Days Like Crazy Paving

Unsurprisingly, I woke up late after yesterday.  I wasn’t particularly depressed, but I was exhausted and spent a long time reading online trying to find energy and then struggling to get dressed and daven (pray).  I actually had to eat not just breakfast, but also lunch, before I had enough energy to daven.

My main achievement for the day was going for an after dark run.  I was worried about how this would go, as I was feeling tired just from my warm up, but it was OK.  I do worry a bit about running after dark.  I’m not the most aware person and even when walking I can step into the road without looking or cross a driveway without noticing the car reversing out, and when jogging I have music and the distraction of feeling exhausted.  I do worry I’m going to be in an accident one day, running or even walking, and it will be my fault (I’ve had a couple of close calls already).  Plus there are trip hazards running after dark.  Still, I survived.  And the post-run positive brain chemicals flowed for a bit.

I tried to work on my novel a bit, making the plan more detailed, but I didn’t get far because I was depressed as well as exhausted from running.  I have mentioned that I’m more of an intuitive writer than I expected.  To be honest, I feel I’m more of an intuitive writer than I really feel comfortable with.  I have an idea of the main events in every chapter and some chapters are plotted in quite a bit of detail, but so much seems to be being left for the writing.  I’m not sure why.  Some of it is not wanting to set things in stone, but let the novel grow organically, but I think some of it is a genuine inability to plot properly or perhaps even laziness.  It worries me.  I think of myself as a meticulous planner, although I’ve come to realise in recent months that I’m a very bad planner or at least very bad at sticking to plans, but I feel worried that I will suddenly run out of petrol mid-story, so to speak.

I’ll try to return to the story plan in the coming days.  I also have to start the proofreading job I said I would do for a friend and start planning for my new job.  Plus the usual things: pray, study Torah, exercise…  (more on this below).  All I did today was the run, and a little bit of work on the novel.  I didn’t even get up to ten minutes of Torah study.

I had dinner with my parents, which was not ideal, because I was stressed.  I was somewhat worried about my book, I was exhausted and hungry and a bit bad-tempered because of that, plus I didn’t really feel like eating as a family; I really just wanted to vegetate in front of the TV.  My Dad was making small talk and my autistic brain struggles with that at the best of times.  The autistic brain goes, “Why are you asking me about my run in such detail?  What can it mean to you?  And even assuming that you genuinely want to know the answer, I can’t remember what happened when I was running.  That was a few tasks ago.  I can only focus on one task at a time!”  So that didn’t go too well, although we didn’t have a blazing row or anything, just a general feeling of tension.  I got soup down my polo shirt too.

And that was it for the day, really.  I felt too exhausted and depressed to do anything else.  I watched half a Bond film (Licence to Kill), but it was too uninteresting for me to watch the whole thing in one go.  I think that James Bond, like Doctor Who, is better fun, even if slightly silly.  I think a lot of fans of both would disagree, but there you go.


Ashley Leia asked on my previous post, “if the frum ideal is for adult men to devote almost all day to Torah study and davening, how does anyone avoid feeling inadequate?”  I think it’s worth answering this here.

It’s only in a subset of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world, the most extreme part, that people believe that literally all day should be devoted to Torah study (with no paid employment).  This mostly happens in Israel for reasons that have more to do with politics than religion (it’s connected with avoiding the draft for the Israeli army out of a fear that the army is a secularising influence).  In my type of community there’s a more nebulous idea that all available free time should be used for Torah study.  This allows paid work, but it also allows a degree of relaxation time, provided it’s taken with the intent of returning to Torah study refreshed (rather than because I want to watch TV or I’m too lazy to study).

I suspect that there are some people at my shul (synagogue) who don’t do much religious study, although I haven’t asked them and it could be I’m making assumptions based on my own preconceptions of the type of people they are or misunderstandings of things they’ve said.  On the other hand, there are definitely people in my shul who get up at 5.00am to get in an hour of Gemarah chevruta (paired study of Talmud) before Shacharit (Morning Prayers) and paid work.  And in between are people who study Mishnah for an hour on the train into work or the like.  I’m assuming most of these people are able to live with their consciences and don’t feel seriously inadequate i.e. they all think they are doing “enough,” for their own values of “enough” – which may not be exactly the same as other people’s value of “enough.”

I guess the problem for me is that this is fairly nebulous, and I’m not good at nebulous, probably for reasons that have as much to do with autistic black and white thinking as low self-esteem or depression.  In some ways, living in the ultra-Haredi “no work” environment would be easier, because at least I would have a clear ideal to work towards, even if I would find it impossible.  I don’t know how much study (or prayer, although the boundaries there are clearer) is “enough” particularly when I’m not able to do a consistent amount from day to day.  Some days I can manage an hour, which is probably what a lot of people in my shul are doing every day, but other days, because of depression or simply lack of time (which is in part also due to depression, to be honest), I only manage ten minutes and it’s hard to feel that something that was not enough one day can be enough the other day.


I came across an interesting thing today that is somewhat relevant to this.  Giles Fraser is a Church of England clergyman and one of my favourite writers on  He tends to write a lot about theology and philosophy.  He writes here:

The word they use in theological college about the process of “becoming who you are” is formation. In this context, formation is achieved by acclimatising oneself to a tradition that stands over and against one’s individual choices. Indeed, it is only by recognising that one is situated within a given set of values that precede who we are that we are enabled to make the very choices that have come to define adult responsibility.

I feel very much that I need the Orthodox Jewish tradition as a set of values that precede my choices, even if my choices are not always the ones that the tradition would dictate.  There probably would be less of a disconnect if I was in a Modern Orthodox community rather than a moderate Haredi one, but that’s not really an available option at the moment.  I suppose I feel at least I’m in dialogue with tradition, even if I can’t fully follow it.  I want to choose with a tradition rather than against it, to find my place within a tradition rather than to create myself ex nihilo.

Is this rationalisation after the event?  Possibly.  I thought that a commenter on my previous post suggested I give up religion; she was actually suggesting I give up my volunteering opportunity, but I misunderstood and it got me thinking about what religion adds to my life.  I can’t really imagine what my life would be like without Judaism.  I would lose the things that give me structure on non-work days, as well as my only regular in-person social contact.  I don’t know if I could cope with the guilt, or the feeling that I’ve lost something.  I would lack meaning and purpose, inasmuch as I even have them now.  I would feel cut off from my ancestors, which would be a big thing for me.  Would I be happier if I wasn’t frum?  I don’t know.  Quite possibly, but I don’t think happiness is everything, to be honest, nor something I can really aspire to for long periods with my poor mental health.  If I’m staying religious, it would be better if I had a stronger feeling that God loves me or if I had more support and acceptance from my community, but that’s not really an option right now.

Lately I’ve been reading Genesis: Creation to Covenant by Rabbi Tzvi Grumet, which is a literary critical analysis of the book of Bereshit (Genesis), based on close reading.  One of the main things I’ve taken from this is Rabbi Grumet’s idea that the biblical characters grow.  I knew that already on some level (it’s most obvious for Yosef (Joseph) and David both of whom change a lot), but he really shows at great length that Avraham (Abraham) doesn’t always understand God, that Yaakov (Jacob) has to learn how to be devious, but also how not to be too devious and so on.  I don’t agree with all of his arguments, particularly his presentation of God making mistakes, but I think it’s true that Bereshit presents us with a God who seems to make mistakes, even if it’s with a big kavyachol (“If it were possible” – Talmudic language for saying something about God that isn’t theologically the case, but is how something seems to us).  It’s reassured me a bit that growth is allowed and I don’t have to get everything right first time, which is very much something I struggle with.


I forgot to mention my Chanukah presents yesterday: the complete DVD box set of Star Trek: Voyager and some dark chocolate coins from my parents and the DVD of Darkest Hour (which I missed when it was in the cinema, to my annoyance) from my sister and brother-in-law.  I had been agonising for ages over whether to buy the Voyager box set.  I watched it on TV when it was first broadcast in the UK and while it wasn’t as good as the earlier Star Treks, or the more recent Discovery, it was entertaining enough.  Then the price of the DVD suddenly dropped and it was within budget for Chanukah (we don’t do surprise presents in my family, rather we ask for things or even buy them and get other family members to pay us back).  At any rate, it should be good escapism, particularly as I’m getting a bit tired of James Bond and could do with slowing down my viewing of those films.



I overslept this morning and was late for volunteering at the asylum seekers’ drop-in centre.  I had anxiety dreams about sitting exams, which seemed a dream association for my new job, which I’m worried about (you might have noticed).  Mind you, I was dreaming about carrying around an atom bomb, which doesn’t fit as neatly.  I think Hitler was in there somewhere too.  Anyway, I set my alarm for the wrong time and then I felt too tired and depressed to get up and stayed in bed for another hour.  I don’t think I wanted to go to volunteering at the asylum seekers drop-in centre any more than I want to start my new job.

I did get there in the end, albeit very late, after all the setting up.  I helped look after the children again, but felt redundant and useless much of the time.  I don’t think I’m good with children, no matter what my parents and my aunt say.  When it came to time to tidy up I had to tidy most of the toys by myself, which is a big task and we try to do it in a relatively short time, so stuff just gets shoved in boxes regardless of what it is, rather than being put away neatly in the right boxes (it doesn’t help that the bags and boxes we have aren’t really the right size or shape, they’re just things people had that got pressed into service).  I think the person who runs the drop-in centre felt that things should be packed away more neatly, and I would agree with that, it’s just difficult to do it by myself in the time available.  So I felt rather useless there too.  I left before moving the last few boxes into the garage where they are stored between sessions as my Dad was waiting for me outside and I felt that I was just messing stuff up (I already managed to break a plastic lid by stepping on it accidentally) plus I hadn’t had much lunch and moving heavy boxes was making me feel faint.

After that I had a break for an hour or two and then my sister and brother-in-law came over for Chanukah candle lighting and presents (and dinner).  We had five Chanukiot, so 45 lights (candles and oil) lit in total.  Dinner was good, but I struggle with family groups sometimes.  I don’t know why.  I guess because the conversation is usually fairly small talky, which I’m not good at; tonight a lot was about football, which does not interest me at all.  Often the discussion at family meals is about work or my parents’ friends and their families or people from my parents’ shul (synagogue) and I usually just zone out and concentrate on eating.

I drifted in and out of the conversation and I had a moment of anxiety about a kashrut (dietary law) issue, which may or may not be OCD.  I went upstairs once or twice as I felt a bit stifled – I wanted to shout to everyone to leave me alone at one point, which may be what the beginnings of an autistic meltdown feels like (I don’t generally have meltdowns, but given that there are a lot of autistic symptoms I used to think I didn’t have, but now realise I have in a subtle or unusual way, I wonder if that’s really the case).

I think I passed for OK most of the time even if I didn’t always feel OK.  My parents asked if I was OK and I lied and said I was, but they didn’t query it, so I guess I seemed OK.  I did enjoy some of the evening.  I probably did need more time to de-stress after volunteering before dinner and again after dinner before bed.  I did watch a Bond film, half after volunteering, half after dinner.  It was The Living Daylights, which I really liked as a child.  Looking at it again, it probably wasn’t the ideal thing to watch today, as I need escapism and this was a surprisingly down-to-earth thriller, the closest Bond comes to John le Carré.  This would usually be a good thing, but I think I needed escapist hokum more.  Here, the plot twists made my head hurt a bit, although I think I followed it in the end.


As an aside, It’s weird how autistic special interests work, inasmuch in the last six weeks or so I’ve suddenly got back into Bond films after fifteen or twenty years, but already I’ve filled my head with all kinds of Bond trivia (did you know that Q’s real name is Major Boothroyd?).  On the other hand, I completely forget important facts about my family and friends moments after they tell them to me.  I’m sure that one of the reason I have wide general knowledge is that it’s easy to find a Doctor Who link to so many things, so they stick in my memory that way.


I have been limiting myself to one doughnut a day during Chanukah to try to limit the weight gain; not that I would generally eat more than one doughnut a day, but occasionally on first or last night of Chanukah I might have two.  I had a chocolate doughtnut today (the type with the chocolate inside), but I was seriously tempted to have a mince pie too, to reward myself for getting through today in one piece.  (Mince pies are the only even vaguely Christmassy thing I do.)  So far I have resisted temptation, but it was hard sitting around the table with all this nosh and not eating, especially when I wasn’t so involved with the conversation.  Now I feel like I have post-sugar rush slump after the doughnut, but I may eat a mince pie tomorrow or on New Year’s Eve to reward myself for getting through today.


I’m struggling with meditation lately.  I used to do ten minutes a day of deep breathing meditation followed by ten minutes of hitbodedut meditation, which is a Jewish technique that is part meditation and part prayer, speaking to God extempore in the vernacular (where most Jewish prayer is a set text in Hebrew or occasionally Aramaic).  I find it hard to still my mind with breath meditation and I struggle to speak to God any more.  I’ve tried various combinations: all breathing, all hitbodedut, five minutes of each, as much as I feel like of each; but none of them really feels right any more.

Sometimes I wonder if I still believe in God or if I’m religious out of habit.  I think I do believe, but I feel that belief flows from actions rather than the reverse and I don’t do things like pray or learn (study Torah) or connect with a religious community enough, or enjoy them enough, to embed God in my life any more.  If you do lots of mitzvot (commandments), you will probably find yourself believing in God, whereas if you don’t do anything religious, you will probably lose what belief you had.  It’s not a hard and fast rule and it’s not hard to find exceptions, but it explains how a lot of people function much of the time.  But I don’t know how to cope with doing those things or making those connections when I’m so tired and depressed so much of the time, plus socially anxious and anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure).

Plus, it feels hard to thank God for things when I’m aware that so much in my life is hard, and hard to ask him for things when so often in the past the answer has been no.  I want to be Jewish, so I do Jewish things (mitzvot), but it’s hard to feel that God is there, if that’s even possible.  I know I have good things in my life, and I hope to write a bit about how my life has changed over the last decade in a future post for the new year, but there is still a lot that I’m struggling with and find it hard to see what good might come from things.

On the whole, I basically do believe in God.  I worry about infringements of Jewish law (as earlier with the religious OCD).  I don’t feel like a hypocrite for davening (praying) or studying Torah, but I do struggle to engage emotionally with God, Torah or mitzvot and I worry where that part of my life is headed if I carry on feeling like this and responding to my life in this way.

Stressful Shabbat

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was not so good.  At shul (synagogue) there was circle dancing again during Kabbalat Shabbat (the prayers at the start of the Sabbath).  I was in two minds whether to join in and stayed out in the end, but then realised it was just me and the mourners (who aren’t allowed to join in) who stayed out.  I felt bad.  It’s a no-win situation when this happens as if I stay out, I’m separating myself from the community and I feel weird and useless and worry that everyone is staring at me, but if I join in, I still feel like everyone is staring at me, but I also have to hold hands with people I don’t know well and really don’t want to let into my personal space, plus I sometimes feel like I’m going to fall over when I do circle dancing and drag everyone else down with me (which I guess would look kind of amusing, but would be very embarrassing).

The rest of shul was fine, albeit very noisy, but I left without shaking hands with the rabbi at the end, although he had come up to me and shaken my hand at the start of the service, so I feel that should count for something.  This was probably socially anxious avoidance on my part and was going against my CBT ideal.

Dinner with my parents and cousin was fine and I did some Torah study and had a lot of time to read before bed, but then, just as I was falling asleep, something quite traumatic happened, but because it involves other people, I can’t mention it here.  Suffice to say that I was woken up and stayed up for some hours with anxiety-induced insomnia.  Everything turned out fine after several anxious hours of waiting, but it cast a shadow over the whole day.  I probably wouldn’t have made it to shul this morning even if it hadn’t happened, given that I haven’t been in the morning for months, but this was the final straw.  So today I have been struggling with mixed emotions.  I need time out to process and move on from what happened, but I haven’t had that time yet today.

I went to shiur (religious class) this afternoon, which wasn’t great and stayed in shul for Ma’ariv (evening prayers), but I haven’t really done anything else today.  We lit Chanukah lights and I did most of the post-Shabbat tidying up to give my parents a break, but I felt too exhausted and stressed to work on my novel or do the proof-reading I said I would do for a friend or think about my new job.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do all these things in the next few weeks.  I just want to vegetate in front of the TV and try to get my energy together for tomorrow (volunteering and then a busy family last night of Chanukah with parents, sister, BIL and cousin).


I watched A View to a Kill, which is not a very good James Bond film, but did help to relax and de-stress me (although I’m sad that the baddies killed Patrick Macnee).  I’m enjoying James Bond a lot more than I thought I would, although I still feel vaguely embarrassed and guilty about liking it.  I should probably go to bed soon, as I need to be up early for volunteering tomorrow, although I don’t feel particularly tired.

Miniature Pic Spam and More

I’ve been going to bed earlier the last few nights, but yesterday I went to bed later again.  Then I couldn’t sleep, because I forgot to take my medication at dinner time.  I remembered before bed, but that didn’t give them enough time to make me sleepy.  I didn’t feel like reading, so I watched the second half of For Your Eyes Only, which may not have been the best thing to do (TV in general + TV violence = still not sleepy).  Consequently, although my parents tried to wake me up when they went to football today with my (female) cousin, I slept through until gone midday.

When I woke, I was still very tired and somewhat depressed.  I’m not quite sure why, as I didn’t do that much yesterday, but it is the middle of winter and that does make me want to hibernate even if my light box helps a bit.  I had intended to go for a run after breakfast, but that was before I slept so late (I didn’t want to make lunch very late) and before I knew it would be raining heavily.  So, no run today.  My weight is the same as it was before Chanukah, which is good inasmuch as eating doughnuts hasn’t piled on the calories, but there are still another four days of doughnut-eating to go.

I did feel better after lunch.  I think when the depression makes me sleep a long time, I wake up with very low blood sugar, and I really need breakfast and lunch to feel “normal.”  I don’t know why breakfast isn’t enough.  It helps a bit, but not completely.  Maybe I’m eating the wrong thing (usually Weetabix or porridge)?

The main thing I did during the day (aside from taking the photos below) was more research on domestic abuse for my novel.  Although I feel a bit frustrated about pausing writing to research, I feel I’ve made significant progress with that research this week.  It turned out that many of my thoughts about abuse were correct (probably because I’ve met a number of abuse survivors of one kind or another in group therapy-type situations), but research has given me new ideas for plot developments as well as reminding me again that my characters have friends and family beyond my three narrators (I tend to forget, somewhat autistically, that my characters have relationships and don’t just exist in their own heads all the time.  This is probably because I exist in my own head too much).  I hope to finish the research in the next week or so and move back to writing.

I did about forty-five minutes of Torah study.  I would have liked to have done more, but my head felt that it would explode if I did.  I did a couple of chores too, but that was about it for the day.


There’s an oneg at my shul (synagogue) tomorrow evening.  I never know how to translate onegOneg Shabbat means ‘delight of the Sabbath’ which doesn’t get us very far.  It’s a kind of party or gathering to celebrate Shabbat with alcohol, junk food, songs, divrei Torah (Torah thoughts) and so on.  I’ve been to a few of these, or tried to go.  Sometimes I didn’t make it inside, being so overpowered by social anxiety that I just stood outside crying (and then inevitably met people who were going).  A couple of times I made it and even enjoyed it a little, but I’m not sure that I enjoyed it enough to really justify the anxiety and feelings of not fitting in that tend to accompany it.  Plus this one is being hosted by someone I was at school with, who is now a rabbi with a wife and kids and a house.  Lately I’ve been doing quite well at not being jealous of other people whose lives are different/better than mine, but I think this might be pushing my luck.

So, I tell myself not to go to the oneg, but then I feel that I’m avoiding social situations again (which is true), which will just reinforce the social anxiety, and that really I should be going to these things.  I tell myself that I want to spend time with my cousin on Shabbat, and that I will be volunteering on Sunday as well as spending time with my family, sister, brother-in-law and cousin on Sunday evening and will struggle to add another social event in, all of which is also true, but none of which makes me feel much better.


I mentioned yesterday feeling dispirited that the miniature models I paint nowadays aren’t as professional-looking as the ones I painted as a teenager and said I would supply photos.  Here goes!

These are the Doctor Who models I just painted (TARDIS, thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Davros):


I wasn’t too happy with the photograph, so here are the fourth and eleventh Doctors (Tom Baker and Matt Smith), which I painted some months ago:


Here are some Daleks I painted and photographed a while back:


On the other hand, here are some Warhammer dwarfs (Tolkien spelling!) that I painted as a teenager:



Even when the photos are blurred (because I’m not good at taking photos on my phone and because of my tremor), the earlier models (the dwarfs) seem a lot more professional to me than the latter ones (the Doctor Who ones).  Admittedly I did cheat slightly in that the most recent models are simply that, the most recent, whereas the dwarfs were some of the best ones of a collection of seventy or so.  But I did also include the fourth and eleventh Doctors, which I think are the best of the ones I’ve done recently, plus the Daleks which are very regular and simple in colour scheme, so they are not as difficult to paint as people despite the fine detail needed for the spheres.  My tremor is particularly clear on the fine detail, which doesn’t photograph well, especially eyes, which are a real pain to do well.  I used to have a technique for doing them with a cocktail stick, but I just can’t get it to work well any more.  It doesn’t help that the model of the thirteenth Doctor is not terribly dynamic, probably because of a lack of reference photographs of her compared with earlier Doctors (although the tenth Doctor model, not pictured, is even less dynamic!).

Quick Update

Not much to report today.  I decided I was too tired to go for a run.  I wrote my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week and was pretty pleased to get something fairly coherent out of an idea that I was not initially sure was going to work.  I did some more research on domestic abuse for my novel, which is depressing, but I have a better idea of plot for the second half of the novel now.  I did some miniature painting, hopefully finishing the thirteenth Doctor, Davros and the TARDIS, but sometimes I find bits I’ve missed or done badly later.  I think I’m going to rest my painting for a bit so I can concentrate more on my novel.  To be honest, I get frustrated that my painting nowadays isn’t as good as when I was a teenager.  That’s partly due to my tremor and partly, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, to lack of patience.  There’s a limit to how much time and energy I’m willing to invest in a hobby like this now; maybe that’s depression, or just growing up.  Maybe tomorrow or next week I’ll post a pic spammy post with my latest miniatures alongside some from my teenage years for comparison.

And that was it really. My parents were out most of the day, coming back in time to light Chanukah candles; one of my cousins from Israel arrived a little later.  I don’t “do” Christmas and there wasn’t anything I wanted to watch on TV.  I started watching the Bond film For Your Eyes Only, but it was dull and uninvolving so I stopped halfway and will probably finish it tomorrow.  A nice, quiet day.

The “I Don’t Know What To Call This Post” Post

I went for a run.  My pace was a bit better than recently, although my stamina is still not great.  That said, I don’t think I was walking as much as the last couple of runs (I find it hard to run continuously, but I try to run as much as possible).  I was glad to go running in the daytime again, both to get some natural light and because the pavement was very muddy with lots of twigs and small branches blown off trees as potential slip hazards.  And The New Avengers Theme came on my iPod on shuffle when I’d forgotten it was even on that playlist, which raised a smile (it’s a very upbeat, funky ’70s piece of music).

I cooked a recipe I’ve never cooked before, Hungarian mushroom stew.  I used my Mum’s blender, which I hadn’t used before either.  I always find new recipes time-consuming.  This one took about an hour and a half.  Given that I had a long lunch because I was tired from my run, that was most of the day gone, and with it most of my energy.

I had a slight kashrut (Jewish dietary law-related) issue when I was cooking.  I thought it was probably OK, but I texted the rabbi to check.  I knew I was giving in to potential OCD thoughts, but I thought I wasn’t 100% sure it was OK, plus I felt that it’s not a bad thing to ask the rabbi questions so he sees I’m frum (religious) even if I’m not always in shul or shiur or social events (this is my community rabbi, who has only been with us for six months or so).  He said it was fine.  But then, as often happens with OCD, it grew out of control.  Suddenly I was thinking of details I had forgotten to mention in the question that might affect the outcome.  Then I started thinking that I was being punished for asking the question in the first place effectively to show off how frum I am.

Things got out of control for a few minutes.  I did calm down quite quickly, even before the rabbi got back to me and said everything was OK.  I can at least be glad that I can recognise and, to some extent at least, defuse these OCD worries quickly, whereas in the past I could have wrestled with something like this for hours, being convinced it would lead to either an argument with my parents or violation of halakhah (Jewish law).  I can see that those outcomes are not particularly likely now, and it is relatively rare for me to ask a question these days, compared with a couple of years ago when I seemed to be always waiting to hear back from a rabbi or the London Bet Din kashrut division.  But it is a reminder of the way I can be sucked back into OCD thinking if I’m not careful, as well as how OCD feeds on uncertainty.  The more you try to answer questions, the more questions it produces and really the answer is to walk away from it, difficult though that seems.

Otherwise today I was OK, moodwise.  I know correlation is not causation, but my SAD light does seem to be helping my mood somewhat.  I still have good days and bad days, but I seem to have less of the mid-winter desperation of previous years.  I’m still anxious at times about my new job, although mostly I’m not thinking about it (which may or may not be a good thing).  I did use up most of my energy on running and cooking, so I only managed about twenty or twenty-five minutes of Torah study.  I spent an hour or so researching domestic abuse for my novel; after that I was too fed up with the wickedness of the world to do anything other than vegetate in front of a DVD, while texting E. and eating an enormous doughnut with chocolate icing.  And suddenly it’s midnight and I should get to bed…

War and Peace

Chanukah always feels like unfinished business to me.  The festival is born of the culture war (which became a real war for a time) between Hebraic (Jewish) and Hellenistic (Greek) civilisations, but although the Jews won independence for a while, neither has ever won a decisive victory.  As Matthew Arnold noted, Western civilisation is a seesaw between the Hebraic and Hellenistic, one side being more dominant for a period, then the other.  At the moment I would say the Hellenistic is very much in the ascendant.

Maybe that’s why celebrating Chanukah can seem strangely premature.  Or maybe I just feel it more keenly than other Jews because I don’t know how to navigate the seesaw (can you navigate a seesaw?  I’m very tired).  I want to be Western/Hellenistic, but a lot of the (post)modern world terrifies me.  I want to be Jewish, but the Haredi world stifles me.  Where do I go?


I went to the Imperial War Museum this afternoon with my Dad.  I was slightly worried about whether it would depress me (it was really just an excuse for some father-son time), but it was OK.  We spent most of the time in the World War I section and saw quite a lot of Edwardiana and then spent a bit of time in the post-1945 galleries, which were quite sparse.  A couple of things stick in my mind: Siegfried Sassoon’s letter of protest against the war (although I’m not sure if it was the original or a copy).  A letter from a general laying out cautious battle plans for the campaign season, in the margin of which a more gung-ho general had written “BALLS!!”  A German propaganda poster (I like propaganda posters) that was supposed to encourage German civilians to trap rabbits so their pelts could be used for the war effort (how?  For clothing?  I don’t know!), which featured a rather sinister picture of a giant rabbit with red eyes like it was possessed by a demon.  I’m not sure what the artist was on.  And a lot of photos of mud and squalor.

I came home exhausted and haven’t really done much.  I’m not doing any work on the novel again today, although I did do some Torah study.  There isn’t much else to say, so this is a poem I wrote in 2014 on the centenary of the war.  It isn’t a great poem (I’m not sure if A. J. P. Taylor is really the right muse to have for a poem), but otherwise this will be a ridiculously short post.  The last line ties in with the ambiguous feelings about modernity that I mentioned in the beginning of this post.


The long spring of nineteen-fourteen flowered

With the customary dry platitudes:

Sweet-scented flowers in such brilliant hues;

Intoxicating sunlight flowing like wine

Through the crystal glass of urban windows;

Lovers’ trysts in open parks and cheap hotels.

The streets were awash with women in lace

And men sprouting luscious thick moustaches

The Victorian age in its last bloom.


Summer exploded with assassination.

The rest followed swiftly, punctually,

Like the timetables of those old railways:

Gas, machine-guns, mines, shells, planes and tanks.

Factory methods applied to killing,

Slaughter by the million, industrial death.

Empires rose and fell on a conveyor belt.

Soldiers left tearful loved ones behind them,

Their trains running on across the continent

Until they were met by their C.O., Death

And his chilling, intractable greeting,

“Welcome to Modernity.”

Another Fine Mess

Rather than oversleeping as usual, I woke up early this morning and could not get back to sleep, which happens to me occasionally.  Looking out of my bedroom window, I discovered that flat roof of the kitchen was flooded (the gutter was blocked) and when I went downstairs I found water on the kitchen floor, although thankfully not deep.  After breakfast Dad and I went outside to look at the gutters.  I held the ladder as he went up it.  He pulled out a thick plug of moss that was blocking the gutter… and a torrent of water gushed down on us.  We hadn’t thought that through.  I got off fairly lightly, but Dad was soaked.  There’s a running joke in the family about Dad and I doing DIY being like Laurel and Hardy and never was that more true than here.  Another fine mess, indeed.

I went for a run before lunch, but fared poorly.  My pace and stamina in daytime runs seems to be much worse than for nighttime ones, which may be because I’m tired in general before lunch.  Unfortunately, at this time of the year if I eat lunch and wait a couple of hours before running, it is nighttime.

(Dog lovers might want to skip this next bit.)  I was not helped by being attacked by a dog, a small fluffy thing, but vicious, that repeatedly ran across the road, away from its owner to chase me down the street.  The owner attempted to call it back, but not very effectively and when she did manage to get it back on the other side of the road and I tentatively tried to move on, it ran back over to attack me again.  Twice.  I only escaped when a new passerby appeared by for the dog to attack.  I really did think it was going to bite me, although I escaped shaken, but not bitten.


Other than running and doing fifty minutes of Torah study, the main thing I did today was looking online briefly to see if there was anything about training as a tutor.  I’ve said I should be able to tutor in English and maybe history, but I worry whether I really can do that.  I didn’t find much.  I did find some exam papers and mark schemes, but crucial parts of the English language paper, passages from real-world texts, could not be included online for copyright reasons.  I am still nervous about the whole idea and don’t really know how I would go about tutoring someone or marking something as complicated and subjective as an A-Level English essay.  I looked at some stuff about self-publishing for my Doctor Who non-fiction book too and that also looked difficult, certainly if I want to avoid selling my soul to Amazon (I think it is basically impossible to sell mainstream books without dealing with Amazon in some way).

I shouldn’t get fazed by things like this, but I do.  I go into autistic rigid thinking and fear of newness and unfamiliarity with added low self-esteem and just think “I can’t do this.”  I know this makes life miserable for my friends and family, because I procrastinate and don’t do stuff and in some cases just hang around until people do it for me, but it’s always hard for me to know what to do; once I know that, I’m often (or at least sometimes) OK.  It constantly amazes me how easily other people are able to do stuff and I can’t.  For example, my second-oldest cousin from Israel is coming to stay with us later this week.  A few weeks ago she decided she wanted to come, she bought the plane tickets, phoned to ask if she could stay, arranged a lift from the airport from her uncle on the other side of the family… and that was it!  I could never do something so easily.


And so, Chanukah arrived at last.  My Mum is feeling ill, which perhaps made it less enjoyable.  I was given Penguin Lost, Andrey Kurkov’s sequel to Death and the Penguin, a novel about corruption and organised crime in post-Communist Ukraine that is still clear in my mind sixteen years after reading it.  After we lit candles (I always say “candles” even though I’ve been using olive oil lights for years), my Dad put on easy listening music and I couldn’t cope with it for some reason, probably because I was tired and hungry.  I mean I had an autistic “I can’t cope with noise” reaction, which I don’t usually get unless music is very loud or I’m trying to do something requiring concentration.

I feel I’ve rather wasted the day, and gone into Chanukah unprepared.  Years ago a blogger I followed ran a series of posts on how every Jewish sub-group has its own Chanukah on which it projects its own meanings: the Zionist Chanukah, the Haredi Chanukah, the anti-Zionist Chanukah, the assimilated Chanukah…  I’m not sure what meaning I find in it tonight.  The main thought I think of when I looked at the lights was the idea (a Midrash?) that, like olive oil, Jews produce a pure light, but only when placed under great pressure.  That’s not even a specifically Chanukahdik thought, it’s a general idea about the Menorah (lamp) in the Temple.  Possibly I shouldn’t beat myself up about this, but I never really seem to get as much from Jewish festivals as I feel I “should” (that word again).  I feel I should find meaning and inspiration that raises my service of God progressively higher with each successive festival, but it never happens.  Maybe that only happens to the very devout, or the very lucky.

I do feel better after dinner (tonight’s doughnut: jam), but I’m going to watch TV rather than push myself to do research on domestic abuse for my novel as I can’t really face it.  I feel I haven’t done much today.  This isn’t true, as this post shows, but I feel I didn’t do as much as I should (and again) given the time I woke up.  Tomorrow Dad and I are off to The Imperial War Museum.  I’m not quite sure why I thought that was a cheery day out, but I haven’t been there for years and it’s a chance to do some father-son bonding.  But I don’t want to be up late tonight as we want to have early lunch and then leave.

Anxiety and OCD

I didn’t mention a dream I had the other day when I was doing my Mum’s job and doing it well.  I wouldn’t do my Mum’s job in real life because it’s very much a people person job that I would not cope in due to autism and social anxiety.  I don’t know if doing it in the dream was a sign of anxiety that I feel out of my depth with my new job as if it was my Mum’s job, or of confidence that I can do it like I did the dream job.  If my unconscious wanted to tell me something, I wish it would speak more clearly.


I led Mincha (the Afternoon Service) in shul (synagogue) on Friday.  I shook badly again, but somewhat less severely than last time and I was able to have a bit of kavannah (mindfulness, concentration) on the meaning of the Hebrew words this time, so at least the trend is good.  I don’t think anyone noticed the shaking, but someone said something to me that I could only half hear that could have been about it.  I’m not sure.  It took me about fifteen or twenty minutes to feel calm again afterwards.  Gone are the days when I could lead Mincha without breaking a sweat and step down from the bimah afterwards feeling fine.  Blame my olanzapine for making me shake when nervous, plus I feel less at home and secure in this shul than in the one I grew up in.


I enjoyed the long winter Shabbat evening, doing Torah study, meditation and recreational reading.  I finally got in to the novel I’m reading (a re-read of A Perfect Spy, a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman disguised as a spy novel by John le Carré, which I read for the first time about twenty years ago), which I’ve been trying to read all week without much success.  I went to bed early and had mild insomnia, but was probably asleep by 12.30am or so.  I did still sleep through the morning and missed shul.  It’s still hard to unpick why I can’t get up for shul: is it depression, social anxiety, or an unconscious rejection of the community or at least discomfort with it… ?  Consciously I want to go, but obviously a part of me very much does not want to go, and sabotages things week after week.

There was no second Mincha today, so by missing morning shul I missed that too.  There was no Talmud shiur (class) either, although it was replaced with another shiur which was OK, but not great being somewhat lightweight and unfocused.


I’ve had a worsening of OCD symptoms lately, some religious OCD (about the Jewish dietary laws), but most non-religious.  I’m wary of talking about it here because of what people might think of me, as it sounds pretty crazy, but I basically worry that I’ll commit a crime without realising it and get arrested.  I know this is rooted in guilt about stuff I do which is not by any means illegal, but is against Jewish law.  No one can arrest me for breaking Jewish law, so my guilty conscience imagines that God will arrange for me to do something illegal without realising it (because I would never consciously do anything illegal) so that I get my just deserts (which is the correct way of spelling ‘just deserts’ by the way).

I don’t know why these feelings have become more frequent recently.  Some of it is the increase in anxiety from the new job, I’m sure.  Something I saw online on the BBC news website also triggered intense OCD thoughts and fears.

This probably sounds crazy, and sometimes I feel pretty crazy, but my thoughts fall in a recognised sub-genre of OCD thoughts, like people who are worried that they ran over someone in their car without realising it and retrace their journeys looking for dead bodies.  This is “pure O” OCD, i.e. obsessions (guilty/anxious thoughts) without compulsions (actions done to try to calm down the obsessions).  Normally one deals with OCD by doing things that provoke the obsessions and then sitting with the anxiety without doing the compulsions, but with pure O OCD this can be hard because there aren’t compulsions to control so it feels unfocused; it’s not clear what ‘winning’ feels like.  I guess I just need to sit with the thoughts and accept that there isn’t anything I can do about it and accept the uncertainty of life – I can’t guarantee that I will never go to jail for a crime I didn’t commit, or didn’t mean to commit, it’s just very unlikely that I will.


Just to make things worse, I wanted to work on my novel, but that currently involves researching domestic abuse, so I spent forty minutes doing that and inexplicably did not feel full of the joys of spring afterwards.  I intend to watch Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (as a break from James Bond) and go to bed, even though it violates my rule against watching TV late at night (because the light wakes you up) because I desperately need to watch something silly.  (I thought about an episode of Fawlty Towers, but if I’m trying to switch off from domestic violence I don’t really need John Cleese banging Andrew Sachs round the head with a frying pan.)


I can empathise with this tweet I saw tonight: “I still haven’t processed how people with nerdy, bitter, angry, over-analytical pop-culture blogs, like the ones I used to read 10-15 years ago, managed to channel their personality disorders into academic careers.”

To be honest, I hoped to be one of those nerdy, bitter over-analytical bloggers, but I never got the breaks.  My Doctor Who book is still languishing on my laptop and I really should have another go at finding a publisher, although there are only half a dozen small publishers who publish books on Doctor Who and none of them want it.  I did get over my anger and bitterness which is probably just as well, although I’m still nerdy and over-analytical.

More Bits of Good News

This is only slightly good news at this stage, but the NHS have admitted they made a mistake in rejecting my application for funding for an autism assessment.  They are going to decide again (when?  Not sure).  If I get the funding this time, I will go on the waiting list for assessment.  Fortunately they have said that if I go back on the waiting list, I will go on it at the point I should have been on if they had approved the first application, not the second one.  I am so lucky that my Mum was willing and able to chase this and fight for me, otherwise I would have given up.  Not everyone would be so lucky.

The other good thing is that I have installed the new wifi adapter that my Dad’s computer repair man suggested.  So far it seems to be working, but we shall have to see what happens.

Invisible Sun

I didn’t have any insomnia yesterday.  I didn’t use my light box either.  Hmm.  As I mentioned in the comments the other day, there does seem to be a correlation between light box use and insomnia, but I’m not sure if there’s actually a connection.  I’m going to have to record this over time and see what happens.

I woke up incredibly exhausted and depressed, which didn’t surprise me after yesterday, but was still a shame.  I got woken up at 10.30am by a call from the GP’s surgery saying my medical certificate for benefits was ready for collection, although I don’t think I’m still eligible to use it now I have a job, even if it’s only two days a week.  I was sufficiently tired that I feel asleep for another hour or more, and still woke up exhausted and depressed.  Apparently oversleeping can leave you as exhausted as undersleeping, if that’s a word, but when I’m depressed I don’t naturally wake up at a sensible time, and usually sleep through alarms if I know I don’t have a major reason to get up (e.g. work).

I felt super-anxious about the new job.  I think over the winter break I need to think carefully about what I’m going to do on my first day and how I can go about reorganising the library, albeit that it’s hard to tell having only had a brief look around.  Breakfast, coffee and my light box have helped with the exhaustion and depression, at least to some extent.

Feelings of self-hatred kicked in around the afternoon.  I managed to do a few things: shopping and collecting the medical certificate, writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week, a few other chores.  I was fighting depression and exhaustion.  The darkness, cold and wet outside didn’t help.  I had no time to work on my novel in the afternoon and by the evening I was feeling tense from going out (noise, people, cold streets and hot shops) and all the odd chores I was trying to cram in before shiur.  I decided it was better to use the evening to relax after shiur than work on the novel.  I did go to my Dad’s shul (synagogue) for Ma’ariv and then on to shiur.  I’ve started to do that, as my Dad’s shul is in the same road as the shiur, right afterwards, so it makes sense, but I felt super-tense while I was sitting in shul.

I did feel better in shiur, even if I still felt a bit out of place religiously.  The shiur was about the Jews in exile finding sparks of holiness in the world and radiating holiness out to the world and I while I agree with those sentiments, I think I probably interpret them very differently to the rather Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi giving the shiur.  I want to write novels with strong Jewish themes for a mainstream audience and I think he would not see that as a particular priority for a frum (religious) Jew to do and I don’t think he’d really approve of my reading and watching so much non-Jewish literature and television.  I did eat too much junk food there.  Feeling tense, it was hard to marshal much willpower, particularly when everyone else was eating so much and there was so much food.


As I’ve said before, most of the year went fast, but December is creeping round slowly and it feels like Chanukah will never get here.  In fact, I’m so used to Chanukah not being at the same time as Christmas that I keep feeling like it’s been and gone, or that it isn’t happening this year.  That’s partly because my family has scaled down the present-giving now my sister and I are older, and I’m still not sure how many doughnuts I should eat given that I’m trying to lose weight.  My sister and brother-in-law are coming round to my parents’ house for the last night and my second-eldest cousin with be here for a few days too.  It will be weird for her being in the UK, because she’s Israeli and almost no one celebrates Christmas there.

It’s weird to actually be celebrating something while people are celebrating Christmas, because usually 25 December is just a bank holiday to me (I often find work to do dafka).  Increasing numbers of Jews volunteer at hospitals, homeless shelters and the like to let the non-Jewish staff stay at home with their families, which is nice, but I never summon up the courage against social anxiety to do that.  Or people go to Limmud, the big multi-denominational Jewish`educational conference that is always around this time (although not usually on the bank holidays), but I get scared off by the sheer numbers there, and the unknown in going for the first time (autism and social anxiety again).


Invisible Sun by The Police is a song I sometimes listen to while depressed, even though it’s fairly depressing, on one level, and usually I prefer lively music when I’m depressed.  It’s about people living in war zones (primarily inspired by the Lebanese Civil War as song writer Stuart Copeland grew up in Beirut), but it has an optimistic edge because it’s about the “invisible sun” that helps people in awful situations keep going and gives hope for the future, which seems relevant to mental illness even if that wasn’t the intention.  Plus at the moment the sun literally is invisible most of the time, hidden behind clouds and only shining for a couple of hours a day even when not cloudy.


I was going to write some political stuff, but I can’t face.  I did observe myself, though, and it’s strange how, as a historian (my undergraduate degree was in Modern History, although “Modern” in the Oxford syllabus means “post-Roman”!) I can see that both sides in a debate can be partly right and partly wrong, but as soon as I look at modern debates, it’s easy to get caught up in the partisanship and wanting one side to be completely right and the other completely wrong.  And I’m not even a particularly partisan person: I don’t consider myself a supporter of any party, let alone being a member of one, and I feel rather politically homeless at the moment.

Good News

I got the job I was hoping to get!  The one at the Jewish institution (although not paid by it – technically I will be paid by a benefactor who owns the library and loans it to the institution).  I don’t want to go into details, as it would be hard to anonymise, but I’ve got work two days a week in January, potentially with more work afterwards.  I worry I came across as somewhat confused and ill-prepared on the phone (I had not been home long and was making lunch when the phone rang), but hopefully I wasn’t too bad.  There are still things to discuss about the second phase of the work (after January); I think I do not entirely agree with the benefactor who owns the library, but as he is employing me he gets the final say.  I just hope I can deliver it.  I’ve never done something like this before, essentially create and run a whole library by myself.  I hope there is actually enough to do, as my brief visit was not long enough to really get a feel for the place and the work.  I’m excited, but also very nervous and feeling a bit of an imposter.


The interview workshop today was not great.  I think I know a lot of job stuff by this stage, it is just hard to implement it.  We did some pair work practising interview questions and I did not cope well, stumbled and made mistakes and then dried up under pressure.  Not good.  It didn’t help that my pair kept asking questions that an interviewer probably would not ask and which I didn’t want to answer, like explaining the big gap on my CV (from depression) or – well, I was going to say something rude there, but suffice to say he asked a lot of questions that rubbed me up the wrong way.  To be fair, he was significantly younger than me and pursuing a vocational career path rather than an academic one, so it was always going to be a struggle to find things in common.

I noticed when I was younger that when I had to do paired or group work at school, I would always get stuck with students who didn’t work and then I would have to do all the work for the group or else nothing would happen.  In retrospect, I wonder if the problem is me.  That seems to be the common denominator.  Perhaps I’m a drag on the team spirit and don’t encourage people to work.  I suppose I don’t know what to say and my social anxiety stops me saying anything from fear of saying the wrong thing or encouraging work for fear of seeming swotty.  I’m alright on teams where everyone has a clearly defined role and especially where I go off and do my bit and meet up with everyone else afterwards, but it seems I can’t cope with activities where I have to sit with one or two other people and cooperate/talk.


I spoke to Dad’s computer repair man on the phone and he suggested something that might help (USB wifi adapter to replace the one built into my ancient laptop), so hopefully that will help.


After all of the above I felt exhausted.  I had to struggle to do some necessary chores and to write a confirmatory email about the job, not helped by the fact that I can only get wifi sitting at the bottom of the stairs.  By 7.00pm I was feeling pretty exhausted and ready to crash, so that was about it for the day.  I did about ten or fifteen minutes of Torah study earlier and I had twenty minutes tonight when I felt a little less tired and began researching for my novel (domestic abuse, not the most cheery subject), but I was basically on the go for most of the day.  I watched a DVD and that was about it.  So much for my plans to watch less TV and read more to improve my sleep hygiene; I doubt I can read a prose novel when I feel like this.

I’ve had a lot of anxiety and imposter syndrome feelings this evening, some OCD anxiety and some worries about whether I will cope with the new job and whether my plans are good enough.  I should probably get an early night.  I’m expecting to crash tomorrow.  I have some jobs to do, like collecting my repeat prescription and the wifi adapter and writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week, but I don’t plan on doing job hunting or anything stressful.

Bits and Pieces

The big news today is that the Jewish institution is going to phone tomorrow about my working there.  I’m guessing they want to negotiate something as they haven’t sent a straightforward yes/no email, although I could be wrong.  I asked them not to phone in the morning as I have a workshop then.  Since hearing, I’ve been feeling quite anxious, which is probably understandable, but might also stem from not being able to use my SAD light box for long today.  I’m also feeling somewhat depressed for the same reason, plus also because I’m wondering if E. and I will ever manage to get our lives sorted out enough to date again, let alone whether we’re right for each other.  I guess it’s good to know that she cares about me even if we aren’t technically together.

I had insomnia again, then slept too long and struggled to get up again.  I’m not sure where this insomnia has suddenly come from or, perhaps more accurately, why my antidepressants don’t knock me out the way they used to do.

I seem to have lost about 1kg of weight, which is good.  I just hope I really have lost it, as my weight can fluctuate.  Also, sometimes I don’t remember to weigh myself until after breakfast, which confuses things.  Of course, it’s nearly Chanukah, which is a super-fattening festival (potato latkes and doughnuts).  I don’t think I can forego the festive doughnuts!

The wifi problem has reached rock bottom.  It’s almost impossible for my computer to connect to our router from anywhere except right next to it, even though it can often locate the router of our neighbours two doors down, including when it can’t locate our router.  I have no idea how that works.  I want someone to look at it, but I suspect I’m going to need a new computer sooner rather than later.  My Dad wants to buy a power booster before we call anyone in to look at it.  I am ashamed to say that I argued with him about this, as it seemed obvious to me that that was a waste of time and money (why would only my computer have trouble connecting if it was a general wifi problem?  And why would it suddenly relatively recently rather than when we moved in four years ago?).  Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference between arguing my case and autistic rigid thinking.

I finished the first draft of chapter three of my novel.  It’s not great, but it’s a start.  I’ve now written over 10,500 for the novel, which is good.

Tonight is the last of this series of Tuesday shiurim and then I need to get up early (about 7.30am) to go to an interview skills workshop, which will hopefully be easier than the last one, although doubtless there will be some scary mock-interview stuff to get through.  I spoke up at the shiur almost for the first time.  I had answered one or two questions in the past,  but only small things.  Here I ventured more of an opinion.  The shiur was on the Tower of Babel, looking at interpretations through the millennia from the Targumim (Aramaic translations) through the Midrash (ancient rabbinic expansions of the biblical story) to Medieval and modern commentaries.  This week we looked at the story modern Jewish religious works, but also in modern literature and art, including a short story by one of my favourite authors, Franz Kafka (The City Coat of Arms).  My contribution, after other people had spoken about the despair and futility evoked by the work, was to say that I found it quite funny.  I told the story that Kafka claimed to have read some of The Trial to his family consumed with laughter while they sat in stony-faced incomprehension and said I felt a bit the same here.  I meant it as a joke, but I worry it might not have been interpreted that way.  I did explain that I thought that the humour was the flip-side of the futility; either you laugh at the absurdity of the world or you fall into despair.  I didn’t say that I usually fall on the ‘despair’ side, which may be why I can find Kafka funny.

It would be a good thing if I could participate more in shiurim and classes and things, but I’m still held back a lot by social anxiety.

Notes from a Parallel Universe

I had insomnia again last night, but not as bad as previous nights, in that I fell asleep after an hour or so.  However, once I fell asleep, I slept for eleven hours, which messed up my schedule before the day had even started.

I had another job rejection.  Also, an agency sent me a possible job that’s a library assistant position (not assistant librarian, which is what I’m looking for and is very different) again.  I’m annoyed that they keep sending me these jobs I’m overqualified for.  I did feel desperate enough to consider it, but it’s only for two months and it’s a lot of stuff I am not good at, particularly sitting on the issue desk dealing with students.  It seems like a lot of stress for a two month fill-in job that won’t even look good on my CV.  My parents want me to apply for it, though.  They say it would be money and I don’t have to put it on my CV.  I think there’s a self-esteem issue about telling people I’m working as a library assistant not a librarian.  It’s like an unemployed doctor filling in as a nurse.  Plus, I don’t think I can cope with spending most of my day, for three consecutive days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) on the issue desk dealing with students.  On the other hand, I am desperate.  Why does life hand me so many challenges like this?

I sent a chasing email about the religious library position where I essentially pitched what I could do, but have been left hanging on, waiting to hear which option, if any, the institution is willing to go for.  I hate writing such emails and asking for work, but I need to know one way or the other what is happening there so I can decide what other work to look for.  I got an email back saying that I would hear tomorrow.  I agree with my Dad that it’s not good that they made me wait this long; if they wanted me, in whatever capacity, they would have told me by now.  I suspect when I mentioned the cost of a trained librariane that they came to the conclusion that I really came to early on, that an institution this small can’t really afford a paid librarian, even part-time.

I went for a run before lunch, as I did yesterday.  I found my stamina still seemed low and like yesterday I walked more than I have been doing recently, which may be the winter and the fact that I only used by SAD lamp for twenty minutes beforehand.  I did at least have a reasonable pace according to my iPod, equal to or better than all the runs I’ve had in the last month.  I also worked some more on my novel, which seems to be coming along reasonably well at the moment, writing 600 words in about forty-five minutes.

Our Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) next door neighbours’ daughter got married today.  She must be about half my age.  Fortunately, this didn’t really bother me the way it would have in the past, likewise with the friend my age who I discovered yesterday had a daughter in the summer.  As I said yesterday, I think of myself as being in a parallel universe where things like marriage and children don’t happen to me, only to other people.

“Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time”

I have had insomnia three days (or nights) running now.  I’m not sure what has brought this on, although my sleep hygiene has arguably become poor lately, with staying up very late watching DVDs and then struggling to sleep afterwards and possibly drinking too much caffeine during the day.

I went for a run, but it wasn’t a good one, as I kept getting out of breath and getting cramp pains in my legs and having to walk for a bit.  Then I accidentally misread and wiped the run data from my iPod exercise tracker, so I’m not sure how my average pace compared with previous runs.

I met an old friend for dinner.  There is a group of four of us (including myself) who were all at university together and met through the Jewish Society and have stayed in contact over the years (although one dropped out of the group for a while when she moved to the USA for several years).  We still stay in touch and meet up every so often to catch up, although it gets harder now that we don’t all live in London and one of our group has got married.  Only two of us were able to make it tonight, but we hope to meet in a larger group in the new year.  The friend who was there said that one of the ones who was not able to make it had had a baby daughter some months ago.  I was happy for him (and not really sad for myself; as I said yesterday, I’m feeling pretty resigned to my fate by now and feeling that I exist in a different universe to most people in terms of life expectations), but sad and a bit worried that I am out of the loop by not being on social media.  This is not the first time I’ve missed a friend’s life-cycle events in this way (although I am aware that on some level at least it’s not my responsibility to continually message friends to ask if they’ve had any babies or other significant life events recently).

I was naughty and ate chocolate volcano cake and ice cream at the restaurant.  This probably negates the weight lost by exercise and avoiding junk over Shabbat and most the last fortnight or so.  It was worth it.

Although I did not do much today, I did not get much time to work on my novel, especially as I had to write a difficult email that took up time.  Even though I only spent twenty minutes or so on it, I wrote over 400 words, close to my daily target of 500 words, which is good.

Other than that not a lot happened today.  I ready an interesting Torah essay on the bus to and from the restaurant that I may blog about at some stage, as the content is relevant here.  I’m slightly upset by the fact that it seems that I can no longer read on buses without becoming travel sick, which never used to be a problem for me.  I used to read a lot on buses, sometimes even while standing up.


A few things were on my mind over Shabbat and afterwards.

One is whether my friends secretly hate me.  I know many of my friends think very differently to me regarding politics and religion.  I don’t judge them, but I wonder what they think about me.  A lot of people can be judgmental about religion and politics, particularly politics; in this country it’s assumed by a lot of people that anyone even slightly right of centre is just Evil and hates poor people and wants to exploit them.  I haven’t, for instance, mentioned my relief at the election result to those of my friends who think it’s terrible, because I know that while it was probably the least-worst outcome for me and the Jewish community, lots of other people think otherwise, and if they didn’t experience the fear of the last few months, they’re not going to understand the relief.  Nor am I going to give them a mini-tutorial in economics (I did A-Level Economics at school) and how that influences my voting, or explain how being on benefits and a long-term NHS user has influenced my views of state welfare (clue: it’s not the way it’s ‘supposed’ to have influenced me).

OK, my friends probably don’t hate me (I don’t think they’re two-faced), but do they think, “Luftmentsch, you’re a nice guy, but how does that fit with not voting for X” or “Luftmentsch, you’re really clever, so how come you believe in God?  And a really fundamentalist one at that?”  I’m not really one for debating with people.  If people feel differently to me, I’d rather change the subject to something we have in common than try to convince them or even explain my point of view (although I do get angry inside when I’m told how great the NHS is and how lucky I should feel to be in its caring hands).  I wonder if that’s the right thing to do.


One crazy thing that happened on Friday, which I ran out of time to blog, was that, when I fell asleep mid-morning (after a night of insomnia), my Dad went to get the medical certificate that I need to claim benefits only to be told that the doctor had not written it and it would be another ten working days.  Then, in the afternoon, someone phoned to offer me an appointment at the Jobcentre next week, which is pointless until I get the medical certificate.  The one time the state is actually efficient is the one time I could do with some stalling for time.  I had to turn down the appointment, and the woman I spoke to wasn’t authorised to offer me one in January, so I’ll have to spend nearly an hour on hold again in a couple of weeks to get approved again so that I can get another appointment somewhere down the line.


Despite having only had three and a half hours of sleep in the last thirty-five, I couldn’t sleep on Friday night, although unlike Thursday I did eventually fall asleep (and then slept through shul (synagogue again).  I sat up late reading Doctor Who: Ground Zero, the latest Doctor Who Magazine comic strip compilation, containing a story I’ve waited literally twenty-three years to read.  So that was good.


Three thoughts I’ve had lately that are positive:

  1. I feel somewhat more accepted at shul.  A few people do talk to me in a friendly way, even if I am not always sure how to respond, or how to deepen the friendship.  The two people I sit with were concerned that I was not there last week, when I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law.  Also, although I complain about being more “modern” in outlook than the rest of the shul, I think part of me does like being on the boundary between the more modern and ultra-Orthodox streams.  That said, I did chicken out of going to a shul social event tonight, because I can’t see myself being happy in such a setting (lots of families, tempting junk food, people just milling around and chatting rather than something more structured).
  2. I am beginning to accept that my writing is somewhat good and that it can improve.  Some of my favourite authors clearly developed over time, not always for the better and sometimes not in a straightforward way.  Likewise, some of my favourite authors were not deemed successes in their lifetime.  My first novel doesn’t have to be my best.
  3. I am beginning to accept that I am, on some level, a good Jew, or at least trying my best to be one.  I am trying not compare myself to other people as much as I used to.  To be honest, hearing about the success (regarding religious involvement/prayer/Torah study, finances, career, or family) of my peers doesn’t seem to bother me so much these days, perhaps because I’m so far behind them that it’s like I’m living in a parallel universe.  Success in my world and success in their world are just two completely different things and I can’t cross into their world and succeed like them.  It’s just not possible.  So, I try to succeed in my world.

The Last Political Post (Hopefully)

… for a while at any rate, I hope, although who knows given the unprecedented times we’ve lived in since 2010 (there was a cartoon a while back, I think by “Matt” (my favourite political cartoonist) of someone saying, “Sometimes I wish we could go back to living in precedented times”).


I didn’t sleep all night.  I’ve never stayed up all night watching election coverage and I didn’t last night.  The election filled me with a weird mixture of dread and ennui; I had no intention of staying up for a blow-by-blow account.  Better to go to sleep and wake up to the result, for good or for bad.  I watched James Bond in the evening and went to bed before 1.00am, cheered slightly by the exit polls, but I couldn’t sleep.  I don’t know if it was too much caffeine (I didn’t think I’d had that much), ‘blue light’ from watching the TV before bed, anxiety about the election result or simply straightforward insomnia.  I got up around 2.00am and watched a few minutes of the election coverage, but mostly finished reading the latest Jewish Review of Books.  I tried to sleep again, but eventually gave up and put on the radio just as Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her seat.  I lay in bed listening and messaging E. about the election and other stuff, mostly my novel (thank you, time difference).  Eventually I decided to give up on sleeping and get up.

I’m likely to spend today running on coffee until we get to Shabbat, maybe nap after shul (synagogue) before dinner and then get to sleep properly after dinner, around 9.00pm.


I seem to have lost nearly 1kg in a week or so.  I hope I can keep this up.  I’m not sure how much weight it is actually feasible for me to lose, given that my weight gain was driven by medication.  Apparently my lifestyle counts as “active” too, particularly if I can continue running twice a week.


So, to business…  I’m glad Labour did not win the election, although I’m concerned that Jeremy Corbyn wants to remain leader for the foreseeable future (he’s going to Leave, but also to Remain); I’m worried he wants to ensure a successor he approves of, which is likely to mean another hardline left-wing antisemite e.g. John McDonnell.  I’m still worried that there may be antisemitic violence in revenge against the Jewish community, especially over Shabbat, and the job of detoxifying the party is going to be very hard; the battle is won, but not the war.

In general terms, while I don’t want to write about my politics here in party political terms, but while I’m relieved we kept out the crypto-Marxists, I’m still worried about how we bring the country back together after being so fractured, both by Brexit and by lack of social cohesion (which is not necessarily the same as social or economic inequality).  I do think a strong opposition is important for democracy, and we don’t have that – arguably we haven’t had any strong parties for some time now.  Hopefully that will begin to change.  Certainly it seems likely that all the parties will engage in soul-searching and change, either to capitalise on the new working class Brexit vote (Conservatives) or to prevent another defeat (Labour, Liberal Democrats).  The Conservative Party has a history of periodically radically changing its outlook and policies to win new groups of voters, sometimes making surprising lurches to the centre ground (I don’t know whether that’s democracy or organised hypocrisy); whether they can and will do this again is an open question.  Interesting times, I guess, whatever happens.

I did feel sorry for Luciana Berger not winning the seat she was contesting for the Liberal Democrats, as she suffered a lot of antisemitism when she was in the Labour Party.  I guess that’s politics; no one gets a pity vote.  If she’s stepping down from party politics, I hope she considers some kind of role in the wider Jewish community, where she has found a lot of support.

Someone shouted “Terrorist!  IRA!” or words to that effect at terrorist apologist and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell when his result was being read out, which partially makes up for my being too shy to say anything assertive to the Labour canvasser on our doorstep.


The above was written in the early hours.  I worked on my novel for a bit, then fell asleep for over three hours, woke up with little time before Shabbat and everyone running late, panic, so I don’t have time to mention the TWO new obstacles to my getting ESA that have arisen in the last hour.  Must dash, Shabbat shalom!

Election Anxiety

This is mostly political, so you might want to skip to the last three paragraphs that have most of the stuff about how I’ve been.

I woke up feeling very depressed.  I thought that this was unsurprising given that I had a bad day yesterday, but it took a while to remember what actually happened yesterday.  Then it came flooding back: autism diagnosis, psychiatrist, abuse on WhatsApp…  The latter doesn’t bother me so much today.  That group was hardly in my life, it’s not hard to throw it away.  But today brings it’s own diet of election craziness and disturbing and outright murderous  and Jew-hatred and victim-blaming (“All this property belongs to the Jews… they say it’s a hate crime, but later on you will know what’s going on“).  In America.  The “safest” diaspora country ever for Jews.  I wonder if there will even be a diaspora in 100 years.  It feels like we’re all going to have to go to Israel.  Whether we will be allowed to survive there long is another question.


A Labour Party canvasser turned up at our house.  They must be desperate, or confident, to come to a road where maybe a third of the houses are visibly owned by Jews (with mezuzot).  I was too shocked to give him a piece of my mind, I just said, “We’re really not interested” and shut the door.  He seemed nice, a young Asian guy, probably a student, rather wet from being out in the rain.  But I can’t help thinking that he, like every other person who is still a member of the Labour Party, thinks that free broadband is worth killing Jews for, or at least that free broadband is important enough that the leadership should be allowed to encourage their “brothers,” “heroes of the resistance,” to kill Jews on their behalf.  It left me feeling sick.  I wish I had had the quick wits to say something sharp.  Beaten by social anxiety again.

There are quite a few Jews on my Twitter feed (which I’d stayed off for a few days and should probably not go back to) talking of emigrating if Labour somehow win.  Also, the library at Goldsmiths University retweeted an “I’m voting Labour” tweet, so I know not to bother applying for any jobs there (I’m sure it’s also an infringement of some college rule or even actual law for a university library to back a particular party, but I think Goldsmiths is quite notoriously left-wing).

Some Jews think most non-Jews are antisemitic.  I don’t agree with that; that’s a prejudice in itself (anti-gentilism?).  But this election has shown that while the numbers of outright antisemites may be relatively small, if they concentrate in positions of power, many non-Jews are not willing to combat antisemitism if it conflicts with their own interests, even if they self-describe as “anti-racist” or “progressive.”  Kudos to the few (e.g. J. K. Rowling, Ian Austin, Frank Field) who have taken a stand.

Antisemitism is more intelligent than other hatreds; it adapts to survive.  It’s not acceptable to hate Jews for racial reasons any more, and it’s not really acceptable to hate them for religious reasons in the West (although not in the Middle East and elsewhere).  So, we are hated as “Zionists,” “imperialists” and “Rothschilds,” supposedly super-rich people with supposedly augmented white privilege that enables us to oppress even the “white, cis, male, straight elite.”  And so antisemitism thrives, and even becomes meritorious as anti-racism, even right in the heartland of anti-racism.


As well as the Labour canvasser, we had a Conservative.  No Lib Dems, although they sent us a lot of literature and I would have thought that this would be a prime area for them, if they were looking for middle class voters upset about Brexit, but unwilling to vote Labour .  To my surprise, when I went to vote, there were only four candidates: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green.  Usually we get a ballot paper as long as your arm with numerous single issue and obscure parties.  We didn’t even have the Brexit Party here, probably because, as a Conservative-held marginal seat, this was covered by their informal electoral pact with the Tories.  Labour put forward a candidate with a Jewish-sounding name, doubtless to increase his chances in a community with a lot of Jews.  The Jewish Chronicle thought that this constituency is one of the few where the Jewish vote could meaningfully sway the outcome of the election.  Their estimate was based on constituencies where the size of the Jewish community was larger than the sitting MP’s majority in the last election, of which there are apparently not many.  I think our MP had a majority of under a thousand and there are easily more than a thousand Jews in this constituency, even if they are concentrated in just a few places.

My Doctor Who graphic novel didn’t turn up either.  The one I specifically pre-ordered so it would arrive today, to cheer me up from election misery (I didn’t know the autism thing was going to blow up).


Anyway, back in the real world…

I got another job rejection today.  I had to phone the agency to hear; they didn’t tell me.  I agree with pretty all the people who have said that job agencies are not very useful.  My main job hunting thing today, aside from deciding not to pursue a job that is far away and not a great match for my skill-set, was writing some notes to help me answer competency questions in job interviews.  I answered a number of questions, although whether I would remember them or have the confidence to look at my notes in an interview is another question.  I couldn’t answer the questions about dealing with a different opinion with a colleague (I’ve never really had that situation – in fact, usually I have had few peers in previous jobs at my level) or about when I’ve had to motivate people (I’ve never had a management role).  I did sort of find an answer to the motivation question, but for the difference of opinion one I had to say that I can’t remember this ever happening to me, but if it did, this is what I would do.

I do feel a bit like I’m finding fewer jobs to apply for and I’m not sure why that is, if it’s just an impression not rooted in reality or not.  If it is a reality, I don’t know if it’s a seasonal shortfall or if I’ve become less inclined to apply for jobs where I don’t really have the right skills or experience, or which would involve a long commute every day.

Not having much job stuff to do, I tried to work on my novel, but I kept getting distracted by political stuff like this scary article or this one, which is scary for other reasons.  I probably spent about forty-five productive minutes on it and wrote about 500 words as well as getting a better idea of where this chapter is going, so that’s all positive.  I spent a lot of the day feeling depressed and anxious, though.  I went to shiur (religious class) too although I was feeling anxious and ended up eating two home-baked chocolate chip cookies.  I feel a bit bad about that, as I’m trying only to eat junk on Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (festivals), but I was very stressed and I’ve had a couple of bad days, so maybe it’s forgivable.

Awful Day

My psychiatrist phoned at midday.  I was still in bed, although I was awake, just feeling tired and depressed.  I think she didn’t really want to see me again.  I can understand that, as I don’t think there is much a psychiatrist can do for me, I just get scared to go out of the system completely because it’s so hard to get back into it again if/when I get worse.  She asked if I wanted to change my medication and I don’t, but maybe I should if I feel this bad.  Even though I am by no means “better,” my mood is somewhat better on clomipramine than off it, so I’m wary of changing despite the weight gain (which the psychiatrist didn’t believe was from clomipramine even though it started exactly then).  We spoke about exercise; I said I didn’t have an exercise routine, but she felt if I was walking for twenty minutes every other day that is an exercise routine, which is good I suppose, although I would still like to run more often.  She wanted me to go on social media to make friends, but I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea (see below for why this may in fact be a really bad idea).  I didn’t mention that I have friends through my blog and I’m not sure why.  I’m always reluctant to mention my blog to people.  I guess with most people I’m scared they might ask for the address, but the psychiatrist is hardly likely to do that.  The bottom line is that I have a short appointment booked in for January, which I guess is what I wanted, but I feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time.  Maybe I ought to think about medication change, but I’ve been through most types of antidepressants.


A letter turned up for me to day.  A proper one, not junk mail.  It turned out to be from the Maudsley Hospital, who do autism assessments, to tell me that I have not got funding for my autism assessment.  The way the NHS works is the GP refers you to the hospital, in this case the Maudsley, and then one hand of the NHS has to approve payment for the other hand and only then do you officially go on the waiting list for treatment.  My Mum phoned months ago and was told this was all approved and I was on the waiting list; now, suddenly, it seems I am not and I won’t be able to get assessed without paying crazy money to be seen privately.

My Mum tried phoning the Maudsley to find out what was going on, but the guy she spoke to who answered the number on the letter was not helpful and pretty much reduced her to tears with his lack of sympathy and unhelpfulness, as well as his refusal to tell her his name or his supervisor’s name so that we could say what had happened to anyone further up in the organisation.  She’s now emailed someone else from the Maudsley whose name and contact details she had from when she previously contacted them (when they said my funding was approved and I was on the waiting list) so we’ll have to wait and see what happens there.  We’ve also contacted Mencap, the charity that did my informal autism screening last year and which originally recommended to the GP that I be referred for full assessment.  They have said they will try to help and have asked to see the letters and emails that we already have.

Remember kids, WE ♥ THE NHS!!!!!  Without the NHS, Donald Trump would personally sell the organs of every sick person in Britain!!!!!


That did bring my mood down.  My main task for the day was to go to buy new trainers, which I did.  Other than that, I made the dental appointment that I wanted to make yesterday and spent an hour or more working on my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week.  I’m actually getting a lot out of writing these divrei Torah, although I worry if I will be able to keep up with it long-term, especially once we hit the second half of Shemot (Exodus) and Vayikra (Leviticus) and the Torah readings become mostly legal and often focused on rituals that we don’t even do any more.

I did manage to go for a fairly late jog, which was reasonable given that it was late and my tracksuit trouser cord would not stay tied, so I had to keep stopping to retie it to prevent a “wardrobe malfunction” (modesty was preserved, rest assured).  Other than that I didn’t achieve much though.


I’ve had a toothache all day, where my wisdom tooth is coming through.  It’s been coming through for years and doesn’t usually hurt.  I’m sure this is a psychosomatic response to the autism diagnosis situation.


My wifi problem is getting worse.  I seem to hardly ever get wifi in my room now, and it’s even a struggle sitting on the stairs.  I even struggle to connect when I turn the laptop on for the first time in the day, which used to be OK.  I’m not at all sure why I can pick up wifi from two doors down, but not from this house.

I wasn’t going to post about politics, but apparently I’m “cold and uncaring and have no idea about the problems facing real people”.  This was from my autism What’sApp group, which I’ve now left.  They didn’t say it directly about me, just about the party I’ve voted for in the past and will vote for tomorrow.  I didn’t even get that upset, I’m used to this kind of thing, and it’s why I don’t really talk about who I vote for (for the record: not always the same party.  I consider myself a true floating voter, who genuinely tries to think about the issues and vote for the party with the best policies to address them).  Some people don’t think that a ‘normal’ person could vote differently to them or that there could be altruistic reasons for supporting something they don’t support.  (And that’s without addressing the Labour antisemitism issue.)  Given that I have never been to the meet-ups the group organised and given that they send a huge amount of texts without saying anything useful, I left the group.  I think Mencap are running some coffee mornings for people on the spectrum, which might be a better place to go to meet other autistic people, especially as there is probably a facilitator there.  That would only be possible if I’m not working full-time, or near to it.

I guess this is why I keep quiet about so many things: politics, religion, Doctor Who… Based on my experiences, both growing up (e.g. being bullied) and as an adult (e.g. this), it’s easier just to keep quiet and keep out of it than get people telling me I’m an Evil Tory-Imperialist-Zionist-Oppressor or a racist, patriarchal, homophobic Orthodox Jew or whatever.

There is, I suppose, an argument that I should confront people about these issues instead of just running off, whether it’s this or people in shul (synagogue) telling racist jokes or whatever.  I’m conflict averse and find it easier just to run, even if that means I’ll never win the argument or even engage with it.  It probably doesn’t help that I’m in a lot of groups where I don’t necessarily have the “right” thoughts about things whether it’s Orthodox Judaism or Doctor Who fandom or public sector workers or the mentally ill/disabled community.  The silly thing is that I don’t particularly identify as small-c conservative, and certainly not strongly as capital-C Conservative.  I just insist on thinking for myself and having “awkward” thoughts.

I wanted to work on my novel, but I was still tired from running even after dinner and this just finished me off.  I didn’t even feel anger, just a sense of ennui and a feeling that most people are going to think badly of me whatever I do and that nothing I can do will achieve very much.  So, DVD and bed, I think.  An appropriately awful end to an awful day.

(Someone from the WhatsApp group has texted to ask why I left.  They always do this.  I’m not sure how to respond, or whether to respond.  I don’t really want to engage and a text reading simply “Hi, why did you leave” without wondering if it was the conversation that was going on when I left doesn’t really encourage me to do so.)

Let’s Play “Bureaucracy!”

I felt depressed and really drained today without knowing why and even eating and sitting in front of my SAD lamp didn’t help much.  The year has passed really quickly, but the end is lingering; I can’t quite believe it’s December, but given that it is December, I can’t believe we’re not even halfway through it yet.  I feel a bit like I’m stuck in Narnia under the White Witch at the moment, always winter and never Christmas, or Chanukah.  Last year was the same.

I’m longing for the Christmas break, not because I celebrate it (I don’t), but because the job alerts and applications and workshops and meetings with employment advisers will stop for a bit and I will be able to spend time on relaxation and hobbies as well as my novel without feeling guilty.  I’m also longing for Chanukah, which is particularly late this year, starting on the night of 22 December, officially the first day of winter, although it’s felt wintry for weeks now.  On TV and in films, Chanukah is always at the same time as Christmas, but in reality it’s usually earlier.  Chanukah is a favourite festival not because we get presents, but because there are few rituals to trigger religious OCD (just lighting candles and a few extra prayers) and sitting with my family in front of the candles is peaceful, even if eating latkes and doughnuts is not going to be good for my weight and cholesterol.

I spent an hour trying to book an appointment about applying for sick benefits.  I spent a long time phoning the wrong numbers and then a long time on hold.  When I finally got through I was asked a load of questions to see if I qualify for benefits.  I was asked if I’m signed off work; I said I can only work part-time and asked if I still qualify.  The person I was talking to didn’t say whether I qualify, but implied that I wouldn’t and asked if I have a medical certificate.  I am still waiting for my certificate, so I don’t know what it will say.  It’s possible there is no such thing as being signed off only to part-time work and the doctor will not agree to write the certificate.  However, I could not face waiting another hour on hold next week waiting to get back to this stage, so I insisted that I have a certificate coming and made the appointment, thinking I can always cancel it later and if I turn up to the appointment and get turned away and told working part-time stops me getting benefits, then at least I will have tried.  My instinct is that I am not going to qualify for benefits, and that they only give these benefits to people who can’t work at all.  In theory there are other benefits I could apply for, but I’m not disabled “enough” for them or I have too many savings.  Still, I should at least get an in-person appointment with a real human being who can tell me if there are any benefits I might qualify for.  However, I am not hopeful.

I had another bad NHS moment.  When I last saw my psychiatrist, I think in October, she said she wanted to see me again in three months and I should hear about an appointment.  Not having heard anything about an appointment in early January, I phoned to find that I do not have an appointment.  The receptionist said she will ask the psychiatrist if she wants to see me again and then phone me back.  I know the NHS and I know it is by no means certain that the receptionist will speak to the psychiatrist or that the message will be delivered back to me.  Again, I am not hopeful, but what alternative do I have?  To be honest, I think there is little the psychiatrist can do for me at the moment anyway.

I had to phone the dentist too to make a routine check-up appointment, but first it was engaged and then there was no answer; possibly they had gone home as it was nearly 5pm.  I hate making phone calls and it exhausts me, and I didn’t even get all my calls finished as I still have the call to the dentist hanging over me for tomorrow or Thursday.

I did go to my shiur and also managed to squeeze in about forty minutes of work on my novel, writing nearly 500 words, completely reworking a passage I wrote the other day and was unhappy with, so it wasn’t a totally wasted day.


I did manage to salvage some of the day after my last post.  I went for a haircut, which is one of my absolute least favourite things (because I don’t like being touched by strangers or spoken to when I can’t escape and because of my tremor issue).  I wrote a letter to my doctor requesting a medical certificate for my depression so that I can try to apply for benefits, and I handed the letter in at the surgery.  I walked quite a bit.  I did twenty-five minutes of Torah study and worked for fifty minutes on my novel, mostly redrafting what I had already written of the chapter I’m working on because I wasn’t happy with the way it was going.  I also cooked some plain pasta for dinner, to go with bought sauce.

As well as all of this, I watched most of the James Bond film Goldfinger.  I will probably finish it before bed.  I’ve watched three films in three days, which is unusual for me.  It’s partly that winter makes me want to hibernate, but also that I really need escapism right now, from the election and from my life.  Some of the things that turned me off James Bond years ago now seem like virtues: Bond’s smug complacency and amorality, meaning there are no major moral dilemmas; the improbable plots; the mindless action.  It’s an escape from my own reality.  James Bond never lies in bed feeling too depressed to get up in the morning, just as James Bond wouldn’t take and cr*p from antisemites.

I have all eight of these 8 Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Women that are Often Missed.  I don’t feel myself to be particularly feminine, but I know that women with autism are often able to mask their symptoms, particularly those around socialising and learning body language and eye contact.  Like many masking women on the spectrum, I have learnt to consciously control my eye contact and body language, at least to some extent, as well as writing “scripts” or “algorithms” for appropriate social behaviour and conversation, which I can not cope with intuitively.  This has, I think, impeded my diagnosis.  As that list suggested, I became a workaholic in my teens partly from low self-esteem (thinking I had to work super-hard to pass my exams), but probably also on some unconscious (?) level to avoid socialising, particularly at university.  I also have trouble at social gatherings where I don’t have a clear role.  I could socialise when I was a child and socialising meant playing a game together with some kind of rules (or plot if it was more imaginative play), but when I got to my teens and suddenly people were just “hanging out” I did not know how to cope with that at all.  I still struggle with these things.  I do sometimes think about helping in the kitchen or tidying, but I tend not to know what to do and invariably just get in the way.  I had most of the different eight autism symptoms here too, but it’s not a list that spoke to me so much, although I am definitely very territorial and don’t like people in my room and I do tend to do things one at a time in the order I want to do them and get annoyed if told to do them in a different order.

Bad, Bad, Bad

I had an interview workshop today.  It wasn’t terribly helpful, although I did get a useful list of common competency questions for which I should prepare answers.  I don’t actually know how I would answer some of them.  I’m not good at thinking of work situations I’ve been in that answer these sorts of questions.

I got a text from the doctor saying my cholesterol is high, but not high enough to need medication.  I guess this is based on the blood test I had on Friday, although it seems rather quick.  I’m not sure what to do about it.  I’ve also been slightly overweight for a while.  The medication I’m on is associated with significant weight gain and I think that’s why I’ve put on so much weight, while eating the same or less, but I don’t know what to do about the cholesterol.  I’m not sure how well I eat.  I eat a lot of fruit and veg and little junk food, and I’ve even cut down on that lately, but I do eat a lot of cheese (high in cholesterol) and I don’t exercise as much as I would like, particularly in the winter.  I only eat meat on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and festivals) and even then it’s often white meat not red.  I don’t think I’m that unhealthy, but I’m stuck in a downward spiral because of medication-induced weight gain.  It’s depressing both that I’m getting fat and unhealthy and in that I’ve had to cut out one of the few things I enjoyed, the occasional treat.  As with depression treatment, it feels like I do most of the right things, but somehow it doesn’t work.

I’m still worried about the threat of antisemitic violence around the election.  It’s scary that so many people seem to genuinely believe that there’s a massive Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, or convince themselves that there is to justify Jew-hatred.  This led to frequent murderous pogroms in late nineteenth/early twentieth century Russia and to genocide in Germany in the ’30s and ’40s.  Even so, I wasn’t going to mention it yet again until I saw this Jerusalem Post article that opens “Hamas officials in both Gaza and London are working in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, ahead of the UK general election on Thursday.”  Hamas is a terrorist group whose Charter calls for the deaths of all Jews everywhere in the world.  That’s me, my family and most of my friends.  How is this OK?  How is this “progressive”?  Please tell me that, Eddie Izzard, Alexei Sayle, Maxine Peake and all the other “celebrities” who have been flocking to signal their supposed virtue by supporting Labour at this election.  How is this any different from Donald Trump retweeting far-right hate sites?  Corbyn has been endorsed by Holocaust denier David Irving, neo-Nazi former British National Party leader Nick Griffin and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke.  They know he’s not “anti-Zionist,” he’s anti-Jews.

I know there is hardly anyone reading this that can even vote in the election, and I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind at this stage, just to stress how worried I am and how worried most British Jews are about this election and the way we our fears been dismissed both by Labour and many members of the public.  On the news last night, the latest leaked Labour Party documents show that party members describing Jews as viruses and calling for them all to be killed were not made to resign from the Labour Party and were given a slight reprimand at most.  And yet they insist they are an “anti-racist” party and that the Jews are the real racists for wanting their own country.

I wanted to write to off-load, but it’s just making me feel worse.  Going to post and run.

Achievements and a Rant

I spent an hour trying to work on my novel, but mostly procrastinated and only managed 275 words.  I feel like I’m in a writing rut today.  I probably need to delete the last couple of paragraphs, back up and start this bit again.  This happens sometimes and I guess it’s normal, but it is frustrating.

I managed thirty-five minutes of Torah study and a twenty-five minute run.  I want to run for longer periods, but I just don’t seem to have the stamina at the moment.  The way I run I end up passing my house every thirteen minutes or so, and while I wanted to carry on after the twenty-five minute mark I just could not go any further.  Running after dark doesn’t help, as my body wants to sleep (OK, it feels like that all day) and I have to be extra careful of puddles and fallen branches on the badly-lit and uneven pavements.  So far I haven’t got an exercise migraine, although I do have a slight headache.  I do still feel very tired even though I finished my run a couple of hours ago and have eaten dinner since then.

The other main task for today was checking I’d correctly filled in the benefits form that I started weeks ago.  I have to say I had forgotten about the benefits form after my holiday and then feeling extra-depressed afterwards and then by the potential new job, but I’m going to book an appointment at a JobCentre – the next step – in case I don’t get the new job.

I didn’t have the time or energy for any job hunting.  It doesn’t help that the only suitable job I could apply for at the moment is in Stratford, which is very far away and would be another killer commute.

My mood was mostly OK apart from some political worries (see below), so maybe my light box is helping after all.


As part of the BBC’s “neutral” election coverage, I saw this headline on their website “Working in the NHS ‘feels sometimes unbearable’“.   I feel in the interests of balance I should be allowed to write an article called “Using the NHS feels sometimes unbearable”.  I actually feel myself getting quite upset and angry at the whole “We ♥ the NHS” meme, which has gone into overdrive this election, because it doesn’t correspond with my own lived experience.  I have had good doctors, psychiatrists, therapists etc. who have gone the extra mile for me, but I have also had lousy ones who have wasted my limited resources of time, money and energy and made me feel like dirt, but I’m not allowed to say anything about that because it doesn’t fit with society’s narrative: that the NHS is full of “angels” who can’t do their job because the politicians won’t give them enough money and wrap them in red tape.

Economically speaking, if a service, particularly an expensive service, is provided for free, demand will always outstrip supply.  It’s just a basic economic truth.  I believe state-provided healthcare is necessary, but our debate about the best way to resource it should start from the reality that it will never be anywhere near perfect rather than pretending that there’s a magic solution somewhere out there, whether more money, internal markets or reorganisation of management.

Sorry, for a non-political blog, I’ve had a lot of politics lately, and this one isn’t even about antisemitism!  But I do feel that my personal experience of mental health treatment in this country is not reflected in the public discourse because it doesn’t fit a predictable ‘narrative’ which makes me feel uncomfortable, like my experience isn’t as ‘real’ somehow.

I’ll be very glad when this election is over.  As I’ve said before, the choice before us is frankly unenviable, with a multitude of parties and candidates all of whom are spectacularly awful, but for different reasons.  One cartoon had a pollster ask “Who are you voting against?” which seems all too realistic to me.  If it weren’t for the antisemitism issue, I’d be tempted to abstain, as I can’t see anything good coming from it.  And I’m still very, very scared that there’s going to be antisemitic violence if Labour win on Thursday… and even more antisemitic violence if they lose.  I’ve only been this worried about antisemitic violence when there have been wars or major terrorism campaigns against Israel  – and that was worries about violence in Israel, not spillover violence here.  It’s a very scary time to be Jewish in the UK, and all the more scary for the fact that so few people outside the Jewish community recognise that fear.

On a more fun note, I’m in the middle of watching From Russia with Love.  Where Dr No (which I watched last night) definitely felt like a James Bond film that was lacking a few elements of the formula, From Russia with Love feels like a typical, if not slightly slow spy film that just happens to have James Bond in it for some reason.  Not at all what we think of as a Bond Film.

Three Hours

I spent Shabbat (the Sabbath) with my parents at my sister and brother-in-law’s house.  We had a good time, but I had some anxiety about certain religious things where my sister and BIL aren’t as strict as I would like to be.  It wasn’t always clear what was a genuine issue and what was my religious OCD.  One or two things I asked politely if we could do differently or if I could do it for myself separately; with a lot of things, I just accepted it in the name of shalom bayit (family peace i.e. not having arguments), although I want to ask my rabbi mentor what I should do when I go there again.  I did have to deal with a lot of anxiety on Friday night, which was ostensibly focused on not being sure how they would do various religious things, but was probably also on some level my autism panicking about going to a new situation/building.  Perhaps because of being tired from anxiety and ‘peopling,’ I slept a lot, although I tend to do that anyway.  I did feel slightly upset about not going to shul (synagogue) over Shabbat as I didn’t want to go to the Masorti (non-Orthodox) one around the corner that everyone else went to, but I was too socially anxious to go to a different Orthodox one by myself.  I also missed my Talmud shiur (class) which is frustrating, but unavoidable.  It was a good Shabbat overall.

When I got home I spent about forty-five minutes on Torah study, mostly Talmud, the first Talmud study I’ve done by myself in over a month, I think.  My understanding of the Aramaic language of the Talmud is improving, but the arguments can still be hard to follow.

I tried to work on my novel afterwards, but 10pm is really too late to be sitting down to write.  I managed to write for half an hour, but my mind was elsewhere and I procrastinated a bit, only managing about 200 words.  While procrastinating, I came across a quote from James Bond author Ian Fleming saying that he used to write 2,000 words a day over four hours.  I usually manage 500 words a day, generally writing for one hour, so in terms of work speed, I seem to be doing OK; I’m not massively slow.  I do wish I could just find more time each day to write, but it’s hard to do that while job hunting and trying to do Jewish stuff and dealing with depression.  Just doing an hour a day most days is hard enough.


Workwise, I got a message on LinkedIn from someone asking if I would be interested in being a school librarian in the Cayman Islands.  Death in Paradise fantasies followed (I don’t watch it, but my parents do).  It’s not exactly a sensible plan for where I am right now, or for any religious Orthodox Jew, but I guess it’s a nice idea.


Speaking of remote exotic islands, The James Bond Collection arrived unexpectedly early today.  The postman had to hide it as we were still with my sister and brother-in-law.  Watching Live and Let Die the other week only fuelled my nostalgia for the Bond films of the sixties, seventies and eighties that I grew up watching (I’m much less interested in the more recent ones).  I bought the box set as it turns out you can’t buy individual Bond films on DVD currently, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

I still feel that this is a vaguely retrograde step in my development, given that Bond is not exactly a role model to me, but I guess I need escapism and I’ve watched every Doctor Who and The Prisoner episode umpteen times as well as most Star Trek and a lot of The Avengers more than once.  While I don’t think Bond would make me violent (and maybe provide vicarious release from my desire to punch J*r*my C*rbyn in the face, preferably while shouting “Nationalise this, you antisemite!”) I guess there is the risk that the amorous adventures of Commander Bond just making my own feelings of sexual inadequacy and loneliness even worse.


Taking buying this DVD box set with some other things I’ve been doing lately, I do wonder if I am slipping religiously.  I also wonder if it was even possible for me to stay at the religious level I had achieved in the past for the long-term, while I’m struggling with undiagnosed autism, severe depression and social anxiety, and while I’m unmarried, have few religious friends and don’t feel connected to my religious community (although someone from shul texted to ask if I was OK as they didn’t see me over Shabbat, which was nice).  It is very hard to stay Jewish and religious while socially isolated and especially while an “older single” or widow or divorcee with no children.  So much of Judaism is family- and community-based.  I’ve seen other people say the same thing.

Possibly I’m overthinking things.  I do tend to do that.

To be honest it’s hard to stay religiously Jewish at all these days; most Jews are not religious.  I was thinking about this a lot on Friday night when I was at home by myself when everyone else was at shul.  There’s a quote (which I’ve taken from Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim) from the Rebbe of Rizhyn in the nineteenth century that, “In the last three hours before redemption it will be as difficult to cling to Jewishness as to climb a smooth wall of ice.”  The three hours has gone on an awfully long time and it gets harder and harder to stay Jewish, but still…  I remind myself of this sometimes when I feel I’m struggling to run fast enough to stay in the same place.  Hopefully it counts for something.

Stuff and Nonsense, Mostly Stuff

I went to a workshop on using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for job hunting this morning.  I didn’t learn much.  Then I came home and spent fifteen minutes on Twitter, trying to see if any useful tweets about library jobs had appeared on my feed in the last seventeen hours or so.  I didn’t get through everything posted on my feed in that period.  I saw several scary posts about antisemitism in the Labour Party (including a clip of pro-Labour protesters saying that Jews are all rich and powerful and make up stories about antisemitism) and a nice photo of Mark Gatiss playing George III, but no jobs.  Then, as per our instructions this morning, I tried searching for #librarianjobs near me.  Nothing at all.  Not one tweet.  Loads if I got rid of the “near me” qualification, but I don’t want to move abroad for a job.  I tried a couple of other hashtags without success.  I don’t think I’m going to get a job via social media.  And I hope I never go on Twitter ever again, although that seems unlikely.

As well as social media, I’ve been told to look directly at academic library websites to see if they have jobs going.  Supposedly this will let me find jobs not listed via the usual agencies and mailing lists.  I’m not convinced that this is the case, and there are a LOT of academic libraries in London to check every day.  Anyway, my problem is as much about winning jobs as finding them.  The workshop next week is on interview skills, but given that I haven’t learnt much in the last two weeks’ workshops, I’m not that hopeful for next week, although obviously interpersonal stuff is something that I struggle with from an autistic point of view.

I was pretty much exhausted after this, especially as I only got about seven hours of sleep last night (usually it’s nine or ten when I’m this depressed).  I spent an hour writing a devar Torah (Torah thought) that I’m quite pleased with to share with my family on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and with E. via email.  I’m still conflicted about sending these divrei Torah to friends from shul.  I’d like something that I put so much effort into to have a wider audience, but I’m too scared of rejection for being too ‘modern’ (this week I’ve built the argument on an idea I heard from a Modern Orthodox Rosh Yeshiva).

Other than that I did some chores: shopping (bought a photo album that had a £10 sticker on it, but which turned out to be only £5, which was good), replaced the broken light pull cord for the light over my bed and hoovered my room.  I spent some time working on my novel too.  I wanted to spend an hour on it; in the end, it was three-quarters of an hour, although I wasted much of the first fifteen minutes procrastinating as I struggled to find the voice of another narrator, as well as doubling back in fictional time.  I didn’t have the time to do some other chores I wanted to do, which was a shame.


I’m still worried about the election, not least because of those Labour antisemites.  Even beyond them, I agree with Ed West that this is the “the Alien v Predator v Terminator election – whoever wins, we lose. Unless no one wins, in which case we lose even more.”  Some of my friends have sufficient loyalty to a party to campaign for them, which astounds me, like someone wondering how their friend could marry someone so (whatever).  I genuinely can’t see beyond the negative in any party and will be voting for the least worst option in a process that is as much strategic as anything else.

I don’t like to pre-order unpublished books as doing so in the past has led to complications when the publication date is pushed back or even cancelled, but I pre-ordered the new Doctor Who: Ground Zero graphic novel (which I’ve basically been waiting for the past twenty-three years) as it’s being released on Thursday, so I should at least have something good happen that day even if British civilisation comes to an inelegant stop.


There’s a “pre-Chanukah” event at my shul (synagogue) next Saturday evening (I don’t know why it’s not on Chanukah).  I don’t think I’m going to go.  I know I should, to make friends and be part of the community, but I don’t think I would enjoy it.  There’s doughnuts (I’m trying to lose weight), a cocktail bar (I don’t drink), opportunities to talk to people (yikes!) and stuff for children (which will just make me feel miserable about my failure to marry and have children).  Also live music (I’m not really fussed) and fireworks (nice, but not enough to overcome all the negatives).  It’s no wonder single people in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community see themselves as being on the fringes.


Twice this week I thought I had ordered something, wondered why it hadn’t arrived, realised I hadn’t got a dispatch email, searched and eventually realised I hadn’t actually ordered the item.  Possibly my my mind’s already tenuous grip on reality is slackening.  Now James Bond will not arrive until mid-week, and I rushed to finish re-watching The Prisoner needlessly.


I probably won’t blog tomorrow as it’s going to be busy, as winter Fridays always are for frum Jews.  I have a fasting blood test in the morning (the one postponed from the other week when the surgery didn’t tell me that it was supposed to be a fasting blood test not a non-fasting one as usual) and then in the afternoon I’ll be going over to my sister’s for Shabbat, which I’m somewhat apprehensive about, which I suspect/hope is mostly just autistic fear of new experiences and not anything deeper or more serious.

No Crocodile and Not Much Else

I couldn’t sleep last night.  I’d forgotten to take my tablets at dinner time and while I remembered to take them before bed, they obviously didn’t have enough time to make me drowsy.  It’s a reminder that my default setting is insomnia and it’s only a side-effect of my medication that I can fall asleep easily most nights.  As a result, I slept until 1pm (probably not helped by both my parents being out).  Even then it took a while to be able to get up because I still felt exhausted.  My mood wasn’t too bad at first, but got worse as the day wore on and I fell further and further behind my planned activity.


I got a reply to my work proposal at the synagogue, but just to say that the benefactor will discuss the proposal with the rabbi (too many rabbis on this blog!) and synagogue president and get back to me.  I’m still looking for other jobs, and even though I have no energy, motivation or concentration today I started applying to one that I’d been procrastinating over and now have to do in a rush to meet the deadline.  To be fair to myself, it did make more sense to prioritise the synagogue job.

The job application I was working on today wanted a lot of management experience I don’t have, plus like most jobs they want a level of confidence, independence, resilience and efficiency that I simply don’t have in my depressed state.

Also: I should start playing Buzzword Bingo on job descriptions.  diverse, proactive, flexible, initiative…


Searching Twitter for jobs/networking and trying to avoid politics is going about as well as could be expected, which is not very well.  I have another class on networking and LinkedIn tomorrow and will probably be told all over again to stick with it.  I hate election stuff.  It’s also scary how many people can’t tell the difference between classic antisemitic tropes (conspiracy, blood libel, Holocaust denial) and legitimate criticism of Israel, and how many of those people work or campaign for political parties or major media outlets.

Actually, half the stuff on Twitter is just memes and comments that I don’t understand, whether it’s comments about political “dramas” that have passed me by or references to “celebrities” I’ve never heard of (bear in mind that nowadays any nonentity can be a celebrity online, and any slightly off-message comment by a politician is a scandal and a drama).

My parents suggested just not bothering with Twitter despite what I’ve been told and I’m wondering if they’re right.  More so than blogging, Twitter feels to me like something you have to commit to 100% or it won’t work.  Whether you’re doing it for work or fun (or politics), you have to be glued to it to follow trends, follow lots of people and preferably comment on their posts and post or repost lots of material of your own in real time to keep up with it and make it worthwhile.  Yesterday lots of people were #trollingtheguardian (it was a mostly amusing meme); today, nobody is.  My brain doesn’t work that fast.


By the time I finished writing my job application, I was in something of a state.  I was practically in tears.  I still have a stack of other things to do.  I wanted to go to shul (synagogue) today and to the mini-shiur (religious class) beforehand, but I ran out of time.  I didn’t work on my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week, which I will have to write tomorrow (I have an idea of what to say, but it can change particularly if it’s not as well thought out as I thought), not to mention looking at the broken light pull cord above my bed and seeing what needs replacing, a job I’ve been not so much putting off as simply forgetting for weeks now.


The problem with my laptop “forgetting” that I have the the “tapping” touchpad function switched off every time I turned it on has gone away, but the frequent dropping of wifi in my bedroom has got exponentially worse.  The last few days have been a real struggle to get wifi at all anywhere in the house, even right by the router, which is hard when I’m supposed to be doing job stuff online.  It got better after rebooting.  It seems to be going to hibernate and then “waking up” that triggers the problem, particularly if I put it into hibernate mode rather than let it switch into it through inactivity.


It feels like this is just waffle and nothing really happened today.  I’m going to go to bed soon, as I need to be up early tomorrow for the employment workshop (the one that was half an hour late last week).

Crocodile! Otherwise Boring

I overslept again and woke up after a disturbing dream about being attacked by a crocodile in my old shul (synagogue), the one I went to until we moved four years ago.

Crocodiles aside, I had a productive day, albeit not necessarily doing the most important things.  I guess it was a day for prioritising ‘urgent’ over ‘important.’  I wanted to cook vegetarian bean chilli for dinner (Mum does voluntary work on Tuesday afternoons, so I usually cook), but this required a long walk to Sainsbury’s to buy ingredients.  This was good exercise, but took time away from job hunting and novel writing.  I cooked dinner, by which stage it was almost time to eat and go to my Tuesday shiur (the one where I really like the content, but am too shy to speak to any of the people, most of whom are much older than me and seem to know each other from outside the shiur).

I did at least send off my proposals for the library I was interviewed for/pitched to last week.  I’m rather nervous about where this may go.  I hope it turns out well.

I managed to get half an hour to work on my novel, finishing the first draft of another chapter.

This is not remotely scientific, but the last two days I used my SAD light-box for forty-five minutes a day and I seemed to feel better.  Today I was only able to use it briefly for various reasons, and I felt like I was on the brink of tears for no obvious reason at different times (and not just when I was chopping onions for dinner).  I still very depressed, worried and frustrated about the election, and about antisemitism generally.  There’s not a lot I can do about that though.  Sadly, there isn’t really anywhere in the world where it’s completely safe to be Jewish.  I mean, I know it’s not completely safe for anyone, anywhere, but you know what I mean.

Went the Day Well?

I realised lately that I’ve been thinking/watching/reading a lot about spies.  Not real spies, but fictional ones: James Bond, John le Carré, The PrisonerThe Avengers.  That’s a lot of very different spy stories, both in term of tone (from escapist to realistic) and sub-genre (some are as much science fiction as espionage stories).  Still, always spies, even though it’s not one of the genres I’ve been most into in my life.  I’m not sure why this is the case, but perhaps it is a sign of a dangerous lack of trust in politicians and our democracy, that I’m worried that someone unsuitable will win the election – actually I’m fairly certain someone unsuitable will win the election, as I’m not convinced any of the parties are suited for high office right now – and worried that only the intervention of some undercover maverick agent could save us.  Perhaps modern politics induces in me a strong desire to punch someone that I need to channel safely lest I dangerously repress my emotions.

Otherwise it was a fairly busy day.  I Skyped E., or tried to, as my webcam wasn’t working and she had to make do with listening to me without seeing.  I later briefly got it working again only for it to stop again.  I’m not sure why my computer is not registering the in-built webcam as present.  My computer is slowly dying, but I’m trying to keep it alive as long as possible as I don’t have the money or time to think about getting a new one.  I may have to use one of my parents’ computers next time I need to Skype someone.

I spent some time working on the job proposal from last week.  I don’t know how long I spent on it.  Probably a couple of hours, on and off, but it was interrupted as I found it hard to concentrate and procrastinated online a lot, which I’ve learnt to interpret as a sign of anxiety about something.  In this case, I’m anxious about getting the job and not being able to do it well, or charging the wrong amount for my services, either being turned down for asking for too much or accidentally misleading people into paying me too much (this is possibly overly scrupulous of me).

I managed half an hour jogging, half an hour of Torah study and another half hour on my novel.  I would have liked to have done more of both, but I have limited time and energy.  I did make good progress with the novel, writing another six hundred words as well as making some amendments to existing passages.  I have discovered to my surprise that I’m a fairly intuitive writer.  I did write a six page chapter breakdown before beginning to write, but I increasingly find that I want to wander away from that; it’s a starting point, but as I write, new ideas suggest themselves to me or that weird authorly cliché that I never believed happens and the characters start driving the story.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ve learnt relatively recently that I’m not a great planner; I make plans, but struggle to stick to them.  Maybe this is the obverse side: I can be intuitively creative.

My sister and brother-in-law invited me and my parents to stay with them for Shabbat.  I had a lot of anxiety about going, for various reasons, but in the end I decided that it was a bit of religious OCD-anxiety and a lot of autistic nervousness about new situations (I’ve only been to their house three or four times and never stayed; in fact, I think I only stayed overnight with my sister once in the years when she was flat-sharing with friends before she got married).

And that was it, really.  I’m tired, but I feel I did accomplish some things.  It’s another late night though, which is more of a problem as I try to move back towards work and “normal” life.

Busy Day

I used my new SAD light this morning, although it’s too early to tell if it will do anything to my depression levels.  My sister and brother-in-law came for lunch along with my second-cousins and their young children.  I spent a lot of time playing with the children, particularly the eldest, who has some serious learning disabilities and sometimes needs more attention than the others.  I think she liked me, as she kept coming up to me and trying to get me to hold her unicorn toy or walk around with her.  I think I’m better with children in a one-on-one scenario than a group, which would suggest tutoring or special needs teaching rather then class teaching if I do choose to change career (which I am by no means sure about).  They were all here for about three hours and I was completely peopled out by the end.  I was struggling to stay around for the last half-hour, because I didn’t want to walk out as they were leaving, but it was hard to stay there.  I managed to avoid my religious OCD fears of food being contaminated vis-à-vis the dietary laws too, which were very prevalent when less religious family members visited in the past.

After they left, I subscribed to a whole bunch of job alerts and different agencies.  I also subscribed to loads of librarian blogs for CPD (Continuing Professional Development).  I don’t know how I’ll find the time, energy or headspace to read, let alone internalise, these blogs, but at least I’ll see them now, even if I delete or ignore them.  Subscribing to all those things took about an hour.  I’m nervous about the amount of stuff that’s going to build up in my email inbox every day; sometimes it feels like I spend the whole day skimming emails and deleting them.

I still feel that I’m not really a good librarian and am worrying about how I will reorganise the Jewish library about which I’ve been asked to make suggestions for improvement.  I’ve drawn up a basic proposal, but I really need another look at it before I can work out a detailed plan.  I also need to state my salary; I’ve found some tables on the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) website that will help, although it’s not easy to find an exact parallel role.

Other than that I did some long-overdue dusting.  I knew I wouldn’t have much energy after seeing family, so I listened to an online shiur (religious class) while dusting to get some Torah study in painlessly.  I should probably consider listening to shiurim for my Torah study more often on days when I’m too depressed to read much, except that I learn better from written texts than from lectures.

I also managed to work on my novel.  I struggled to write at first, not least because my protagonist was going to an Oxford student ball, something I deliberately avoided in my time at Oxford more or less for the reasons why my protagonist hated it and ran away.  I had to look online for some detail about what a student ball is actually like.  My imagination was probably somewhat limited.  I hope I haven’t made any schoolboy errors.  After a while I finally got ‘in the zone’ on this book and the words started flowing.  I wrote for about an hour and a quarter, writing about a thousand words.  I stopped more because it was late than because I was tired.  Hopefully this chapter is nearly finished, at least for a first draft, just needing proofreading and editing tomorrow.

I made myself feel depressed while working on the novel, inasmuch as it is somewhat autobiographical, and I was essentially channelling the feelings of loneliness and not fitting in that I had at Oxford and ever since, the desire to have friends and fit in, while feeling terrified of opening up to anyone for fear of how they would respond.  The feelings of being weird and abnormal when I’m just different and neurodivergent.

I had a quick look for publishers who accept on spec submissions of non-fiction books on TV science fiction (niche I know) who might publish my non-fiction Doctor Who book.  Most publishers seem to require manuscripts to be sent via an agent.  I’m not sure it’s a good idea to look for an agent for a non-fiction work when I’m planning on writing more fiction than non-fiction in the future.  This may be over-thinking things though.  I still haven’t ruled out self-publishing although I dislike Amazon and don’t really want to use them, even though they’re the logical choice.  I worry that my book doesn’t contain much original thought on Doctor Who anyway.  I could be procrastinating over this too.  I procrastinate a lot (you may have notice).  Procrastinate Now! as the joke goes.