I struggled to sleep again last night, despite not feeling consciously anxious. I did my usual trick of eating porridge as a way of ingesting soporific warm milk (I don’t like the taste of milk ‘straight’) which worked, but I wonder how much of my weight gain is due to things like this. Although the dark chocolate Kit-Kat I had for dessert at dinner because I was so depressed was probably worse. The result was that I overslept this morning and rushed out to my networking workshop and got the Tube rather than the bus to save time, only to discover I’d been overcautious and arrived half an hour early. I was too embarrassed to go in straight away and paced up and down outside for quarter of an hour. I was still the first person there.
The workshop was quite good and, to my relief, didn’t involve too much interaction. We did have to sell ourselves with an ‘elevator pitch’ which I struggled with. The whole morning just underlined for me, if I could have forgotten, how vague I am on my career aspirations (not least because I really want to be a writer and librarianship is a time-filler while I work on my first books or second-choice in case I can’t write), how few people there are in my social network, how few professional contacts I have in the sector I work in and so on. I did feel that with all the emphasis in the workshop on building networks of people, using casual conversations to build careers and using body language to put across meaning that the world of work is built for extrovert neurotypicals, not introverts or autistics. The whole experience did make me feel somewhat negative about my career prospects. At least I’m not a salesman like one of the people in the workshop.
I got home minutes before the torrential rain, which was good.
A strange thought this morning: when I had my first ever psychiatric assessment, at the university counselling service at Oxford, the psychiatrist was surprised that, at the age of nineteen, I’d never had a girlfriend and asked if I was gay. When I said I wasn’t, he asked if he was sure I wasn’t gay. (Goodness knows what he would have made of the fact that I didn’t even go on a date until I was twenty-seven.) I hope that nowadays something like that would flag up high-functioning autism as a possible explanation as well as non-heterosexuality (and that non-heterosexuality would include asexuality as well as homo- and bi-sexuality). To be fair to him, high-functioning autism was a lot less well-known sixteen years ago, but you would think that a mental health professional at Oxford would encounter more high-functioning autistics than the average person.
Another thought this morning: because of the way my mental health issues interact with my religious practices, I have to make an at least semi-conscious decision to remain Jewish frequently, whereas many Jews, frum (religious) as well as non-frum, can coast on autopilot. But I constantly have to choose to put my energy into prayer, Torah study and being part of the community, just as I have to constantly choose to artificially limit my already limited (because of depression and autism) dating pool to the frum community. This has disadvantages, in that I’m much more likely to go off the derekh (stop being religious), I am not well-integrated into the frum community and Judaism is not as organic a part of my life as it should be, as well as the fact that my issues interfere with my mitzvah observance to a significant extent. However, perhaps it makes me more thoughtful about my beliefs and practices and more understanding of other ‘fringe Jews’ (as a now-defunct blog used to refer to Jews on the edge of the frum community, by choice or otherwise). I do feel guilty that I invest such a small percentage of my time and energy in prayer, Torah study and communal activities, but this is the only way I can function right now. It helps to be neurotypical here, too.
This evening I’m out, doing something cultural/religious, listening to Robert Alter speak about translating the whole of Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). I’m going by myself as I don’t know anyone currently in London who would like to go to hear someone talk about academic (as opposed to frum) Bible translation, although I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to ask a friend even if I had one. I tend to assume that I should do cultural things by myself, whether from habit or because my friends don’t share my interests, although I do sometimes go to art galleries with my sister and try to see a ‘straight’ play with my Mum once a year, usually at the Open Air Theatre. It will be a late night and I’m worried about getting up in time for work in the morning, so I’m doing as much of my evening routine as I can beforehand. Hence blogging now. Other than that, I hope just to relax and recuperate from the stresses of this morning before going out, which will doubtless tax my autistic self in various ways.