The quote in the title comes from the final episode of Blake’s 7, which I watched again tonight. Sometimes, too often lately, I feel as if it’s me (rather than Blake’s erstwhile revolutionaries) who is being surrounded by gas masked soldiers in black uniforms with no escape. Staying alive does feel too complicated a lot of the time, not in the sense of being suicidal, but just in being overwhelmed by all the things I’m expected to do. Today only partly fits that mould, though, as there was some positive in the negative.
I have an appointment for CBT on the NHS on Thursday. I’m hoping to work on my self-esteem, as I’ve tried CBT for depression in the past without success. I’m hoping raising my self-esteem will correct some of the depression, which seems to be rooted at least partially in self-hatred.
I was asked if I was OK seeing a female therapist and I said yes. Now I wonder why. I was really worried about having to wait much longer if I said no (I’ve been on the waiting list for seven or eight months). There is an issue with being alone with someone of the opposite sex under Jewish law (something in the news a while back because the US Vice-President Pence won’t meet women alone either). It usually isn’t an issue with medical appointments, as it is assumed a health professional will not act improperly and in any case doesn’t have the time because of other patients, but this does not apply with therapist for various reasons. Usually it’s OK in a place like a hospital (where I’ll be seen) because other people can theoretically come in or because the doors have windows so it’s not considered secluded. I hope that’s the case here. The thing is, I find I don’t care that much, a sign of the way may religious observance seems to be slipping slightly around the edges lately.
The other mistake I may have made is going for an appointment at 4.00pm instead of 6.30pm. I thought that the 4.00pm one would give me more time to go home, eat and unwind a bit before shiur (religious class) at 8.10pm (downtime is important because of depression and autism), but if I get a job soon, that might be problematic. I’ll just have to wait and see. CBT should only last ten weeks or so anyway.
I filled in some questionnaires for the therapist, about depression and anxiety and how they affect my life. I’ve been depressed for so long, and filled in so many of these forms, that it is hard to tell if I am answering accurately for the last two weeks rather than the last sixteen years. I think my depression has eased a little over time, but my anxiety has worsened a little, probably because the improvement in my depression means I’m now involved more in work and social situations, so I have more things to be anxious about. I hope I answered reasonably accurately. The anxiety feelings in particular I found hard to stick a value on.
I pushed through social anxiety to phone the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to ask about benefits, given that I’m unemployed and depressed. I struggled to hear at times because it was in a noisy call centre, and at one point I thought the person I was talking to was speaking when it was in fact someone else in the call centre.
I discovered that I’m probably not eligible for any government aid. Although I’m unemployed, I can’t claim Universal Credit (which has replaced Jobseeker’s Allowance) because my savings are too large. I might be eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because of the depression, but I’m not hopeful: I was on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and when that was replaced by PIP, I was reassessed and was told my depression does not affect me enough to let me claim PIP. PIP, like DLA before it, is basically set up for physical illness or disability rather than mental illness and it’s very hard to prove that you are “ill enough” to qualify with an invisible illness, especially a mental illness. People who know me can see that I struggle with work and certainly I feel burnt out when working a lot, but it’s hard to say exactly why I feel burnt out or to prove or quantify it.
My politics are complicated these days, but I do appreciate that governments have limited means and, potentially at least, infinite demands made on them and I appreciate the advantages of helping people into work, for the sick and disabled as much as for the economy. I also realise that I have a fairly comfortable, privileged, middle class existence, at least as far as externals go, and that there are more deserving people than me in the country, let alone the world. Nevertheless, it is frustrating when the fact that my parents and grandparents (who were not hugely rich) saved money for me rather than spending it prevents me claiming assistance; likewise when the fact that I push myself to try and work somewhat counts against me.
Aside from that phone call, my main tasks today were cooking dinner (I over-salted the rice and let it spill over) and retying my tzitzit (ritual fringed garment Orthodox Jewish men wear). I’ve done this before and on paper it’s easy: just alternate a certain number of double knots and loops of string, but I got into a complete tangled mess of string with it and gave up. Tzitzit only cost about £6 so wasting more than an hour on it seemed stupid, even if I am short of money. I feel bad about getting into such a mess about something that (a) is objectively easy and (b) I’ve done before (albeit only once or twice). I don’t know what went wrong. It just reinforces my feeling about not being good at practical things. Trouble tying knots can apparently be another autism symptom. I was no good at knots in the scouts. I was actually pretty bad at everything in the scouts (don’t like being away from home, had trouble making friends), but I kept going. I think I felt I ought to like it, even though I actually didn’t.
I didn’t manage to apply for any jobs today. I did manage to do some Torah study and went to shul (synagogue) and worked on my fiction. I’m not sure if the balance here is positive or negative. I’m up to 3,000 words on my fiction, which seems pretty good, albeit tiny in comparison to what an actual novel should be (70,000 – 110,000 words, apparently). I do have some idea of where this might go, but it is scary. I haven’t shown it to anyone yet. When I have a chapter completed in draft (which hopefully will be soon), I will probably show E. and see what she thinks.
I often disagree with Melanie Phillips, but while writing today I found this old newspaper column (behind a paywall) on writing fiction and a lot of it sounded familiar: “For as long as I can remember, I believed some people had the gift of writing creatively while others did not and that I was without doubt in the latter category. So the disjointed fragments of stories and characters that swirled around in my head stayed there” and “It also requires trust that these things will survive being exposed to the light of day. For it leaves you vulnerable to being mocked or rubbished over what may be crucial to your sense of self. Imagination is very revealing.” I’d say doubly so when my writing is consciously semi-autobiographical.
I’m struggling still with the question of being loved by God. Lots of people would say that God loves us unconditionally, but then I wonder if that means that he loves Hitler unconditionally. This seems to be a no-win question: either He does love Hitler unconditionally, in which case does it really mean very much to be loved by Him?; or He doesn’t love Hitler unconditionally, in which case there is a point at which one stops being lovable and I worry where that point is and whether I have crossed it. One could perhaps answer the first question by contrasting God’s love and His justice. I’m not enough of a philosopher or kabbalist to work out what that would mean. Possibly that one is loved unconditionally on one level, but that one is loved for one’s deeds on another level, which could combine the worst of both outcomes (feeling that love is meaningless, but that there is also a line where it stops).
I used to think that I was at least good at not speaking lashon hara (improper speech about other people), but the last few weeks have made me feel that I share too much publicly here for that to be the case. I don’t feel that I have any good points any more.
Related to that, I keep thinking about my ex-friends saying I have a “whiney, self-obsessed blog” and worrying that they’re right. I am self-obsessed. Whether it’s a result of autism or loneliness, I do struggle to believe that the world outside of my head is as real as the world inside it. I suppose that’s why it’s hard to believe that the outside world could be pleasant, when my interior world seems so unpleasant.
An article on finding part-time work suggests asking those around me to look out for suitable jobs for me. This sounds awfully like frum (religious Jewish) dating. If I can’t get anyone to set me up with a wife, I’m’not sure I’ll have more success getting them to set me up with a job…