(A rather mammoth post, sorry. I’ve got a lot of stuff I’m trying to process today.)
I felt really depressed and exhausted on waking again today. It was very hard to get going (although it always is). I was thinking about E. a lot and wondering what will become of us. I don’t even know how I would describe our relationship to a third party. I mean, technically we’re both clear that we’re just friends and that a deeper relationship wouldn’t work at the moment, but we both know that we care about each other.
The house was busy as we had the cleaner and the gardener here, so there was a lot of noise. Just having other people around can be hard when I’m very depressed, one of those things were it’s not clear if it’s triggering depression, autism or social anxiety, but it feels bad either way.
I had a brief appointment with my CBT therapist to check in on progress. She was pleased that the anxiety is better and that I’m pushing myself socially, but as my depression has been a bit worse this week, we’ve booked another check in appointment for a few weeks’ time. That will be a phone appointment. I wish today’s had been a phone appointment, as I had to walk both ways. The walk is thirty-five minutes each way, albeit both journeys were interrupted by trips to shops. It left me pretty exhausted again.
Strangely, on the way home the politics-related anger I was experiencing yesterday came back out of nowhere. I just wanted to “do a Donald Trump” and angrily vent my frustrations (albeit that the things that frustrate me are not the things that frustrate him). It’s weird how this happens. I usually like nuance and reasoned debate, but sometimes I just want to scream and shout and call people names. I guess Trumpism (which is more an aggressive style of politics than an ideology) is infectious. I guess, given how reserved I usually am, it’s not surprising I sometimes fantasise about completely losing it one day. Jumping on the table and screaming at people.
So many news articles and political statements these days seem designed just to get one side riled up against the other. Everyone condemns the other side for doing it, but seems blind to their own actions. This article suggests that polarised politics is here to stay, in the UK as in the US. The author’s response to it: “I don’t watch a whole lot of news, as the news that matters finds me anyway. I don’t do social media. I do read poetry, and visit state parks with my family, and listen to music. Recently, for instance, I got through all ten of Mahler’s symphonies, plus Das Lied von der Erde. That was nice.” That sounds good. Better than thinking about Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, anyway.
I subscribed to a Jewish website a while back, via email rather than my blog reader as per usual for some reason that I don’t remember. I rapidly realised that it wasn’t for me. It was for “BTs” (ba’alei teshuva, people raise secular who found religion late in life) and I thought it might help with my issues fitting in to the community. Maybe other people have the same issues. It turned out to be written by super-frummie people (using frummie in the somewhat derogatory sense of people who are really religious in an OTT way). I unsubscribed, but they periodically send stuff to me anyway (naughty!). Today a post arrived and I was going to delete it without reading, but something about the title made me look inside. Skimming the article depressed me. It says there are three types of people who serve God:
1) The lower kind of eved [servant], one who serves Hashem [God] only because he needs Him.
2) The higher kind of eved, one who serves Hashem because he lives his life for Him.
3) Ben [child], which is when one serves Hashem out of a love for Him.
I don’t know where I fit here. I don’t serve God because I need Him (I mean, I do need him, but that’s not what motivates me), but I don’t live my life for Him and I don’t know I really love Him, although identifying any kind of emotion with depression, autism and alexithymia (difficulty identifying and understanding emotions) is hard. My depression is so bad that I can’t live my life for myself, let alone anyone else. I serve Him because I feel it’s right. So I don’t know where I fit in. I guess this is the question I’ve had for some time. I can just about accept that God cares about me (inasmuch as we can talk about God having emotions, which is a whole other philosophical debate). But I feel that I just do what I can, when I can, because I feel I a sense of duty and responsibility. I know that’s not right, from a Jewish point of view, that we are supposed to love God and feel an intense connection to Him, but with my issues, that’s all the emotions I can manage.
Another thing I saw today was this post from a blogger I like a lot, although he hardly ever blogs nowadays. I wanted to comment, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I feel that I do experience the religious exhaustion he talks about from trying to find my place in the religious and secular worlds. I feel I should be (as he says) “at a stage where we have our peer groups, our work and our histories; we made the big religion and lifestyle decisions years ago.” But depression and social anxiety force me to make those decisions again every single day. Every time I go into shul (synagogue) or shiur (religious class) it can feel almost as nerve-wracking as if it was the first ever time. I still worry about saying the wrong thing or being caught out. I have a degree of acceptance of my choices, but I’m not comfortable that those I respect and want to be respected by would accept those choices. It’s hard.
It has been a bad day for my religion making me miserable. I went to shiur (religious class) in the evening. I worry that I really go only for the social side, to try to mix with people from my shul in a semi-social setting (most of the people I’m somewhat friendly with at shul go to the shiur). The content of the shiur seems to be over my head a lot lately. It is often quite mystical and I don’t really connect with that. Tonight the rabbi giving the shiur was talking about Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year, starting Sunday evening). I had heard the idea that Rosh Hashanah is a microcosm of the coming year before, that your experience over the two days of Yom Tov (festival) affects the rest of the year. There’s an idea to sleep less on Rosh Hashanah for that reason, but that’s not always easy with depression. Today the ex-assistant rabbi said that the amount of energy and enthusiasm for davening (prayer) and Torah study in the coming year and all the chiddushim (innovative Torah interpretations) one will have in the new year are decided on Rosh Hashanah. I don’t know why this upset me, but it did. It somehow felt that it was all my fault that I have no energy or enthusiasm for anything religious any more. I feel like I screw up every year and get written in God’s ‘bad’ book and if only I could be a better Jew, I wouldn’t be depressed.
The shiur rabbi was also talking about needing to find an authentic connection with God in our Jewish observance based on our personalities and personal strengths. In theory I would agree with this, but he said that he knows that everyone present has strengths because we all have jobs and careers which mean we all have a marketable skill. He forgot, if he knew, that I’ve been unemployed for six months. He certainly didn’t know that I’m struggling in my career in librarianship and feeling I’m not skilled enough and can’t cope with it, but I’m also struggling to build a new career as a writer. I don’t want to sound critical because he probably didn’t know about my situation and he certainly didn’t mean to hurt me, but it did upset me a bit. Then he said he knows we all have enthusiasm because we have hobbies and that just made me feel bad that I have to hide my hobbies in my community because I think they would not be considered quite “kosher” (no pun intended).
He also said that people today have “cushy lives”… OK, I know I’m not in a death camp or conscripted into the Tsarist army, I know that historically most Jews have had much harder times in terms of antisemitic violence, poverty, endemic and epidemic disease and so on and that I have, in historical terms, a huge amount of “modern privilege.” I know that I’m lucky that my parents support me, both financially and emotionally and that lots of people with issues like mine are faring much worse than I am. Even so, I feel that life on the autistic spectrum with treatment-resistant depression and social anxiety is not by any means “cushy.” I know he didn’t mean to upset me, but… well, I got upset. Some of this is the classic “invisible illness syndrome,” that people don’t realise I’m ill and have issues and they make assumptions about how my life is based on superficial criteria.
On a more mundane note, I intended not to eat any of the snacks provided as I usually binge far too much on them (I’m not sure if that’s a product of anxiety (distraction) or gluttony). I still ended up eating two home-baked chocolate chip cookies, which were very nice. I shouldn’t really blame my poor self-control on feeling upset. At least I didn’t eat any crisps.
I save positive emails from friends and positive blog comments. The idea is to read them when I’m depressed, but I don’t always remember, so sometimes I print some out and blue tack them to my wardrobe. To be honest, after a while I stop noticing them, but sometimes I suddenly see one when I need to. I hadn’t blue tacked any up for quite a while. I decided to print some recent ones so I have something to support me over the upcoming Jewish festival season. I felt quite emotional reading them. Emotional that people say positive things about me, but also emotional that I’ve lost touch with so many people. I know it’s not really my fault (except for the friends I upset), that online friendships can be more fragile than real-world friendships and just because someone stopped reading my blog doesn’t mean they think I’m a bad person; it could be that they’ve just run out of time for blog reading. Still, it did make me feel happy and sad at the same time. (I’ve quoted this before, but it’s so true: “It’s a smile, but you’re sad. It’s confusing, it’s like two emotions at once. It’s like you’re malfunctioning.” – Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express. If David Tennant was the ADHD Doctor and Tom Baker was the bipolar Doctor, then Peter Capaldi was the high-functioning autism Doctor.)
I feel on edge and I don’t know what to do to unwind. I feel a bit anxious and quite depressed. I’m in one of those moods where I say the wrong thing to everyone, or maybe I just worry that I do. Did I say the wrong thing here about shiur? I get terrified of mentioning anyone else on my blog since falling out with people over it, but I feel I made clear that I’m not blaming the rabbi, just saying that I was upset and it wasn’t his fault. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said what he said if he had known it would upset me. I shouldn’t mention it, but I need to write to process my feelings.
I need to retreat to my Fortress of Solitude. I would normally watch TV, but I feel anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure) and don’t really feel like watching anything. I doubt I will sleep at the moment though so I need to find something to do.
The WordPress random keyword suggestion thing suggested I look for posts on “Anime, WordPress, sharks.” I think Anime WordPress Sharks could be a hit cartoon series, no? About Japanese cartoon sharks that write blogs.