I dreamt about doing my A-Levels (equivalent of High School) and struggling with self-organisation because of my high functioning autism. In reality, I was OK academically/organisationally at A-Level. It was socially where I was beginning to struggle, as I couldn’t cope with more complex forms of adolescent friendship compared with childhood friendship, or with the greater levels of freedom I was being given. Drink, drugs and sex scared me a lot; maybe it’s appropriate that they did, but they didn’t seem to scare my peers. In reality, it was only when I got to the world of work, much delayed by depression, that my autistic issues became really noticeable. I woke up with 17 Again by Eurythmics in my head (I sincerely hope I am never seventeen again). I wanted to go back to sleep, as I had only slept for seven hours (I generally sleep much more because of depression), but it was too hot, so I got up.
I sleep badly when it’s hot anyway, partly from the heat, partly perhaps because I usually wrap myself up in a duvet, one of my more autistic traits, and I can’t do that when it’s too hot. I’ve wrapped myself up in my duvet like a cocoon since I was a child. I suppose it makes me feel secure. When I was a child, I had an idea that if burglars broke into the house and stabbed me, the duvet would protect me. I’m not sure if I really believed this, nor do I know if I really thought I was living in a production of Richard III and was likely to be stabbed by housebreakers. I do feel more secure wrapped in my duvet though. They sell weighted duvets now for people on the spectrum. I’ve thought about getting one.
I got a weird response from the place I applied for a job the other day. They said they have had a lot of responses; also that the library is small, but that they will get back to me. I think they were saying they don’t want a trained librarian, just someone who will do admin for books, but it seemed an odd way of saying it. Am I hoping I get the job or not? I don’t know. It would be good to have some income and structure, and the esteem that comes from work, in other people’s eyes if not my own. On the other hand, I like having time to write when I’m most productive (afternoon/early evening) and working five afternoons a week was not my preferred part-time structure. I would prefer two or three full days a week, giving me time to recover from work days as well as time to write on non-work days.
I got a letter saying my benefits have gone up as they now don’t think I’m able to work at the moment (although I understand I’m still allowed to look for low-paying part-time work). Previously the benefits were lower because I was expected to be looking for work. I’m not complaining, but I’m not sure why they’ve suddenly made this change, which makes me worry it’s a mistake and I will have to pay the money back, so I’m scared to spend any of it. It’s not like the Department of Work and Pensions don’t have form with that sort of thing. I would be generally suspicious of any government body giving away free money, to be honest.
I watched Rabbi Rafi Zarum of the London School of Jewish Studies interview Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman who is a rabbi who became a psychotherapist. They spoke about meaning and the danger of religion making people do things because they have to do it rather than because it’s an authentic expression of what they want to do. Rabbi Engelman reminded me of some thoughts I’ve had about framing doing religious things that I don’t really want to do as, “I’m doing it because I’m in a relationship with God” rather than “I’m doing it because God said so,” which is perhaps a subtle difference, but an important one. It’s about prioritising the aspects of Judaism that I have chosen to be present in, on some level, (having a relationship with God) over the dry ritualistic aspects (doing as I’m told). Even if the outcome is the same, the mindset is very different. Just as I do things that I think are pointless or counterproductive sometimes because my parents want me to do them and I value keeping the relationship more than I value my freedom not to do that thing, so I do things that God wants me to do for the sake of my relationship with Him rather than because I worry that I will “get zapped” (as they would say in my shiur (religious class)).
A paragraph from my novel sums up how I felt struggling with depression and high functioning autism in the workplace:
I have always worked hard and achieved despite my troubles. Now there is no correlation between effort and achievement; I do my best, but it is not good enough, I can not function as I am supposed to do, there are problems I can not solve without requesting help.
I still feel like this sometimes. I am sure it would be worse if I was in work rather than job hunting. It felt like that at times in all the jobs I have had, except perhaps the first one, but some were particularly bad.
Writing this chapter is probably what triggered the autism dream last night.
Achievements today: two hours on my novel, almost exactly 1,000 words. I could have done a little more, but it’s so hot, and I’m tired from Shabbat chores and need a passive TV break before Shabbat.