I didn’t go to the dentist on Friday. About an hour before the appointment, the surgery rang to say the dentist had gone home ill. I’ve got another appointment booked for Tuesday. My wisdom tooth is not really painful, more uncomfortable at times, at least if I can avoid prodding it with my tongue (harder than you might think).

***

I didn’t intend to post tonight, but I had a difficult day and now I can’t sleep. The two may not be connected, but I thought it would be worth trying to get my thoughts in order.

Lunch was difficult. Angela wrote recently about the “identified patient” in a family and the way that can change and the different family members can affect one another. In my family, I’m pretty sure everyone thinks of me as the identified patient. I’ve been… let’s say not functioning as expected for about twenty years now, I have a neurological diagnosis that is never going to change (Asperger’s/autism) and mental health issues that have come and gone (or come and stayed in some cases). I’ve been in different types of talking therapy a lot. But I think other family members have their own issues, issues that they aren’t necessarily aware of or addressing. I guess owning up to a mental health issue is hard and counselling or therapy can be quite intense and painful, in terms of confronting the negative sides of your history and personality. But it’s hard when this impacts everyone else in the family.

I don’t really want to go into more detail about this. Part of me would like to in a password-protected post, but part of me is overwhelmed at the thought of writing so much of my life history and how it intertwines with those of my parents and sister, and I’m not sure it’s very ethical to tell people about the skeletons in my family’s closets. I’ve spoken to therapists about it in the past, but while I feel I understand the family dynamic, now and in the past, well, I don’t always feel able to move on from it. For now, suffice to say I left lunch feeling very overwhelmed and had what I think must be an autistic shutdown (it’s not always clear to me). I just lay on the bed for two hours. I don’t think I fell asleep, or not for long. I just lay still until I felt well enough to move again.

After that I tried to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but the description of loneliness was overwhelming too, and reminded me of how I used to be before E. I suppose I still am somewhat lonely; I don’t think E can/should be my only social contact, but I struggle to make friends I really connect with. My thoughts about starting online groups for autistic Jews or Jews on the fringes of the Orthodox community are as much for me as anyone else. I couldn’t face reading The Third Reich in Power, so I read The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy for a bit before shul (synagogue). I finished it, finally (it’s very short, but I was reading slowly). I still feel a bit that nearly forty is too old for me to learn to have sex, but I’m trying not to let that bother me. There was some stuff about dealing with guilt about previous sexual experiences (masturbation, not having kept the rules of shomer negiah (not touching before marriage)) that was somewhat helpful to me. But it does just remind me that we’re a long way from even knowing when our wedding will be.

***

After that I went to shul and ate seudah (the Shabbat third meal, which today was the last meal before the fast started — see below). I read Lamentations: Faith in a Turbulent World, which is also heavy-going. Most of the other books in the Koren Maggid Tanakh series have been organised on chunks of text, but this goes through Eichah (Lamentations) line by line, which is interesting in some ways, but very detailed. It gets quite draining quite quickly, and it’s a big book too (even though Eichah is one of the shorter books of Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).

***

Tisha B’Av (the Fast of Av) started at 8.39pm. This is the saddest day of Jewish year, when we mourn the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem and many, many, many bad things in Jewish history. It actually fell on Shabbat, but the holiness of Shabbat displaces it to Sunday, so to speak. Which means that it falls on 10 Av this year, which is my Hebrew birthday. I don’t make much of birthdays, and I celebrate my Gregorian calendar birthday anyway, but this is vaguely depressing.

I went to shul in the evening and found the service quite moving, which was good as I thought I was going to be too fed up from the day to get anything out of it. I came home and there wasn’t a lot to do, as we’re supposed to avoid anything fun on the fast, including Torah study (except sad bits like Eichah). I read the Lamentations book for a bit, then The Third Reich in Power, but decided to go to bed soon after. I couldn’t sleep though. I tried to sleep on one pillow rather than two, which is another mourning custom for the fast, but I couldn’t fall sleep. Then I tried with two pillows and still couldn’t sleep, so I’m now sitting on the floor (we sit on low chairs or the floor until midday tomorrow, another mourning custom) typing this and not feeling very tired.

Insomnia for me is often from not relaxing enough before bed. I didn’t really relax at all tonight. Normally I would read or watch something to relax myself, but I can’t really do that. Or I would drink hot chocolate, but I can’t do that either. I’m not supposed to fast given that I’m taking lithium, but I try to fast until midday as the afternoon is somewhat less sad. Technically the fast is an all or nothing thing and if I’m going to break it at lunchtime tomorrow (which I am going to do), I can break it now, but I like to keep at least some of the spirit of the day.

***

This was an interesting article about finding meaning on Tisha B’Av. I think a lot of it applies to Judaism in general for me. It can be hard to find the meaning in each specific mitzvah (commandment) or event; the meaning emerges from being part of the collective experience of a whole nation over three thousand years (how many people other than Jews have even the vaguest idea what their ancestors were doing three thousand years ago? Some, but not many). I probably do find more meaning in being Jewish as a totality across my whole life rather than in any particular mitzvah.

12 thoughts on “Insomnia B’Av

  1. Thanks for the shoutout and I love this whole post even though it touches on some rough stuff. Family is some of the hardest stuff and when you throw in autism stuff and mental health stuff, we’ll, it’s a heck of a lot to deal with. Also, I’ve been having a hard time connecting to my Judaism at all over the last couple of years so it is so nice to read your writing on your observances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I’m pleased it resonated (not pleased that you’ve experienced these things, but you know what I mean).

      I also often struggle to connect with Judaism, even though I must seem religious compared to most people. It’s easy to get stuck going through the motions without necessarily feeling the connection I seek, or only feeling it in an abstract and intellectual kind of way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is definitely a struggle to respect other people’s privacy on an emotional blog like this one. Humans are social creatures, often our low moods are driven by interactions with those around us!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Eleanor Oliphant inspired me when I heard it as a Radio 4 audiobook several years ago. I urge you to find a way to read it. Those of us who find it hard to strike up relationships tend to assume we are unlikeable — and we are often so, so wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I find more meaning in the experience of doing a mitzvah I enjoy or one that resonates vs. in the collective Jewish experience, actually.

    I can’t stand the all or nothing aspect of fasting in Judaism. Some years ago, I discovered that for me the difference between being relatively ok after a fast and being too sick to function the day after the fast was a single can of ginger ale during the day. No reasonable person would say that having nothing to eat or drink except for 1 ginger ale isn’t fasting, except for Judaism. That’s my personal beef with fasting in Judaism; I have other issues with it too.

    Sorry, I feel like this comment is unnecessarily negative. I am in a bad mood. The headache I had throughout all of Shabbat did not let up at all, a so-called friend excluded me from something, and I just feel generally hateful and bitchy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Re: meaning in enjoyment vs. the collective Jewish experience, that’s totally fine, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise! It’s just not how I often connect.

      I struggle a lot with fasting too. I fast very badly, with headaches and nausea and sometimes vomiting (my rabbi mentor has now told me to break my fast if I’m going to throw up, to avoid serious dehydration). My family and E are mostly the same. I’m fortunate that I usually recover in an hour or two afterwards. I’m sorry you struggle even the next day.

      No worries about being negative. I’m upset on your behalf at the “friend” who excluded you!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I was told by someone that Eleanor wasn’t on the spectrum whereas I thought she was. I don’t want to give you any spoilers so I hope (if you read the book), you’ll give me your assessment. In my classroom I’ve had both types of autistic students: the very self-aware ones and the not self-aware. Eleanor is one of the latter whereas you are definitely one of the former. Re the sex: your body knows what to do. It’s a natural human (and other animal) activity. Hoping for the best for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read somewhere that she’s not on the spectrum too. I’ve had a long to become self-aware, unfortunately.

      Unfortunately, I’ve heard bad stories about Haredi couples whose sex education basically consists of getting told the guy knows what to do instinctively. I’ve had more education than that, but it’s still a bit scary.

      Like

  5. Lufty!

    I was looking for a vision-impaired artist from Devonport [Tasmania, Australia] and my Google / Safari decided to come to your blog.

    [in all fairness I had been reading VISION OF THE NIGHT because of Samuel Ali and his efforts to connect socially anxious people in the workplace and beyond since November or December 2021 – for instance I may have found Jewish Young Professional from there and followed and followed]

    I read this blog called WELCOME TO MY MAGICK THEATRE which is by someone who found her Jewish birthright in her mid-teens and in the last 10 years has been becoming more and more Orthodox.

    When she wrote about Tisha b’Av she said “May you have an easy and meaningful fast”.

    So I will go and leave you with that…

    Liked by 1 person

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