Today was another day where I struggled to get going because of depression.  I spoke to my rabbi mentor just before lunch; afterwards I went shopping and took a long route home to get some exercise.  I had hoped to walk for half an hour, but it ended up being fifteen or twenty minutes because it was so cold and I didn’t have coat and gloves.

I did some Pesach cleaning and cooked dinner (bean burgers, which stuck together a bit better this time as I used an egg to bind them on my Mum’s suggestion).  Shopping plus walk plus cleaning the freezer plus cooking in rapid succession left me completely exhausted by dinner time.  I wanted to eat quickly and then work on the short story I’m writing and/or do some Torah study and preparation of divrei Torah (Torah thoughts) to say at the Pesach seder, but I felt too exhausted to do anything other than vegetate in front of the TV and try to get in a state where I felt well enough to Skype E. as arranged at 10pm.  I did about half an hour of Torah study, mostly after talking to E.  I wanted to do more, and to do seder preparation, but I was too exhausted and ran out of time (as it is I’m posting this long after my “No screens after 11pm” deadline).


I was watching Life on Mars, where Sam, Gene and Annie are being held hostage and discuss the moments of their lives that they want to relive if they die.  I realise I can’t really think of happy moments of my life, because I coloured all of them with guilt, embarrassment, shame, self-criticism or inadequacy of one kind or another.  When I passed my BA I was furious as I felt that I should have got a first; it took me a long time to accept that I was so depressed that passing at all was an achievement, let alone getting a 2.1.  When I passed my MA I was primarily relieved that my ordeal was over, although I think I felt a bit of happiness.  I graduated in absentia both times.  The BA would have been difficult, as Oxford graduations are generally on Saturdays, but I missed the MA graduation from social anxiety, autism and general annoyance at my university; probably from low self-esteem and desire to punish myself too.  In retrospect I regret that a bit.  I doubt I’ll ever graduate ‘properly’ from anything now.


This time of year is always a bit strange, the month between Purim and Pesach.  It’s spring at last, the world is waking up again and the days are getting longer and I get more energy and less of the seasonal aspect of my depression, but that extra time and energy gets spent on Pesach preparation rather than anything else, there is anxiety about Pesach (even without coronavirus and Mum’s cancer) and I have less time to spend on writing and exercise.  I don’t know if I’ll have time to go for a run this week or next week, even though I think I really need it.  Ditto for writing and for finding some divrei Torah for this week’s sedra (Torah reading) and for seder.


Stuff is feeding my religious OCD.  I saw something on the website of the umbrella organisation my shul (synagogue) is part of saying ideally I should not kasher my oven for Pesach, but have a dedicated Pesach oven in the garage (or wherever) for use at this time of year.  That would be nice, but it isn’t practical (for health and safety reasons).  The reality is that people in the shtetl (the Jewish towns and villages of Central and Eastern Europe in the pre-Holocaust era) didn’t have two ovens.  They kashered a lot more utensils used during the year for chametz (leaven) than we do nowadays.  Go back far enough and people didn’t have an oven in their house at all; the whole village went to the baker each day to bake their bread, or to bake their matzah at Pesach.

On the other hand, my rabbi mentor has given me some extremely lenient instructions about Pesach to prevent my OCD getting out of control, and I’m struggling to accept them.  I just feel like I’m doing something wrong.

2 thoughts on ““Sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”

  1. I can totally relate to your frustration over the 2:1 as I was exactly the same — felt I had not done well enough as I did not get a first. That’s perfectionism for you! And like you I was very depressed at the time — I actually was given an aegrotat but in the end got the 2:1 instead. I’ve always thought anyway that Oxbridge degrees are harder — and there is a lot of evidence for this (though it might be different now as standards are dropping there). So our degree was probably equivalent to a first anywhere else anyway. But the main thing to address is, of course, the perfectionism — though that’s not easy, I know.


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