Life is Hard

I haven’t got time to blog at length today, and I wouldn’t go into more detail about this in public anyway because it’s not my story to tell, but – why is life so hard?  You try to be nice to people and certainly not to hurt anyone, but then life puts you in a situation where someone – a genuinely good person – will get hurt whatever you do and all you can do is try damage limitation.

Life is really tough sometimes.

Oh **** Off Jeremy Corbyn

I had a CV workshop today.  The organiser was half an hour late.  I was just about to leave when he arrived.  The receptionist didn’t know what was going on either.  Apparently he had sent a text, but didn’t have my number.  I was going to say that this is exactly what I expect from the state sector, but on reflection I’m not sure whether this is state sector or third sector (charitable) as it’s some kind of cooperative endeavour between the NHS and a mental health employment charity.  Either way, the workshop was OK, but didn’t really tell me anything new.  I think I’ve had enough advice.  The problem is putting it into practice.  I have another two sessions of this to come, though.


On the way home, I noticed a lot of Labour posters and boards.  For the first time in my life, I was seriously tempted to vandalise private property.  I wanted to write “ANTISEMITES” on every Labour board.  They make me so angry.  It’s not enough for me to worry about Labour winning; people online are already worried about antisemitic violence if Labour loses, and that seems all too possible (I was going to say that they have to win or lose so, but we could end up with a hung parliament again).  The scariest thing this week in this regard was the historian Sir Richard Evans, who I previously had a lot of respect for (his book In Defence of History is the best introduction to historiography I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot), saying that Labour is antisemitic, and this upsets him, but he’s going to vote for them anyway.  The irony, as many pointed out, is that Sir Richard is this country’s leading historian of Nazi Germany.  No one knows better than him the danger of voting in an extremist party in the hope that they won’t follow through on their rhetoric if elected.  So much for warnings from history.  It prompted this thread I found on Twitter.  It’s longish, but it boils down to this: within hard-left politics, “the elite” is now conflated with “the Zionists” and “rich Tory Jews” and that views about the Jews that were previously the preserve of the fringe (unreconstructed Stalinists etc.) have become mainstream in progressive politics as a whole and gone unchallenged by the liberal left, who prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist to keep a united front against the Conservative Party.  Enter Sir Richard.

It terrifies me.  For the first time in my life – in the life of myself and my parents – I’m worried about serious antisemitism in this country.  Not the minor antisemitism that I learnt to put up with from a young age (people shouting, “Fucking Jew” “Hitler’s coming” etc. or throwing pennies… I suppose you would call it ‘microaggressions’ these days, were it not that the people who talk about microaggressions are the people who insist that Jews are white and privileged and don’t experience antisemitism any more), but organised, large-scale violence.  We’ve already seen this to some extent in the violence against synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and kosher shops in the UK that accompany flare-ups in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, but now potentially we have could have a government that encourages, or at least ignores, such violence.  And Jeremy Corbyn victim-blames by saying the Jewish community should “Engage” with him, even though historically he has tried to avoid talking to any Jewish representatives other than fringe groups that agree with him.  This is not just my worry.  Figures like David Toube of the anti-extremist organisation Quilliam and the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore are seriously talking about it.  I’ve seriously been running through scenarios in my head about under what circumstances I would start talking to my parents about fleeing the country and whether a Labour government would expropriate the property of fleeing Jews (because all Jews are capitalists grown wealthy by sponging parasitically off “ordinary working people” so seizing their money is morally justified).

I didn’t want to post all this.  I’ve been going back and forth all week about writing about this and I kept deciding that this is not a political blog and, anyway, most people reading this are not going to vote for Labour, either because I know they support a different party or because they don’t live in the UK.  However, this is a mental health blog and I am genuinely feeling extremely depressed and anxious about this whole situation.  This is not just something ‘out there’ on Twitter or the media, but something affecting how I live my life from day to day.


In the afternoon, when not freaking out about politics, I spoke to my rabbi mentor and worked on the library proposal.  I’ve found a CILIP salary survey with average, minimum and maximum salaries for different job titles in different sectors which might help me work out what salary to request, although it’s hard to find an exact parallel – the library is smaller than an academic library, so comparing with third sector libraries might be more sensible than the academic sector.

I went to shiur (religious class) which wasn’t good.  The content was OK, but largely based on stuff I don’t agree with, like taking Midrashim (rabbinic expansions of Bible stories) very literally or assuming that non-Jews won’t have Olam HaBa (I’m not sure if Olam HaBa in the context of this shiur meant the world after the Messiah comes or the afterlife, but either way I’m fairly sure there will be non-Jews there and have sources to support my position).  Plus I didn’t eat any of the junk food there.  I ate almost no junk all week, although I do eat too many nuts and raisins, plus I basically eat four meals a day because on many days I get hungry or even faint and eat cereal before going to bed, which I probably wouldn’t do so much if I wasn’t up so late.


There is, as ever, a lot more I want to say.  I feel like I’m drowning in Stuff To Do and don’t have enough time or energy, but it’s hard to say this to anyone as I seem (to the outside observer) to have so much time.  But I sleep ten hours or more (and still wake tired) and everything takes me longer and I need recovery time for every little thing, but especially anything involving physical exertion (like walking to the shops) or interacting with people and then I get lost in depressed or anxious thoughts even without the election…  I’m just treading water, maybe not even that.  I haven’t felt remotely on top of things for two months, since the Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) started.  But, I should relax, or try to relax, and go to bed.

Here’s What You Could Have Won!

I mentioned recently seeing that someone who I had dated, and who dropped me really quickly when she discovered I had mental health issues, had got married.  I saw her today (I’m guessing she still lives round here as I see her a lot) and she was wearing one of the “Baby on board” badges Transport for London give to pregnant women so that they get a seat on trains and buses.  This didn’t upset me the way it might have done a while back, but I still feel a bit of, “Here’s what you could have won!”

Similarly, my sister is very artistic and we have a number of paintings by her on our walls downstairs.  Dad put another one up today.  I like the paintings, and it’s nice that my parents have unique art and can sheppe naches (I have no idea how to translate “sheppe naches.”  It refers to reflected glory, usually from one’s children or grandchildren).  All the same, there’s a bit of a feeling of, “Gosh, I better get to work on my novel and get it published so that my sister doesn’t completely outshine me!”


I did quite a bit of work on the job proposal I’m writing in the wake of Monday’s meeting.  I’ve written six hundred words outlining various possible courses of action; I want to add to it so that I can suggest which course I would recommend they follow as well as saying how much I would charge if they want me to do it.  This is hard for me, as I’m indecisive, plus I also don’t feel I know the library well enough to suggest anything, but I will try to sound decisive.  I will also try to sound like I know what I’m doing.  Chaconia said the other day that I sell my skills short and that’s probably true; I assume if I can do something, then anyone can do it, which is not the case.  However, I do wish I had a better idea of how quickly a trained librarian should be able to classify, catalogue and subject index.  I tend to take twenty or thirty minutes per non-fiction book (less for fiction, as the content is usually clearer to classify and subject index).  My first line manager was very happy with this speed, but the one in further education felt I was slow and this was one of the points she raised against me.

I did also write a six hundred word devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week which I’m quite pleased with.  Other than that I didn’t do much today, just a quick shopping trip/walk to get my sister and brother-in-law a wedding anniversary card.  I want to exercise, work on my novel, job hunt, do various chores at home, daven (pray) and study Torah as well as doing work things, but I’m struggling so much of the time with low mood and lack of energy.  Which reminds me that I’m meaning to buy a light box for SAD.  I’ve always been sceptical of these, but there’s no denying my depression gets noticeably worse in the winter (being destabilised by a month of Jewish festivals in early autumn doesn’t help) and I’m desperate enough to try anything.

I would like to write more, but it’s late and I’m tired, plus I have a CV writing workshop tomorrow that I need to get ready for and go to bed early-ish for, so good night.


I went to a workshop with my Mum today about autism assessment.  They described the type of thing that will happen when I get my appointment, how to prepare and so on.  I wish I had had this kind of advice before my assessment back in 2006 or whenever it was, although, to be fair, it was only my experience in the workplace from 2017 onwards that really convinced me that I am on the spectrum and helped me to systematically look at my life to find signs of ASD.  I discovered that I am doing the right thing by writing notes about my symptoms to take with to the assessment to show my symptoms which was good as I was worried that it might be frowned on if I brought out a sheaf of notes.  As the psychiatrist assessing will want to speak to my Mum about my childhood, the workshop recommended that I speak to her beforehand about what seems important to me from childhood and whether she agrees.

They all said that we should bear in mind that nothing changes when I get my diagnosis.  I’m not going to magically feel better if they say I am on the spectrum or, conversely, if they say that I’m not, that doesn’t mean I’m imagining my issues or making them up.  That’s what worries me the most about this process: the question of what happens if I don’t get diagnosed on the spectrum.  What would it say about me that I struggle with all these things that “normal” people don’t struggle with, or that I struggle with things to a greater extent that normal?  Why can’t I hold down a full-time job, communicate effectively with people verbally, build friendships and romantic relationships and so on?  Why are my mental health issues so intractable?  Some of this is explained by depression and social anxiety, but not all, to the extent that I think that my mental health issues are rooted in my autism (or whatever it is).


I’m feeling stressed today as I’m trying to deal with too many things at once, and there are few things that I can actually focus on and finish.  I’m juggling thoughts about autism assessment (as above), the library job from yesterday and the possibility of using it to become a chartered librarian, careers workshops from two different organisations, dealing with potential other career changes and Chanukah preparations.  I’m not able to deal with my novel nor am I exercising right now as I would have liked.  It is difficult to know where to start or what to do.  I’ve spoken to my parents and got a better idea of what I’m doing, but I still have a lot on.  I still haven’t got used to the winter nights either.  After it’s been dark for several hours, I think it must be late and I should be winding down, and it’s not yet 7pm!  In some ways that’s good (having more time), but it encourages me to be nocturnal and shift my day to the night.  That my parents eat dinner late and go to bed very late doesn’t help matters as it’s hard to set up an independent schedule.  I know I let my life become nocturnal again, but really if I want to work – or get some sunlight in the winter – I should be getting to bed earlier.

I spent time after dinner editing the list of my autism symptoms that I’ve been working on, trying to get it into some kind of order based on what I was told today.  I feel like I have identified a lot of symptoms that I have, which reassures me that I am right to pursue this diagnosis, but at the same time I feel that I’m lacking in supporting evidence, although I have time to work on this.  It did take much longer than expected, though, so I was not able to do Torah study yet.  I hope to do a little before bed, but I won’t be able to do much (again).


Chaconia suggested some useful things about the potential new job on my last post.  I do feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a chartered librarian.  To be honest, the last few years I have come to feel that I am a useless librarian, not least because of my failure to do CPD and the difficulties I had in the further education library; it is hard to accept that the issue may be that I am not suited to some library environments and that my failure to do CPD may be due to depression and social anxiety (I’m wary of attending conferences and training and don’t have the energy for things outside the remit of my job) rather than innate lack of ability.  I do still wonder if I went to the right university for my library MA; it was not a great one, but the reasons for going there seemed good at the time when I failed to get in to my first choice university because they would not let me deal with my depression the way I wanted.  I feel inadequately trained and unskilled a lot of the time, but that may be only my perception.  It is hard to tell.

Job News, and Bond, James Bond

My job interview turned out to be less an interview and more an invitation to pitch for work!  I don’t want to give away too much about the institution, but it’s a small library at a Jewish religious institution.  The philanthropist who technically owns much of the library and lends it to the organisation is keen to have more people using it.  I was shown the existing library and asked if I could organise and possibly catalogue it.  I asked for some time to think about it and come up with some ideas.  It was suggested that I come in regularly for a few weeks to organise the library and maybe once a week afterwards.

I need to think about what is feasible for a small private library, but it sounds promising.  The people I spoke to seem keen on a computerised, searchable catalogue (OPAC), but these things are pricey and really designed for much larger libraries.  The first library I worked at switched while I was there from a specially-created OPAC to the open source Koha and I am thinking along those lines, but I will have to do some research as I’m not too aware of the technical side of these things.  In particular, I’m worried about having to install it myself, as well as an interface on the institution’s website, because I do not have those technical skills (which are basically IT skills, not librarian skills).

I am also worried about how much actual librarianship this job will entail.  I feel that there are two ways that we could take this.  Certainly someone needs to spend a number of hours in the library reorganising it and a trained librarian could do this, although I’m not 100% convinced that one would need to do so.  The issue is the next step: do they just get someone to come in for a few hours each week to tidy up a bit and handle any visitors or questions?  This could be done by any willing volunteer.  Or do they want to go down the route of getting someone to retrospectively classify, catalogue and subject index the entire library, which would be a significant, long-term, and time-consuming job for a trained librarian (i.e. me, as I’ve been told that they aren’t talking to anyone else at the moment).  This is a question of money as much as anything.  It sounds like there’s potentially enough money, but I don’t want to presume anything at this stage.

It did occur to me that a third possibility would be to put the library catalogue on a account.  This would make data entry a relatively straightforward process of finding the book on Goodreads and clicking on the relevant buttons.  However, Goodreads is often not helpful when it comes to Jewish books, especially those only in Hebrew, and you can’t search in Hebrew, which would be a problem.  Subject indexing would also still be tricky for a non-information professional.

A lot comes down to what the institution wants to do with the library, and how much money is available.  I feel that I should give them a number of options when I get back to them, even if that means that they don’t give me much work out of this.  I think my ideal scenario would be a month or six weeks of working several days a week to organise the library followed by a temporary-but-long-term job going in one day a week to retrospectively catalogue the existing collection and tidy as well as dealing with any questions and visitors, which I could then continue alongside any other work I look for (library, proof-reading, tutoring, writing etc.).

It does all seem daunting and a bit scary, especially as I’m not used to pitching for work and worry about setting my price too high or too low.  Likewise I worry about pitching for business that could be done by a volunteer or alternatively passing over work that I genuinely could meaningfully do in the mistaken view that it does not need a trained librarian.  I am very honest about these things.  Writing this down helps me to clarify things in my head, more so than discussing it with my parents earlier, but I am still confused about a lot of things.


Yesterday I gave in to the inevitable and watched a James Bond film with my parents.  I hadn’t seen one since 2008 and even that was as part of a group that I was with (a Jewish mental health sufferers group); I hadn’t watched one entirely of my own volition since I was about eighteen.  I had avoided them on the grounds that I didn’t approve of the franchise’s values of sex and violence, but then recently got nostalgic for the films I saw as a child rather than the recent ones.  To this end, I suggested watching Live and Let Die yesterday, a film which absolutely terrified me when I first tried to watch, aged probably about seven: first one British secret agent is electrocuted (? it’s not clear), another is stabbed, then a third is tied up and bitten by a snake (or “bitten” – the clearly (to my adult eyes) rubber snake’s mouth barely touches the poor fellow) and then the title sequence cuts between pictures of women and skulls (again, not too proficiently by modern standards).  This short sequence, which probably only lasts three or four minutes absolutely terrified me so much as a child that it would be some years before I would be able to watch the rest of the film.  It’s weird the things that scare us as children.  As with several scenes from Doctor Who, my memory is far more terrifying, not to mention technically accomplished, than the reality (no rubber snakes there, only the real thing).

Roger Moore was always my favourite Bond, which I suspect does not make me popular with true Bond aficionados, who I believe say he, and many of the films he starred in, were too tongue-in-cheek and comical (I have the same argument with Doctor Who fans regarding the late seventies).  To me, this is the point; Moore seemed to occasionally wink at the audience to show an awareness that this is very far-fetched escapist fantasy, nothing at all like real intelligence work.  I think I can only take a violent, womanising character like Bond seriously if he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Moore’s Bond was probably at spy school with John Steed of The Avengers; it’s the same level of proto-postmodern knowingness and polished manners.

Having agonised on whether to watch the film over its values and the effect they would have on me, it would be tempting to claim that today I was involved in three fist-fights, a car chase, two explosions and a couple of flirtations, but this would be untrue.  The only real difference was that I got the Bond theme in my head on the way to my interview, which may even have been beneficial in boosting my confidence.  I am tempted to re-watch some of the Bond films of the sixties, seventies and eighties, although I’m less interested in the more recent Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig stuff.  To be honest, I probably have films or TV with as much sex and violence in my DVD collection; the original Star Trek arguably had as much sex and violence than Live and Let Die had, although I think the recent films have attracted criticism for more realistic violence.


Despite my comments in the previous section, I do feel that I’ve been slipping on things religiously lately, more serious things than watching James Bond.  There are some small things that aren’t worth going into here, but I have noted my struggles about getting to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings – admittedly that is as much to do with depressive sleep disruption as religious devotion.  Nevertheless, I haven’t got back in the habit of going to shul regularly in the week since that got disrupted by Yom Tov and going to Israel.  I feel less worried than I used to be about not doing enough Torah study or davening (praying) with kavannah (mindfulness), although whether worry correlates to improvements in these areas is questionable; I have improved kavannah a bit recently, but I’m not sure how much worry about it contributed to that.

I’ve seen it suggested that being an “older single in the frum (religious Jewish) community (which is basically over 26 and single) leads to a decline in religious observance.  People say that they don’t have a spouse/children who want them to be frum so why bother?  I suspect that feeling cut off from the community is an underlying issue; if they were just being frum to get a spouse, why not stop being frum entirely and widen the dating pool enormously?  So I suspect there is a tension there between wanting to be frum, but also feeling that the community has not fulfilled its side of the bargain by providing the social integration of marriage.  I feel like that sometimes, although I’m not seriously considering stopping being frum.

There is doubtless more to say, but it is very late and I am tired, so goodnight.

Childcare, and Low Self-Esteem at Work

I’m not sure what I’m feeling today.  I woke up feeling very tired and slightly ill, but I managed to get to volunteering, albeit very late.  Looking after the children today was very exhausting as there were lots of kids and almost no one supervising them.  Unfortunately there was some misbehaviour and I never know what to do about that.  I feel uncomfortable telling off other people’s children and half the time I didn’t see what happened anyway and it’s one kid’s word against the other’s (and “word” is stretching things as they often aren’t really verbal).  Then there’s the ethical issue of letting them take toys home with them: we do let them do this, but within reason: they can’t take too much, or stuff that’s too big, or stuff that’s really popular in the play area.  In other words, we have lots of teddy bears and they can take one home, but not the doll’s house.  It can be hard expressing this to a crying child or a parent who doesn’t speak English.  It can also be hard making decisions on borderline cases.

I came home exhausted, not least because my bus suddenly terminated earlier than the original destination on the front.  I think this happens when the bus is stuck in traffic and the bus driver will be doing overtime if he drives to the destination.  It’s very irritating whatever the reason.  I had a twenty or thirty minute walk home.  It took longer than I expected, otherwise I might have waited for another bus or rung my parents for a lift.

I’m not sure what to do with the rest of the day.  I planned my route for tomorrow and did about twenty minutes of Torah study.  My brain has switched off now and I feel too tired to work on my novel.  I suspect I will spend the evening vegetating.

I feel nervous about my interview tomorrow, not just the interview, but whether I will be able to essentially run a library from scratch by myself, which I think is what they are asking.  When I was in further education, my contract was to be extended on condition that I ran the library at our secondary campus largely by myself, and promoted it to staff and students.  I didn’t think I could do that and I felt that my line manager had made it clear that she didn’t think I could do it, so I turned it down, which was probably a mistake in retrospect; I’ve certainly gone for more than a year without a steady job because of it.  Strangely, my line manager was surprised I turned it down even after having expressed her scepticism of my abilities.  This makes me worry about this job, but I also worry about turning down jobs because of lack of self-confidence.

I tried to find some blogs or mailing lists about one person libraries (libraries run by a single librarian) for support, but I haven’t found any.  CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, has some online groups, divide mostly by region or specialism, but nothing I could find on one-person libraries or religious libraries.  I admit I haven’t been following these groups well enough to know if they are mainly top-down with people promoting CILIP conferences and books or bottom-up user-led discussion and support, although it looks mainly top-down (and on a social media-style feed, which annoys me a bit).  There’s also a thing for “connections” that looks a bit Facebook-style and scares me slightly.  I nearly connected with the further education college where I used to work, but then thought better of getting back in contact with my then-boss.

I have found some lists of general library blogs to work through.  I feel too tired and overwhelmed to look at them properly today.  The one I did look at looks like one of those things that makes me feel scared and inadequate because, unlike the writer, I have no real career plan or idea of where I want to go.  I don’t see my job as the main part of my life, but in our culture (whether you want to call it capitalist or consumerist or whatever) employers, and often employees, do feel that way.  Probably most people who achieve something at work feel that way.

I’m going to stop now because I feel as if my brain is imploding.

Busy Busy Busy

I had a busy day and a bit.  I was invited out to Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner.  It was good, but there were a lot of boisterous children and I wasn’t really sure how to deal with them (more evidence against a career in primary education).  For most of the time I was the only adult guest, although someone else turned up briefly before dessert; he tried to talk to me, but by that stage I was pretty ‘peopled out’ and unable to say much.  I certainly wasn’t up to the usual type of conversation where I have to correct other people’s views of what it is that librarians do.  I got home early enough to do some Torah study and to read for a bit, but I couldn’t sleep (again).  Once I did get to sleep, I slept through Shacharit (Morning Service) again today, which frustrates me, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot I can do about it right now.  The afternoon was the usual: shul (synagogue) and Talmud shiur (class).

After Shabbat I did some interview preparation for Monday, as far as I was able, given that there isn’t a job description yet, and then went for a run.  The latter wasn’t great; it was late, I was tired, I was worried about slipping in the mud and wet leaves in the dark and I kept getting out of breath and having to drop into a walk more often than has recently been the case.  Plus, I was experimenting with listening to an episode of a Doctor Who audio drama instead of music, but forgot my iPod tends to revert to shuffle when off, so suddenly it jumped to the middle of the episode I listened to on Friday and I had to stop my run to fiddle around with it.  It didn’t help that the story (Sword of Orion) is, so far, so hugely derivative of 1980s story Earthshock that it seems more like plagiarism than homage).

Now I’ve ended up with an exercise migraine again.  Not so much of a headache, but I feel rather nauseous.  I’m glad I noticed it was coming on and avoided cheese for dinner as I originally intended.  That could have ended badly.  I’m not sure what to do now.  I wanted to work on my novel, but don’t feel well enough.  I could go to bed, but don’t feel tired and in any case lying down is likely to make my headache worse.  Possibly I will listen to another episode of Sword of Orion.


I feel I have three main fears at the moment:

  1. I won’t get the job I’m being interviewed for on Monday;
  2. I will get the job I’m being interviewed for on Monday, but I won’t be able to do it and will get fired somewhere down the line;
  3. Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister.

I’m not sure which of these is the more likely, or the more dangerous.  I do genuinely have a gut feeling that Labour will win the election, albeit that ‘winning’ is probably going to be scraping together a minority government of some kind as per 2010 and 2017 rather than an outright majority.  This will almost certainly cause the economy to tank.  I think people have the right to vote for economic suicide, so I’m more worried about the Jewish community.  I’m not sure where this would leave us, aside from beleaguered, or more beleaguered than usual…  I pointed out to a non-Jewish friend today that Jewish schools have been doing terrorist intruder drills for decades.  A Prime Minister who openly describes Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends,” notwithstanding their stated desire to kill all the Jews in the world may not make that situation worse, but it can’t make it better.  I’ve seen it suggested that organisations that identify as Zionist or affiliate with Israel in any way could lose their charitable status.  As the vast majority of British Jews do strongly affiliate with Israel, this could see all Jewish shuls, schools, university Jewish Societies and sundry other charities losing their charitable status with all that entails in terms of tax relief and gift aid.  And that, I’m sure, would only be the beginning.  Expect Jews to blamed for that coming economic crash – not directly, but with the usual far-left codewords (“capitalists,” “banksters,” “neocons,” “neo-liberals,” “Rothschilds,” “Zionists” etc.).

There, now I’ve gone and made myself depressed again, and I feel too ill to sleep.  Doctor Who awaits…

I Don’t ♥ the NHS

I had a lousy afternoon.  My doctor’s surgery didn’t tell me that my (routine) blood test today was supposed to be a fasting test, with the result that I didn’t fast and couldn’t have my blood test.  So that’s a wasted NHS appointment and a waste of my time – and energy – going to the hospital.  That wasn’t what made me angry.  The anger came from the contempt that the GP’s surgery receptionists treated me with when I tried to find out what was going on, if I was really supposed to have a fasting blood test or if it was a mistake, as if I had no right to ask why the doctor wanted someone to stick a needle in me and take my blood.  Because I’m just the patient and should shut up and do as I’m told.  I actually left because I could see they weren’t going to listen to me, but I was still angry.  When I realised I had forgotten to collect my repeat prescription from the surgery, I went back and decided to ask if they could check with the doctor that I was supposed to have a fasting blood test.  They said they had checked with him, presumably after I had left.  So either they were worried that they were not right to dismiss my questions, in which case they have even less justification for treating me so badly for asking, or they lied to me to shut me up.  I couldn’t say anything as I couldn’t prove that they had lied and was too tired to continue.

Seriously, I am coming to hate the NHS, although saying that publicly in this country makes me about as popular as Richard Dawkins on a tour of the Bible Belt, and for much the same reason.  I forget who said the religion of Britain is the NHS, but it is, and a useless little tin idol it sometimes is too.  Not that anyone will say that on this election campaign; the NHS has long been Labour’s not-so secret weapon.

Because of anger and tiredness, my shopping afterwards took longer than it should have done and I got home at 5.30pm exhausted and unable to do much useful.  I didn’t really do anything all day other than my two-hour-plus afternoon of trying to sort out the blood test and some related shopping and my shiur (religious class) in the evening, although I did find the time to speak to my sister and to write a devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week.

I’ve thought up a devar Torah for every week so far for this cycle of Torah readings (five weeks so far), although one was thought up while we were away and didn’t get written down.  I thought about sending them to some friends from shul (synagogue), but I’m too wary that people may not like my interpretations rather those of rabbis that are, so to speak, certainly kosher, particularly not when I do things like query whether there have been scribal errors in religious texts like the Midrash, as I did this week.  I suppose I can change my mind in the future.

And that’s it for today really.  I’m exhausted and don’t have anything else to say.  I was too busy being angry and frustrated to be depressed or particularly introspective.

Busy Day

The good news is that I have a job interview on Monday!  It’s hard to find a way to talk about it here without giving too much away.  For now I’ll just say it’s in a Jewish library, and potentially using my skills from my time working in a different Jewish library as well as my Hebrew reading skills.  The job came about in an interesting way.  There’s someone at shul (synagogue) who I talk to some times – he seems nice, but whenever I try to talk to him, I fear that social anxiety and autism conspire to make me seem like an idiot.  I’d mentioned to him that I’m a librarian and currently unemployed.  He works in this institution, or possibly for another organisation in the same building, but was talking to someone from this institution who mentioned that they were looking for a part-time librarian, so he tipped me off to send in my CV on spec, which was very nice of him.  Obviously I haven’t come across as too much of an idiot to him.

(As an aside, this one reason why I like my shul even despite the theological mismatch at times: the people are friendly.)


I only got about five hours of sleep last night as I went to bed late after shiur (religious class) and then couldn’t sleep.  Then I had to get up early for my employment workshop day.  I was a few minutes late leaving as I was tired and then there were minor train delays.  I got there five minutes late expecting to be the last one in and worrying about being shut out of the first workshop to avoid interrupting it only to discover that most people hadn’t even arrived yet.  Although scheduled to start at 9.30am, the first talk wasn’t until 9.50am to allow people to arrive (plus there was an element of Jewish Mean Time with all the timings today – Jewish Mean Time is fifteen minutes late because Jews are not punctual).

The theme of the day was “Defining your second career.”  Given that title, it was probably not surprising that I was one of the youngest people there; most people were in their forties or older (OK, I’m nearer to forty than thirty, but I’m not there yet).  The talks were variable.  Actually, the quality of presentation was mostly good, but some were not relevant to me.  For most of the talks there was a choice of two, but sometimes neither talk was relevant, but I didn’t have the confidence to just sit outside and read (actually it didn’t occur to me that I could even do that until just now).  One useful talk, given what I have been thinking about lately, was “Teaching as a second career.”  To be honest, many of the talks just reiterated things I’ve heard from other people, but, as my Dad said, at least that proves I’ve been getting good advice.

Potentially the most useful talk was on “The seven habits of highly effective job seekers,” based on the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as I thought that this advice might prove useful as general life advice was well as careers advice.  At the back of my mind a voice said “OK, but what am I going to do when that doesn’t work like all the other positive thinking things that didn’t work?” and I don’t know if I was being too positive at first or too negative afterwards.  I suppose the reality is probably in between, that it might help a bit, but it probably won’t solve all my problems.

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the opening address from the CEO of a major investment company that was sponsoring the event, which was a “rags to riches” tale that was supposed to be inspiring, but left me feeling a bit irritated.  To be fair, he did have an interesting and amusing tale about growing up in quite serious poverty and then becoming successful, but I felt that the broader lesson he wanted us to take from it, that nothing is impossible if we put our minds to it, is full of survivorship bias (not looking at all the poor people who tried hard, but still didn’t become successful) and potentially leading to victim-blaming.  Things like this make me wonder whether I will ever achieve anything with my life, or if my depression and high-functioning autism are just too serious.

The main drawback was that I didn’t get much food at lunchtime.  As this was run by a Jewish charity, the food was all kosher.  A bunch of the men went off to a room at the start of lunch for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers).  By the time we got back, a lot of the food had gone.  Then I couldn’t eat some of the food because it was fish and I only eat fish on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and festivals).  I got a few small pieces of cold pizza (which I don’t like very much and I already knew I was having pizza for supper) and some vegetarian (I think/hope) sushi and a few other things, but I ended up filling up on biscuits and pastries and coming home somewhat hungry.

I didn’t really do any networking, though.  During the short tea breaks, I mostly just sat by myself.  During the longer lunch break I spoke to a friend of my parents who was there.  I guess I should be proud that I went up to speak to him instead of hiding as I would normally do, but the conversation went on for longer than I would have liked (ironically, in the first session after lunch we would learn networking skills including how to “dump” someone you have finished talking to who is trying to keep the conversation going when you want to talk to other people).  I didn’t really get a proper break until I came home, especially as on the train in I did a bit of Torah study, but then sat without reading because I felt too nervous.  No wonder I felt exhausted by the end!

There probably is an element with all of this that I don’t prioritise my career the way some people do, which I guess could just be me or it could be autism skewing my priorities.  I read something in the newspaper the other day that most people would rather work more hours and have more goods/services than work less and have less (so people pursue higher wages by working longer hours), but I think I’m the other way around.  Although if I had more time, I would like to write more… but I want to make writing my career, so maybe I am pursuing my career, just not the one I thought I was pursuing.  I even write every day for free which arguably makes me crazier than all the lawyers and bankers working 24/7 for serious money!


On the way home I thought a bit about whether I push myself too hard, particularly religiously.  Is it enough to say, “I’m never going to be a tzaddik (saint), either because of my natural inclinations or my issues, and therefore I shouldn’t push myself to do X, Y and Z.”  Is it better to aim to achieve a little, meet that target and feel comfortable with it, and not burn myself out; or to aim to achieve a lot, not meet the target, but still feel that I’ve failed and burn myself out trying to do more?  Put like that, achieving less seems better, but everything I was ever taught (by my parents and my secular schoolteachers as well as by rabbis) says I should be aiming to achieve as much as theoretically possible so that if I fall short, I will at least achieve a lot.  It’s difficult.  Possibly I should at the very least be open to “failures” on a small scale… but then I feel that these are threatening to spiral out of control.  I feel like I’ve been slipping recently, religiously, even by my lowered standards.  I don’t think I’m going to become an atheist or non-observant, but I’ve been slightly less scrupulous in little things (if there are little things).  I don’t like it, but I don’t really feel strong enough to do anything about it.

I feel too tired to develop this further, so I will stop here for now, but I’m sure I will return to it in the future.

High Anxiety

A quick note for myself as much as anyone else.  A couple of potentially good things happened today.  I’ll go into more detail if/when they materialise.  I had a lot of anxiety, though, which probably isn’t surprising as change is scary, but I had anxiety in my shiur (religious class) as well.  I had the difficulty focusing (I mean literally, problems focusing especially things on the periphery of my field of vision) that can be a symptom of anxiety (a fight or flight response to focus on a threat and tune out everything else) and a gnawing sense of unease at times.  It’s frustrating, as I know a lot that would be relevant to bring to this class and on a couple of occasions I knew things that the teacher didn’t know or got wrong, but I was too shy to say anything (maybe it wasn’t a bad thing not to correct the teacher).  I only answered one question.  I think I would get more out of the class if I interacted, but I’m too shy.  In previous similar shiurim (years ago) I have participated more, but I think that was a smaller class and also one where interaction was encouraged more or even enforced, if that’s not too strong a word.  It probably would be better for myself and other people if could interact more, but I still struggle with this.

Tomorrow I have a day-long conference on building a second career.  I haven’t even built my first one, but will go, but I’m reluctant to spend the lunch hour networking as advised.  Aside from social anxiety, my brain will be burnt out if I don’t get a proper break.  The conference is run by a Jewish employment charity and all the food is strictly kosher so for once I’ll be able to eat the complementary refreshments.

Another Difficult Day

I’m feeling really depressed again.  I went to bed really late (gone 2.00am) because I had a small burst of energy and not-feeling-awful and did a load of stuff (working on my novel, Torah study, enquiring about a job).  I then slept for ten hours and woke up feeling exhausted and depressed again.  I’m concerned about managing to get to my “second career” conference on Wednesday, especially as I’ll be out late on Tuesday at shiur.

I spend ages procrastinating online, probably because I want to connect with people and to read interesting ideas, but I’m too scared to actually reach out to people or get scared off by the abusive commentariat on “free for all” sites like Twitter, so I read intelligent sites that don’t have comment sections like Unherd and Tablet Magazine.  I don’t know if I’d be willing to interact about religion; the Jewish blogosphere seems to have mostly died or moved to Facebook, so it’s somewhat academic.  I read some mental health blogs and sometimes feel I can connect, but mostly I end up posting here on what was described as my “whiny, self-obsessed blog.”

I went back to bed for an hour after breakfast.  I do this quite a bit.  I tend to think of it as being a depressed thing about not wanting to face the day, but I think it’s also an autistic thing.  Like a lot of people on the spectrum, I like feeling wrapped up tight in my duvet and find that comforting and reassuring.  I think going back to bed in the daytime lets me do that as an autistic comforting thing as well as just withdrawing from the day.  I did just manage to daven Mincha (say Afternoon Prayers) in time (the sunset deadline was 4.07pm today).  This looks set to be another winter where I barely see the sun.


I finished the benefits form I was filling in.  It was easier than I expected, as I don’t have to list my medical condition at the moment.  There’s another questionnaire for that later.  I’m dreading that one already.  It’s so hard to make clear how my life is impacted by depression.  If I say “I’m always tired, I can’t get up in the morning, I have negative thoughts about myself and the world, I have no energy, I can’t concentrate, I have no motivation to work…” well, almost everyone feels like that about work.  The difference is that I feel like this on days when I don’t work too, but they don’t ask about that and they certainly don’t pay you benefits for not being able to relax.

Now I need an appointment at a Jobcentre to go through the form and see if I’ll be allowed [sic] to go further with the application.  I also need an appointment with my doctor to get a medical certificate/sick note.  I don’t have one of these as I’ve been out of work for so long, and in my last two jobs I either didn’t mention my illness and hid it (not good, it probably made me worse) or had an informal conversation with my super-understanding boss (I wish that job had lasted longer than three months, but there wasn’t the budget to make it permanent).


Over dinner I spoke to my parents again about tutoring.  Yesterday they spoke to one of their friends who tutors teenagers for maths and who may be able to give me some ideas about tutoring.  I’m worried I’m going to essentially have to study again to do it.  I could probably do English language and literature without too much effort; a lot of it is about spelling, grammar, paragraphing, structuring an argument, creative writing and so on that you either know or you don’t.  I could read up on a few set texts; to be honest, as I’ll be marking and giving feedback, not writing the answers myself, I probably won’t need to know the texts that well.  Tutoring history would be harder though, despite it being my BA subject because my BA was a long time ago and, in any case, history is so vast that one can study a lot of history and still have significant gaps.  When I did A-Levels, the curriculum my class did focused on nineteenth century British domestic social change (public health, public education, female franchise etc.) and post-Napoleonic European political history down to World War II, although everything post World War I seemed a bit rushed, or maybe I just wanted to focus on the earlier section.  I just looked up contemporary curricula, and they can cover different periods, with stuff I haven’t learnt either at A-Level or university; to be honest, I’m not sure how much I can remember of what I have studied.  How much detail would I have to remember and how much would it be a case of making sure that my students can structure their answers properly and respond to gobbets of text in the appropriate way?  I’m not sure.

Scrolling through my WhatsApp contacts, I see I still have details for someone who I dated years ago and who dumped me pretty darn quickly when I told her I had mental health issues.  Her userpic is now a wedding photo, and her husband looks super-frum (black hat), which makes me wonder why she was willing to date someone like me.  I mean, it’s good for her that she’s married and in a way it proves that she wasn’t right for me, but I’m not sure what it leaves me feeling.  Not really envious and despairing the way it once would because I’ve given up most hope of getting married.  I think E. is the only person who could accept me, and possibly one of very few people who I could accept, but that doesn’t look like going anywhere any time soon and I’m not even going to bother looking for anyone else while I’m unemployed and this depressed.  I just wish I could cope with things better in the meantime.  I mean cope with loneliness and celibacy and worrying what will happen when my parents aren’t here to look after me, particularly if I never work full-time (or learn to drive, a bigger thing than most people realise, or remember from their teenage days).


I did manage to work on my novel for about an hour.  It was admittedly interrupted by online procrastination and blog commenting, but I wrote about 500 words, which is my target for one hour.  I also managed about thirty or thirty-five minutes of Torah study.  This all seemed impossible when I woke up today, as I struggled to get going and when I had lunch and tried to do things in the afternoon.  I guess this is positive, but I wonder if I do not push myself too hard sometimes, ridiculous though it seems to say that.

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”

I know I went on a rant yesterday about politics.  I feel very conflicted about politics at the moment.  I know that civil society depends on people campaigning for change, I just feel disenfranchised and not sure what to do.  There was an interview in The Jewish Chronicle with Ian Austin, the former Labour MP who resigned in protest over antisemitism in the party and is now telling people to vote Conservative to keep Labour out because of their antisemitism problem.  I think he did the right thing, but I’m not sure it’s going to make any difference.  There isn’t a party that represents what I think, and I’m terrified by what some of the parties are campaigning for, particularly Labour, which has gone in the space of just a few years from a moderate social democratic party to rabidly antisemitic crypto-Marxist one (maybe not so crypto).  Challenged about antisemitism, the standard response seems to be, “We aren’t antisemitic, there genuinely is a massive international Jewish-capitalist conspiracy that controls all Western governments and owns all the banks and media.”  All said with no trace of irony (English or otherwise).  I just feel a huge dread of what’s going to happen to our country, and the world, in the coming years.

I’m not sure I can really comment on politics objectively at the moment.  I read an article by someone I used to be friends with and my disagreement with elements of his politics blends into my upset at the way he treated me personally, which had nothing to do with politics, but showed up his desire for brotherly love and treating people kindly as a bit of a sham.  I don’t know how much my annoyance with him is political and how much is personal.  Probably a bit of both, as I don’t think I disagree with his politics enough to explain this much of a negative response.  But I don’t know.  Can we ever truly separate the political and the personal?  Should we?  I really don’t know.

I put Twitter back on my blocked sites list for now.  I just needed to get away from it.  I may go and network on there at some point, but not at the moment.


I feel that dread in my own life too.  I just can’t seem to get out of the depressed rut.  I know what I should be doing to work on my life and my career, it’s just so hard to do it.  I still feel a lot of social anxiety even after CBT and that’s holding me back along with the depression itself.

I woke feeling very depressed again today.  It took me more than two hours to get up, eat breakfast and get dressed.  I kept going back to bed and it was impossible to have the energy to get going.  I davened (prayed) after lunch rather than before because I didn’t have the energy earlier.  I hope this does not become a habit.  I had a bit of religious OCD today too, wondering if some frozen microwave food in our freezer was really kosher even though I was fairly sure my Mum had told me she I had bought it from a kosher shop.  I worried that I was mis-remembering and checked with her (which I shouldn’t do).  Now I’m worried that the kosher shop made a mistake.  I know my kashrut OCD flares up when I’m under stress, so that’s a sign that I’m not doing well at the moment.

I’ve been sucked into online procrastination again.  I’m trying to apply for benefits, but the form is so dense and off-putting (probably deliberately).  I felt agitated and on the brink of tears.  I would fill in one or two boxes and then feel overwhelmed (by what?) and stop because I want to cry.  I feel that my life is a mess and there’s nothing I can do about it, that the world is a mess and there’s even less I can do about it.  I don’t want to be on benefits, but I can’t see myself getting any kind of job while I’m in this state, but I need structure and activity…  The form asks for when my illness started and I don’t know what to put.  2003?  2000?  Who knows by this stage?

In the end I gave up on the form and went for a twenty-five minute run in the cold and dark instead, which exhausted me, but gave me some respite from my negative thoughts, although I worried about politics most of the time, when I wasn’t worrying that every shadowy passer-by was a mugger (7.30pm is well after dark at the moment).  I was exhausted when I got home even after a shower and dinner, but I worked on my novel for thirty or forty minutes.  My concentration was poor, but I got through a difficult scene.  I also managed ten or fifteen minutes of Torah study.  I ate a Magnum ice cream, partly as a reward for getting through a difficult day, partly to keep me awake long enough to do a bit of Torah study.  I know this will probably put back any weight I might have lost jogging, but I don’t really care.  I had to get through the day somehow.

I do feel like I’ve really tearing myself apart about a lot of things lately, some obviously trivial (like whether it would be a betrayal of my values to watch James Bond films), some genuinely worrying (the election).  I strongly suspect the trivial and maybe even the serious worries are standing in for something else, or are a return of clinical anxiety, which I’ve never been good at identifying in myself.


Ashley Leia commented on my last post to say it must be exhausting hiding my life from my religious community, but I’ve been hiding all my life.  At school it was hard to know which of my interests would be OK and which would be a target for the bullies, but Doctor Who was resolutely unfashionable; even at the more mature age of being an undergraduate, people stared at me in amazement or laughed when it emerged that I was a fan (this was before the relaunch of the programme and its return to popularity).


In terms of enjoyment, I’m wondering if I’m not enjoying things at the moment or if I’m just reading/watching/listening to the wrong things.  Over the last few weeks I’ve listened to some Doctor Who audio books and audio dramas.  A couple were good, but most weren’t.  I’ve never been able to get into these audios and I’m not sure why.  Some of it is probably difficulty concentrating on audio when I’m depressed, but I’ve been equivocal about these even when not depressed.

I’m also reading volume three of the complete short stories of Philip K. Dick.  Dick is one of my favourite authors, but I’m struggling to connect with the stop/start pace of reading short stories and having to understand a new set of characters and a new world with each story (“new world” literally, given that these are science fiction stories) so I might switch to a novel.

On the other hand, I started watching The Prisoner again, for the umpteenth time.  I don’t know if it’s autism, but I can watch my favourite things over and over without getting bored, but be really apprehensive about watching or reading anything new unless I’m very confident that I’m going to enjoy it and not be upset by it.  Watching The Prisoner is probably a bit dangerous for me.  For those who don’t know, The Prisoner was an espionage/science fiction series from the sixties.  A British spy resigns from his job and wakes up in a strange Village where people are numbers.  He wants to escape, the authorities want to find out why he resigned (that’s just the title sequence).  They only made seventeen episodes, which, alongside star/co-creator/executive producer/sometime writer and director Patrick McGoohan’s significant input gives the whole thing an auteured feel unusual in British TV of that era.

The reason it’s dangerous for me is that it deals with issues of individuality, conformism, freedom and so on and I respond strongly to it, probably too strongly.  While Doctor Who is my favourite TV series, The Prisoner is the one I connect to most emotionally.  I discovered the series when I was at university, when I was at my most depressed, and in my head Oxford and the Village became one, as did the Prisoner’s loneliness and struggle for agency and my own.  As with Kafka and Dick, the casual surrealism reflected the way I experience life, which often seems disturbing and illogical (this may be the result of autism, but maybe not).  The final episode, which suggests the Prisoner may literally be his own worst enemy only adds to my emotional connection with it, as well as my self-hatred.  The reading of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, that “The Prisoner who continues to resist brainwashing may have brainwashed himself into a prison of the mind.  The series’ thesis may thus be that freedom is impossible, as is opting out” is something that resonates a lot with me.  I do wonder if I’m my own worst enemy, and I do want to drop out of society while simultaneously seeing dropping out as both impossible and immoral.

I can see the Oxford parallels with the Village; in the years when I was too depressed to study or work, I could see parallels with the apparently endless therapeutic process and the byzantine bureaucracy of the benefits system; nowadays I can see the parallels with my position in the Jewish community, and the Jewish community’s position in the country.  Watching the first episode, Arrival, tonight, what I noticed more than before is the way the Village infantilises people to make them placid and docile; there are real-world examples with the market and the state, but what resonated with me today was my illness infantilising me.

The Prisoner is a very fun series to watch, from a time when British TV could deal with serious issues in a popular way without becoming condescending or self-important and self-righteous, and was able to question its own values.  There was a six-part American remake miniseries ten years that wasn’t nearly as fun, although it did have its good points.  And that’s without getting into the non-political readings, that the Prisoner is dead and stuck in Purgatory or a cycle of reincarnations.  It’s a series you can really immerse yourself in.

(And I haven’t even mentioned the enigmatic, silent, butler or the weird Rover weather balloon robot guards or the use of diegetic use of music or the jokes or the theme music or the way the Prisoner/McGoohan (never has it been easier to blur the lines between character and actor) loses it at someone or something in most episodes or the fact that it’s a TV programme with it’s own font or, or, or…)

Be seeing you!

Licensed to Kvetch

I’m following some libraries and universities on Twitter as I was instructed for networking purposes.  I’m not hopeful, but I do what I’m told.  I spent half an hour adding lots of libraries and universities in London.  I deliberately am not following anyone else, because I want to keep this for work/job hunting only, not for procrastination, let alone politics.  It is frustrating knowing that there ought to be a way of using Twitter for fun and socialising, particularly with other Doctor Who fans, without getting annoyed all the time.  Do people just use the mute function?  Or do they only follow people they always agree with?

Ironically, I shortly after writing this, I found a comment on a Den of Geek article about avoiding drama online that suggested that wanting a politics-free Twitter feed is “a lot like ignoring the freight trains being stuffed full of people on their way to Auschwitz.”  I know a lot of people see the political upheavals of the last decade as pushing them towards activism of one kind or another, but they (the upheavals, although some of the people too) have genuinely convinced me that people like me (calm, moderate, thoughtful) can not influence the political system at all and that those in power can ignore our thoughts either by targeting other, larger, more vocal or more powerful, demographic groups or simply by using legal loopholes to avoid implementing policies they don’t like.  I don’t particularly want to be insulted for my beliefs either and I certainly don’t want to continually be called a Nazi or a Trump supporter just because I don’t believe in the International Jewish Zionist Conspiracy as per Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.  That people glibly invoke the Nazis and the Holocaust as if there was an easy way of stopping them that people in the ’20s and ’30s were just too stupid or lazy to consider is astonishing.  Still, if you think tweeting a meme is seriously going to affect Trump’s impeachment proceedings or the outcome of the 2020 presidential race, go ahead, signal your virtue.  (Also, I don’t like President Trump, but now he’s committing genocide?  Seriously?  I wouldn’t even accuse Jeremy Corbyn of that, and he has shilled for people who have actually tried to commit genocide.)


I’d forgotten that Twitter sends you a lot of clickbait ads.  One was “targeted” on me because the company was looking for people “who speak English and located here: United Kingdom.”  It’s good that they’ve identified such a narrow and precise demographic of people who might be interested in their product to avoid bothering other people.  Grr….


One of my shul (synagogue) friends asked me about my taste in music.  I have to say that I panicked because I was so worried about saying the wrong thing and avoided saying anything substantial.  I know some people in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community won’t listen to any music by non-Jews or non-religious Jews because they consider music to be a particularly effective at passing on values that they might want to avoid, far more so than most other types of art, and I thought my friend might fall in that camp.  It turns out he likes Sting and Billy Joel, both of whom I like, but I’d painted myself into a corner by that stage by saying I don’t listen to much music.  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so paranoid, but I worry that one wrong answer could basically result in my being pushed out of the community.  Is this really the case or am I paranoid?  I honestly don’t know.

Other than that, Shabbat (the Sabbath) was uneventful.  I went to shul in the afternoons, but not this morning.  I didn’t even get overpowered by depression and social anxiety; I was so exhausted after the employment meeting that I slept for about twelve hours, barely registering my Dad opening my blinds (I asked him to do that) and not noticing my phone alarm at all.  I dreamt I was Shimshon (Samson), but when I pushed the pillars of the building apart, the building still stayed up.  This was probably a delayed response to seeing some candlesticks in the shape of Shimshon pushing the pillars the other week in Israel, but it feels like it could be a commentary on trying to find work and failing, trying to get over my mental health issues and failing, or even the political disenfranchisement feelings I noted above.


My emotions do seem to be all over the place at the moment (since getting back from Israel), mainly deep depression, but weird subsidiary emotions.  Something that I don’t think I can talk about here has been making me feel quite morbid.  I also have strange feelings of wanting to buy various things, but tied up with completism with regard to book or film series rather than consumerism per se.  I do feel that I set high moral standards for myself and I’m not sure what to do with myself when I inevitably can’t meet them.  I was thinking yesterday or today about the way that my religious life makes big demands of me, but I don’t get the rewards that other people who make those sacrifices get in terms of equanimity, family, community and so on that would make coping with those sacrifices possible.

I end up making trivial questions into questions of great moral import and maybe they – or I – can’t bear that weight.  Do I want to watch Joker?  That’s admittedly partly a question about whether I can cope with sad or angry and violent films as much as the moral content of them, but the question is still there.  Do I want to watch James Bond films as I did when I was younger (I was a Bond obsessive even before I was a Doctor Who geek, with a scrapbook filled with newspaper articles and the like.  I could probably still list every pre-Brosnan Bond film in order, and tell you the years of release of a good few of them – and they said I’m not autistic!)?  I put Bond away years ago because I decided I disapproved of his morals, but lately I’ve been wondering if I want to wallow in the nostalgia of watching things from my childhood again.  Would Bond’s lifestyle seem escapist fantasy or would it just make me feel pathetic and lonely?  I don’t know.  I ask all this because my parents were watching The Living Daylights downstairs, which was always one of my favourite Bond films.


I tried to work on my novel this evening, but by the time I had helped with the post-Shabbat tidying and spent time finding Twitter accounts to follow for work, it was very late.  I started writing, but was overcome with depression and didn’t manage to write very much.  I didn’t go downstairs and watch Bond, but I did find a funny thread of James Bond film title anagrams on (inevitably) Twitter.  And so to bed, I suppose, although I don’t feel tired, just depressed and unable to do very much.

Careers Advice

I had my meeting with the other employment charity.  It went well inasmuch as I got some useful advice, but I did feel that I came across as lacking aptitude and initiative.  I felt very self-conscious and worried I came across as an idiot even though the careers adviser said that my skills and experience are very good and I “should be working.”  It was hard not to hear that as a criticism even though I know it was meant as encouragement.

The adviser said I’m getting enough interviews and wondered if I’m disclosing my depression (and autism, although I didn’t even bring that up as I didn’t want to complicate things) too early.  Even though employers aren’t allowed to discriminate on health, they probably do.

In terms of other careers, he didn’t suggest much I hadn’t already thought of, such as researcher.  He suggested doing a PhD and moving into academia.  I think that would be a major move and I don’t want to go down that route at this time.  We also spoke about archival work; I felt that archiving is a separate discipline requiring separate training, but he said there may be entry level jobs where they will take on someone with related skills.  I’m somewhat sceptical of that, but I think archiving jobs are even scarcer on the ground than library ones, so it’s rather academic.

I did feel inadequate when talking about my thoughts about going into teaching (I sounded about as enthusiastic as I do here i.e. not very), but he did make an interesting suggestion about tutoring – a possible way of earning money with more flexible hours.  I’m guessing most tutoring would be after school, which suits me as my mood and energy peak in late afternoon/early evening.  I could probably tutor English language and literature and History, but I would feel I would need some kind of training in teaching.  I mean, what would I actually say to a child who needed help?  Would I just ask to see schoolwork and see what they’re struggling with?  I’m not sure what I would do.  I do have a friend who does tutoring, but I think she might only do music tuition.  She also lives in Manchester, so it’s not easy for me to just pop round for a chat.

I was told I could show the adviser my cover letters before applying as well as getting interview practice before each interview and he told me not to be shy of using the service or asking him for help, which is reassuring to me, as I was worried he was going to say I shouldn’t be seeing him today after having seen him six months ago!  He did suggest coming to a couple of events the charity is running, one on interview skills and one on job readiness and CVs.

I think I’m still trying to process all of this.  I had to rush straight home to get ready for Shabbat which starts really soon, so I need to dash.  Maybe more after Shabbat.  I do feel very depressed at the moment, but I can’t tell whether this has made things better, worse or neither.

Existential Angst

I’m feeling very depressed again.  After disturbing dreams, I got up around midday, but then went back to bed for an hour because I felt so overwhelmed.  I’m trying to break tasks down into little stages to cope with them.  It helped a bit.  Usually I eat breakfast before davening (praying), even though one is supposed to pray first, just because I don’t have the energy to get dressed otherwise, but today I had to have breakfast and lunch first.  I don’t know if I could have done it differently, but it felt a bit like a slippery slope.

I managed a few chores, mostly dealing with work-related emails and bank account stuff.  It’s really a struggle to do anything right now and looking for work seems crazy in this state, although it’s possible that if I can find something that I’m actually capable of doing, the routine and boost to self-esteem may help, so I’m still looking.  I will tell the careers adviser tomorrow that I’m looking primarily for part-time work, which I can’t find in my sector, and ask what other sectors might be worth looking at.  I’m rather nervous about that appointment and feel unprepared, but I don’t have a clue what I should be trying to do right now.  My sister says I should look for a general admin job, but I can’t see myself being able to do that, both in terms of skills and in terms of functioning in an office environment with autism and depression.  My parents’ friend has said she will speak to her teacher friend at the local Jewish primary school about my doing some voluntary work experience as a teaching assistant there next week, so that’s another potential option.

I tried to work on my novel for a while, but I struggled to write.  After a while I could see I was going nowhere and stepped back to brainstorm and plan this chapter in more detail as it’s really not working out.  I could do a bit now, after shiur (religious class), but I feel too tired and need to get up early tomorrow for the careers adviser.

Shiur was good.  I tried not to eat too much junk, but did feel self-conscious.  I did have a couple of moments of thinking “I don’t fit in to this community, their beliefs and practices are too different” but the main point of the shiur was similar to Rabbi Lord Sacks’ parasha essay this week, but coming from a different direction.  I’m not sure the shiur rabbi would appreciate me saying that.

I had an interesting thought at shiur.  This wasn’t quite the point the rabbi was making, but I developed what he said and it seemed to me there are (at least) two types of religious test.  There’s a straightforward temptation: I want to do A but I know I shouldn’t, where A could be eating cheeseburgers, gossiping, texting on Shabbat or anything similar.  I’m tested by my desires.  The second type of tests are existential tests where I’m tested by who I am.  So, in this week’s parasha Avraham, who has based his whole life around kindness as the primary way of serving God, is told to sacrifice his son, which is the opposite of kindness.  In the early modern era, perhaps the big existential tests for religious Jews were around going to university and entering Western culture, as often Jews had to convert to Christianity to go to university or enter the middle class professions.  So if someone identified very strongly as an intellectual that could potentially take them outside Judaism unless they were satisfied purely with religious study within the community.  Nowadays being tested around gender or sexuality issues would probably be the big test where someone could feel something essential about themselves was in conflict with Orthodox Judaism.  There are probably also deeper philosophical challenges, when someone can’t believe in God or the divine authorship of the Torah or whatever.

I guess my struggles with my community are existential challenges in this way.  My conflicts are relatively low-key, as I can accept most of my community’s faith propositions (one God who wrote the Torah etc.), but there are other beliefs that I can’t accept (creationism, taking Midrashim very literally, believing we can send the reward for our deeds to whoever we choose etc.) that I struggle with.  If it wasn’t a big part of my identity, I could handwave it and it wouldn’t bother me.  “You might believe that, but I don’t, let’s change the subject.”  I’m sure there are plenty of people in my position who do that, whether in my shul or similar ones.  But my beliefs and actions are too much a part of me to be able to ignore the conflict without feeling I am betraying a part of myself, so every time something comes up, it feels personal.

For instance, at the start of the shiur, someone said we should ask God to use the merit of our studying in the shiur to heal someone in the community who is seriously ill.  I don’t disagree with the thought behind that, but the idea strikes me as completely ill-thought through.  I see reward as something that you become as much as something God gives you, that you become closer to God.  Even if reward is something tangible, I don’t think you can decide where it goes.  It goes to you, end of story.  It’s not transferable.  But this idea of Heavenly rewards being, in some sense, fungible, that they can be divided, transfered and shared around the community or even between the living and the dead is something that is very common in the Haredi community, even though, as I understand it, it’s a comparatively new idea in most cases (see this essay).  This type of thing throws me out of the shiur, metaphorically speaking.  I want to start lecturing people about this being philosophically flawed and historically questionable.  I don’t do that, but it’s not something I can easily sit through.  It feels like a challenge to me.

Kill Your Darlings (not your Daleks)

I’m feeling awful again today.  I got up late and kept going back to bed.  I knew it would be hard coming back from holiday, but I didn’t realise just how far backwards I would go.  I know I need structure, but I’m worried about the stuff I have coming up in the next week or two.  I worry about even managing to get to these things on time (I’m basically nocturnal at the moment) let alone get through them.

I’ve got a meeting with a careers charity on Friday, a different one to the one I saw on Monday, not a specifically autism/mental health one, to talk about alternative careers and interview practice, but I’m worried I’m not going to say much and it’s mostly going to be me being told I’m doing everything wrong (that’s how the previous meeting there felt, a bit).  Then it’s going to be hectic to get home in good time before Shabbat.  Then next week I have a day long seminar thing on building a second career (I never really built the first one…).  I just got an email about it; it’s a series of talks over the day, but apparently “Morning and afternoon refreshments, together with lunch, are complimentary, and an important networking part of the day.”  Scary.  I might try to stay for refreshments, but, even aside from kashrut questions (the charity running the seminar is Jewish, but not religious, so it might not be kosher enough for me), I think I will need to get away from everyone for an hour if I am to have any hope of staying in the talks for the whole day.  Oh, and weirdly one of the speakers is the rabbi who was my shul rabbi growing up; he eventually quit the rabbinate and went into finance in which capacity he’s speaking.


I’m struggling with concentration and motivation again.  It’s hard to feel that I could be working in this state, yet I feel I should.  I discussed this with someone else online today, that I feel I should be working, even if part-time.  It’s partly that I don’t like being dependent on my parents, partly social expectation, part genuine feeling that I want to do something meaningful with my life.  Plus, although I’m going to have another go at applying for benefits, I doubt very much that I would qualify for sickness benefits.  I’m too functional.  It’s very difficult to claim benefits for mental illness as the system is essentially based around physical incapacity.  If you can see and walk and don’t need constant care it’s difficult to meet the burden of proof for being disabled.  I’m sceptical of whether I will get unemployment benefits, but I need to try and apply while I’m still in a period where I worked significantly in the last two tax years.


I did manage to do a few things.  I went for a walk and picked up my blood test form for my next blood test (I have them every three months on lithium tablets).  At the doctor’s surgery I saw someone I dated a number of years ago who dumped me as soon as I said I had mental health issues.  She lives locally, so I run into her from time to time although we haven’t spoken; I’m not sure if I’m good at hiding or she’s good at pretending not to see me.  (I suppose I’m pretending not to see her, really.)

I wrote a devar Torah (Torah thought) for Shabbat (the Sabbath), which took an hour, but I was pretty exhausted afterwards.  I did the slightly naughty rabbinic trick of writing about what I wanted to write about and tying it in to the parasha (weekly Torah reading).  Actually, that’s not entirely true; it’s more that I thought there was a link, and there was, but then when I sat down to write it, the link wasn’t as strong as I thought, but I carried on anyway.  I tried to work on my novel for an hour too and wrote a bit, but then decided that my narrator was acting out of character and the incident should happen later in the chapter, in a different context and perhaps a different way.  So I’m left with a shorter chapter than I started with, and a fragment to be reworked later.  But it’s too late to work on that tonight.  I need to find a way of getting more time to work on my novel, but it’s hard when I’m expected to make job hunting my “job” and still fit in chores, exercise and the like as well as coping with poor concentration and motivation.


I mentioned the other day about unfollowing a blog because the blogger said something that I felt was dismissive about mental illness and didn’t respond to my polite response.  Well, she just responded today and said she thought she had responded at the time, but her comment didn’t post properly and she only just realised.  I believe her, because I’ve been reading her blog for years and she’s never struck me as the type of person to casually lie or act rudely, and if she didn’t want to respond at all, why respond now?  (She can’t see that I unfollowed her because she posts on Blogger and it doesn’t show that I was following her on WordPress.)  But I’m undecided about following the blog again as I feel I do seem to end up with differences of opinion with her a lot.  But then again, maybe it’s good for me to see that I can open up to someone with very different opinions to my own, and disagree, and we still stay friends.  In the past we have often disagreed on matters “safely.”  That’s something I do struggle to accept; I usually keep quiet about differences for fear of rejection.


It’s also been a day when I’ve wandered into political stuff online again, which just depresses me beyond measure.  The flare-up of fighting in Israel depresses and worries me too; I was within range of some of the 360 rockets fired from Gaza just a few days ago.  Cousin 3 lives in the south of Israel, which is the most dangerous place for rockets.  It’s scary.

Speaking of which, some photos from my trip.

Yam Kinneret/Sea of Galilee
View from Bental towards Mt. Hermon and Syria
Talmudic-era village, Katzrin
Talmudic-era synagogue, Katzrin
Goats! Katzrin



Arbel National Park. I wish I could go to wilderness more often
Sunset on Kinneret/Sea of Galilee

A Weigh To Go

I felt very depressed again today.  I actually managed quite a bit considering I felt unable to do anything at all, but it still doesn’t seem enough.  I feel like I’m bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon.  I applied for a job (fortunately only requiring me to send my existing CV and basic covering letter, no online forms that take hours), I cooked dinner (really easy kedgeree) and went to my new shiur (religious class).  I also unfollowed the few Twitter accounts I was following, but not looking at, in order to change it to a purely work/networking-based account.

The shiur was interesting, but I knew quite a lot of material already.  This is the kind of thing that fuels my wistful feeling that, if my life had gone differently, I could have been giving shiurim rather than listening to them.  As usual at the LSJS, pretty much everyone there was about twenty years older than me or more.  Also as usual, lots of the people seemed to know each other already (and not because I missed the class last week) and I didn’t know anyone.  I’d forgotten that this teacher gets people to read things out from the handouts.  I had to read something, which I mostly managed without shaking, but I did get very anxious about it.  I feel like I go to the LSJS for the Torah because I can’t connect to the people and I go to my Thursday shiur for the social side (not that I say much) because the Torah is sometimes uncomfortably too Haredi for me (mind you, some of what was said tonight was potentially too modern for me, so…).  The Thursday shiur is men only, so I won’t meet any women my age at either.

I finally remembered to buy new batteries for the bathroom scales and I even remembered to weigh myself (I’m terrible at remembering to do that).  I’ve put on more weight.  I’m quite overweight now, although I don’t really look it.  I know that this is almost certainly due to medication; all three of the psych meds I’m on can cause significant weight gain, and my weight only really started ballooning when I was put on clomipramine a few years ago; unfortunately, clomipramine is one of very few anti-depressants to actually do anything to my mood, so coming off it isn’t really an issue (I don’t think I would have been working as much as I have in the last few years without it).

I don’t eat much junk and I try to nosh on fruit and veg during the day, although I tend to eat quite a lot at dinner (not helped by Jewish cultural standards whereby I’m assumed to need staggering amounts of food because I’m male and young-ish and food is a primary means of expressing affection).  I probably eat too many nuts and raisins too.  I know I eat too much at Thursday shiur and kiddush and seudah at shul (when I go), which may be boredom and social anxiety as much as anything.  I’m not sure how to deal with that.  I do eat quite a lot of junk on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Yom Tov (festivals); I used to be able to get away with that by eating more healthily on other days, but I don’t think I can any more.  I have been trying to cut down the Shabbat and shiur junk and there aren’t any festivals for a while now (although there will be the doughnutfest of Chanukah in late December), but my life is often so miserable that if I denied myself my single weekday small piece of nosh, my life would feel noticeably worse and I’m not sure I actually have the willpower to do that at the moment.  I am also too lazy (or pressed for time/energy) to eat salads at lunchtime rather than sandwiches or toast.

Sex and the Single Jew

I had my second meeting today with the charity that helps people with mental health issues into work (I was referred via the NHS).  We spent most of the time talking about the type of help I would like, but I am still vague on what help they are actually offering.  The only thing the case worker (? I’m not sure what her title is) has recommended so far is a course on motivation for work and other skills which I think could be helpful, but it is only run on Friday afternoons and now we are in the winter, Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts very early (because sunset is so early), around 4pm and it will get even earlier as we head into December.  I would need to be home around an hour before that, to shower and do various chores and get to shul (synagogue) on time.  The course runs from noon to 2.30pm and it will take me around an hour to get home afterwards, so this is tricky.  Last time she mentioned it, I went into autistic “black and white thinking” mode and said I couldn’t go; this time I asked for the details of the person who runs it to see if maybe I could go for the first hour or so or find some other compromise.

She did give me some work to do with changes to my CV (fairly cosmetic, changing layout and fonts) and encouraged me to increase my usage of LinkedIn and Twitter.  I’m never really sure how to use LinkedIn and largely avoid it, although I do have an account with my job details that I try keep up to date.  LinkedIn just makes me inferior to people with a Real Career and panicked that I don’t know where my life is going or what to do about it, let alone how to build a career for myself.  As for Twitter… it’s a whole new world of insanity.  I did have an account briefly to try to get involved in online Doctor Who fandom, but Twitter is just so aggressive and political that I can’t cope with it at all and even when it’s not aggressive, the sheer volume of information (much of it trivial, if also sometimes funny) is overwhelming.  I try not to be glued to my phone all day; I’m less successful at not being glued to my laptop, but I don’t want to make it worse.  What I might do is unfollow all the Doctor Who fan accounts, even the ones I know in real life, and just follow a bunch of formal institutional accounts for libraries and universities that hopefully won’t be overwhelming or aggressive/political.  The problem is that I think that networking would eventually involve following personal accounts of librarians and maybe academics and they won’t necessarily stick just to libraries.  For one thing, academics and public sector workers can be very political; for another, Brexit and public sector spending are genuinely important issues for academic libraries, my chosen sector.  To quote Star Wars, “I have a bad feeling about this…”

I had a conversation about careers with my parents, which ended with them saying I have to do some kind of voluntary work now to get motivation back.  I don’t really feel capable of doing anything, so low is my confidence in my abilities and basic functionality, but I’ve agreed to get in touch (via my parents’ friend, who has a contact) with the local Jewish primary school to see if I can volunteer as a teaching assistant, although I’m worried that (a) that I’m not as good with children as my parents think, (b) that I won’t be able to cope with a classroom environment from an autistic point of view and (c) that right now I can’t cope with any work from a depression point of view.

I’m also going to force myself to prioritise my novel writing.  I was going to postpone that while I focused on other chores and job hunting after a month or more disrupted by Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and holiday, but I feel I need to be doing something ASAP, and preferably something that might make me feel confident in my abilities.  It’s only really writing that does that.  Unfortunately, I also want to prioritise exercise and job hunting (and now volunteering), and I’ve signed up for shiurim (Jewish religious classes) starting tomorrow so I clearly have a problem with conflicting priorities, given my lack of energy and motivation, as well as time (given that I sleep for ten or more hours a day).  At the moment just functioning on a day-to-day level is hard.


I’m feeling depressed about being single again.  I actually understand why Orthodox Judaism puts such an emphasis on marriage and only allows sex (and, in Haredi (ultra-Orthodox circles) friendships between genders) in a marital setting.  It sounds bizarre to a secular Westerner, but while Judaism sees sexual satisfaction as important, it values it much less than the secular West (at least judging by the media).  It sees family and community values as far more important than sexuality or individualism, and as someone increasingly concerned about where Western hyper-individualism is leading us (particularly in terms of social cohesion, support for those on the fringes of society and in terms of our impact on the environment), I can value that.  But there isn’t really a back-up plan if you can’t find your mate, whether through bad luck, illness or not fitting the acceptable heterosexual pattern.

Because the model of the heterosexual family is so embedded in Orthodox Jewish social life, there isn’t really any acknowledgement of the loneliness and sexual frustration that can be experienced by people outside that model (single, divorced, widowed, gay, asexual).  The expectation is that anyone without a spouse is looking for one, unless perhaps widowed in old age.  Someone at shiur is divorced, and he has to put up with occasional comments that he should remarry, even though he seems to have no interest in doing so.  To be honest, if I didn’t keep myself to myself so much I would probably get the same.  There isn’t really another option on the menu other than marriage; even celibacy is not seen as a positive thing (unlike Catholicism).

I’m not sure where I’m really going with this.  Orthodoxy isn’t going to change for a handful of people who don’t fit in.  Most frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) Jews do manage to find someone, usually far before their peers in the wider Western society are even thinking of marriage.  I don’t know if anyone has done any research on how happy those marriages are.  Certainly divorce is rising in the frum world and there is a growing awareness of issues like domestic violence.  I know that people who are married are not necessarily happy or even safe (one of the themes of the novel I’m writing).  Still, I wish there was another model for the good life that I could use, or some kind of legitimate outlet or even acknowledgement of my sexuality.

I guess my sexuality frightens me in a way.  That it’s a part of myself that I don’t understand and can’t legitimately probe or investigate, but which is constantly tripping me up in little ways, like when I feel attracted to women on TV or whatever (as per Jewish law I shouldn’t really be looking at women like that).  When I was in group therapy we did an exercise on values and were given a list of sixty-odd values and told to pick our five core values.  One of the values was something like “exploring my sexuality”.  This freaked me out a bit.  I couldn’t work out how someone could put that as their core value up with things like honesty, kindness, justice, family, friendship and so on.  I mean, I really like Doctor Who.  I really like Doctor Who.  I have invested a significant amount of time and money in it over the last twenty-eight years, not least writing my unpublished book.  But I would not put “watching Doctor Who” as a core value and it seems weird to me that someone would put exploring their sexuality as a core value like that.  In my head, my image of what such a person would be like and how they would behave is not pretty and doubtless I would get “called out” on it if I shared it publicly in our hyper-sensitive age (so I won’t).  But I guess some of the fear (I use the word advisedly) generated by that item on the list is really repressed envy of someone more in touch with their needs than I am, and probably meeting them more than I am too, even if I think those needs are trivial and a distraction from worthier things and may be buying short-term gain with long-term regret.


Other than that today wasn’t that good.  I did some chores on the way home from my meeting and I somehow found the energy and concentration for forty minutes of Torah study.  But I haven’t done much else.  I tried to work on my novel for an hour, but it went slowly and after half an hour I think my mind switched off and I started getting distracted and fiddling around with Twitter without doing any of the things I said I would be doing with it.  Bearing in mind what I wrote about about sexuality, I think I was avoiding writing a scene where one of my characters (at university having previously led a sheltered life in religious schools and yeshiva (rabbinical seminary)) gets woken up by the person in the room upstairs having noisy sex.  It felt awkward to write, not least because it took me back to my Oxford days when this happened to me on more than one occasion (not woken up, but hearing it when I couldn’t sleep), the embarrassment, annoyance and guilt-inducing jealousy.  Still, I am 444 words further forward, which at least has a pleasing symmetry to it, even if I would have liked to have hit 500.

I Want to Break Free

I went to bed late last night as I was downloading holiday photos and listening to a Doctor Who audiobook (hopefully I will post some of the photos later in the week).  That was probably a mistake – both going to bed late and trying to multitask the photos and the audiobooks, as I’m really not good enough at multitasking to do that (autism again).  Then I got really hungry late and night and needed to eat before going to bed.  I then slept until after midday and was still in my pyjamas at 2.00pm.  I spent much of the day too drained and too depressed to do anything.  I still have confused feelings about E.  I guess it’s good in a way that we both feel confused about what we should do.  Better than one wanting a relationship and one not wanting one, at any rate.  But I do wish it was easier to work out what to do.

I have also been feeling pessimistic about finding work and sorting my life out.  Wading through the job adverts that came in while I was away, there are library jobs available.  Granted a lot are in school libraries and law libraries, not environments where I think I will thrive, but they are there, and there are some higher education jobs too, including another one from a college that keeps advertising lots of different library jobs; not sure what’s going on there.  I’ve applied for a couple of jobs there already and even got one interview, but I don’t think the institutional culture was right for me.  I did think of applying for this one, but the closing date was today (yesterday now) and I was in no fit state to be writing CVs and applications today.  There were a couple of jobs I wasn’t hugely excited by, but was thinking of applying for, but the commute was really too far.

I feel that I need more enthusiasm about working in general and librarianship in particular.  I’m not sure if it’s depression, prolonged unemployment or feeling that I’m in the wrong career that has caused this lack of enthusiasm, but I feel I really need to change it.  A couple of people at shul ask me regularly if I’ve found work; they are trying to be supportive and take an interest in my life, but it just makes me feel useless.  I feel like I must be self-sabotaging in some way, given my qualifications, but part of me knows it’s my illnesses (counting autism and low self-esteem as illnesses for convenience alongside depression and social anxiety) that are sabotaging my job hunt, my illnesses that are stopping me applying, or at least applying enthusiastically, for full-time work or work in noisy or unfamiliar environments when that is most of what is available.

It doesn’t help that so many job adverts are vague, not mentioning the job description, qualities wanted or closing date.  Some agency adverts don’t mention the company or even much about the sector!

I deleted some emails while I was away, but I still came back to a lot.  I deleted some and have been working through others.  Job adverts tend to be fairly repetitive – if a job is available, it will be listed on every email from that recruitment agency for weeks, so all other than the most recent can go straight in the deleted folder.  I have a thing about trying to keep my email inbox as empty as possible.  I don’t mind storing old emails in other folders, but I don’t like them sitting in my inbox unless they are, in some way, current.

I spent time chasing up the latest issue of the Jewish Review of Books, which hasn’t arrived after nearly two months.  Then I lost more time with some payments that I didn’t remember making on my bank account debit card, relatively small payments, but mysterious.  I phoned the bank fraud number and was put on hold for a while.  The person I spoke to said that the small amounts taken were extremely unlikely to be fraudulent, as fraudsters usually try to clear out your account quickly and run, so the small, but unremembered, payments were likely to be legitimate payments to an organisation that has two names or bank accounts, in this case one for “London School of Jewish Studies” and one for “ISJS”.  I’m not entirely sure why the second account is for “ISJS” rather than “LSJS” (unless someone put on caps lock but then held down the shift key too and ended up with a low case ‘l’), but once he said that, I did remember paying £58 to them a few weeks ago, right before my holiday.  I felt somewhat sheepish.  The sad thing is, as my Mum inadvertently reminded me, I used to be really good at keeping track of my money, but in the last year or two I’ve rather lost the knack or (more likely) feel too depressed and lacking in concentration and cognitive ability to do it.

I did eventually go for a run, which was my biggest accomplishment of the day (second biggest was fifteen minutes of Torah study).  It was late and I had to change my route after seeing a group of teenage boys hanging out on a street corner engaging in horseplay (I was probably being paranoid, but they just screamed ‘gang’ to me), but the run was better than I expected considering how late and dark it was and how depressed I was feeling, even if my pace was poor compared with other runs this year.

I have a lot to do in the coming weeks, including more job hunting; going to various support groups and conferences about job hunting and changing careers; going to a short course of shiurim (religious classes) (the LSJS payment); really getting to work on my novel; applying for proof-reading work; and applying for benefits as well as daily and weekly things like Torah study; exercising; writing a weekly devar Torah (Torah thought) and so on.  I also have a seminar thing to go to on preparing for an autism assessment and would like to make it to another depression group session before the end of the calendar year.  I should also either send my Doctor Who book manuscript to more publishers or bite the bullet and look into self-publishing.  It all seems very daunting and I don’t quite know where to start.  Tomorrow (today now) I have another meeting with the charity that helps people with mental health issues into work, which is as good a start as any, plus I have some other chores to do on the way home.


A mixture of good and bad stuff happened over Shabbat (the Sabbath).

I led Mincha (the Afternoon Service) in shul (synagogue).  I was asked and, somewhat to my surprise, found myself saying yes.  I think the person who asked me was surprised I said yes too.  I shook really badly the whole time, to the extent that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get through it, but no one said anything (not even the rabbi, who was only two feet away from me), so it probably wasn’t noticeable (or people were too polite to mention it).  It did mean that I had no real kavannah (mindfulness) though, which I feel bad about.  Hopefully it will be easier if I do it again.


I had an argument with my parents when I got home.  It came out of nowhere really.  It was probably partly my fault, or at least the fault of my poor communication skills.  It scares me when arguments come out of nowhere.  The reality was that we were all stressed and were probably a bit fed up of each other after spending eight days together all the time, but still, it upset me.  There’s a lot more I could say here, but I don’t want to talk even semi-publicly here.  It’s at times like this that I wish I was still in therapy, or could talk to my rabbi mentor.  On that note, I couldn’t get in touch with my rabbi mentor while I was in Israel and am now rather worried about him, but unsure how to contact him.  I do have a landline number for him, but am unsure if it’s still a current number, don’t know what time to phone, and have a great deal of social anxiety about using the phone and especially having to speak to his teenage and pre-teen children who I haven’t seen since they were young children.


I missed Shacharit (Morning Service) again today.  I woke up at 7.30am and thought I would stay in bed until 8.00am, even though I knew I would probably fall asleep again.  I forgot to tell myself to just get up and eat something and then make a decision about whether to stay up or not.  Everything (depression, social anxiety, motivation) is so much easier once I’ve eaten, but getting to that stage is hard.


In shul, the person who gave me the job of tidying up the papers after Shabbat said he really appreciates my doing it.  From the fact he said it out of the blue, I eventually realised he was politely reprimanding me for not doing it the last two weeks (two weeks ago I was sick and last week I was in Israel).  By the time I realised that, he was gone and I didn’t go back and explain it to him, which was more a product of social anxiety than humility.


Someone else who I am somewhat friendly with at shul and who knows I am a librarian made a joke about me sorting out his own personal library, but, he added, “I have some books you wouldn’t approve of.”  I was rather dumbfounded.  This was coming from someone with a long, untrimmed beard and black hat, the trappings of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conformist piety.  The reality is that I probably would approve and may even have read them, but I was again too shy to say anything.  What could I say in that situation anyway?  It’s not like he said, “Oh, I’ve read book X” and I could say, “Oh, I’ve read that too.”  Still, it shows that my shul may be more diverse in practice and ideology than I thought.  And I guess he is indicating a degree of trust in me to make such a remark.


This Jewish year I set myself three targets to meet, to get to shul more frequently, especially on Saturday mornings; to be more patient and less angry or sarcastic with my father; and every evening to list three positive personal characteristics that I exhibited by my actions during the day (to boost self-esteem).  I didn’t really want to do three things, as I thought even one target would be difficult to meet if my depression is bad, but I could not decide what was the biggest priority; in any case, I read somewhere that one should make targets for mitzvot (commandments) between me and God (shul), me and other people (Dad) and me and myself (personal characteristics).  A little over one month into the year, I feel that I’m not doing well on any of them.  However, while I didn’t mean to focus on this, I have made some slight improvements on kavannah (mindfulness) in prayer and mitzvah performance and perhaps also in the amount of Torah study I do and how much I enjoy it.  I’m not quite sure what to make of all this.  Again, something I’d like to discuss with my rabbi mentor.


This is a post-Shabbat thing, but I stopped following a blog I’ve been following for many years.  The blog is by a somewhat geeky moderate Haredi woman who at the start of her blogging career was an “older single” (which in Haredi terms is anyone who gets to about twenty-five without being married).  For a long time it was a positive thing for me to see there were other frum (religious) geeky people out there, even in the Haredi world, and even women, and also that other people in the frum world were struggling to find their mates.  But lately the site has been difficult for me to read.  I’m not entirely sure why.  I don’t think it’s because she got married, but it seems to stem from around then, so maybe it is that, on some level.

The final straw was a piece she posted quoting a frum mental health professional who claimed that in the shtetl (the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the Medieval and Early Modern era until the Holocaust) people were too busy to suffer from mental health issues; they just forced themselves through things.  This is supposedly why there are no words for many contemporary mental health issues in Yiddish.  I left a polite comment saying that there was no real knowledge of mental illness anywhere in that period; there weren’t words for them in other languages either.  Minor “strange” behaviours were probably ignored as personal idiosyncrasy; more serious problems were dismissed as laziness, weakness, “female hysteria,” “nerves” and so on.  If someone was severely affected and ended up non-functional, they were written-off as “insane” and institutionalised, as probably happened to my great-grandmother (in the UK, not the shtetl).  I also pointed out that, if you know how to read between the lines, a lot of rabbis (the most documented figures) of the last few centuries have shown signs of mental illness.  I forgot to add that the fifth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch was treated by Sigmund Freud himself.

She didn’t reply.

In the last few years, I have seen myself drifting from a friendly online relationship with her to one where I seem to be annoyed by her a lot and struggling not to show it and this was the final straw.  So, unfollowing seemed more sensible than ending up as a troll.  I would rather check out while we are still on reasonably good terms.  It saddens me, though, as the ending of all friendships do, especially as I have lost too many friends in the last eighteen months for reasons I still struggle to understand.

I do worry about ending up on my own one day.  As I’ve said before, many of my friendships are online, on blogs or via email, and those seem more fragile than in-person friendships.  Since university, I’ve had a lot of close female friends, one at a time, and the friendships often ended badly with some kind of argument; the ones that didn’t ended when they moved away or got married and we drifted out of touch.  E. is the only female friend I’m in regular contact with now.  Maybe the frum relationship advisers are right that men and women can’t be close platonic friends (there was sexual tension in some of those friendships that didn’t last), or maybe I’m just bad at friendship.  Or maybe all friendships are transient and situational and I’m stuck in my situation while my friends move on.

I worry that I will lose E. one day too, but also that I won’t date anyone else while I’m friends with her, because I can’t imagine anyone else being so accepting of me or being so much on my wavelength, nor can I imagine another woman accepting my having such a close friendship with another woman.  At the moment I don’t think I should be dating anyone anyway, so it’s not much of an issue, but I do worry that it will be one day.

Still Abroad

Sitting in the departure lounge, feeling bored and overwhelmed – overwhelmed by noise and by depression. I bought my Dad a multi-ink pen that says “I love Israel” but I still wonder why I can’t remember to buy him a present, but on seeing our flight is EZY 2084, I remember immediately that 2084 is the year the Doctor Who story Warriors of the Deep is set in. If I’m not autistic, someone has a lot of explaining to do.

Homeward Thoughts from Abroad

I’m writing from the airport. I feel bad, partly because the holiday is ending and I’m back to job hunting, but mostly because I feel useless.

Last night Mum reminded me to thank Dad for the holiday. I don’t know if I would have remembered otherwise. I forgot to buy him a souvenir to say thanks because usually my sister would remind me. Similarly, today I finished packing and waited for my parents. It didn’t occur to me that Mum and Dad might need help.

I know that inability to “mind-read” is a classic high functioning autism symptom. Likewise for trouble acting on initiative. But somehow I feel I should be “better.” And I worry that I’m not on the spectrum, I’m just selfish and useless.

At the start of the holiday, when things were going well, I was more optimistic about my life and especially about me and E.  but now things seem hopeless again. A real downer to end on.

Arbel and Kinneret

We spent the early afternoon at Arbel National Park, looking at spectacular views over Tiberias and towards Tzfat. The rocky paths were awkward, but not too difficult or dangerous.  I saw several lizards to add to the list of wildlife spotted on this trip.

After lunch we intended to go to Capernaum, which we thought was a ruined Roman city, but when we got there we were greeted by a sign that said “CAPERNAUM – CITY OF JESUS”, signs warning that this was a religious site and prohibiting various things and hundreds of pilgrims being constantly bussed in. So far as I could tell, the main attraction here was the church.

We decided this was not for us and drove to the far side of the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee. We ate ice cream and watched the sun set over the lake/sea and and watched the birds flying past, including some brilliant blue ones.

I have a headache that has come and gone all afternoon, but otherwise it was a good end to the holiday. Tomorrow is the flight home, and a return to the cold and wet.

One thing I have noticed is the huge amount of religious tat: kitsch art and souvenirs with religious themes aimed partly at Jews, but mostly at Christians. Occasionally you do see tasteful pieces, but a lot are kitsch: replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, candlesticks in the shape of Samson pushing the pillars of the Philistine temple, Noah’s Ark models, lots of crucifixes. You see this stuff all over Israel, but particularly at places with religious resonance for Christians. I’m afraid in my head I have an image of pilgrims from the Bible Belt being the main consumers of this stuff. That’s probably me stereotyping; I’m sure there are Evangelicals from Texas or Alabama with a highly developed aesthetic sense, but they aren’t buying this stuff.

To be fair, my parents have a small model of a Hasid that I think my sister and I bought for them on one trip. I think that’s more tasteful, either because it’s very small in comparison with some of these pieces or because it’s not directly religious. There’s something about taking imagery that goes to the core of Western religion and art and using it for cheap, mass-produced tourist-fodder that is inherently kitsch.


Today we went to see the ruins of a Talmudic era (2nd to 8th century) village at Katsrin. It was fascinating, with restored or partially restored houses, wine and oil presses, bread ovens and the partially restored synagogue (Beit HaKenneset – no Yiddish shul in Talmudic times!).

Also on site were a large peacock and two rather cute small goats. One was definitely female (no horns, but udders and long ears framing her face like payot/sidecurls). The other, with horns, looked male to me, but one staff member addressed it in the feminine, “Mah at ochelet?” (“What are you eating?”) The answer, apparently, was a piece of string, which in goatish fashion it refused to relinquish. I now want a goat for a pet…

davened Mincha (said Afternoon Prayers) in the ruined synagogue, but it didn’t feel as “connected” as I had hoped. I’m not quite sure what I was hoping for. I got interrupted by a tour group, which didn’t help.

Afterwards we went into town in modern Katsrin to the archaeological museum there, mostly Roman era coins and pots, but some prehistoric artifacts and a carving of a biblical story that connects to me for reasons I won’t mention here.

Afterwards we sat and ate ice cream. I had a Magnum Duet, which isn’t kosher in the UK (most Magums aren’t, sadly). To be honest, it didn’t taste that different to classic or white Magnums, which are kosher (in boxes of four only, not loose).

We’re planning on looking for falafel for dinner, which we haven’t had on this trip yet.

I realise my mood seems better in these posts. The sunlight and warmth help, but I suspect it’s mostly the freedom from responsibility. My parents are dealing with a lot of stuff and I don’t have to worry about job hunting. Even my status as the only family member here who speaks any Hebrew is rarely needed, as most Israelis speak better English than my Hebrew, although I did speak a bit to order dinner last night. Sadly, tomorrow is the last proper day of the holiday.


I’m trying to type this on my phone. I’m not sure how it will work…

My parents and I spent the day (well, afternoon – none of us are early risers) at Bental, a mountain (hill, really) in Northern Israel from which there are stunning views towards Lebanon and Syria as well as of Mount Hermon, Israel’s tallest mountain. There are remains of military fortifications from the Yom Kippur War, where a small number of Israeli tanks held off a much larger invading Syrian force. There was supposed to be a film about it screened in a kibbutz at the foot of the mountain, but it wasn’t signposted and we couldn’t find it.

Because of looking for that film we ended up at a loose end afterwards. It was too late to start anything new, as all the tourist sites were shutting, but we didn’t want to come home. My parents went grocery shopping in Katsin, a small town. I sat in the town centre and listened to a Doctor Who audiobook. We came home for a bit and are going for dinner soon, either pizza or falafel (hopefully).

I still feel exhausted.  I feel bad that I sleep so late and get so tired as I feel I’m slowing everyone down. Realistically my parents would not be going much faster, but I wouldn’t cope with going on holiday with a partner or children. I also feel bad that my Hebrew isn’t fluent or even conversational, but there isn’t much I can do about that at the moment either.

I’m also worried that I’ve upset another blog friend, although perhaps I’m projecting the fact that she offended me. I seem to have fallen out with a lot of online friends in recent years.

I can’t escape the general election even in the Middle  East as my parents insist on having Sky News on…


Not much to report today. I had lunch with my parents, uncle, aunt and cousins 3 and 5, the others having already left Tiberias to go back to school or university.

In the afternoon, I wandered round Tiberias with my parents. It was nice, but a bit… not lacking exactly, but it seemed… not as old as Jaffa or as bustling as Tel Aviv or as important as Jerusalem. It was frummer (more religious ) than I expected though and fairly easy to find kosher food. I tried to use my Hebrew, but I’m very hesitant and stumbling, and so many Israelis speak fluent English, it seems pointless to try.

I got some nice photos of the Kinneret/Sea of Galilee/Lake Tiberias. I might post some when I get home.  It seems really a lake rather than a sea. It’s very tranquil by the water. I saw some feral kittens on the rocks by the water, and numerous feral cats. Israel is the stray cat capital of the world. There werearly some nice public sculptures and a couple of historic buildings.

Between my parents’ age and my depression, we get tired easily and came home around 5pm to recharge before going for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law at an outdoor restaurant serving steak and the like. I’m vegetarian on weekdays, but they brought in egg noodles from their sister, Thai, restaurant. It was a good evening. The restaurant is on a kind of pier into the sea and a stray dog wandered in which was (a) not so hygienic  (I saw a stray cat too, eating some meat near the kitchen ) and (b) none of us are really dog people and some of us are dog-phobic, so this was not ideal. It was a fairly good-looking dog, though. It reminded me of the dog that used to try and follow me home whenever it smelt (?) me go past in our old house.

That was it really, aside from learning a Mishnah that mentions Tiberias while I’m in Tiberias, which was cool, and listening to another Doctor Who audio book. I will probably go to bed soon and try to get up earlier tomorrow.

The Bar Mitzvah

I’m posting on my Mum’s tablet, which I find awkward so this may be more error-prone than usual.

The flight to Israel was not great. There were a lot of screaming kids and despite napping for a while  (even though I can’t sleep on planes) I had a headache which turned into a migraine and did not completely go all evening. We arrived at the hotel around 11pm, bought bread, cheese, cereal and milk in a supermarket, ate dinner at midnight. By the time I had eaten, showered and tried to relax it was 2am. I struggled to fall asleep and slept badly as I was cold and had a headache.

Most of Friday afternoon was taken up with driving from Tel Aviv to Poriya. I fell asleep again in the car, uncharacteristically.  We arrived shortly before Sabbath and rushed to get ready on time. Shul (in the youth centre where we stayed – everything was on site) was okay.  Dinner was really noisy, with 75 guests of our family and several tables of other people staying there. I got through it and led bentsching (grace after meals) badly, making mistakes. I was quite glad to leave and get back to my room. I stood on the balcony looking over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), then did some Torah study and read a bit, but by 10pm I was exhausted and went to bed.

I slept for 12 hours or more. I missed Shacharit and my cousin’s leining,  which upset me, but I don’t know what else I could have done, struggling in a very autism- depression- and social anxiety-unfriendly environment. I got through lunch but then fell asleep for another 3 hours. I missed some activities and only just got to seudah shlishit.

I’m skipping a lot of details here for brevity, but I consider it a success that I did what I did. I would have liked to have done more, but I felt uncomfortable so much of the time that I don’t think I could have done more. I would have liked to have seen my family more, but they were mostly mingling or doing stuff. The food was great, though.

After Shabbat we drove down the road to Tiberias where we’re staying until Thursday in a rented apartment. Hopefully more details later this week.