Shabbat (the Sabbath) was hard. I did somehow make it to shul (synagogue) on Friday night, despite fears that the house would burn down if I left the Shabbat candles unattended. I was five minutes late, but I did make it. But my mood dipped a bit in the evening. I stayed up late reading (I finished 13 Minutes, but I hardly did any Jewish reading) and didn’t get to bed until 1.00am. Then I slept until 1.00pm and spent another hour feeling too depressed to move. I did eventually get up and eat lunch, but after seudah (the third meal), I felt too depressed to go back to shul for shiur (Talmud class) and Ma’ariv (the Evening service) and went back to bed and dozed for another hour or so. I’ve got no idea how I will get to sleep tonight.
I don’t remember much of what I was thinking about over Shabbat. Mostly depressing stuff I imagine. I do remember sitting with my head in my hands during seudah wondering why I am so repulsive to everyone (well, primarily to women).
I did try to remember some thoughts I had based on recent posts/comments.
In response to the post about getting drunk on Purim not being an issue if you have an ‘inside’, I think in retrospect that I don’t actually know what the assistant rabbi was saying and I don’t want to put words into his mouth. The things people have said in response here and away from the blog have not clarified things. I suppose what it triggered in me was a feeling that ‘people who think they are bad are probably right’ which is probably not what he meant, but did reinforce my low self-esteem.
I think what I was trying to say in these posts is that it’s hard to tell how much leeway I have, religiously, in terms of mitzvah (religious commandment) performance from my issues. There is a concept in Judaism that everyone is judged on their own level, on what could be expected of them given their physical and mental health, background, religious upbringing, abilities and so forth. A person who is doing 100% of what they can do on a low level is greater than someone on a much higher level, but only doing 50% of what he could do. The difficulty is judging where I fit in with that, what level I should be on and what can reasonably be expected from someone in my situation.
For example, in just under two weeks, it will be Purim and one of the main mitzvot of the festival is listening to Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther), once in the evening and once in the morning, being careful to hear every word (despite the noise made when the villainous Haman’s name is read). If a person is deaf (assume 100% deaf, if they have impaired hearing it gets very complicated), though, they obviously don’t have to do this, because they can’t. The Hebrew term is patur, exempt.
Now, listening to the Megillah is not easy for me. The requirement to hear every word has historically been an opportunity for my religious OCD to make me panic about not having heard something. The noise in shul is potentially difficult for someone with autism. The sheer number of people is difficult for me with social anxiety. The emphasis on experiencing extreme joy is paradoxically triggering of depression. And getting up early to hear the morning reading is difficult with depression too, although I now live in a more religious area where there are probably readings at different times (but if I go somewhere new, that brings back the social anxiety). But are any of these things severe enough to say I don’t have to even try to hear it? I doubt it. Maybe if I go and have a terrible time I have grounds for not beating myself up, but I don’t think I should stay away.
Judaism is all about drawing boundaries. If someone is this ill, they can eat this much on Yom Kippur or can violate Shabbat this much to treat them. I find with mental illness and autism it is harder to draw lines. What I can do can vary not just from day to day, but from hour to hour and depends on myriad other factors (tiredness, hunger, other emotions, external triggers, etc.). So it is very hard for me to judge myself.
Another example: this last Yom Kippur, I went to shul in the evening, but I was so exhausted and depressed as a result of attending the crowded two hour service that the next day I slept so late and had such difficulty getting up with depression and low blood sugar from the fast, that I didn’t get to shul until about 4pm, near the end of the day. I have tried not to blame myself for this, as I doubt I could have done much differently, but I do wonder if I could have done more (this is aside from the issue of being seen to come in incredibly late by a shul full of people who don’t know or understand my issues).