I woke up late (there’s a story there, but too complicated and trivial to be worth relating) and rather depressed. I felt a bit better after breakfast, but not great. I felt depressed enough to listen to music while getting dressed, and intermittently during the day which I have been avoiding recently because of The Three Weeks of Jewish national mourning. But I listened really quietly, because I’m still avoiding explaining to my parents that my rabbi mentor said it was OK to listen to music when I’m depressed. I’m not sure why I feel self-conscious like that, because it’s hardly the most problematic thing I do when depressed. Sleeping through the whole morning is worse, both Jewishly and pragmatically, as is becoming irritable and sniping at my parents.
Incidentally, I came across this post yesterday that shows it’s not just me who struggles at this time of the Jewish year.
I tried to work on my novel, but it was hard. Aside from being upset by more antisemitism reported by The Jewish Chronicle (I probably shouldn’t read it), it was hard to engage with writing. A new chapter is always hard, I think because I’ve been switching perspective in alternate chapters, so I need to change how I think each time, but this chapter needs to be handled sensitively (a woman fleeing her abusive rapist husband with her baby) and I was so caught up in my own negative feelings that I found it hard to enter into someone else’s and I didn’t want to write something inappropriate, so it was easiest not to write. All this, plus a strong background level of depression and exhaustion. Plus, I had therapy in the afternoon, which is normally when I do most of my writing.
Eventually I gave up and did a bit of Torah study for twenty minutes to fill the gap until therapy. I don’t think I would have been able to do much more even without therapy, as I was feeling so depressed. My main other achievement, after therapy, was to go for a walk. It was raining lightly when I left, but I decided I needed the exercise. Unfortunately it then rained heavily, but by the time I got home, it was easing up.
Therapy was good. I shared that I’m trying not to worry about my parents’ mortality and instead to focus on gratitude that I have a good relationship with them and am able to spend so much time with them.
I also spoke about feeling dependent on online interactions. A lot of my friends are online, certainly the ones I communicate with most regularly. I like having online friendships, especially with people who also have struggles, and I think it’s good to have mutual support there, but I was worrying that I’ve become someone who is constantly checking his emails or blog reader for the “hit” of having a comment on my blog or a new post to read on someone else’s blog. I’m going to try to limit myself to internet use only twice a day, when I get up and in the early evening. My therapist is away for a few weeks now, so I’m going to be able to have a few weeks to practise that and get back to her about it.
I’m too tired after therapy to do much, so I mostly watched TV, aside from walking and eating dinner with my parents.
The Doctor Who bit with some general mental health bits:
I didn’t feel like watching more current Doctor Who after therapy, so watched some of my birthday present to myself, The Macra Terror. This is a Doctor Who story from 1967 that, like nearly 100 episodes, is missing from the archives. It was broadcast before commercial video recorders existed, but some fans taped the soundtrack of these episodes (basically put an old reel-to-reel tape recorder by the TV speaker while it was being broadcast) and that’s been used as the basis for an animated version. There’s some discussion among fans as to whether animation is the best way of experiencing missing episodes, and certainly the animation is not Pixar standard, but at least it gives an idea of what the story was like. I find watching the animations easier to follow than listening to the narrated soundtrack on CD.
The story has some interesting aspects from a mental health point of view (which is why I’m writing here rather than on my Doctor Who blog). The toxic positivity and conformity of the futurist Colony came across well, with conformity enforced by peer pressure, brainwashing and hospitalisation for euphemistic “correction” with dissent being conflated with psychosis by the authorities, an effective depiction of the co-option of psychiatry by oppressive regimes. One could interpret the story as being somewhat anti-psychiatry (in the R. D. Laing sense), in that the dissidents are treated as psychotic, but in fact are genuinely seeing something in society that everyone else has been brainwashed to deny, although given that this is Doctor Who, what they can see are giant crabs, rather than abstract oppression or power structures.
I don’t really agree with the anti-psychiatry movement in general. I think medication and therapy are often helpful. I think they may be right that one can suffer mental illness as a result of being aware of negative things in society, although I think there probably is a personal trigger too. I also think the anti-psychiatry movement was too narrow and ideological in outlook (mostly Marxist, although Thomas Szazz was liberatarian). I don’t share such a dogmatic outlook. I’m sure my experience of antisemitism, which I do feel affects the ups and downs of my depression on a day to day basis (see above), even if it’s not a cause as such, would not be accepted as a legitimate society cause of my mental illness by the Marxists in the movement, given that an increasing amount of antisemitism is coming from the hard-left, who are in denial of it (see the latest Twitter incident).