Well, that was a difficult forty-eight hours.

It started on Thursday night, when I was trying to do my hitbodedut prayer/meditation, but couldn’t think of anything to say and slid into bed fully dressed and fell asleep at about 11pm.  I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking.  I think I was hoping to doze for an hour or two and then get up and get ready for bed properly, but I slept until 6am, changed into my pyjamas, slept for another five hours and then had to race to get to my blood test on time.  I had my blood test (and shook again – the phlebotomists think I have a fear of needles, but it’s actually social anxiety, and fear of shaking from social anxiety, that triggers it).  I helped my Dad with some shopping and came home with a headache that felt like it was going to turn into a migraine.  Painkillers helped, but I felt completely exhausted (as I do after a full-blown migraine) and increasingly light-headed, so I skipped shul (synagogue) in the evening.  That may have been a mistake, because it’s going to be harder to go back next week, especially as I was already nervous about what some people might say to me.

After that we had friends of my parents over for dinner.  They’re nice people and I feel more comfortable with them than I do with most of my parents’ friends, but I was feeling out of it and autistic.  I didn’t make much eye contact or contribute much to the conversation.  My parents felt too noisy and the conversation was just small talk, which I don’t like and struggle to make.  (I feel sorry for neurotypicals, condemned by genetics to have boring conversations.)

After dinner I went upstairs.  I tried to do my hitbodedut again.  I spent an hour thinking depressive thoughts and crying a lot.  I guess it was at least authentic, and I felt more connection than I have in prayer for a long time.  I stayed up really late (until about 1.30am) thinking about things, which was also a mistake.

I was thinking about emailing (after Shabbat) the person who does the Q & A for Teens advice column on Aish.com.  I’ve thought this on and off for years.  At first I thought I just want someone to tell me I’m a good person (I fantasise about one of my heroes from Jewish history appearing to me in a dream or something and telling me I’m a good Jew) and as my rabbinic mentor won’t, and I think my parents and friends are biased, I need to find someone else.  Then I realised I really want someone to tell me that I’m a terrible person.  I suspect I genuinely want someone to reinforce my belief that I’m a lousy person and a terrible Jew and that I have no chance of good things ever happening to me.  I don’t know why I need someone else to tell me this when I’m doing such a good job of telling myself.

I did at least realise that a lot of my problems are really the same thing.  I knew they were interconnected, but now I realise they are all actually facets of the same thing: my worries about not having a career, about no one wanting to marry me, about God being angry with me, are all different aspects of the toxic shame and guilt I feel from my childhood and from my continuing behaviour (not having a career, not being married, acting out).  I guess on the plus side that means if I can deal with that, maybe I can sort my whole life out.  On the other hand, the fact that I haven’t sorted it out in thirty years indicates that it won’t be easy (on which note, the therapy clinic that was supposed to phone me on Friday didn’t.  I also wanted to chase my psychiatric referral on Friday, but felt too ill).

On Friday night I found the following quote in the book Sparks from Berditchov by Yaakov Klein: “The Berditchover [Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev] writes elsewhere: ‘If a person gives up on himself and thinks that Hashem [God] has no pleasure from his service, although he may think himself to be quite humble, this is not called humility at all; on the contrary, it leans a bit towards heresy.’”  This was something else I pondered a lot.  I really, genuinely, 100% (OK, maybe 80%) believe that HaShem has no interest in my Torah and mitzvot because they are so insignificant and meaningless in comparison with other people’s and because I do so many big aveirot (sins), particularly acting out when the depression and social anxiety are bad, that I’m a hypocrite even trying to be frum (religious).  So now I feel I shouldn’t think that, but I can’t in good conscience think of HaShem wanting my mitzvot.  So I don’t know what to do.

(Also, why does it lean towards “heresy” and not, say, lying?  Perhaps the idea is related to the fact that people have a divine soul, so saying that God has no connection with you is like saying that you have no soul or that God hates Himself.)

Today was bad.  Really bad.  I woke up late, unsurprisingly.  I was trying to talk to Mum while I was eating breakfast, but somehow it all went wrong.  I don’t talk much about my parents and my childhood here, although there’s a lot I’d like to say, but I’m scared because this blog is not really 100% anonymous and I worry about honouring parents and not gossiping.  I try not to blame my parents for my condition, but I’m aware that my depression, social anxiety and low self-esteem are largely rooted in my childhood family dynamic and while things are better than they were, problems resurface periodically.  So, today my Mum said I was being aggressive, when it was not my intention.  Since childhood, my parents and my sister have accused me of being angry or aggressive in intonation and in how I look at them when it was never my intention and I increasingly suspect that it is my autism and depression that is responsible.  I think that’s what happened here.  I tried to write it off as one of those things, but over lunch I got into an argument with Mum again.  I was partly responsible this time, but only partly.  It’s very hard.  She has her own emotional/psychological issues, but she’s not really trying to deal with them, so I’m left carrying them as well as my own.

I fell asleep after lunch.  When I awoke I had missed the beginning of my Talmud shiur (class).  I felt too depressed and withdrawn to go to shul (synagogue) for Mincha (the afternoon service).  I tried not to beat myself up about that, but I probably will.  I tried to study some Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), but it was hard work and not particularly inspiring (Hoshea).  I should do some chores now Shabbat is over, but I don’t really have much of a desire to do so.  Tomorrow I need to have a haircut, which is my absolute least favourite not-genuinely-bad thing.  I worry about shaking again, which in itself can be enough to trigger it, but even before I had an issue with shaking, I’ve had autistic issues with that kind of close contact with strangers, particularly as I’m feeling very sensitive about touch at the moment (I jumped when my Dad put his hand on my shoulder the other day).

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4 thoughts on “Difficult Days

  1. When you say “acting out,” what do you mean? I always thought of acting out as something we say about a child who is throwing a tantrum. Maybe this is a difference between British English (you live in GB, right?) and American English.

    Having the autistic symptoms of shaking during your haircut and not wanting physical contact really sound like hell. If you don’t mind and it doesn’t drain you of energy, can you explain what it feels like when someone touches you? What about it feels horrible?

    You’re a good guy, Luftmensch. You’re doing your best despite your challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was using “acting out” in the psychological sense of performing an action rather than repressing the desire to perform it. I do live in Britain, but I don’t think this is a language divide, more that I’m probably not using the term the way most people would, but in a more technical psychological sense.

      [Redacted because I lost my nerve]

      I guess I use it because I struggle for a term that adequately says what I want it to say. I know I’ve spent the last few weeks walking around this issue o the blog without having the courage to say it directly, but also not being able to just drop it.
      As for not liking physical contact, that’s quite hard to explain. I’ve never really felt comfortable with it. It’s hard to tell if it’s a symptom of autism or something that came out of childhood experiences (I didn’t get hugged much as a child). It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it feels invasive, like someone is invading my personal space and I tend to flinch or jump if someone does it unexpectedly. It’s fairly impulsive; I don’t consciously want to react like that. Obviously at the barber it’s not unexpected, but I still don’t like it. Plus I find barbers can be a bit brutal and push my head back and forth to get to the right angle rather than asking me to move it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m still confused. When your rabbi admonishes you for acting out, what does that mean?

        I wonder if there’s some kind of desensitization therapy that would help with the dislike of physical contact. I guess there’s not a need to change it unless it becomes a problem, like with marriage someday.

        Like

        1. He was saying that behaviour is wrong; he didn’t know that I do it.

          I’m better than I was with physical contact. I let my parents hug me and sometimes I ask for hugs, which I didn’t do when I was younger. I don’t know what would happen if I got married, but that seems increasingly unlikely anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

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