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.