(I’m experimenting with a timed post here. I’m writing it on Sunday night, but it should post while I’m at work on Monday morning, so I’ve written it as if it were written on Monday. So “yesterday” is Sunday not Saturday.)
I submitted a job application for a cataloguing yesterday. I feel pessimistic about it, but I keep changing how I feel pessimistic. Sometimes I feel my application will be rejected; other times I feel I’ll get the job, but won’t be able to do it. I have completely lost whatever confidence in my professional abilities that I might once have had.
I spoke to my rabbi mentor yesterday. I think I sounded more upbeat than I feel. He said a lot of frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people feel far from God, struggle get in the right mood for Yom Tov (sombre for Yom Kippur, joyous for Simchat Torah) and that lots of people feel they don’t fit in to the community. But I feel a bit as if I hadn’t expressed myself well or helped him engage with what I was trying to say. I know it’s hard for everyone to engage with Yom Tov (a while back I posted here a quote from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, one of the greatest rabbinic thinkers and Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, where he said that even he sometimes feels “cold” on Rosh Hashanah morning and has to get himself in the right frame of mind), but I feel that it’s harder for me, although I can’t quantify that or prove it. I feel that I don’t fit in to the community at all, as shown by my difficulties making friends and talking to people. I feel that I am having a kind of crisis of faith, as although I believe in God strongly and although I can accept intellectually that one day I might find meaning and purpose in my life/struggles (the two seem largely the same to me and have for decades), I can’t feel that at all emotionally. What I feel emotionally oscillates between a cool disengagement and lack of desire to daven (pray) or study Torah, and a raging anger at God for letting my life be like this (depressed, anxious, lonely) for so long. Then I feel guilty that I feel like this, not because it’s sacrilegious, but because other people have it so much worse and I should feel angry for them.
Speaking of not fitting in to communities, yesterday evening I was feeling fine, packing for work, when suddenly I got hit by intense despair and perhaps some anxiety. This time at least I could work out the chain of thoughts that led to it. It went: looking at Doctor Who stuff online –> thinking I should try again to be more involved in fandom as it would be fun and good to do something social that isn’t shul- or mental health/autism-related –> a lot of Doctor Who fans are very left-wing and into identity politics –> they’ll hate me because currently left-wing people in the UK are insisting that Jews make up antisemitism for political reasons –> vertiginous despair and loneliness, maybe some anxiety. I’m not sure how I can cope when even positive thoughts (Doctor Who was really good tonight) can be so triggering.
In attempting to get an appointment with a psychiatrist on the NHS, I was told I could also apply to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) for help. I’m not quite sure what they can offer me, but I feel I might as well try. I summarised my condition on the online application form:
I suffer from treatment-resistant depression. I have consistently low mood and despair as well as occasional suicidal thoughts. Very occasionally I self-harm. This has continued despite medication and talking therapies for fifteen to twenty years. Although I am able to work four days a week, I find work exhausting and struggle to get through the days. I often spontaneously start crying at work for no obvious reason and I struggle to work through intense depression, despair and anxiety. I lack energy and motivation most of the time and on days when I don’t work, I sleep up to twelve hours a day.
I also have social anxiety which may stem from high functioning autism and/or complex trauma. I find it difficult to know how to initiate and continue conversations and to read unspoken social cues. I struggle to make friends and to cope with social situations and avoid social situations as much as possible.
I also have extremely low self-esteem and struggle with negative, critical thoughts about myself as well as intense guilt and shame.
It seems somehow bland and clinical to see it written down like that. Do I think it sounds whiny and pathetic or is that just the critical inner voice again? I probably should have put more about my history with medication and therapy (that was supposed to go in a different box, but the drop-down menu wasn’t working properly), although my experience with these questionnaires is that no one reads them, least of all the person who actually assesses you for the service. And summarising fifteen or twenty years of personal history in 2000 characters is not easy, nor is opening up about your deepest thoughts to anonymous strangers (so not at all like blogging…). I shall have to wait and see what comes of it.