There is a price to a busy day like yesterday. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling really anxious, suddenly concerned that I would forget to tell the Department of Work and Pensions that I’m working (if I get the job) and shouldn’t be receiving benefits any more (the situation is actually more complicated than that, because my doctor’s note for the benefits states that I can work part-time, but not full-time, so a lot would depend on the nature of my contract). This led to catastrophising about going to jail for benefit fraud, but I didn’t want to write a note out of a superstitious fear that would “jinx” the job interview. I did write a note in the end, deciding piece of mind from the anxiety outweighed superstition.

***

I slept late, but when I awoke had to hurry as I had a video call with my psychiatrist. Annoyingly, the NHS expect you to log on ten minutes early (OK), but then play you awful lift muzak! Hands up who has no understanding of neurodiversity… There was also a recorded message that kept telling me to read the messages on the screen, even though there weren’t any.

The psychiatrist call itself was pretty good. She was pleased that I’ve been feeling better lately and said I looked a lot better. I told her about the job interview, but not about PIMOJ. The psychiatrist said that the brand of lithium I take is being discontinued, so I’ll have to switch to another brand, which is frustrating. Hopefully it will work just as well. She said I can try cutting back on my olanzapine and seeing if that makes a difference to my energy levels. If my mood gets worse, I can just resume the old dosage. I probably will do that, but not necessarily just yet, as in the past trying to come of olanzapine has led to significant mood changes and I think I would rather see if I’m going to be starting a new job and get started on it before doing anything. We both felt that the clomipramine should stay as it is, as it seems to be the most effective medication I’m on.

***

I helped Dad some more with setting up the sukkah, the portable shelter Jews eat in during the Sukkot festival (starting tomorrow night). I went shopping, initially going with my Dad to get the arbah minim (too complicated to explain, see here) then going to a Jewish bookshop and a charity shop to browse because I like browsing bookshops, but haven’t done it much lately because of COVID, as well as buying more vitamin D supplements from Boots. I still feel uncomfortable being around people in shops and did wonder if the browsing was a good idea. Mask compliance was very good, but social distancing and use of one way systems was not so good. I’m partially to blame here myself, but it’s not always easy to distance in a shop with narrow aisles or while queuing to pay.

I spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening sorting through emails and papers on my desk. It’s amazing how “Stuff” just builds up even without my apparently doing very much to generate it. I was too tired to do much and would have liked to unwind, but could not really relax feeling my desk and my inbox were disappearing under things.

***

I managed about forty-five minutes of Torah study; as usual, I wish I could have done more, but ran out of time and energy. Maybe it’s good that I always want to do more Torah study, even if sometimes I simply wish I could have got to a full hour. However, sometimes, like today, I wish I could spend more time exploring ancient and modern texts. The Talmud (I’m too tired to search for the reference, sorry) states that no one dies with even half his desires fulfilled. I realised that this applies to the righteous as well as ordinary people; the difference is that the righteous’ unfulfilled desires are spiritual rather than material. At least my desires here are spiritual.

In my ongoing (if sometimes intermittent) re-reading of Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), I recently started Iyov (Job), to me one of the most challenging books of Tanakh. Alongside the biblical text, I started reading Job’s Illness: Loss, Grief and Integration: A Psychological Interpretation by a psychiatrist called Jack Kahn. It’s a study of the book that assumes that Job’s sufferings, while triggered by external events (the loss of his family and wealth) take on a psychological aspect based around depression, obsession and paranoia as seen in his speeches; his skin affliction is seen as psychosomatic. Job’s dialogues with his friends, with Elihu and finally with God enable him to reintegrate his personality and develop his psyche beyond his situation before his troubles started. “The vehicle by which his maturation is accomplished is, in fact, the very suffering which he undergoes.”

I’ve only read the introduction so far, so I’m not sure what the book will be like, but I’m intrigued by the premise and looking forward to reading it. I’m not sure if the author is Jewish (although Kahn is a Jewish name), but I’ve come across other Jewish quasi-psychological readings of Iyov that see the book as charting his growth from a religiosity based on fear of God and distance from other people to one based on love for both God and other people. I’m not sure if the book is still in print or easily available; I rescued my copy from the “duplicates/for sale” pile when I worked in a Jewish library. My copy also features some of William Blake’s illustrations to the biblical text.

***

Surprisingly, I got another job interview, this time for a school librarian position I applied for. I didn’t really expect to get this, as I have no experience of primary school librarianship. Unfortunately, the interview is next Tuesday and I have a date booked with PIMOJ and she has taken time off work, so I can’t cancel. I have emailed the school to ask if an alternative date is possible.

***

Speaking of the date, I’m worried and trying not to catastrophise. Try to stay in the present…

***

This short video from the National Autistic Society nicely illustrates the problems of dealing with a lot of questions/statements if you have autistic sensory overload and slower processing speed. This is how I feel in job interviews, or even just noisy kiddush halls.

8 thoughts on “Suffering and Psychiatry

  1. There is so much I could comment on but I will stick to Job. Thank you for providing educational bits for those of us who are not Jewish. Tanakh is a new word for me but now I know it means the Hebrew Bible! I have to admit that although I love the book of Job I don’t spend a lot of time reading his friend’s speeches. Mostly because I end up feeling as patronized as Job did. It’s too much “now go over your life with a fine toothed comb and try to figure out what you did wrong to deserve all this.” Since I have the benefit of chapter 1 and know that Job isn’t being punished I skip it. So many Christian theologians that I have read say Elihu is just more of the same but I disagree. I think he is another example of the suffering servant and I find the things he says really profound. In fact I’ve meditated on them for years. I read a book called On Freedom Love and Power by Jacques Ellul. There is a section where he looks really closely at the book of Job and shares the meanings of certain Hebrew words in the text as well as common views of prominent Hebrew scholars. It was really helpful for my understanding. I’m sure you can understand why I don’t encounter a lot of people I can talk to about stuff like this, lol. I’m also looking at George MacDonald’s writings on the subject as there is a chapter in his book Unspoken Sermons called the Voice of Job. I think a lot of Christians consider these guys heretics but they would probably also consider me a heretic too so I’m not too concerned. Job experienced severe “abuse” from Satan which of course had a psychological effect on him. Abuse can effect your very genetic makeup such as in the case of epigenetic changes and then can even have implications for future generations. It’s funny how people these days always seem to want to separate the physical from the psychological except of course when they are calling something psychosomatic. I’ve had illnesses that were psychosomatic – that is induced through stress and mental turmoil that were only corrected by nutritional supplements. I.e. For some people like me the road back from PTSD is more quickly travelled with the help of selenium. High doses of certain B vitamins are proven to help with stress related physical symptoms. It’s complicated but it’s real. 🙂 I’ll save more thoughts on Job for another time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Stuff” sure does build up. My kitchen bar counter seems to attract many things. It’s too easy to put them there to deal with “later.” I’m glad you have another interview and a date with PIMOJ. Any interview is good practice and having a conversation with another person is a great opportunity to find out more about each other.

    Liked by 2 people

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