I shouldn’t really be writing this when I need to go to bed to be up so early tomorrow, but I need to stop the racing thoughts in my head. I’m not translating all the Hebrew words because I’m in a hurry. Google is your friend.
Sukkot is Zman Simchatenu, the Time of our Joy, but I’ve been up and down the last few days. Sometimes I’ve been OK, but at other times I’ve slipped back into depression and occasionally into OCD (about the sukkah). The depression hit me particularly badly in the shiur between Mincha and Ma’ariv tonight. It was a highly technical halakhic shiur about arbah minim and I could not follow it at all, but judging by the apparently relevant and incisive questions, some at least of the other men in shul could follow it. I felt such an idiot. I don’t know why I’ve never been able to ‘get’ Talmudic/halakhic analysis when so many men who, to be frank, as not my intellectual equals generally do get it. I’ve decided to try to make time to study Nakh (the post-Mosaic books of the Hebrew Bible) again (in Hebrew), but it’s hard to make time for it or to get in the right headspace when I’m depressed. But Tanakh appeals to me a lot more than Talmud and halakhah, even if I suspect I’m just reading it for literary reasons and the challenge of understanding the Hebrew as much as for religious reasons.
I know/know of a lot of Jews who have stopped being religious because of mental illness. Likewise a number of Jews who left because they couldn’t get married or fit into the community (this is particularly true of ba’alei teshuva (people who became religious late in life) and converts). I feel that logically I should stop being religious, but by some strange fluke I happen to believe and so feel stuck in a religion that I believe is true, but which doesn’t actually bring me any joy or peace and with a God who I still find it hard to believe actually loves me, given all I’ve done, and given the way He treats me. This feeling is only going to increase as we head towards Simchat Torah next week, which is unbearable for anyone with depression or social anxiety, particularly if they don’t have young children or grandchildren (or great-grandchildren, kayn eiyn hara).
I’m trying not to go on about the fact that I’m never going to get married, as I realised (from the C-PTSD book) that it’s just another form of self-criticism, but trying not to mention it doesn’t actually mean that I don’t believe it. I really can’t see how I could even meet someone in the frum world where men and women only meet if they are set up on dates together and I don’t have a critical mass of acquaintances who know me well enough to set me up with women. Plus I hide my true self (mentally ill, geeky, open to non-Orthodox ideas) from everyone to avoid rejection, so they wouldn’t set me up with the right women anyway. It doesn’t help that I currently exist in a grey area between the Modern Orthodox and Haredi/Yeshivish worlds. I wish there was more of a vibrant Modern Orthodoxy in this country, but there isn’t. That being the case, I don’t know how to meet someone. I’d like to go to a course at the London School of Jewish Studies next month, which is about the most vibrant Modern Orthodox institution in the UK (not to meet someone, just because the course looked interesting and possibly helpful to my mental health), but I’m not sure if I can manage staying out late with getting up early for work.
(Did you notice that I managed to make the paragraph about not complaining about never getting married into a complaint about never getting married?)
It’s very clear to me now that I’m avoiding shul in the mornings because of social anxiety. What is less clear is why I can get to shul on Shabbat and Yom Tov afternoons when I can’t make it in the mornings. Is just because I’m already awake and up rather than having to go from sleep to dressing to being in shul in half an hour? I’m not sure. Why can I get up for work, but not shul, even though shul is hours later? And what is at the root of the anxiety? Is it just fear of rejection and not belonging in my community? Again, I’m not sure.
In non-Jewish news, I’ve had a backache for about a week, which may be my depressive/low self-esteem slumping bad posture catching up with me as my Dad always said it would. Plus I can’t hear properly and yesterday I felt really dizzy in the evening, which may be the sign of an ear infection. There’s been a huge problem with my antidepressants too and I’m worried about whether I’m going to be able to get a repeat prescription tomorrow (long story). So, I’m generally feeling not at my best at the moment and uncertain of how to move forward.