I feel utterly wiped out. I felt so weak on waking that I nearly had two breakfasts, but on reflection I decided that I was probably drained from the activity of the last few days rather than having low blood sugar, so I only had one bowl of cereal, not two.
My thoughts go round in circles. If it’s not how awful (and increasingly antisemitic) the world is, it’s how awful my life is. I know I’ve said this before, many times, but I feel like I missed the boat. My childhood and adolescence, far from being “the best days of my life” were problematic. I think at the time I would have said I was fine, but in retrospect I can see the signs of loneliness, depression and possible autism. However, it’s hard to be sure my memories aren’t being coloured by how things are now. Certainly by my late teens I was clinically depressed and have been almost constantly ever since.
Now people ten years younger than me are moving on with careers, marrying, having children and I feel left behind (since typing that sentence another mazal tov (congratulations) on an engagement at my shul (synagogue) has come through on the shul’s WhatsApp group). I was miserable throughout my twenties and early thirties, sometimes suicidally so, and it’s easy to think things can never get better. I’m trying to move my mindset from ‘wanting a career-marriage-children’ to ‘accepting who I am,’ but it’s hard when, in different ways, both the frum (religious Jewish) world and the secular Western world have such expectations. In both communities ‘being happy with your lot’ tends to take, at best, second place to ‘fitting in, running the rat race, doing what everyone else is doing.’
‘Being happy with my lot’ would, I think, be the right thing to do, but it’s difficult when there doesn’t seem to be much good in my life right now. I have my physical health, but my mental health is so terrible that it seems impossible to think of myself as a healthy person overall. I have some friends, but most of them live far away and I can’t see them, and socialising even with people I like is a struggle from depression, social anxiety and borderline autism. I’m lucky that I don’t have imminent financial issues because my parents are supporting me, but that just makes me feel like a sponge when my younger sister has long since flown the nest. I don’t know what to think, really. I worry that thinking about getting pets is just another thing that would seem good until I actually get it and then it will seem bad, which is one of the things holding me back from it. (Happiness is a warm guinea pig?)
I reflected today that one of the themes of Bereshit (Genesis), which is the Torah reading at this time of year, is sibling envy and wanting to be someone you’re not, and the problems that result from that. But I don’t know what to make of it, except that I should try to be happy being myself, which is hard. I do think – and I realise how unpopular this will be in today’s climate – that on the whole people are better off accepting who they are rather than trying to be someone they aren’t. Trying to be someone you aren’t is difficult, often impossible and never satisfying. At any rate, that’s my experience. I don’t think people should be stopped from doing things, but I think on the whole it’s better to embrace who you are rather than trying to be someone you’re not. But I’m struggling to do that because I dislike myself so much, even though I know I have never really managed to be anyone else and haven’t enjoyed trying.
I just feel so tired. It’s hard to do anything.
The emeritus life president of my previous shul (synagogue), the one from before we moved to this area three years ago, died. He was ninety-eight or ninety-nine. He was sprightly when I last saw him (probably about four years ago), but had lost most of his long-term memory after a fall some months earlier. I felt torn, as I should go to the funeral, as I did know him, but I also needed to apply for jobs and I didn’t have the time or energy to do both. In the end I decided to stay at home, both to apply for jobs and because doing another social thing this weekend would not good for me. It’s a struggle to get through work even when I am rested, let alone after a lot of social activity.
Staying home and working on job applications is depressing, as I can’t see myself being able to do any of the jobs I’m applying for and it’s a struggle to force my CV and cover letter templates to fit these jobs. I’m very bad at the type of ‘creative’ thinking needed to modify CVs and cover letters to fit job specifications. I find it hard enough to admit I can do anything, let alone present myself positively. In the end I applied for three jobs, but none of them look like a good fit and I can’t really see myself even being called for interview at many of them. I found myself holding back the tears again in frustration and despair, something that usually only happens at work or while commuting, not at home. I found myself writing that I had “honed my strong interpersonal skills”, before deciding that, even on a job application, I didn’t have the chutzpah to say that I have “strong” interpersonal skills and took the adjective out.
Growing up, my self-esteem was largely based on being clever and doing well academically. Then I went to Oxford and found that I wasn’t actually that clever; there were thousands of people as clever than me and more so, and most of them had more vibrant and enjoyable social/romantic lives and better social skills. I’ve got to a stage in my life where ‘achievement’ is less about academic knowledge and more about experience, continual professional development and soft skills that are often linked to social skills and/or neurotypical or mentally healthy outlooks: people skills, leadership, flexibility, decisiveness, self-motivation… And even if you say that career isn’t anything (but bear in mind that I have never had a job that allowed me to support myself without the financial support of my parents), I still fail at friendships, relationships, family, community…
It’s hard to know what I can fix my self-esteem on that won’t leave me feeling like a total failure. I don’t think that I succeed at anything at the moment, not even that nebulous thing, ‘being a good person.’ I know it’s a trap to say, “If I get this job/relationship/child/purchase I will be happy and think I’m a good person,” but I don’t know how to find healthy self-esteem when I feel so useless and incompetent. As I’ve said before, I don’t feel myself to be the answer to anyone’s question, whether in terms of job, friendships or relationships.