Work is still hard. It’s very depleting. I don’t know if it’s the noisy, open plan nature of the office (worse today with a demo of striking Uber drivers outside – their UK headquarters is apparently in the next office block), the fact that I push myself without taking breaks as I would like and probably need, or the boring and repetitive nature of the task, but I struggle with exhaustion the whole time and on through the evening. I take frequent drink breaks and toilet breaks (the toilet is at least quiet and sometimes I stay there a minute or two longer than I strictly need), but I still get badly depleted by the end of the day.
I went to bed later than I wanted to last night, but I was feeling really tense and felt I had to watch some Doctor Who to relax or I would not sleep. I still had an anxiety dream, partly about religious OCD-type stuff, partly about the woman I dated two summers ago. We broke up on good terms (she tried to set me up with someone else a few months later), but she couldn’t cope with my social anxiety (although that was not the only reason we weren’t suited) and the dream made me somewhat anxious and ruminative about dating, especially as there were other anxiety-provoking elements (the OCD imagery and thinking someone was about to attack me in the dream). I woke up early, but a bit tense and unable to get back to sleep, although it was almost time to wake up anyway.
The dream was probably in part because my Dad wants to talk to a Modern Orthodox rabbi he knows about getting me set up on dates with Modern Orthodox women (a better bet than the more Haredi/ultra-Orthodox women I suspect I would be set up with if I followed the advice of people from my shul), but I’m not sure I can see the point right now. It seems logical to wait until I’ve had a psychiatric review and some CBT for my low self-esteem and social anxiety. Part of me can’t see the point of dating at all, because I always end up alone and miserable. The OCD elements in the dream, which I don’t really remember in detail now, were probably because I’m struggling with my religious OCD in eating at work. I’ve mostly kept it under control, but I can see how easily I could spiral back down. The negative side-effect is that I’m the only person on the team who never offers to make tea or coffee for the other team members; I feel bad about it, but I would never cope with handling the non-kosher mugs. I can’t explain this to them, though.
Part of the reason for the depletion at work is the autism and social anxiety. So much of the time I feel like a small child trapped in a world he doesn’t understand and can’t cope with. I feel that my autism has gone undiagnosed because I have learnt coping strategies and workarounds that make me look neurotypical to outsiders, but deep down I struggle to learn and remember what truly neurotypical people intuit automatically. I feel I have a vast algorithm in my head about how to interact with other people that I have to consult for almost every interpersonal interaction. Doubtless it started as a simple flow diagram when I was a baby (“Is someone cooing over me? –> Yes –> smile at them”), but with every new situation I find myself in, new branches of questions and answers have been welded on until it takes far too long to navigate a way through it and find quick answers, leaving me unsure what to say or do far too much. I feel it was only through being in safe, familiar environments (school, academia or at home depressed) that I survived up until now; now in a work environment, I am just not coping. It was the same in my previous job, so it’s not just this job that is the issue.
I’ve been struggling to do my hitbodedut for some time now. Hitbodedut is considered a form of Jewish meditation, although it’s more like prayer: talking to God spontaneously in the vernacular (not set prayers in Hebrew). On Friday nights (Shabbat), perhaps when I’m more relaxed, I sometimes get overwhelmed with thoughts and just lie on my bed crying. On other nights I just can’t think of anything to say at all. I just sit there and my mind wanders to other things. Sometimes I can’t face it at all and just skip it, despite feeling it really helped with the depression in earlier years. Sometimes I feel angry with God, which is OK in Judaism, but I can’t express it and feel guilty despite knowing it’s OK. To be honest, all prayer and Torah study is hard, bordering on impossible at the moment, but hitbodedut is hardest, whether because it’s not obligatory or because it brings me face to face with my deepest thoughts and fears.
I’m re-reading Philip K. Dick’s VALIS books (Radio Free Albemuth, VALIS, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). It probably wasn’t a sensible idea. In 1974 Dick, who was probably pretty unstable already (he thought God had given him the answers to a high school exam and by this stage had drug issues) had what was probably a psychotic episode, but which he interpreted as communication from a gnostic saviour deity. Except when he thought it was a message from aliens. Or that he was inadvertently eavesdropping on a Soviet experiment in telepathy. One of them, anyway, if not all three. He spent the rest of his life trying to work through and understand what happened to him, both in his “non-fictional” Exegesis and in his final novels.
The novels are related more by theme than by plot. I’m currently re-reading Valis, which in many ways is the craziest of all of them (Dick is two characters/narrators in the novel, the sane Philip Dick and the unstable Horselover Fat (Horselover = Philip in Greek, Fat = Dick in German). There’s an amazing evocation of what it feels like to realise that you are losing your sanity and how the twisted ‘logic’ of mental illness works which is both moving and funny and perhaps helps me to understand myself, but to get there you have to read through pages of insane theology about occluded gods and saviours and living knowledge and the Black Iron Prison. Reading it, I wonder if this is how I sound to my blog readers. I don’t mean about my religious beliefs, but my self-perception and what I write about my mental health issues and experiences. When I say, completely honestly, that I think that I will never get married, that I feel that I am very wicked and that God hates me and that, no matter how much good I do and how much evil I avoid, I won’t have any Olam HaBa (Heaven) and how this world feels more like Gehennom (Hell/Purgatory) than Olam HaZeh (the physical world), when I say all that, do people just switch off or even laugh, as people might at Dick/Fat’s Exegesis? It’s a scary thought. I know my parents just switch off when I say I’m never going to find someone to love me, because they don’t think it’s true, and someone whose blog I read told me not to predict what God is going to do by assuming I will be single forever. It’s frustrating when what seems obviously true to me is unintelligible to everyone else and as a result they see me as funny or stupid when I really feel despairing and lonely and in need of empathy.
The other thought I have is to wonder whether this blog is my Exegesis. I certainly invest a lot of time in it the way Dick invested a lot of time in his Exegesis. I haven’t read the actual Exegesis, only the extracts in VALIS, and I don’t really want to read it for several reasons, but the published version is nearly a thousand pages and apparently that only represents about a tenth of what Dick wrote. I don’t know how many pages I’ve blogged over the years, at the four blogs I have, at different times, had (not all were mental health blogs, though). But it must be a significant amount, given that most of my posts are a thousand words or more. It’s a horrible image, in a way, writing and writing and writing from early in the morning until late into the night (on days when I’m not at work, I often start a blog post in the morning and add to it throughout the day before posting in the evening; this post was started just before 6.00am, but that was the result of unusual circumstances (waking up from a disturbing dream)). So much cogitation, so little concrete growth or recovery to show for it! I suppose I do understand myself a lot better than I did twelve years ago, when I started blogging, but I don’t know how much of that is from blogging and how much from therapy (and growing up). It’s a disturbing thought, anyway.