Tonight seems to be the quiet before the storm. I’m going to try to see my sister’s mid-renovation house tomorrow, even though I’m not entirely happy about it and even though I feel a little grumpy that my parents say I have to “show an interest” in my sister by going to see her house, even though it’s not finished, despite the fact that they still haven’t read the little leaflet I gave them about autism, which to me seems a bigger thing. I asked my parents if they had read the leaflet, and where it was (as it wasn’t where I left it in the lounge, placed there so they would see it on Shabbat (the Sabbath) when they have time to read without distractions) and was told that they haven’t read it and that it is somewhere on my Mum’s desk, which is a bit like saying that the boat vanished somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, as stuff on Mum’s desk just disappears in the mess.
Then later in the week, on Monday and Wednesday, I have the first two sessions of my “Action for Wellbeing” class on coping with depression and on Tuesday and Thursday I’m starting my new job. Also, on Monday evening I have a phone appointment with my GP about my autism referral and I’m rather nervous about what he will say and whether he will agree to refer me for an assessment. So, I’m very nervous about all of these things.
Anyway, my parents are at the theatre tonight, so I’m home alone and free to do what I want really for the last time this week.
I had an anxiety dream about work last night, dreaming I was working in a library and feeling that I was enjoying it for once and getting on well with my colleagues, but my contract still didn’t get renewed. Mixed in with this was more surreal stuff, like spiders laying giant eggs, an episode from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy about Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia (one of my favourite novels, but an odd thing to turn up in a dream about work) and some kind of student art exhibition. No idea what the rest of that signifies, but the work fears are pretty obvious.
I spent Shabbat feeling quite angry, partly with my parents (who didn’t take the hint that I wanted them to read the autism leaflet), partly with the Jewish community, particularly the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world I seem to have somehow found myself in despite not considering myself fully a member of it. For the record, I think both the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds have problems and each could learn things from the other (I won’t go into detail here as it would take too long and probably not be of interest, but in short the Modern Orthodox world doesn’t take religion seriously enough while the Charedi world doesn’t take the world outside Orthodoxy seriously at all). While the Modern Orthodox world is somewhat receptive to criticism, the Charedi world sees any criticism from the outside and most criticism from the inside as unjustified and the product of hatred of religion or antisemitism, so things are not likely to change in any good way. Unfortunately, the demographics mean that the non-Charedi world (Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox) is in decline while the Charedi world is growing and will soon dominate Jewish life globally, which is not something I’m looking forward to.
I don’t know what any of this means for me, trying to find a place in a community that will accept me and is reasonably accepting of me, as well as providing friends and a wife and schools that I see as giving a reasonable (i.e. not totally brainwashed fundamentalist) education to my children.
Somewhat related to this fear of not fitting in: at Talmud shiur this afternoon, the assistant rabbi asked if I had a cold as I wasn’t in shul (synagogue) this morning. I do have a cold, but I was absent because of depression and social anxiety, but I didn’t say that. I also didn’t say that I’ve been to shul in the morning only once or twice in the last year or more, but only a couple of people really noticed. I think I was only noticed today because the shamash (the person responsible for the practical running of the service) was asking where I was, I assume because he realised I haven’t had an aliyah to the Torah for a long time as I can’t think why else he would be looking for me.
Part of the issue with having a chronic, but invisible illness like depression is that even people who know about it forget about it (I have told the assistant rabbi a little in the past about my depression). People don’t generally notice my absence; when they do and ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. Maybe it’s my social anxiety speaking, but it’s hard to casually drop major depression into the conversation. Even if I wasn’t afraid of stigma and incomprehension (and I am), it’s just a big thing to casually mention. Maybe it doesn’t help that my autism means that I’ve had to learn the rules of conversation by rote and by trial and error and I have never learnt a ‘safe’ way to mention my depression easily; I don’t have the social intuition to know what I can say and when I can say it.
On a related note, there is an oneg (Shabbat party/social event thing) next Friday evening. It’s a cross-shul thing so in theory people from all fifteen or so Orthodox shuls in the area could be there. Usually I feel like I have to force myself to these things, but then I stand outside crying and overwhelmed with social anxiety or go inside, sit rigidly and anxiously, full of social anxiety, not talking to anyone, eating too many crisps and nuts, refusing alcohol (whisky is a big part of these things), not knowing any of the songs, sometimes having issues with the religious speakers, then making an excuse after an hour or so and leave. Plus, the person whose house it is being held at is someone I have to confess I feel deeply envious of: about my age, married with a pretty wife and several cute young children and a large house. I feel I will never have any of these things (yes, I know, he could have some major tragedy or struggle in his life that I don’t know about. That’s not my point, though). But not going feels like chickening out, is bound to upset my parents, and will just make me more sure than ever that I will never fit in to the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, never make friends and never be known enough to be set up on dates with women (the main way of meeting someone in the frum world). I don’t know what to do.