I didn’t speak to the lawyers as they didn’t phone after all. I was ill (headache, then complete exhaustion) and so I didn’t phone them, so I’ve still got that hanging over me. I guess the whole family has had this lawsuit hanging over us for two years or so now, like something out of Kafka, so maybe it’s not such a big change. As I was still exhausted when Shabbat (the Sabbath) started, I didn’t go to shul (synagogue).
I did have a positive evening. I spoke to my Dad about Brexit (my Dad is the only person I really feel comfortable talking about politics to). It was a bit of a mutual despair society meeting. Neither of us is hugely Europhile, for different reasons, but both of us think that staying in the EU was better than leaving, and that it’s no surprise that the EU is determined to punish Britain for wanting to leave, not least to deter countries like Greece and Italy for thinking that there’s an easy escape in the future. My Dad thinks that a stock market crash is due soon (although, to be honest, I can’t remember a time when he didn’t think that a stock market crash was due soon) and we’re both worried by the rise of the far right and the return of antisemitism. Politics depresses me, but sometimes it’s good to voice that depression.
Afterwards I did some Torah study and stayed in thought for a bit about politics, history and Jewish stuff. I think I’ve mentioned before that, unlike many autistic people, I don’t monologue aloud to other people about my special interests because I had too many bad experiences doing that as a child, but I do do it in my head. Sometimes it can get coloured by my mental health and become despairing, anxious and/or obsessive, particularly if I’ve read or heard something attacking something that matters a lot to me (e.g. Judaism, Israel, Doctor Who) and I need to ‘prove’ it’s wrong to myself, but on Friday I wasn’t doing that, I was just thinking. Suddenly I realised I was feeling a bit happy for the first time in several months.
I spent a long time doing my hitbodedut spontaneous prayer. I was thinking a lot about the passage repeated several times in the Talmud, that it doesn’t matter whether you do a lot or a little as long as you direct your heart to Heaven. This was originally said in regard to sacrifices, but was later applied to Torah study and prayer. I find it hard to hold on to this. I know I don’t do enough (quantitatively or qualitatively) Torah study, prayer and good deeds, but maybe I’m not expected to do more given how depressed I am. It is hard to tell and I wish there was some kind of objective measure whereby I could tell if I’m doing enough. Ten minutes of Torah study most days doesn’t seem enough, even though I do try to get to a two shiurim (classes – see below) each week, but maybe I really can’t do more right now. Likewise with davening (prayer), hurriedly racing through Mincha, Ma’ariv and sometimes a bit of Shacharit (afternoon, evening and morning prayers) with little kavannah (mindfulness) and without a minyan (congregation) is far from ideal, but maybe it’s all I can do. I don’t know.
I stayed up late because of this, especially as, while not on a high exactly, I did feel somewhat alert and awake afterwards. I couldn’t really read and was just thinking about things.
I had some other thoughts which I won’t go into here that made me feel better, but today I reflected negatively on some of what happened last night. I overslept this morning and was drained and depressed again, spending ages lying in bed or sitting down, not doing anything except trying to find energy. I felt that some of my thoughts from last night were potentially heretical or even idolatrous, but it is hard to know where I went wrong. I ate my meals hurriedly (Mum and Dad were out for lunch, hence my being able to sleep in late without being woken for lunch) and dashed to shul for shiur and Ma’ariv, having initially felt that I would miss both. I’m glad I went, as I would have beaten myself up if I had missed them.
I just finished another job application after Shabbat and am still pessimistic about my future. I know it’s not clear whether I really am on the autistic spectrum, but I do have a lot of symptoms and certainly people with these symptoms do indeed struggle to hold down jobs and to build relationships and often end up permanently dependent on their families or the state, which does not encourage me. I’m not sure what I can do, practically. Without a diagnosis of autism, I’m limited in the help and “reasonable adjustments” that I can apply for in that area (although I’m not sure that there is a huge amount of help available for those diagnosed), but it’s quite clear that the NHS has no interest in paying for another assessment (to be fair, they’ve already paid for two) and a private one would be hugely expensive, especially as I’m not confident that I would get a clear diagnosis. I think I have to learn to accept that I exist in a grey area where the autistic blurs into the neurotypical, and that I simply can’t receive any help.
To be honest, if I could deal with my depression and social anxiety and find the right job (and an understanding girlfriend/wife), the autism would be less of an issue. But I do wonder if my boss in my previous job was right that I’m not cut out for contemporary librarianship, just as my current job has made clear that I’m not cut out for working in a noisy, contemporary office. Both jobs have made clear, though, that I simply can’t work effectively while I’m so depressed, but as I am not considered sick enough to receive benefits, I’m not sure what my options are. To be honest, I don’t want to live off the state (or my parents); I want to be doing something productive IF I can find something I can do competently without feeling in a terrible depressed-anxious-autistic state the whole time.
Thinking today about my religious thoughts from yesterday, I realised once again that I am desperate for love and intimacy. In different ways, that desire drives my engagement with potential partners, friends, my religious community, HaShem (God) and even my thoughts about having pets. I’m not sure if one can really be intimate with a pet exactly, even a dog, but maybe I’m wrong, having never had pets other than goldfish, which are not really very responsive and certainly they would be a receptacle for my love, even if they can’t truly love me back. The funny thing is, though, that when I try to conceive of the afterlife, it is of being alone, either being alone feeling shame reflecting on the negative aspects of my life (Gehennom (purgatory)) or close to HaShem but no one else (Heaven). It doesn’t occur to me that I would be with other people in Heaven, even though the Talmud does seem to suggest this, although Jewish afterlife beliefs are intentionally vague compared with most religions. Presumably, like Jean-Paul Sartre, I think that Hell is other people. But this fits ill with my desire for love and intimacy.
I finished re-reading The Empty Chair: Finding Hope and Joy: Timeless Wisdom from a Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The penultimate quote is one of my favourites: “If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix. If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal.” It can be hard to believe that sometimes.