I slept badly again, waking up in the middle of the night. I actually slept in two blocs of five hours, which shouldn’t be bad, but somehow with a gap in the middle felt incomplete. Plus, I woke feeling very anxious, which I think was about my appointment at the optician, although I had some mildly disturbing dreams too. Autism hates the unknown, and I didn’t know how my appointment would go under COVID. Even not knowing if I was going to be left standing outside for a long time before they let me in made me nervous. Of course, some of it could be the general anxiety I’ve had lately, and the usual burnout after work and depression group.

I had managed to mostly cut out the cereal I was eating before bed, on the grounds that I was rarely genuinely hungry and it had just become habitual, but I’ve been eating porridge when I wake up in the night to help me get back to sleep. This is because warm milk helps me sleep, but I dislike the taste of milk by itself. I suppose I could try to get some cocoa or something, but aside from the fact that I’ve never had it so don’t know if I like it, I’m not sure it would have less calories than porridge. I tend to sweet the porridge with sultanas, which is better than sugar, but probably still quite calorific. More problematic, from a diet point of view, was the ton of ice cream I ate last night to reward myself for getting through a difficult day at work and depression group with anxiety…

***

I had sick-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach anxious nausea all day, as well as well as feeling myself to be in agitated in “fight or flight” mode. It’s unusual for me to have anxiety for so long without an obvious cause and I don’t know how to cope. I might look online. In the past I’ve been so depressed that I was actively suicidal and while I wouldn’t say that was better than this, over time I evolved coping strategies for depression. This feels very new and alien and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m pretty sure it’s a medication change issue.

***

I had my eyes tested and chose new glasses. I shook quite a bit while the optician was testing my eyes, although she said it didn’t matter. I’m not sure how much was anxiety and how much the usual I-shouldn’t-shake-so-I-worry-about-it-until-I-start-shaking tremor I get in situations like this (eye test, dentist, doctor, barber, etc.). More awkward was when I attempted to pay. My first credit card was rejected by the machine. I’m not sure why. With my second (debit) card I forgot the PIN and only remembered it after I was locked out of it. And I couldn’t remember the PIN for the third card at all. I’m not sure how much of this was the result of anxiety and how much is because when I buy stuff in person (which I haven’t done much recently), it’s usually under £30 and I can buy it without needing to type in my PIN, so I’ve just forgotten it. Fortunately, my Mum was also having her eyes tested, so I just had to wait for her to finish and she laid out and I paid back. It was very embarrassing though. I felt pretty useless and immature.

The other unhelpful thing I did today was buy a vitamin D supplement without realising that it was considerably higher dosage than Boots usually sell (75 micrograms rather than 10 micrograms). I almost certainly don’t get anywhere near enough vitamin D (mostly indoors, mostly covered up even in the summer), but I’m not sure if 75 micrograms is still too much. The NHS site would seem to indicate that it’s OK. I might phone 111 (NHS non-emergency helpline) later to double-check.

***

I didn’t work on my novel today or do much in the way of Torah study because the anxiety feelings were too strong, plus the eye test and cooking dinner (cashew nut casserole) took up a lot of time. I did get an idea of what I’m doing for my devar Torah this week which I can hopefully write up tomorrow.

***

I listened to the first episode of the Normal Frum Women podcast, even though I am not a woman and am probably not normal. It was quite useful for my understanding of myself vis-a-vis the frum (religious Jewish) world. They quoted psychotherapist Elisheva Liss as saying that rather than asking if we are “normal” we should ask if we are causing harm or distress and, if not, we shouldn’t worry about what we do. Other people being judgemental is not considered causing distress. This makes a lot of sense, although it’s hard to do something that other people in your community will consider “wrong” even if you know you are not harming anyone.

I think my problems with fitting into my shul (synagogue) community come partly from not always being sure of the community’s values, not least because it is a community with some more modern elements and some more Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) elements. For instance, I know some people do have TVs and others do not and it is hard to know what the “official” line on TVs is. (I’ve also noticed in recent years that some people who won’t own a TV do stream on Netflix and the like, something that I don’t fully understand.)

More contentiously, I know that many (all?) people in my community would not approve if they saw me walking arm in arm with PIMOJ, and that does make me a little nervous. However, I feel that I’ve only stayed frum in the last few years by making compromises to my preserve my sanity. This mostly involved bending rules rather than breaking them, but I break the rule about touching women who aren’t relatives for PIMOJ because I just can’t cope any more, and I feel that people who haven’t got to their late thirties without a “legitimate” physical relationship (i.e. marriage) don’t really get to judge me here. It’s break the rules in a small way to stay sane and keep the “bigger picture.”

On a related note, I found this article about passing, intended from an autistic POV (although it is written by a religious Jewish autistic woman). I feel the need to pass, both as neurotypical and mentally healthy in the world in general, and as “normal” in frum world. However, the effort involved can be pretty soul destroying as the article noted. I would like not to feel that need all the time.

12 thoughts on “More Anxiety

  1. Re: vitamin D. The amount you quote should be safe. It is quite hard to overdose on vitamin D3. If you are worried, why not take the tablets on alternate days? Or ask the Boots pharmacist. NHS helpline will only quote back to you from the link you sent.

    Re: your anxiety. As you are still under the Maudsley would you consider discussing your medication with their psychiatrist, just for another opinion?

    Re the rules governing your new relationship – this sounds very strict. At what point would any physical contact be allowed? When engaged? Or not till after marriage? And do the rest of your family follow the same rules? And to what extent are these ideals which many might aspire to, but in reality, few will actually follow? And I am wondering if your increased anxiety probably brought on by the medication change, may be making you more anxious than you would otherwise be about things like this. A bit like the religious OCD which has plagued you in the past?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Dad also suggested taking the tablets on alternate days. I might try doing that.

      I’m not under the Maudsley for treatment, only for the autism assessment. I’m being seen locally for depression and anxiety. I don’t feel the need for a second opinion at the moment, but if I’m as anxious as I have been in another week or so, I will try to get a video/phone appointment with my psychiatrist and ask about my options. I feel I ought to give the haloperidol a chance to work, though. At the moment it’s difficult, but it’s not quite unbearable.

      I suppose the rules about physical contact are very strict if you aren’t familiar with them. Physical contact would not be allowed until after marriage. My family don’t follow these rules, although I’m allowed to hug (etc.) my parents and sister anyway (although my sister and I have never been tactile with each other). It’s OK for immediate family.

      I think lots of people do follow these rules, but they would mostly be getting married in their early twenties, not being unmarried in their late thirties.

      I’m not sure if it’s religious OCD, but I might be thinking about it more because of the anxiety.

      Like

  2. A few thoughts on your community’s thoughts on shomer negia violations in your relationship

    1) How well do you know the individuals in your community? Is your feeling that the community would not approve based on having spoken to individuals and knowing their feelings or an assumption based on another factor about the community? I found that some of my assumptions of belief based on people’s dress or other religious practice weren’t necessarily accurate and I only learned that after speaking to people as individuals. In other words, my perception of their beliefs was different from their actual beliefs.

    2) I think there are things that are legitimately a matter for community approval because they truly impact the community. Synagogue etiquette and dress code, which hechshers are legitimate, etc. I also think there are mitzvot that are between an individual and the community, etc. making a minyan, paying a shiva call, etc. I do not think that conduct within a romatic relationship (outside of abusive situations, G-d forbid) is a matter which the community has any legitimacy to judge or approve of. It just isn’t a community matter.

    3) I still don’t think it is really the community’s business to approve of whether you and PIMOJ keep shomer negia. But let’s suppose worst case that the community really doesn’t approve. There’s no way they wouldn’t still be celebrating at your wedding if this relationship led to marriage, right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you’re right that I haven’t actually asked anyone what they would think about my negiah violations. I’m just making assumptions. I agree that it’s not really the community’s business, but I do worry what they would think o f me if they found out. And, yes, they will be celebrating if it leads to marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you found the episode useful, and also I validate the exhaustion that comes with trying to “pass” as normal. I’m sorry and it is legitimately confusing to read between the lines of what is the “official” opinion and what most people are doing despite the official line.

    Liked by 1 person

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