Today was pretty awful. I started the day feeling more depressed than anxious, which I suppose was at least different to recent workdays. It was hard to do anything. I don’t know how I got up and dressed and to work on time.
I had a whole series of spiralling negative thoughts. On the way to work, I was thinking that my community neither wants nor needs me and that therefore, as per Pirkei Avot, HaShem (God) must not want me either. The quote (Avot 3.10) is “[Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa] would say: Anyone from whom the spirit of creations find pleasure, from him the spirit of God finds pleasure. And anyone from whom the spirit of creations do not find pleasure, from him the spirit of God does not find pleasure.” (Translation from here because I was lazy; I think “spirit of creations” is a rather archaic translation.) I don’t think, realistically, that that means that if you have no friends then God hates you. There’s obviously a lot in the Torah about God caring for those on the fringes of society. But when I’m depressed, it’s easy to interpret it that way. At any rate, I felt that the Torah was written for mentally-healthy neurotypicals and I don’t know how to earn a share in it. It’s probably true that the Torah is written for the majority of people to practise (I think Rambam says that) and I certainly don’t know how to connect to it any more, if I ever did, so that’s true to some extent, perhaps unlike what happened next.
Last night I asked some of my friends if they thought I could be happy dating someone who didn’t share my geeky interests. They were divided on this. (There is also the question of how closely one has to define “geeky interests” given that some of my interests are very niche even for geeks, whereas lots of popular geek interests pass me by completely, but I’ll ignore that for now.) Thinking about this prompted a whole morning of negative thoughts. I can’t find frum (religious) geeky women who will date me, but then I can’t find non-geeky women willing to date me either, despite someone saying that in her experience, frum single women over thirty feel desperate and lower their standards. In fact, I’ve seen “older” (i.e. over thirty) frum single women online complain that “I only get set up with weird autistic guys; all the normal guys get set up with younger women.” I guess I’m one of those guys (I’m not sure if they’re literally autistic; more likely the women are just being rude), except that I’m not being set up with anyone. The two women I was set up with in quick succession two years ago probably felt like that; one dumped me on the grounds we had nothing in common (which I took to mean I have weird, geeky interests, perhaps incorrectly), the other because of my depression.
This led on to fears that even if I could find someone willing to marry me, I would not be her first choice as her husband; she would be ‘settling’ with me from loneliness or a desire for children. Even if she didn’t have a lost lover somewhere she was still pining for, she would have a mental image of a dream husband that I would always fall short of. I hope this is just my depression and low self-esteem lying to me, but so far as I can tell, every woman I’ve ever crushed on or dated has liked me less than I liked her, often significantly less. Maybe this is just me beating myself up again, but I’ve had very little interest from women over the years.
I know everyone says you have to love yourself before other people will love you, but apart from the fact that I simply don’t think that this is true, my childhood experiences make it pretty much impossible for me to love myself at the moment. I struggle to believe that God loves me. I can’t really believe that anyone else could love me, although I desperately hope that someone will. It’s a lot to ask someone to take on though. I know I’m not an easy person to be around. I would definitely date the women that are considered a “bad match” in the frum world though. Those considerations are usually spurious. Other things being equal, I wouldn’t have a problem marrying a ba’a’lat teshuva, a geyoret, someone with physical or mental health issues, or someone with children from a previous relationship (although admittedly that one is harder and requires more thought than the others)… The problem is that I haven’t got anyone to communicate this intention to who might set me up with someone who is also finding it hard to meet a spouse.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I really struggled to work with these thoughts racing in my head. I’ve decided not to date for a while, but I still worry because I want to know, somehow, that I will find someone one day. Not everyone does get partnered up, even in the frum world where marriage is a strongly-enforced social norm. It’s not knowing what is going to happen to me that is so painful. If I knew I was going to be single forever, I could at least try to find alternative outlets for my need to love and be loved, somehow. Get pets or something. Instead, I’m just faced with a huge question mark. Sometimes I wish I was asexual; at least in that case I wouldn’t want romantic/sexual love. The outcome would be the same, but I wouldn’t care.
I felt better as the afternoon went on, perhaps because I was distracted from my emotional pain by work and a physical pain (headache), although that at least responded quickly to medication. I did have more depressing thoughts on the way home. I was thinking about my career, or lack thereof, again, the fact that I lack direction, experience and confidence at work. It occurs to me that describing autism as a spectrum running from high-functioning to severe is very misleading. It implies a consistent and continuous increase in symptoms running along the spectrum. The reality is that whether someone on the spectrum shows one particular symptom has no bearing on whether they show others. I don’t generally have meltdowns, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that my other symptoms are less pronounced. Moreover, symptoms can be situational. I can be more or less functional depending on how many people are around and who I am with, how tired or hungry I am, how bad my depression and social anxiety are… I’m high-functional in many ways, but I am really struggling in work environments, even different kinds of work environments, and I find it hugely frustrating that I’m so out of my depth and don’t know where I can turn for help (someone suggested AS Mentoring recently, but I haven’t had a chance to see what they offer).
Some autistic people are lucky enough to find their niche, a task needing a particular skillset that they match more or less exactly. Some of these people may present symptoms more severely than me at certain times and in certain places, but at work they fit almost 100% and are completely functional. I just wish I could find my niche. I feel I’ve made mistakes here, but that could be the depression and low self-esteem talking; I don’t know if things would be materially different if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), had done my MA at a better university, or had continued leading prayer services and teaching Torah when I moved to this area. I can see that all of these could have led on to other positive things and a more positive life for me overall, but maybe they simply weren’t possible and I shouldn’t beat myself up about having passed them by.