I’ve been feeling drained again today, and more depressed than the last few days.  Although CBT has never worked well for my depression and self-esteem, I started monitoring my self-critical thoughts and feelings today, just out of curiosity, to see how many I had.  I had about eleven self-critical negative thoughts (including one sudden self-critical feeling without a clear thought).  Six were before lunch and three were while walking, whereas there weren’t any while I was working on my novel (not even “I’m a bad writer” thoughts) and only one while cooking dinner, which suggests that distraction works well for me.  “I hate myself” or variants thereof was the most common type of thought by a long way.

That seemed quite a lot of self-critical thoughts considering that I had thought that my depression is currently only an issue in the morning and not later.  In fact, nearly half of these self-critical thoughts occurred after lunch.  It is also surprising considering that I thought my self-esteem was better these days.  On the plus side, I suspect that even a few years ago I would have been having a lot more self-critical thoughts.  Eleven was fairly manageable.

That said, my mood was persistently low all day without obvious negative thought triggers.  This is probably why I’ve never found CBT helpful for depression or self-esteem.  I had anhedonia today too; I was snacking on fruit mid-afternoon and it just seemed… not nice, even though it wasn’t off.  It was quite uncomfortable and I had to force myself to eat it as I was hungry.

***

I’m still feeling lonely.  I had a whole long section here that was me speaking about being lonely and thinking I will be single forever because of my issues and where I live in the world (in terms of Jewish community), but I cut it because I’ve said it before and will probably say it again.  And I wasn’t even supposed to be thinking about this until I had a job or some kind of income.

And I miss E.  I can see it wasn’t going to work out, but I miss her as a friend as much as a girlfriend.  We used to text a lot during the days, at least until a couple of weeks before we broke up.  Part of me wants to text again, but I’m worried about getting sucked back into a relationship.  I’ve always told myself not to get into on/off relationship situations.  I told myself not even to think about contacting E. until after my birthday (another three weeks away) to try to get over her.  But I wish I had someone to message with.

***

This article deals a bit with the question I have about how much Torah study I should do.  It notes that, theoretically, every adult Jewish man should spend every free moment studying Torah; the reality is that very few people could do that.  The article notes that “I suspect that expectations are very much a factor of one’s personal level of Torah accomplishment.”

The problem is I don’t know how much Torah study is right for me.  When I’m spending two hours writing a day and nine or ten hours sleeping a night (really) and an hour or two watching TV and reading (largely during meals, to be fair) and goodness knows how long procrastinating, doing thirty minutes to an hour of Torah study a day seems minimal… but it often does feel that I can’t do more.  It sounds strange, but an hour of writing for me is often easier than an hour of Torah study, even before you factor in energy levels that are lower than normal and sink faster than normal because of depression.  Plus, I see writing as the nearest thing to earning a livelihood in my life at the moment, in that I hope to be able to get my novel finished and published and earn royalties from it, so it seems important.  Today I was exhausted by dinner time and doing any Torah study at all seemed almost impossible.

Incidentally, that article mentions Rabbi Nehorai’s comment in Sanhedrin 99a which is the basis for the later literature, but does not quote it.  I looked it up and it says, “Rabbi Nehorai says: Anyone for whom it is possible to engage in Torah study and who nevertheless does not engage in its study is included in the category of: “Because he has despised the word of the Lord.”” (From the Koren Noé Talmud edition on Sefaria; bold text is literal translation, non-bold text is contextual explanation).  This makes it sound like a lot would depend on what “possible” means for any given person, in terms of time, energy and so on.

***

Achievements: I spent an hour and ten minutes proofreading the chapter I finished yesterday.  I’m more happy with it than I was, but I still think a section will have to be reworked significantly in redrafting.  I cooked dinner and went for a walk.

Torah study was hard, as I mentioned.  I thought doing it after dinner would be easier, as I would be refreshed, but I felt depressed and exhausted and my brain was just not working.  I spent fifteen minutes reading Tehillim (Psalms) in Hebrew and that was it.  I wanted to read some of Sacred Fire, but my brain was just not functioning any more.

That was it for today, really.  I just felt too exhausted and depressed to do much after that and watched TV, a Star Trek Voyager episode about depression and self-harm (Extreme Risk) that established the situation quite well, but resolved it far, far too easily, and the Doctor Who episode Time Heist to try to cheer myself up.

13 thoughts on “Self-Critical Thoughts and Studying Torah

  1. I like your variety of activities, which I’ve always found helpful for myself. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily help with the depression since you can’t stay busy constantly or write every waking moment. Has E. told you she doesn’t want contact? Otherwise, you could text her to say hi and find out how she’s doing. You consider her a friend and that’s what friends do.

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  2. Why not message E? Why can’t y’all stay friends?

    I’ve never paid enough attention to my thoughts to be able to identify the types of thoughts I’m having. That has to be very helpful to be able to do that.

    Are you able to redirect your thoughts to something positive? I guess that’s easier said than done.

    I really think you will go big with your novel. I don’t even know you but I have a feeling it will take you somewhere.

    Talking about Torah study makes me feel like I should go open my study bible.

    I think I will….

    Hope things get better for you.

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    1. I am worried that if I try to stay friends with E., we’ll end up dating again. We’ve already dated twice, and I feel I should have known the second time that it wouldn’t work.

      It is hard to redirect thoughts to something positive. Much harder than just tracking the negative thoughts.

      Thanks for the positive thoughts about the novel!

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  3. Have noticed your (maybe autistic) preoccupation with numbers, with quantifying everything you do – from the number of self-critical thoughts to how many minutes you studied Torah and how many words you wrote today. I am sure that it can be helpful to encourage yourself by setting a target and trying to reach or exceed it. But it can also become obsessive and counterproductive (cf: the contemporary concept of “the quantified self”). Suppose you spent a day relaxing in a beauty spot, enjoying God’s creation – would you consider this laziness, time wasted – or would you see it as a gift from God to be enjoyed and celebrated? Maybe you need to give yourself permission to relax and do nothing on occasion – and this may include procrastinating, watching TV etc. And maybe, on the days you don’t write as many words as you set out to – you could see that it is quality not just quantity that counts.

    And, by the way, for someone who is struggling with depression I think you are extremely productive. It might be helpful to see your writing as your work – not getting paid for it (yet) does not make it less valuable (& I think we should challenge our tendency to put a monetary value on everything). I can think of many creative people whose work was not recognised for years, some in their lifetimes (perfectionists like Paul Dukas who sadly destroyed so much of his work, as did Tessimond). So please do give yourself credit for your writing. Good luck though with the job hunting. Any news of that part time job which your mother thought was a good fit for you? I do think that eventually you will find that niche job that is a good fit – it may take time but please don’t give up. (Same goes for relationships!)

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    1. I was vaguely aware of overtly quantifying stuff on my blog; it’s actually worse in my private journal, where I list everything I did during the day, and often for how long. It probably is obsessive. To be honest, I think I would find it hard to spend a day relaxing and enjoying creation. Even Shabbat I focus on praying, studying Torah and spending time with family, although I have recently accepted, rather grudgingly, my tendency to nap for several hours on Shabbat afternoons.

      I do try to see my writing as my work, but that’s part of the reason I feel the need to be productive with it.

      No news on the job, although they sent me a strange email saying that they had a lot of applicants and “it’s a small library,” which I think was a way of saying I’m over-qualified for what they want.

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  4. It sounds as if you need to declutter. Mentally, emotionally, physically AND spiritually. When it comes to anything you do in life, if it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t force it. Studying Torah requires discipline. As does saying “No” to contacting your ex. There’s no set amount of time you should spend doing it daily. The information in the Torah is already written in your heart. Go out into nature and take a walk. Watch the birds fly freely. Observe how most animals live carefree and without stress (unless injured). Sit in silence from time to time to listen to what your heart is trying to tell you. If writing is what brings you solace… do it! If you feel the need to rest, then get some sleep. Your body tells you exactly what it needs. Don’t look to any teachers outside of yourself to dictate the exact path you should take. Every journey is different. They are still learning themselves. You already know what you need to do. Simply be SILENT and LISTEN. The answers you seek are within. Lyght Travelż⚡️! -✖️DOC•

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