Last night, after I posted, I started feeling very depressed. I hoped sleeping would help, but the depression has stayed with me since waking up today. Last night I felt like big and small things are mixed together, as are my problems and those of the world, and it’s hard to distinguish them. Very trivial things, like the fact that I’m accidentally reading the books in a Batman story arc in the wrong order, are mixed up with bigger things, like guilt for things I’ve done and with things going on in the world, like the riots in America. Everything got mixed together. Today it’s mostly settled down as a general sense of depression and perhaps loneliness.
Lately I’ve been trying to just sit with my negative thoughts rather than either fight them or wallow in them, but it’s hard. It’s hard to even remember to do it, as it’s not how I am accustomed to treating these thoughts, and it’s certainly hard to do.
It’s one of those days when I’m not happy being myself, where I just feel guilty about everything I’ve ever done, I feel that everything was stupid or wrong and wonder why I can’t just act like a normal person. Maybe a normal person would do the same things, but just not feel guilty. I’m “shoulding” myself a lot, beating myself up for things I do, or don’t do.
It doesn’t help that stuff in the news makes me think that, as much structural problems in the economy or society, violence can be rooted in small acts of thoughtlessness that are treated as normal and not serious, like gossiping and losing one’s temper with close family (it’s not particularly politically correct to think like this. Much easier to criticise Those People or That System instead). I do these things, but I think they normalise selfishness, reduce empathy and create a bad atmosphere in society, although I’m hazy on how that leads to major things like murder and abuse. They do seem serious to me. Maybe I overthink things.
I did about half an hour of Torah study today. I couldn’t really do more because of therapy and being exhausted from therapy afterwards. Some of my reading was stuff online that made me feel that I’m a bad Jew. This was on a website written by a rabbi who has become very popular writing about spirituality and personal growth, the areas where I feel lacking, so I hoped it might help. However, it left me feeling that I don’t connect strongly and emotionally with God. Well, I already knew that. I don’t know how to become more spiritually developed and connect with God when I feel so depressed. A rabbi I spoke to about this said I won’t be able to connect spiritually and feel spiritual joy until I’m over the depression, but in recent years the idea of not being depressed seems unlikely; I’m just trying to manage my mental illnesses. I also don’t know how to connect with God and Judaism when so much of the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community seems opposed to people like me, at least the parts of it available for me to connect to. Sometimes I wonder what is keeping me frum. It can be hard to tell sometimes.
I possibly didn’t give the rabbi’s site a good enough chance, I felt uncomfortable with some sweeping statements he made and that prejudiced me against the gist of his writing.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says somewhere something I would never dare to say, that the experience of many ba’alei teshuva (Jews raised non-religious who became religious later on) is like someone who married a wonderful person i.e. God, but who came along with a terrible family i.e. other Jews (Rav Steinsaltz is himself a ba’al teshuva). I don’t think all frum Jews are bad people, far from it, but lately I feel stifled by the frum community and its attitudes and I don’t know what to do about it. I wish I could move to a more Modern Orthodox community, but even then I know that some attitudes would probably remain. Coming at a time when I also feel disconnected from HaShem (God) makes it difficult to stay frum sometimes and I think on some level I’m frum from habit at the moment, at least in part. That’s not necessarily a huge problem; I think you can have a spiritual bank account and you can make some big withdrawals, maybe even have a managed overdraft for a while, if you already made some big deposits. I think I did make those deposits in the past that can cover my current spending, I just can’t work out how to find the spiritual currency to get back into credit.
The good news today is that I wrote nearly 700 words of my novel in an hour, which was very good considering I was feeling very depressed. I couldn’t write more because I had therapy and I always feel to tired to write after that.
In therapy we spoke about trying to accept the process of my critical thoughts rather than proving, disproving or fighting them (related to what I said above about trying to do this lately). It’s hard. We also spoke about the importance of acknowledging thoughts rather than repressing them.
The session ended awkwardly, though, as the screen froze and I wasn’t sure if the therapist was ending the session or not. I texted to ask and waited a minute, but there was no reply, so I thought we were done and started something else, but then the therapist called back to say goodbye. That sounds like a trivial interaction, but it disrupted the ‘back to reality’ feeling of the end of the therapy session.