I was very depressed on the way in to work today. I was too depressed to do my usual Torah study on the train. I had thoughts like “I can’t do this. I can’t go into work. I just want a normal life. I just want someone to share my life with. I want to die. I’m useless and weak.” Just feeling that my life is a mess and that I can’t sort it out. I was worried by how quickly my thoughts go from “I feel depressed” to “I want to die,” which may be an autistic and/or alexithymic inability to really distinguish between emotional states except for the most extreme.
It was a boring day at work. I felt that I made some mistakes, although my line manager seemed supportive. She also let me change my workdays so that I can see the psychiatrist after being messed around by the NHS (not entirely their fault, but it’s happened too many times for me to feel forgiving). But a lot of the time I was doing fairly boring, menial work which let my mind wander, which is never good.
I try not to be political here, but I was thinking a lot about antisemitism today. The catalyst was the seven MPs who left the Labour Party yesterday. The media and social media have mostly focused on the Brexit aspect, but I was glad that they publicly called out Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party on the antisemitism that has consumed the party in the last few years. There has been an antisemitic element on the hard-left long before Israel (the usual “excuse” for left-wing antisemitism) was created, back through the antisemitic oppression of the USSR to the origins of the organised left in the nineteenth century, the assumption that ‘capitalist’ and ‘Jew’ are synonyms and if there is a shadowy group of people controlling the world’s economies, they are Jewish as well as rich and powerful (see the antisemitic mural Corbyn supported on Facebook), but it has only received a fraction of the coverage that the antisemitism of the far-right receives, on both a popular and academic level. So far as I can tell, most historians writing academically about the history of far-left antisemitism are Jewish, which is not the case with people writing about Nazi antisemitism.
It was difficult to have all these thoughts (and more) in my head all day, although to be honest, there are probably few days when I don’t think about antisemitism at all and this has been the case for nearly twenty years. I’m constantly obsessing and worrying about it, less about whether I will be attacked or have to leave the country and more what Jews as a group can do when we are defamed and attacked. How we can stop people hating us. The answer, of course, is that we can’t. We can be the best people we can possibly be, but even that won’t stop people hating us. The problem lies with them, not us. It was thinking that the problem lies with us that led to unprecedented numbers of Jews abandoning Jewish life in the last two hundred years as a burden or a curse.
Whenever I hear or think about Corbyn and his coterie, I feel angry, anxious and depressed at once, but when Jews voice our fears of growing antisemitism (antisemitic attacks in the UK reached a new high in every one of the last three years) we are smeared as “racists” and “Trumpers” and, yes, part of a shadowy international Zionist conspiracy (one Labour MP and Corbyn ally is claiming the seven breakaway MPs are funded by the Israeli government…), rather than receiving the support that progressives usually give to persecuted minority groups who try to speak out against hatred and abuse. Unfortunately, these thoughts get triggered in my head a lot and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Then, after writing this, I went downstairs and my Dad told me about nearly one hundred Jewish graves desecrated in France. This time it was the far-right. It’s unbelievable. Struggling with low self-esteem, I’m supposed to dismiss thoughts that everyone hates me as irrational, but since I was a young child, I’ve been aware that, as a publicly-identifying Jew, lots of people hate me for “reasons” that have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever said or done. That’s hard to cope with even if you aren’t suffering from mental illness.
The thought I hold on to is that I honestly believe that most British people are not antisemitic (which might not be the case in some other countries). They may be ignorant, but I think most Brits have a ‘live and let live’ attitude. It’s just three groups of extremists who are very antisemitic: the far-right, the far-left and the Islamists (not all Muslims). They basically blame the Jews for all the troubles of the world.
This is one of the posts I’ve been most scared to write. I’ve confessed to some pretty ‘out there’ mental health experiences here and elsewhere on the web (religious OCD; suicidal ideation; fear of sex, but obsession with it), but I’m scared how people will react to this. Will I lose readers? Will anyone start a fight? Sadly, I’ve had to deal with antisemites many times before, both online (which is upsetting) and in the real world (which is a thousand times scarier). But I had to speak my truth.
I feel exhausted and frail now. It’s probably not so much the effort of writing this post as the result of work today, which was tiring, even if I was glad just to get through it and get a reasonable amount done.