I didn’t really want to write anything tonight, but I have a niggling feeling of needing to get speak about a couple of things before I can sleep.

It’s Rosh Chodesh Ellul now, the New Moon of the month of Ellul, the month before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).  It’s a month of introspection, self-assessment and personal growth.  There is a lot to say about this, and about my anxieties about the various Yom Tovim (festivals) that follow in the month afterwards, but I don’t have the headspace, energy or time to do that now.  Hopefully I will write about all this soon, perhaps a lot over the next month.

What I will say is that I had a typical Shabbat (Sabbath): shul (synagogue) last night, insomnia, oversleeping and missing morning shul (I woke up at 8.00am, but felt so depressed, exhausted and socially anxious that I went back to sleep for another four and a half hours), dozing in the afternoon again, shul again in the evening.  It’s frustrating that I want to change my life, get to shul on Shabbat mornings, stop dozing during Shabbat afternoons, but I don’t seem to manage to do it for more than isolated one-off times.  Something that happened at shul upset me too, not something that happened directly to me, but someone got extremely angry, quite unfairly, over something at shul and started screaming and shouting in a very immature way.  He has done this type of thing before.  I guess he has anger management issues.  I find that type of thing very upsetting, even though he wasn’t angry with me, and it took me some hours to feel OK again.

The other thing that upset me was that one of my friends at shul asked if I daven (pray) at such-and-such a shul during the week.  I said yes, and it wasn’t technically a lie, as I do occasionally daven at that shul (my parents’ shul), but it was really a deceit, as these days I either daven at my shul or at home.  Because of the depression and social anxiety, I generally daven at home rather than with a minyan (prayer quorum).  I know this is wrong, but I am just not able to do otherwise at the moment.  I should have said that to him, but I just panicked and lied and now I feel bad about it.  I know I should be more open about my mental health issues and the way they affect me, at least with someone friendly like this person, but I find it so hard.  I’m so scared of how people will react.  I  know if I had a physical illness like cancer no one would expect me to daven with a minyan every day, but people are not as understanding for invisible illness especially mental illness.  But not saying anything perpetuates the stigma.  It’s hard to know what to do.  I guess that’s something to think about in my Ellul introspection.

Checking In

This is just checking in, really.  Not a lot happened today.  I went out to get my prescription and blood test results (I think my lithium level is at the bottom of the therapeutic range, which is a bit worrying, but my mood is mostly OK, so maybe it’s not doing much) and painted the two accessible sides of my parents’ garden shed.  It will need at least one more coat next week.  It’s fairly mindless, repetitive activity that I find quite soothing, especially listening to calming music on my iPod.  This was necessary, as politics continues to upset me.  I did about an hour of Torah study, which was good.  I wanted to work for another hour on my novel, but ran out of time and energy.  I just wrote for about fifteen minutes, writing about four hundred words.

And that was it, really.  Tomorrow I have another job to apply for that came in late this evening.

Pootling Along

I didn’t write yesterday, which is unusual for me. The truth is, I have a couple of big things in my life right now that I don’t feel able to blog publicly.  One I won’t mention at all; for the other I will say that I went to my new volunteering yesterday, but I don’t think that it’s really right for me.  I don’t really want to say more than that publicly.  I’m going to try one more week and decide what I’m going to do.  I’m also looking for alternative voluntary work, hopefully more suitable.  (The current volunteering was picked more because it was a family-connected charity and because it was book-related.)

Between waking up late on the one hand and going to the theatre in the evening on the other, I didn’t do much today.  I spent an hour looking for a new volunteering opportunity in case I leave the current one and spent half an hour working on my novel, writing a few hundred words and then earmarking most of them to be deleted and replaced with showing rather than telling.  Two millimetres forward and one back.  This may be a long process…  I did about half an hour of Torah study too, but I wished I could have done more.  I wish I could have done more of everything, really.

I did record myself talking again for CBT, but I ran out of things to say about the two and a half minute mark.  I recorded myself standing there fidgeting nervously for another minute before giving up.  Recording myself has made my nervous stimming (stroking my face, playing with my hands) more obvious, but most autistic people will say that suppressing stimming just makes things worse, so I’m not sure what the practical takeaway point from this is.


I went to the theatre with my parents this evening, a belated birthday present.  We saw The Play That Goes Wrong, which was very funny.  It’s about, or rather, it purports to be, a disastrous amateur dramatics society production of a Golden Age-style murder mystery.  Lines are fluffed, words are mispronounced (I fear I will always think of ‘cyanide’ as “ky-a-niddy” from now on), cues are missed, props mislaid, actors playing dead visibly move, scenery collapses and several cast members are concussed and replaced with script-reading technical crew.  I was worried I would find it too silly or one-note, but I hardly stopped laughing the whole evening.


I have things I want to say about Brexit, serious, satirical, faux-naive and goodness knows what else.  But my views on Brexit are as complex as my general political views (I can’t see a fence without trying to sit on it) and I’m too scared of argument.  I dislike confrontation and many of my friends disagree with me politically, one way or another.  I value friendship over partisanship (I’m old-fashioned that way), but I’m not sure how many of my friends feel the same way, so – nothing here about Brexit, or any other politics.  There is a political blog I read, but I don’t comment there much either, as the debate is often not so much heated as inflamed.

What I will say is that I feel that my life is somewhat like Brexit at the moment (Brexified?), because of the things I alluded to, but could not write about, in the first paragraph.  I feel that I’m approaching a crossroads and there could be a brave new beginning or a disastrous apocalypse, or just possibly, things could somehow pootle along as before and I’ll muddle through without actually resolving anything.  Time will tell, I suppose, for me and the country…

Wilting from the Heat

I don’t really have much to say today.  The main news, aside from applying for another job I don’t think I’ll get, is that I started to write my first novel.  Actually to write it, as opposed to planning it, which I’ve been doing for a while.  Technically I wrote a bit a few months ago, a fragment that came into my head and I wanted to get down on paper, but this is going to the beginning and writing from the start, with the prologue, with a view to capturing the attention first of an editor and then of potential readers.  I have not got very far.  I wrote about two hundred words before realising I was doing this all wrong, tore it all up (metaphorically speaking) and started again.  I think I will really end up writing the prologue nearer the end, especially as, chronologically, the prologue fits in just before the last chapter, but I just want to get something down to start and then move on to the first chapter, which will hopefully be a bit easier.

Otherwise, it has been a quiet day.  The heatwave has come back and that has made doing anything uncomfortable as the heat is just unbearable.  We’re not used to heat in this country; our houses are built to be warm in the winter (no air conditioning, loft and wall insulation).  It is a bank holiday and my parents were out, so that made work hard too.  I probably should have gone and sat downstairs when my parents were out.  My room is one of the hottest in the house (it’s notably hotter when you walk in), especially in the afternoons as there is only one external wall and a west-facing window which gets the sun all afternoon.  However, I’m territorial and dislike working anywhere else.  Then my parents came home and the TV went on, so working down there became impossible.

As I said, I applied for one job and considered whether to apply for another one (I don’t have the experience they want and I can’t go to interview on the day they want because it’s Yom Kippur but I still feel a moral obligation to apply for any job that is even vaguely right for).  I cooked dinner (macaroni cheese, my standby recipe for days when I don’t want or have time to cook) and had a gross moment when I discovered maggots in the kitchen.  I suspect they came from two boxes full of apples from our garden that had been sitting on the kitchen worktop for days, some of them not in good condition.

I recorded myself speaking for talking again for CBT.  It’s weird.  I was supposed to talk about something I don’t know about.  I obviously can’t talk about something I literally know nothing about, so I spoke about the weather without any preparation.  It wasn’t very good inasmuch as I was hesitant and kept stopping and not knowing what to say.  Five minutes is a long time to speak non-stop.  I drifted from the weather into climate change and back again.  Watching the playback, I looked vaguely nervous and uncomfortable and was stimming a bit (stroking my chin and cheek).  It’s such an artificial exercise and I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to prove or how it would make me feel more confident in a conversation with another person, which is very different to recording oneself on a phone.


There seem to be a lot of butterflies and moths out this year, which is nice.

Speaking vs. Commenting

Just a quick observation as I have a busy day tomorrow: I had a normal Shabbat (Sabbath): insomnia on Friday night, oversleeping and missing shul (synagogue) this morning, sleeping and reading all afternoon, then shul in the evening BUT this time I tried to talk to people at shul during seudah (the meal between the Afternoon and Evening services) and to answer questions during the Talmud shiur (religious class).  I didn’t actually say anything, but I nearly did, which is better than in the past!  I still have a long way to go.

(EDIT: I just remembered that I did say something: the rabbi asked if I had gone on holiday this summer and rather than just saying “No” as I would normally do, I said “No, I’m going after the Yom Tovim (festivals later in the year) for a bar mitzvah” which is practically a whole speech compared to my normal silent self.  So that’s something.)

The funny thing is, I am slightly bolder about communicating with people online than in person – not much, but a bit.  And people online seem to think I say things that are intelligent, insightful or funny.  But it’s hard to accept that people in the real world might feel like that about anything I say.  I’m not sure what makes it easier to communicate in one way than the other, except that I don’t have to see people’s reactions online.  Or it could be that when I was a child I was bullied or told to be quiet when I expressed opinions in person, but didn’t have any online interactions (as the internet was still in its infancy), so I never “learnt” that my online opinions could be bad  That’s perhaps less likely as I do still have something of a filter online: I usually lurk on a site or blog for some time before commenting, and then only tentatively at first.

It’s something for me to think about anyway.  I’ve got a whole week to psyche myself up to talking at shul next Shabbat

Fitting In

For CBT I’m supposed to fill in questionnaires on my mood before each session to judge my progress.  I think my depression goes through long cycles that are longer than a week or a fortnight, while my mood can change quite a bit in a day, so I’m not sure how useful it is, but I suppose it is some kind of metric.  My mood varies, but I realised I don’t really tick the box for thinking I would be better off dead, even on my worse days whereas in the past I’ve believed that a lot.  I guess that is progress.

Today I feel drained and mildly depressed, but not too badly, I think.  It’s hard to tell; as I have noted in the past, I struggle sometimes to identify my emotions, and I suspect sometimes emotions and physical feelings can get mixed up.  That probably sounds weird, but my previous therapist (when I was in psychodynamic psychotherapy) spoke quite a bit about feeling emotions in different parts of one’s body.  I usually feel drained and depressed at the same time, so it’s easy to assume if I feel one, I feel the other too, but that may not be the case.


At CBT we repeated the experiment we tried a fortnight ago of me talking to a therapist (not my usual one) for a few minutes while my therapist filmed it on her phone; then we watched it so I could see how I appear when talking to other people.  The therapist I spoke also answered some questions on how I came across to her.  It seems I do not really come across to people as weird, despite my fears.  Also, when I talk about something I know about, I can become quite animated.  I had it drilled into me for years as a child that I am boring and no one wants to talk about what I want to talk about.  It’s hard to get past that and accept that people might find me interesting.

It’s doubly hard in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, where I’m never sure what is considered OK to talk about.  I mean, the rabbi was talking about The Omen last week!  But I never know what I can say.  I think an awareness of secular culture (even horror films) would be seen as different to being an obsessive Doctor Who fan, with the emphasis on obsessive, but I’m not sure how differently it would be seen.  I go to a ba’al teshuva shul (synagogue) meaning most people there were not raised religious, but came to it later in life, so people do have some understanding of secular culture.  Some people do have TVs and I think everyone has internet access (very Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities would not allow even that, or else would permit it for business use only).  The people who do have TVs are not necessarily the ones you might expect to have them.  But I think admitting to being an obsessive fan the way I am would be seen as at least a bit weird.  I mean, I’m probably a little bit weird in my fannishness even in the secular world.  I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that it probably is a bit caused by my autism rather than how most people would act, in terms of things perhaps like watching episodes multiple times even when I know them by heart, but especially things being able to list every Doctor Who story in order from memory (nearly 300 stories), and not only that, but being able to list showrunners, producers, script editors, writers and directors for many of them (new series personnel are harder to remember, either because of relative newness or the fact that I’m not as emotionally invested in the stories).

I feel that being a Doctor Who fan makes me weird in the frum world, but being frum makes me weird in the secular world, especially the fan world, which is perhaps one reason (among several) for me not going to conventions.  I don’t mind being a bit weird, but I worry I’m off-puttingly weird.  Doctor Who fandom has a lot of gay and transexual members and I worry that when people see my kippah (skullcap) they think I’m judging them when I’m not.


Yesterday I noted that I went jogging without getting a migraine.  Actually, I did get a migraine last night after turning off my computer, albeit delayed by a couple of hours after jogging and not as bad as recent ones.  I googled “migraine jogging” and it turns out that exercise can genuinely be a cause of migraines.  I don’t want to stop jogging, but I need to work out a way of avoiding this.  I’m pretty sure it’s not dehydration or the sun, but I’m not sure what else the trigger might be.


Yesterday I noted an article in the latest Doctor Who Magazine that seemed similar to my Doctor Who book.  Having now read it… basically it does in twenty pages, very superficially, something similar to what I did at great length in a whole book, except the DWM article only covers the original run of Doctor Who whereas I went up to the present.  More to the point, it was presented as a symposium of contemporary Doctor Who authors talking about their favourite classic series stories; apparently people want to hear what Steven Moffat or Peter Harness think about Earthshock more than what I think.  Which is logical in a way, but also frustrating, as I think my book is not just more detailed, but perhaps more willing to depart from established fan opinion.  A lot of that DWM article was predictable if you’ve been in fandom for years.

It’s just annoying to see stuff that I could write being published while the stuff I’ve actually written or pitched to write is ignored.  I wonder if some of it is my lack of experience and the fact that I’m not known in fan circles.  The circle of fans writing for DWM, writing non-fiction Doctor Who books and working on the DVD and Blu-Ray releases is small and perhaps a bit incestuous and maybe I am too much of an unknown quantity for anyone to want to take a chance on.  I think these things are often about who you know as much as what you know.

On which note, I submitted the book to a third publisher.  I’m running out of specialist Doctor Who publishers.  I’m not sure where I go if this doesn’t work out.  My Dad keeps saying, “Maybe the BBC will publish it.”  Skipping over the fact that BBC Books isn’t actually owned by the BBC (they have a minority share; the imprint is owned by Penguin), BBC Books doesn’t publish many Doctor Who books; those it does publish tend not to be analytical in the way my book is, and are very concentrated on the current TV programme, not 50+ years of history.  And I haven’t got a submission address for them.  I suspect they may not accept external submissions.  Who you know again.


Other than CBT and submitting my book, and looking (pessimistically) for further contact details for future submissions, I didn’t have much time to do things today.  I spent half an hour on Torah study and a bit of time on my novel, but that’s about it.  I do have a long (1,500 word) chapter-by-chapter plan of the novel now, although later chapters seem a bit light.  1,500 words sounds a lot, but actually some parts of the novel are still very sketchy in my head.  But I might start writing soon, and doing research for the chapters that aren’t really based on personal experience.


Some good news for the weekend: the Talmud shiur (religious class) that usually takes place in shul (synagogue) before Mincha (the Afternoon Service) on Shabbat (the Sabbath) has been moved into seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal), replacing the usual shiur at that time.  So there is now one shiur instead of two, which may be less tiring for me.  I’m not sure if this is a permanent arrangement or just for this week.

Productive Day

I went to my new volunteering thing.  I had an induction and got shown how to do some things there, although there is still a lot that I have yet to be trained with.  It was very busy and noisy.  I couldn’t work out if it was objectively louder than when I first went there or if I was just bothered by it more today.  The noise means it may not be the right place for me, but I can only find out by trying it a few times.  I thought my library skills might be useful here, although I’m not sure that they will, and we have family connections to the charity involved, but these may not be the strongest reasons for going, especially if the environment isn’t right for me.

On the way home I fulfilled my CBT challenge of talking to a shop assistant, asking if he had a busy morning while I was paying.  He didn’t seem to think I was weird, but I’m not sure that I could do such things frequently.


I had a double rejection today, a rejection from a job I don’t even remember applying for and a rejection for my Doctor Who book from a second publisher.  I’m not sure what to do about that.  The fact that the latest Doctor Who Magazine (which arrived today) has some features that tread similar ground to my book might show that I have little that is new, but it might also suggest that there is an audience of new fans who are unaware of previous interpretations of the programme’s history or how the new series fits in with them.

I am not sure where my skills and interests should really be pointing me at the moment.  I don’t qualify for disability benefits and I have too much money saved to qualify for unemployment benefits, but I’m struggling to find work that I can actually do.  However, the nebulous and changeable nature of both autism and depression make it hard to explain to people why I can’t do things, either to formulate an alternative job search strategy or to apply for benefits.


I wasn’t really sure what to do this afternoon.  My mood has been up and down over the day, but mostly OK.  I felt drained by this morning, and there aren’t any jobs to apply for, except for a graduate trainee post that is really not intended for someone like me, but for someone who has just finished their librarianship MA or even is about to do it.  I managed an hour of Torah study (very good) and worked on my novel for another hour.  Although I’m still at the planning stage, it’s an incredible feeling, to see a world and characters come together that didn’t exist before I thought about them even if much of this book is drawn from my own experiences.  It’s scary to think that I’m going to have to revisit some very dark times of my life before this is done, but it is good to think that I might be able to get something positive out of them.  I also went for a run for twenty-five minutes, managing to keep running most of the time (I think I’m pacing myself better) and without getting a headache.  So fairly positive, all in all.


I watched the second episode of The Vietnam War earlier.  It’s very interesting, but also hugely depressing and I’m not sure if I should really be watching it.  Hmm.

Doomster and Gloomster

I just feel depressed and burnt out again after going out yesterday.  I went to bed very late and slept beyond noon.  This was not particularly good, especially as I need to be up relatively early tomorrow.  My focus for today was getting to autism group this afternoon, at least for a while (more than the fifteen minutes I managed last time).  There weren’t any library jobs to apply for, except for one that I’m not qualified for, so I didn’t need to feel guilty about neglecting the job hunt.  I tried to work for a little while on my novel, beginning to write a detailed chapter breakdown, but I struggled to cope with depression and despair and ran out of time because I had to leave mid-afternoon to get to autism group, which is in town.  I was determined not to arrive late after last time, when I arrived late and people were talking in little groups and I couldn’t join in.  I would also need to leave early to get up early tomorrow, which was another reason for arriving on time.

I have a busy few days and am worried about being overwhelmed.  Today was autism group, tomorrow I am seeing someone about volunteering, Thursday is CBT, Friday is sort of a quiet day for recovery, but is also erev Shabbat (day before the Sabbath), which means preparations and never quite enough time, even in the summer when Shabbat starts late.  Friday night and Saturday are Shabbat, with all that entails and Sunday is the busiest day of all, with my other volunteering in the late morning/early afternoon and then a family barbecue at my sister and brother-in-law’s house.  I am worried about getting overwhelmed long before Sunday.

I did at least manage to get to autism group.  I felt rather uncomfortable, as the moderator was only one person I had seen before.  Every time I go, it seems to be full of different people.  I think there’s a quite rapid turnover of people.  This makes it hard to build friendships.  I did speak to a couple of people.  I even initiated some conversations, as per my CBT homework, but I struggle to know what to say after, “I’m Luftmentsch, how are you?” and my conversations tend to peter out.  One of my big problems, both with small talk and in job interviews, is giving very closed down answers to questions – answering the immediate question, but not going into detail or developing the topic or asking more questions. This is an autistic issue and I’m not sure that CBT can really help with it; I literally do not know what to say and find it easier to sit in silence, whereas I know neurotypicals who would rather say something obvious rather than let a silence continue.  Sometimes I ask people at the group if they work, but I’m wary of saying that in case they’re unemployed (quite a few people in the group are) and don’t want to mention it.  Maybe I’m being over-sensitive.

This is problematic at home too; my Dad in particular gets frustrated with my curt responses (although I do not intend to be rude) and tries to ask more questions, which I find intrusive or bizarre e.g. when I go to shul (synagogue) he often asks me how many people were there, which I used to find a bizarre thing to ask, as he doesn’t know the people and the answer can’t make any difference to his life; also I don’t count the numbers, so I usually say something like “A normal amount” which can’t mean anything to him.  I know now that he’s just trying to show an interest in my life and fill the silence, but I still struggle not to sound irritated.  (I know I try not to write about other people, but my relationship with my parents, while not bad exactly has been strained in recent months or even years.  My Dad’s neurotypical way of talking and my autistic way of talking leads to a lot of needless bad feeling and I’m hoping by putting this here, someone might suggest something I can do.  I don’t mean this to reflect badly on my Dad.)

The group moderator did try to include me in some conversations, but I’m not sure that it was really that good for me to hear that lots of people are struggling to find work, make friends and find a partner.  On one level it is good to hear that, so I know I’m not alone, but if no one has any ideas for how to solve the problems, it just makes them seem more intractable and fuels anxious-depressive thoughts like, “I will never get a job/make friends/get married because I’m autistic.”  The only practical solutions suggested were not helpful.  I am already trying to widen my job search and contemplating switching sectors as suggested, without much success.  With regard to dating, the idea that I should look for a friend rather than a partner and see what develops isn’t really workable for me, as there are minimal opportunities for men and women to meet socially in the Orthodox Jewish world.  It’s mostly gender-segregated, other than formal dating opportunities (shidduchim/blind dates, singles events, speed dating (yes, speed dating was invented by an Orthodox rabbi!)).

I stayed for an hour, but that was all I could cope with.


I didn’t get the job I was interviewed for last week, the one at a weird place that I didn’t think would need a library.  (It was a dance school.  They had a small library.)  They said that they picked someone with experience in a similar library.  I don’t know if they were just being polite; I certainly felt I fared very badly in the interview.


Something I read online today just increased my belief that I don’t write in the appropriate way for contemporary Doctor Who fans, who are increasingly obsessed with viewing the programme through the lens of cultural studies theory and its source in left-wing identity politics theory (not my cup of tea).  Hence, I doubt my book will find a publisher.

I feel lonely again.  I’m glad I have E. as a friend, but feel wistful that we couldn’t make things work romantically.  I don’t think anyone else could ever understand and accept me as much as E does, but in the end even E. couldn’t accept me as a potential spouse, so I doubt anyone else could.  It’s depressing.  I tell myself that I can’t face dating at the moment, both the risk of rejection and feeling of inadequacy that comes from being unemployed and having no career to speak of; from being depressed; from being probably autistic, but still in limbo regarding diagnosis; and from not being terribly well integrated into the frum community where I would be looking for a partner.  It all seems overwhelming.  Maybe in a few years, if I can somehow find a job or (more likely, difficult though that seems) get a novel written and published, things might be different…

Hunting the Crowned Saxe-Coburg

The main thing that happened today was that I went to Buckingham Palace with my parents.  Sadly, I wasn’t getting a knighthood, but was just visiting the rooms that are open to the public.  It was very interesting, from a historical point of view, and I saw some interesting art, mostly seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century.  We had booked to tour the gardens too, but couldn’t see them as they were flooded from this morning’s rain and unsafe.  I finished about forty minutes before my parents and had to hang around for them at the end, only to come home before them anyway.  It would have been better if it hadn’t been bookended with feeling very depressed and irritable before and afterwards, but at least I felt OK while I was there.

I did feel the anxious-autistic when we went through security, which panicked me for no reason I could really understand, beyond the scariness of being in a room with lots of people and not being sure of what would happen next.

On the way home I missed my iPod, when I felt too depressed to read on the Tube and when I went into the shopping centre too; I didn’t realise how much I rely on music to get me through crowded, busy, noisy spaces.


I feel that I’ve messed up my CBT homework for this fortnight.  I slept through Saturday morning shul (synagogue) twice the last fortnight, which I think was more depression than social anxiety, but it’s hard to tell.  I’m also supposed to talk to shop assistants, but I don’t know what to say, plus I haven’t been shopping much anyway.  I did try to go into Tesco and buy some chocolate this afternoon, intending to go to the manned tobacco/alcohol check out rather than the self-service as I usually do.  I was going to casually say that the weather has been crazy today to the cashier.  But when it came to it, I lost my nerve.  There just didn’t seem a logical point in the interaction for me to say something so unconnected.  Plus, when I was about to try to speak the shop assistant went off to help someone on the self-service tills; when he came back he was already asking if I wanted a receipt and it seemed weird to start a conversation then (“Yes, please, I would like a receipt and also the weather today is crazy.”)

Do people really talk about the weather with strangers or is that just something that happens on badly-written TV programmes?  I think a lot of the issue for me is autism rather than social anxiety.  It’s not just that I’m scared of being thought weird if I say something, I actually do not know what to say or when to say it.  Like a lot of autistic people, I view talking as being about exchanging information.  I don’t really get the social aspect of it, the element that is supposedly analogous to chimpanzees grooming each other.

I feel bad about this, as when I’ve been in CBT before, I’ve always tried to do my homework and if I failed it was usually because of finding it too hard to control my thoughts rather than just not knowing what to do.

I want to at least try to go to autism group tomorrow evening, despite what happened last time (when I left after fifteen minutes because I couldn’t talk to anybody), although I can’t stay late as I have a meeting about volunteering early on Wednesday morning (early for me, anyway).  If I feel up to it, I might try the “talking in a shop” experiment again tomorrow and/or on Wednesday, to try to do it as an experiment even if I do seem weird, just so that I have something to take to therapy.  Although buying a ton of chocolate is probably not a good idea given that I’m putting on weight from medication and a sedentary lifestyle.

The messed up chocolate experiment did prompt some negative self-evaluation thoughts (beating myself up, in non-therapy speak).  I did want to challenge them, but I didn’t have the forms with me to do that (CBT assumes you carry a lot of papers and forms around and fill them in, even if people are watching), so all in all it was a wasted opportunity.


I submitted my non-fiction Doctor Who book to another publisher, but I’m beginning to suspect that there isn’t much space for it in a crowded marketplace.  I fear that the bulk of the books in the fan non-fiction marketplace are either full of behind the scenes information or cultural studies theory and mine is neither of those; I suspect it seems like something that belongs in a fanzine (which is basically where it does belong).  This doesn’t raise my mood at all.

I spent an hour after that working on my novel.  I spent most of that hour looking at my plan, trying to see how the story flows, where it’s slow and can be cut, where I need to make sure I write at length, flagging up the main points of conflict to be included…  There’s a lot still to do before I can even start a first draft, but it seems to be going well.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so in control of a piece of fiction writing before.  The fact that I have a 900 word plan indicates how much more depth it has than my previous attempts at writing fiction.  I want to try a more detailed plan before I start writing, at least of the early chapters, breaking each chapter down by major incident.


Otherwise, mood has been up and down all day.  Really down before and after Buckingham Palace; better while I was there.  I don’t know why I’m like this again, or, more to the point, how I stopped being like this for a bit, as “depressed” has been my default setting for twenty years or so.


I initially wrote that “today was a wasted, burnt out recovery day.”  That’s not actually completely true.  I did wake up feeling depressed and withdrawn.  I discovered that the Doctor Who pub quiz I wanted to go to (which I’ve only managed to go successfully once so far) was today and decided I was too depressed and it was too last minute for me to go.  I accidentally applied for job may have applied for before and don’t really want (I hit the ‘apply’ button on LinkedIn thinking it would take me to an application page, but it read that as a single-step application).  My parents had friends here, sitting in the garden, below my window, making a lot of noise, so I had to shut the windows to block the noise (laughter) out, but then had to have the fan on as the room was too hot.  I felt again this afternoon like I’m the person who has to be miserable all the time so other people can have fun.  Maybe I was Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa in a past life (“Notwithstanding his wonder-working powers, Ḥanina was very poor. Indeed, it became proverbial that, while the whole world was provided for through Ḥanina’s great merits, he himself sustained life from one Sabbath eve to another on a basket of carob-beans.”).  That was a joke.  I don’t believe in reincarnation and I’m not really a tzaddik (saintly person).   I wish I were.  I wished there was some obvious meaning to my suffering.

I’m currently recording activity and achievement and satisfaction levels for CBT.  I probably do somewhat more than I think, but (a) not as much as “normal” people and (b) although I do quite a bit, I hardly enjoy anything.  I don’t know what to do at the moment, because nothing seems enjoyable.  It’s difficult to concentrate to read or write.  Even watching Doctor Who, The Avengers or Star Trek feels more like doing something I remember enjoying rather than something I am enjoying.  I’ve tried watching some comedy programmes recently, but that’s even worse than science fiction; it’s hard to say “I’m going to be happy now.”  Over lunch I watched the first episode of Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary series The Vietnam War.   It was far from ideal viewing, but I wanted to feel I was doing something vaguely intellectual, more so than just watching episodes of Doctor Who or Star Trek I’ve seen umpteen times before.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I watch my favourite TV programmes repeatedly.  I also re-read books, although not to the same extent, because of the greater time commitment involved, and the fact that there are more books I haven’t read that I want to read than TV programmes I haven’t watched than I want to watch.  I think they feel like old friends to me, when I don’t have many friends around me.  I think my favourite time for watching something is the second time rather than the first.  True, the twists are spoilt, but you can see the care with which the story is written, the throwaway lines and visual references that only become meaningful when you know how it ends, plus you know whether it’s going to be disappointing.  Actually, some episodes improve without the expectations of the first transmission and knowing what you won’t like.  I hardly ever watch current TV, probably because I don’t know if I’ll like it.  I think this is probably all very autistic: wanting to avoid surprises and know what’s going to happen in advance; relating to fictional characters more easily than re

I really just want to withdraw.  I vaguely want to be held by someone and loved, but I doubt whether I could manage real relationship, now or ever.


Later.  I sat out the early afternoon watching the Vietnam documentary and reading some not very good Doctor Who comics (the Evening’s Empire collection… seventh Doctor-era DWM comics were mostly not good).  I Skyped E. and that seemed to help a bit.  I went for a longish walk (forty minutes) and did some shopping while listening to The Beatles album Revolver, which I hadn’t heard right through for ages (am I the only person under the age of forty who still listens to whole albums?  Then again, I’m not that far off forty).  I had hoped to feel better after dinner and be able to work on my novel plan and do some Torah study, but I felt very depressed again.


Even later.  I spent a little bit of time working on my novel; a few minutes working on the plan, which I’m fairly pleased with at this stage, and a few minutes research online.  Not very much, but I was glad to do anything on a day when I felt so bad.  I still have a lot of planning and research to do on my book.  The research is going to be hard.  Much of the book is based on things I’ve experienced myself (write about what you know), but there is a plot strand about domestic abuse that I need to research.  There is a fairly obvious link between domestic abuse and depression.  I’ve read some things about it over the years and met abuse survivors at support groups, but I need to read more.  It won’t be fun, though.

I think finishing the Doctor Who book (despite the initial rejection from a publisher) and starting this book have done as much for me as CBT.  I feel I can write this book (whether I can get it published is another question), which is more than I can say for anything in my work life, or in my religious, social or romantic lives.  Rating each activity out of ten for pleasure and achievement for CBT has been an arbitrary and difficult exercise in some ways, especially as I struggle to understand my own emotions sometimes, but working on the novel is one of the few things that rate an ‘eight’ (nothing rates higher than eight at the moment), along with blogging and, surprisingly, eating lunch and reading (that was probably an overly generous eight, from the first day of the log when I was getting used to it).

I think that writing a book is not just an achievement in itself, although it is that, but that writing about depression and suffering is a way of finding meaning in everything I’ve been through, doubly so if others may benefit from it (cf. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).


A quote I just came across from Rav Kook: “When one realizes that being totally perfect is unattainable, one can finally understand that one’s true greatness is found in the holy journey of constantly becoming just a little bit better.” The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook: The Writings of a Jewish Mystic p. 55)

Running Away Again

I had a difficult Shabbat (Sabbath).  Yesterday I had two autistic/socially anxious moments where I said or did the wrong thing, but, although I beat myself up about them at the time, I felt OK about them today and wasn’t going to blog about them.  I overslept this morning and missed shul (synagogue), which was problematic as I am supposed to go for CBT to counter the social anxiety that keeps me away and I haven’t been for two weeks, albeit more because of depression/exhaustion than because of social anxiety (I just don’t wake up properly).  I dozed this afternoon too, so I probably won’t sleep well tonight.

The really difficult thing, and the reason I’m writing, was this evening.  I’d struggled through seudah (the Third Meal) in shul, worried someone would talk to me or that the rabbi would ask me to lead singing and not sure whether I was misreading other people’s interactions.  Then, when it got to Ma’ariv (the Evening Service), I was asked if I wanted to lead the service.  I’ve led Ma’ariv perhaps hundreds of times, but not since I moved to this community four years ago.  For whatever reason, I instinctively panicked and turned it down.

I felt so angry with myself.  This would have been the ideal chance to get back into davening from the amud (leading services), as there was barely a minyan (ten men) in shul and Ma’ariv is really easy as most of the prayers are private with only little bits read aloud, unlike the other services.  We are supposed to do stuff to help the community.  We are also supposed to use our skills to help others, not sit on them out of fear.  I happen to be reasonably good at leading services, or was when I was doing it regularly.  It was also a chance to get known and accepted in the community, something I struggle with.

Between this and the fact that I generally stay very quiet and don’t show off my Hebrew comprehension (which is reasonably good) or other Jewish knowledge, everyone in shul probably thinks I have bad Hebrew reading skills and that I’m basically an am ha’aretz (ignoramus).  (They probably also think I’m gay for having reached the “ancient” age of thirty-six without having married, but that’s a slightly different issue.)  This was only the second time I’ve been offered to lead a service in three years of going to this shul, so it’s unlikely to happen again any time soon.  (Usually people in mourning have priority for weekday services, so I can only be offered if there are no mourners around or it’s a day when they can’t lead, usually festive days.)

I also feel guilty that I don’t give my parents enough nachas (reflected glory).  They basically haven’t had any from me since I moved to this community four years ago and stopped giving drashot (Torah talks) and leading services.  The last really big thing I did was getting my MA back in early 2014.  I feel bad that they get more nachas from my brother-in-law than they do from me, particularly as it seems very unlikely that I will marry and have children.  I guess it’s another reason to write a novel, although I’m not sure how I would feel about people knowing about my writing.  I’m still wondering if I should write pseudonymously.

When I got home, I filled in one of the thought diary sheets I’m supposed to fill in for CBT when I have negative self-evaluations.  It was actually hard to put into words what I was feeling, but I felt anger at myself (80% intensity) and frustration (90%), possibly some shame (around 60%).  I acknowledged that my thoughts are not helpful, as they won’t help me overcome my anxiety about doing this in the future (if that ever happens).  I couldn’t answer the questions, “How else could I view the situation?  What advice would I give a friend in the this same situation?  (Try to do it next time?  Seems a bit weak and avoiding the real issue.)  What would be more helpful behaviour I could carry out?” (Don’t chicken out and refuse?)  I struggled to find a more balanced evaluation than, “I got anxious and panicked.  I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.”  But knowing I shouldn’t beat myself up doesn’t stop me from beating myself up, especially as I feel that on this occasion I deserve to be beaten up.

You’re So Vain (You Probably Think This Blog Is About You)

The title is directed at myself, before anyone gets upset.

I feel pretty awful again.  Really depressed.  I couldn’t face applying for a law library job today, which are more or less the only viable jobs on my list to apply to at the moment.  I won’t be able to volunteer for a week or two at the new volunteering opportunity I was trying to set up because I procrastinated in responding to an email and now people are away on holiday.

I tried to work on my novel.  I’m doing a lot of planning as I’ve never written fiction at this length or complexity before.  It’s slow.  It’s hard to tell what’s good.  I also wonder if I should start writing, even if I throw it all away later, just to channel some of my enthusiasm and avoid going off the boil (so to speak).  The novel has an autobiographical element, but it’s stripped down in a way; I wanted to write about someone with all my issues, but there were just too many of them for it to be believable or to have space for a plot and other characters.  Actually, I genuinely nearly wrote it with only small roles for other characters, because when I think of things in my life, I genuinely think about my interests and issues long before I think of other people.  And they said I’m not autistic… (autism from autos, ‘self’ because of self-absorption.)  Still, I feel more enthusiastic about writing than about anything else.

I do wonder if it’s worth it.  I wonder if I’ll ever have anything substantial published professionally.  I wonder if I’ll be as successful as a writer as I was as a historian or librarian i.e. not very.  But I don’t have a lot of other options right now.

As I was writing this post, a rejection came in from the publisher I sent my non-fiction Doctor Who book to.  I will keep on submitting it, but it has knocked my already wobbly confidence.  Plus, I told myself I would only date again if I got a job or a book published, despite what my parents and my rabbi mentor said (that I should date right now).  I do get lonely, although these days I think marriage would be just as difficult for me as being single, whether I was living with my parents or not.

I’m struggling with CBT.  I’m supposed to get to shul (synagogue) tomorrow morning as part of my homework, but I suspect I will be too depressed.  I’m also supposed to be talking to strangers (e.g. shop assistants), but I haven’t, partly because of social anxiety (which is what it is supposed to deal with), but also because autism means I have no idea how to have a conversation.  I want to push myself to be more social, but I genuinely don’t know what I could say to someone, beyond a vague idea that British people make a lot of small talk about the weather.

I feel sickened by the anger in politics in general, online and especially online politics.  Treating ‘politics’ as a wide concept, not a narrow part-political one.  I like to hear people and make my own mind up about things.  I don’t have much time for “calling out” or aggressive posturing.  I should probably go and live in a cave or something.  I just want to hear people’s stories.  I realised that’s what the explosion of thoughts I’ve had lately about writing novels is about: telling stories, the stories that don’t get told, my own and other people who I can empathise with in some way (which is tricky with autism, which makes empathy difficult, but that’s another story – autistic empathy issues are arguably more about not knowing how to react to other people’s emotions rather than not feeling them, so not necessarily such a problem for a writer, but this is controversial).

I’m going to watch Doctor Who for the first time in ages to cheer myself up.  Star TrekBatman and The Avengers are all very good, but when I’m very depressed Doctor Who reaches parts other programmes can not reach.  I picked Warriors’ Gate, because I wanted Tom Baker and a surreal, disturbing environment.

Thoughts vs. Feelings

I felt pretty awful when I woke up today and was glad that I hadn’t scheduled anything for today other than going for haircut, and that no interesting-looking job adverts had landed in my inbox overnight to demand my attention.  The haircut was the usual awful experience.  I realise now that having my hair cut trips a lot of autism and social anxiety reflexes (being around strangers; being touched; perhaps feeling vulnerable and exposed without escape; worry the barber will start making small talk to me).  This has been the case since childhood, but has got worse over the last I-don’t-know-how-many-years (probably getting on for ten years) when I’ve had a problem with tremor.  When I go for a haircut now, I worry I will start shaking, but it’s worrying that I might shake that often sets off the shaking.  It wasn’t too bad today, but the barber did remember me from my previous haircut there, I suspect because he remembered me shaking.

On the plus side, today did give me a chance to try out some CBT techniques “in the field” so to speak.  I found I was able to challenge my thoughts in the way I was taught and “prove” to myself that I am not doomed to be single or unemployed forever.  The problem is that, contrary to CBT theory, I find that knowing that my thoughts are irrational does not affect the emotions I experience as a result of them.  Even though I may not have evidence strong enough to convict someone in court that I will be single and unemployed forever (CBT demands a high standard of proof to permit anxiety), I feel I do have a lot of circumstantial evidence that does justify worrying (I have had few jobs, no full-time jobs, many of those jobs went badly or I was overqualified for, etc.).  Nor do I think dismissing fears of the future as “hypothetical” really applies to something that will definitely happen one way or another (I will be employed or unemployed; I will be single or married (or divorced)).  I also have a growing suspicion that my depressed and anxious thoughts are caused by my depressed and anxious emotions rather than the other way around.  CBT theory states that thoughts cause emotions and doesn’t really acknowledge that the reverse can happen.  This means that disproving the thoughts does not necessarily dissipate the bad mood as it should.

I don’t want to sound too negative, as CBT is helping a bit, even if it does feel a bit like putting a small plaster on a gaping wound that needs stitches.  I am having more success with grounding techniques: telling myself that I am dealing with a lot of issues to calm myself and deal with self-blame.  I am also trying to be aware of physical sensations to distract myself from negative thoughts.  The latter is particularly good because my autistic stimming tends to take the form of applying pressure on parts of my body e.g. feeling the pressure of my chair on my spine or lightly trapping my fingers in the drawer and this can often be done discreetly in social situations although I fear that this would be considered an improper coping strategy that fuels the social anxiety.  Sometimes it feels as if I can’t win.


The haircut was my main achievement for the day.  I spent a bit of time working on my plan for  a novel, but it was hard to concentrate as it’s quite a scary thing to contemplate doing.  I still think I can do it and want to try.  It’s weird to think that I don’t believe I can hold down a job or get married, which are things lots of people do easily, but I do believe I can write books, which is something many people would not even dream of attempting.  Getting books published is another question.

I did a little bit of Torah study, but not much, but I did go to shul (synagogue).  We didn’t get a minyan (prayer quorum), so we went to the other shul that uses that building (it’s really their shul, I think we just lease a room).  They started fifteen minutes later, though, so we had to wait.  It was an even more Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) shul than my one and I felt a bit out of place and was glad when the service finished.


I finished watching I Claudius.  I could see that it was objectively good, but I found it hard to connect emotionally to it, even though I usually like “politicking” stories.  Too many characters to keep track of with unfamiliar and similar names, and too many of those characters were fundamentally unsympathetic.


E. asked yesterday what one thing would make the biggest difference to my life.  It’s hard to tell.  Money would make a big practical difference, but wouldn’t alter low mood or the psychological need to feel like a contributor to others rather than a burden.  I’ve wanted to be loved romantically for twenty years, and people around me say I always seem better when I’m in a relationship (which is a total of one year or so out of thirty-six) but I know that wouldn’t cure me and living with a wife (rather than parents) would bring in a whole load of new autistic, socially anxious and perhaps depressive issues.  A contract to write books would be nice, I suppose, and I can write while depressed.  But I find it hard to imagine being happy in the long term.

Doctor Who Miniature Picspam!

There will be a normal post later, but I’ve been painting miniature Daleks recently.  It’s a bit frustrating as my tremor (and perhaps lack of patience) means that my recent miniatures aren’t painted nearly as well as those I used to paint in my teens.  Nevertheless, I wanted to share…


The eleventh Doctor caught by 1980s Imperial Daleks!



The fourth Doctor bamboozles the Dalek Supreme and some 1960s Daleks!



And Now for Something Completely Similar

I had another job interview today that didn’t go too well.  I got off to a bad start when I had another weird dream last night where I was in some kind of tiny Jewish community (I think there were literally just ten men, although I couldn’t see most of them, and one or two women) and I was expected to take some kind of rabbinic leadership role, but didn’t want to do so.  It was probably an anxiety dream about feeling that my job interview today would not be at the right place for me (not that it had anything to do with rabbis or Judaism), that librarianship as a whole may not be right for me, but that I’m not sure if I will be any more successful at writing.  It’s not surprising that I was having thoughts along these lines this morning while I got ready for my interview, although things were a bit better in the past in terms of not blaming myself for things.  I think I was less feeling worried and more grounded, even though I wasn’t conscious of using CBT techniques.


I got soaked walking to the station in heavy rain.  I couldn’t find my umbrella, and when I took my old umbrella, it turned out to be broken.  I think it was still usable if I pushed the broken spokes into place, but I was running late and decided it was easiest just to leave it behind.  So I was rather wet through my interview.

The interview itself was pretty bad.  I struggled to remember and process questions, sometimes needing to be reminded what the question was during the middle of an answer.  There were also a number of difficult questions that I hadn’t expected and planned for when I probably should have done so.  I’m not terribly good at interview preparation.  I’m not sure how much of it is finding it hard to predict what the interviewer wants to know and how much is anxious avoidance.

The good thing was that I didn’t blame myself or beat myself up too much afterwards.  It probably helped that I didn’t think the job was really right for me anyway.

I’m currently reading A Guide to Your Aspie by Amanda J. Harrington.  She describes getting “normal” jobs and being OK at them for a while, but eventually the stress of being autistic in a neurotypical environment builds up and she just can’t function any more.  That is familiar to me.  I have the added stresses of depression and social anxiety too.


I came home and watched an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus to cheer myself up.  This was not a great choice, as it turned out to be rather dated and unfunny, although Terry Gilliam’s animations are still disturbing.  I can see why I used to love things like this when I was younger, but it’s hard to appreciate it now.  The autism specialist Tony Attwood says people with high functioning autism often like surreal humour like Python, and it probably does fit a worldview that is intelligent, but struggles to make sense of the world.  But it seems to rely a lot on jokes that seem clever when you’re sixteen, but less so twenty years on when surreal juxtapositions don’t necessarily seem hilarious.

I’ve just done some miniature painting (five Daleks with two different colour schemes some of the TARDIS exterior), which kept me busy for an hour and a half or so, and I’ve read some interesting long-form essays on Tablet Magazine (one political, one historical with political ramifications), but I realised it’s not yet 6.00pm and I have no idea what to do.  I don’t usually get bored; usually I’m overwhelmed by Stuff To Do, or Stuff I Want To Read or Watch, but I feel depressed and aimless.  It would be torture to go back to job hunting today.  Ditto for jogging (certainly not in this weather).   I plan to do a bit of Torah study, but I don’t have the energy to do much.  I would like to work on the novel I want to start (have sort of started), but I’m not sure that I am really capable of doing much.  I don’t feel like reading and there isn’t anything I particularly want to watch on TV or from my DVD collection; the final episode of I Claudius seems too heavy, kol vachomer (even more so) catching up with the repeat of The Vietnam War on BBC iplayer.  I might watch the first Tim Burton Batman film, but even that would be just to fill in time really.

I feel vaguely annoyed with myself, but am not having self-critical thoughts as such, but I worry, given how low my mood is, that my conscious mind is just suppressing the thoughts so that I can’t use the CBT techniques.  CBT doesn’t really deal with the unconscious.  Or, it’s possible that the thoughts are coming at a speed or in a way that I can’t consciously recognise them and try to use the CBT techniques on them.

I’m probably in the kind of mood where I just turn everything against myself.  I just read an (entirely reasonable) blog post criticising people who self-diagnose with autism and now I’m feeling like I’m a bad person for doing that, even though I am pursuing diagnosis and this has been a very long journey (including psychiatrists and therapists who have said I’m on the spectrum without giving a formal diagnosis) and I feel I’m entitled to say something about how my life has been.  But, again, I’m not sure I have specific thoughts to write down and challenge with CBT.

Ugh, OK, I’m going to go and force myself to watch a DVD or something before I go crazy.

Book Pitched

Not much to say today except that I’m a bundle of nerves.  I’ve got a job interview tomorrow and I just sent my first book pitch!  I pitched to some specialist science fiction publishers to ask if they want to publish my non-fiction Doctor Who book.  I feel so nervous…  The book pitch took longer than expected and I spent some hours on interview preparation too, plus I had a (routine) blood test this morning so I haven’t had much time for Torah study today; hopefully I’ll do some after dinner, if I’m not too anxious.  This hasn’t stopped me spending time procrastinating…


I managed to get up at 10.00am on a day when I didn’t have an interview and managed to avoid going back to bed after breakfast, which is a kind of progress.  I spent a couple of hours writing my presentation for my job interview on Wednesday.  I went for a walk for forty minutes and wrote a pitch for my Doctor Who book and emailed it to a writer friend for feedback, as I’m worried I’m not writing effective pitches.  I also emailed about starting volunteering next week.

Mostly I’ve been feeling good today.  I did have lower mood and some anxiety when walking, which I think was triggered by having my daily CBT “worry time” then.  Otherwise, I’m still feeling that I won’t get a job, get published, get married etc., but have a sense of stoic indifference, feeling that I’m doing all I can for these things at the moment and it’s pointless to worry any more.

My mood did sink after dinner.  I’m not sure why.  I ate with my parents, so maybe it was the ‘peopling.’  Maybe I really can’t cope with being around people much, even my family (which is not good news for trying to get married).  Or maybe I was just exhausted from the day.  Which is also not so good, if three or four hours of activity leaves me burnt out.  Because of this drop in mood, I only managed about half an hour of Torah study when I had hoped to do more.

My real worry is that this feeling of OKness won’t last.  I mean, if it didn’t last a whole day, how will it last over weeks?  I’ve had periods of remission before and eventually the depression comes back.  At the moment I almost wish I was a little more anxious and depressed, as it would give me more to work with in CBT.  I feel I need the practice in challenging my negative thoughts and would like to do that while I’m still seeing a CBT therapist who can guide me rather than when I’m left to function on my own again.


I had another anxiety dream last night, but with more obvious sources of anxiety: sitting in shiur (religious class) worrying that I would have to admit to watching TV, and watching science fiction at that; plus also something about a religious OCD trigger that made me wake up with OCD anxiety.  Fortunately, I can keep my religious OCD under control most of the time nowadays, which is progress, so it didn’t bother me for long on waking.

As Good as Tisha B’Av Gets

Still, Tisha B’Av-ing today.  If I talk about Jewish festivals, people have some idea of what I might mean, even though Jewish festivals in the Orthodox community are arguably very different to Christmas or Easter as most (i.e. not religious) Christians/post-Christians observe them.  But Tisha B’Av isn’t like anything most Westerners encounter any more.

Anyway, I probably fell asleep around 3.00am last night (after the insomnia mentioned it my last post) and slept until noon.  It was a struggle to get up because of depression and low blood sugar.  I suffer from this every morning.  I would normally try to force myself to get up and eat something to deal with this, but I wanted to fast until chatzot which is halakhic midday (the middle of the day according to Jewish law i.e. the midpoint of daylight hours, which because of British Summer Time is currently around 1.06pm).  The reason for doing this is that the Tisha B’Av laws are lessened somewhat after then, so I would have fasted for the most important bit, which amounts to about two-thirds of the total.  Sure enough, once I managed to eat something, I felt quite a bit better.  (The only Jewish fast day I fast on in its entirety these days is Yom Kippur, because it’s dangerous to fast while taking lithium.)

Tisha B’Av is such a long, strange day.  It’s a full day fast, like Yom Kippur, but Yom Kippur is spent mostly in shul (synagogue), whereas a lot of Tisha B’Av is not.  Shuls do usually try to put on educational programmes in the afternoon, but even this is strange, because one is not really supposed to study Torah on Tisha B’Av, because it’s considered too enjoyable, so the educational programmes tend to be on sad moments in Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust, or on how to avoid baseless hatred and gossip (which caused the tragedies we commemorate on Tisha B’Av and are therefore considered acceptable topics for the day).  Unlike Yom Kippur and other festivals, one can work, but ideally one should not if one can avoid it.  And then it’s stranger for me because I’m not fasting any more because of being on lithium.  When I was younger I would spend the whole day sleeping and studying acceptable (sad) religious topics.  The sleeping was not good, but one can perhaps blame that partly on depression.  But these days I struggle to throw myself into it so much.  I think I’ve been too depressed for too much of my life to add extra misery on top.

I lay on my bed again, feeling not exactly depressed, but struggling to get involved with anything.  About two and a half hours passed; I think I must have fallen asleep.  When I woke up, it was late afternoon.  There was a programme of talks and prayer services that was about to begin at my shul (synagogue).  I had been in two minds whether to go; I now wanted to go, but felt I should do more of my CBT homework instead.  Fortunately, the CBT homework was about not beating oneself up for perceived faults, so I was able to use my feelings about missing the talks as raw material for this.  I did eventually get to shul for some of the later events, although I missed the talk I most wanted to go to, about the Eish Kodesh, a book that contains series of sermons given by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust.  I have actually read the book, so I suppose I wanted to feel that I knew what was being spoken about for once, although I can’t remember much about it and have been meaning to re-read it at some point.

So, on the whole Tisha B’Av went about as well as it could go, considering (a) I still have depression and (b) it’s Tisha B’Av and until Mashiach (the Messiah) comes, it’s going to be the most miserable day in the calendar.  I didn’t spend the day angry and resentful of God, as I had been worrying I would do and I went to some stuff at shul yesterday and today.  That’s probably as good as it gets.

We now have just under seven weeks to get ready for the autumn festival season…

Tisha B’Av Night

Tonight is the night of Tisha B’Av, the Fast of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, when we recall the many tragedies of Jewish history, tracing them ultimately to the existence of baseless hatred between Jews.  This year, it’s also my Hebrew birthday.

I wasn’t intending to write anything tonight, but I can’t sleep and I’ve got a lot of racing thoughts.  Trying to write seemed more appropriate than other things I would normally do to try and sleep (read or watch something light, eat – I’m not allowed to fast, but I try to fast until lunchtime).

I struggled with exhaustion much of Shabbat (the Sabbath).  I slept through the morning again and missed shul (synagogue), which upset me a bit.  Then I slept for two hours after lunch, probably another reason why I can’t sleep now.  I did get to shul for Mincha (the afternoon service) and a couple of shiurim (religious classes) and then came back for Ma’ariv (the evening service), which today was extra long with Eichah (Lamentations) and kinot (laments).  I came home and didn’t feel like going to bed, but I didn’t want to do anything fun or relaxing because it’s not really appropriate, so I read more of Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, a book which I only read on Tisha Be’Av.  In three years I’ve got through about 65 pages (out of 230 or so), so it will probably be good for a few more years even if I read it tomorrow too.

Tisha B’Av is a hard day to go through, particularly with depression, because one is afraid of getting too depressed and not being able to come out of it again.  Plus, perhaps one taps into negative emotions more easily than mentally health individuals and gets overwhelmed by them.  I spent the evening with racing thoughts about whether I am a good or bad person, whether the Jewish people as a whole are good or bad, how to change myself and the world for the better and thoughts about the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews.  This got worse once I went to bed and could not sleep.  I am probably getting overwhelmed, hence trying to write to calm myself down.


I’m still trying to work out what to do with my blog.  It should be hidden from search engines now, but I still worry that I’ve said too much about my private life or about other people.  However, I know I struggle to write consistently without readers, so I don’t want to turn it into a private diary.  So far as I can tell from links and comments, I only seem to have half a dozen readers, so it would make sense to switch the blog to private and invite those half dozen.  But my experience is that if people don’t get posts in their blog reader, they don’t read them, even if they have the password.  It’s tricky to know what to do.


I reflected today that refusing to extend my contract as an assistant librarian in a further education college a year ago probably marked the point where I lost confidence in my own ability as a librarian.  It was a bad move, from the point of view of a librarianship career, as it would have been a step towards become an independent library manager.  However, the reasons I turned it down, that I felt I could not do such a user-facing role (facing students and staff) and that I felt my line manager had no confidence in my ability to do it, indicate that I realised that I was not suited for that work even if I have still been looking for less user-facing library roles.  I do think, judging by my lack of success in finding such roles, that they are too few and far between and I need to find some other career path.  A lot will hinge on whether I manage to get my book published, I think.


I feel sleepy now, so am about to try to sleep again.

Good Stuff

A quick note to say that I have finished my Doctor Who book!  I hope to think about sending it to a publisher next week.  I want to get some advice on sending submission letters, as my previous attempts (with articles rather than books) have not gone well.  The last minute tidying of my prose style seems to have been a good idea, as I had a lot of unnecessary howevers, neverthelesses, indeeds and the like.  I am now worrying that I have been too ruthless in purging them, of course (of courses were another culprit).

I also have a job interview next week, at a really weird place that I didn’t think would need a librarian, but I’m wary of saying too much here.  I do have to give a five minute presentation, which I’m not looking forward to, but I guess it’s all good practise for CBT/working on self-esteem and social anxiety.  It’s hard to believe I used to like public speaking, at least on some level.

Interesting thing: a couple in my shul (synagogue) are celebrating their fifty-second wedding anniversary this coming week.  Now, I know that the husband is in his nineties, so he must have been nearly forty, or in his forties when he married.  They have children too.  I always feel that I have missed the marriage boat, or that if I do marriage, the marriage won’t last long before I die (yes, I’m morbid),  or that we won’t be able to have children, so this is reassuring to me.

I’m not sure when I’ll be writing again, as it’s Shabbat (the Sabbath) soon and then we go into Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar and I don’t know if I will blog then.  In the past I would have said, “Absolutely not,” but I find it harder to get into the right atmosphere when I feel depressed, paradoxically.  It will probably depend on whether there’s anything I really feel I need to off-load.


Experiments in ‘Peopling’

Today was another better day.  I was still depressed in the morning, but I spent two hours working on my Doctor Who book in the early afternoon and got about halfway through tidying up the formatting and removing various sentence connector words and phrases that I felt I was overusing.  I’m hoping to finish it tomorrow, or the beginning of next week at the latest, depending on whether I have urgent job applications to write first.

Then I had CBT.  The CBT therapist felt it would be good to do an experiment on observing how I talk to other people, as this is a key area of social anxiety for me.  I had two short conversations with one of her colleagues, one structured (i.e. I knew in advance what I could talk about, in this case my Doctor Who book, which the therapist suggested because I feel embarrassed about liking Doctor Who), one unstructured and free-flowing.  My therapist recorded these conversations on her phone so we could watch them afterwards; we also got the other therapist to answer some questions afterwards about how she perceived me and how she felt the conversation went.

On one level this is obviously very artificial.  In fact, it felt weirdly like a shidduch date; (blind date in the religious Orthodox Jewish community).  The outcome was interesting.  I felt that I did have things to say once the conversation started, even though there was a long pause at the start of the unstructured conversation while I tried to find something to say.  My body language was somewhat closed (arm across chest, resting right hand on left forearm), but was more open than I expected.  I did try to make eye contact, even though I was afraid I would shake if I did.  I did actually shake a bit, but it wasn’t noticeable on the phone playback.  I realised that I do  have a tendency to talk quite fast when nervous and then to suddenly pause as my brain tries to catch up with my mouth and think of words to say.  The therapist I was talking to said I seemed nervous, but not awkward or weird and that I was interesting.

She also said she liked my hair, which I keep thinking about because I’ve been self-conscious about my hair since childhood.  I have very think, frizzy hair and I tend to let it grow a bit on the long side, not afro length, but not short, as I hate having my hair cut (a mixture of social anxiety and autistic discomfort), but I used to get bullied for having it long at school, and sometimes the girls would come and pat it, so I don’t really like it either way.  So I was glad that she liked it.

My therapist said that I would become less anxious the more I practise speaking to strangers.  I hope so.  My experience in the past has been that periodically I push myself to talk to people, but I feel that I am not doing well and fall back into social anxiety and solitude.  I think it is probably the case that I will never be completely confident talking to strangers.  My high functioning autism is always going to mean that I have to put extra effort in to the consciously thinking about conversations because I can’t intuitively tell what the right thing to say or do is in a given situation.  But this was positive overall.

The other issue, beyond autism, is whether the things I like to do and to talk about are acceptable in my religious community, which is a rather different question and one I really have to work out on my own somehow.  After today I do feel somewhat more confident in terms of thinking about shidduch dating, perhaps because I think I would be trying to date women who are more modern, although I’m not sure how I would meet them.  I do still feel uncomfortable at the thought of dating without a job (or a writing contract).


I feel subdued and tired now.  Shiur (religious class) left me feeling, not exactly depressed, but a little disquieted by a couple of things, but I don’t want to go into detail about them.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know what is going on in a particular social setting or what I should do or say or do.  I guess that’s autism again.  I also came away from shiur thinking that apparently I wasn’t born, as I always thought, in the month of strict justice, but in the month of great kindness.  It’s just that we (the Jewish people) haven’t yet made ourselves into the appropriate vessel for that kindness, so it overwhelms us and produces negative effects instead.  I’m not sure what this means for me or for my conception of myself as someone steeped in strict justice and negativity.

I also always seem to leave shiur feeling drained.  I guess it’s a lot of ‘peopling,’ in terms of being in a room full of people for an hour and not wanting to seem stupid or heretical, but also being aware that there is ‘banter.’  Unlike the twelfth Doctor, I am not opposed to banter, but I never know what to say and sometimes I don’t understand the jokes, or whether people are laughing at me or with me, or are laughing about something else entirely something that has nothing to do with me at all.

Better Day

I actually did quite a bit today: job application, lots of walking, some chores, fifteen minutes of Torah study (OK, that’s not so good in itself… I wanted to do more, but ran out of time again) plus shul (synagogue) in the evening.  I filled in another job application where I don’t think I have the relevant experience.  There are library jobs around, but most are not at my level and those that are seem to be mostly full-time, which surprises me a bit, as I thought librarianship was a career path that had lots of part-time opportunities that would fit better with my mental health.  I wonder if I should have taken the changed job description that was offered to me in further education around this time last year (is it really only a year?!).


My CBT therapist set me “worry time” – I am not supposed to worry throughout the day, but to write my worries down and worry at a set time.  I have struggled with this.  It’s hard to remember, or to be sufficiently self-aware, not to worry when anxious thoughts come.  However, on days like today, when I’ve achieved some things and feel reasonably positive, it is hard to worry to order.  Today I feel reasonably confident of my ability to write books and even somewhat confident that someone will publish them.  I don’t feel particularly confident that I will get married, but I don’t feel too lonely or concerned about the emotional and practical difficulties of being single forever.  But this will have no impact on how I feel tomorrow or perhaps even on how I will feel later.

I have almost finished writing my Doctor Who book.  I need to do some polishing to the text (removing sentence connectors that are repetitive and probably redundant) and adjust the formatting slightly.  It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, so hopefully I’ll have the book ready to be submitted by the end of next week, two weeks at the latest, well in advance of my desired deadline of the autumn.  I wish I could have got the word count below 100,000 words; it’s a bit over 101,500 at the moment, which is OK, but apparently publishers prefer under 100,000 because it’s more expensive to publish longer books.  But I can’t think of an easy way to get rid of nearly 2,000 words and think that by this stage it’s better to wait for an editor to tell me to cut them, considering I’ve cut quite a bit to get it down to the current level.  But I am open to suggestions about this.

I’m also excited at the thought of writing fiction.  I have ideas for a couple of novels, one I’m focused on and one or two that are in the back of my mind.  I’m excited at the prospect of telling my story, or at least something somewhat like my story, as well as the stories of other people who are marginalised in the Jewish community.

The Kafka Manoeuvre

Today was a better day, depression-wise, albeit that “better” seems to correlate to “doing quite a lot of things, but none of them work-related.”

I spoke to my rabbi mentor about my angst about shul (synagogue) and fitting in to frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) society.  He said that probably there are other people in the shul who don’t match all its beliefs or values.  Their conflicts may or may not be the same as mine, but probably no one feels a 100% fit.  In addition, in terms of practical things, like feeling I don’t daven with a minyan (pray with a community) enough or study enough Torah, when people say they daven with a minyan so many times a week or “learn” Torah for so many hours a day, they’re probably reflecting a personal or communal ideal rather than a reality, like when people say they exercise three times a week, but actually only do it three times a month (or less).

Speaking to him, I was more confident that I’m in the right community, because, for all that I struggle to meet the ideals of the community, those ideals are ideals I can subscribe to, in terms of the importance of Torah study and communal prayer, even if the depression means I hardly ever meet these ideals myself.  I would rather be with people who share those ideals than in a community where these are not even ideals, even if that was more “modern” in terms of philosophy and practice.  Of course, it is still hard when I feel that I have to hide my belief in evolution or the fact that I’m writing a book about a TV programme.  I don’t have a solution to that.

Other than that, I cooked some of dinner.  I usually cook on Tuesdays anyway, plus we had my sister and brother-in-law over for dinner.  I went for a run before dinner too.  The run was pretty good and I seemed to be pacing myself better and running out of breath less, but I got a headache again.  I think it’s really too warm to be running.  I enjoyed dinner with my family, but felt out of the conversation some of the time and was ‘peopled out’ some time before they left.  That’s all standard with autism.  I realised that I kept wanting to change the subject to subjects that interested me more because of associations that occurred to me, but would not have occurred to other people.  I had sufficient self-awareness not to do that, but it did reinforce my feeling that my autism is undiagnosed because I have the ability to “pass” in neurotypical society, probably from having it socialised into me from a young age, so mental health professionals don’t realise that the thoughts in my head and the instinctive actions I suppress can be very different to my visible behaviours.

I received an email from my boss from my job in further education, in response to a reference request from the charity I’m hoping to volunteer for.  She gave me a positive reference, which was a bit of a relief as I still feel that she was not overly-impressed with my performance in that job (one where I felt the environment was not always good for someone on the spectrum).  From a comment in her email, I realised that she was under the impression that the three month contract in higher education I had earlier in the year was permanent.  I didn’t correct her, because I was embarrassed to, really.

It was probably a good day overall, but I feel bad about not doing anything for either my job hunt or my writing, aside from a little bit of research for the novel I’m hoping to write once I’ve submitted the Doctor Who book.  I also had a feeling while I was out running that I’m embracing the idea of being a writer, which is good, but (a) I may not get published and (b) I feel that I’m diverting the energy that should be going into dating into my writing instead, or as I called it, “The Kafka Manoeuvre” (Zadie Smith described Kafka as leaving his girlfriends for Literature).  I am really excited at the prospect of writing a novel, which is good as I’m not really excited about much at the moment.  More than that, I actually feel there is a chance of my doing a reasonable job of writing it, which is just unprecedented for me – optimism!

Well, my headache is gone, as are my sister and BIL.  It’s probably too late to do much other than a little bit of Torah study and my evening meditation/prayer routines, but I shouldn’t sit here blogging all night.  I’m trying to look at today as a positive day, even if I didn’t make any progress on things that might earn me money one day.

Worry Time

I was emailed last week by a job agency asking to put my name forward for a library assistant role.  I didn’t want to apply.  I am over-qualified for the job and am afraid that once I have non-librarian roles on my CV, it will be even harder to get trained librarian work.  I already have had two jobs that did not require librarian training; one more and I would have more non-librarian roles than librarian roles.  Plus the work would have been boring and I don’t think making myself bored is a particularly clever thing to do, in terms of stoking depression.  So I asked the agency not to put my name forward.

I felt that my parents would want me to apply and I didn’t tell them.  I’ve had this conversation with them before; they feel that I should just get a job in the library and that might lead on to promotion to a librarian position.  I keep telling them that library work does not work like this; it’s like saying being a caretaker at 10 Downing Street is a step towards becoming Prime Minister.  Library assistant and librarian are completely separate career tracks.  I feel guilty about this.  I’m not sure if I feel guilty for turning the application down (although experience suggests that I would not have been called for interview because I’m over-qualified) or for not telling them.  I tell my parents a lot, not least because I have so few friends, and none I really speak to in depth regularly.


I had a weird dream last night.  I can only remember a fragment of it, but Donald Trump wanted to appoint me to his Cabinet.  I turned it down, reasoning that Trump would be even worse than my previous difficult boss.  It was probably an unemployment anxiety dream.


It’s hard to challenge my depressive thoughts as I am supposed to for CBT.  I have thoughts that “I will never have a job” or “I will never get married” and I’m supposed to find evidence to prove that they are untrue.  I can sort of accept that the not having a job thoughts might be untrue.  But there does seem to be evidence that I will never get married, even if it’s circumstantial.  I can tell myself that most people end up in a relationship at some point (although these days many of those relationships don’t last, which is a whole other anxiety), that there is nothing intrinsically unlovable about me (or so I’m told)… but some people do never find a relationship and people like me, with treatment-resistant mental illness and autism, are highly likely to be in that group of permanently single people.  That same group figures highly for unemployment and under-employment too.  I don’t care whether a jury would convict on these odds, as per CBT, it’s enough to upset me and worry me.  Similarly, while I’ve had brief relationships, most women I’ve asked out were not interested in me at all, and the ones who were quickly decided I was too frigid or socially anxious or other criticisms related to my depression and autism.

I increasingly wonder whether I could have a successful marriage even if I could find someone willing to marry me.  I am something of a loner, even if I’m a loner who is surrounded by more people than he cares to realise.  I worry autism makes meaningful close relationships impossible.  Lots of marriages between neurotypicals fail, so I’m not quite sure why I think I could marry successfully with autism.   I doubt I could have made a success of any of my previous relationships or crushes, except maybe with E., and my difficulty finding frum (religious) women who like me seems very real.

Dating would mean either going to a paid shadchan (matchmaker) or dating site or else going to Rebbetzin D, the woman who someone suggested to my Dad as being someone who could help find a match for a person with depression.  I’m scared to do it.  Partly it’s fear of rejection, of being told by Rebbetzin D that I shouldn’t be dating as much as being rejected by women, although that is part of it too.  Part of it is anxiety about using the telephone; I’d be more willing to talk to her if I could find a way to email.  But it’s also that dating seems a big thing that I’m just not in the right state of mind for right now.  If I thought I had a realistic chance of meeting my partner it would be another question, but I really can’t see anyone falling for a depressed, anxious, unemployed, autistic freak.


Lately I seem to be taking time out to lie down after lunch because I feel too depressed and anxious to get on with things.  I’m not sure if this is better, worse or just different from spending ages procrastinating online because I feel too depressed and anxious to get on with things.  I did eventually drag myself out to do some shopping and related chores, full of dread because I was going to have to talk to people at the doctor’s surgery (to get a form for my blood test – I have to have regular blood tests because I’m on lithium) and when collecting some shoes that were reheeled.  It all went OK in the end, but while I was waiting in the surgery there was a tense conversation, bordering on argument between one of the receptionists and a patient.  The tension in the room did upset me.  It was hard to disassociate myself from it.

I hope to work on my Doctor Who book later and to try to do a few minutes of Torah study,  no matter how hard that seems.  It is hard to do anything today, though.


I still can’t get through to the Citizens Advice Bureau to find out about the National Insurance conditions for new Style ESA.  I’m not sure if I’ve paid enough NI in recent years to qualify because of part-time work and unemployment.  I think the fact that I’ve paid any NI at all in the last two years is enough, but I’m not sure.  Plus, I would have to prove that I’m unable to work because of illness, which I probably could not prove, given that I’m looking for work.


More telephone issues: my previous dentist (before we moved) used to encourage us to book a new appointment at the end of each visit.  The new dentist seems not to do that, and I had a confusing conversation with the receptionist about booking one for January, the upshot of which seemed to be that they haven’t got a 2020 diary and aren’t booking appointments yet.  However, I don’t think I entirely understood properly, but I was just feeling weird and unintelligible and desperate to get out of the conversation and politely hung up.  I don’t know why using the telephone is so hard for many people with autism, including myself, but it is.  But I still beat myself up for not coping with it better.


I’m supposed to limit my worrying to twenty minutes of daily “worry time.”  As I express my worries in writing, I will see if I can limit my writing time to worry time.  So, posting now and hoping that I don’t feel the need to write again later tonight.

Going Off the Grid

When I woke up, I felt I was only moderately tired and depressed today and not fully burnt out.  My parents had gone out for the day, so I had the house to myself, which probably helped.  Although “moderately tired and depressed” still meant I struggled to get the energy and motivation to actually do things.  I was just procrastinating.

Actually, in retrospect, “moderately depressed” was probably optimistic, although it took me most of the day to acknowledge that I was actually at least on the boundary between moderate and severe depression.  Having to assess my mood each week for CBT has shown me how difficult it is to do that at the moment, so much does my mood and energy levels fluctuate from day to day or even from hour to hour, with my recorded mood being influenced by how I feel at the time I record it.

I guessed I wouldn’t do much in the way of job hunting, Torah study or anything else important, so I worked on my Doctor Who book for a couple of hours, trying to tune out the noise outside.  I went for a walk for forty minutes or so, but that’s all I’ve achieved today.  I hope to do a few minutes of Torah study before bed, but it won’t be much, because I don’t feel well enough.


In my last post I forgot to mention something that happened at shul (synagogue) yesterday.  During kiddush (refreshments after the service) someone asked, “What are you learning at the moment?” which is Yeshivish (Jew-speak) for “What Torah books/topics are you studying at the moment?”  This is a fairly standard conversational gambit for frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people, but I find it intrusive, because I worry that I’m “learning” the wrong things.  He knew about the Talmud shiur (religious class) and the weekly Torah shiur I go to because he goes to them too.  The problem is, they’re a big chunk of what I study, and they shouldn’t be.

I actually had a reasonable answer: as well as the sedra (weekly Torah reading) and the weekly Talmud page, I’m “learning” Mishnah Shevi’it and Tehillim (Psalms) from Artscroll books (Artscroll is a very kosher publisher).  If I was feeling very daring, I could have said an anthology of writing by Rav Kook (who is just about considered kosher by people who, perhaps fortunately, don’t actually read him).  What actually happened was my mind went blank, which was probably autism as much as anything, maybe social anxiety too, and I muttered something about Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).  I completely forgot the Mishnah, although that was the safest answer.  He asked a follow up question of what commentary I am learning on Tanakh and I said something about Artscroll, not mentioning the Koren Maggid series on Tanakh which I think is wonderful, but is rather “modern.”  I wish I didn’t feel I have to hide my whole life from people, to the extent that I even hide stuff that is OK out of habit.  I don’t even really know what is a “kosher” answer half the time and just panic.  I wonder what would have happened if I gave a more honest answer.  As with the assistant gabbai who keeps saying I come to shul late or not at all, I have a good, honest answer, but in the moment when I’m suddenly confronted with the question, my mind goes blank (which may be autism) and/or I don’t have the confidence to give the right answer (social anxiety).


It occurred to me over Shabbat that one reason I might have been struggling more recently (by recently I mean the past year) is that my online support network has slowly collapsed.  It happened by degrees over the years and I’ve only just noticed it (aside from the friends who recently stopped talking to me).  I used to read quite a few depression and autism blogs, which I found helpful.  It was reading autism blogs that pushed me towards rethinking my symptoms and thinking that I probably am on the spectrum after all, regardless of what the psychiatrists said.  However, a lot of these blogs have gone silent over time.  I guess the life expectancy of a blog isn’t so long on average.  Also, I stopped reading for various reasons.  To be honest, there wasn’t that much there that made me feel better, and my habit of writing lengthy comments about my issues that were only tangentially related to the post content was not a healthy one, but I had some online friends in the commenter community there who I don’t hear from so much any more.  I think they also stopped commenting there too and their own blogs are rarely updated.  It doesn’t help that I sort of fell out with someone on Hevria too, not as melodramatically as with the friends who stopped talking to me (this person doesn’t even know that he upset me, I just walked away), but it’s still painful.

I think Mum wanted me to eat dinner with her and Dad, but I couldn’t face any more ‘peopling’ (despite having had the house to myself all day) and wanted to watch some TV, hoping that I might feel better and up to Doing Things afterwards.  However, I made the unwise decision of watching I Claudius.  I’m enjoying it, but it’s so dark (and confusing.  I still can’t keep track of all the characters and conspiracies).  The episode opened with graphic descriptions of sexual abuse in the imperial palace followed by fairly graphic suicide.  I think at that point I realised it wasn’t the best thing to watch, but I’m not good at changing plans (autism again?) so stuck with it.  I think I might be careful about when I watch the remaining six episodes (and I’ve only just got started on Caligula).  I might watch The Avengers or one iteration of Star Trek before bed to relax after that.


Lately I’ve been thinking that I’d like to go off the grid somehow.  Just get away from the internet.  Away from London.  Just go to the countryside.  Work on my writing.  Like George Orwell moving to a remote Scottish island to write Nineteen Eighty-Four or the Romantic poets in the Lake District.  I don’t know what would happen if I did that, or even if it’s a reasonable possibility.  Not using technology (phone, TV, computer) is good on Shabbat (the Sabbath), but I can’t write then and I just get caught up in shul anxiety.  I do feel I have to blog immediately after Shabbat to get the thoughts out of my head, so maybe it’s not such a good idea.  Plus watching science fiction DVDs does help with the depression.  It’s probably just a pipe dream anyway.  I’ve only ever lived in cities (London, Oxford), so I don’t know what living in the country for a month would even feel like, or how feasible it would be for someone who (a) keeps strictly kosher and (b) doesn’t drive (I think (a) would be more manageable than (b)).  But I suppose it’s nice to dream.

Green Eyed Monsters

That was another challenging Shabbat (Sabbath).

Friday night was OK.  The noise at shul (synagogue) wasn’t as bad as other recent weeks, which was just as well as I had a bit of a headache.  I just about managed to do one of my CBT homework challenges of wishing a stranger a “Gut Shabbos” in the street.  I got to bed reasonably early, at least for a summer Shabbat, around 12.30am and slept reasonably well.

The good news about Shabbat day was that I went to shul in the morning.  I woke up at 8.15am, but it took me a long time to get going as I stayed in bed or went back to bed after breakfast.  It was less from tiredness or even depression and more from anxiety and avoidance.  I didn’t want to go to shul.  However, I did go, arriving about 10.15am.  (Shul had started at 9.10, an experimentally later time than the usual 8.45am.)  No one stared at me when I was late.  Two people looked pleased to see me.  So this was all positive for my CBT experiment.

Things began to become more uncomfortable after the service.  The assistant gabbai again said that I should have been there earlier so they could have called me to the Torah.  They eventually called me at Mincha (Afternoon Service).  I was too shy to say, “I have some health issues and struggle to get here in the morning” even though my parents said I should say it.  I was also too shy to really talk to anyone at kiddush (refreshments) and just ate a load of cake and left after a few minutes.  All the men my age seemed to be carrying their babies on their shoulders.  With hindsight, I probably only noticed the ones with babies, but I left anyway.

As I was walking home, a very Haredi man with a silk kapote (frock coat), wearing his tallit (prayer shawl) came up to me and asked, “Who is the tzaddik (saintly person)?”  It took me a minute to realise he meant me.  I think I have heard the idiom before, it’s just a very polite way of asking a stranger his name (implying he is a good person), but it would probably have thrown me even without autism slow response time and social anxiety.  An awkward conversation ensued for a minute or so.

When I got home my parents were still at their shul.  I think I must have dozed off for an hour or even more.  I had a lie down after lunch too, but thankfully didn’t fall asleep then.  I spent the afternoon reading two Doctor Who novellas (short stories, really), one OK, one rather good and then a chunk of the latest Jewish Review of Books.  One interesting article further convinced me that if I really wanted to have a meaningful Jewish life and meet people like myself, I should make aliyah (move to Israel), but that isn’t likely to happen for many reasons, at least not in the foreseeable future.  The centre of gravity in Jewish life is shifting back to Israel for the first time for 2,000 years or more and there are some big, exciting religious and sociological shifts going on, but I’m not really in a position to benefit from them.

I could have done some Torah study, and felt a bit guilty that I didn’t, but I was worried that I wouldn’t cope with an evening of shiurim (religious classes) and prayer services in shul as well as ‘peopling’ at seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) if I did that.  It was a judgement call and I’m not sure I made the right decision.  I probably could have gone for a walk too, although it was rather hot.

I went to shul for Talmud shiur, Mincha, seudah shlishit and Ma’ariv (evening prayers) as well as tidying up.  It was OK.  I was beginning to relax a bit and feel that maybe I was fitting in, for all that I was feeling guilty for not really talking to the people around me even when one person tried to talk to me (I didn’t know what to say) when something happened.  I can’t say what it is, but it shocked me a bit and made me think again, “Are these really my people?”

The difficult thing in life is that we can’t make other people conform to our wishes.  It would be easy if we could create our ideal partners, children, friends, communities, but people tend to have minds of their own.  The most we can do is be careful who we pick (although that doesn’t apply to family), but it’s sometimes a question of balancing good points X, Y and Z and against negative points A and B.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

A couple of interesting things came out of the shiur at seudah.  There was talk about whether we can stop ourselves being jealous or coveting.  There was a nice definition of the difference between coveting and jealousy.  It took me years to understand the distinction; I wish I had heard this definition years ago: coveting is, “I want something like that thing you have”; jealousy is, “I think I should have that thing that you have and you shouldn’t have it.”  I don’t have a huge amount of trouble with jealousy, although sometimes it appears, but I do struggle with coveting, not so much for physical things (except when I have autism completism about series of books or DVDs), but mainly for friends, a wife, children and so on.  The life I feel I wish I had.  (I’m struggling with this right now – it’s hot and I’ve got the window open and I can hear my neighbours are in the garden planning their daughter’s wedding.  Their daughter who is not much more than half my age.  I can’t even really hear what they are saying, but it’s hard for me).

The rabbi spoke about the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot that we read today, that a person should set aside his or her will to do God’s will.  I wondered what I should be doing that God wants me to do.  I mean, there are lots of mitzvot (commandments) that I don’t do because of depression or social anxiety, but I wondered if there was anything in particular.  I don’t really know.  The thing I kept thinking of is that my rabbi mentor has said that I should be dating, and, even though I get into trouble when I ignore him, I’m still not dating.  I say that I can’t afford to go to a paid shadchan/dating site (which is sort of true and sort of not) and I just refuse to go to Rebbetzin D, the person my father’s shul‘s assistant rabbi’s wife suggested might be able to find a match for someone with depression.  Partly it’s fear of using the telephone and fear that I won’t be able to explain my whole story easily (I’m not good at explaining things verbally, another autistic trait).  I suppose I’m scared of rejection too, from Rebbetzin D (saying she can’t help or worse, that I have chutzpah for even thinking I should be dating when I’m such a mess) as much as from anyone I would be dating.  Also, I really can’t imagine anyone marrying someone with depression AND autism AND no job (not to mention all the points against me in the frum community), so it’s hard to try, although I know Ashley Leia has said I should let the women decide that.  I just feel too ashamed to date at the moment.

At Mincha we read chapter two of Pirkei Avot, which starts with the Mishnah that a person should do the thing that is honourable to himself and which brings him honour from others.  I think writing is honourable and it’s the only thing I ever seem to get praised for.  It’s still scary to think about doing it professionally.  It’s tempting to wish for the kind of miracle stories people on or relate in their lives.  I suppose that’s coveting again.

One other good thing that came out of Shabbat is that I have been trying some grounding techniques for my CBT homework, to bring me back to the world when I feel depressed or anxious.  My therapist gave me a whole list of them.  I’ve been trying three: describing the room I’m in, which hasn’t really helped; feeling my chair (or similar), noticing the sensations, which has been quite good, mostly because autistically I like feeling pressure from pressing against surfaces and tend to do it when stressed anyway so it’s just a question of being more mindful of it; or telling myself something positive.  I didn’t think the last one would help, as I’ve not had much success with CBT mantras and the like in the past, but telling myself “I’m dealing with a lot of difficult things” seemed to help a bit.  At least I could believe “I’m dealing with a lot of difficult things” more than something like, “I’m a good person.”

Feeling Weird and Depressed

I’m supposed to go to shul tomorrow morning for CBT homework, but I’m really not sure that I’m going to make it.  I just feel too depressed in the mornings even without the social anxiety that I’m supposed to be challenging.  If I do go, I might cut down some of my evening shul-going, although I doubt I’ll cut it out completely.  It’s hard to know what to cut, though.

I’m still feeling a lot of anger and resentment about the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community.  I blame them for the fact that I’m still single and the fact that I don’t fit in to the community or have many frum friends (not that I have many non-frum friends either).  I feel that they’re trying to force me to think and behave a certain way.  I get angry and resentful, but after a while sometimes I think, “Well, I can’t really blame them for the fact that I don’t fit in.”  To be honest, I probably don’t even try to fit in that much, but it’s hard to try even the little bit that I do, such is the disempowering nature of depression, social anxiety and especially autism.  The problem is that I don’t know what I should actually do to fit in.  As someone on the spectrum, I do not have that knowledge that other people would have intuitively of how to fit in to a community.  I think even people who are not frum could do a better job than I do at talking to people at my shul and trying to fit in.

While beating myself up for blaming my community, I also feel bad about being so upset by people much younger than me getting engaged, but it is what I feel and I don’t know how to change that.  I try telling myself that other people being married doesn’t stop me getting married (it’s not like I’m going to marry a twenty year old) and that the world is miserable enough that it’s good that someone is happy even if it can’t be me, but I still feel like I’m going to be depressed and alone forever.  In my more depressed, but more self-aware moments, I feel like I wouldn’t be happy even in a relationship.  I doubt very much that any of my crushes would have worked out, nor the first woman I dated.  I think E. is the only person I’ve liked where things might have worked out with, except for the financial issue.  Which is a big thing and rather intrinsic to me at the moment.  I do feel that I missed the boat and there are no single women my age left, which isn’t true, but also sort of is, at least in the frum world, where really most people are married well before they turn thirty and most of the single people my age would be divorcées with children.  Not that I would even rule them out, but it would pose even more challenges to the huge pile I already have.

My CBT therapist is trying to get me to think that it is possible for me to get married, but I honestly believe that that, while possible, is hugely unlikely by this stage and that I’d be much better off trying to accept that I will be single and lonely for the near future and try to learn to cope with it.  I might get married one day, if I can sort my life out, but probably too late to have children, and far too far off for it to be much comfort now.  I can see myself getting married in my fifties, if I somehow get my life together and start a a career, rather than in my late thirties.

When I have thoughts like, “I’m weird, I’m never going to get married,” I’m supposed to challenge them, but I do believe that I am weird in my community.  Normal people get set up on shidduch dates by people who know them; I don’t.  I just don’t know enough frum people and/or those I do know don’t know women the right age and/or they simply aren’t interested in helping me.  Maybe that’s not weirdness per se, but it does make it hard to date when the usual means of dating is cut off from me.

I feel such a bad Jew.  I feel I should take responsibility for my actions and not blame other people.  I feel I should have a straightforward loving relationship with HaShem  (God) and Torah the way other people in my community seem to.  I feel I should care again.  I wish I could care again.  I wish I knew how to fit in.  But I can’t do any of these things.

I want to talk to my rabbi mentor about the community angst.  Maybe I’m worrying too much about being excluded if I share my thoughts.  I don’t know.  But I can’t get hold of him at the moment as he’s very busy and travelling a lot.


One of the job agencies I’m signed up for has sent me a library assistant role again.  I don’t really want to apply for it, because I’m over-qualified, plus it would be a lot of personal interaction and I’m not sure that I could cope.  But it would be a job and I really need a job.  I really want to focus on my writing, but I haven’t got the courage to say that to anyone.  Am I desperate enough to do a job I’m over-qualified for (again)?  I don’t know.  My parents feel this type of job might lead on to an assistant librarian job, but I’m inclined to think if anything it would be the reverse: that once I have this on my CV, I’ll be tainted forever and never get another librarian job.  But it’s so hard to find work that is within my experience level, let alone that I could do with depression and autism.

I’m trying to job hunt, but I’m practically in tears.  I can’t face any of the jobs available.  I just want to write.  I suppose really I don’t want to be here at all, but given that I am here, I just want to write.  One job advert is looking for someone “Enthusiastic and resilient” which is the exact opposite of what I am.  I applied for one job, wrote to ask for more information on a second and decided I didn’t have the skill set for a third.  This is what passes for productivity in my life at the moment, when I’m not writing.

Doing online job applications when wifi drops every two minutes isn’t much fun either.


Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Av, the saddest month in the calendar (also, the yortzeit of Aharon).  Also my Hebrew birth month.  Apparently it’s supposed to be the happiest month in the year, but only when Mashiach (the Messiah) comes.  This is not much of a comfort to me.  I’m supposed to be mourning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but it’s hard to focus on something I’ve never seen when I’m so caught up in my own troubles and when I already have a degree of anger at HaShem for my life.


In other news, I finished reading Gershom Scholem’s book on the history of Kabbalah (actually a compilation of his articles for the Encyclopedia Judaica on kabbalah, but also on the Shabbatean movement, which is hardly mainstream kabbalah.  Interesting, though).  It hasn’t made me more inclined to study kabbalah and I remain rather sceptical of its provenance and intrinsic monotheism.  I suppose that’s another thing to hide in shul (synagogue).

The real exciting news today is that police raided a cannabis farm down the road.  I didn’t see it, but I did see a bunch of bored looking police officers standing outside when I came back from CBT yesterday.  Who says suburbia is boring?

I, Claudius?

People half my age are getting married in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community.  I think the daughter of our neighbour just got engaged (there’s a party going on there at the moment and I can’t think what anyone would be celebrating on an evening in The Three Weeks except a vort (engagement)), and certainly the son of someone from shiur (religious class) just got engaged today.  Both must be in their early twenties at most, perhaps even late teens.  It is hard to feel happy for them, although I try.  I just feel that I really missed that boat.  I feel simmering resentment and loneliness, which is irrational (it’s not like they’re the reason I’m not married) and unpleasant.  I try to feel happy, but I can’t.  I’m expected to feel happy for everyone else, but never for myself.  It’s not like anyone is even trying to set me up with anyone.  This is why I feel resentful when people praise the closeness and supportiveness of the frum community.  It never seems to support me.

I know I’m supposed to challenge my negative thoughts for CBT, including my “I’ll never get married” thoughts, but the evidence in favour of being single forever seems a lot stronger than the evidence against, even though I doubt I could convince my CBT therapist, not least because one needs a detailed understanding of the frum community to understand just how broken I would be considered, which my therapist doesn’t have.  Women in the frum community could reasonably expect me to pray with a congregation and study Torah a lot more than I do as well and any woman wanting a family would require a more substantial income (or any income).  More than this, my experiences with my friends – those who have stayed friends and those who have given up on me, often angrily – has shown me that only someone with issues similar to me own and who is willing to see me as a source of support for herself as well as being someone she would have to support could bear to be with me for a prolonged period.  This seems unlikely to happen, based on past experience, and even if it did, it is doubtful that two people with serious issues could afford to marry each other.


A theme of today has been, “What is weird?”  At CBT I spoke about feeling weird while doing my CBT homework (asking for help in a shop and shaking hands with and talking to the rabbi after shul (synagogue)).  I felt somewhat weird doing the first of these (because the shop assistant didn’t understand what I wanted) and perhaps the second too (because I felt I wasn’t responding to him the right way).  My CBT therapist felt that the other people involved would probably not have seen me as weird.  She said my homework in coming weeks will involve doing things that will deliberately make me seem weird, so that I can see it is nothing to worry about.  This reminds me of the yeshiva in nineteenth century Lithuania that used to send its bachurim on foolish errands, like asking for eggs in a hardware shop, to teach them not to care what other people think about them.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  When I’m in therapy, it seems fairly logical that I’m not particularly weird and that other people are mostly too preoccupied with their own stuff to care about me or even to really notice me.  Also that I have no objective evidence that I will never get a job or get married.  But outside of therapy I feel objectively weird and that my autism makes me objectively weird.  Plus, it seems there is a lot of evidence that I will be unemployed and single forever, but that my therapist disallows it because it is (I admit) somewhat circumstantial rather than full-blown logical PROOF that would stand up in court.  Who cares if it stands up in court?  It’s enough to make me miserable even if it is circumstantial.

Maybe it even feels like a choice: I can get over the depression with CBT or I can be diagnosed as autistic (and therefore objectively acknowledged as weird), but not both.  I want to get over the depression, but I feel I am on the spectrum and should be diagnosed as such.  Does that make me weird?

The therapist had a better point saying that worrying about being unemployed and single doesn’t actually achieve anything and is pointless.

When I was growing up, a lot of people said I was weird, some to my face.  It became part of my self-image.  Even people who did not call me weird directly (e.g. adult authority figures) tried to socialise me out of behaviour that I would now consider normal autistic behaviour, making me feel that if I was “just myself” I would be seen as weird by everyone and I would have to change to fit in.

However, all this said, I still feel that I am objectively weird, at least within my community.  I think it is objectively weird in the community to accept evolution and an old universe, to think the Zohar was not written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, to watch Doctor Who and especially to care about it enough to write a book about it.  Some of these things might be permissible privately, on a small scale, but doing/believing all of them is pushing things.  For example, I remember a shiur a few years ago where there was an argument of sorts between the rabbi and some of the congregants over whether tzedaka (charity) should only be given to Jews or to non-Jews too.  I felt that people disagreed a bit here, although the rabbi was pretty adamant in his view, but to dissent on other things, or too many things, was not right.  I don’t know how to explain this to my therapist.


Related to this, I just watched episode three of I Claudius.  I’m enjoying it more now that Claudius is an adult in the main part of the story and not just the framing narrative.  I empathise with Claudius, who stutters, twitches and limps as well as seeming clumsy and stupid.  He is advised to continue doing this to avoid seeming like a threat in the literally murderous imperial court of Rome.  I don’t do all of those things, but I empathise with being the outsider who is seen as weird and unmarryable.  At the end of the episode, he gets married.  As he and his bride stand up to be blessed by the priest, everyone bursts out laughing at the fact that she towers over him.  I could hardly watch it, it felt so painful and real to me.