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 I did wake up feeling depressed and withdrawn.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)