My mood was rather better today than it has been recently. It felt a bit like my emotional ‘crash’ at work on Tuesday has helped me to get some things off my chest and now I feel I can work more confidently. This is doubly so as my line manager was very pleased with my work today, including some where I was using quite a bit of initiative, so it’s good that she has seen what I’m capable of. I did have some slight OCD anxiety about locking up the office and the rare books which I’m going to have to monitor to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.
I did manage to use an affirmation to try and fight my negative thoughts at work, including the OCD anxiety, which I don’t usually manage to do. I’ve tried positive affirmations before (“I am a good person” etc.) without much success, as I don’t believe them, but at well-being group yesterday they gave us a long list of possible affirmations, a couple of which seemed to me to be more realistic. I’ve opted for “My thoughts aren’t always my friends” to be used when depression, self-loathing, guilt or anxiety (including OCD anxiety) are threatening to get out of control. I will see how I get on with this. I think the actual affirmation was supposed to be “My mind is not always my friend” but I unconsciously changed it. I think my version is better, because it’s less self-critical (talking about bad thoughts rather than my mind/self being wrong).
I saw the doctor this morning and we discussed why I felt so bad on Tuesday. To be honest, I’m not sure what the trigger was, but it may have been going out for dinner with a large crowd of people I didn’t really know on Friday, plus trying to go to the shul (synagogue) meeting on Sunday and not making it, plus my parents being out on Monday evening and my mind spiralling downwards as sometimes happens when I’m alone. We discussed ways to prevent this in future and I’m already thinking about how to avoid similar slumps after social engagements in the next few weeks. I mentioned this to my parents, introducing them to the “spoon theory” of mentally ill/autistic energy levels; they seemed receptive.
As a result of the meeting I missed on Sunday, I’ve now found out about the six principles of my shul (synagogue). They’re not really unexpected or controversial (fortunately), so I don’t feel that I’m in completely the wrong place, but two of them are about family, which makes me feel a bit… not unwelcome, but out of place. But I think that would be the case wherever I went in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world. It’s a very family-centred religion.
I’m slowly inching towards writing the book about Judaism for non-Jews and non-religious Jews. I’ve just started brainstorming a few ideas and I have some idea of what the structure will look like. After my well-being course finishes next week, I’m hoping to spend some time writing on days when I don’t work. That way I can think of myself as working partly in a library and partly in trying to become a semi-professional writer. I will probably do some job hunting too, although my line manager hinted on Tuesday that she’s hoping to extend my contract past March if the money is available (“if the money is available” – the mantra of all libraries and universities). I want to make progress with my Doctor Who book, but as I’m doing research and writing at the same time, my work won’t be continuous, as periodically I will write up all my notes and be waiting to do more research. I hope to make progress with the Jewish book then (although that will also involve a mixture of researching and writing).
I’m less worried about the book being banned now. I think that was the social anxiety speaking. I still think I’m going to say stuff that would not be considered 100% OK in my community, I just don’t think anyone is going to notice or care (not noticing is quite likely; not caring less likely). After all, no one in my shul is realistically part of the target audience. I do need to talk to my rabbi mentor about what Torah I can write in a book for non-Jews, as technically non-Jews are supposed to learn Torah (except the first eleven chapters of Bereshit/Genesis and the whole of Iyov/Job), but I’ve raised the subject with him beforehand in the context of writing Torah on my blog and he didn’t think it was a problem (I just found the email where he told me, “We are required to be ambassadors to non-Jews, especially in today’s world where there is so much distorted
information out there… You MUST continue feeding informative and positive information to your friend, and others…”).
Yesterday I said I would consider dating if my contract gets renewed after March. Today I found myself wondering if I need to wait that long. The game-changer was realising that I actually need to date for quite a while to find out if a person is right for me and that the frum “dating for marriage in eight weeks” model of dating just won’t work for someone with so many issues and such poor people skills, not to mention such little dating experience and difficulty understanding his own feelings and emotional needs. I need to date for many months to be sure my date can cope with me and that I can cope with her and to ease myself back into the idea of being in a relationship with someone else (bear in mind that in thirty-five years, my total time in a relationship amounts to about one year).
So, I don’t think I will be going to frum matchmakers just yet, but the dating service I linked to yesterday is, I think, for more ‘modern’ people and might be a way to meet someone who can cope with me and is on a compatible values level, which would include some basic religious compatibility (as religious observance is one of my core values, along with integrity). I don’t think my wife would have to be as religious as me, as long as she kept what are sometimes thought of as the core mitzvot (commandments) of Jewish home life: Shabbat (the Sabbath), kashrut (the dietary laws) and niddah (the rules about when a couple can have sex), at least in a basic way. While it’s tempting to fantasise about marrying a really shtark (super-frum) woman, it’s debatable whether I could actually cope with living with such a person even if I wasn’t mentally ill; it’s certainly unlikely she could cope with someone whose religious life is as impaired as mine necessarily is, not to mention issues about television, involvement in wider culture, my having non-Jewish and female friends etc.
I discussed dating with a friend who also has depression and autism recently. She thinks it’s unfair that people say “If you aren’t happy single, you won’t be happy in a relationship” on the grounds that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has love, sex and emotional security as fairly basic needs. She thinks that most people in relationships would be pretty miserable if you separated them from their partners. I can see her point. I think I do still need to do a lot of work to be happy, and I probably never will be 100% happy, but I think it’s worth seeing if someone can accept me as I am as long as I don’t see her as the sole source of my happiness (which I think would be a mistake). I know my mood is still very low, but I’m a lot more functional than I have been in the past and I think if I was in a successful relationship, my mood would be somewhat better even if it wasn’t 100% better. Certainly when I’ve been in a relationship in the past, my mood has got visibly better to those around me.
Dating is scary, though.
An odd thing happened at shiur (Torah class) this evening. Shiur is a slightly unusual place for me, in that there’s a bit of a “the weekend starts here” atmosphere. It’s Thursday night, it’s a group of men away from their families and jobs and there is whisky. Plus, the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, has a slightly mischievous sense of humour. However, much of this is not normal for me. There is some good-natured teasing, mostly in the form of running jokes e.g. a lot of people who attend are South Africans, so there’s rivalry to see each week the proportion of English-born vs. South African-born attendees and people tease the South Africans about their accents. I don’t always understand the jokes nor do I always completely approve of the atmosphere; I don’t know whether that’s coming from autism or my history of being teased at school.
Today the assistant rabbi asked a question which no one could answer (not actually a Torah question; he was looking for a formal English word) and he said something like “amazing, we have an intellectual [points to the person on my right], an academic [points to the person on my left] and an intellectual and an academic [points to me] and none of them know!” Now, I know that’s meant in good spirits and I know it’s a backhanded compliment because he’s saying I’m clever and well-educated, but something about it made me feel uncomfortable even as I laughed. I’m sure he wouldn’t tease like this if I said I don’t like it, but I feel that saying something is a bit petty and maybe me being autistic/socially anxious and not entering into the proper spirit of the thing, but I don’t feel 100% comfortable with it. Plus, I suppose part of me does like the fact that I’m apparently considered “one of the lads” and able to be part of this little group. It’s difficult to know what to do.