My vaccine side-effects seem to have gone now, except for a soreness on my arm where I was injected.

***

We started Pesach (Passover) cleaning today. Pesach demands the complete removal of leavened bread, leavened bread products, utensils used for them and food cooked with those utensils. Moreover, while the usual Jewish dietary laws don’t worry about tiny crumbs, the Pesach laws do. Historically, this has been a target for my Pesach OCD, which manifests as much as a contamination OCD as a religious OCD (religious OCD more often manifests as obsessive doubt, about one’s own righteousness or the existence of God or worry about impure thoughts).

Cleaning the fridges and freezers, as we started doing today, is OKish, as we don’t worry too much about cold surfaces (we worry more about heated areas where food might get baked in) and it’s quite easy to drench everything with cif or other cleaners to ensure any crumbs are inedible (chemical-drenched crumbs are inedible and therefore no longer considered “food”; the dietary laws only apply to food, not inedible items). I have been worrying a bit that I didn’t do it well enough, though, which may be because I think I forgot to take my clomipramine this morning (anti-depressant that also helps with OCD).

I saw a greetings card in a Jewish shop a while back that annoyed me. It showed a Jewish OCD support group where the members were saying that they loved Pesach cleaning. There’s a lot wrong with this. First, people with OCD don’t enjoy their compulsions. If they do, then it’s not OCD; anxiety about the compulsion is part of the diagnostic criteria. Second, OCD doesn’t equal cleanliness. It can manifest in all kinds of ways, and even hygiene OCD, which is what the cartoonist was probably thinking about, doesn’t necessarily go with neatness and cleanliness. You can be obsessive about sterilising door handles and still leave your clothes strewn across the floor every evening. Third, as I mentioned above, OCD can manifest as contamination OCD at Pesach, fear of leavened food contaminating Pesach food, which can lead on to fear of inadequate cleaning or kashering (heating a surface or item to remove traces of leavened food).

***

After Pesach cleaning for an hour and a bit, I did some food shopping and went for a walk. My mood dipped significantly after that. I thought it might be low blood sugar and it did get better after eating a cereal bar, but it dipped again a while after that. I did half an hour of Torah study and spent ten minutes planning my devar Torah for the week. I would have liked to have spent more time on either of these, but I just got too depressed for it to be viable. As I noted above, I’m wondering if I forgot to take my meds this morning. It’s possible and it would explain the way my mood suddenly got worse this evening in a way that hasn’t happened for a long time.

***

When my mood dipped today, I’ve been having negative thoughts, or just negative feelings (I don’t accept the CBT idea that negative feelings are always caused by negative thoughts). Some of these have been about my relationship, that I can’t cope with being in a relationship, making sacrifices for someone else, even doing things with someone else rather than by myself and needing lots of time alone. But the thoughts were more about my writing ability. I guess people who try to work with their creativity are liable to worry that their talent and inspiration will just dry up, or weren’t even good enough to start with. Doubly so as I haven’t really sold anything yet, just one or two odd pieces of non-fiction writing (which isn’t where I’m trying to work now). I keep thinking that my mainstream novel of character is a mistake because I don’t read a huge amount of mainstream fiction any more and I’m not great at understanding people. So then I think about my plans for a series of Jewish fantasy/horror time-travel novels, but then I think about not having read enough of those genres. I don’t feel I could write a science fiction novel, even though it’s the genre I read the most.

I feel I don’t read the way I should to be a writer. I tend to read a lot of specific authors rather than reading lots of authors within a genre, or lots of genres to get an idea of what’s been done in that genre and what the tropes and cliches are. I still haven’t really found my voice and when I think about writing I admire that I’d like to take as an inspirational starting point, I think of TV as much as novels (Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel, Twin Peaks).

***

Medication issues aside, I guess I’m just stressed, like every other Jew who takes Pesach seriously is at this time of year. I guess stressed is OK. Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, once my meds are back in my system.

***

A friend emailed to say he really enjoyed my non-fiction Doctor Who book (the one I self-published) and has reviewed it for a fanzine/fan website. I’m pleased, although I wish I had the time and energy to set about making a second edition with a lower price and better cover. However, a second edition would really need a revised text too, to cover the last season of episodes and I don’t have the time. More importantly, my creative energies are directed to fiction now.

10 thoughts on “Pesach OCD, and Mood Dips

  1. How wonderful to get a compliment on your book! It does sound like a medication issue, which causes a snowball effect of overthinking, worrying and catastrophizing. I hope you’ll be able to get on a more even keel tomorrow. It sounds like a stressful time of year for everyone. That was interesting about the OCD; I didn’t know any of that. I used to call myself OCD, but I don’t think I really am. I have a tendency to like things “just so” which isn’t the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder, of all the times you’ve mentioned the amount of time spent on Torah study, what the ratio is between times you were satisfied and times you qualify it by saying you would have liked to have done more. It seems like it would be very discouraging if it’s almost always not enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Without going back through past posts, I suspect it often does feel not enough. I have an idea in my head that I ought to do an hour a day, which I don’t always manage and is further complicated by not knowing how to count time spent writing my devar Torah.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thinking back, to me it seems like not enough almost every time you talk about it. I wonder if changing where/how you set the bar would help—maybe even setting a goal in relation to the average of what you have accomplished. If you’re doing 20 minutes a day and the goal is 60, that’s probably not going to go as well as if you’re averaging 20 minutes and set a goal of 25 that you can realistically do.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I had thought of doing an average, as I tend to do a lot more over Shabbat. I think I was too lazy to follow through with recording how much I do. Maybe also it feels like accepting doing less. I might tabulate this week’s sessions and see what they average.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I guess my question would be, has aiming for an hour been effective in any way, or has it made you feel inadequate? If it’s not effective, then there’s probably a better a better system. If you were aiming to run a marathon and expected that you’d just suddenly be able to, that’s probably going to be a disaster; training to increase mental activity shouldn’t be all that different from training to increase physical activity.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. The author Ray Bradbury was a huge proponent of writers reading as much as they had time for, but without necessarily focusing on anything in particular. I have not been reading so much in the last year because it is something I used to do in coffee shops and pubs. I cannot get into it at home. But I do find that reading can be a great way to work through writer’s block. Perhaps writers who also read a lot never get blocked?

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