Yesterday finished badly. I went to bed earlier than usual (although still late) because I felt tired and depressed. I tried to do my hitbodedut meditation/prayer/talking to God, but got overwhelmed with guilt, anxiety and despair halfway through and had to stop. At least I was feeling something, lately it’s been hard to feel anything while doing it.
Then today started badly. It was a real struggle to get up. I woke up around 10am, but fell asleep again. I eventually got up around 12.30pm, after an indeterminate amount of time lying in bed feeling awful, just depressed and exhausted. I’ve been having weird dreams recently too. There was one that involved Hitler’s head (in a They Saved Hitler’s Brain sort of way, but I don’t remember the details), and last night I dreamt about people from shul (synagogue) coming round, but just sitting in the lounge silently studying Talmud. In the dream, this seemed like a success, as they seemed to think I was on some level capable of Talmud study. There was also a ten year old boy who I managed to speak to in Hebrew, at least to offer him a drink. I’m not sure what any of this means.
Events today were mostly trivial, but also somewhat frustrating or upsetting. I’ve put on weight, about 1kg since I last weighed myself. It’s not surprising, as I’ve only had time/energy to exercise intermittently and have been eating more junk than usual since the coronavirus lockdown started.
Then the latest Doctor Who Magazine arrived. They didn’t print the letter I had sent them, which isn’t a surprise as I admitted to not enjoying the most recent series. They don’t print negative letters any more, even one like mine which basically argued that Doctor Who is large and diverse and if some fans don’t like the current version, they can just focus on what they like and not throw their toys out of the pram on Twitter.
Writing this down, it doesn’t seem like so much, but I felt very overwhelmed and really just wanted to go back to bed and start the day again.
I didn’t have much to do today, in terms of Pesach preparation or anything else, so I wrote my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week, which ended up being quite a bit shorter than usual, from lack of inspiration as much as depression. This week’s sedra (Torah portion) has some long legal passages about the sacrificial laws and a description of the inauguration ceremony of the priests, which had been previewed a view weeks ago in Shemot (Exodus), so it can be hard to find something interesting and relevant to a contemporary audience.
I went for a run, but as I was too depressed and exhausted to run for more than a few metres at a time, it was mostly a walk. I passed a bunch of six teenagers, split up on both sides of the road so I couldn’t safely pass while keeping two metres distant from both groups. I think this is the first really flagrant lockdown breach I’ve seen. My uncle says that the Israeli lockdown is stricter, with people limited to a 100m radius area around their residence and police and army enforcement.
I’m struggling with religious OCD, in some ways more so than yesterday, wanting to email my rabbi mentor to chase up the answers to yesterday’s questions. I did email in the end, and although I turned it into a general venting email, it really was to seek reassurance, which I know is wrong with OCD. It is hard to do exposure therapy for Pesach OCD when exposure therapy requires repeated exposures over time and Pesach is only one week a year, plus a week or two of preparation beforehand.
Despite being at home with my parents, I felt lonely today. I don’t always find it easy to communicate with my parents when I feel very depressed (or even when I don’t feel depressed). I felt alone. In the evening I actually did some social (or virtual-social) stuff: a massive thirteen person extended family Zoom call (which was basically certain family members shouting a lot and others of us sitting quietly) and a Skype call with E. I was glad to speak to E., but I just had a knot of anxiety in my stomach the whole time and worried I was going to alienate her somehow, even though I knew this was irrational and that E. cares about me a lot. I think at times like this my anxiety just transfers from subject to subject depending on what I’m doing at the time so that I always feel anxious. I did speak a bit to my parents about my anxieties in the end, which was good. I’m lucky to have them, and to have E. I don’t know where I would be without them.
There was an interesting discussion today over on Ashley Leia’s blog about whether the term “high functioning” is a useful descriptor for mental health. I would say not, and most if not all commenters there agreed. Certainly in my case functionality is not static and binary, but fluctuates with time, with different situations and with other factors like tiredness and hunger, as well as the interaction of different aspects of my issues (so today high anxiety/religious OCD anxiety and depression are feeding back into each other and making things worse). The same goes for my high-functioning autism.
There can also be a judgmental element to functionality, where high functional people are not allowed to have bad days/episodes or are not given adequate support because it’s assumed they are coping and that high functionality equates to mental stability and consistently positive mental health. I function well inasmuch as I get dressed every day, look after my health and hygiene needs, eat reasonably healthily, exercise, look for work and so on, but whenever I get a job, my stress levels rocket up and I’ve had trouble meeting all my work obligations; I think at least two previous managers thought I was incompetent and probably regretted hiring me. I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to work full-time. So it’s hard to see myself as functional, even though I know that I am compared to some people, or even compared with myself as I was from circa 2003 to 2009 or so.