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 Hevria.com 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.