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.

4 thoughts on “Running Away Again

  1. It’s always difficult being put on the spot if you are of a shy or anxious disposition — the instinctive response is to decline as this feels safer. This can also become a habit as can other forms of social withdrawal. Do you think this is why you used to take services in the past but have not felt able to recently? The important thing is that you are trying hard to address the problem – give yourself credit for this and expect you will have setbacks.

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