Out of Spoons Error

I had weird religious anxiety dreams again last night, which perhaps fortunately I can’t remember in detail.  I periodically have anxiety dreams about not being able to fulfil halakhah (Jewish law).  It’s usually Shabbat (the Sabbath), but in this dream it was kashrut (the dietary laws).  Something about being at university at Oxford and some kind of food-related mix up at a social event.  My oldest friend, who I haven’t seen for years, was there.  There was another dream (or the same one?) about being with Islamic extremists and I’m not sure in retrospect if I was their prisoner or being friendly with them.  I have no idea what the latter part means.  The kashrut anxiety, and other Jewish anxiety dreams, probably reflect the fact that even after being notionally frum (religious) for fifteen years or more, I still struggle with religious observance at times, usually when faced with an obstacle that stops me fulfilling halakhah, particularly when I fear that someone I’m close to has an issue with something I do or don’t want to do.


I woke feeling very depressed again.  I feel that I’m not challenging my thoughts the way I should for CBT.  It’s hard to recognise triggering thoughts and remember to challenge them and then actually to be able to challenge them.  I can’t always perceive them.  Sometimes I seem to be depressed without obvious trigger thoughts, especially on waking.  This happens to me a lot, but according to CBT theory, as I understand it, it “shouldn’t” happen.  There should be a trigger thought because emotions are caused by thoughts (this is not my experience, really).  This is another reason I have struggled with CBT in the past.

Even if I do recognise negative thoughts, they often seem true, or at least true and not true at the same time and it is hard to know what to do with them.  I mean that I can see that I have little positive evidence for a thought like “I will never get married,” but at the same time it feels very real.  I do struggle with the CBT approach, perhaps because the thoughts in my head seem more real than the world outside it.  I think this week I’ve been repressing thoughts because it’s easier than challenging them, which sounds good, but the thoughts are still there, so to speak, below the surface and I’m not learning to challenge them.


A million minor inconveniences today: stained clothes, relatively new; shoes I’ve worn out; ongoing wifi problems that have been around for years, but have suddenly got worse, apparently as the result of a Windows update (I lose wifi every few minutes now and have to walk out into the hall to reconnect and I don’t know what to do about this); my beard, grown for the Jewish period of national mourning in the summer, itches like crazy and I long to shave it off, but have to keep it for another week and a half.  I just feel worn down by trivial things.


I tried to apply for another job, but I couldn’t face it.  Realistically, it’s too senior and I don’t have the right experience, but that’s not why I couldn’t face it.  I’ve applied for inappropriately senior jobs before, albeit mainly to feel I’m doing something and to be able to tell people I’m applying for jobs.  But I just feel too depressed to apply for anything.

I went for a fairly brisk walk, to collect my prescription from the GP’s surgery and take it to the pharmacy.  That seemed to help my mood, even if there was a frustrating amount of hanging around at the surgery and pharmacy.  Then I had a phone interview with someone who wanted to hear of experiences of mental illness in the Jewish community for a book she is writing.  It was hard to condense so much experience into just a few answers.

I felt somewhat better after all of this and had another go at the job application, which I finished, although it became clear I didn’t have anywhere near all the experience and skills they want.  I wanted to go to shul (I’m trying to go to a weekday service once a week and I haven’t been this week and tomorrow is a non-starter because of CBT and shiur), but in the end I didn’t have enough time and energy to do that and finish the job application.  It’s a lack of “spoons” situation again – I did have the energy, just about, but not at the right time.  Being nocturnal is problematic.  I have energy in the evening, when shops are shut and helplines are closed.  I sleep through mornings entirely and can be very depressed in the early afternoon until lunch (sometimes later).


Evening, and I lapsed back into depression.  I watched another episode of I Claudius over dinner.  I’m struggling with it more than I expected.  I can’t keep track of all the characters or follow the plotting and all the sex just makes me feel that I’ll be alone forever.  The decision to make it without any incidental music makes the whole thing feel strange and theatrical, and oddly unfinished from a contemporary viewpoint.  I don’t know if this is a cause or an effect of me depressing i.e. did watching it “trigger” me somehow or am I not enjoying it because I’m too depressed?  I hope it’s the latter.

Whatever the reason, my mind feels somehow ‘heavy’ as it does when the depression is bad.  I’m not sure how to describe the heaviness (in sixteen years I’m not sure that I have ever tried), but it equates to an almost physical sensation of fatigue in my head and a lack of concentration and motivation alongside low energy.  I don’t feel tired enough to sleep, though, just not to be able do anything.  I intended to study Torah after dinner, but did not manage more than a few minutes.  I think this will be the first week in some time when I have not at least read through a page of Talmud, although my shul‘s (synagogue’s) weekly Talmud shiur (religious class) has abandoned the idea of covering a whole page a week since the new rabbi came; now we just go through a few lines in detail.  I’m not sure which is better, but have been carrying on with a weekly page privately.

State of Decay

I’m back to being depressed again.  I woke up feeling depressed; then I had a trip to the dentist.  I shook a bit, which was what I was really scared of, plus I had to have a small filling.  I’ve never had a filling before and I always was proud of myself for not having had any.  I suppose I turned it into some kind of moral achievement, which I now don’t have, plus I feel weird that there’s something non-organic embedded in me now.  The dentist did say I take good care of my teeth, though.  It was a small filling, so the dentist did it without anaesthetic so there wasn’t any numbness afterwards.  It didn’t hurt.  Then, I got in a complete mess when I was paying because they didn’t take credit cards.  I had remembered that and brought my cheque book, but I messed it up; I’m so used to writing my date of birth on job applications, that I started to write it on the check and then I started worrying what else I was doing wrong and just got generally flustered.  I think the receptionist could see and asked if I was OK.  My CBT therapist says I shouldn’t think that other people think I’m weird, but sometimes it’s hard not to.


I tried submitting another job application, but I’m not nearly experienced enough for it.  I don’t meet all the essential criteria, let alone the desirable ones.  And I would struggle to pass myself off as “confident, organised and enthusiastic”.  They wanted a CV and a covering letter and an application form, which basically amounted to them asking for the same information three times over.  This is not much fun to do even if you aren’t depressed.

Someone using the website I’ve been using to try to get proofreading work has invited me to pitch for a job.  It’s translating and proofreading a Vietnamese Young Adult novel.  I suspect my Vietnamese-reading skills are probably not up to it.  I’m guessing the person wanting the work just tagged everyone who listed “proofreading” as a skill in the hope someone would be able to do it.


I got another job rejection yesterday, plus haven’t heard anything back from the people who gave me a proofreading test and so I am wondering if I set my number of words per minute too low.  I don’t really know what is considered ‘normal’ or what I could reasonably do.  I desperately want to build some kind of career, yet every time I try, I run into barriers I can’t get through.  I try to turn to friends for support where I can, but that doesn’t always help either, because I don’t always know how to phrase the questions or they’re not willing/able to help or I’m worried about overloading them.  Possibly I just need to accept rejection and push through, but it’s hard when I have zero income and am entirely dependent on my parents.

E. said that I put in a lot of effort to try to do things or change my life for the better, but it always seems to backfire and I get minimal positive outcome.  I’m glad she said that, because I was worried it was just my imagination/pessimism.  This is why I get so upset by the miracle stories I see on Jewish websites.  I can think of a couple of articles I’ve seen where the writer was facing serious economic problems and/or contemplating working in a soul-destroying menial job instead of following his/her dream of writing when suddenly they got a perfect writing job because God loves him/her.  Right.  So obviously God hates me.  I think I’d rather think I’m just useless and can’t get a job.


In other worried/depressed news, I’m worried that my Doctor Who book won’t get published and I’ll have wasted the time I spent on it.  I think I say some new and interesting things, but also there is a certain amount of necessary repetition of standard fan opinions.  I’ve tried to challenge them where possible, but sometimes the clichés are clichés because they’re true and need repeating for the new fans who haven’t read them in fanzines and Doctor Who Magazine for the last thirty years.  The problem is that I don’t really know anything about the economics of book publishing or the wider Doctor Who fan market, whether this is the type of thing that might appeal.  I worry that it’s a type of writing that is rather out of date in Doctor Who fandom.

I wish I had more fan friends who could give me feedback.  I wish I hadn’t fallen out with the fan friends I did have.  Although the book originated in blog posts, I never seemed to have more than a few readers, judging from the comments, and can’t tell how popular the posts were.  I suppose I shouldn’t worry as there isn’t much else I can do at this stage.  I’m just desperate to build some kind of writing career, having failed in my librarianship career.  I can at least self-publish, but I’m wary of doing that, as I have zero idea of how to promote a self-published book and can’t imagine it selling.  Plus, I would like the kudos of having an independent publisher.

Working on my book makes me feel somewhat less miserable and even refreshed, even despite my worries about publication and whether I’ve really said much that’s new or worthwhile.  It could be that rather than a publish/reject binary I could be sent a list of changes to make, which could be frustrating, but would also be a learning curve for me, given that I know little about writing and publishing books (as opposed to reading or cataloguing them).

I feel bad about prioritising my book over further job applications or Torah study (I managed less than a quarter of an hour today because of depression), but it is sort of my job at the moment and the only thing that I feel good about, so perhaps it’s inevitable that I will prioritise it.


That was about all the productive things I did today, other than cook dinner.  I started watching I Claudius, which I wouldn’t have done if I’d realised the first episode was well over an hour and a half long (it was split in two for the US audience).  It was good, but I wasn’t really in the mood for something requiring a fair amount of concentration because of complex character inter-relations and dialogue that consisted largely of exposition, setting out who is related to who, who is in love with who, who is plotting against who and so on.

Quiet Day

I looked in to a volunteer opportunity today.  I don’t want to say too much, but it’s at a charity for young people with learning disorders (including autism).  They sell books on Amazon Market Place, partly to raise money for the charity, partly to give the young people work experience in a safe environment.  It turned out to be a much more complex operation than I expected.  It looks like I will be able to volunteer there, subject to DBS checks (criminal record checks) for working with vulnerable people.  I’m quite looking forward to it as everyone seemed nice and it’s good to be working with books again.  As they deal with autism, I mentioned my own ongoing situation briefly, so it was good to get that in the open straight off.

When I got home I did some more work on my Doctor Who book, redrafting and reformatting the longest chapter.  I reworked some paragraphs and cut quite a bit, but I was disappointed that I only trimmed a thousand words overall, as I’m worried the book is over length.  I also noted that I overuse various words and phrases like “Nevertheless,” “However,” “It is noteworthy that…” and so on and I started trying to cut them ruthlessly, although in retrospect I hope the text still flows well.  Although I had told myself that the current draft would be the final one before submitting the text, it looks like I will have to do a quick polish (probably just a couple of hours) to standardise one or two aspects of the formatting as well as to try and do a find and replace on some of these phrases across all the chapters.  I’ve got another five chapters to redraft as well as this, so it will take me another couple of weeks, more if any promising jobs get advertised and I have to spend more time on job hunting.

And that was about it really.  I went for a walk, I did some Torah study and ate dinner with my parents (instead of in front of the TV).  My mood was reasonable most of the day (not so much on waking).  Not a lot else happened.

You Had One (Other) Job… An Addendum

This is an addendum to my previous post, really.  I thought I was too burnt out from volunteering to do anything worthwhile tonight, but after two episodes of Star Trek (one Next Generation, one original series) I decided that I can’t binge watch Star Trek like I can Doctor Who and decided to Do Something, especially as I felt a bit less burnt out.  After twenty-five minutes of Torah study, I decided to work on my Doctor Who book.  Fortunately, the next chapter was a rather short one.  I sat in the garden (my Dad’s cousins had gone) and worked on it for a while.  I probably spent about an hour and a half on it overall; time seems to flow much faster and more painlessly when I’m writing.

That’s why I’m writing this addendum, really, to note that I am plotting a way to start writing more.  I know that so far I have had trouble finding publishers, but I’m hoping to one day crack that, although worryingly I’m not entirely sure how.  I think writing would be better for me as a career than my previous jobs, as depression and autism make the workplace fraught with difficulty for me.  I think autistic people can often only work in highly specialised areas (IT is the classic one) and writing is the only one really open to me.  I would definitely benefit from greater control over my work environment and working hours (I would be willing to work later if I could avoid early mornings, as my depression is typically worst in the morning and best in the afternoon and early evening).  I’ve quietly been working more on my book.  I am still applying for jobs and would accept one if I got one, but I’ve made sure to work a lot on my book and try to finish it ASAP.  My self-imposed deadline is Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year – end of September this year), but if I can get it finished before then, that would be even better.  I’m two thirds of the way through the fourth draft at the moment and I hope to start submitting it to publishers once I’ve got this draft finished.

I haven’t told my parents much about this yet.  They know about the book, but I haven’t told them how much I am working on it and how much I’m hoping that I can make a career of writing.  My Dad said that if I get a book published, then I can consider myself a writer, so I’m waiting until I have actually been published before I decide whether to stop the job search.


When I said that I was planning not to post tonight, I knew I was tempting fate (not that I believe in fate).  Inevitably, I had a terrible Shabbat (Sabbath) and need to offload.

The good thing was that I did my CBT homework of shaking hands with the rabbi and grinning at his banter (I didn’t really know what to say).  The bad thing was everything else.

On my way to shul (synagogue) I realised I was feeling a lot of anger and frustration directed at shul and the community.  Feeling frustrated that I have to hide my beliefs and behaviours because they would be considered “too modern” and unacceptable.  Things like being a Doctor Who fan and trying to write a book about it, accepting evolution and an old Earth, not taking Midrashim literally and not believing that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai wrote the Zohar.  Stuff that would be normal and accepted in a Modern Orthodox community, but not a somewhat Haredi/ultra-Orthodox one.  I felt like this during shul and things probably got worse because of the noise.  The Kabbalat Shabbat service seems to have got very loud and happy-clappy recently, I think since the new rabbi came, and I struggle with it because of my autism.  I like the tunes, I just wish it wasn’t so loud and there wasn’t so much clapping and thumping the tables.  No dance circle this week at least.

I like the people at my shul, I like the speed and style of davening (prayer), I think we have interesting shiurim (religious classes) even if I don’t agree with them, but I feel like some kind of Marrano the whole time, hiding my true identity for fear of rejection.  And also hiding my illnesses and issues: when the assistant gabbai (the person who runs the service) said that I should come to shul in the morning so they can call me to the Torah, I was too shy to say I have health issues and just smiled in an embarrassed way.

When I came home, I tried to explain this to my parents, but they didn’t really understand.  I don’t think they understand the sociology of the Anglo-Jewish community the way I do.  All the demographic data suggests that the community, specifically the younger members, is polarising: some are becoming Haredi, most are stopping being religious at all.  The middle ground, which once dominated the community in a way unlike the US and Israel, is rapidly vanishing.

My Dad said I should just be myself, regarding both my religious beliefs and my illness.  I was upset and said it is easy to say “Be yourself” if you already have friends who accept you.  I shouldn’t have said it, and immediately realised that, which only added to my upset.  Between this and the friends who stopped talking to me, I’m not having a great time lately with dealing with people.  I probably got into one of my ruts where depression and autism make me super-pessimistic and unwilling to listen to advice.  I leapt on my Mum for describing autism as a “mental health” issues, which strictly speaking it is not, but I should have just let it go.  I really shouldn’t have brought the issue up, because I knew they wouldn’t understand or be able to help, but I needed to vent and I couldn’t blog until after Shabbat, nor do I know when I might be able to speak to my rabbi mentor about it.  My parents suggested trying to talk to various people, but the only one I thought might help is a Modern Orthodox rabbi family friend, although I don’t know what I would actually say to him.

I honestly don’t know how to open up to people.  Dad thinks people would accept my religious heterodoxy; I don’t think they will, and I don’t know how to bring it up with out sounding like I’m trying to be deliberately controversial.  I know some people from shul are more Zionist than the rabbis (past and present), but I haven’t seen people cross any other lines.  Aside from evolution (which they have probably heard about whether they believe in it on not), I don’t know if anyone would have even heard that some people don’t take Midrashim literally or that the Zohar is Medieval not Mishnaic.  And I don’t know how to talk about autism or depression, especially as my psychodynamic psychotherapist warned me that I hide behind my issues to push people away (or something.  I don’t think I ever really understood it).

I struggled to sleep last night again, probably because I was upset.  Today I slept too much, which I think has become a way of avoiding shul.  I decided I was too depressed to go back to shul at all today, especially as I want to try to volunteer tomorrow.  I went for a short walk and saw some people from shul who were friendly, which in some ways made me feel worse.  They are nice people, I just have a different hashkafah (religious philosophy).  There isn’t a shul that is a better fit, though.  My parents’ shul is more modern, but I didn’t like it there for a whole host of reasons.  There is another Modern Orthodox shul, but it’s the other side of town and I couldn’t walk over there regularly.

The other thing that upset me was looking in one of the autism books I bought yesterday where the author defends autistic people against the charge of being “under-achievers” by saying that they don’t do what neurotypical people do, but that’s because they have different priorities.  That’s true up to a point, but I would like to have a career and family as well as meeting my own priorities (which I haven’t met yet anyway – no books published yet).  And, if you went to Oxford, but at the age of thirty-six have still never had a full-time job and only two real relationships, neither lasting more than nine months, it is easy to feel that you did not meet your early promise.

Anyway, I suppose I should think about watching some TV to unwind and then going to bed if I want to go to volunteering tomorrow.


It is significantly cooler today (currently 21 degrees where it was in the mid-thirties yesterday), but I still feel very uncomfortable.  I’m not sure how to tell if this is an autistic sensory overload thing or if everyone feels like this.  It’s pretty still outside, which makes it feel hotter.  I admit that I didn’t do much today because of the heat.  I did some CBT homework (see below) and my usual pre-Shabbat (Sabbath) chores, but I couldn’t face any job applications, especially as the jobs I could apply for are really for someone more senior and experienced than me, so it’s hard to feel that I could get them.  I did spend an hour working on my Doctor Who book and got another chapter sorted.  I’m halfway through the fourth draft now.


I did some CBT homework today, forcing myself to speak to the assistant in a charity shop to ask for something in the window.  I was so focused on the CBT social anxiety aspect that I probably bought some books I didn’t really need.  They are on high functioning autism.  One looks relevant, but the other is on autism in girls, so are probably less relevant, although they may help me to recognise useful childhood traits before my autism assessment, especially as I feel that in many ways I present as a woman with autism even though I’m a man, inasmuch as I have female-type traits (e.g. ability to “mask” and pass as neurotypical; interest in fantasy worlds as special interests rather than numbers or machines).

The CBT test was to see if I could ask for help without seeming incoherent.  As it happened, I did struggle to make myself understood and had to point out the book I wanted physically, but I suppose that teaches me that I can be incoherent without people thinking I’m weird or not being able to communicate at all.

The task for tonight is to shake hands with the rabbi after the service, something I have avoided doing for months for fear I would be nervous and incoherent or shake or that I would be asked a personal question and appear weird or non-frum.

Going less well is challenging my negative thoughts with objective evidence.  I think there is objective evidence that my negative thoughts are correct.  I feel that there is evidence that CBT might not work for me i.e. my mixed results trying it in the past.  I definitely feel there is objective evidence that I won’t get married: lots of autistic people struggle with relationships; ditto for people with long-term depression; I find it hard to talk to people; I avoid social situations; and I don’t know how to meet people like me (in terms of my personality, values and beliefs) within my community.  I suppose some people with autism do get married and I have had girlfriends, but ultimately they had issues with me (different religious levels and my low income).  I suppose a therapist would probably say to look outside the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community if I struggle to find a match within it e.g. at the online autism community, but I just can’t do that, so I’m not sure what to do.  I don’t even know if I should be pushing myself regarding dating while I’m unemployed (my parents and rabbi mentor say yes, but I haven’t been able to face it for months).


I’m going to try to be out of communication over much of the weekend.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) still finishes very late on Saturday night, but I need to be up early for volunteering on Sunday morning, so I’m going to try not turning my computer on at all on Saturday evening and just concentrating on getting to bed quickly.  This might not happen if something super-stressful (or even moderately stressful) happens over Shabbat and I need to off-load.  I will probably write something on Sunday, but if I’m tired from volunteering I should probably just crash in front of the TV for a couple of hours rather than spending that time blogging and going over everything in my head, but, again, if something stressful happens then I may need to off-load.


I’m not sure if I made the right decision to write about my novel project, as it is very early days still.  I feel if I write about it, I have to follow through with it, which gives me accountability, but if I don’t manage to get it to work, I feel even worse than I would otherwise do.  I was having “I can’t do this”-type thoughts this morning, which made me wonder if I’d made a mistake.  We shall see.


I’m still not sure whether to skip seudah (the third Sabbath meal, in the synagogue).  It would be less stressful for me and potentially less overloading, but as I would want to go to the prayer services either side of it, and as I would need to have a seudah at home instead, I’m not sure that there would be any benefit in rushing home, eating something quickly and rushing out again.  Maybe I should skip Talmud shiur this week instead, even though it is less stressful and more useful.  It’s easier to see that I overload myself with ‘peopling’ than it is to do something about it, especially while trying to challenge my social anxiety.

Plans, and Plans of Plans

It is still far too hot for comfort and I keep getting headaches.

I have a busy few days ahead.  I had CBT today and shiur (religious class) this evening.  I’m being interviewed tomorrow for a book on mental illness in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world on Friday and possibly Skyping E. too.  I hope to go to shul (synagogue) over Shabbat (the Sabbath), but am thinking of cutting out something I usually attend (probably seudah and the second Shabbat shiur although the timing is awkward) to try to be less burnt out of Sunday.  Sunday is hopefully volunteering and depending on what time I get home I may be expected to put in an appearance at a lunch for my Dad’s cousins, most of whom I do not really know, only seeing them at intervals of years or even decades at funerals and shivas.  On Monday I have a meeting about different voluntary work.  Tuesday is the dentist, which I didn’t previously worry about, but now I do worry about shaking there.

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about all of this, not so much any specific task or appointment (although some are difficult), but more the amount of stuff I’m doing in six days.


CBT today was draining.  We were doing thought challenging, but I found it hard to say why I feel so sure people will reject me.  I know a lot of it is childhood experiences, which the CBT approach isn’t terribly interested in.  I accept that.  But some of it is fears about owning up to beliefs or behaviours that would be seen as potentially heterodox (I won’t quite say heretical) in the Orthodox community, or fears about people outside the Jewish world seeing Judaism as patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic and racist/imperialist (this is in Doctor Who fandom and potentially depression and autism groups).  I feel these are very real fears, but I struggled to really make that understood.  Perhaps my fears are misguided.  I did admit to the therapist that I mostly haven’t tried to publicise my heterodox behaviours and ideas at shul, so I don’t know what would happen if I did.  I have heard of people having bad experiences in various non-Jewish environments, although, again, I haven’t experienced much directly myself (the antisemitism I have experienced has mostly been stuff shouted, or pennies thrown, by strangers on the street rather than people I knew better).  Likewise, I know frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people who felt driven out of the frum world for various reasons, although not necessarily for things that parallel my issues.  So it is hard to know what would happen if I was more myself in different environments.

It’s also a lot easier to find reasons to challenge my thoughts in the abstract than it is to believe in or internalise alternatives, which is the main stumbling block I’ve had with CBT in the past.  It can all be very abstract whereas the fears feel very tangible.

What did come out of it that was useful was breaking down my “I am weird” thoughts.  Although the therapist was guiding me towards realising that I’m not weird, the thought I ended up with was that I am weird (albeit not as much as I thought), but that I like being weird.  I like being frum, and I like engaging with academic Jewish studies as well as traditional Torah, even if that sometimes leads to opinions I think are fine, but some people might not agree with (e.g. about the literal truth of Midrashim or the origins of the Zohar).  I like Doctor Who and classic British TV science fiction, I like writing and blogging, I like painting miniatures and I don’t care if these things are considered somewhat unusual and “niche” (as my sister says).

Anyway, I’ve been set some homework to try to push myself to do a few scary social things (shake hands with the rabbi after shul; ask for help in a shop; perhaps also leave a blog comment that is a little more opinionated than I would normally dare, probably about politics or something somewhat ‘dangerous’).  I don’t have to do all of these things and it occurred to me afterwards that with volunteering being this week, maybe I have taken on too much, but we shall see.


Late last night it was very hot and I didn’t feel at all tired, so I sat up late sketching out a plan for a novel.  It’s not really a plan so much as a plan of a plan, as I realised that there would be significant work still to do even at the planning stage.  However, I have an idea of where I want to go and a degree of confidence about my ability to get there, although I’m a lot more confident about one plot strand than the other.  I worked on it a bit more today.  Given that I feel so despondent  of finding paid work at the moment, it is good to think that I might be able to do something worthwhile.  My main priority at the moment is finishing my Doctor Who non-fiction book and I still hope to get a manuscript ready for submission in about three months.  But it’s good to have this simmering away on a back burner.

Too Hot!

The house is very hot still and my bedroom seems to be significantly hotter than anywhere else even though the sun (which shines through the windows in the afternoons) has long set.  The house is also rather dark, as we’re keeping the lights off to stop heating it up any more.  I feel uncomfortable in the heat, which may or may not be an autistic sensory issue, it’s hard to tell.  It isn’t helped by having to wear so many layers for religious reasons.


I felt myself teetering on the brink of religious OCD again this morning.  The terrible “What if I’m doing X wrong?” feeling.  Apparently everyone has these thoughts, just as everyone has thoughts of “I’m stupid, I’m useless.”  OCD and anxiety start when we take the “What if…?” thoughts seriously, just as low self-esteem and depression starts when we take the self-critical thoughts seriously.  I did at least pull myself back from the brink, realising that these were just worrying thoughts with no basis, but there’s always a sort of residue of “But what if I should be taking this seriously?”  The OCD thoughts were about idol worship, so if I was doing something wrong, that would be a big thing to worry about, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the thoughts don’t go away immediately.

Since then my mood has mostly been good today, although I feel as if I haven’t really moved out of first gear, which might explain it.  It’s been hard to function in this heat and humidity.  I did a proofreading test (more on that below) and I’m reasonably confident about my abilities there, so that might be why I felt less out of place and incompetent than when I’m applying for jobs that I don’t think I can do.  I had some CBT homework to do and realised that I had missed some extra sheets on thought challenging.  I’m not sure if the therapist wanted me to do those during the whole week for tomorrow.  I’m trying not to catastrophise about that and I did at least manage to do some thought challenging today.  I also spent about forty-five minutes on Torah study as I effectively didn’t do any yesterday because of my headache.  So I did a few things, but I feel that I could have done more, certainly if it wasn’t so hot and if I’d really managed to get going properly.


Regarding thought challenging, I noticed comparing myself to others came up quite a bit just this evening and I think it comes up generally.  I see some people I was at school with in the area I live and they all seem settled with jobs (I assume), families, friends, apparently a settled religious life…  I know that I don’t really know what their lives are like.  People could have invisible health issues, strained marriages, financial issues, work issues, religious doubts and confusion.  Nor do I know what the future holds; maybe the coming decades will be better for me.  Still, I just wonder why they appear to have everything they need to be happy and I don’t.  But I suppose if I go down this path I either end up asking why I psychologically need to compare myself to others, which would be a question for psychodynamic psychotherapy, or why good people suffer, which would be a question for theology.  Either way, it’s not really a question for a CBT approach.  I suppose underneath it all is the psychological-theological fear that God will somehow overlook me or punish me and never reward me for trying to be a good Jew.  I don’t really know what the answer to that is. I don’t believe that God would overlook anyone, but somehow if someone was overlooked, I just know it would be me.  Maybe this is why I’ve often struggled with CBT; somehow it tries to get me to sweep my fears under the carpet.


On a somewhat related note, I’m probably being interviewed on Friday by someone writing a book on mental illness in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community.  I’m not entirely sure what she wants to ask about, but maybe it will be a chance to have an idea of whether other people in the community have similar issues with acceptance.


I struggled to sleep again last night.  My room gets very hot even with the windows open and the electric fan on.  Plus after my headache went I didn’t feel at all sleepy, but I did feel hungry, so I stayed up too long eating and pottering (I think Americans say ‘puttering’).  It’s good to potter sometimes.  Lately although I don’t actually do much, or not as much as I would like, I’m always trying to get through a long list of things to do, so I don’t really potter.  It’s good to flick through books and do odd chores and just think about things.  I didn’t fall asleep until about 5.00am, which was ridiculous and primarily the fault of the heat.  I hope I sleep better tonight.


I did a test today for some freelance proofreading that I pitched for.  I’m worried about being too fast as I was asked how quickly I can read 3,000 words and, not having proofread professionally before, I didn’t know.  If I was proofreading my own work it would not take that long, but my writing doesn’t have major errors to untangle.  I looked a bit online and 1,000 words an hour seems to be normal, but I’m not sure if that’s for ordinary proofreading or proofreading in translation.  The test passage was fairly straightforward, but I’m guessing someone who pays a third party to proofread their PhD dissertation (or whatever) is probably not confident with spelling and grammar and needs more attention.  So I’m not entirely sure what the ‘right’ answer is to this question.  I did the test in quarter of an hour for 1,350 words, which made me worry I was going much too fast.

It’s hard to start out on something new like this.  One of the friends who fell out with me recently was a proofreader, which makes everything seem more painful as I could have spoken to her for advice, but I don’t dare to get back in contact.


Freudian slip of the day: writing an email about the voluntary work opportunity my parents want me to investigate, I nearly asked what roles are “avoidable” rather than “available.”  Oh dear.  Anyway, I will be investigating this voluntary opportunity further, but I do feel vaguely that doing charity work instead of paid work is somehow a backwards step and further cements my self-image as Mr Useless Depressive Autistic Freak.

Dude, Where’s My Life?

I couldn’t sleep last night.  When we came home from the restaurant I blogged for a bit, then did my night routine, but even though I got to bed late, I couldn’t sleep.  Eventually I got up and ate porridge even though I wasn’t hungry in the hope that the warm milk would help me sleep.  I read for a while (about the false messiah Shabbetai Tzvi – while I knew about him, his story was even crazier than I thought.  I always feel sorry for him, as he probably suffered from bipolar disorder, but in the seventeenth century no one had any idea what that was, so he was just allowed to run riot with disastrous results) and eventually fell asleep.  I think, as with some Friday nights recently, doing something social (dinner with family) and then going to bed without taking time to really unwind stops me from sleeping.

The heat didn’t help either.  My bedroom turns into a blast furnace in the afternoons at the moment as the sun shines right through the main window all afternoon.  I have the blinds drawn to keep the sun out of my eyes; I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.  It is still hot in my room by the time I go to bed.


I’m looking for proofreading work again.  Someone advertised for a proofreader on the website I’m on; within quarter of an hour they had five offers.  I’m not sure how I can compete with that as someone with no professional proofreading experience.  I pitched for one job, potentially a long-term post, but I’m not optimistic.  This took much longer than it should have done, because I felt overwhelmed and anxious about putting myself out there.

I struggled again to get an answer about whether I can claim benefits.  The government website had a dead link and I struggled to find the number of the Citizens [sic] Advice Bureau on their website; when I did find it and called, it was shut for the day, even though it was supposed to be open for another ten minutes.

I’m also struggling to work out which job, of a pile of unsuitable jobs, is the least unsuitable and most worth applying for.  It would be hard to tell even without executive function issues.  Scarily, it seems to make sense to apply for a library assistant job, even though I would be very over-qualified, it is very low pay and has very short hours (ten or twelve hours a week).  I’m beginning to think that I can’t actually do a librarian job and I should just accept that if I’m lucky I’m going to be stuck in an unskilled job forever.

I started to apply for the job, but I had to write about how I meet the job specification and I am ridiculously over-qualified (it requires five GCSEs and I have an MA) for a job that is just carting books around a library…  I couldn’t face it.  I spoke to my parents about it.  They think I should go for it.  I worry they think I’m just being difficult or precious and that I should apply for whatever work I can do.  Or perhaps I should try applying for a school librarian position, but I can’t see that going well, both from the point of view of my lack of experience and my previous sojourn in further education.

I applied for the library assistant job in the end and also for a law librarian post.  I’m hoping that the library assistant employers will see me as overqualified and not interview me, although I messed up a library assistant interview a few months ago so I’m possibly not that overqualified.  I did keep saying in the personal statement area that I’m a qualified librarian to try to ram the point home.  I feel such a screw up.

Similarly, my parents are trying to get me to do some voluntary work with a charity my sister’s in-laws are involved with.  I’ve been emailed with some information, but not enough to tell what I would be doing.  I want to email for more information, but they want me to phone.  Like a lot of autistic people, I hate using the phone.  I just get confused when I have to talk on the phone, even more so than I do in person.  I’ve seen other autistic people online say, “I have an issue with X because of autism, so I just avoid it and I don’t care what neurotypicals think/say.”  I wish I could be that forceful, but whenever autism comes up and I say something to other people, I end up feeling like I’m being weak, petty and precious again.  Maybe what other people think only hurts because I half believe I’m weak, petty and precious myself.  Would things be better with an autism diagnosis?  At least in terms of self-acceptance?  Who knows.

I know I’ve written in the past about not knowing what my mission in life is.  I now think it is something to do with writing, but I don’t know what exactly.  But I have to live, so I  have to try to find some dead-end job I can vaguely do to earn a crust and try to cram writing in during lunch, evenings and weekends.  When I’m writing, at least about things I know about, things actually make sense and seem achievable, which is not the case when I do pretty much anything else.  On that note: I finished another chapter of the fourth draft of my Doctor Who book today.

I probably did manage quite a few hours of “work” today, between the job application, the search for proofreading work and the work on my book, although only the latter is satisfying.  I also cooked dinner (very easy recipe because I didn’t have time) and went for a run – only twenty minutes as I got a bad headache again and this time was actually sick; I guess it really is too hot to run at the moment, but I needed to burn off my frustrations.  I don’t think I’ll run again until the heatwave is over, unless by some miracle I wake up at 5.00am one day.  I’m not sure whether I will do any Torah study today as a result of the headache, and I won’t be eating the spicy rice I cooked today.  I feel better now having spent time watching TV; I didn’t feel I could give Smiley’s People the attention it deserved, so deliberately picked a silly episode of The Avengers (Take Me To Your Leader).


This story probably doesn’t reflect well on me, but here goes: I have just met (online) someone frum (religious Orthodox Jewish), female and with mental health issues.  Naturally, I immediately started to wonder if we were compatible in other ways and would end up dating.  Googling, I discovered she is married.  A relationship created out of nothing and destroyed in an hour or so.  I live in a fantasy world.  Sometimes I feel pathetic.

I suppose if I do periodically meet women who are frum and have mental health issues it must be within the realms of possibility to meet someone who could match with me one day.  It is hard to keep believing that when most of the women I meet are not frum or not Jewish or not single or not accepting of mental health issues.  I just wish I didn’t jump from crush to crush with few things going beyond the crush stage.  If I’m going to be single long-term, I’d much rather not having crushes at all.  I find crushing a horrible, painful state, but I’ve been stuck in it for twenty years.


It’s not all doom and gloom: my other birthday presents arrived: the Maggid Studies in Tanakh volume on Bereshit/Genesis and volume three of the complete short fiction of Philip K. Dick.  I’ve got several of the Maggid Studies books on the Hebrew Bible and have mostly found them really useful (mixture of traditional and modern scholarship).  Philip K. Dick is one of my favourite authors and I have the first two volumes of this set already.

And today’s real world news makes me think there is hope for me as any clown can be a success in life (all it takes is the right schools and relatives…).  It’s given me a new game too: take a famous quotation from a previous Prime Minister, add the word “Dude” and see how instantly less intelligent and sophisticated it sounds e.g. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few dudes,” “You turn if you want to, the dude’s not for turning,” “Most of our dudes have never had it so good,” and so on.  Hours of fun.  I think my favourite is “It’s time to put up or shut up, dude” for the image it gives of a Bill and Ted remake with John Major and John Redwood in the lead roles.

Like a Normal Neurotypical Person

The job agency who I asked to put me forward for a job are saying I don’t have the experience for it.  Which is true, I was just applying on the off-chance, but it’s depressing to think how few jobs I actually do have the experience and skills for and how many I’m just applying on the off-chance.  I also had another rejection without interview from a CV application.

When I say I’m looking for work, people often ask if there are many library jobs around.  Sometimes they voice the implicit question, “Aren’t all libraries being shut down or replaced by the internet?”  And I say there are jobs, which is true, but the reality is that a lot of those jobs require quite specific skills and experience, especially in the academic library sector, where I work.  I don’t often have those skills and experiences, for a variety of reasons e.g. the long period of time doing my MA resulting in skills going rusty; the depression and social anxiety stopping me keeping up with CPD; the depression resulting in my doing my MA at a university that was not really as good as I could have gone to.  I feel like I have got in a situation where I can’t get a job in my chosen field, but don’t know what else I could do, especially as I don’t feel that I could work in a normal open-plan office because of the autism.  Having had some jobs that were supposedly within my experience or even at a lower level, and then messed them up because of depression, social anxiety and autism, I feel pretty negative about my ability to hold down a job at all.  I am not sure who I can talk to about this.

I’m trying to pitch for proofreading work on PeoplePerHour.com, but all the proofreading jobs have already had a dozen or even several dozen pitches, and I can’t see why they would pick me, who has zero experience (on site and off it) in professional proofreading.  The proofreading jobs with fewer pitches generally turn out, on closer inspection, to be proofreading and translating jobs (why don’t they just say that upfront?).  I have a nightmare of taking on a freelance job and being too depressed to finish it and getting sued, or just doing the job wrongly because of depression brain and inexperience.

My Mum is very keen for me to do some voluntary work at a charity my sister’s in-laws are very involved with.  I don’t know what it involves, but it’s a charity that runs an online bookshop via Amazon Market Place.  The things I have heard about the role from my sister are not clear.  If it’s dealing with books it might be good for me, whereas if it’s personnel management I don’t think it would.  Even if I take the role, it will be unpaid and while it would be good to have something to do and put on my CV, I have limited time/energy which it would take away from job hunting and writing.  More than that, I suppose I feel that it would be a retrograde step back to when I couldn’t work at all because of my depression and was doing unpaid voluntary work at different places.  I asked my sister to put me in touch with the person who runs the bookshop and we’ll see what he says.

I asked her to pass on my email only, not phone.  Like many autistic people, I hate using the phone.  Part of me feels I should “Push myself” to do things I’m not comfortable with (as I was always told growing up); part of me thinks, “My brain is wired differently and I’m just not comfortable doing this.”  When I pushed myself as a child, the result was usually that I was more miserable and the supposed benefits of pushing myself to do new things (“It gets easier”) never materialised.

Dealing with bank paperwork today, I feel that I can’t cope with the simplest tasks and am utterly unsuited for life.  I’m not sure how realistic this feeling is, or what I can do about it.  Can you get life coaching for everything?  I don’t want to be selfish and self-obsessed.  I want to have a meaningful life that contributes to others.  I want to be part of a community and help other people out.  I want to take responsibility for my life rather than just live parasitically off other people and make excuses for my failure to achieve anything, but I can’t see how I can do that.  I don’t know how to change things regarding work, non-work chores or fitting in to the frum community.


I still feel burnt out.  Maybe E. and Ashley Leia are right about Shabbat (the Sabbath) being too much for me right now.  The problem is that I don’t know what to cut out.  I need to do some communal/social things and I would like to go to one Talmud shiur a week.  Plus, as I’ve said, one really has to go to Shabbat morning services to be fully considered a member of a community, make friends and, in my case, have any chance of being set up on a date with someone (not that that seems very likely in any case).

I feel very listless.  It’s hard to do anything, either to have the energy, motivation or concentration to do it.


I went out for dinner with my parents, sister and brother-in-law for my birthday.  We had a good time, but the restaurant was very noisy and I felt somewhat uncomfortable and found it hard to hear the conversation.  I do struggle sometimes with family meals because I struggle with “neurotypical conversation,” doubly so when I’m in a noisy restaurant and can’t really hear.  The food was good, though.  There was some talk about forthcoming or hoped for job interviews (not mine!), which made me think that, unlike others at the table, I have not “invested in my own professional development.”  I really am drifting through life.  I had a good time and left in a better mood than I’ve been for a while.

Also in the restaurant was the best Talmud teacher I’ve ever had, the only one who really made the Talmud make sense for me, but I was too shy to say anything to him; I don’t know if he saw or recognised me (he taught me about five years ago).


My birthday presents are coming in installments this year, which is quite nice.  Today’s gift, from my sister and brother-in-law, was the novel J by Howard Jacobson, which is a comic dystopian novel about antisemitism.  It sounds weird, but I enjoyed Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which was about Jewish self-hatred and non-Jewish philosemitism and quite funny as well as serious (Jacobson would, I suspect, agree with Douglas Adams that the opposite of ‘funny’ is ‘not funny’ rather than ‘serious’… he’s certainly rightfully annoyed that the literary establishment overlooked him for years because he was pigeonholed as a ‘funny’ writer).

It struck me on the way home that a lot of non-fiction has been written in the last twenty years about the explosion of antisemitism in Europe, and to a lesser extent in the USA, in the last two decades (I mean, written in the Jewish press and community; comparatively little has been said in the non-Jewish community, which largely affected not to notice until the Labour Party antisemitism thing exploded), but hardly any fiction has been written about it.  I can’t believe Jacobson is the only novelist to have written about it, but I’m struggling to think of anyone else, which is really shocking.


My shul (synagogue) is organising a barbecue on Sunday.  It didn’t occur to me to go, partly because I don’t drive and wasn’t sure how I could get there, but partly because I wasn’t sure what I would do there.  I mean, I don’t talk to people at seudah or kiddush (if I’m there for kiddush), so why would I be able to talk to people at the barbecue?  Plus, I’m vegetarian except on Shabbat and Yom Tov and was unsure whether there would be any food for me.  Someone has now messaged me to offer me a lift if I’m going.  It never occurred to me to go and now I wonder if I’ve made a mistake.  I’ve committed to going to volunteering on Sunday now anyway, so I can’t change my mind, but I just wish I could do normal social things like a neurotypical person sometimes.

“Life isn’t everything”

I feel really depressed again today.  I lay on my bed for an hour or more this afternoon because I was too depressed to do anything. This level of depression seems to be normal on Sundays right now, as I recover from ‘peopling’ on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and is reinforced by the sombre atmosphere of the fast day today.  I’m eating, as I only fast on Yom Kippur because it’s dangerous to fast while taking lithium.  I don’t eat junk and I don’t brush my teeth, which sounds minor, but makes me feel that I’m in “Just woke up” mode all day.

Given how depressed I feel, E. suggested that, far from not doing enough on Shabbat, I do too much and am burnt out the next day.  This is without going to shul (synagogue) in the morning, just going in the evenings and going to shiurim (religious classes) and seudah (the third Sabbath meal, in the synagogue), particularly given the social interactions that can arise.  I don’t know if this is true.  It sounds true, but in the past I’ve gone to shul in the mornings too and been fine (although I can’t remember how I was on Sundays then).  I don’t know what it means for me if I can’t go to shul as I should, because I doubt that I will ever become part of the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community if I don’t go to shul on Shabbat mornings, let alone find someone willing to marry me.  It’s the focus of the religious/social week.


I have half a dozen jobs I can apply for, but two are too senior for me, one is too junior, two aren’t really in the right sector and one is at an institution that isn’t right for me and is term-time only, which might be problematic about taking time off for Jewish festivals.  I’ve applied for one (via an agency I’m already registered with, so that only took a few minutes to ask them to submit my CV) and started to apply to another.


There is a lot of needless hate and aggression online.  But sometimes I see something that just breaks my heart.  I was looking at a website of ‘Ask the Rabbi’-type questions and a woman had written clearly in great distress.  Her question was not always easy to understand (English was clearly not her first language), but she was writing about being wracked with guilt for having abortions.  It was clear from what she wrote that she had been raped as a teenager (it wasn’t clear if that was one of the abortions) and it seemed that she was probably suffering from psychosis as she spoke about hearing voices telling her negative things.  She spoke of performing all kinds of ascetic practices to try and atone for her sins, things far outside of standard Jewish practice.

The rabbi’s answer was reasonable in that he told her she shouldn’t feel guilty for things she regrets, especially if she wasn’t raised to know they are against halakhah (Jewish law) and that the ascetic practices are not how God wants her to relate to Him.  He did say she should seek psychiatric help for the voices, although I think he could have stressed it more.  I would have added that some rabbis permit abortion in the case of rape, if that was her situation.  Also to acknowledge the abuse and to tell her that God doesn’t hate her for it, and that it likely led her on to the other things she feels guilty about, and He doesn’t hate her for those either.

I just wanted to tell her that she’s a good person who has been treated brutally by other people and that God doesn’t want her to hate herself because of it.  But the web page was two years old, so it seemed unlikely she would see anything I wrote there.

There is so much suffering and pain in the world and sometimes I just can’t bear it.  One can ask, “How can a benevolent God allow this?” but as much of the pain is from human wickedness, God could equally ask how a supposedly benevolent humanity allows it.  I just wish there was something I could do for this woman.  I hope she got some psychiatric care, although my personal experience of that is that it is no guaranteed cure.


On a different, but still mournful, note, a commenter on a blog about Jewish rationalism and mysticism quoted a New York Times book review that said of people raised in fundamentalist faiths that, “they experience a totalizing indoctrination that so severely limits the formation of an adult psychology that many don’t ever achieve maturity in the way secular society conceives of it, a state of empowered capability that permits complex life choices, a state in which contradictory ideas can be held in tension without psychic recoil. Instead, the fundamentalist child, raised on fear and limitation, lives a life of diminished options, constrained by strict dualisms: black and white, good and bad, God and Satan, and (perhaps most alarmingly for the broader culture) us and them.”  Aside from the hypocrisy of damning religion for creating divides of “us and them” while proceeding to turn religion into a dangerous and irrational “them” contrasted with rational, disenchanted “us” (as if every atheist understands the empirical method and always thinks critically even about emotional issues like politics and identity; nor does someone like Richard Dawkins strike me as someone able to hold contradictory ideas without psychic recoil) and the simply untrue assertion that religious people are immature and unable to make complex life choices, it did make me realise how lonely I am, standing on a mountain peak, trying to balance modernity and postmodernity on the one hand with tradition and belief on the other, to do justice to both while avoiding the absurdities and extremes of either.  I’m not absolutely alone, but I am quite alone and I worry that I will not find friends or my soul mate.


Life just seems this terrible thing I have to get through somehow, with no chance of happiness or reward, in this world or the next.  I don’t know how realistic that thought is.  I know theologically I should say it’s wrong to say there is no reward, but that isn’t how my life feels.  And I know my CBT therapist would say that it’s wrong to say I have no chance of getting better, but based on the last twenty years, that is what it feels like.


On a more cheerful note, my parents booked tickets to take me to see The Play that Goes Wrong next month as a birthday treat.  There was money leftover in the budget, so I bought a couple of books and DVDs, of which the DVD of I Claudius (highly regarded 1970s BBC drama about the early Roman emperors) arrived today.  I look forward to watching that when I’ve finished Smiley’s People.

I did also continue working on my Doctor Who book today for about two hours, redrafting another chapter and cutting about eight hundred words.  I feel less guilty about working on it when I could technically be job hunting or studying Torah now that I am somewhat hopeful of getting it published, as I think of it as my parnassah (sustenance) and being as important as job hunting or Torah.  Of course, I may not get it published…

Many Happy Returns

My birthday wasn’t as bad as I feared in the end.  I enjoyed Shabbat (Sabbath) meals that I had chosen (schnitzel, salt beef) and the stuff Mum added (potato kugel, breaded cauliflower).  I also realised that in gematria (the Hebrew system where letters are given numerical values used to compute mystical values and equivalences for concepts) thirty-six is twice eighteen which is the value of chai (life).  This is seen as significant and people often give charity (etc.) in multiples of eighteen/chai.  One shouldn’t look for signs, but this made me feel marginally better about heading towards my late thirties single and unemployed.

I’m struggling with shul (synagogue) during Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday night services).  There’s a lot of clapping and noise that I find uncomfortable.  There seems to have been more since the new rabbi came; possibly he’s encouraging it as he’s somewhat Hasidish (sorry, don’t know how to explain that without a long essay).  I feel that since I’ve become aware that I’m probably autistic, I’ve become less tolerant of noisy situations and I don’t know if I’m recognising discomfort I did not understand before or if it’s some kind of placebo effect (I believe nocebo is the negative version of a placebo).

I woke up on time to go to shul this morning and I didn’t even feel depressed or anxious, but I still didn’t make it.  I have to make a hierarchical list of difficult situations to expose myself to in order to challenge my social anxiety and low self-esteem behaviours for CBT and I decided that one of the ones at the top would be going to shul on Shabbat morning.  So then when I woke up and felt OK going without building up to it, I suddenly felt I shouldn’t go because I’ll mess up the list.  This is such a stupid reason that I feel it was probably social anxiety acting in a cryptic way.

Another thing on my list of challenges, potentially, is regarding dating, either to go to a paid shadchan (matchmaker) or to go to the person who someone suggested to my Dad might be able to help me date while depressed.  I’m still not sure if this is a sensible thing to do while unemployed, particularly not the paid shadchan, as I can see that being a potentially endless drain on my funds at a time when I have effectively zero income (I have yet to manage to sell any articles and feel quite despondent about it).  My parents and my rabbi mentor are very keen that I should be dating right now, and I am lonely, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting me when I have unemployment to add to all my other issues and it just seems like a distraction that could leave me feeling worse.  Plus, looking to get married without being able to support a family just seems wrong, even if it is normal in parts of the frum (religious Jewish) world.

I had a weird thought in shul.  I don’t really know how to conceptualise the afterlife (I believe it is so unlike this world that all suggestions are at best metaphors), but usually I don’t think of encountering other beings than God (which is telling in itself, from an autistic and socially anxious point of view, given that I am apparently quite happy at the thought of not meeting anyone I know ever again for all eternity), but it occurred to me that Jewish interpretations seem to suggest one might meet other righteous souls.  I started worry about people I knew years ago, at Oxford or school and whether they would want to “talk” to me, the ones I just drifted away from and the ones who fell out with me because they couldn’t cope with my depression and autism (my fault, I can be a bit much in person).  It was a weird thing to worry about.  This was triggered by the fact that I sometimes see people I was at school with in shul, and they show no sign of remembering me or wanting to talk to me, although to be fair I wasn’t really friends with them at school and I am actively hoping that they don’t talk to me because I don’t know what to say, so I’m probably giving off “Leave me alone” vibes, which I do a lot, both consciously and unconsciously.

Speaking of which, someone sitting opposite me at seudah tried to talk to me and I had no idea what to say.  If CBT is going to encourage me to talk to strangers more, I’m going to have to learn quickly how to have a conversation in small talk, because in thirty-six years I’ve never worked that out.

“We are far too young and clever”

I feel really depressed today and I can’t work out why.  I’m utterly drained of energy, motivation and concentration and my mood is very bleak.  I can’t do anything.  I’m struggling just to get ready for Shabbat (the Sabbath) and to do my CBT homework.  I struggled to go for a short walk to do some shopping, not helped by the fact I’m still aching from running for the first time in a year on Wednesday.  I’m not even going to try to do job applications or work on my books or phone the Citizens Advice Bureau about benefits.

Perhaps this is because tomorrow is my birthday and I feel pretty miserable about it.  Firstly, tomorrow is the Hebrew date of 17 Tammuz, which is a very sad day on which a lot of bad things happened.  It’s a fast day, but the fast is postponed to Sunday (because you can’t fast minor fasts on Shabbat/Sabbath), which is something at least.  One shouldn’t mourn on Shabbat, so at least I don’t have to be miserable.  Then my Hebrew birthday (lots of frum/religious people celebrate Hebrew birthdays now rather than solar ones, although there is no real tradition of celebrating either, and some important Medieval rabbis said it’s the solar one that counts) is three weeks and a day later on 10 Av.  9 Av is an even sadder fast day than 17 Tammuz, but 9 Av is on a Shabbat this year too, so gets postponed to 10 Av i.e. my Hebrew birthday.  So it feels like I’m being told to be miserable on my birthday this year, even without taking in to account that I will be thirty-six, unemployed, single, depressed and generally feeling like I have done nothing with the thirty-six years I have already had.


Last night I dreamt I was in Oxford (I think) and was given a semi-rabbinical job giving occasional sermons in the shul (synagogue).  I was very anxious, but everyone seemed to want to hear me.  Huh.


I’m also feeling depressed by antisemitism, and the failure of people usually (rightly) sensitive to stereotypes and structural prejudice to even notice antisemitism unless it’s skinheads doing Hitler salutes and shouting “Gas the Jews!” (and sometimes not even then).

Abdications, Coronations

“I had to work through it, I had to crawl my way back.  I’m still not there, but I’m trying.  That kind of work, reclaiming life, it’s punishing and it’s relentless and it’s solitary.” Star Trek Discovery: The War Without, The War Within, Teleplay by : Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts

There’s a risk that this is becoming a dream diary.  I don’t remember my dreams very often, so I’m interested when I do, but I know other people’s dreams are not so interesting.  But this one seemed very significant, especially as I woke partway through and then continued the dream when I fell asleep again, so here goes:

The dream was about the abdication crisis in 1936, when King Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry a divorcee, and his brother, who thought himself unfit to rule, became King George VI.  Edward VIII has always seemed a weak character to me, someone who put his personal desires ahead of his duty, unlike his brother who became king despite not being prepared for it and who refused to be evacuated to safety in Canada during The Blitz, insisting on staying in danger with his subjects.  (Edward, on the other hand, was a Nazi sympathiser who would probably have pushed for a peaceful settlement with Germany in 1940 had he been king.)

In the dream I shifted between being different characters, first an onlooker, then possibly Edward before ending up as George.  I was watching the coronation in a Westminster Abbey that was (a) very small and (b) devoid of Christian symbols.  Then I was being crowned myself.  I didn’t feel myself fit to be crowned, but felt pushed into it by my family.  There were lots of other details too that I can’t really remember (some Doctor Who stuff in particular), but I think the main message of the dream is that I have to decide whether to take responsibility for my life.  Not that I can literally be a king, but that I have to decide whether I am going to be ruler of my life or be pushed around by events and my ‘issues’; also that sometimes we aren’t prepared for what life throws at us and we just have to get on with it with the British stiff upper lip.

Another significant detail is that when I was crowned, my family were not dressed appropriately (my Dad in particular was in t-shirt and shorts) and I just had to accept them as they are and stop wanting to change them.

It is easy to read all these things in a dream, but it’s a lot harder to put them into practice in my life.


In CBT today we spoke about my negative thoughts about work, relationships, self-esteem and socialising.  It occurred to me on the way home that a lot of the thoughts basically boiled down to being conscious of the way my autism affects me in my interactions and makes me think that people are judging me negatively for it, because I felt I was treated negatively for being autistic as a child, by other children, but more importantly by adults who were unaware of my autism, which was not diagnosed, and tried to make me conform more in different ways (not that I was terribly non-conformist as a child, I just didn’t always understand social niceties and did enjoy ‘normal’ things).  I’m not sure how I deal with that now.  The CBT therapist asked if I felt people still judge me and I said no, but I suppose I worry that they do; they wouldn’t if I was ‘normal’ but I’m so very weird that they will judge me, especially in the conformist world of Orthodox Judaism.  She did also say that it doesn’t matter even if they judge me, which might be a better approach for me to take.

An awkward moment: after we finished, I thought the therapist said to wait for her outside the admin office while she did something, but waiting outside I started to worry that I had misunderstood and so I left.  She emailed to say check I was OK as she was expecting me to wait.  Sigh.  This is the kind of thing where I judge myself and feel inadequate regarding communication.

Next week we move towards challenging my low self-esteem with different new behaviours.  Scary…


Speaking of which, today my shul (synagogue) had a trip to Cambridge to see the Cairo Geniza papers.  I didn’t go was because I was too shy to personal message the person who was organising it.  As it happened, I would have missed it anyway because of CBT, but I feel bad for missing it.


I had some other things that bothered or upset me today.  Some of it I can’t really talk about because it concerns other people, but suffice to say that I felt pretty inferior.

I’ve also read a lot about horrible antisemitic stuff going on globally the last few days, which is depressing beyond words, especially as so many people seem to genuinely believe that antisemitism is just something Jews make up to get sympathy and shut down criticism of Israel.  Apparently burning down synagogues in Germany is now considered a legitimate expression of criticism of the Israeli government.  And a lot more where that came from that I’ll spare you.


I’ve just sunk into a deep depression in the last hour or so.  I’m not sure if it was my sister visiting or if I ate too much junk at shiur (religious class) or what.  It could also be going from CBT to shiur without enough of a break.  Over-causation.  I should get ready for bed, except that I need to daven (pray), meditate/do my hitbodedut and do some Torah study first.

Thomas the Depressed Tank Engine

I woke up early with some religious OCD thoughts.  I did at least have the presence of mind to realise that the thoughts were not going to go away while I was lying in bed and that eating something might help as I typically wake up with low blood sugar, and low blood sugar tends to correlate with a worsening of my mental health.  This worked reasonably well and helped me bring the thoughts under control.  The thoughts are still there somewhat and part of me wants to ask my rabbi mentor about them, but I know that I shouldn’t as I have already asked him and I think he said it was OK (I can’t remember for sure, which is where the OCD comes in).  Doubly OK, in fact, as it’s a question about a past situation, and my rabbi mentor has told me that halakhically (according to Jewish law) one can assume everything in the past was done OK unless there is strong evidence to the contrary.


I sent off three job applications today (relatively straightforward ones) and spent a while navigating through the benefits maze to see if I am eligible for anything.  It’s difficult to get through to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and the Department of Work and Pensions website doesn’t say how much I need to have contributed in terms of National Insurance while I was in work to qualify for benefits now.  It is also hard to navigate through the multiplicity of benefits available, each with their own eligibility criteria.  And it is hard to know what to think when I am told I am not ill enough to qualify for most benefits, but apparently have not worked enough to qualify for others.

I had some other negative money news today that I won’t go into here, but depresses me more, even though the tangible effect on me is negligible, as I wasn’t relying on the money in question.

I hate living off other people, whether state benefits or my parents.  I don’t think that unemployed people are parasites.  Nor do I think that peoples’ worth depends on their income or their job (what I call The Really Useful Engine Fallacy – thinking I have to be of use to others to justify my existence).  I do think that work would give more meaning to my life, if I could find work that was in my scope, given my issues.  I do also think that I may need to work on my self-esteem more in CBT to increase that scope, because the three jobs I’ve had in the last year and a bit have depleted my self-confidence.  I wish I had a better idea of what I’m good at.  Careers advisers have not really been much use here; they seem to expect you to have some idea of what you want to do and so they can tell you what you should do to get there.


At the risk of falling victim to The Really Useful Engine Fallacy myself, I feel that I have wasted today.  I got up early, but procrastinated a lot.  I didn’t feel too depressed initially, but by mid-afternoon I was feeling that I would never find the right job and that made me feel more depressed, which made it harder to do anything.  I get the impression that I am not using PeoplePerHour.com correctly to find freelance proofreading work.  I think I should possibly be pitching for work rather than waiting for people to see my profile, but I don’t really know what I’m capable of doing and am wary of committing to something and not being able to follow through.

I did go for a run, but got tired out quickly and walked quite a bit (I think I’m bad at pacing myself initially).  Then I stopped after twenty minutes because I was getting a terrible headache, which still hasn’t completely gone four hours later.  But it was my first run in more or less exactly a year.  According to my records, I only ran nine times in 2018, so I’ve got a chance to at least try and improve on that in the second half of 2019.  And I did do some Torah study (not as much as I would have liked because of the headache) and worked on my Doctor Who book for a while (another chapter sorted, but not so many words cut).  So, it probably has been a reasonable day again, but again it doesn’t quite feel like it.

Morbid Dream

I’ve been having weird dreams lately.  I don’t usually remember my dreams, just fragments at most, but I woke up in the early hours after the dream I’m about to recount and it seemed significant enough that I got up and wrote some notes on it, which say more than I can remember now.  I’m cutting out some details I don’t want to share.

In the dream I was dying and I knew it.  I said a tearful goodbye to my sister.  I said I did love her even though I knew I didn’t show it well.  I said a shorter goodbye to my parents or possibly didn’t say goodbye to them at all, although they were there.  Lots of other people came to say goodbye to me, but I didn’t see who they were as they were in another room; although they came to say goodbye, they weren’t supposed to come in until I had died.

My secondary school English teacher came in, but kept his distance.  I said, “Sir, I’m dying of anxiety and ennui, I’m not contagious!”  (“Dying of anxiety and ennui” – even my unconscious thinks I’m a drama queen.)

Dying felt like dozing off.  I felt guilty, I think because everyone was upset, but I was excited that I was about to find out for sure if God really exists and get to meet Him, but then I remembered Gehennom (Purgatory) and became worried.

As I began to wake up from the dream, I realised I was not actually dying.  There was no relief, just a sense of bathos and anticlimax, as well as guilt for overreacting and putting everyone to such trouble.

I guess the dream shows how morbid my thoughts can be and obsessed with death and having some kind of meaningful life.  Also that I want to connect with God, but don’t know how to do it in this world, through Torah and mitzvot (commandments), only through dying.  I do think, as I said, that my dream shows that I think I’m a drama queen.  It also shows that I feel guilty about my relationships with my sister and maybe my parents, that they love me, but I can’t show them how I feel about them.  Maybe I feel things differently because of the autism; certainly I show my feelings differently because of it.  It was also interesting that my unconscious mind used the word ‘ennui,’ which is not a word I use very much consciously.

Today has mostly been a day for chores.  My new phone seems to be up and running now.  It wasn’t as complicated a process as I feared.  I cooked vegetarian bean burgers, which took longer than I expected and fell to pieces.  They’re the trickiest recipe in my repertoire; it’s always hard to get them to cohere.  My parents liked them though.  I also walked to the shops and did a lot of grocery shopping.  I also went to the Judaica shop to buy more tzitzit (Jewish ritual fringed undergarment) to replace the ones I failed to retie the other week.  The Judaica shop has a loyalty card scheme, but you need to spend £15 in one go to get a stamp (it’s literal card, not a digital card), so I bought some books I possibly didn’t need.  I have several volumes of a multi-volume edition of Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) with no translation, but the commentary of Rashi (all in Hebrew).  I’m trying to get the whole set, but it’s not clear how much has been published.  I do like being able to look up Rashi without needing the translation (and Chabad.org has a translation online if I get stuck), but I probably didn’t urgently need the books, so that may be £10 spent frivolously at a time when I have zero income.  The books should be useful over time, though.  It’s always useful to have access to key commentaries on Tanakh if you can read them in the original, rather than rely on Rabbi Artscroll and Rabbi Google.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau contacted me to say I might be eligible for benefits after all, because of my depression, but it depends on how much I can or can’t work plus how much National Insurance I’ve paid in the last two years.  The information they sent me doesn’t say how much I need to have paid, annoyingly, so I will have to phone them again.  To be honest, I’m sceptical about (a) whether I will be considered “ill enough” to qualify for benefits and (b) whether I have paid enough National Insurance to qualify, as I have spent the last tax year in and out of work and I have only ever worked part-time.

I also submitted the article I tried to submit to a Jewish newspaper a few weeks ago to a different newspaper.  This time I emailed it to the editor, community editor and features editor, which may be overkill, but I think I’m only going to sell my writing by bombarding people with it (I’m not joking).  I got no response to the previous pitch, so even getting a rejection will be an improvement.

All of that took up most of the day, which was a bit disappointing.  By the evening I was getting a migraine, which meant I didn’t really do any Torah study.  I will try to do a few minutes before bed.  My efficiency is a lot lower than it should be at the moment.  By at the moment, I mean “When I’m depressed,” which is most of the time I’ve been an adult.  I’m just completely exhausted now.  This frustrates, upsets and worries me.

I did at least cope with hearing via the shul What’sApp about children being born to people my age without drifting into envy and loneliness.  So I guess that’s an improvement.


I’m still watching Star Trek Discovery season one.  I’m about three quarters of the way through.  It’s good, but also relentlessly grim, which gets tiring after a while; it’s also occasionally too gory for my liking.  It reminds me of Babylon 5, which I also liked a lot, but got very grim by season four.  And between this and Deep Space Nine, I clearly find the mirror universe much less interesting than the average Star Trek writer.

I’m also still reading Gershom Scholem on the history of Kabbalah, which is interesting, but heavy-going in a different way.

I think I have a new favourite bizarre Wikipedia page: List of Presidents of the United States with facial hair.  Who knew that Harry Truman grew a goatee while on holiday in 1948?

Procrastinate Now!

I was very depressed today.  I didn’t want to procrastinate by idle internet browsing (my usual procrastination technique), so I forced myself off the computer, but instead laid on my bed and dozed for an hour and a half instead.  Not good.  (Also, I’m having weird dreams lately.)

The thing I was really avoiding was making a dentist appointment.  I don’t even have an issue with going to the dentist (except for my medication side-effect tremor, which can be uncomfortable), it was actually talking to the receptionist that was hard, not least because I was conscious that I was supposed to see the dentist a few months ago, but forgot to make an appointment and was vaguely worried that they would say something (they didn’t).

I also applied for a mock interview from a Jewish charity that helps people into work, as I feel that I have not been interviewing confidently lately when I have gone for job interviews.  The thought of being critiqued is anxiety-provoking, but I have to go through with it.

I didn’t get the job I was interviewed for last week.  Maybe it is for the best; it was at a children’s charity and I would have been working a lot on material about bullying and child abuse that I would probably have found upsetting to work on all day long.

I applied for another job which has the right hours (three days a week, not Fridays), but isn’t really like anything I’ve done before, despite being an assistant librarian job.  Library jobs can be more varied than people think; this one is about manning the enquiry desk and collating reports on enquiries.  This sounds like it would involve a lot of scary social interactions, but I’m going for it anyway.

I had a bad day in terms of fitting in to my shul (synagogue) community.  I was wearing a new red polo shirt, but before I went to shul I was worried that some frum (religious) people won’t wear red, for reasons I’ve never really understood.  I wasn’t sure if this applied to men or just to women (see here).  I would wear it generally, but I was worried of advertising my “heterodoxy” (such as it is) or offending people, so I changed before shul.

Then in shul I found myself wondering at the way I hide myself from the community.  I hide the way that I am have potentially heterodox views, but I also hide things in the other direction (so to speak): I don’t own up to being able to lead services and having done that a lot before moving to this area, or to being able to write divrei Torah (although I’m not sure whether I could do it to the standard they would want), or to having some degree of Hebrew fluency (I’m not really fluent, but more so than most people even within Orthodoxy).  This came about because I was struggling with mixed feelings about whether I would be asked to lead the service or whether I should volunteer.  I’ve only been asked once in this shul (I was nervous and turned it down) which I’m sure is because they don’t know that I can do it.  The fact that I turned it down was probably taken as confirmation that I can’t do it.  As I’m thinking about self-esteem and pushing myself out of my comfort zone for CBT, it is something to think about.

Despite the procrastination and depression, I had a reasonable day, achievement-wise.  I applied for a job, finished redrafting and formatting another chapter of my Doctor Who book (pruning a thousand words along the way, which is good, but it took more than two hours rather than the one I was expecting/hoping for) and went to shul (synagogue).  Even so, when I was walking home from shul feeling reasonably good, I suddenly found myself thinking that I don’t want to be alive.  Not that I was suicidal, but just that I don’t feel that there is anything for me here.  It is good to be making progress with my Doctor Who book, though.  Depending on whether I think the chapter on the most recent episodes needs fleshing out after another viewing, I could potentially be finished and looking for a publisher by the end of the summer.

Hypothetical Questions

The house is sporty today.  Mum watched the tennis while Dad watched the cricket.  I should add that this is all on TV (although Dad is going to the cricket later in the week with my brother-in-law).  I have zero interest in cricket and tennis, or netball and formula one racing (which apparently were also on today).  I have zero interest in watching any sport.  I can sort of see the appeal of playing sport, but I’ve never really seen the appeal of watching other people play sport.  Maybe I’m just not competitive.


Ashley Leia said on my last post that I do a lot of peopling on Shabbat which I guess is true, although at the moment I’m so focused on the fact that I keep missing morning shul because of social anxiety that I don’t focus on how much other social interaction I have, especially as interactions with my parents feel like they shouldn’t count as draining.  They aren’t as stressful as other social interactions, but they are still draining on some level.  No wonder Sundays tend to be something of a depressive wash out (including today).


There was an article in the newspaper about “incels” – “involuntarily celibate” men who become angry and misogynistic.  Well, it could be that they become angry and misogynistic, but equally it could be anger issues and misogyny that keep them celibate.  They seem to have an entitled attitude that assumes that they should get to sleep with whoever they want to.  The thing is, some of the incels mentioned in the article have mental health issues or autism, which made the article resonate with me in a negative way.

I would not identify as an incel, but if I’m asked about my sexuality (which, generally speaking, I’m not), I would define as “celibate” because that does define me more than being heterosexual, at least in some ways.  Even though my celibacy is for both religious and emotional reasons, because I would not have sex outside marriage and because I couldn’t cope emotionally with being with anyone as a casual hookup, it is still part of how I see myself, as someone who, for whatever reason, is not currently seeking sex and struggles being in a wider (Western) culture that permits and, to some extent, expects casual sex as well as in an (Orthodox Jewish) culture that promotes and expects early marriage.

I’m glad I don’t get sucked into outwardly expressing anger about my loneliness or anything else.  I do sometimes fume inside my head about things (mostly antisemitism these days) and in the past I’ve drifted into angry suicidal thoughts (hoping to make people feel guilty for my death), but mostly I turn my anger inward as depression and low self-esteem, which isn’t any healthier but at least isn’t hurting anyone else (incels have been known to murder women).  But I can see that these men have a warped view of sex and relationships as being about taking rather than giving and, as I said, they assume they have a right to sleep with whoever they want.

I desperately want to find someone who I can give to, but with depression and autism I can only give in certain ways.  I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to be around me, either as a friend or as a partner.  I know I’m a lot to take, with all my issues.  I just worry that sooner or later everyone will leave me.

On this note, periodically someone will leave one or more comments on my blog, or even message me through my contact page, saying they like my blog and get a lot out of it.  And I feel pleased for a while.  And then I stop hearing from them.  If they were on my followers list, they disappear from it.  I know people stop following blogs all the time, for a whole variety of reasons, but this always leaves me worrying that I said or did something wrong, doubly so since falling out with the friends who didn’t like my blogging.  I worry I was too religious or too political or said something offensive without realising it.  I’ve had friendships that went like this too.  Possibly I’m overthinking this.  I just want to connect with people, really, and I worry that there’s something about me that stops that (it possibly starts with ‘a’ and ends with ‘utistic’).

It doesn’t help that I’m a great one for wondering “What if…?”  What if I had spoken to the woman I had a crush on (for any given crush)?  What if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary)?  And so on.  E. asked me today what I thought my life would be like if I hadn’t become religious.  I think I would probably still be depressed, as the depression stems from autism and childhood experiences as much as anything.  I could see myself as a militantly anti-religious atheist, funnily enough.  I would have a wider dating pool if I didn’t restrict myself just to frum women, but I think I would still struggle to find a partner because of autism and social anxiety.  I would probably fit in better in Doctor Who fandom and maybe in academia; my social life at university would have been either slightly better or significantly worse for not having the Jewish Society to go to.  And if I was more settled in fandom or academia, peer pressure would probably drag my political beliefs further left.  Although I’m not sure it’s sensible to think about this too much, especially as there’s probably an element of chaos theory that makes such changes unpredictable.


The library job that I had a year ago (the one I left because they made the job more people-based and my boss said she didn’t think I could cope with it) is still advertising for my boss’ position.  I wonder if I made a mistake leaving that job, if things could have turned out so differently with a different boss.  I wonder if I could have done the new version of the job, as other jobs I have been applying for have been similarly people-based.  I suppose I’ll never know as they aren’t advertising any assistant librarian jobs and I wouldn’t apply for the senior librarian role.


My main tasks for today were setting up my new phone (mostly done, although the phone number won’t transfer from the old phone until tomorrow or possibly Tuesday) and reading for CBT.  The latter was largely about safety behaviours and saying that they can be counter-productive.  I agree with that, but I feel that some safety behaviours are necessary, particularly for my autism.  If I avoid going to parties because I’m socially anxious I can see that that would be potentially negative and counter-productive, but what if I avoid them because they make me feel uncomfortable because of sensory overload?  I have the same mixture of social anxiety and autism around Simchat Torah celebrations (which happens more frequently than my getting invited to parties).

CBT and phone took much longer than expected, so I didn’t get much else done other than going for a walk.  I was prepared to cook dinner, but apparently we’re ordering takeaway pizza.  I need to get away from screens for a bit, though, so I’m posting this now.

Short Notes from Shabbat

Not much to report.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) was quite difficult.  I’m really struggling with Friday nights at the moment: overwhelmed by noise and people at shul (synagogue) then trying to be social with my parents at dinner and then doing meditation and hitbodedut (prayer/meditation) and a bit of Torah study and bed late without any real time to recuperate.  I don’t want to skip anything, though, so it’s hard to know what to do.  As with the last few weeks, I woke up about 7.00am and felt too socially anxious to get up and go to shul.  Then I slept a lot in the afternoon and read a bit (Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem and Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny) before shul.  I spent much of the day feeling very depressed and far from God.  Actually, I spent much of Shabbat asleep, but when I was awake I was feeling depressed and far from God.

One of my shul friends is running a little group learning thing where they are studying the laws of Shabbat for half an hour before Talmud shiur (religious class) and he invited me along, but I don’t think I can cope with that then shiur then Mincha (Afternoon Service) then seudah (the third Sabbath meal) and another shiur then Ma’ariv (Evening Prayers) then helping to tidy up the shul then coming home and helping my parents to tidy up.  That’s about four hours of STUFF, much of which is difficult for depressive, socially anxious or autistic reasons.  It would be a good way to build up friendships with a couple more people though.

The shiur over seudah was interesting, but I think I need time to digest it before saying anything about it.

And that was it, really.

Are Friends Electric?

I woke up feeling awful, even by my usual standards, incredibly depressed and exhausted.  I dreamt about the sin of the golden calf (probably because it was mentioned in passing in the shiur (religious class) yesterday) and feeling unbearably far from God.  In the dream, I reflected that it would be better to be in Gehennom (Hell/Purgatory) than here, because at least there one would know for sure that God exists, even if one can not reach Him.  I woke up feeling so lonely and depressed that it took me three quarters of an hour to be able to get up.

The Talmud states that while some dreams can be a form of prophecy, most dreams are simply the product of our waking thoughts and even prophetic dreams contain some nonsense.  They suggest reframing a negative dream in a positive light through positive interpretation (I’m not sure if the idea is that reframing makes good things happen on some mystical level or if it simply helps us view events positively from a psychological perspective whatever happens).  I’m not sure how to make something good out of this.  I suppose it shows I’m genuinely concerned about being far from God, but it doesn’t tell me how accurate that feeling is or how to overcome it.


Watching Star Trek Discovery, I feel what I often feel about Star Trek in its various iterations, that the team spirit and mutual support that the characters give one another is reassuring, but also makes me feel lonely for not having a support network like that.

I also feel that I have thoughts to share, but I don’t know how to share them, how to find places where they might fit, pitch them properly and get them published.  I’m also scared to write anything about politics or religion for fear of getting flamed, but those topics are fairly predominant in my thoughts.


I went to get my new phone today and discovered that my current phone is so old that they can’t transfer my data to the new one.  This doesn’t bother me too much, as I hardly have any numbers on there anyway, I have almost no apps and I don’t really use the camera phone as I shake too much to get a clear picture with it.

What it does do is drive home how few friends I have.  I’ve lost three friends in the last year and drifted away from more.  Two were the ones who fell out with me a few weeks ago (I’m still not entirely sure why).  Another treated me quite badly, but I took the cowardly way out and didn’t say anything and just let the friendship drift away.  I didn’t need to ghost him, as he never made contact with me anyway, which I would say is telling, but most of my friends have been like that, historically.  And then there are other friends I’ve just drifted away from.  No histrionics or ghosting, just not coming into contact with each other any more or having things in common now they have careers and families.  I suppose I’ve been avoiding making contact because I feel inferior to them, and they don’t often make contact with me so nothing happens.

I should get ready for Shabbat (the Sabbath).  It’s probably not ideal to go into a day that is always difficult, from a social anxiety and autism point of view, while in a lonely and self-critical state of mind, but I don’t really know what else I can do.  I’m glad I have E. and one or two other more distant friends, and that I have a reasonable relationship with my parents, sister and brother-in-law.  Also that there are a few people at shul (synagogue) who seem to like me, even if I don’t generally know what to do about that because of my high-functioning autism.

Faith and Tests

Not a lot to say today.  I had an interview for a combined librarian/writer job.  The interview went OKish, but I may have messed up the written test and I’m not sure that I can commit to working full-time, especially not for a role that will potentially put me in triggering situations as a matter of course (it’s not as bad it sounds like, but I can’t really be more specific in a semi-public setting).


CBT was useful, but I think I need some time to process it.  One thing that stuck in my mind was that we spoke about my issues being caused partly by being bullied at school and the therapist said that I don’t see the bullies any more so I shouldn’t worry about what they think.  I agreed, but the reality is more complicated in terms of who I actually still run into in my community and what kind of relationship I have with them.  Perhaps I should have raised that, but the relationship I have with the main person I’m thinking of is really complicated and I’m not entirely sure how to describe, nor am I entirely sure that I consciously understand the situation particularly well; there may well be different conscious and unconscious motivations (e.g. trying to prove to myself that I don’t bear grudges by seeing this person).


At shiur (religious class) tonight, the assistant rabbi (who isn’t the assistant rabbi any more, but I’ll keep calling him that for now as this blog is already quite confusing for the number of rabbis mention without changing their titles too) spoke about emunah, faith, as occurring when you are in a situation that is awful and has no apparent end in sight, but you keep trusting that this is the right situation for you to be in, on some level.  This is an idea I have heard before, but somehow it penetrated my mind more thoroughly than in the past.  Recently, I have been trying without much success to work on not worrying that I will be depressed, unemployed and single forever and focus on the fact that things can change and even if they don’t, this is where I am (apparently) meant to be right now, unpleasant though it seems.  I suppose the secular version would be not worrying about things you can’t change or saying it will all be the same in a hundred years (as my maternal grandparents used to say), except this goes further and is open to the current situation as being, on some level, positive, even if I can’t see it at the moment.


Yesterday I quoted the idea, very common in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world, that God does not give people tests they can not stand.  Ashley Leia felt this was a privileged view.  I’m not sure “privileged” is the word I would use, but I see her unease.  I’ve been thinking about it since then.  Obviously the idea at a basic level is that for God to punish someone, their sin must not have been inevitable.

First, I tried to find the source of the quote, using Rabbi Google.  I assumed it was something in the Talmud, as people seem to say, “Chazal tells us that God doesn’t give us a test we can’t pass” (Chazal is the Hebrew acronym for “our sages, may they be remembered for good,” but is only used for Talmudic rabbis).

The only relevant page I found was this one (admittedly I did not search for long).  Most of the ‘proofs’ there are not real proofs at all (only the Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav quote seems really pertinent to me, and that’s late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, which is pretty recent from a Jewish perspective and about 1,500 years after the editing of the Talmud).  The ‘proofs’ seem at best circumstantial, stating that God does not act tyrannically and ask more of people than they can bear, but I’m not sure that that’s really the same thing.  One could argue from those examples that God does not give someone a test that they can’t bear, but you could also argue that God could give people an overwhelming test that they can’t bear, but that He doesn’t then punish them for sinning in that way, because they didn’t have free will.  This might be the meaning of the quote there from Rav Dessler and I think Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin says something similar, that God can put a person in a situation where they have no choice but to sin, but will not punish them for doing that (although presumably they are only sure it was an “impossible” sin/test in the Next World).

To some extent, though, I think the above paragraph is splitting hairs and not addressing the core issue.  I think the bigger issue is, what is a test?  Is a test always about being tempted with two options, one morally good and one morally bad?  Or is a test a more nebulous concept with no clear outcome?  Does it have to be a moral test or could it be a test of endurance?  Or are they the really same thing, on some level?  (To some extent, the decision may be semantic rather than conceptual.)

Similarly, is something a test just because it’s hard or does it have to be morally challenging (and see the Rav Dessler quote again that something morally challenging is neither too easy nor too hard).  Maybe some things are difficult without being tests e.g. that they are the background to a different test.  So maybe being depressed is not my test so it can feel unbearable and my faith can falter; maybe the test is to learn to keep my temper when depression makes me irritable or to keep doing the tiny, basic amount of davening (praying) and Torah study I do.  Or vice versa; maybe davening is not really relevant to me one way or the other right now, but it’s just an expression of a real test, which is having emunah (faith).

I do think there has to be the possibility of failure for a test to have meaning, though, otherwise it is not a real test.  But it could be that the parts that I feel I’m failing are not the issues I’m really being tested on.


I think when I’ve left comments here in response to reader comments I might have left them in the wrong place so they don’t register as replies in the original commenter’s notifications.  I apologise for that.  I do respond to all comments, however briefly.


I just stopped following a site I was occasionally reading.  It was for ba’alei teshuva (Jews raised non-religious who became religious later in life).  I thought it would be good to find people who share my struggles, but they seem to be on a much higher spiritual level than me.  The article that made me give up said that “as long as a person remains outside the world of closeness with Hashem [God], he will never attain it [closeness to God]”.  One is supposed to have trust in God and in genuine Torah leaders to attain this.  It concludes “If the reader is still doubtful at this point about the words here, then there is no proof we can bring to convince him otherwise. But one thing we can ask of him: For your own sake, and for the sake of the Jewish people, and for the sake of giving your Creator a satisfaction, cry to Hashem every day, hour after hour, and ask Him that he guide you to the truth. If a person really begs Hashem for this, and if he really wants it, Hashem will surely help him get to the truth, that he be able to give a nachas ruach (satisfaction) to Hashem all his life.”  I do at least try to cry out to be guided to the truth, despite the depression and exhaustion.  Maybe I don’t cry out enough or good enough or I don’t really want it.  Maybe, after everything I’ve been through over the years, I don’t believe that things will get any better for me, or that God wants things to be any different for me.  That God created me for anything other than suffering and punishment.  I don’t know.  But I don’t feel satisfaction or love in my life.  Apparently if I loved God, I wouldn’t care about being so lonely among people (perhaps – the article actually said that I would give up lust, which may not be the same thing).  I wish I could, but it’s not working out for me.

(I also don’t think we can give HaShemnachat ruach/satisfaction” and that statements in the Talmud and other authoritative texts to the contrary are “speaking the language of man,” but this is me being Maimonidean and is not the main issue (we can’t give satisfaction to God, because this would imply that God has a lack that we can fill, which is not possible).)

My issue isn’t really this post, it’s the entire outlook of the site which is super-frum (religious) and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and negative about the wider world and assuming that everyone is on a high spiritual level, which I am not.  I wish I was on the level of the writers and commenters for this site, but I am not.  I wish I could find people on my level and going through things I am going through to support me, but I can’t.  I suspect someone who has been frum for as long as I have isn’t supposed to still be struggling with basic things like davening (praying) and studying Torah every day.

On frum sites like that one, one thing you hear a lot is, “HaShem doesn’t give anyone a test they can’t cope with.”  I don’t think I’m coping with my tests.  Maybe I’m just lazy or wicked, but I don’t feel like I’m coping with autism, unemployment, loneliness or especially depression at all well.  The book Calling Out to You (on depression and anxiety from a frum perspective) did at least say that “coping” is not the same as “functioning normally as if there was no test” and that it’s OK to be sub-par when depressed or anxious.  That helps a bit, but I don’t feel like I’m coping at all.  I feel that every frum site I come across does this to me sooner or later, leaves me feeling wicked and distant from God and other Jews, who apparently don’t have the issues I have.

I do wish I could find a forum for talking with other frum Jews who have these kinds of issues (mental illness, autism, trouble trusting God because of childhood experiences etc.).  I was looking at a frum forum for another issue in the hope that some ideas would transfer or I would see some commonalities, but I couldn’t connect with the attitudes there.  They were just frummie attitudes that I can’t imitate.


I felt depressed this morning and while I felt a bit better after lunch, once I tried to do some interview preparation for tomorrow, my mood worsened.  I looked over my notes on ‘classic’ interview questions.  I still doubt my ability to answer them fluently under pressure.  So much depends on feeling confident in the interview despite social anxiety and responding promptly to unexpected questions despite autistic slow processing time.

It’s hard to do anything at the moment and I wonder what will happen if I do get a job.  I am largely caught up in depression and loneliness and struggle to be able to do anything.  I try to find small tasks (go for a walk, do thirty minutes of Torah study, write a job application for an hour), but it can be hard to do anything.  I just went for a walk and did some shopping and I became completely exhausted, even though I was only out for forty-five minutes.  (Low blood sugar may have been a contributory factor, to be fair, but it wasn’t that long since lunch.)  The job I’m up for tomorrow is full-time and I don’t have a clue how I would cope with that.

It’s tempting to say I just want to watch TV all day, but I don’t think I do.  That would show too much initiative, motivation and concentration.  I don’t really want to do anything at all.  I just have to exist, somehow.

The thing that scares me is being like this forever.  I already know that I’ve lost much of my teens, my twenties and half of my thirties to depression.  I feel like I will never have any joy in my life, having lost what are considered the most carefree and enjoyable years.  Even if I fully recovered, I would be struggling for years to establish myself in a career and to build friendships and relationships, all the things normal people do in their youth and twenties before moving on to build families and taking their career to the next level, things that I will probably never get around to doing.  And people have fun when they’re young.  I didn’t and now I feel that I never will.  It’s all very well saying that true spiritual joy will substitute for fake secular joy, but I’m not getting either.


(The next two paragraphs are about TV science fiction, past and present, so feel free to skip if that’s not of interest.)

I’ve been watching Star Trek Discovery lately.  I’m about of a third of the way through season one.  It’s very good, probably the best Star Trek since the best days of Deep Space Nine, but it is very, very bleak, full of gore and unpleasant, hard-bitten characters.  It is also more an action series than a science fiction one.  I have never been particularly interested in Klingon culture and wonder why the writers of Star Trek in all its iterations, have been so fascinated by language them.  I would like to see more of the Vulcans.

When I need some non-bleak TV, I’ve been re-watching random episodes of The Avengers and The New Avengers – the British, John Steed and Emma Peel Avengers, not the Marvel one.  I’ve been mostly watching The New Avengers, which most fans don’t like.  I actually like the first season of The New Avengers (although the second one is mostly not good), possibly because I actually saw some of The New Avengers before the original series, so I’m more nostalgic about it.  It’s cheerier than Discovery at any rate.

Looking in all the Wrong Places

Today I discovered that I need to get two projects commissioned and receive one four star plus rating to stay as a freelancer on the website I was hoping to use to find work as a freelance proofreader while I look for other work and work on my writing.  So far, I haven’t had one commission.  I just cut my proposed fees, again.  I will see if it helps.

Why does nothing I try to do work out?  I don’t want to be negative all the time, but this is really how it seems to me.  I’ve had four jobs; one I ruined completely and I think I only avoided being sacked because I was on a very short contract anyway.  One I partially messed up and when my contract was up for renewal with revisions to the job description with more interpersonal interactions, my boss made clear that she didn’t think I could handle the revised job because of my poor social skills (although she was still surprised when I turned down the offer).  One I seemed to do OK at the time, but in retrospect that seems to have been a product of low institutional expectations and short working hours (three afternoons a week) and even then I missed a lot of time due to depression and anxiety.  And one I did well, but was over-qualified for and, again, was only working short hours (two days a week).  Thus far success at work seems only to happen when I’m over-qualified for the position, working short hours and/or have a super-sympathetic boss.  I can’t rely on a sympathetic boss and part-time work is hard to find.  I’ve tried applying for jobs I’m over-qualified for, but I don’t usually get called to interview; once I did and still messed it up.


I looked on Neshamas.com yesterday, which I don’t usually do.  It’s a site for anonymous writing from the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community.  They basically post anything submitted that isn’t libellous or offensive.  All posts are anonymous.  The standard of writing varies wildly, as you would expect, but some of the posts are very raw and moving.  Some topics come up a lot, particularly things like losing faith, repressed homosexuality and experiences of abuse.  I’ve read quite a few posts there written by women with husbands who are either outright abusive (physically, sexually or emotionally) or who don’t know how to interact with their wives as if they are actual human beings or don’t seem to know anything about what their wives might want from marriage (or from sex).  It’s tempting to think that some of this might be through ignorance of married life in sheltered communities, except that the women also report being pressured into doing stuff sexually that they didn’t want to do and which their husbands probably would not have picked up in the frum world and probably got from watching porn, so they can’t be that sheltered.

I read these posts and think that I would probably be a better husband than these men.  I know I don’t know emotional stuff intuitively and I have to think my actions through very consciously, and I know at least one woman who turned me down partially because of this, but I feel most women would prefer a husband who consciously has to think about her needs to one who doesn’t think about them at all.

Reading stuff like that makes me feel that I could be dating again on the grounds that I do have something to offer, and I know a lot of people (my parents, my rabbi mentor, commenters here) have said I should, but I’m just scared of rejection.  Dating while unemployed and uncertain of where my life is going seems self-defeating.  I know Ashley Leia has said here that I should let the women decide that, but I can’t face the rejection, and I can’t face telling shadchanim (matchmakers) that I’m unemployed and being sent away by them.

I don’t know what my dating options are anyway.  I’m registered with the values-based dating service, but they haven’t matched me with anyone for a while.  I can’t really afford a paid dating service.  I can’t face online dating again.  I suppose there is the Rebbetzin that someone told my Dad would be able to help me find someone despite my issues, but I’m scared to phone because of the unemployment issue and because I’m terrified of phoning generally.  I could message on LinkedIn, but the unemployment issue would still be there and she might not check LinkedIn messages.  Last night I felt I would message her on LinkedIn, but today I don’t have the courage.

This is all aside from a crush I have on someone from my old shul who I haven’t seen for years, purely because, when she ran into my parents over a year ago, she asked how I was doing by name, which surprised me as I didn’t think she knew me at all.  It probably doesn’t indicate anything other than politeness on her part, but I’m lonely enough to read all kinds of things into it.  I could probably get in touch with her via Jewish geography if I really tried, but that’s far too scary and awkward.  I don’t even know if she’s still single or looking.


Things done today: brief interview preparation, a half hour walk, cooked dinner very quickly (kedgeree, only with vegetarian sausages substituting for fish in my case because I only eat meat and fish on Shabbat and Yom Tov; my parents had it with tinned tuna).  I also did some work on my Doctor Who book for about an hour and a half, producing a fourth draft of the first chapter, in the process pruning nearly 700 words to get the chapter down to under 7,000.  I would have liked to have done more Torah study; as it was, I managed about fifteen minutes before my brain gave up and stopped being able to translate Hebrew.

I suppose this is a lot, considering at one point I thought I was too depressed to do anything at all today.  Still, I wish I could do more.  At the moment I only have a couple of active hours in a day.  It feels like I’m wasting most of my life on procrastination and internet searching, trying to connect with people and not being able to do so.

Rumours of Death

I don’t know why it’s so painful to think that I’ll never be loved romantically/sexually, but it is.  I mean, there are lots of supposedly-pleasurable experiences that I’ve never tried and have no interest in trying, but somehow I can’t convince myself that this probably won’t make me feel much better either.  Who knows if I would even be any good at relationships?  (Although my exes didn’t seem to complain about my boyfriendness, just about values clashes or my financial situation.)  I’m not terribly good at most things, particularly not things that are emotional or physical rather than intellectual, and I don’t really enjoy many things at all (anhedonia).  E. once suggested that if I slept with someone, I would see that sex isn’t so great and stop thinking about it so much.  I know that I couldn’t cope with casual sex for both religious and emotional reasons, so that’s pretty much a non-starter.  And I suspect my first girlfriend was right about my being frigid, although she didn’t know about the autism.


I’m applying for a job with a massive, involved job description and a lot of responsibility, but which is part-time with relatively short hours and low salary.  I suspect this would be a high-stress job.  I suppose they are probably looking for someone at the end of their career, with lots of experience, but looking to wind down a bit and work part-time for a few years before retiring.  I applied anyway.

I started crying again partway through.  I really don’t want to be here (in my life).


I had another go at getting my new phone.  It turns out that I hadn’t ordered it on Friday, but I have done so now and the phone should be in on this Friday.  I felt embarrassed a lot while I was there, because I don’t really understand much about the process of getting a new phone and setting up a new contract and so was not properly prepared.  I don’t really care about phones or even use mine that much, so autistically I just ignore them and everything to do with them.  Then, when the salesman did a credit check, I had to admit that I’m nearly thirty-six, but am unemployed and live with my parents.  Why didn’t I get a new phone earlier this year, when I was working?

On the way to Carphone Warehouse (why do they still call themselves that when carphones don’t exist any more?), I got caught up in a group of Haredi mothers and their young children on the way home from school.  I thought one of them looked like someone I was at school with, although it was hard to tell as she was wearing a sheitel (wig), as per the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) norm.  It would not surprise me if it was her.  I went to a Jewish school, albeit not a very frum one, but I think quite a number of people were “kiruved” (ugly word, half Hebrew, half English, for the process whereby non-religious Jews are encouraged/proselytised to become religious, usually by a formal outreach organisation or movement like Aish or Chabad).  I’ve come across some of the men I was at school with in my shul or the wider Jewish community around here, generally married with children, sometimes with smicha (rabbinical ordination).  I imagine there are more women, as I think more women become frum than men.

It is hard to know how to process this.  For one thing, it is hard to respect rabbis who I remember as not always well-behaved or intellectually outstanding schoolboys.  I suppose that’s a problem a lot of people have when the people they knew grew up.  (I’m sure there are people who were at Eton or Oxford in the seventies and eighties saying, “Boris Johnson?  Really?!”  Mind you, lots of people who weren’t at Eton or Oxford with him are saying that.)  But sometimes I wonder, if I had been “kiruved” in a more formal way, instead of resisting that and becoming frum in my own way, would I be integrated better into the community?  Would I be married with children by now?  (Kiruv rabbis apparently try to marry people off ASAP because early marriage is the norm, but, some say, because if you have a frum spouse, you are socially less likely to backslide, at least not overtly.)  Would I even be a rabbi?  But in order to be kiruved I would have had to have not been resistant to going to Shabbatons and social events, which would probably have meant that I wasn’t autistic (or at least I wasn’t bullied for being autistic), which in turn would trigger more changes downstream and I might not have ended up frum at all.


I just feel really lonely.  I try to keep busy, but when I stop, the loneliness comes back.  I feel so depressed and lonely right now and I don’t know why.  I should do some Torah study or work on the books I’m writing, but I just can’t.  It’s not even a question of having enough energy or motivation, my brain is just not working, not even for a few minutes.  I might try to go to shul later, as I don’t have to do much more than I would at home (I would daven at home), just cope with being in a social environment for half an hour.  Plus two twenty minute walks (after two fifteen minute walks earlier).  But I feel a bit agitated, so it will be good to walk.


I did a Blake’s 7 marathon recently (does it count as a marathon if you don’t binge-watch, but do one episode a day for months?  I don’t really binge-watch stuff) and I keep thinking about the end of my favourite episode, Star One.  The context is that Blake and his fellow freedom-fighters have discovered that the evil Federation is about to be invaded by alien from Andromeda.  Although they’ve been trying to overthrow the Federation, they decide that the Andromedans would be even worse and determine to take a stand to hold off the invasion force while the Federation brings in reinforcements.  Blake retires injured from the flight deck of the Liberator, leaving the cynical, self-interested Avon in charge.  When Avon doubts whether Blake really trusts him Blake responds, “For what it is worth, I have always trusted you.  From the very beginning.”

I keep replaying this in my mind and wishing that someone would say something like that to me.  That God would say that to me.  No one would, though.  Trusting me would not be a sensible idea (although whether trusting Blake and Avon was sensible is another question – spoilers!).  But still.  I would like to feel that I can do something worthwhile here, but I don’t.

“Though I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all”

Today was a day when I struggled to do anything, primarily because of feeling depressed, but the heat didn’t help.  I feel lonely and rather depressed.  I feel that there’s no way out for me.  I want to work, but I can’t find a job that I feel capable of doing any more, so low has my self-esteem fallen from the problems I’ve had working over the last year or two.  I’m acutely conscious of living off my parents, of the fact that even when I was working, I was never earning enough to be self-sufficient in London, but I don’t know what to do about it.  I want to write, but I don’t know how to sell my writing.  I want to get married, but I can’t see a woman wanting to marry an unemployed autistic depressive.  I feel I’m never going to be able to afford to live in a community that is right for me religiously, if there even is such a community, at least in the UK (which I doubt).  I worry about losing my few remaining friends; I don’t seem to be able to balance the right amount of contact and opening up.  I either don’t see people at all for months on end and/or don’t tell them much about my emotional life or else I overload them with my issues.  I’ve never managed to work out this balancing act.

Lots of writers were rejected a lot before being published, I know.  Stephen King’s first novel was rejected by thirty publishers.  Then he threw the manuscript in the bin.  His wife fished it out and sent it to another publisher, who published it.  I don’t think I have enough self-esteem to send something thirty-one times.


The world suffocates me.  It’s insane.  Actually insane.   Everyone agrees it’s insane, they just disagree on what bits are insane and should be changed and what bits still have some sanity and should be kept.  Like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s parable about the objectively totally imperfect chandelier which everyone subjectively thinks has some good features and some bad ones, but no one can agree which is which, depending on their own flaws, everyone thinks the world should be changed “in accordance with how I think, which is objectively true.”  I don’t want to change the world any more.  I just want to run away before I get corrupted, killed or divine insane.  This is not very Jewish.  We are supposed to change the world for the better.

Like Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah), I want to leave the world and run an inn in the wilderness.  OK, not literally an inn in the wilderness, but to get away from things.  When I was dating E. we joked about getting married, living in the countryside somewhere, growing our own food, home-schooling our children and writing.  That’s not a terribly feasible dream, sadly.  Anyway, to be frum (religious Jewish) one has to live with other people, to belong to a community.  If one is looking for a group of frum Jews to live with in a rural setting away from civilisation, you rapidly end up living in a settlement on the West Bank, which I have no intention of doing for a whole host of reasons.  There may be some religious kibbutzim in Israel proper, but I’m not sure that there are many.  The kibbutz way of live proved not really sustainable.

I doubt I could really cut it as a farmer anyway, getting up at 4.00am to milk the cows or whatever.

I just feel that I can’t find a way to live in the world, rather than just existing.  I feel that maybe I am a religious person after all, deep down, but I don’t have an outlet for my religious feelings that isn’t blocked by depression, social anxiety or autism.  Not for the first time, I wish I could make Talmud study my autistic special interest, or even just be able to do it.  I wish someone had noticed when I was at school that I was somewhat different and had helped guide me in how to function in a neurotypical world, but when I was growing up, high-functional autism was unknown and I suspect that few rabbis would have the insight to guide someone like me to an appropriate religious path even today.

In one of the essays in Halakhic Morality, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik speaks of the need of everyone to develop their own unique religious style.  As I recall (it’s a while since I read it), he says to do this by spending time with a religious mentor, observing how they act in life in general.  That’s not really an option for me, although one of my big regrets about not having gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) is not having met great Torah scholars and tzaddikim (saintly people).  I do wish someone could guide me, though.  If I was more Haredi (like the people in my shul (synagogue)?) maybe I would try to take my problem to a gadol (great Torah scholar) and see what his da’at Torah (quasi-supernatural insight from years of studying Torah) is, but I’m sceptical of the existence of da’at Torah, at least in the quasi-supernatural sense, and I don’t believe that scholars have supernatural insight into non-halakhic (non-legal) life problems.  I would like to find my “way” though, somehow.


I didn’t feel able to apply for any jobs today, even though there’s one closing on Wednesday that I should apply for, although I’m fairly sure I won’t get it.  I just couldn’t face filling in another form.

In terms of actual achievements today, I went for a half-hour walk and managed about half an hour of Torah study.  I wanted to do much more, but ran out of time, which is another way of saying I prioritised other things, like my book, over it, which I probably should not have done.  It was at least Talmud study.  My shul seems to have stopped studying (“learning”) one page of Talmud together a week; we still have the weekly Talmud shiur (class), but we only do a couple of lines in depth rather than trying to cover a whole page.  I find this vaguely disappointing, although I can sort of see why they want to study in depth, because I often don’t understand the text when covered quickly (not that I always understand when it’s covered in depth, to be honest).  I’m trying to keep going with one page a week at home, but it’s going to get harder as I drift further away from the community and when the passages become more halakhic (legal) and complicated, as at the moment I’m in a stretch of primarily aggadic (non-legal) material, which is easier to understand, at least on a superficial level.

The other big thing I did today was start work on the fourth draft of my Doctor Who book, which will hopefully be the draft I will try to get published.  I’ve decided that, since my friends stopped talking to me, there isn’t really anyone I can ask to read some of it, as my other fan friends are super-busy, so I might as well get on with it.  I pruned about 650 words from the introduction to get it under 1,000 words, which is good as I think the book as a whole is too long.  I wanted to go on to the first chapter, but it was later than I intended and the rewriting took longer than expected so I left chapter one and instead formatted the introduction to go to a publisher (although the notes I have on manuscript format are really for magazine publishing, so this may be wrong), sorting out the title page for good measure.

I do feel good that the fourth/final (hopefully) draft is started, even though I will probably need to do at least one extra draft on the final chapter (on the most recent series), which might entail viewing those eleven episodes again.  I hope to get this all done in about three months, to be ready to start submitting at Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).  I need to revise about five chapters a month to meet that target.


It is hard to do anything when I feel so lacking in motivation and concentration, so pessimistic about being able to do anything, and depressed and lonely.  I originally wrote “mildly depressed”, but I don’t think that’s true.  At times I’m mildly depressed, but at other times, particularly in the mornings and sometimes at other times during the day (e.g. tired, low blood sugar or after triggers) I can be more than mildly depressed.

Depression is… watching Star Trek Discovery while eating dinner and suddenly wanting to burst into tears and I don’t know why.

More or Less

Reading this week’s section in the book Sparks from Berditchov, Yaakov Klein quotes the famous saying in the Talmud: both one who gives much and one who gives little are equally accepted by God provided he directs his heart to Heaven i.e. if you can’t study much Torah or daven (pray) a lot, it doesn’t matter as long as you do it to serve God.  I have long been familiar with the saying, but it has never comforted me because I thought (a) I could do more than I do and (b) I don’t direct my heart to Heaven properly i.e. my motivation is wrong and I don’t focus on God, instead doing things out of habit.

I’m still not sure about this, but I did wonder: if I force myself to get dressed to daven a tiny bit when really I want to sleep or eat or do anything else, is that habit or for God?  (It can take me ten minutes to force myself to start davening because I’m so depressed that the thought of davening seems actually painful, and even then I only daven for ten minutes or so because I just can’t cope with any more.)  Or if I force myself to study Torah for a few minutes when I really want to watch TV or write or read something else or just not study Torah, is that just habit?  It feels like even if I’m not consciously saying, “I want to connect with God” (which I’m definitely not doing) it must have some kind of spiritual motivation because I’m not thinking about reward and if it’s not about reward and I’m not doing it because I want to do it, it must be to connect with God, right?  Or is it just habit after all?  Maybe I can be in the habit of making myself do things that are painful.  I don’t know.  I wish I knew.


I had insomnia again last night despite not drinking coke at dinner, which I had thought was the cause of Friday night insomnia.  I went to bed at 12.30am, got up around 1.30am and read a Doctor Who novella which lasted quite conveniently until I started to get tired around fifty minutes later, although I think it was nearly 3.00am before I actually fell asleep.

I’m a bit stumped as to why I have sometimes get insomnia on Friday nights in particular, if it really isn’t caffeine.  The heat yesterday didn’t help, but I don’t think that was the main reason.  I think some of it is that I go to shul (synagogue) in the evening, which is draining because of lots of people and noise.  Then I come home and go into dinner, which is draining because my parents make the dreaded Small Talk and I have to listen politely and try to suppress my autistic desire not to do so.  Then I do some Torah study and meditation (breathing meditation and hitbodedut spontaneous prayer/meditation).  I read a bit and go to bed, but I wonder if the reading isn’t enough time to really relax compared to the autistic stresses of the evening, especially if I’ve spent a chunk of the day job hunting as I did yesterday.  In the winter it’s perhaps not so bad as I have more time after dinner to unwind when Shabbat starts earlier and dinner is at 6.00pm rather than 9.00pm.  I did read a bit before bed yesterday, but it was a heavy-going academic book (Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem, which is basically all the articles Scholem wrote on the history of kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) for the Encyclopedia Judaica compiled together in a book), which probably was not the ideal thing to unwind me.

As with last Shabbat (Sabbath), I then woke up at 7.00am and decided I needed to sleep more rather than get up and hang around waiting for shul, but in retrospect, it was probably social anxiety again trying to avoid shul, so in the end I didn’t go to shul at all.  I was alone for lunch too as my parents were out, but that was OK.  I fell asleep for two and a half hours in the afternoon, which I didn’t want to do, as I won’t sleep tonight now, but the heat and the heavy meal made me too drowsy to resist.

I did make it to shul in the evening for two shiurim (religious classes), Minchaseudah and Ma’ariv (Afternoon Service, third Sabbath meal and Evening Service).  It was OK, but I was distracted a lot by feeling lonely and wishing I had a wife and kids.  I don’t know where that came from.  In Talmud shiur the topic of Chana’s (Hannah’s) prayer for a child came up, but that was after I’d already started getting these thoughts, although it probably didn’t help matters.

It’s just depressing.  I wish I didn’t want a wife and kids so much because (a) I can’t see myself ever being in that situation and (b) given how my relationships have been with friends and family lately, I’m not sure I could manage marital or parental relationships.  But I feel this gaping wound in my soul.  I know I’m never going to be rich or famous or powerful or influential or honoured and respected (not even the small amount of honour a rabbi has or the tiny amount of honour a communal lay leader gets).  And I’m OK with that, because I don’t want those things deep down.  But I do want this and it hurts me so much that I don’t think I’m ever going to get it.  Just to make it worse, it’s a mitzvah (commandment), and one almost everyone seems to manage to fulfil, so I feel that God is probably angry with me for not doing it, even though I want to do it.

I can just about accept that I might get married one day.  Extrapolating (admittedly a dangerous pursuit), I can see that I’m better off than I was ten or fifteen years ago, when the idea of my ever having even a part-time job seemed ridiculous.  So maybe I will learn to manage my life well enough so that I could get married in my forties or fifties.  It would be better than nothing, but as I very much doubt I would marry someone significantly younger than me, it would mean that children would be unlikely.

Politics, and Work Update

I want to rant about politics.  My politics are pretty confused these days.  I don’t support any political party.  I’m probably somewhere to the right of my online friends, but somewhere to the left of people in my shul (synagogue).  I try to use my training as a historian to see deep-seated trends rather than make party-political points.  I would like somewhere online where I can anonymously talk calmly about ideas without name-calling or people retreating behind dogma, but I don’t know if there is such a place.

I also have a LOT to say about identity politics and the Jews, but this isn’t really the right place for that.  I just want to flag it up as a frustration that bothers (read: angers) me sometimes.  To be honest, most of the time lately I just want to run away from politics, but occasionally I don’t and then I feel frustrated.  I just feel sickened lately, and I want to flag up my frustrations.  One day I’ll probably crack and write something I regret.  Going back under my rock now.


I finished another job application.  I struggled with the open questions about proving my skills again.  I usually do struggle with these kinds of questions.  Autism brain does not respond well to open questions saying “demonstrate experience and use of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules.”  It likes questions that narrow down the possible answers a bit otherwise it looks at the big heap of memories inside it and says “You want me to find a needle in this haystack, and you won’t even tell me what a needle looks like!”  I find it hard to respond in any way other than “I have used Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules in my work at libraries X, Y and Z.”  I try to find some kind of anecdote that shows my skill, but it is not always (perhaps not often) possible.

I don’t have all the cataloguing skills and experience they want anyway.  My skills have grown rusty with disuse and I have not done CPD or kept up with changes in the library/cataloguing world.  It’s been enough these last few years to keep my head above the water with depression and part-time paid work/job hunting without devoting scarce time and energy to CPD.  Sometimes I have the skills they want, but don’t know how to demonstrate that I have them.  I know I have excellent internet search skills, but I have rarely used them at work, if at all; most of my practice has been searching for things for personal use and I can rarely think of a particular case that stands out in my mind.

Asking for a flexible approach and good team skills in someone with autism still seems unfair too.  A lot of the people at my autism group work in IT, which is probably a stereotype of autistic people.  I think they just in their office coding all day, avoiding other people and keeping out the office noise with noise-cancelling headphones.  I don’t have that sort of mind or interest in IT.  I was always more interested in the humanities, which is somewhat unusual for someone on the spectrum (although is may be another way I tend towards “female” autism symptoms rather than male ones).  I’m not sure how to use my autistic issues as “superpowers” the way the autism support books and websites say I should, which just makes me feel worse.


I haven’t heard back from the publications I’ve pitched ideas to.  I’m not sure what I do now.  Try to find other places to pitch to, or new ideas to pitch, I suppose.  It doesn’t help that I don’t know if I’m pitching bad ideas or I’m just not pitching properly.

Family and Torah Chiddushim

(The migraine is gone.)

I had turned off my computer for the night, but I switched it back on as I wanted to record two things for myself as much as anyone else.

1) I have written here a lot about wanting to have a family and worrying that I will never be able to do so.  I have also written here a lot lately about feeling disconnected from HaShem (God) and Torah.  I think the two are connected.  I want to have someone to pass on my Torah to.  The primary transmission of Torah is parent to child, not student to teacher.  In Jewish thought, transmission of Torah by teachers is second-best, a compromise in a real world where many parents do not have the time or knowledge to pass on everything their child should know.  But ideally it should be parent to child.  So I want to have children to pass on my Torah to.

I should probably explain “my Torah” which is probably puzzling to non-Jewish or non-frum readers.  When I talk about “my Torah,” on some level I’m talking about the values that I would want to pass on to my children: tolerance; financial, emotional and intellectual honesty; pursuit of meaning and so on.  However, there is another dimension.

Torah has “seventy facets” of interpretation according to the Talmud.  According to the Ba’al Shem Tov (the founder of Hasidism), however, it has 600,000 interpretations, one for every Jew who left Egypt.  Every Jew has their own portion in Torah, the chiddushim (novel interpretations), the unique understanding of the expression of God’s infinite mind that only someone with their background, experience and interests could find.  This is why Torah study is described as a creative activity, not just learning facts and arguments.  It is the very personal connection of the individual to the infinite God through the medium of the Torah.

A rabbi whose blog I used to read many years ago (he doesn’t blog any more) once wrote, “The pleasure, the fulfillment, dare I say, the orgasm of the true encounter with God through the vehicle of Torah study is at its height when who’s learning is really, really me, and what’s being learned is really, really God’s Will.”  It’s that I have been feeling lacking in my life, the times when I connect with God, either through chiddush in Torah study (my own, or finding an amazing chiddush of someone else’s that speaks to me), through davening (prayer) or through mitzvot.  I feel I used to have this, at least on some level, and now I don’t.  It’s not entirely the fault of depression, because I think I’ve felt it at times when very depressed.  It is possible that it is the fault of depression added to the stresses work/job hunting as when I felt it in the past, I was not working.

At the moment I feel as if not only do I have no Torah, even if I did have it, I wouldn’t have anyone to pass it on to.  In my previous shul, before we moved house four years ago, I wrote divrei Torah (Torah thoughts) for the newsletter and sometimes gave drashot (talks).  There is no opportunity to do the latter in my current shul and while I could write a davar Torah, I do not have the courage to risk negative reactions by doing so; I certainly wouldn’t dare to put my own chiddush in it.  I no longer share divrei Torah with my parents on Shabbat, having ‘gone dry’ a number of years ago, around the time we moved.  I did find a chiddush this evening, so maybe my prayers for connection have been answered.  We shall see.

2) I finished re-reading (or re-re-re-reading) Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Nahman of Bratzlav.  There is a long quote at the end of the second appendix (on Rebbe Nahman of Bratzlav’s allegorical tales) that resonated with me, seemed, in some way, to describe me and my writing (blog, fiction, poetry) as much as the actual subject; I may have blogged it before, but it is worth repeating:

“What is this quest that so fills Nahman’s life, finding such poignant portrayal finally in the Tales?  We may call it a search for God by one who felt himself alone, a search for wholeness by one who experienced himself as shattered or fragmented, a search for language and self-expression by one who felt himself unwillingly locked into an inner silence… Nahman was one who defined his life as that of a seeker; for such people it usually only in irreducible sacred symbols or in the ultimate profundities of silence that the object of their search can be defined.  To ask the seeker: “What is it that you are looking for?” is already to misperceive totally the nature of the search.”

Starting CBT and Guilt

I had a strange dream last night about working in a public library, finding a condolence letter someone had left in a returned book and putting a lot of effort into trying to track down the person who lost it only to be told not to bother by my colleagues.  One of my colleagues was Spock from Star Trek for some reason.  I got woken up suddenly by my alarm at that point, and woke feeling somewhat distressed.

I woke up thinking about someone I asked out years ago.  I don’t know if she was in my dreams too (the dream I described above was only the end of the dream; I can’t really remember the beginning).  Years ago I read her blog and asked her out.  A disproportionate number of the (admittedly small) number of women I’ve asked out have been known through the blogosphere, probably because I meet so few suitable women in real life.  She wasn’t interested in me, partly because I hadn’t been to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I think on some level that this is why I get so worried that any woman who is religious enough for me will turn me down because I didn’t go to yeshiva, although I think the fear must have been there already on some level, because that was why I procrastinated so long over asking her out, because I thought she would object to that.


I saw this article on the Orthodox Union website.  I’m not quite at that stage (too old to have children, but still looking for love) yet, thankfully, but I feel that I’m only a couple of years off.  This quote resonated even though I am younger than the woman who wrote the article; in my case, it’s not just not being married that is the issue, but not having built a career, or even having a job at the moment, or having left home (actually, I left home and then came back): “According to developmental psychologist Bernice Neugarten, all societies have a “social clock,” a conscious or unconscious consensus that dictates the age norms by which events should occur. People who do not achieve milestones within this time frame feel that they have failed to live up to their family’s or society’s expectations, and often judge themselves harshly when they see others achieving them on time.”  (Compare with Pirkei Avot 5.24)


I got another job rejection without interview.  There isn’t a lot to say about this.


A mysterious note in my diary for Sunday reads “Find a writing book”.  I don’t remember writing this note and am rather at a loss for what it means.  Find a notebook to write ideas for pieces of writing in?  I already have one of those (unless I wanted two, one for fiction and one for non-fiction?).  Find a self-help book about writing fiction?  Possible, but I’m not sure if that’s the best thing for me to do right now.  Find a book about getting published?  That’s a more obvious need, but it’s odd that I would call that a “writing” book and not a “getting published” book.


I find myself avoiding a shiur (religious class) at shul (synagogue), partly from social anxiety (which is expected, if upsetting), partly because I’m convinced that I won’t get anything out of it and might end up feeling resentment at those whose religious life is (apparently) more straightforward and who have a stronger connection to God (and community).  This is not good.


I had CBT today.  It was just an initial session to let the therapist know a bit about my situation and for her to let me know how CBT works and how it differs from other therapies, which I already knew as I’ve had it in the past, so we finished a bit early.  The therapist agreed with me that my social anxiety is probably at least partially a product of my low self-esteem and that by focusing on the latter, we may resolve both problems.

I mentioned here the other day my concerns about having a female therapist, as Jewish law does not allow unmarried men and women to be secluded alone together.  This is not usually seen as applying to medical personnel, but does apply to therapists.  I was hoping that the door would have a window on to the corridor, which would be enough for the therapy room not to be considered as “secluded”.  This was not the case.  I found that I didn’t really care.

This was strange, as I have felt guilty in the past when challenged in this area.  It is worth noting that my religious growth has largely been driven by guilt rather than by anything more positive.  As a child, I was taught to believe in God and the divine authorship of the Torah and we practised elements of Jewish law, but not its entirety e.g. we did write or drive on Shabbat (the Sabbath), but we did use electricity and watch TV.  Growing up, I felt a sense of hypocrisy (I really hate hypocrisy).  I felt that I wanted to keep more of Jewish law, but it was hard living with family who were less religious.  As it happened, my family became more religious over time, which made things easier, but for long periods I felt intensely guilty over not fulfilling halakhah (Jewish law) as I felt I should.  I also still do feel guilty over various things, usually based around ethical rather than ritual dilemmas these days.

I never had a strong religious experience the way some ba’alei teshuva (people born Jewish, but who only became religious later in life) do, and although I have had various teachers/mentors at different times, my personal hashkafa (religious philosophy) is derived primarily from my own reading and thinking.  Again, this is unlike a lot of ba’alei teshuva.  This may explain a lot about why I struggle to feel intense religious feelings and why I struggle to fit in to the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community.  I don’t know how to move forward, though, or if my lack of guilt portends a drop in observance.

I wrote most of this post earlier today.  Now I have a migraine, which is my fault for walking in the sun without a hat (thirty-five minutes each way to and from CBT).  I’m too ill to go to shiur.  There is a very noisy party outside that isn’t helping.  Somehow I can make allowances for not meeting my religious obligations for physical illness a lot more easily than I can for depression or autism.  I’m not sure how much of this is due to socialisation and how much is due to me.

Hitting publish now because my head hurts…

Half of What I Say is Meaningless

“Half of what I say is meaningless,/But I say it just to reach you”

– Julia, The Beatles

A job agency emailed asking if it could put me up for a job that is ridiculously short-term (one month), terrible pay, boring and far below the intellectual and professional level where I should be working.  It’s a library assistant rather than assistant librarian – very big difference as the latter needs professional training at Masters level or equivalent and the former requires no training at all.  It’s essentially just shlapping (moving) books and relabelling them.  I very much doubt that it could lead on to something bigger.  The scary thing is, I’m was almost tempted to go for it because I’m desperate.  Plus I don’t want to upset the agency by turning jobs down.  Get on your bike, etc.  But I think it will send the wrong message if I put it on my CV.  I will look downwardly mobile.  I sent another application for a law library job, which I was rather lukewarm about, but other than that, I’m out of options at the moment.  Aside from the interview next week, there’s nothing looking promising in the pipeline.

I had to buy a new phone today.  I wanted to change contract, although the new one is not really any better, but the phone was old and beginning to break (the ringer has stopped working properly at times recently unless the phone is rebooted).  I went to Carphone Warehouse with my Mum.  I don’t really trust myself to make these kinds of decisions alone.  It’s silly really (although I suppose if I had a wife and said I always ask her advice before buying anything that would be seen as reasonable), but I don’t really trust myself to spot the best deals and not to be manoeuvred into buying whatever the sales assistant wants (true autistic story: it took me a stupidly long time to realise that if the sales assistant says that they use model X in their home, they may not be being completely honest).  I felt very autistic there, firstly because the doors to the street were open and a lot of noise was coming in from the main road outside and I couldn’t hear everything that was being said and spaced out a bit, but also because I got lost in the details and I’m not entirely sure what I’ve committed to buying.  It probably doesn’t help that phones don’t interest me, I don’t really understand them; I don’t mean how they work (although I don’t understand that), but I have only the vaguest idea of all the stuff you can do on phones these days in terms of apps, streaming internet content and so forth and I try to avoid using mine as much as possible.  But I know this kind of vagueness about concrete things was one of the reasons E. just wanted to stay friends and not date and I worry that realistically any potential date is going to have the same reservations.


My mood today was reasonably good, or at least, it was after lunch.  I always wake up drained and depressed, struggle to get going (particularly now I’m not working) and tend to stay that way until lunch time.  But this afternoon as well as walking to and from the shops and doing some shopping, I spent a while on the fragment of semi-autobiographical fiction that I’ve been writing and did about forty-five minutes of Torah study.  Not a great day, but I achieved some things.  Except now I’m sitting here watching the sun set as I write and I feel melancholy again.  I feel lonely and I know that means romantic/sexual loneliness.  Perhaps that is just being human (I’ve read The Lonely Man of Faith three times), but it feels a dangerous emotion for me, because it’s an itch I doubt I will ever manage to scratch.  Certainly not for a long time.

There is also a vague feeling of emptiness in my life, which may be connected with that.  The feeling that my religious life is, if not a fraud, then at least hollow.  That I do mitzvot, especially prayer and Torah study, from obligation more than with enthusiasm and joy.  That I can’t connect with HaShem (God) any more, and have not done so for many years, even though I still believe strongly that He is there.  I know He is there, I just can’t hear Him.  There’s too much static.