I was shattered after shul (synagogue) last night and went to bed early (for me), before midnight. And then I couldn’t sleep. I tried eating porridge (the only way I’ll consume warm milk), I tried watching Doctor Who (in case I hadn’t relaxed properly after serious “peopling”). I think I eventually fell asleep about 3am. And then I had to get up at 6.30am for shul again. I think I spent most of the day going on caffeine.
A while back I heard the acronym HALT: don’t do anything if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I heard this regarding depression, but replace Angry with Anxious, and this is a good descriptor of the conditions that trigger my OCD. I think I hit all four in shul listening to the Megillah (Book of Esther) today. I was hungry as I was good and didn’t eat beforehand (as per halakhah, Jewish law); Anxious because of the fear I wouldn’t hear all the words of the Megillah; Lonely-ish (OK, I was worried people were judging me, which isn’t quite loneliness, but is not fitting in); and Tired (actually not so tired. The coffee must have been strong). From that point of view, it was probably good that I didn’t repeat any words I was worried I might have missed. There isn’t so much noise in early morning readings as people have already done it last night and some are going to work, but there were a lot of coughs. I was worried about a couple of words, but forced myself not to repeat because I was not sure that I missed a word and was worried that repeating words would be a downward spiral so I should only do it if I was sure I missed a word.
I tried my best, and that will have to be enough. It feels somehow wrong to say this. “Sometimes the Torah is upheld by breaking it” is a Talmudic dictum that I’ve seen applied to religious OCD. Sometimes you have to risk making a mistake to get out of the OCD downward spiral. Once I got home and ate breakfast I was more confident that I had heard the Megillah correctly. It occurs to me that Purim Megillah readings will probably always be difficult for me and it’s just about pushing through without giving in to the OCD.
People don’t really dress up in costumes for morning Megillah readings, except for young children. I wore my pinstripe suit and converse trainers and secretly went as the David Tennant incarnation of the Doctor, after more overtly doing the Tom Baker version last night.
I went to shul for Mincha (Afternoon Prayers) even though I was exhausted and hungry and really wanted to eat and vegetate in front of the TV, not walk for twenty minutes to shul, daven (pray) and then walk back again. But I did it, although I didn’t feel as good about it as perhaps I should have felt. When I got home, exhausted, I had my seudah (Purim meal), which is another Purim mitzvah (commandment). It was OK. I had salt beef, which I hadn’t had for a while. My parents were out, so I was alone. I wished it could be more, but I don’t know how it could have been, realistically, at least not without making a lot of work for myself cooking a lot of food or trying to find an invitation which would probably have been with people I didn’t feel comfortable with. It’s a Purim mitzvah to get drunk, or to drink more than usual, but I didn’t do that because I worry what would happen if I got drunk.
I was given some mishloach manot (gifts of food, another Purim mitzvah), from my parents, but also from one of the people I sit with in shul, which was unexpected and very nice, particularly a big box of dried fruits.
By the time I finished seudah I was exhausted again. I dozed for an hour and felt a lot better. The shul WhatsApp group can usually only be posted to by the rabbi and committee, but it’s now a tradition that on Purim it’s open to anyone in the community to post banter and jokes. There were a slew of coronavirus jokes (and others) in the afternoon, but then people started posting photos of their seudahs and I felt the need to bail in the interests of not suffering jealousy and envy (currently there was a morbidly serious conversation about coronavirus mortality compared with flu and car crashes).
It wasn’t a bad Purim overall. There was some anxiety, but depression was mostly kept at bay and autistic symptoms were about as good as they could be for a festival that it is about as autism unfriendly as they come. I think it seemed a let down because I’ve had a couple of good Purims in recent years and last year’s was particularly good. I think I seem to be alternating good and not so good ones in different years. None were as bad as the one about four years ago when I ended up in a complete state with religious OCD, so there is progress.
Post-Purim I ate dinner with Mum and Dad and decided I felt up to working on my novel. I did that for about fifty minutes (650 words and flowing well, very good). I Skyped E. after that for a while, but had to stop as it was getting late. And now I should be thinking about bed.