I used to think that if I was unemployed, I would take any job available, even if it was stacking shelves in the supermarket. The reality has been different, as I’ve discovered that (a) there aren’t that many jobs I’m actually qualified to do and (b) there aren’t that many jobs that I would feel comfortable and capable of doing with depression, social anxiety and autism. I’ve also discovered that employers view people who are over-qualified as being as unsuitable as people who are under-qualified.
To be honest, I increasingly feel anxious about getting another job as I don’t believe I will be able to cope with it with all my issues. I feel there probably are some jobs I could do, but finding them and getting them is hard. Part of me is glad to be out of work. In part this is because I want the time to work on my novel, but also because I am terrified of getting another job that is bad for my mental health and bad for my autism, and because I am even more terrified of getting a job that I can’t do. I have begun to doubt whether I still have the librarian skills that I used to have. I have had too many cataloguing tests that I have done badly.
It is hard to tell how much of this is realistic and how much is low self-esteem and anxiety. It does feel like the job I was happiest at in the last couple of years was the one I was probably a bit over-qualified for, although the happiness was only partly from that and partly from having a supportive manager and pleasant colleagues. Even then, I had social anxiety at times (even though it was a backroom job) and used to come away exhausted at the end of the day, even though I was only working two days a week. And I still felt I made some stupid mistakes, albeit usually from social anxiety when I was with my manager.
I worry sometimes about whether my thoughts are really my own. Not in a psychotic sense, I hasten to add. I just worry I pick things up from news media, social media, adverts, my religious community, everywhere really. Political views, religious views, cultural views, desires, fantasies. My image of what a good life would be. I think everyone does this, but I don’t like the thought of my doing it.
I’m not so worried about religious thoughts, because I think I’m quite good about balancing belief and scepticism there and looking for sources I trust. However, I worry about picking up political views unthinkingly sometimes. It’s hard to tell. I think I’m more trusting of some sources than others. Much of social media seems to consist of being told that certain things are intolerable, but I’m not sure that they all are intolerable, or even worth mentioning. George Orwell wrote (Politics vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels) that the highest form of totalitarianism is when there is no secret police and conformity is enforced simply by peer pressure. I think we’re getting there on Twitter.
Cultural views, desires, wants, fantasies and so on are very hard to see past, particularly all-pervasive advertising, which is about selling an idea of a fantasy life (involving conspicuous consumption) as much as selling individual products. I don’t think I’m very materialistic, but I can see that I might pick up ideas of what sort of life I should lead. I can see why Haredi people and other religious fundamentalists try to tune out secular culture, but then that would just leave me with frum (religious) Jewish culture, which I don’t always agree with either (the cultural aspect, more than the religious aspect).
I think I want to have a job, with the caveats mentioned above. I think I really want to get married and have children. I think I really want, on some level, to be a “good” Jew, davening (praying) at shul (synagogue) three times a day and doing significant religious study, but lately that feels less achievable and possibly less desirable. But to what extent are these really my thoughts and desires. I certainly find aspects of both secular and frum culture hard to deal with. I think my rabbi mentor said that everyone in the frum community finds aspects of it narrow-minded. That everyone thinks it can be narrow-minded and prejudiced. I’m not sure how true that is (I mean, how true that everyone finds aspects hard to deal with).
As agreed with my therapist, I’ve been trying to stay offline today, except for one period first thing when I get up and one in the early evening (now). It’s hard to go without constant checking of email, blog comments and blog reader. It makes me realise how much I did it mindlessly, out of boredom, desire for distraction and desire for connection with other people. It’s going to be hard to wean myself off it, but I’m trying. I did have to use the internet a bit today for novel research, but I tried not to use it for email and blogs except in those two periods.
I think when I get stuck on my writing, my brain goes into ‘idle’ for a few minutes and I read online or check emails and meanwhile my unconscious is looking for a solution to the writing problem. So maybe I shouldn’t be trying to cut all that “unnecessary” online activity.
Achievements: I spent an hour writing. Then, after a break, I tried to write my devar Torah for the week, but it just was not coming, so I went out to go for a walk and do some shopping. I did nearly another hour on the novel after that.
I didn’t finish my devar Torah. I wrote about a third or a half and then I got stuck. I know what I could say, but I’m not sure I really want to go down that route. I don’t have many alternatives, though. I’ve been trying to get it sent on Thursday evening lately, because if I send it on Friday my Israeli readers don’t always get it before Shabbat. The problem this week is that Thursday is the Fast of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, and Torah study is forbidden except for the sad bits of Tanakh (the Bible) and Talmud, so I can’t work on it then. Which means I need to finish it tomorrow afternoon. (I shouldn’t really work on it then, as the studying restrictions ideally start the afternoon before, but I don’t really have an alternative.) So, I feel a bit stressed and disappointed about this. I’m not sure how long I spent on it, but the creative juices just weren’t flowing.
I did about half an hour of straightforward Torah study and later might start re-reading Healing from Despair, a Jewish book about dealing with despair written by a rabbi. To be honest, I don’t remember it being great first time around, but I’ve been desperate lately for Jewish texts about suffering and despair and even if this book isn’t so good, it might point me towards some useful primary or secondary sources.
I felt very depressed and sad on my walk, as I had intermittently at least all day. It definitely feels like my mood slumps when I have free time at the moment, which I guess argues in favour of finding work, assuming it’s work that keeps me occupied. I think of ‘sad’ and ‘depressed’ as two different states. I think a person can be sad without being depressed, and I think I’m often depressed without being particularly sad. Despairing and exhausted, but not sad. I think sadness is about losing something, whereas maybe depression and despair are about not having something at all, particularly hope. Maybe that’s not true. I don’t know.
I felt sad partly about breaking up with E. There isn’t a lot of point in going over this again, here or in my head, but it’s hard not to sometimes.
My novel isn’t the most cheerful thing either; currently one of my characters is trying to flee her abusive husband. I think I need to contact a women’s charity and ask exactly what the process would be if someone asked for help, because it’s not completely clear from the websites I’ve been looking at, but I can see that they might not want to tell me, either because they don’t have time to help a writer or because they don’t tell people much for security reasons, to protect their clients.
I know it’s going to sound pretentious and arrogant, but I really hope writing is something I could make some kind of difference with. Even with my plans for future novels, which will hopefully not be quite so heavy-going. In the future I want to write Jewish fantasy/science fiction/historical novels that might encourage Jews to investigate their heritage more and make non-Jews more aware of Jewish history and the issues Jews have faced and still faced in non-Jewish societies. This novel is heavier and more obviously “worthy” in that I’m trying to write about mental illness, autism and domestic violence in the frum community, where these things are not always discussed. As the cliché goes, if even one person gets help or understands their situation from my writing, it will be worthwhile. But first I have to write the thing! But it does help with motivation, whereas I struggle with motivation for library jobs, even though they are also socially worthwhile, because I feel I’m just not making a difference; if anything, I worry I make things worse through messing stuff up at work.