Another struggling morning. It’s so hard to get going. I just feel so tired and depressed. It’s also easier to get sucked into despair and loneliness (missing E. – not exactly the dictionary definition of loneliness, but it’s hard to think what else it is) than at any other point of the day, although I am be glad that nowadays there are times when I’m less likely to be sucked in to them.
I wrote a job application, mostly tidying up my CV and template cover letter. I decided to leave it before sending it and have another look at it tomorrow, as I was quite depressed today and didn’t think I really concentrated on it well. I ought to be able to do the job well, but I’ve completely lost confidence in my ability to do the job I was trained for to the extent that I don’t think I can do this job and on some level don’t want to get it. Nevertheless, I intend to send it tomorrow.
Other stuff done today: therapy (see below), thirty minutes of Torah study, a thirty minute walk, and a Skype call with E. I had an idea for my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week, but it needs developing and I’m not sure where to take it.
Therapy today was useful. We spoke a bit about grieving for parts of my life that I lost or never had (e.g. the stereotypical frum (religious Orthodox Jewish life)) rather than internalising them as a critical internal voice (e.g. “I’m useless because I’m not married). We also spoke about the persecutor-victim-rescuer drama triangle, a relationship model where all three roles are unhealthy (“relationship” in this context means any relationship of people, not necessarily a romantic one). I think a lot of my friendships/romantic/would-be romantic relationships in the past were victim-rescuer relationships, one way or the other, whereas with E. that’s not the case. It’s a lot healthier; even though both of us have a lot of issues, we don’t really play the victim or rescuer, we support each other as equals and have good boundaries.
One thing I touched on in therapy was the feeling I have of God being critical and punitive, even though that’s not the type of theology I was brought up with or read nowadays. It’s hard to see where that comes from except my general internal critical voice, which is hyperactive.
Related to that (which I didn’t discuss in therapy), is that I’m still struggling to emotionally connect with God or Judaism. I was trying to work out earlier how much Jewish stuff I would still do if I knew there was no reward or punishment for it. I would still keep Shabbat, because I feel that’s very positive for me in a very tangible way. I would still study Torah, but maybe shift my focus (then again, maybe not). Keeping kosher doesn’t bother me so I would keep that up. I might reduce prayer. It’s hard to tell.
Looking at the last paragraph, I looks like overall I would stick with most of Jewish practice: (Shabbat, Torah, kashrut and davening covers the bulk of daily Jewish practice for a non-married person. I just wish it brought me more joy. Is it the lack of connection to God that strips it of joy or is it the depressive anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)? Because obviously depending on what the cause is, the solution would be very different. It’s not like there’s much joy in my life from other sources, so it could well be that I just don’t experience much joy or pleasure.
E. and I have been studying Pirkei Avot, the volume of Talmud that deals with ethics, together. She keeps saying that while it’s interesting and some of it seems reasonable, it wouldn’t change her life. I’m not sure if I can think of a single Jewish teaching that changed my life in that way. I think it’s a cumulative effect of learning lots of things and doing lots of things that made me more religious. Nevertheless, I am aware that a lot of my religious growth was driven by not wanting to be a hypocrite in picking and choosing elements of Jewish belief and practice, and that other people won’t necessarily feel the same need for consistency. Indeed, outside of certain parts of the Orthodox Jewish community, pick and choose Judaism is the norm.
I would say that I doubt I could pass my religiosity to others because of that lack of joy and focus on integrity, but somehow I have influenced people around me to become more frum in some ways, even if not as much as me, so obviously I’m doing something right, I just don’t know what.
I do struggle with feelings of jealousy connected to anhedonia, feeling resentful and upset that other people can enjoy their lives whereas my enjoyment has been limited for the last twenty years and not that great even before that. The most resentment and jealousy is over sex and over religion, people who enjoy their religious lives and find meaning and joy in it as well as friendship and community.
I don’t know why these two areas are the big sources of resentment for me. I have never been a great traveller, but I don’t really resent people who do travel, perhaps because I was taken on a number of holidays in Europe as a child. But I don’t resent people who have been to Asia or South America or other places I’ve never been to. I don’t really resent people who can drink alcohol safely (which I’ve always been too scared to do) or who can drive (which I’ve also always been too scared to do). I suppose I do feel resentful when there’s a party or social community event and I’m too depressed, autistic and socially awkward to attend. Even so, sex and religion seem to be the big sources of resentment. Or maybe I’m just confronted with them more often.
I was thinking crazy stuff today, at least before therapy. I don’t know if I can put it in words, but I guess there were elements of catastrophising, self-blame, repressed anger and despair. I tried to write the job application, but then I get sucked into procrastination online, and that triggered other thoughts and feelings (see the next paragraph). I’m trying to notice when I’m catastrophising or self-blaming or worrying about stuff that is out of my control, or getting angry with people who I have now cut out of my life, but it can be hard to do that straight away.
I saw a comment online earlier that listed “severe depression” as being up there with drink, drugs, diseases, “several” divorces and domestic violence as the only things that would stop “Any eligible Orthodox Jewish man” meeting the proverbial “‘nice’ eligible Orthodox Jewish woman.” Well, I did find a nice Jewish girl, fortunately, but I guess this is why I had to go outside of the frum community. Still, “depression is as bad as domestic violence”… talk about stigma. Reminds me of another article I saw years ago, on a secular website this time, that basically said if you have treatment-resistant depression, you’re never going to find a romantic partner, and that’s not fair, but life’s not fair, so deal with it. It really was that blunt.
Boots has sold out of hair clippers. I’m going to look like the abominable snowman by the time the barbers re-open. At least I can shave again tomorrow.