There’s been some anxiety hanging around over the last few days, partly around social media use and whether I should try to make friends on it, if I just make a fool of myself trying to connect with people, if we’ll argue about politics and so on. When I went back on Facebook, I intended to use it mainly for groups to avoid this kind of drama, but I guess inevitably as I get to know people in groups, I will want to connect with them outside the groups.

Another worry is that I feel I want to get to a place where my life is ‘sorted’ and stable, at least for a while, but that may never happen. At least I have E, even if she is on another continent at the moment, but I want my life to be stable so our life together will be stable and easier for her, but I think we both have too many ‘issues’ for that. I just feel that E is having to sacrifice so much for me that I just want to make things easier for her.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK, but not great. I got to shul on Friday night for the first time in a couple of weeks. I was feeling somewhat down, not literally clinical depression, but colloquially depressed. I spent a lot of time in bed, as usual, not just at night/morning, but after shul (synagogue) on Friday night and again after breakfast this morning and twice in the afternoon. Going to bed was more seeking autistic sensory comfort than from tiredness; I wrap myself in my duvet and/or weighted blanket and/or curl up in the foetal position and it calms me down.

I spent a lot of time (in bed and outside it) thinking about autism, disability, autistic superpowers and whether I would be better off without being autistic and this probably contributed to the depressed feeling. I know I’ve written about this before, but I just can’t share the view that autism is merely a difference or even a strength and that the only struggles from being autistic come from the supposed “ableism” of society. In the end, I concluded there were too many variables to meaningfully describe what my life would be like without autism, and that God clearly wants me to be autistic. Even so, without knowing what my mission in life is, what He wants me to accomplish by being autistic, it is hard to work out if my focus should be on paid work, writing or religious obligations.

I really missed E a lot too.

Other than that, I ate far too many pretzels (the little kind) and probably too many biscuits (although not nearly as many as the pretzels) and had a very mild, but persistent headache intermittently from Friday night until an hour or so ago.

After Shabbat, I discovered I had a begging letter from the University of Oxford again, this time from the History Faculty (my BA was in History). I get them every so often, because even Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the most prestigious and highly-rated, has money trouble (within reason. A lot of the colleges are vast landowners and completely loaded). To be fair, the cause they wanted to raise money for is worthwhile (to increase access for students from poor backgrounds), but I had a miserable time at Oxford and prefer to send my money (a) elsewhere and (b) to causes that are more ‘life and death’ e.g. food for refugees or those on the breadline. But getting these begging letters just reminds me that I went to Oxford and I should therefore now be a super-successful, super-rich hot-shot lawyer, politician or high-ranking civil servant and not a poor, part-time office administrator. It’s sad that, so many years after making me more miserable than I have ever been in my life (I very nearly attempted suicide), Oxford is still making me miserable.

Other than that, I’ve spent too long this evening writing this post and reading autistic forum and autistic relationship FB group posts, and I’m not entirely sure why. Something about trying to connect with people and understand myself as well as deal with fears that being autistic means not being able to manage relationships. I don’t think this is the case, but it’s disturbing to read, on two different forums (fora!), two different people talking about essentially being verbally and emotionally abused by their autistic partner, who says everything they do wrong is down to autism and therefore (they argue) beyond reproach.

On one forum someone wrote about getting meltdowns from, “seeing everything in great details, hearing every minute sound at the same level, pretending to be happy when inside they are dying and not liking the fake people surrounding them, smelling everything that each person has used in bodycare/fragrance/hair products etc, feeling exhausted from the pointless chat about weekends to a point where disassociation happens, feeling like people training you are talking but you can’t hear it because you feel so stressed and in shock that your mind cannot connect” and more. I’ve experienced some of this, but I don’t really get meltdowns. Very rarely I get panic attacks that probably verge on meltdowns, but I haven’t had one since knowing more about autism to be sure.

I wonder why I don’t get meltdowns when so many autistic people do. Not that I want them, but not getting them reinforces the feelings I still occasionally get that I’m not “really” autistic, or that I’m not autistic “enough” to justify the work and social problems I have. Maybe I’m just good at masking and then end up burnt out. I do get shutdowns, but, again, not as bad as some people get.

***

A couple of thoughts from things I’ve been reading/listening to lately:

Both a devar Torah (Torah thought) I read from Rabbi Lord Sacks z”tzl and an Orthodox Conundrum podcast about Rav Shagar z”tzl spoke about parents and the need to differentiate from them, and then later to realise how much you have in common with them and how much you are indebted to them.

As a teenager, I never really tried to rebel. I just spent all my time in my room, working and driving myself to a breakdown/burnout. But I didn’t have much in common with my parents either. Now I find it can be hard to find common ground with them. Some of this is living at home into my late thirties, some is being autistic with allistic (non-autistic) parents and some is me having classic “first generation to go to university” differences from them. Some is probably my being more religious and more Jewishly-educated, which often creates a dynamic where my parents look to me for Jewish education and halakhic (Jewish law) guidance. There’s a Jewish saying that when a parent teaches a child, both laugh, but when a child teaches a parent, both cry, and I feel that a bit sometimes. I’m not sure how to explain it to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. I had a psychiatrist who said that I never really bonded with my parents as a child and therefore could not rebel as a teenager, and now I can’t separate properly from them which is probably true. It’s only with marrying E that I’m really trying to move away from home. I did live in my own flat for two years when my OCD was bad, but I deliberately lived within walking distance of my parents’ house and I used to come home for Shabbat. I don’t know what I can do about this at this stage.

***

On the same Orthodox Conundrum podcast, R’ Zachary Truboff spoke about Rav Shagar thinking that the problem with Orthodoxy is that it’s Orthodox: i.e. that, as a society, it’s driven by what other Orthodox people think is appropriate, not by what God wants. He said there are things that are against halakhah and ethics that do not lead to people getting thrown out of the Orthodox community (he didn’t say what, but tax and benefits fraud spring to mind). He didn’t mention, but could have, that there are things that aren’t violations of halakhah or ethics, but which can get you thrown out of the community all the same (this varies from one community to another, but in some communities for a teenager to talk to someone of the opposite might fall in this category, or even refusing to marry a particular person in some communities). I think this is my biggest struggle with the Orthodox community. Aside from the moral aspects of this, being on the autism spectrum means I’m OK with clear rules (halakhah), but bad at intuiting, let alone following, unspoken social conventions.

***

Anyway, my parents are noisily watching No Time to Die, the latest James Bond film, in the room below me, which is a bit distracting as I can hear incidental music and bangs. I wasn’t tempted to re-watch it with them, as, while technically accomplished, I found the film overlong, confusing and too sad. James Bond isn’t supposed to be sad! I much prefer the supposedly “silly” Roger Moore films. I could probably find ten reasons why the much-maligned Moonraker is a great film, not in “so bad it’s good,” but actually good.

24 thoughts on “Cause Without a Rebel

  1. Those people who say that people who aren’t neurotypical and just need to be accepted for the unique, beautiful people they are seem to be missing the point that it’s not all just a happy different flavor to be neurodivergent. It comes with its own, often significant challenges. I don’t think their statements help things much, if at all.

    As an aside, I am so…very….weary of hearing people who don’t have OCD throw around the term OCD. It’s not going to change anytime soon, so I should try to learn to just let it roll off my back, but it’s very painful to see. Social media can be very triggering for me. I hope you have a thicker skin for social media. I’m sure you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think some people (the people who make those comments) are happy being neurodivergent, particularly as autism and ADHD can lead to benefits as well as impairments. Some people seem to get lucky and just get benefits or, alternatively, are better at structuring their lives to maximise the former and minimise the latter.

      Agree about OCD.

      I don’t have a particularly thick skin for social media, sadly, that’s why I’m constantly worrying about what to do about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I echo Stoic Wannabe that social media can be toxic for many people. It doesn’t trigger me because I’m looking for nothing from it. Perhaps cat videos or cool photos of people’s travels, kids/grandkids, flowers, etc. That means that it’s easier for me not to take it seriously and to scroll on by.

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    1. I don’t think I have to be a millionaire. I want to be good, but I feel I would find it easier to be good if I wasn’t on the spectrum. But presumably God dismissed that thought for some reason. I don’t know if God wants me to be happy, or how to achieve that. I worry that God wants me to write for some purpose, and if I don’t achieve it, that will be consider sinful or at least negative. But if I’m not supposed to write and devote time to it that should be spent on Torah study, volunteering, family, etc., that will also be considered sinful. It’s hard to know what to do or how other people navigate thoughts like this.

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      1. I like to see both “good” and “happy” as gray areas. That is, you aren’t 100% good or 100% bad. You also aren’t either 100% “happy” or “unhappy”– there’s a gray area between those two feelings. You can be “somewhat good” and “mostly happy or neutral” and I believe that should be enough. I’m not God of course but people with ASD have unique challenges that no one else faces and I bet God takes that into consideration when deciding someone’s goodness. As an example, the person close to me who has ASD is a really good person when it comes to taking care of the elderly. Nothing is gross to them and they are very kind. They are amazing at giving gifts. However, they are completely unable to feel any empathy for the homeless. So they are a mostly good person with some flaws, as we all have. And when it comes to happy, they fluctuate from happy to neutral to sometimes sad, but they are making the best of what they were given. They may decide to be a stay at home parent and as long as they were happy with that life, I don’t think they’ll get to heaven and be told “why weren’t you a rocket scientist?” Or “why did you not use X talent?” Because the answer could be “I was happier without it.”

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        1. I hope God takes challenges into account. This is why I feel we need writing on neurodiversity from a religious perspective.

          I think it would be legitimate to ask why I didn’t use a particular talent if I genuinely had it. I’m just not sure if I do have any genuine talents.

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  3. “the problem with Orthodoxy is that it’s Orthodox: i.e. that, as a society, it’s driven by what other Orthodox people think is appropriate, not by what God wants.” – Totally agree.

    I had average grades at a not-as-prestigious school and I make more money now than many of my peers who got better grades at more prestigious places. I don’t feel guilty or sorry about this. I work hard and make an honest living. I just think that good grades/prestigious academic credentials don’t necessarily correlate to career success as reliably as people expect them to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think you should feel guilty! I just feel incompetent that I’m not doing that. And worried about how E and I will make ends meet (without relying on our parents, which is likely to be what we do in the short-term, sadly).

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