I’m being tormented by the demons of self-criticism, doubt and guilt today.  Wondering if those around me only pretend to like and support me out of kindness and pity, rather than genuine positive regard.  Wondering if I do anything in my life right.  Not just if I can get a job or sell some writing, but if I’m a good friend to anyone or do any genuine chessed (kindness).  E. says I’m a good friend to her (and she’s OK with me talking about her online in this way, so I feel comfortable saying that), so that’s something, but I wonder about other people.  I know I’ve had the problem at work in the past of thinking I’ve annoyed my boss and so staying out of her way and thereby not asking important questions and making much bigger mistakes, which is not good.

There’s a Jewish joke about two yeshiva bachurim (Jewish seminary students) who go for a walk in the woods and are mistaken for a bear and shot at.  They drop to the ground.  After a moment, one cautiously raises his head and says, “It appears we are still alive” and the other one responds, “And what is the evidence for this assertion?”  I know I’ve driven people away repeatedly asking, “What is the evidence for this assertion?” whenever anyone says I’m not stupid or useless or wicked, but I don’t know how to stop it.  I really am not convinced by the evidence that I’m not stupid or useless or wicked.

I’m second-guessing everything I put on my blog now.  The comments I made about interactions with people in shul (synagogue) yesterday seemed innocuous to me; I thought they might reflect badly on me, but not anyone else.  Now I wonder if that is true.  I went back and made that post private.  I worry about things I’ve said in the past, when I was sure this blog would remain anonymous.  Now I wonder if people will find out my identity one day.  Perhaps people will be able to go back and discover who I was writing about, or interpret comments that I thought were neutral or positive in a negative way.  Given that social anxiety and autistic social interaction difficulties are such a big part of my issues, I wonder if I can actually blog about how I feel without saying anything about people that might possibly be recognised and misinterpreted by other people.  I also wonder if I need to go back through the blog and purge a lot of posts.  I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that obvious or negative, but maybe I have.

The resultant depression from all this (or maybe it was a cause rather than a result) has led to a rather wasted day.  I struggled to do some interview preparation for Tuesday, but was really too depressed to focus on anything.  I only managed a few minutes of Torah study for the same reason.  I’m feeling so depressed, I’m not even worried about being unemployed or lonely forever – I just feel that my mood can’t get worse, even if my situation can.

My only real achievement was going to shul (synagogue) for Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Services).  I tried to arrive just as they were starting to avoid having to talk to anyone, but mistimed it and was late.  I felt horribly self-conscious and depressed the whole time I was there, even wanting to self-harm at one point, because I was feeling so self-loathing and tense (self-harm can be a release).  I wondered, not for the first time, what would happen if I appeared as visibly ill as I feel emotionally.  If I arrived at shul covered in blood, bruises and open wounds.

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) seems a long time ago, somehow, although it’s less than ten months ago.  I had hoped for a better year, a fresh start, but it didn’t really happen.  I’ve just drifted, drifted through jobs and job hunting and drifted through friendships and community life, as well as drifting through my own religious life.  I’ve struggled to take back control of my religious life, to try to get some joy and meaning out of it instead of just effort, but I haven’t really managed it.  I suppose I don’t feel as angry with HaShem (God) as I did then, which is good, but I don’t feel that I have any meaningfully close relationship with Him.  I still worry that His plan for me is just more suffering.  And I know people say that you have to expect Him to do good for you for it to happen.  I just expect Him to treat me as He has for the last twenty years.

I’ve lost friends this year and last year.  I feel sad about that.  I don’t have many to lose.  While I may have been responsible for losing this year’s friends, on some level, I wasn’t responsible last year (it was more that we drifted apart), but I still lost that friend however it happened.  I have another friend I haven’t seen for years and don’t know how to see him again, given how busy his life is.  I’m not on Facebook, so I tend to drift out of people’s lives, as they only publicise news on there.  I’m not sure how many children this friend has, whether he has had more since we last met.  I suppose I feel as if I’m drifting out of my friendships too.

6 thoughts on “The Demons of Self-Criticism, Doubt and Guilt

  1. It seems like when you’ve talked about other people on your blog it’s been in the context of your reaction rather than focusing on what they did. Regardless, if the frum community is relatively anti-internet, it seems unlikely that people would stumble across your blog and do the detective work of trying to find out who you are.

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  2. Attitudes to the internet vary a lot in the frum community (more than attitudes to TV for example) and I think most people in my community would use the internet. Whether they read blogs is another question.

    I was more worried about family and friends seeing stuff here and potentially also work colleagues. The friends who aren’t talking to me met me through the blog before we met in person (in fact, I only ever met them in person once). Plus, it’s the principle of not talking about people in a situation where they can’t respond.

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  3. This is the nature of anxiety – it grows and feeds on itself. Your blog is anonymous and no one on it can be identified. I think you have no need to worry. The people who are most helpful to others who suffer from depression and anxiety are those that give most of themselves – and yes, doing so does make you feel vulnerable and exposed sometimes. But you are protected by being anonymous here as we all are. I have read many very personal accounts of people’s depressions which are published. Most of them anonymise some people in their accounts but they are all very personal. The best ones always are. Read any autobiography particularly those accounts by people who have suffered mental distress. And as for friendships – there are some which will endure and others which won’t – all you can do is be a faithful friend yourself. You are definitely not alone in experiencing rejection – and people misunderstanding you. It happens to us all. As a matter of fact I have just lost someone whom I thought was a close friend. It’s very easy to ruminate and think it’s all down to me and something I have done wrong. All I can say is that it’s very rarely that simple. Understanding anxiety in the way I do – I live with it daily — I wish I could reassure you more!

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  4. I’m sorry that you have also just lost a friend, and that you also experience anxiety.

    I fear that my blog isn’t as anonymous as it could be. I have revealed personal facts about myself, like my age and where I went to university. Plus the Jewish community in the UK is very small, and that could be used to narrow things down. Nevertheless, I thought that was OK, but the last week has made me wonder if there is something wrong with talking about other people at all, even in passing when focusing on my own reactions.

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  5. Is your blog published to the search engines? If you turn that setting off, it’s less likely someone you know will find you. Do you think it’s part of your OCD that you’re always feeling that nobody likes you and that you’re unworthy?

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  6. It is. I’m not worried about someone deliberately looking for me at the moment, because I think I would be hard to find in that case. It’s more if someone comes across my blog and thinks, “Oh, so he’s frum, but modern and went to Oxford, lives in London and likes Doctor Who… Who do I know like that?” Maybe I should turn that off, though.

    I don’t think it’s OCD. I think it’s self-esteem issues, probably also tied up with social anxiety and depression.

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