My Mum had a phone appointment today for my autism assessment. I’m a bit worried… I’m pretty sure I’m on the spectrum, and that’s why I struggle with some things like job interviews. It’s hard for my parents to remember thirty years ago or more, but part of the diagnosis is based on how I was as a child, so I may not get the diagnosis I think I need. I think I learnt to mask from a young age, and as a child I was quiet, well-behaved and self-contained, so adults generally left me alone and focused on more needy/vocal children. I have noted before that I have a presentation of autism that has more in common with autistic women than men (particularly masking and finding strategies to “pass” as neurotypical in conversation and life in general, and being more imaginative and creative than autistic stereotype) – unfortunately, autism in women is arguably under-diagnosed because it doesn’t seem like “classic” autism, and I suspect the psychiatrists will be even less receptive to finding “female” autism in me.

Ironically, while she was doing that, I had a classic autistic moment. I was helping Dad take down the sukkah, or some of it, and he said, “Go up the ladder,” which I did – without moving it to where it needed to be first. Classic autistic literalism. The thing is, things like this can seem autistic, but they can also just seem absent-minded or eccentric. When I was younger, my parents viewed me through the “absent-minded” lens (my Mum even used to call me her “Absent-Minded Professor”). Now I see myself more through the autism lens. Maybe I’m wrong to do so. I guess I’ll find out soon; usually the appointment with the suspected autistic person is within six weeks of the appointment with the parent/guardian, but lately they’re doing them faster online so I should get an appointment soon.

***

I opened up to PIMOJ about some of this (autism and also depression) and she’s been really supportive, but I can’t shake the fears that one day it will be too much for her and she will walk off, particularly if I can’t find a job soon. I guess because that has happened to me before.

***

Other than that, today felt like trench warfare: a lot of noise, but not much movement (possibly watching The American Civil War triggered that – trench warfare is more associated with World War I, but it was actually first used in The American Civil War). I’m struggling with the disappearance of daylight as days get shorter and cloudier; it is probably time to start using my light box again. I helped Dad with the sukkah, as I said, and spent quite some time catching up on emails, including one to a potential voluntary opportunity (more in a few days, hopefully, when I hear back from them). Other than that, I felt too tired to do much. Post-Yom Tov (festival) burnout, I guess. I spent a lot of time writing and answering emails. I feel like anyone who has a white-collar job spends a huge chunk of the day treading water answering emails, although technically none of these were about paid employment.

No time or energy for a walk, and it was too wet. Mum suddenly felt ill about 6.00pm, so I hurriedly made dinner – just plain pasta with a bought sauce as I was short of time and energy. Part of the lack of time was because I wanted to go to depression group on Zoom, which I did, although I always feel curiously uncertain as to what to say and how coherent I sound. It’s good to have somewhere I can admit to difficult feelings. I spoke about the job interviews and feelings of inferiority and wanting my autism diagnosis to reassure myself, but not about the worry that PIMOJ would not cope with my issues.

I didn’t have time to do any further job hunting today. I have four jobs to apply for on my job spreadsheet, but two are for school librarian positions and I feel reluctant to apply for them given that I was rejected from the other school librarian position for lack of relevant experience. One is a law library position which raises the same experience issues, plus that would, I imagine, be a very fast-paced, high-pressure environment. The other job, a research support librarian position at a major museum, scares me in terms of the responsibility involved and my fears about my skillset.

I didn’t feel up to doing much Torah study so listened on an online shiur (religious class) on the goal of life. To be honest, it didn’t tell me much I hadn’t heard before from similar shiurim and books. Another problem with these types of class is that they tell you that true pleasure is eternal pleasure i.e. pursuing eternal, meaningful things like prayer and Torah study, but I can end up feeling despondent because depressive anhedonia means I don’t always enjoy spiritual things any more than narrowly material things, sometimes less so. Still, that was half an hour of Torah study that I probably wouldn’t have managed if I was still narrowly focused on reading religious texts for my Torah study.

***

I feel upset that so many people I know seem to be struggling right now (hence the title quote, from the Police song O My God). Some of that is COVID, but some, I guess, is that life really is hard for a lot of people. There’s a pithy rhyming quote, I think from Oliver Goldsmith (eighteenth century English poet) that I have been trying to locate again for some time now without coming across it, about how small are the elements of human suffering that can be relieved by governments and kings. I guess that is an unfashionable and conservative view nowadays, where we are supposed to think that the state could and should solve every problem and that social justice is best dealt out in real-time on Twitter, but a lot of people I know are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, autism, not fitting in, arguments with family, sometimes abuse… There can be a material aspect to these things, and sometimes governments can help, but it’s not always the main problem or the key to addressing things. Thank God, I’m not struggling financially because my family are looking after me, but my problems are still very real. It’s hard enough for government to try to secure access to the essentials of life, without factoring in that happiness or sadness are often driven by non-tangible factors, and that dependency on others, especially an impersonal state, can be a strong driver of low self-esteem and depression… I just felt on the brink of tears by dinner time today, thinking about things.

***

I noticed something interesting when I went to shul (synagogue) last week. Obviously masks are compulsory there and a couple of children had dinosaur masks on, so far as I could tell from a distance. I found this interesting, as our previous rabbi was a Creationist and I assumed that most of the congregation were too and I was in a minority for not being one. Moreover, the father of the boys wearing the masks is very religious and involved. Of course, it could be that these are children and no one minds; still, it made me think maybe I’m not as unusual as I thought and I don’t have to feel as constrained as I do to hide my thoughts.

10 thoughts on ““Everyone I know is lonely”

  1. Those of us who are older and financially settled (like me) are having less stress than you thirty somethings who are dealing with work insecurity and dating/family. I got a very weepy phone call from my older daughter who is terrified about how they’re going to make it job-wise, secure medical insurance for their son and them, and make a success of themselves in this toxic (and economically stressed) climate we’re living in. Sigh. I hope the autism assessment ends up in your favor. As I’ve said before, I think it will be helpful to have a framework/explanation for your situation.

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  2. hey. I read all of what you wrote in this post.
    The part with autism in women and your own thoughts about your diagnosis and that it could turn out wrong are nothing new for me. I can totally relate to it, since I also found out about these things. Especially during this year again.

    To me the psychiatrist said, that he can’t help me. The psychologist said, that I should forget about my past and move on and another one said, that I am a good and normal boy. None of it helped and none of it was the truth. At least I then knew, that there was much more wrong in the world than I previously thought. Meaning, that you are not alone with this.

    I don’t know about the people where you live and what they think, as you questioned with the masks, the part of you seeming to be unusual and that. So I can’t say, whether you are far more unusual from them or not. I just know, that your way of thinking is indeed different from most people, but not bad. It is more a problem to communicate it with others who are not like this or at least have a good understanding of it.

    I usually thought, that it is actually impossible for another human being to really understand how someone else must feel, be and think, when they weren’t in a similar situation.
    Turns out, I started to understand everyone else, while then obviously no one understood me. Because I cared for an actual understanding of others, while almost no one really took the time or energy. Since al what most people care about, is their own life, what they got taught and told and to make “the best” out of it. Or whatever they believe in.

    Sorry to hear, that you have to go trough similar things like me. With hiding, being not noticed, misunderstood / misinterpreted, having a lot of stress, feeling of guilt, fear of responsibility and all that.

    I got you… way better than you think.
    I hope that you will get the right diagnosis, in case it will really help you.
    I really wish you to get noticed and understood, but sadly highly doubt that from my personal experience and also from what I have seen, heard etc. But this won’t make you less a human and lovely being, worthy of love, care and a feeling of not a burden.

    I also really hope that PIMOJ can give you all this, in case you two really love each other. I have a cousin who also was quite similar to me, I think and also went through a lot. He now has a wife and even a son. They were just like study friends for some years and over the time they came closer and then married at some point. And so far I haven’t heard something about them not being happy with each other. His wife actually made him talk about his life-long struggles, fears and all. Because no one before really gave him this kind of safety, love and interest.

    I hope it helped a little, don’t lose hope. There will be a way, there always can be a way.
    Stay safe and thank you for sharing and being around. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That quote by Oliver Goldsmith sounds like something that would resonate with me. I know people who say “I don’t believe in this nonsense of a loving God watching over people.” and consider themselves very clever, sexy, progressive and such for espousing such views. And of course they would look at those who do as being short a few marbles. I have to be honest that I find people who believe in a loving caring government and medical and educational system that is watching over them and have faith in papa politician to right all wrongs to be totally bonkers. I try to not show it and talk to them like they aren’t totally loonie but it’s challenging. How do these people still exist? There is goodness and good people but the are usually nobodies outside of the system.

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  4. Do remember that there is a huge subjective element in making an ASD diagnosis especially for those who are high functioning. After all, it is a spectrum. So, I am sure they get it wrong sometimes, especially for those higher up the spectrum and for those who mask well. So, if you don’t get diagnosed it doesn’t mean you don’t have AS. Furthermore, they will make this assessment based on questionnaires and 2-3 hours interviewing at best. They cannot get to know you properly in this time. So, mistakes can easily be made. (And as for your mother remembering your childhood – remember it is quite common for AS symptoms to only really begin to manifest themselves in the early teens where the divergence between neurotypicals and neurodiverse becomes more apparent with the pressures of adolescence and puberty.)

    Re: literalism – your anecdote about the ladder reminded me of one with my son. Having got him some build up drinks in an effort to get him to put on weight, he came to me having trouble with the instructions. The instructions said something like … “measure one tablespoon of the powder into your favourite mug …”. His problem? “Mum I don’t have a favourite mug!” He was a bit embarrassed when I explained to him the purpose of the “friendly” wording. … This is the sort of thing AS parents notice all the time but it takes some skill for clinicians, under pressure of time, to recognise.

    I hope you get diagnosed correctly as I think it will help you. But if you don’t it only means they are wrong, not you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, this is part of my fear, as I feel I have been wrongly assessed as neurotypical in the past, so I worry about it happening again and what that would mean for me in terms of adjustments as well as self-image. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

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