I desperately feel like I need a break after my last job for the sake of my mental health, but I’m not sure that I’m going to get one. I was woken up at 9.30am today (I wanted to lie in) by someone from an agency who wants to register me tomorrow so that I can apply for a short-term job. So I had volunteering yesterday, my therapy assessment today and now registering tomorrow. After that I’ll need to get to work on my presentation for the job interview on 5 December and if I don’t get that job, it’s back to job applications (realistically I’ll continue with the applications in case I don’t get the job). I just feel exhausted and burnt out; goodness knows how I’ll feel by the end of the year (hard to believe that’s about a month away now). Now I’m feeling sulky and miserable about the whole situation. I suppose it’s probably good to keep busy, as once I stop the depression takes over and it’s hard to start again, but I feel miserable about it.
I feel bad that I got so annoyed about yesterday’s Doctor Who. I told myself I wasn’t going to write long critical reviews any more, but it annoyed me. I probably also over-reacted to the line about “Love your neighbour” being from the New Testament (it’s not. It’s Tanakh/”Old Testament”). I know they weren’t being intentionally antisemitic, but it is a classic antisemitic line. I feel that identity politics and Twitter create a situation where everyone is shouting about being REALLY OFFENDED so you have to over-react to everything just to get heard and taken seriously. I wish I didn’t get caught up in it all though.
Tonight I’m off to the London School of Jewish Studies to hear Rabbi Rafi Zarum speak about Chanukah (from their website: “This timely lecture will look at the clash between Athens and Jerusalem as it plays out today in the assimilation of Jews into modern culture. Can traditional Jewish faith survive in the face of Western secularity?
What are the rules of engagement?”). He’s a very good speaker and the topic is interesting, if potentially somewhat triggering for me, so it should be good, and I’m looking forward to hearing a more Modern Orthodox speaker after spending so much time lately in the more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about Modern Orthodox vs. Charedi without really explaining the difference. It may surprise you to know that there aren’t really any major differences in belief or practice between the communities. The Charedi world accepts extra stringencies and is more literalist in its approach to sacred texts, but the essence of the commandments and beliefs are the same, unlike the differences between the Orthodox and Progressive communities. And, in a sense, the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds aren’t really different communities. It’s more a spectrum with very Modern at one end and very religiously conservative at the other and most people on a point somewhere in between with a fair bit of mingling between people who are somewhat more or less modern. The difference is about approaches to modernity and it plays out in a number of ways. For instance, attitudes to secular education, attitudes to Torah/science conflicts, attitudes to mainstream culture, attitudes to Israel and Zionism, gender roles, and so on. Someone may be quite modern in some areas and more conservative in others, but usually are at a similar place on most or all areas.
However, in this country at least (I think things are different in the USA and Israel) more modern communities tend to have a membership comprised largely of people who are ‘traditional’ but not fully observant of the mitzvot (commandments) and who don’t take prayer and Torah study particularly seriously. There is a lot of talking in the services, difficulty getting a minyan (prayer quorum) during the week, poor attendance at educational events and so on. So, if one is (like me) quite Modern philosophically, but also very serious about Judaism, it can be hard to find a community that fits. The choice is between a community that fits ideologically, but doesn’t offer the kind of vibrant Jewish life one wants or between a more active community that doesn’t fit philosophically. It’s a difficult choice. In my case the choice was made easier by the fact that the nearest Modern Orthodox shul (synagogue) was just too big and unfriendly for me and also by the fact that it’s my parents’ shul and I had no independent identity there, I was just my father’s son.
For me another problem is finding a wife at a similar place on the religious spectrum. If I go to a professional shadchan (matchmaker) I suspect (perhaps wrongly) that I will be matched with people on the more Charedi end of the spectrum and certainly if people from my shul try to match me up that is where they will be coming from. That’s not necessarily a problem if she doesn’t have a problem with my own outlook; however, I feel she might well have such a problem.
Sigh. I’m OK when I’m thinking or writing about Judaism or Doctor Who or history, but then I stop and think about the Real World again and reality seeps back in. I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment: a long period of unemployment or another job I can’t do well. I wish I could get some sense of what is different about me and why, and what I could do to function better in the world. I don’t even know where to look. I’ve just typed up a ‘to do’ list, which makes me feel a little better. At any rate, a printed list will look better than scraps of paper, and saves me continually copying things from one day to the next in my diary when, inevitably, I only get a couple of things done every day before being overwhelmed with depression (or procrastination). There are sixteen things on the list (albeit that one is “Peanuts exhibition” because I’m worried if I don’t write it somewhere I’ll forget until it’s over. But fifteen unpleasant tasks). The list ranges from the minor (polish my shoes) to the major (open a new bank account that my Dad thinks would be good for me; do serious clothes shopping as many of my clothes have worn out or no longer fit because of all the weight I’ve put on with clomipramine – I hate clothes shopping). Then there are the small, but tricky tasks, like writing for the umpteenth time for the £70 refund of money I’m owed by my shul, this time threatening to stop paying my fees unless they at least tell me why they won’t even respond to my emails (the treasurer is the wife of an old friend of my father and I know they have had a number of major life-cycle events, good and bad, in recent months, so I would be understanding if she’s busy, but she should at least respond to my emails to say she is aware of the situation). And, of course, there’s job applications that I should be working on daily.
And then it goes from feeling I can’t cope to feeling that I’m a terrible person and that I want to die. It’s quite frightening how fast it can change and with no obvious reason.
I just had an hour long telephone assessment for CBT on the NHS. I feel very drained. Assessments are draining anyway, and I find speaking on the phone even harder than in person. I had a lot of thoughts about whether I was describing my symptoms accurately and comprehensibly, whether I’ve been on therapy too much to qualify for more NHS therapy, whether the fact that CBT didn’t help in the past for my depression means that they will assume it won’t work now for my self-esteem, whether I’m wrong to feel that helping my self-esteem will have a knock-on effect on my depression rather than the other way around… I had to talk about the behaviour I am not proud of and why it makes me hate myself, which is difficult to talk about to someone I don’t know, over the phone. I was also asked a lot of questions about suicide and self-harm that were hard to answer. I think about death and suicide a lot, but it’s hard to put a figure on what I think the probability is of my trying to kill myself. How does one even put a number on that? Pressed to give a probability out of ten, I said three, which seemed small, but the psychiatrist seemed incredulous or just worried that I was saying there was a 30% chance I would try to kill myself and put that way it did seem large and worrying. I honestly don’t know what the correct answer is as there are so many factors involved.
Apparently I should find out whether I’m on the waiting list for CBT either later today or next Monday (I assume the psychiatrist only works on Mondays), but the waiting list itself is three to five months at the moment.
I feel I need to stop to relax for a bit before I go out to my shiur later, so I’m not going to try to do anything else today except finish off the laundry I started earlier. I feel somewhat tearful and depressed. Also alone; I’m glad my parents are home this evening, as I doubt I will talk to anyone at the shiur later.