Today is a bad day for anxiety and self-recrimination. I discovered that the Oxford Doctor Who Society team did get to the quiz on Sunday. I’m not sure how I missed them, although only one team member from Sunday was there when I went previously, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I didn’t recognise them. And I had an acknowledgement email from one science fiction magazine (that I probably shouldn’t have mentioned by name – I have amended that) for my pitch, which is making me more anxious than any job interview. I suppose it’s understandable that receiving a formal acknowledgement sets off anxiety, but I’m not sure why it sets off self-critical and self-loathing thoughts. I feel that I just beat myself up for trying things even before I get rejected. There is, I suppose, a hope that everything will work out this time – or that at least something will work out – coupled with a fear that, judging by past experience, it probably won’t work out.
I’m also struggling with irrational guilt. I had a question about my job interview on Thursday and emailed the head of HR, but my Dad said I should have phoned. He is right that it might have been quicker (assuming she was at her desk), but I hate using the phone. Many autistic and socially anxious people feel the same. The autistic time lag in processing and responding to conversations seems worse on the phone. So I emailed, but felt guilty, which is the worst of both worlds.
One Jewish newspaper I wrote to for submission guidelines asked to see copies of my work. As it’s a fairly religious newspaper, I didn’t want to send any Doctor Who/science fiction criticism. However, this meant going even further back in time to when I had an article on antisemitism published on a site now absorbed into Tablet Magazine. I feel awkward about this too, especially as, unlike yesterday, today I sent screenshots of the articles I had written on the sites as well as sending them as Word documents; then I realised afterwards that the sites might be considered inappropriate by a religious newspaper (nothing unsafe for work, just geeky stuff on one site and the fact that the other (a Jewish cultural site) had a “Sex & Love” column tab at the top of the screen). Nor did I mention that one column was pseudonymous. The newspaper said they’d keep my details on file and consider me on an ad hoc basis in the future, which I think was a polite brush-off. Everything today seems to be triggering social anxiety and self-recrimination.
Also, it turns out that I have few copies of material I have had published online. I guess a mixture of tidiness and low self-esteem regarding my writing have led me to delete much of my writing after posting it online or not to bother transferring it when I’ve upgraded computers. This applies not just to material from my blog, but even stuff I’ve had published professionally or semi-professionally. I just never thought I would want or need a copy of it ever again. Silly of me. I had to copy and paste stuff I’d written from the web. There’s a lesson in there about self-esteem and confidence in my work.
I guess the outcome of all of this stuff in the last two paragraphs is a need for better curation of my work. It probably doesn’t help that I have varied interests that I’ve written about in the past, while it’s only really in the last few months that I’ve been thinking seriously about a career as a writer, with the need to target consistent markets and build up a portfolio of work rather than just writing about anything I fancy and sending it wherever anyone will take it.
Other than that, the day was largely spent in interview preparation and a long phone call to some friends who are sitting shivah (Jewish mourning ritual). I was glad I was able to phone them, but I find long phone calls draining at the best of times. I did some Torah study for about forty-five minutes, but I felt quite tired and struggled to concentrate; then my mood plummeted in the late afternoon. I went to shul (synagogue) in the evening despite these feelings. I made sure to arrive exactly on time rather than early as the new rabbi has been making a point of speaking to everyone before the service and I didn’t feel like talking, but he wasn’t there (he only works part-time).
The optimism I felt a day or two ago is beginning to evaporate again as I feel lonely, unlovable and unemployable. I keep thinking of ‘near-misses,’ women I have a lot in common with, but where there is one key difference that stops us turning the friendship into a relationship, or one key reason it wouldn’t work. I ask myself if I should compromise, but I know that would not be a sensible idea for either of us. And I worry that I’m not actually employable, that my mix of depression, social anxiety and autism makes it impossible for me to do a job, while not being severe enough for me to qualify for state benefits. I’m not sure where I go from here.
This all sounds depressed and pessimistic again, when it shouldn’t be. Nothing really bad has happened to me today. My friends sitting shivah should be an example of how life can go badly wrong and how lucky I am in comparison. But I just can’t feel any positive feelings.