, even non-creative writing, seems unlikely – I have no confidence in my writing and certainly not in my ability to network, submit on spec or take editorial criticism.   I just feel utterly drained today.  The heat doesn’t help and it’s worse in my poorly-ventilated flat (one advantage of moving back in with my parents, I suppose).

I feel I underestimated how much the events of recent months would affect me, particularly now I’m off work and have time to think about things.  I suppose this is my normal holiday slump magnified by the doubt and uncertainty and the anxiety of job hunting and career shifting.  I suppose I blame myself for leaving my job and maybe for what happened with E. and I certainly can’t see a way ahead with either.  I feel disgusted with myself for acting out yesterday, although I have no idea how I ended up in such an agitated condition (or what I can do to stop it happening again).

Looking at Hevria stuff online just underlines how far I am from the centres of Jewish life (Israel and America/New York), but even if I was there, I doubt I could get involved.  I want to meet some Hevria people when I go to New York in a few weeks, but it’s hard to find anyone willing to meet with me.  And I feel like I don’t fit in with their frum-but-bohemian lifestyles, either the bohemian part or, increasingly, the effortlessly frum part.  Being frum is increasingly a hard struggle and I’ve never really seen God’s hand in my life the way the others seem to.  And I don’t feel creative, although I’ve been told I’m a good writer (I find that hard to believe).

I’m thinking about moving my Doctor Who blog to WordPress, if I want to try to boost its popularity to try to promote my Doctor Who/science fiction writing/criticism.  Livejournal seems to be fairly dead these days, for English language blogs at any rate.  I need to blog there more often, though.  I think the only way I could keep it separate from this blog (which I would have to as this one is anonymous and the Doctor Who one isn’t) is to set up a paid account, although even then I’m not sure if it would let me separate them (as I only have one email address to register with them).  I don’t really mind paying £3 a month though, and it might be worth it for no ads and a blog title without ‘wordpress’ in it.  I ought to learn to use LinkedIn better too.  Correction: I ought to actually use my LinkedIn account.  (It scares me.)

Procrastinating.  I just think, “I’ll just sit here for a few more minutes.  I’ll just look at such and such a website.  I’ll just check my emails again.”  I used to think this was desire for connection, but I’ve been in touch with friends today.  I just feel lazy.  I hate myself today.

My main achievement today has been to clear my email folders.  I’m good about keeping my inbox under control, but lately my outbox and trash folders had become over-full, plus I still had nearly every email E. had ever sent me, which seemed pointlessly romantic and depressing because it reminds me that no one I can’t get a relationship to work even when I manage to find someone who likes me.  It took longer than I hoped, but less time than I feared.

People keep reminding me about things I need to remember to do for my holiday or job search.  I’m not sure whether to be angry that they think I’ll forget or ashamed that they might be right.  I feel like everyone is treating me like a child, but also that they possibly (probably?) need to do so.  I wonder how well I could function by myself if I had to.  This is part of the reason E. broke up with me.  Of course part of the reason I’m inexperienced at these things is simply that I haven’t been well enough to do them.  I’ve never been well enough to go on holiday by myself before, nor have I needed to do a prolonged job search.  For a long time I was too depressed to work.  My first job came from a voluntary position that I talked into a paid position and my second job I just applied for out of the blue and won without any prolonged searching.  So I’ve never had a prolonged period of job searching before.

I’m trying to think of intelligent questions to ask my friends who are writers and researchers about their careers and I’m really struggling.  Sometimes I feel so useless.  It’s hard to tell if it’s depression, autism, learned helplessness or if I am just genuinely useless.

I feel guilty about not having gone for a run yesterday or today, but I walked over to my parents’ house to pick some stuff up today and I was completely exhausted.  It’s only a fifteen minute walk, but I was really slow.  Every movement was an effort. My legs felt like they were lined with lead.  I hate being this depressed.  I ate ice cream, even though I know I’ve put on a ton of weight with my medications.  Two years ago I was reasonably slim; now thanks to clomipramine I’m somewhat overweight despite probably eating more healthily now than previously.

My Dad says it’s a shame that no one from Hevria wants to meet me in New York.  He says the lesson from this is that people say one thing and mean another.  I think the lesson is more that everyone secretly hates me and wants nothing to do with me.  At least E. is going to spend time with me although I’m worried that will be painful for both of us.  I’m still terrified of getting mugged or lost or missing my plane.  It would help if I had direct contact details for more Hevrians rather than having to go through the two people whose details I do have and who I think have forgotten to tell anyone else that I’m coming despite my asking them to do so.

I will be thirty-five in a few days.  It’s easy to say I just want someone to love me, but it’s not that simple.  For someone to love me and be able to live/cope with me, I need a full-time job or at least some kind of job that pays better than my last one.  I also need to have frum (religious) friends who will set me up on dates.  For that to happen, I need to be better integrated into the frum (religious) community.  For that to happen, I need to have less social anxiety and to be coping better with my religious obligations (prayer, Torah study) and for that to happen I need more simcha shel mitzvah (joy from the commandments).  For any of this to happen, I need some kind of medication or therapy regime or set of coping skills that allow me to cope with my depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem and borderline autism a lot better than I currently am, not just for a few months (as occasionally happens), but consistently for a period of years.  This seems incredibly unlikely, given the events of the last twenty years or so.

I have probably been depressed for more of my life than not now.  At any rate, I’ve been depressed for almost all of my adult life.  I sometimes wonder what I would be like as a person and what my life would be like if I was not depressed.  It is very hard to know.

My life seems both pointless and hopeless.  I’m not suicidal, but I do wonder why I’m here.  I can’t see myself doing anything worthwhile in any sense of the word, and God knows (literally) I’ve hardly enjoyed myself for the last twenty years or more, since I was a child.  I don’t think I’ve grown much as a person either.  It’s hard to get the energy to hunt for work, plan my holiday, meet my religious obligations, become a better person or just do the chores needed to keep my flat/life in order (or look for dates, for that matter, not that I’m doing that) when everything seems to turn out so badly for me.  If I’d spent the entire day in bed today, I’m not sure I would have been a lot worse off…

Listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, feeling agitated

This is a sort of an addendum to my last post.
“What is that noise?”
                          The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                           Nothing again nothing.
                                                        “Do
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
“Nothing?”
       I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?” 
It seemed sensible to post a chunk of The Waste Land, I’m not sure why.  It freaks me out when I feel agitated like this.  It really does feel like I imagine hypomania would, even though I’ve been told by two psychiatrists that I’m not bipolar (mind you, I’ve been told by lots of psychiatrists that I’m not autistic).  It’s when I’m in this state that I’m most likely to hurt myself, not least because in this state I sometimes feel angry and paranoid and my anger and paranoia tends towards self-destruction.  It’s also in this state that I’m most self-pitying, helpless and attention-seeking (this would be how I feel when I leave self-pitying comments on other people’s blogs), so apologies to the three people who have just received cry for help texts from me.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.
I’m listening to Pachelbel’s Canon to try to calm down, but I don’t think it’s helping.  Watching TV is probably not a good idea, but I might watch some Doctor Who to try and calm down.  At any rate, I don’t feel able to get to bed.  Eat porridge for warm milk to soothe and put to sleep.

The Boy You Always Wanted

Donnie was the boy you always wanted by your side./Donnie was the boy your girlfriends fell for one by one./Donnie was the one you always wanted day and night. – Donnie by Ace of Base

“Every lonely monster needs a companion.” Doctor Who: Hide by Neil Cross

At the moment I’m in the nervy, agitated state that for a while in the past I mistook for hypomania and wondered if I really had bipolar disorder (I had a psychiatrist who fuelled this a bit by saying I was probably somewhere on the bipolar spectrum, but I suspect that by that stage she was just saying anything to shut me up).

I think the reality of leaving my job has hit.  I’m not technically unemployed for another five and a bit weeks (I’m technically on paid holiday), but I think I’m already spiralling downwards.  I worry that I should not have left, given how hard it will be to get a new job, but I think if I had stayed I would either have stayed there indefinitely, despite being miserable, or been fired for being incompetent under the new job description.  I gave myself a day off from job-hunting today to sort some chores, but I felt depressed, procrastinated and only did a fraction of what I wanted to do.  I suppose I should allow myself a mental health day, except this hasn’t been that.  It’s fallen between two stools, neither a relaxing day off to recuperate from a draining term (draining physically, mentally and emotionally) nor a day in which I did many chores.  So now I still feel tense and tired, but I haven’t achieved much.

Job hunting in earnest should start tomorrow, but I’m fearful of it.  I spoke to my rabbi mentor today; he seemed to expect me to have surveyed the entire field by now and sent of some applications.  That would seem to underestimate how anxiety-provoking this is, and how inadequate I feel about my ability to do most jobs.

The reality of breaking up with E. keeps hitting me too.  I keep thinking I’m over it, or at least accepting that something might happen in the future, but not now, and then I realise I’m still telling myself we might get back together… well, we might, but it depends on my finding a better-paying job than seems likely and just generally being better at coping with The Real World than I’m likely to be any time soon (I don’t want to deal with The Real World.  The Real World is full of terrorism, antisemitism, sexism, racism, war, famine etc.  I want to leave The Real World to its own murderous devices and escape somewhere quiet).  E. said I could date other women if I get bored waiting for her, but (a) I don’t want other women, I want E. and (b) I can’t imagine there are many other women out there who are (i) interested in me and (ii) willing to be the main breadwinner.  So, I’m alone again, and I’m not good at dealing with that.

I’m beating myself up again and struggling with my thoughts.  I’ve messed stuff up again (I mean procrastinating and acting out in ways that I wish I wouldn’t do when depressed).  I suppose it’s nothing serious, but I always seem to be running in quicksand, sinking fast.  I wonder how I compare with other frum (religious) men, in terms of meeting religious obligations for prayer, religious study, personal development and so on.  It’s hard to tell how much latitude I should give myself because of the depression and other issues and I don’t have anyone to compare with, especially as my own mental health can vary widely from day to day and even across the day.  I also wonder what other people really think of me, but if they tell me they like me, I assume they’re being polite or, more bluntly, lying.

I’ve been using the heter (permission) for depressed people to listen to music in the Three Weeks of mourning when normally it would be forbidden (I wish I’d learnt about that years ago).  Despite never having deliberately listened to Ace of Base in the past (I think I must have been passively exposed to them through my sister), I’ve been obsessively listening to Donnie over and over (in the past I would have worried more about kol isha, but I think my depressed disaffection with Judaism has eroded my ability to care about some rabbinic mitzvot).  I do this sometimes, listen to the same song a million times in a month and then stop as suddenly as I started.  It usually assumes some bizarre significance in my mind, usually about my life, as if the singer is singing directly to me.  This is probably borderline psychotic.

Donnie (not my name, but sounds vaguely like my Hebrew name) is about unrequited love (I suspect I prefer songs about unrequited love to the other kind) and carrying a torch for someone.  I find myself wondering if I want E. to always want me by her side.  I find that I do, and then feel both guilty and frustrated because it could never work and I should want her to find someone else who can make her happy in a way that I can’t.

Sometimes I feel that if I could understand things better, things in the outside world, I could stop them or make them better.  I don’t consciously think this, but I think the feeling is there, on some level.  I spent years trying to understand antisemitism (I probably still do try) and I suspect that I felt that if I understood it, it would go away.  No, that’s not quite it.  That’s fairly psychotic, again.  Well, maybe it is a little psychotic.  It’s hard to put into words, but sometimes the pain in my head seems to have a direct relationship to the pain in the world (The Horrible Real World again), but it’s hard to work out in which direction it goes.  Maybe both ways.  Maybe I feel somehow responsible for things?  That’s not quite it (although it can happen with depression, particularly when it’s on the border of psychosis, as I’ve probably been in the past).  I guess it’s tied up with my quasi-solipsistic feeling of importance, that there isn’t really anything other than my mind.  That the barrier between my mind and the world is somewhat permeable?  I don’t really think that either, but… I can’t really put it into words.  It’s very frustrating.

Sometimes I imagine myself at my own funeral, listening to eulogies, getting angry at the lies to make me sound good, walking behind my own coffin…  This probably isn’t normal.  Sometimes I imagine burying myself, only me and no one else (this is a blatant steal from the Doctor Who novel Alien Bodies).  Sometimes I wonder if I’m dead and this is Gehennom.  That probably isn’t normal either.

Sometimes I feel like I’m this close to losing my grip on reality.  That’s probably why I take refuge in improbable, surreal fictions.  (I recently wrote a post on this, ostensibly for my Doctor Who blog, which I haven’t got around to posting yet.  Arguably it could fit on either of my blogs, but I can only put it on one, because one is anonymous and the other isn’t.)  Stuff like Doctor WhoThe Prisoner and Sapphire and Steel seem much more reflective of how I experience reality than most ‘realistic’ fiction.

Too Late for the Pebbles to Vote

“The avalanche has already started.  It is too late for the pebbles to vote.” – Babylon 5: Believers by David Gerrold

Today was my last day in my job, although technically I’m still under contract until mid-August and the next few weeks are paid holiday, although I’ll be using a lot of it to start job hunting.  I’ve already started getting in touch with contacts I have in the areas of writing and researching that I might be interested in to get an idea of what would be involved.

Today was a slightly odd day, as I’d done most of my work and there wasn’t much point starting anything new, so I just helped out with the library reorganisation a bit.  About 11.00am all the library suddenly trooped into the office and stood in front of my desk, rather to my surprise, and presented me with a leaving card and present (a mug decorated to look like the scrabble tile of the initial of my first name), which must have been bought quickly, given that I only turned the contract down yesterday.  I had a bit of an autistic/alexithymic moment, being overwhelmed by a rush of different emotions that were hard to identify: pleasure, embarrassment, happiness, regret and probably more.  But I was really glad that I seemed to have made such an impression in a relatively short period of time.  I just hope I communicated that, as the overwhelming emotional rush made it hard for me to know what to say or do.  A little later an ex-colleague, who got transferred to one of the other colleges in the super-college a few months ago, popped in to say goodbye.  She happened to be in the building and heard I was leaving, so she came up, which was really nice, as I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her.

There is a bit of regret and maybe even a little self-recrimination that maybe I should have tried out the new contract and seen how it goes and maybe I’m running away from social stuff a bit, but something happened today that I won’t go into here that made me think I was right to leave.  Plus, while I should push myself on the social anxiety front, I also need to play to my strengths and the new job description was just too much too quickly (in terms of required interpersonal interactions).

E. is really supportive of my decision too, which matters a lot to me, as I respect her opinion a lot.  My family, while I think initially leaning towards encouraging me to take the contract, are now more supportive of my decision, even though I’m going to have to move back in with my parents soon for financial reasons.  And my non-biological sisters have been really supportive while I’ve been trying to make up my mind too and they think I’m doing the right thing.

At shiur tonight someone asked how I am and I mentioned about my job, even though my instinct was to hide it.  Afterwards, while I was walking back, I stopped to respond to a text and someone from shiur and caught up with me and spoke to me.  After I got panicked enough about talking to him that I got my address wrong (!) he asked the question I dread most i.e. where do daven (pray) on Shabbat (Sabbath) mornings?  I am usually asleep, a combination of depressive exhaustion after the work week with a bit of socially anxious avoidance of crowds.  I mentioned that I have some health issues and don’t always make it to shul (synagogue) without going into details.  I always feel really awkward saying that, but I don’t know what else to say.  It’s better than lying and pretending I daven elsewhere, I guess.

On a somewhat related note, I wanted to respond to this post (about a podcast for frum (religious) women who struggle with balancing careers, family and religious lives) by saying that I feel the need for one for men too, but I was worried I might be deemed sexist (to be honest, I’m so scared of identity politics calling out that I’m scared to express an opinion on a lot of things).  But I would like someone to tell me what is normal and what is halakhically acceptable (acceptable according to Jewish law) for frum men (and if ‘normal’ is the same as ‘halakhically acceptable’ here).  I know that women have their own challenges which in many ways are harder, but as a frum guy I feel a pressure to: 1) earn money to support a family (a particularly sticky point for me at the moment, given that this was why E. and I broke up); 2) do my share of the chores to support said family as well as 3) spend quality time with said family, especially encouraging my children’s religious education and growth.  Furthermore I have to 4) daven three times a day 5) with kavannah (mindfulness) and 6) a minyan (prayer quorum) as well as 7) study Torah for a couple of hours daily 8) ideally at least some of the time with a chevruta (study partner) (not my preferred mode of study) and 9) ideally Talmud and halakhah (Jewish law) (which are not my favourite areas of study, either for interest or ability – this post just made me feel totally inadequate, as the author is so far ahead of my ability) and 10) working on developing my character attributes in line with Jewish teachings while still 11) staying sociable at shul social events like kiddush (refreshments after Shabbat morning services) and seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) and discussing work, politics and sport (boring!).  Most of these things I find hard because of my mental health and probable neurodivergence.  I guess I would like to know what is ‘normal’ here and what the basic level of ‘acceptable’ is.  I feel everyone from my shul does all of the above, at least to some extent (OK, they don’t all study Talmud, but they do all seem to study Jewish stuff) and I’d like to know how much (and how they fit it in), but it’s not really the done thing to ask, and asking would entail speaking about the way depression, social anxiety and probable autism hold me back.

Decision Time

Where to begin… I told my boss I didn’t want to have my contract renewed.  I immediately made a social anxiety/autism blunder, as I was too scared to tell her verbally so I just emailed and she said I should have told her in person first.  She seemed astonished when I told her, which surprised me a lot, as yesterday she seemed to be warning me off from taking the offer.  She told me that the job description was not set in stone yet, that she may not become head of library services over the super-college, in which case someone else might change things.  Nevertheless, I stuck to my decision, as I can’t see things changing again with such a short time before the next academic year and so much still to do, plus I was pretty miserable even in my current job.  Still, I will wonder now if I’ve made the right decision, especially if I struggle to get a new job.  I’m looking for librarianship jobs, preferably with more backroom focus, but also writing and editing jobs, not necessarily creative writing.  Writing is about the only thing I do that refreshes me rather than depleting me.

Then I made my second social blunder, not telling my colleagues.  I don’t really know what I was thinking, except that I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to make a fuss.  About an hour after my conversation with my boss, the head of IT services in the library, who is effectively my boss’ number two, said he heard I was leaving.  So then I realised I had to tell the library assistants before they heard it second-hand too.  That was hard, both finding the words and the confidence to say them.  My mouth was so dry I could hardly talk!  They were quite upset; one looked like he might burst into tears.  I was quite touched that they were all so upset that I’m leaving, especially as I’ve only been there for fifteen months and they’ve all been around much longer.  Someone said I’m talented enough that I should find a new job easily, which I hope will prove to be true.   I stressed the change in job description and the commute in my reasons for leaving, rather than the mental health side of it.

The rest of the day was fairly dull.  It was hard to concentrate knowing that tomorrow is my last day.  I procrastinate like crazy over decisions, but once I’ve made them, I always want to put them into action immediately.  Technically I’m still under contract until mid-August (as my contract lasts until the end of the academic year, even though I only worked in term-time) so I’ve got paid job hunting time!  And a trip to New York.  It does look likely that I’ll have to move back in with my parents, though, which is a bit of a shame, unless I can find a good job very quickly, which seems unlikely, especially as I want to explore new areas and may need some time to focus on my writing before I’m ready to submit anything.

EDIT: I forgot to say that my boss emailed me to say that my “commitment to your role, your punctuality and attendance, and your determination to not let personal difficulties get in the way of doing your job to the best of your ability are commendable”, which was really nice.

Once Upon a Lunchtime

Today has been a really weird day.  The depression isn’t too bad today, for all that I was in tears in the library office earlier, but I’ve got so much on my mind.  I was in a bad state when I drafted this post at lunchtime, but I’m glad I held off posting because things are very different now.

Career-wise, at lunch I was fairly sure I was not going to ask for my contract to be renewed.  I did a list of pros and cons earlier and, while there were some big pros (like having a job), there were more cons and the cons were often weightier than the pros.  I also looked at my thoughts vs. my emotions and while my thoughts were mixed, my feelings about accepting the job were clear: anxiety, panic, despair, depression and dread.  I don’t know how much is the particular work environment (the college), how much is this specific type of librarianship (further education) and how much is librarianship in general, but yesterday we were doing some training with library staff from the other colleges in the consortium and the other librarians seemed to have a better grasp of both the technicalities of librarianship and the internal politics of this particular college (one of them looked a lot like David Tennant too, not that I’m envious or anything).  The autism, and my dislike of gossip, probably impede me with the latter; the former is probably due to my mental health issues causing me to do my MA at a non-very-good university that was probably a waste of money considering how bad so much of the teaching was, for all that I passed the course with distinction.  I don’t think I could ever be comfortable in an environment with this much interaction with ‘unusual’ students, but I fear my cataloguing skills are far too rusty for a cataloguing job, even though that was how I saw my career going.  I am open to doing a cataloguing crash course if I can find one through CILIP, the librarian organisation.

Then something upsetting happened at work this morning.  I’d better not go into details, but it just underlined how unhappy I am here and although that may get better with the reorganisation, it may get worse too.  Just to make matters more clear, in the afternoon my boss more or less told me that I can’t do the job I’m being offered and I shouldn’t accept the contract.  She didn’t quite put it like that (I guess to avoid an employment tribunal), but that was the gist of it.  That being the case, I don’t know why I was offered the contract in the first place (I suspect there may be politics involved).  In a way I’m pleased it ended like this, because otherwise I would always have wondered if I was giving in to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem and if I should have taken on the challenge of the new contract; now I know that no one realistically expected me to do it.  And some of my colleagues said they don’t we me to go, which was nice.

I’m going to go to a careers advisor and see what they have to say about jobs involving writing or editing, preferably from home.  Writing is one of the few things that invigorates me rather than depleting me, so I think I should try to get paid for doing it, even if it’s only journeyman work rather than something exciting and creative.  Interacting with students definitely depletes me and I want to avoid that as much as possible.

The other major thing on my mind at lunchtime was that I last heard from E. a few days ago, but she hadn’t got back to me since and I was worried about her.  I think she took the break up badly, worse than I did, even though it was her idea.  I got worried about what type of state she’s in and messaged her.  I was worried she wouldn’t reply, but we messaged back and forth a bit.  She was upset about the breakup and blamed herself.  I told her that that was unfair and that she shouldn’t punish herself.  We’re both upset that things aren’t working out for us romantically for banal reasons (finances and mental health), but we’re probably not the first couple to be defeated by those things and we’ve agreed to stay in touch as friends for now.  I’m still hopeful something more will come of it.  The whole situation was so weird that I feel it ought to mean something.  If I can get a job that suits me better and get to a better financial position, maybe we can reconsider.

The other thing that upset me today was that I think my online drama queening has upset someone I thought of as a friend.  I feel very bad about that.  I do feel that I have legitimate reasons for feeling isolated in the frum (religious) community and a right to be heard, but commenting on other people’s blogs, even when what they say is somewhat relevant, probably isn’t the best way of doing it.  What the best way of doing it actually is, is another question.

There are a few other difficult and scary things going on in my life right now, but I won’t bore you with all the details.  I guess I just need to find an aspie- and depression-friendly job/career so I can win back my aspie- and depression-friendly girlfriend.  I do feel somewhat more positive now, though, knowing that E. still wants to be friends and that I did my best with my job and it just didn’t work out, and no one wants me to push myself to do the impossible, even if their reasons for not wanting me to take the new contract are not the same as mine.

Being Happy’s Only for the Wealthy

I struggled to sleep last night, I suppose from the heat and having slept about sixteen or seventeen hours during the last twenty-four (!).  I had a thought about my post from yesterday.  I know I drifted back into self-loathing in my last post.  I know the reason for this and have known for a while.

Children assume that the world is logical and if things happen for no apparent reason, they try to find a reason.  Abused children assume that if people do bad things to them, they (the children) must be misbehaving or ‘bad’ on some level.  I was not by any means an abused child, but it is probably true that, like an abused or neglected child, I have taken on the worldview that I am a bad person and that is why bad things happen to me.  Sometimes it gets too much and I rebel and say I’m a good person and get angry with God (or humans) for treating me like this, but mostly I blame myself, because it’s safer that way.

I’ve known all this for a long time.  The twist last night was that I realised that my self-loathing is keeping me sane.  If I gave up on my self-loathing, I would have to assume that people don’t like me for no reason I can control, that my life is miserable because God wants it to be miserable for no obvious reason, and that I can’t control anything.  So it’s going to be very hard to move away from self-loathing into a healthier view of myself.  The problem is that I really do perceive myself as a bad person.

I feel marginally better about work.  I spoke to my parents again and to my rabbi mentor.  My rabbi mentor said to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have to make a final decision yet and have a look at what other jobs are available.  It says something about how I feel about my current job, and my fears about this new job, that even though I found pretty much no jobs in the library sector this afternoon at my level of experience and expertise (except one job that was basically the same as the job I’m being offered where I am, but in Manchester), I still think I should turn the new job down.

I’m thinking of trying to move into some kind of writing, which might give me more flexibility with hours and less pressure to interact with people in settings that I find uncomfortable.  As I’ve noted in the past, I think I neglected this as a job outlet because I thought writing = creative writing (or journalism, shudder), whereas there are lots of other writing and editing jobs e.g. copy writing, sub-editing, non-fiction writing, ghost writing and so on.  I don’t really want to write copy for cereal boxes for a living, but if it pays the bills, I think I’d rather do it than talk to classes of sullen teenagers about information literacy.  I just found a major academic publisher looking for new writers for books for primary school children.  I probably don’t have the skills or experience for that right now, but I thought it’s worth applying in case they have other jobs that I could do or opportunities for training.  I am also looking for a careers adviser who might be able to help me work out how to apply for writing or editing jobs, plus I have some friends who work in research and proof-reading who I can talk to.

I feel a little bit more hopeful now, but not much.  I do think that I need to find new, healthier avenues for me.

I also heard from E., who says she wants to stay friends and will meet me when I’m in New York.  This is good, because otherwise I’m going to be very lonely, but I worry it’s not good because her email basically made it clear that she still likes me and is only breaking up with me for practical/financial reasons, so I’m worried that we’re both just going to be miserable if we’re together.  At depression group last week, people were encouraging me to see her in the hope that she might change her mind when she meets me in person.  I didn’t really feel comfortable with doing that, but now I feel that I am doing that.  It is hard to know what to do.  There were issues with us being together, like the religious differences, but we felt we could probably deal with those; the main reason we broke up was financial, which is painful.  We both like each other, we’re really good together, supportive and encouraging (we both need a lot of support and encouragement…), and we have some key values and interests in common, but we both need to be with someone who works full-time so that we can work part-time for mental health reasons.  It’s rather sad, but I don’t know what we can do about it.

Fear and Self-Loathing in North-West London

It was not a good Shabbos (Shabbat/Sabbath).  Over Friday night dinner, I spoke to my parents about my job situation for longer than I intended.  That at least went OK.  I think they understood where I was coming from more.  Mum was upset that I said in my blog post earlier in the week (I sent her the link and she read it) that they weren’t empathetic about my worries about my ability to do the job I’m being offered, saying they were just trying to get me to see the positive side because I have low self-esteem (more on which below).  The one really useful thing that came up was that someone (I think my Mum) suggested trying to find a careers adviser to find out what practical steps I should take regarding writing or researching.

I got to bed at a reasonable time, shortly after midnight, which is good for a midsummer Shabbat (when I don’t even get home from shul (synagogue) until 8.30pm followed by a three course dinner which takes a while even if we don’t stop between courses for said long conversation about my career).  But I slept through the whole morning, missing shul yet again, and, as my parents were out for lunch, I slept until gone 2.00pm, got up, forced myself to eat some cereal to try to get some energy, failed to get energy and went back to bed for a while.  I then slept for two or three hours after lunch, so I’m unlikely to sleep much tonight.  I think the combination of heat and depression was not good for me.  I also had weird dreams.  They were  too stream of consciousness-style to adequately describe, but they were clearly anxiety dreams, at least on some level, about being a writer/researcher focusing on Doctor Who, about my holiday in New York and fears of getting lost or being mugged and about my worries about the political situation in Israel.  One thing that probably doesn’t come across on this blog that maybe did on earlier ones (for the two people still following me from my first blog) is that I tend to take antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict very seriously and act as if I could stop them, if only I could understand and explain them properly, which is flawed on many levels.  (There is a psychological term that I can’t remember for thinking that tragic global events are your fault, but that’s not quite what I mean.)

Speaking of which, I was reflecting that some people with depression get depersonalisation, where they feel like a detached observer of themselves.  I have had this in the past, occasionally tied in with possible psychotic mini-episodes (mini because only lasting a couple of seconds), but most often I get the reverse.  I guess that would solipsism, for want of a better word, where my sense of existence and my thought processes are so absorbing that it’s hard to really remember that the rest of the world exists.  I guess that would probably be an autistic thing as much as a depressive one.  My inner monologue is very “loud,”  for want of a better word, and I often want to compare it with that of other people, out of curiosity and a bit of arrogance as much as anything.  Am I more self-critical, self-aware, intellectual, profound than other people?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I got up so late and was so depressed and exhausted, that I missed Shacharit (the morning service) entirely and did a tiny bit of Musaf (the extra Shabbat service, normally said right after Shacharit) at 7.30pm, which is probably some kind of a record.  I did make it to shul in the evening for shiur (Talmud class) and Mincha, seudah, the other shiur and Ma’ariv (the afternoon service, the third Sabbath meal, another class and the evening service).  I felt pretty bad during, and probably as a result of, the second shiur.  I just feel so inadequate.

This feeling of inadequacy is usually partly because of my  career issues and single state (the fact that Talmud shiur was partly on why praying to have a good (=righteous, I guess/hope) wife is the most important thing anyone can pray for (according to one rabbi)) didn’t help.  However, today it was more about my moral and religious standing.  I just feel so wicked and reprehensible.  The other people at shul all seem to be more or less sorted religiously and working on very trivial aspects of their personality and divine service and I’m performing pretty much every major aveirah (sin) and missing out most of the positive mitzvot (commandments).  I feel everyone would be disgusted with me if they knew what I think and do.

I once asked my rabbi mentor (who knows most of my bad side) if he thinks I’m a good person/Jew, but his counselling training kicked in and he just turned the question around and asked me what type of person I think I am.  I just feel like such a lousy person.  E. said I had lots of good points, but they ultimately weren’t enough.  My Mum only came up with two good points that I have yesterday.  I think that’s probably stretching it a bit.  I don’t really feel that I have any good points, even on a secular ‘being a good person’ level, let alone a frum (religious) ‘keeping taryag mitzvot’ (all the commandments) level.  If I have not done anything absolutely awful (and I think I probably have, on balance), it’s only from lack of opportunity.

It’s funny, in a strange way.  I’ve never really known what I want to do on a career level or had any ambitions in that sense, but for years I’ve wanted to be a tzaddik (saintly person), but the more I try, the further away I realise I am.  Sadly, you can’t go to a careers advisor to learn how to be a tzaddik.  I guess you would have to go to yeshiva or to a rebbe.  I’m not sure that’s a guarantee of anything though, as I’ve seen some people who come out of yeshiva with flaws.

Ugh, this is turning into a silly rambling post.  Matthue Roth (author of several books I should read, but haven’t yet) once told me off on Hevria.com for calling my writing ‘bilge.’  But this post really is bilge.

D-Day +1

This may be semi-incoherent, as I got to bed about 3.00am last night/this morning, having stayed up very late blogging to try to get my thoughts in order about my job without really having time to unwind and relax after a very stressful day.  I got up about 11.20am when my phone rang (it was on silent, but fortunately was on my bed, so I felt it vibrate), forced myself to eat breakfast and get dressed for my Skype therapy session at noon, then quickly davened (prayed) a tiny bit and here I am now at 1.10pm, trying to stay awake and set some thoughts in order.

Therapy wasn’t that helpful in deciding what to do, as my therapist was just really reflecting my thoughts back to me.  That’s helped me to clarify what I think, but not what to do, as I still have a big (if clearer) inner conflict.  I really think that if I take this “new” job (the new contract at my existing job), I will be suicidal again within six months.  I’ve been suicidal in the current job and I can’t see how things can be anything but worse in a job where the parts of the job I can cope with are perhaps smaller and the parts that really depress me and freak me out are certainly a lot bigger.  On the other hand, if I turn down the contract I could be facing a very long period of unemployment, maybe even permanent unemployment, and dependency on my parents, who are approaching retirement.  It’s very hard to hold down a job when seriously depressed.  It’s hard to hold down a job when on the autistic spectrum.  I don’t know how I can manage with both, without finding a very different type of job.

The other thing that occurred to me is that if my current boss stays on as my new boss (which is not certain) I will face the problem of having a boss who criticises my mistakes, but never praises me, in a job I will feel deeply insecure and in need of positive feedback about, just to get an idea of how well I’m doing.  I currently struggle to work out if she hasn’t criticised me because I’m doing good work or just because she hasn’t noticed my latest mistake yet.

I’m really struggling at the moment.  In the space of about two and half weeks (literally just while my sister was on holiday!) my girlfriend broke up with me and I have essentially lost my job, albeit with the possibility of a new, but problematic, replacement.  It occurred to me that if things were reversed, if I lost the job completely, but had a chance of an unsatisfying relationship and I was saying, “I don’t like X and I don’t think she could ever meet my needs, or I meet her needs, and I could see myself being suicidal in six months if we were together, but I need to be paired up with someone so I’m sticking with her” everyone would say I’m crazy and shouldn’t do that, and with good reason, but with the job, it feels like people are saying, “It’s a job, you need a job, just take it and screw your mental health.”

I do feel that I would like to devote attention to my writing, but I don’t know how.  I’ve had professional writers say I can write well, which has slowly permeated my low self-esteem.  For years I thought ‘writing’ meant writing novels or maybe poetry, which realistically I’m never going to write seriously, but I do feel that there are other, more workaday, types of writing I could try, particularly writing non-fiction about science fiction and for children – non-fiction books and also I have some ideas for religious books for children.  It is very hard to know where or how to begin, though.

D-Day

Warning: this is a long post.  You might want to make yourself a cup of tea first.  It isn’t going to be pretty.  Don’t say you weren’t warned…

The big news today was my meeting with my boss about my contract.  It got off to a bad start when she told me that the college had picked up more stuff about suicide that I had apparently posted when blogging on my lunch break at work this week.  This surprised me, as I thought I had mainly been working on non-blogging writing this week and I haven’t felt suicidal for ages anyway.  It was perhaps this post and the statement that “I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.”  (Thanks to one of my friends for remembering that.)  I’m still slightly surprised their software got it, though as it seems pretty vague to me.  I don’t think I was thinking of suicide when I wrote, just being exhausted and worn down by work and my life.  It is a bit scary that I wrote that without thinking that it was particularly suicidal.  I still don’t feel it’s particularly suicidal.  That’s just how I am and how I’ve been for years.  Which I guess is sad.

Then my boss spoke about renewing my contract.  It was positive inasmuch as she said that there was still a strong chance that the college would renew my contract, but, because of the reorganisation and the transition from contract work to permanent work, the job would effectively be an entirely new job.  I’d work all year round (rather than having most of the school holidays off), but the hours and salary would be the same because I’d do a twenty-four hour week instead of a twenty-eight hour one, with one hour less per day, but one late night (probably midday to 8pm).  I will sometimes have to go to the other colleges in the super-college, but will probably be mainly based at our secondary campus.  I will be in a new role, being in charge of some of the day-to-day running of the library (I think, I’m not sure about this), interacting with librarians in the other colleges, starting and managing projects and seeing them to a conclusion.  I will give talks to students on things like information literacy (I think) and will try to develop strategies to ‘sell’ the library to them.  I will have responsibility for purchasing and weeding books in a particular area, possibly across all the colleges in the super-college.

I don’t mind losing my holidays, as I just got depressed in them, but gaining one hour a day seems a waste: not long enough to do anything productive with it when I come home tired.  The late night seems very disruptive to my sleep pattern and if it’s on a Thursday (it will be Tuesday or Thursday) I will have to miss shiur (religious class), which is my main social activity, plus, because of the length of my commute, I will get home from work half an hour after I’m supposed to start getting ready for bed, even without having dinner.  Our secondary campus makes me feel depressed, as it’s a horrible dingy old Victorian school that smells of school dinners, although the badly-lit library is being refurbished and will hopefully be airier.

Above all, I don’t think I can do the new job.  I don’t feel capable of running a library (although I don’t think my boss used the word ‘run’ – I stupidly didn’t take notes in the meeting because I thought it was going to be a much shorter and simpler thing, just, “We want to renew your contract doing the same thing as this year; what hours would you like to do?”).  I don’t feel capable of making up new plans to run a library out of thin air and I don’t feel capable of project managing them to positive conclusions.  I’ve done public speaking before, but I really don’t want to do classroom-type teaching or even extra one-to-one interactions with students and I can’t sell anything.  Even the interactions I already have with the students make me incredibly nervous: I start worrying that I’m going to start shaking and I sometimes make stupid mistakes and say the wrong things, which has caused problems in the past.  And I’ll be more isolated at our secondary campus, depending on how the college reorganisation develops, potentially without the team-mates that I rely on for support and advice.

Added to all this was the fact that my boss reiterated that while in theory I could take Jewish holidays off, in practice that was not an entitlement and I might not be allowed if there was some sort of schedule clash.  Jewish holidays aren’t negotiable for me.  It’s not, “I want to be with my family.”  It’s, “If I do this, it will be an incredibly serious sin.”  I’m trying to think of a secular or Christian parallel in seriousness, but it’s really hard.  There isn’t anything that’s not quite murder, but only just.  I guess it would be like being told to rob a bank.  It’s that serious.  I could lose all hope of having Olam HaBa (reward in the next world).  So that panicked me too.

My immediate reaction was that I was already barely keeping all the balls I’m currently juggling in the air and now I was being asked to carry on juggling those balls while also juggling some clubs too, and burning ones at that.

I think my boss saw how worried I was looking.  She said the work I had done on the catalogue this year was good (possibly the first time she’s really praised me since my end of probation report nine months ago) and the fact that I was being offered a new role is a sign of support.  But she also asked if I really wanted my contract renewed and if I really wanted to be a librarian, which is less positive.  She also made it quite clear that she doesn’t think I interact well with the students and that the new job will involve a lot more of that.

I spoke to my parents about this and tried to make clear that I don’t think I can do it, to their dismay.  They genuinely can’t understand why I don’t want to do this.  For one thing, it would give me money to allow me to continue living away from home, otherwise I have to move back in with them.  Beyond that, my Dad is impressed that I’ll be running the library at the secondary campus (I’m not sure that the word ‘running’ was used and if it was I find that even more terrifying).  They see the opportunity as a vote of confidence in my work, which wasn’t how I felt my boss spoke about interpersonal skills.  They are sanguine about my ability to cope with changed working hours and late nights.  They say I’ve done public speaking before and well, which is true, but I haven’t done it for years.  I can’t remember how depressed I was last time I did it, but it wasn’t to a hostile audience of teenagers and it was on a subject I knew and loved.  They didn’t really comment directly on my other fears, but seem to think I am turning down something that would be very positive for my career and finances in the vague hope that something else will come up or that I can find a way to make writing work for me.  I said to them what I said to my boss, that it wasn’t one particular fear that maybe I could resolve, but the cumulative effect of a load of problems that might not be deal-breakers by themselves, but when loaded together become insurmountable.

The discussion got quite heated and basically turned into an argument where I couldn’t understand why they didn’t empathise with my fears and they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t excited about this opportunity and was actively looking for ways to get out of it.  Then I had to try to calm down as I was having dinner with some old friends from Oxford days.

I had a good time, but I ended up speaking a lot about the job.  I also ran myself down quite a bit, I think, not just about the job, but about my upcoming holiday, saying I’ll probably get lost and fail to find the kosher restaurants (in New York!) and when one friend suggested putting me in touch with an old Oxford acquaintance who lives in New York, I said he wouldn’t remember me and wouldn’t want to meet me, when really I was scared that I he would remember and would want to meet and I wouldn’t know what to say and would feel bad that he’s now married with children while I’m struggling.  For what it’s worth, my friend did seem to think that old Oxford acquaintances would remember me and want to see me; she was quite insistent on this, actually.  I do find it hard to believe, though.  This week I’ve had several run-ins with old acquaintances who I either avoided from fear of not know what I should say or fear of what they would say or who apparently didn’t recognise me (but maybe would have if I had shown recognition of them), including one in the restaurant.

I got pretty morose on the way home which may have come from eating a rich dessert and then crashing (I’m not sure whether this is really something I susceptible to or not and don’t eat out often enough to really be sure – it could be that something else about eating out brings me down e.g. seeing friends and family, seeing couples).  I was noticing a lot of couples, frum (religious) and otherwise, in the restaurant and on the bus on the way home, which always makes me feel lonely.  The book I was reading on the bus didn’t help; a collection of stories by James Thurber, who is usually very funny, but I happened to be up to two stories in the book that weren’t funny.  One in particular was about a failed (ish) writer who is lonely and thinks society is made for couples and wonders if he could have married his ex-girlfriend if he didn’t over-analyse everything.  So that didn’t hit home at all, no way…

The thing is, I think the only thing I come anything close to actually enjoying in my life is writing and I don’t know how to do it in quantity (to get published) while working, but I don’t know how to support myself while writing.  I even enjoy writing little jokes and things for myself without telling them to anyone, mostly because not many people get my sense of humour and not all of those understand my references.  For example, today on my way home I was making up jokes about Donald Trump (I do this a lot) and for some reason (I know the reason, but it would take too long to explain) was thinking about what his coat of arms would look like.  I decided on a tweet rampant over an adult film star couchant (but not dormant), complete with his favoured use of the bar sinister*.  This amused me a lot, just thinking about it.  I get blocked with my writing sometimes, sometimes for long periods, but often I have a lot to say and just don’t have the time and energy to write it down, or the forum.  I have two blogs, but I also have a restless, curious mind and things I think about don’t always fit neatly into The (Jewish) Depression Blog and The Doctor Who Blog.  Just today at lunch I started writing something that could probably go in either, but I can’t cross-post as one blog is anonymous and the other isn’t.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to finishing it, however.  I really wish I could find a way to make writing work for me or find a library/information job that involves reading and researching more than interpersonal interactions and physically maintaining a collection.

* This was a joke on the Muslim ban (ban = bar) and a pun on the two meanings of sinister, but on googling just now to check that bar sinister is a real term in heraldry and not something I half-remembered, I discovered that the real bar sinister is an indication of bastardy…

The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo

One of my less agreeable habits is arguing with people about how hopeless my future is.  When I’m feeling depressed, I start telling people that I’m not going to recover and get a full-time job and especially that I’ll never get married (I used to do this a lot on the comments on Hevria.com).  If they agree with me, then I feel doubly depressed and hopeless.  If they disagree with me, then I say that they don’t understand and argue with them until they agree with me to shut me up.  I’m not quite sure what I get out of this, but I must get something out of it.

A week or so ago I got involved in an argument like this on another blog.  I think I may have mentioned it in a previous post.  The blogger opined that there is nothing one can do to find one’s spouse.  It is completely down to HaShem (God), helped along by helpful member’s of one’s community who match you up with people until you find the one HaShem has appointed for you.  I responded that this may be true for most people (although I’m not sure I agree even then), but it wouldn’t work for me, because no one in my community seems to be looking out for someone for me.  Most of the people in my community don’t even know me, given my semi-detached state from it.

Today I don’t feel quite so depressed or quite so hopeless.  Things went a bit better at work (for one thing most of the students have finished with the library for the academic year) and I feel vaguely more hopeful and ‘normal’ than I have since E. broke up with me.  This may change tomorrow, which is apparently D-Day for the renewal of my contract, but for today I feel somewhat better.

Even so, I find it hard to be really optimistic about my future.  I can’t see myself getting a better-paying and full-time job, not to mention a proper, structured career, any time soon.  Similarly, I can’t see myself marrying.  Today I can somewhat grudgingly admit that there may be a frum (religious), geeky, woman out there who might even be able to tolerate my low income, my mental health issues and borderline autism and my consequent failure to meet my religious obligations for prayer and Torah study and my failure to go to yeshiva.  And she might even live in the UK, tiny though the Anglo-Jewish population is and tinier still though the frum community is.  But I find it pretty much impossible to work out how I could actually meet her.

My father obtained for me a while back the phone number of a well-known rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife) who, he was assured, would be able to help me find someone.  However, these days I feel sceptical of shadchanim (matchmakers) and I worry that I shouldn’t go to her until I am financially secure and more emotionally stable, neither of which looks set to happen any time soon.  I suppose if I’m depressed and lonely enough over the summer I might overcome my fear of the telephone enough to call, but I’m not sure I will and I really don’t think that shadchanim can help me.  I don’t really feel that anyone can help me, unless HaShem drops someone from the sky on me via my blog or a friend or relative (more likely a friend of my parents).  To be fair I have been set up on a couple of dates, but they never went very far because of my geeky interests and mental health issues.  I twice met people through my blog, which is twice more than I would have expected, except neither worked out anyway despite them being better matches for me (probably because they had a better idea of who I was rather than being matched on the basis purely of gender and age and perhaps intelligence and introversion).  I’m not quite sure where this leaves me, as I can’t really see lightning striking in the same place three times, although I’d love to be proved wrong.

Corrosive

I am not, by nature, an angry person.  I am arguably one of those people who turns his anger inwards as depression and OCD.  At the moment, I feel the angriest I’ve ever been with HaShem (God).  Usually I cool off quickly and apologise (often without thinking I’m in the wrong.  I just can’t stand the tension and feel I have to apologise), but here I calm down and then I start up all over again a few hours later.  I get triggered by thoughts of loneliness and despair, thoughts that I am wasting my life and by feeling obliged to try to get the energy and motivation to study Torah or daven (pray).

The worst of it is that ultimately I know that He’s right.  I don’t just believe in God, I believe specifically in an immanent, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, so that anything that happens to me has been deliberately allowed to occur by Him because it is the best possible thing that could happen to me right now.  And that just makes me furious, because why should the best possible thing to happen to me be my feeling lonely and despairing?  It’s like arguing with your parents when you know they’re right, but you can’t back down without losing face.  It’s even worse than losing an argument when you know you’re right, because at least you have a certain amount of dignity and self-esteem there.  Here I just feel like an idiot, complaining about something that I know I have no right to complain about.  No one ever told me that life was going to be easy and it’s stupid of me to want it to be.

I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.  I just want something to change, but I don’t know what to do.  Contrary to the magical thinking (segulot) that permeate much of contemporary Orthodoxy, I don’t think I can force God’s hand.  As for prayer… I once gave a fifteen minute drasha (religious talk) on prayer, setting forth three different perspectives on prayer and what it does.  1) Prayer is a mechanism by which we can change ourselves and become worthy of what we want (Rav Hirsch); 2) prayer is a method of creating community (Rav Soloveitchik); 3) prayer is a method of building a relationship with HaShem (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov).  The community aspect isn’t relevant here.  The idea of prayer as a vehicle for growth is problematic for me right now because I don’t have the energy or motivation to grow any more.  And as for building a relationship with God… well, at the moment I want to shout at Him or just sulk because I don’t know what to say.  I’ve hardly done any hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer over the last few days because I don’t have anything to say to Him any more.

I feel ridiculously silly, but I can’t calm down.  Every time I feel that I could be this lonely and depressed for the rest of my life, I get angry all over again.  It reminds me of my least favourite moment in one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories, The End of Time, where the Doctor, realising that he is going to have to give up his life (ish) to save his friend goes into a huge sulk and complains that it’s not fair.  It’s a horrible moment bereft of all heroism and dignity (I’m not a great fan of the tenth Doctor or David Tennant, but they deserved better).  That’s how I feel.  I know I’m posturing like an adolescent.  I know.  But I can’t help it, because I really feel on the brink.

I’ve been told that it’s OK to be angry with God, it’s even an argument I’ve used myself, but I still feel silly, especially as I suspect some of the anger is really directed at E., or at my situation in general, but I can’t express it to them, so it gets turned on God instead.

Here we segue from the very embarrassing part of the post to the incredibly embarrassing part.

I also feel (and this is not new) a lot of anxiety and guilt about sex, which probably feeds into the anger against God for keeping me single.  I feel guilty whenever I feel attracted to anyone, for feminist reasons as much as religious ones.   I have heard lately about involuntarily celibate men turning into women-hating monsters.  I remember after the Fort Hood shooting, an irresponsible newspaper article listed five signs of serial killers, and I had all five.  I’ve had a girlfriend now, so I guess I’m 20% less likely to become a misogynistic serial killer, but I worry about myself sometimes.  This is doubtless pure O OCD again, as I don’t think I’m realistically likely to turn into a a serial killer (misogynist or otherwise), but I do have a lot of hang ups about sex, questions and anxieties and also fear of being alone forever.

I’m not sure if my hang ups are the cause or the result of being a virgin at thirty-five (OK, strictly speaking I’m thirty-four for another couple of weeks, but unless my life changes in a series of radical ways, it will still stand).  It’s possible that they both feed each other and grow, which is a depressing thought.  It occurs to me that by this stage this is probably going to be another reason why I will end up single forever; any frum woman would be shocked by how jaded and impure I am, while any non-frum woman would doubtless find me laughably naive and inexperienced.  I’m beginning to suspect that sex is never going to be something I could be fully comfortable with, even if I get married.

It’s fairly safe to say that I have a lot of powerful emotions that I’m not allowed to express, either by circumstances, upbringing, religion or personality, and that these eat away inside me.  I’m not quite sure what I can do about this, except talk about it a lot in therapy and try to work through it that way.  I mostly feel too inhibited to blog about it.  I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with this post.  I can’t really express myself in fiction or poetry, let alone art or music, although I wish I could.

I Coulda Been a Contender

Today was a day of mild incompetence (not always my own), punctuated by occasional moments of sheer despair.  In one of my despairing moments at work, I thought that I have everything in life except the things that make it worth living: love, joy, companionship.  But then I thought, actually, I don’t even have that.  I don’t have financial security (my parents still help me out and if my contract is not renewed I will probably have to move back in with them); I don’t have a job I enjoy, let alone a career that I’m progressing with; I have a couple of friends, but mostly long-distance, which is hard; and while I have my physical health up to a point, I’m not sure how easy it is to separate physical and mental/emotional health.  Depression leads to a general sense of being worn out and under the weather much of the time, as well as a greater likelihood of infection.  I do have the love of my parents and sister, difficult though we find it sometimes to understand each other (mentally ill autistic vs. healthier allistic) and a couple of long-distance friends, which is something, but I want more.  Is that selfish of me?   Maybe it is, but I don’t think so.  I could accept my friendships being long-distance (in some ways communicating by text and email is better for me), but I want to love and be loved.

I also reflected that in another life I might have stayed at Oxford (or gone on to Cambridge, I suppose, although my sister would have killed me if I was there when she was) and fitted in a bit better around academics.  At least there are a lot of Aspies there, diagnosed and otherwise.  But on getting to Oxford as an undergraduate, I rapidly felt out of my depth and although I did pretty well in my first year exams (missing a first by two marks), a few months later the depression set in (or became more obvious and intrusive) and my grades in my finals were acceptable at best.  I never felt like a really first class intellect and I don’t think I could really have been a professional historian.  Plus, Oxford and Cambridge are not good places to be Jewishly.  The Jewish communities are small, there are no kosher shops, let alone restaurants, and the Oxford Jewish community is pluralistic rather than Orthodox.  No mikvah or Jewish schools either, so not good for families.  I suppose if I wasn’t frum and had been more academically confident and less depressed, I might have stayed at Oxford as a post-graduate student and met some similarly shy and gauche female post-grad (perhaps in the sciences rather than the humanities so we wouldn’t feel in competition with each other) and been happy.  But I don’t think my life is built for happiness.

To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone other than my two exes was ever remotely interested in me romantically (although I know one other woman who says I’m cute), although I find it sufficiently difficult to read body language to be sure.  I know a woman recently was really invading my personal space and I couldn’t work out what was going on there.  At Oxford I thought someone was attracted to me and made a fool of myself confronting her about it.  She now lives two or three doors down the road.  I don’t think she remembers me, but maybe she’s just being polite and pretending not to know/see me.

I do remember a weird evening at Oxford.  There was a quiz between the Doctor Who Society and the Star Trek Society (this was in my penultimate term, when I was Doctor Who Society president).  After the quiz the Doc Soc (as we called ourselves then) went to the pub; we invited Trek Soc, but only their (female) president came.  I thought she was looking at me strangely all evening, but thought I was being silly (probably reflecting on my previous embarrassment).  When I started walking home afterwards she was suddenly beside me.  It turned out we were going in the same direction.  When we got to the house she lived in, there was an awkward scene on the doorstep where I wondered if she expected me to kiss her or ask for her phone number or something.  Of course, it would have been an unlikely intermarriage: a Whovian and a Trekker.  She was almost certainly not Jewish either!  Even if I hadn’t been frum (religious), it would probably have been very silly to start anything at that stage, as was approaching exams with my mental health in a terrible state (I was only managing about an hour of work a day).  But I do sometimes wonder what on Earth happened/could have happened/was supposed to have happened there.

I find myself thinking sometimes about girls/women I knew in my teens and twenties who I could have asked out but didn’t and how my life might have gone differently if I had, particularly with girls I knew at school, before the depression was really affecting me.  I suppose one shouldn’t really think like that, but sometimes I wonder if I had a chance for happiness and lost it already and that my misery is my fault and, more than that, I will get punished (here or in Olam HaBa (the Next World)) for messing up.  I sometimes think God should make situations a bit easier to read, at least for the autistic among us.

Jam Tomorrow

I managed to get a few chores done and cooked dinner (just rice and vegetarian sausages with tinned sweetcorn.  Doesn’t really count as cooking).  Other than that, I haven’t achieved anything today, except to feel depressed, despairing, lonely, anxious, incompetent, angry and Aspie, as well as a bit headachey.

I feel so incredibly furious right now.  I mean, at the world in general and maybe at God, and maybe the Jewish community.  I want to scream and shout and rage at the way I have done, if not everything, then at least most things that I was told to do to be liked/happy/successful and none of it has worked.  It’s always, “Well done for trying, now do this” (if I get congratulated at all on what I’ve achieved).  There’s always something else I have to do.  I can never be happy or loved romantically, not even for a short time.  How do other people get to be happy and loved and, if not rich and successful, then to pay the bills?  I know everyone has issues, but I can’t help feeling that my issues have been going on longer, and are more painful and persistent, than most people’s.

The stupid thing is that I’m already calming down, because I know that life isn’t fair (not from our understanding of it, anyway; maybe from God’s point of view, in the Next World, but not here) and that no one promised me even a modicum of happiness and romantic love and really I can’t complain and, of course, deep down I know I’m mainly angry at myself for not being able to deal with my issues and for acting out and succumbing to negative coping strategies.

Back on the hamster’s wheel again tomorrow.  Round and round and round and never arriving.

I Want to Scream

Feeling thoroughly angry and despairing.  My holiday is shaping up to be the worst ever, although I may still get to see one or two Hevria people.  I’ve screwed up the travel insurance, which resulted in my father treating me like I’m a moron.  The two things I can’t stand are being ignored and being treated like an imbecile and I’ve had plenty of both so far with this stupid, pointless holiday.  Why did I ever think (a) that I was competent to do this and (b) that E. would stay with someone as screwed up as me long enough for the trip to be worthwhile?  I did seriously consider cancelling it, but I would have lost too much money and it would have felt cowardly.  I’m going to have to go abroad by myself one day, so I might as well get it over with.

There’s a lot of more general anger too, against HaShem (God) for making me suffer so much with my mental health issues and against the Jewish community, which takes care of its own, but doesn’t seem to consider me its own, in terms of helping me fit in to the community, find meals for Shabbat when I’m on holiday and, of course, find a spouse.

I worry that all this anger and hatred and unjustified self-pity (i.e. I’m not really justified in pitying myself so much, because really I can’t say I don’t deserve this) is going to coalesce and I’m going to turn into some kind of antisemitic (self-hating Jew), misogynistic anti-theist.  I don’t want that to happen, but I’m worried it might.

There’s a metaphor from the Midrash or the Talmud or something about a chamberlain who has the keys to the inner chamber of the royal treasury, but not to the outer door, so he can’t get to the riches inside.  I can’t remember what the original context is, but I feel a bit like that.  It’s no good frum (religious) people telling me that everything God does is for the best, that no suffering is unjust and that if I suffer now, I will be rewarded later, probably in the next world, because I feel I don’t have what I need right now to meet the immediate challenge (get through the out door/cope with my immediate feelings of anger, loneliness, despair, rebellion, hatred etc.) to get to the inner chamber (later reward).

Right now I feel like I just want to curl up on the bed and cry, but I have important stuff to do.  Watching Doctor Who just made me feel worse (The Girl Who Waited, a reasonably good episode, but too romantic and depressing for right now – the perils of watching stuff in order.  Next up is The God Complex, which probably also isn’t such a good idea right now for different reasons).