22 Shevat: Yortzeit of the Kotzker Rebbe
I’m still feeling quite good. I’m waiting for the depression to come back, as it always does, but I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts. It’s interesting that my desire and ability to study Torah and to daven (pray) with kavannah (mindfulness) grows when my mood is better. There probably is a virtuous circle of good mood –> more engaged with Judaism –> better mood.
I want to work on my books on non-(paid) work days (Mondays and Wednesdays; Fridays, at least when Shabbat starts later in the day; and potentially Sundays when I don’t volunteer. Maybe also Saturday evening after Shabbat in the winter, although that’s hard). I actually feel like a child in a sweetshop, getting to write about my special interests: Judaism, Doctor Who and mental health (OK, analysing my own psyche). It’s just difficult to know where to start. A while back I said I wanted to get paid for writing about my special interests; I’ve got some way still to go for that, but at least I can set aside some time aside in the hope that one day I will get paid for at least one of them.
Unfortunately after having gone to well-being group (see below), done some chores and spoken to my rabbi mentor (again, below) today, I was too tired to do much writing, but I did twenty minutes or so of working on the structure of the Jewish book. I oscillated between excitement at writing and anxiety at the scale of the task and whether my book would be distinctive or well-written enough to compete in the marketplace.
I had the last session of well-being group today. We looked at how far we have come and how to continue to grow. It was a bit disappointing for me. I have achieved things since starting the group, not least that I’m now working again two days a week; smaller, but potentially longer-lasting achievements include getting back into meditating daily and finding an affirmation that works for me when my thoughts get out of control, one that handily works for depression, OCD and social anxiety. However, I feel there is so much more to do. In particular, I haven’t been to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) morning for a year or more. I don’t know how to get to that goal. I can’t see a way to break it down to smaller steps as we have spoken about in the group. I think part of the problem is that there is so much anxiety, guilt and self-loathing around where I fit in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community that I don’t really want to go to shul. On Friday afternoons and Shabbat afternoons I go from habit or I can psych myself up to go if I have to, but on Saturday mornings the temptation to sleep through my alarms is too strong. I’m not sure what to do about this. I need to find a way to build up to it in small steps, but I can’t think of any.
We also spoke about self-care in well-being group. Everyone else seemed to think they don’t do enough, whereas I suspect I do too much, but it doesn’t really help me to cope better.
I have an appointment with the psychiatrist booked for 28 February. This was booked before I was working, so is on a Thursday. As I only work two days a week, it seemed a bit much to ask for a morning off to go, so I just tried to book a replacement appointment on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, only to be told that the earliest free appointment is in May! This is ridiculous. To be fair, in this instance, unlike some (many) previous problems I’ve had with the NHS, this isn’t really their fault. It’s basic economics that zero price means infinite demand, in theory. Obviously there isn’t going to be literally infinite demand for psychiatric services, but demand is still going to far outstrip supply no matter how well the NHS is funded. It’s still pretty awful service, though. At least the receptionist was polite and apologetic, which isn’t always the case (something less justifiable by hard economics).
I spoke to my rabbi mentor about some of my recent experiences. He said I sounded very positive and that my book ideas sounded interesting. He was a bit concerned that my Jewish book idea sounded too much like this book, but I see mine as being less academic and more about explaining Judaism from the point of view of questions non-Jews actually ask me, based on how we appear to outsiders, rather than the things you would need to know to do a degree in Jewish Studies or Comparative Religion. So, less on the history of Jewish theology and more on why we wear strange clothes and use unusual words when ostensibly speaking English. But it might be worth trying to get hold of a copy of that book and one or two others before I get too involved in the project to nudge it in a different direction.
My rabbi mentor was also supportive of my decision to try dating again. He agreed with me that there probably won’t be a time when I’m not dealing with my mental health on some level, so waiting until I’m “better” is pointless. He felt that when I was in a relationship with E. that had a positive effect on my mood and that even going through relationship breakups has been a learning experience for me, so that it was worth trying again.
Writing this post, I wonder if dating will give me an incentive to go to shul on Shabbat mornings again? Not for practical reasons so much as so I don’t have to explain to dates why I don’t go.
I emailed one of my colleagues from my further education job. He replied saying they were just wondering where I was working now. I always feel funny when people say they were talking about me. It’s not paranoia, but a sense of, “Wow, people actually remember me when I’m not in the room.”
2 thoughts on “Virtuous Circles”
That’s good that you were able to connect with your rabbi mentor.
One thing I want to know about in your book is the headwear. How does the kippah stay attached to the head? And what’s the deal with the round fur hat?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Most Jewish men use clips, I think. Like hair clips. I certainly do. I don’t know how bald men manage.
Fur hats: I don’t actually fully understand this one myself and will have to research it for my book. It’s only Hasidic Jews (a sub-group of Orthodox Jews) who wear them, and I think some Hasidic Jews only wear them on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbaths and festivals). Supposedly, along with long silk coats, they look like the clothes of the eastern European nobility in the eighteenth/early nineteenth century, which was when and wear Hasidism started. For some reason, they want to continue to wear clothing of that time. I’ve heard people say it’s because it was a spiritual golden age for Jews; I suspect it’s just the extreme conservatism of Hasidic Judaism
Also, as one blog I read put it, it basically functions as a signal of identity. Shtreimels (fur hats) are very expensive and also rather uncomfortable in the summer. Wearing one sends the signal that you’re a committed Hasidic Jew and if people accept you in the community and help you out when you’re in trouble, you won’t betray their trust by suddenly leaving the community.
Anyway, I’m not Hasidic, so I don’t have one
although I’ve secretly always wanted to.