Purim, Being Pathetic, and the Autistic Talking Service Parrot

It was a rather stressful day again. Volunteering went wrong from the start. It wasn’t set up in advance, so we would have been delayed fifteen minutes just catching up. Then a table collapsed. I was worried I had not put it up correctly, but it turned out that a leg had just snapped off (I assume from corrosion). Unfortunately, when it collapsed, it squashed a large carton of mango juice, spraying juice everywhere, so we had to tidy that up before we could really start. Then it turned out that we had all misread the number of bags of food needed this week and we were sixteen short when the volunteer drivers came to deliver them. They ended up being added to tomorrow’s workload as it was late (the food bank operates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but I only volunteer on Tuesdays). I had to get home as I was talking to my rabbi mentor at 3pm, so I missed coffee even though I could have done with the sugar boost of a biscuit or two and even though I like the social interaction of sitting with the others even if I don’t say much.

Other stuff: there was some family drama that I inadvertently started. Not going into it here, but I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. I cooked dinner after talking to my rabbi mentor (the call was helpful), but didn’t do much else this afternoon. I feel like I’m struggling to hold everything together at the moment and even minor stresses like those today can feel like massive, intractable issues.


Other issues: I’m going to volunteer next Tuesday even though it’s the minor festival of Purim. There is a Megillat Esther (Book of Esther, read Purim night and day) reading where I volunteer, as it’s a Jewish institution, so I can listen there and volunteer afterwards. Unfortunately, I’ll have to get up very early, despite being likely to be drained the previous day with work and the evening Megillah reading (crowded, noisy). J wanted me to cover for him in the afternoon in case we have to do the Very Scary Task (he’ll be getting drunk at his Purim seudah (festive meal) as per custom), but now I’ll be out of communication for a bit in the early afternoon. I did check with him and he said it was OK, but I feel a bit guilty. I felt I should volunteer nonetheless as we’ll be several people short next week. I vaguely feel like I’m ruining J’s seudah deliberately because my seudah will probably be alone and I don’t approve of Purim drunkenness (or other drunkenness), even though that’s not really what’s happening.

The other Purim issue is struggling to do mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends). I can’t give to my parents (which I mistakenly did for many years) because we’re in the same household. I only really have two friends in the area; one I haven’t seen for the better part of a year (although I will be inviting him to the wedding) and he’ll probably be either at work or at a seudah somewhere else when I get back from volunteering (the gifts have to be given after hearing the Megillah, but before sunset). The other person is J, but I don’t know exactly where he lives and it seems vaguely inappropriate to give gifts to my boss. The timing issue might also be relevant there too.

I can’t find any charity doing a system where you can give money to them to buy food to send to someone, only for giving money directly (which is also a Purim commandment, but a separate one). I’m not sure what to do. E wondered if I can give money to be included in my parents’ mishloach manot gifts to their friends, but I need to check with a rabbi if that “counts.” This is the type of thing that makes me feel a pathetic Jonny No Mates, something that will be reinforced by the four or five sets of mishloach manot my parents will probably receive from their local friends. This is just a part of the reason that Purim is not fun for me. Actually, I do have friends, just not necessarily Jewish, local or in the real world rather than the virtual one (you can’t send virtual gifts of food).


I wrote to the rabbinic mental health email helpline again a while back about my struggles with spiritual growth and Torah study when dealing with autistic exhaustion. The rabbi sent back a long email that I need to re-read and process, but summarised in the quote that “personal and spiritual growth is welcome only where it enhances your wellbeing, and if you find it causes you anxiety or exhaustion- it is “off limits” for you!”

I am not sure what to make of this at the moment. I don’t think stopping growth or Torah completely would be good for me, but I keep thinking of my first burnout/depression when I was sixteen and the doctor told me to stop working for a couple of weeks. I stopped for a bit, but then went back to it. Realistically, a week or two off wouldn’t have stopped my slide towards major burnout a couple of years later, which was driven by undiagnosed autism, but I feel it shows I should take this kind of thing more seriously.

Incidentally, that first burnout/depression started on Purim, which may be another reason it’s not my favourite festival.


Someone on the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook group opined again that for non-married adults, the choice is between transgressive sex or “pathetic celibacy.” I suggested that Moshe (Moses) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) were celibate and not pathetic. I was told by the first person and one other that they were great people and we can’t compare ourselves to them, which wasn’t really my point. (Also, this is a classic frum (religious Jewish) debating/pedagogical tactic: when famous biblical or Talmudic figures do something the speaker wants others to do, they’re examples; when they don’t, they’re exemptions who we can’t copy due to their special status. Frum girls are brought up on the Talmudic story of the woman who covered her hair even when home alone despite this being unnecessary according to Jewish law; if anyone suggested she was too holy to copy, they would get short shrift.)  I said that fulfilling the will of God isn’t pathetic and was also told that “pathetic” was being used in the sense of “inspiring pathos” which seemed pedantic and unlikely, and that something can be admirable and pathetic at the same time.

At this point I gave up on the argument, but it touched a nerve as for years I did feel pathetic for failing to attract a spouse and did want people to pity me, on some level, but I also feel, particularly in retrospect, that it was, at least on some level, difficult and admirable for me to stay a virgin for so long (by the time I get to my wedding, I will be just two months short of my fortieth birthday). I am reluctant to describe myself as “pathetic” in either sense.


E and I were talking about service animals and I decided I need a talking service parrot that will sit on my shoulder and make small talk to people for me when I can’t do so.


I just read an old Dilbert comic strip the joke of which was that Windows 95 was new and exciting and I felt ridiculously old, although not as much as when E and I went to the Museum of the Home last year and I heard a small girl look at a landline phone and say, “I’ve seen one of these before, but I don’t know how to use it.” It was possibly a rotary dial phone, but even so.

Not Secure in My Self and My Life

Last night, I blogged that I would do ten minutes of Torah study and relax. I actually did about twenty minutes, although it made sense to split the sedra (weekly Torah portion) where I did, as Tetzaveh falls into two very different chunks. I just spent too much of the evening doing “stuff,” but it was important stuff. The upshot was that I had little time to relax (just one episode of Yes Minister) and when I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I am not good at the whole balance thing, even though I only work two days a week and don’t take my work home with me.

I did eventually get about four hours of sleep and coped OK at work, but it was slow and boring and even a trip to the bank was hard as I got overloaded from the crowds in the streets. J asked me to cover for him on Purim next week if we need to do the Very Scary Task in the afternoon, as he wants to fulfil the commandment (“unhealthy custom” is probably a better description) of getting drunk at the celebratory festive meal. I agreed, as he’s so flexible and forgiving for me, but also because I didn’t have the courage or vocabulary to explain just how much I’m dreading Purim and how this could make it even worse. I just have to hope we don’t have to do the Very Scary Task. Between all this and worrying that alexithymia (difficulty experiencing and understanding my own emotions) means that I will never experience religious joy, I came home feeling pretty depressed.

I watched another episode of Yes Minister and some of Undermind and spoke to E and I feel a lot better now, but I still feel very drained and as I have volunteering tomorrow and more stuff to do, I will try to keep this briefer than might otherwise have been the case.


Reading some of this week’s sedra, combined with the family event yesterday, got me thinking about not being envious. Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) could, according to rabbinic tradition, have fulfilled each other’s roles as prophet and leader and as high priest, but each was happy for the other’s success in their roles. I suspect this is a lot easier if you are secure in knowing what your own role in life is and this is where I struggle as I just don’t know.

On the Intimate Judaism podcast they spoke about the Orthodox world’s tendency to exhort young people to “date for marriage” being counter-productive, as it encourages over-thinking and turning down dates for reasons that need not prevent a relationship developing. They said instead to date for the date, to see if there is something there. I’m glad my rabbi mentor said something similar to me, otherwise I would not have gone out with E. But I wonder if I need to think the same about my role in life, to stop over-thinking my role in my life as a whole and just focusing on being a good husband/son/brother/friend/online community member in the current moment. The problem is that I’m not sure how good I am at any of those…


A while back I watched a video on Chabad.org where an abuse survivor said he struggled with tefillin (the leather boxes Orthodox Jewish men and some non-Orthodox Jews strap to their arms and heads during weekday morning prayers) because wrapping them tightly around his arm gave him abuse flashbacks. He asked a rabbi, who said he could stop wearing them, but after a while he went back to wearing them again despite the flashbacks, as he felt that a Hasid should go further than the letter of the law.

I’ve been struggling with this. Aside from the negative social effects of the way this attitude of going beyond the letter of the law in everything has taken hold in many parts of the Orthodox world, it just reinforces my feeling that relying on so many legitimate leniencies myself (leniencies for mental illness, autism, low income, living with less religious parents) makes me somehow inadequate. That I should be able to get by without the leniencies, let alone the things I do that are against halakhah (Jewish law) without being permitted even by a genuine leniency. It’s a struggle and probably connected with the idea of not being secure in my sense of self and my own role in life.

Still Anxious

I feel overwhelmed again. I feel I’m juggling wedding stuff, family stuff, much of which is other people’s anxiety, and the usual Jewish and autistic stuff. I’m struggling, feeling exhausted and worried about burn out. I think I’m soaking up other people’s anxiety, but alexithymia means I’m not always so aware of it until it’s too late. As I’ve said, I can register strong negative emotions more easily than positive ones.

I got to bed very late last night (about 2am) as I was doing wedding stuff, as well as trying to sort getting music to my phone (no idea what the problem is), trying to help Dad and trying to relax a bit before bed. I could have gone to bed at 1.30am, but decided to watch an episode of Yes Minister to try to relax a bit. It helped. Such a funny series, and still mostly relevant forty years on, except the EU stuff. Mind you, the Cold War episodes seemed dated a few years ago, but are relevant again, sadly.

I had a serious talk with my rabbi mentor today about wedding anxiety and stress as well as other anxiety and stress, then I had a serious talk with E about the same things. It was good to speak to them, but, on some level, I still feel anxious and stressed. Arranging weddings is inherently stressful, arranging them long-distance, in a short time period, when both of us have neurodivergence and mental health issues, plus work struggles and, in my case, religious struggles, results in a lot of balls to keep in the air. I thought arranging a small wedding would be less stressful than a large one, but as my Mum said, we still need many of the same things (rabbi, venue, caterer, photographer, etc.), just on a smaller scale. It’s cheaper, but not easier or less stressful.

I did a bit of wedding stuff today, but not much. This is because I went to Nephew’s (belated) pidyon haben. This is a Jewish ceremony that is far too complicated to explain. Sorry. I usually do my best, but this would need a whole post to itself. It was mostly my brother-in-law’s family there, as they’re much larger and more local than we are, although it was nice that Uncle was in the country and able to come too. It was very busy. I always feel somewhat inadequate with Sister, BIL and BIL’s family, as they all seem super-functional. Even the ones with autism or severe learning disabilities seem somehow more functional within those parameters than I am within mine. I try not to compare myself, and I did reasonably well at that, but it’s hard.

I ate quite a bit. I didn’t speak much. I spoke a little bit to Sister’s nieces (aged about eleven and seven). I’m better with young children than adults, I don’t know why. Most autistics say they’re better with animals than humans; for me, it’s children, although I wouldn’t call myself super-confident with them. I also don’t have a clue what to say to babies. I got to hold Nephew for a minute or two, but not for long, and it looks like I won’t be able to go to visit on Tuesday as I’d hoped (I’m in the area for volunteering). It got quite overwhelming after a while and I could have left half an hour or even an hour earlier than we did. I noticed BIL’s nephew (thirteen), who was diagnosed autistic a while back, disappeared around then. Good for him. Sister makes it sound like he’s coping better than I was at that age. Then again, I appeared pretty functional until I was sixteen or even eighteen.

Lately I feel tensions in the family dynamic and I don’t know who to talk to about it, aside from my therapist. I don’t know who the laws of lashon hara (gossip) would allow me to speak to if it’s really just to off-load and not because I’m trying to fix the dynamic. I don’t think I can fix the dynamic, certainly not alone, and probably not at all, as it’s mostly stuff going on around me, not involving me. But it does overwhelm me, as I pick up other people’s emotions sometimes without necessarily realising it.

I have a huge amount to do, but I need to crash. When I got home, I davened (prayed), finished writing this and wrote a couple of wedding emails. I’m going to do a brief bit of Torah study for literally ten minutes or so and then watch some TV (DVD actually), although I’m not sure how much TV watching to trade off against sleep. I feel a need to watch something to decompress, but am also aware that I have work tomorrow.


Politics has broken out on the autism forum again, about whether there’s such a thing as cancel culture (eyes raised emoji). I kept out of it. On that subject, after the news stories about Roald Dahl being edited to make his books politically correct last week, and all the Jewish press articles about people caring about Dahl’s misogyny and body-shaming, but not that he was an antisemite who said that Hitler had a good reason for murdering six million Jews e.g. here, I saw today that the James Bond books are apparently being edited to remove the racism. I’m not sure how much would be left if they tried to remove all the political incorrectness! Although in some ways the novels are better than the films. I’m going to carry on buying old second-hand editions. Soon, second-hand will be the only way to get hold of classic books published before 1990 (!) in their original form.

What bothers me about the “cancel culture” debate is the lack of a third way between, on the one hand, the Stalinist/Maoist self-critical “confessions” cancelled people issue, where they say that they are bad people for having published Roald Dahl (or whoever), that they “need to do better” and “will listen to minority voices” in future OR, at the other extreme, the Jeremy Clarkson/Donald Trump “doubling-down” on the offensive stuff. I would like someone to say, “Yes, there is stuff in this book that is offensive, but it comes from another time, and, if respect for diversity means anything, it’s about respectfully listening to other viewpoints, including people in the past as much as in the present, trying to understand them and how we got from where they were to where we are now.”

I did notice, when reading Greenmantle (which is racist, xenophobic and homophobic) that the narrator says interesting positive things about German and Turkish culture as well as negative ones. The book was both written and set during World War I, actually written while John Buchan was serving on the Western Front, and the Germans and Ottomans were the enemy. It made me realise I’m not used to hearing meaningful positive things about other cultures from people who claim to be focused on “diversity,” who tend to make everyone seem the same, which is the opposite of what “diversity” means. It feels like “diversity” means making space for people of different cultures, but blindness to any actual cultural difference. Perhaps you have to be secure in your own culture, or at least conscious of it, to notice the good in other people’s cultures. I think this is why some people find diversity problematic, even though it’s an innocuous subject in itself, because it projects an aura of wanting to remake everyone in the image of the twenty-first century secular West and not even realising that there are other cultures out there.

Wedding Anxiety, Religious Anxiety

I feel quite stressed and anxious, partly about the wedding, partly aware that E is struggling with things at the moment and I can’t help her. I’ve contemplated jumping on a plane just to give her a hug, but she said not to, and, for reasons I won’t go into here, it might actually make her situation worse, in practical terms, if I did, so I just have to wait. It’s very frustrating. I guess now I know how my parents felt for years when I was struggling with depression/burnout and they couldn’t do anything for me.

Once I get to that point, my thoughts start to spiral out of control worrying about how two people with so many diagnosed and suspected neurodivergence/mental illness “issues” between them, and such an insecure income as a result, can actually be happy, particularly when my parents aren’t able to help any more, practically and financially. At least we’ll be together, that counts for a lot. It’s scary, though.

Other than wedding/marriage/future stuff, I’m worried about Purim, the minor Jewish festival coming up in about a week and a half. I’m actually more worried about Purim than Pesach at the moment. Pesach is a more major festival a month later that triggered my religious OCD much more than Purim in the past, but I think that’s under control now. Purim triggers a lot of things, like OCD, social anxiety, perhaps autistic sensory issues, social overwhelm and so on as well as feeling like a loser for having no (local) friends. Ugh.


In terms of the last few days… on Thursday I had to do the Very Scary Task at work. I think I’m getting better at it, but it’s still hard and I get flustered and confused on the phone, especially if J isn’t around. On the plus side, I did get to go out to the Post Office and do some shopping which at least broke the day up a bit. I spent the afternoon doing a very boring printing and scanning job that is not yet finished. After work I went to Sainsbury’s and was so distracted and confused that I nearly left my food behind. I also collected my glasses with new lenses and left my spare pair so the new lens prescription can be put in them. I have to remember to wear the spares on our wedding day otherwise my glasses will turn tinted from the sunlight/camera flash (the everyday glasses have reaction lenses, but the spares don’t).

I was exhausted again on Friday. I probably would have been OK if I could have had a mental health day (autism day?), but even minor Shabbat (Sabbath) preparation finishes me off on Fridays recently. I felt too exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) again, which upset me a bit. I feel as if I’m drifting away from the Jewish community, while still believing and practising Judaism privately, and the Purim anxiety is a part of this. I don’t want to do it, but it’s what my mental/autistic health seems to demand right now and I feel that if I go away, the community won’t come after me they way they would for someone more involved and connected. I’ve never really felt fully a part of the community, except maybe for two or three years in the shul I grew up in, before we moved. Three years out of nearly forty is not a good record.

My uncle is here for the weekend. We had a good time at dinner, but there are aspects of the family dynamic that I find uncomfortable. I mentioned the other day that E and Nephew joining the family has changed the family dynamic, which it has, but there’s been another, more subtle, shift for a decade or more that I don’t feel comfortable with, but it’s not really my place to do anything about it. The problem is that I get sucked in and say things that I later regret. Speaking of which, I said something completely different (unrelated to family stuff) that I immediately regretted for religious reasons. I am trying not to beat myself up about it and accept it was a slip of the tongue, but I expect myself to be perfect.

I had a headache that got bad enough that I took tablets for it on Shabbat (the rules about taking medication for minor ailments on Shabbat are complicated. In the past I was very strict with myself; now, as in other things, I’m trying to tell myself that sometimes it’s more religious to be more lenient. It’s hard, though). I lay on the bed for a bit after dinner because of the headache. Lying down made it worse, but I propped myself up by the headboard and covered myself with my weighted blanket and adjusted the Shabbat lamp so there was only a little light.

After a while the headache went and I wanted to do some Torah study before it got too late. Like last week, as it was late, I went for depth over length of time, studying some Talmud (reviewing the page I’m on) and a chapter of Shoftim (Judges). It took about forty minutes in total. After that, I read for fun for a bit, finishing Greenmantle and starting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before going to bed.

Today was more of the same, really, until Shabbat ended and the anxieties I mentioned above kicked in.


I worry that I over-shared on the Orthodox Conundrum blog Facebook group on Friday. There was  a thread about Orthodox men not wanting to date women who study more Talmud than them, or better than them, and I asked if the reverse is also true, wondering if I got set up on so few dates in the Orthodox community because I didn’t go to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary). To be fair, there were plenty of other plausible explanations for my lack of dates, but, as you know, I’m paranoid that my failure to go to yeshivah or to study Talmud at a high level marks me as a “bad (frum/religious) Jew” even though I know that the idea of universal male yeshivah study or Talmud study for all but an elite is a product of not much more than the last century, not the entirety of Jewish history.

Perhaps relatedly, on Friday night/Saturday morning, I dreamt I was back in school. I had done my BA and MA, but, somehow, not my A-levels, so I had to come back to do them, but I was in the middle of burnout again and felt I couldn’t finish the course. Of course, I probably did have burnout when I did my A-levels, but it was mild compared with the burnouts during my BA and MA. I think the dream is about me trying to come to terms with not being the academic success that my achievements at school led me to think I would be, particularly in terms of secular academia, but also in terms of the frum community, where so many people seem to be able to study Talmud at a much higher level than me and where this seems to count more than other types of religious knowledge and perhaps even than being a good person in some circles.


It turned out that I did not copy all my music (or my non-classical music) to my phone. I need to delete some phone apps and try again…

Family Dynamics, Alexithymia and Autism as Disability

My posts have got short. I’m very busy with wedding stuff and autistic exhaustion, but I do want to write regularly, even if I can only write a fraction of what’s on my mind.


I had a mental health day, or half day (after volunteering) yesterday, but I feel autistically exhausted today. I don’t know if that’s from volunteering or something else (the weekend?). It was a struggle to do anything. I woke up early with a slight headache, stayed in bed because of the headache, slept a couple of hours longer, woke up still with the headache, got up to take some painkillers, only for the headache to go immediately. Then it would come back for a few seconds and go again during the day. This has happened a couple of times recently and I’m not sure why it happens or if it’s related to autistic exhaustion.

I had therapy and felt a bit better afterwards, but I got side-tracked looking at medical data online (COVID deaths vs. flu/pneumonia). I went for a walk and scanned some documents needed for my religious wedding and entered them on the website, but didn’t do a lot more. I did about twenty minutes of Torah study and had a Zoom call with E and another potential wedding photographer, but that was it. I feel somewhat frustrated.


In therapy we spoke mainly about wedding anxiety, wedding-related emotions that I can’t notice, understand or process well due to alexithymia and some family stuff. Just as we were finishing on this, it suddenly hit me that the family dynamic has completely changed in the last year due to Mum’s heart attack, E and my civil wedding and upcoming religious wedding and the birth of Nephew. Frustratingly, we didn’t have time to discuss this in depth, so it will have to wait until the next session in a fortnight. I was aware of some change, but I realise now it’s been a very big change and is still ongoing. I find this hard and not just because, autistically, I dislike change.


It just occurs to me that the biggest argument in favour of my autism being, at least in part, a disability rather than a difference, is alexithymia. Being unable to register or understand my own feelings is not something that is socially induced and could be solved with reasonable adjustments. This is something in my own head that prevents me being fully me or at least fully aware of myself. No one is doing it to me, it’s just the way I am. I experience it as being disabling, not a socially-imposed difficulty.


Facebook is awful, but I don’t have time to explain why.


Today was ninety days until the wedding! That seems like an important milestone. Tonight is Rosh Chodesh Adar (New Moon of the Hebrew month of Adar). This means that Purim is on the way, as I mentioned yesterday. It’s supposed to be the start of a time of joy, but for me it’s worries about Purim and then Pesach. Pesach anxiety is getting better, although I imagine there will always be some, but Purim, as I said yesterday, seems quite intractable, with anxiety about a whole bunch of different things.

Yesterday I felt pretty exhausted and depressed. I felt I should skip volunteering this morning and take a mental health day, but E said I feel good after volunteering, so I decided to go and just take a mental health afternoon.  I don’t really have a lot to say about it. I got home lateish. I felt a little faint, which seems to happen more often lately. I’m beginning to wonder if I should go to the GP and ask for a diabetes test (faint = low blood sugar = possible diabetes is my reasoning), but it’s so hard to get an appointment even for something as easy as this. I suppose it’s designed to deter frivolous appointments, but I fear a negative side-effect is deterring the genuinely sick. I don’t have a lot of diabetes symptoms, so it’s probably not an issue, but it’s starting to worry me a bit.

I wanted to have a mental health day, without work or wedding stuff or too many chores. I did some Torah study, worked on my novel plan (I wanted to do this, but I still had to disconnect the internet to focus!) and cooked macaroni cheese for dinner. I Skyped E too, but that was about all I did. I feel I should have done more, but maybe I shouldn’t feel like that.


I wonder if I’ve become overly chatty online. I left a blog comment the other day that was probably a mistake, about autism in the frum world, really on a post that was only tangentially about that; I leave lots of comments on the autism forum, including telling someone who hadn’t posted for a while and who I have not really interacted with that I was glad she was OK as I had been wondering where she had gone; and leaving a 400 word Facebook comment (almost as long as this post) on the Orthodox Conundrum group. On the other hand, E did say I should talk more as I seem weirder when I’m just silent all the time. I feel I should probably be more vocal in the real world and less vocal online.


I didn’t mention that I picked up a Terry Pratchett book from a free bookshelf yesterday (I Shall Wear Midnight). I haven’t read any Pratchett for a while. When I was a teenager, I was a massive fan, but as I grew up I got put off by his vocal support for assisted dying while refusing to believe it could ever be abused and also by realising that he just wasn’t as clever as I once thought. (I can actually pinpoint the joke that did this. Interesting Times features a country that is sort-of Medieval China, and we’re told the similar Great Wall is really to keep dissidents in rather than keep invaders out, as invaders would have ladders. Aside from the fact that getting an army up ladders isn’t easy, and that Medieval rulers didn’t really care about dissidents in the way modern dictators do, the fact is that the Great Wall of China was built to stop raiding horsemen from the Asian Steppe. Horses can’t climb ladders. When I read that, I wondered if he wasn’t actually as clever as I thought.) However, the book was free and I should probably be reading humour if I want to write a satire, even if this is fantasy humour rather than science fiction.

Thief of Joy

It’s been a tough twenty-four hours. Last week I felt I was getting my life on track, but I worry that I’m too prone to autistic exhaustion to earn more or to cope with children. Last night I was looking at the last twenty years, dominated by depression and/or autistic burnout. Sometimes it feels that I have nothing to show for that period until E arrived (OK, two degrees that have not got me far). I have to believe that there is meaning in those years or that I can give them meaning. That I met E in the end and before then I grew resilience and empathy, but it’s hard to feel that sometimes, particularly as I feel I’ve suffered “autistic regression,” essentially losing skills as a result of burnout.

These thoughts were inspired by seeing the blog of someone autistic who I felt was doing a lot better than me at life. Looking at the post again today, that’s not necessarily the case, but either way I failed at not comparing myself to other people, even though I’m trying to work on that right now.  And, yes, there are autistic people worse off than me and not just severe autistic ones.  On the autism forum it seems that, of relationship, children and career, people rarely have two let alone all three and some don’t have any. I have a relationship and while I don’t have a career I at least have a part-time job. I still hope to have children (and maybe a career). Of course, many people join the forum because they’re struggling, so that probably creates a bias in favour of less successful people.

I do feel I struggle with Orthodox Judaism placing a lot of emphasis on doing things, learning, growing as a person. There is a whole concept of bittul zman (wasting time) or bittul Torah (wasting time that could specifically be dedicated to Torah study) to show that we should constantly be thinking about using our time productively.  It’s hard to feel that I can or maybe should take things slower. Maybe this is a question to ask the rabbi I emailed a while back (from the helpline of rabbis trained in mental health).


Today was stressful: train problems on the way in, a lot of noise at work, boring work (although I could at least listen to a podcast today) and an unexpected visit by our treasurer, which put me on edge at having someone else in the office, especially as he had no real reason to be there and was just killing time. I was still exhausted and stressed from yesterday and the noise, boredom and unexpected peopling made things worse and really put me on edge. I didn’t stay for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers), but felt bad leaving as people were coming in (fifteen minutes early!).

I also worry that, if I was wearing noise-cancelling headphones, as I would like, I would have missed an important announcement about the train problems this morning and could have ended up halfway to Bank before I realised I was on the wrong branch of the Northern Line (the train switched lines).

Emotionally, I have had some Purim anxiety today. Purim is the Jewish festival in two weeks’ time and it is not autism-friendly at all (as well as also being an OCD trigger risk for me). Maybe that’s something to ask the mental health rabbi too.

I do frequently feel stressed and overwhelmed at the moment from wedding planning. I feel like I’m struggling with alexithymia regarding it. I have depression from work and anxiety from the wedding as negative emotions always make themselves felt, but it’s hard to tune in to the excitement especially as it’s so hard being away from E. I need to try to push the anxiety and impatience to excitement, not depression, but I don’t really know how.

You Will Own Nothing and You Will Be Happy

On Friday I was too exhausted to go to shul. I had the headrush, light-headed, feeling I’ve lately associated with autistic exhaustion, although I worry that it might be a symptom of something else. I also found that my vision was very focused on the area in front of me and I had less clear peripheral vision, as with anxiety. I felt like this intermittently all evening.

I got through dinner. I was too tired to study the Talmud or The Guide for the Perplexed, so I read a chapter of Sefer Shoftim (The Book of Judges) and the corresponding chapter in Rabbi Hattin’s book on it. That still took nearly an hour. I read Greenmantle for a while as I wasn’t tired and went to bed late.

I got up a little earlier than usual for Shabbat, but still felt tired. I went back to bed after lunch and slept properly, rather than dozing lightly as I had done throughout the winter. This was because Shabbat finishes a bit later now, so I had time to sleep. I did about twenty minutes of Talmud study, which wasn’t much in terms of time, but I reviewed the page I started last week and understood it somewhat better, although still not perfectly.

After Shabbat, I deleted 2,500 photos and videos on my phone to make room for music. Most were from WhatsApp, a lot from my old shul, which used WhatsApp a lot, some from other organisations. I kept various family photos, but ditched most of the rest. I did this because I tried to transfer music from iTunes to my phone a while back and failed, which I assumed was due to lack of memory. I’m worried that my iPod will die soon and I need a contingency plan for listening to music. I would also like to move to a music storage/playing device that would allow me to use cordless and/or noise cancelling earphones, cordless because headphones have a low life expectancy for me which I assume is because of how I treat the cord and noise cancelling because it will make my commute less painful. New iPods are not for sale any more, as far as I know, and I don’t like buying second-hand electronic devices, certainly not expensive ones.

I copied some music across to my phone, but I ran out of memory about halfway through. I’ve got a lot of classical music copied that I rarely listen to that I have since deleted to make more room, but it’s barely affected the phone’s memory. I’m going to have to delete most of the music soon to get back the phone’s memory. I do buy music quite regularly, so I really need more. Also, the phone music app isn’t particularly user friendly and I can’t work out how to find particular songs easily, play whole albums (which I do a lot) or play a playlist (I’m not sure that these even copied over from iTunes). Other Android music playing apps feature adverts.

The options seem to be (1) buy more memory (possible); (2) buy an iPhone so I can use iTunes directly (no, I’m not rich enough); or (3) come into the 2020s and subscribe to a streaming service. It seems ridiculous that after having bought so much music, I’m effectively going to have to rent it too if I want to listen outside the house. I like owning things, not because I’m materialistic, but because I like my things to be where I left them and not suddenly be deleted because it’s decided that they’re unfashionable (as many of my tastes are) or politically incorrect (more relevant to my DVDs and books than music, but still possible). I still remember the video streaming deletions of the summer of 2020, loads of classic film and TV suddenly verboten on grounds of racism. I think most were restored after protests, but it’s a disturbing precedent.

This prompted a whole train of thought about “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” Googling, it seems that this is not an actual mantra of Davos neoliberals, as is sometimes claimed by the far-right and far-left, but did come from a discussion paper for the World Economic Forum. The actual title is “Welcome To 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy And Life Has Never Been Better”. The paper is here, if you’re curious. The paper is supposed to sound utopian, albeit with some worries; I think it’s flipping terrifying, in the same way that most utopias are terrifying, from Utopia to The Shape of Things to Come to the deliberately ambiguous utopia/dystopia of Brave New World. I was glad that I had guessed some of it for my novel, but I will certainly give the article a re-read and comb it for new ideas (when I get time to write, sigh).

I didn’t do much Torah study because of this, but I did join in a “silly” thread on the autism forum, which was supposed to be for joking around and letting off steam, but did lead to people sharing some heavy stuff in a supportive environment, so I’m glad I participated. I’m in a fairly good place right now, but it’s good to offer support to others.

Getting Better All the Time

I got up about 10.30am today, which was earlier than I expected, as I thought I would be exhausted after yesterday. However, I wasted what I had of the morning as I was too exhausted for anything other than internet stuff. I’m not sure if I’m going to go to shul (synagogue). I want to and I don’t feel exhausted to the point of illness, as I have on recent Fridays, but I do still feel exhausted, am getting the “headrush”-type feeling I associate with autistic exhaustion and I am at least trying to notice the signals my body is sending me and not try to push through them in the belief that “doing something” is always better than “doing nothing” (relaxing/reading/watching TV or literally just lying still and recuperating from the noise and busyness of the world).

I had a Pesach anxiety dream last night, but it was a “can we make Pesach in time?” dream, not a Pesach OCD dream, which was good.

It feels like my life is getting better lately, but not uniformly. I don’t think any of it is getting worse.

Good Things

Getting fully married soon is good. Wedding planning is eating up a lot of energy, with less for cooking and housework and none for writing, but I can live with that for a few more months.

Volunteering has become my main social activity. I don’t say much, but do occasionally make a funny remark and people laugh. It’s good being around people. It’s slightly awkward that they’re all twenty years or more older than me and retired (hence time for volunteering), but it means I’m not comparing myself to them. I don’t expect people of my parents’ generation to be living lives like mine. I often get on better with older people anyway.

Work is difficult, but bearable and at least my boss seems to tolerate my mistakes. I do worry that he secretly thinks I’m an idiot, but I’m trying not to care.

I’m trying to give myself more breaks and more relaxation time (at home, not yet at work), as indicated by my remarks about possibly missing shul today. It’s hard. As I said in a comment today on Paula’s blog, since my teenage years, I’ve found it hard to set aside more than half an hour or so at a time for reading fiction or TV; it feels too much like “wasting” time that should be spent on something “productive.” Yet not relaxing means I can sucked into hours of internet procrastination instead (much of it designed to make me feel angry and threatened), because of the addictive “junk food” nature of internet links (“Just one more”).

Getting There

I have a lot to do still regarding proofreading. I want to set up profiles on more sites and chase the person I worked for to get a review, although I think it’s probably too late (I’ve been focused on the wedding). I know I have a lot to do to build my brand before this becomes a significant revenue stream and it does seem that it will take a long time to do, maybe never.

I am accepting that my novel(s) may not ever get published. I would like to write more despite this, even if it’s just for E. I still need to type up notes for my new novel, plus research and actually write the thing. Unfortunately, this all takes time, time I don’t currently have. However, I enjoy just thinking about it, so that’s good!

I feel like I fit in a bit better on the autism forum and am connecting with some people, although it can be hard, especially when I try not spend too long on there. I do wonder how some people can say that they feel an affinity with all autistics and no allistics, which seems very strange and stereotyping (and possibly an example of autistic black and white thinking). I find autistics, even high-functioning ones, to be as varied in personality and interests as any other cross-section of the population, albeit with certain traits or interests that come up perhaps a bit more than in general society.

There is sometimes drama on the forum, but I try to stay out of it. It can be hard to work out what I should post there and what on my blog. I definitely feel that the Jewish aspect of my autism is not really recognised there and there is still some Impostor Syndrome regarding traits that others have that I don’t, whether it’s the fact that I have some ability to make small talk (even though I don’t like it and it’s draining) or the fact that I increasingly think I like reasonably bright light and strong contrasts rather than preferring muted lights as most autistics prefer. Again, the fact that many people on the forum assume their experience is universal for autistics is probably not surprising when you consider that difficulty with perspective-taking is a classic autistic trait.

Still Struggling

Religious life is still hard. Going to shul is draining and I don’t always have kavannah (concentrate) well there. Davening (praying) at home can actually be much better on that score. Shacharit (Morning Prayers) are a lost cause, but the other services can be better, although I’ve got a long way still to go.

I am doing quite a bit of Torah study most days, and fairly difficult stuff at the moment, not fluff (Talmud, The Guide for the Perplexed, Aviva Gottleib Zornberg’s Torah essays which combine traditional Jewish thought with contemporary literary criticism, philosophy and psychology). Even so, I feel like I should do more, although maybe I don’t need to.

I am also aware that I’m going to have to compromise religiously with E when we get married, but I’m trying to keep in perspective the fact that the compromises will largely be on chumrot (stringencies) or, if not, will be for the purpose of shalom bayit (domestic harmony), which is a legitimate halakhic (Jewish legal) concern that can counter-balance some laws, even some biblical ones. I also think that E and I will grow together religiously in ways that I can’t manage alone e.g. I think she will help me get back to going to shul on Shabbat mornings and take more of a role in the community. I am also trying to stay aware that I can legitimately make compromises with myself over religious engagement because of my autism e.g. less shul attendance, pressuring myself less to daven, or daven with kavannah or study Torah when exhausted. I find it hard not to strictly “follow the rules,” (which may not always be actual halakhah, but the customs or even whims of the community) which may be another autistic thing and not halakhically necessary.

I do worry a bit about how E and I will cope if we have children, as we would like, given our respective “issues,” but I think first we need to see how we cope as a couple!

I do still have some Impostor Syndrome in different areas, particularly with my Judaism, but also feeling I’m not autistic “enough” or not coping with life “enough,” but I guess things are getting better overall.

Online Vigil

I was in the office alone today. Work was mostly boring. I dealt with a couple of phone calls, including one call with an elderly, somewhat hard of hearing woman. Between her hearing and my autistic phone issues, we struggled to communicate. I think she became a bit annoyed with me, but I was doing my best.

I spent the afternoon looking through invoices, trying to find old invoices of particular amounts for the bookkeepers. It was made more difficult as I only had a total amount paid; it could be for several smaller invoices. I desperately needed music or a podcast, but my iPod had died. It looks OK now I’ve recharged it, but I was surprised it died in the first place. I don’t usually let the battery get too low and one charge lasts a long time, which makes me worry that the battery is dying. I was planning on having another go at transferring music from my computer to my phone, which so far I have failed to do, at the weekend, but it’s become more urgent. Also, if I start listening on my phone, I could potentially get noise-cancelling headphones for the Tube.

At one point, I was in the toilet when I could hear a bunch of visiting teenage boys coming down the stairs outside. As there is nothing else down in the basement that they would have access to, I knew they must be coming to use the toilets. I confess I just hid in a cubicle until they were gone. My social anxiety does seem to have got worse post-COVID.


Having had a quick look at some of my old blog posts, there does seem some evidence that the headaches I sometimes get are caused by autistic exhaustion or at least that they occur a day or so after doing something autistically exhausting, although as I feel exhausted quite a lot, that may not mean much.


Last night someone started a thread on the autism forum for queer members to hold an online vigil for Brianna Ghey, the trans teenager who was murdered in a transphobic attack. I said that I wasn’t queer, but that people shouldn’t be murdered for being who they are, which I didn’t think was a controversial point to make. The person who started the thread then described me as an “ally” which I found didn’t quite fit me, although it was meant well. I guess “ally” seems like a political statement. I didn’t see myself as making a political statement about trans rights, which I find a complicated area to talk about. To me, all people are made in the image of God, and I try to respond to them in that light. I feel that’s a religious statement rather than a political one. I didn’t say any of this, but I guess it makes me feel again that I think about things differently to other people on the autism forum, and elsewhere. I’m also very aware that some people in the Orthodox Jewish community would be critical in the opposite direction, of making a statement that could be seen as an affirmation of trans identity, although I’m sure many others would share my sentiments.

The HMRC Strikes Back

I got to bed late again last night, unsurprisingly, but unfortunately. I woke up early this morning, but had a headache and stayed in bed. I didn’t even get up to take anything. I’m beginning to wonder if my headaches are some kind of autistic exhaustion symptom, although it will be hard to tell until I get my new glasses. I had weird dreams, including a Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back dream (it’s usually just Doctor Who) and the anxiety dream where I forget it’s Shabbat (the Sabbath) and do something inappropriate (although in this case I actually knew it was Shabbat, but forgot what I was doing was breaking Shabbat). I eventually woke up with no headache, but the sheets a crumpled mess.

I don’t know how long I would have stayed in bed, but I got up when the phone rang. It was the United Synagogue Marriage Authorisation Department checking in with our progress. At least I have progress to mention this time! I said I would be trying to fill in the online forms in the next few days.

I felt I partially dodged an autistic exhaustion bullet by sleeping so long. I felt sluggish and a bit out of it, but not incredibly exhausted. However, I then checked my emails and discovered a message from HMRC (the taxman) saying I owed £300 because my tax return is overdue. It was initially unclear what this was for, but eventually it seemed like it was for the 2020-2021 tax year, where I didn’t submit a tax return because I was unemployed for most of the year and didn’t earn enough to pay tax.

I felt pretty awful, stressed, overloaded, unable to function, struggling with wedding and tax stuff and generally stupid and useless. However, I made myself phone HMRC. I was reasonably sure by this stage that they were asking for a tax return for a year when I didn’t earn enough money to pay tax. I was on hold for about forty-five minutes. The awful hold music stopped me doing anything else useful in that time and just made me feel awful from an autistic exhaustion/focus point of view. I don’t know why they put on awful repetitive music when you’re on hold. It just plays a bar or two and then loops. Why not play real music? Perhaps there would be copyright issues.

I did eventually get through to a human being and confirmed this was for a year when I didn’t earn enough to need to pay tax. He said I didn’t need to submit a return for that year and that I wouldn’t have to pay the £300. I might even get a refund of the £100 I paid last year, if it was about the same tax return, although I’m not sure which tax year that was for. He’s also confirmed that I’m registered PAYE (taxed at source by my employer) now, so I shouldn’t have to worry about this again unless I start earning a significant amount from proofreading (if only).

I was left feeling relieved, but also very stressed and exhausted and worried about coping with the wedding photographer Zoom calls in the evening. I also had not done anything useful all day other than that phone call.

I did a few minutes of Torah study, but ran out of time before the Zoom calls. The second photographer was nice enough, but not right for us. However, the first photographer was as good as the two we spoke to yesterday, so this will be a tough decision. We want to look at some of their galleries, but the choice might be down to price or photograph package offered.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the evening. I need to eat dinner and to do something relaxing, but I’m not sure what I’ll do after that.


My parents spent their wedding anniversary today at a levyoyah (funeral) for my Mum’s cousin’s husband. I didn’t really know him, although I imagine I met him at some point. My Mum’s cousin is a lot older than she is (there was a very big age gap between my great-uncle and my grandpa), but I guess it’s worrying to realise that my parents are now the elder generation, not the generation below.

My parents did go to the theatre in the evening, so they did get some anniversary celebration.


I posted this on the autism forum:

I wondered if anyone else here is hypo-sensitive to light rather than hyper-sensitive? I’ve seen various comments here about “If the world was more autistic-friendly, all the lights would be muted,” but I’m slowly realising that I’m the reverse. While I like muted light when watching TV and getting ready for bed, muted light the rest of the time makes me feel sleepy (although I don’t like bright flashing lights). My work office, for example, has terrible lighting and I’m sure it affects my efficiency. I like quite sharp, bright light or clear contrasts. At university, when working after sunset, I would turn all the lights off in the room and work by the light of a bright desk light, so I could focus on my desk and my work and not see the rest of the room and get distracted. I liked that contrast. I feel slightly weird as other autistics all seem to be the opposite way, although I know that for anything most autistics experience as hyper-sensitivity, some will experience hypo-sensitivity. I guess it fuels the “I’m not really autistic” impostor syndrome.

Some people did say they have similar reactions to dim light, so I guess it was a success on that score, but I do feel that I still struggle with the “I’m not autistic enough” thoughts (whatever “enough” is) . It’s similar to the fact that I still have “I don’t like being autistic/I don’t think autism is a superpower” thoughts and wondering where I fit in to an autism community that seems autism as a positive and sees the negatives as stemming from society.

Wedding Thoughts Part 3

Also, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3, with thanks to Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

This is one of those days when I don’t have much to say today, but I’m going to say it anyway, as I need to process.

I went to volunteering in the morning. Someone brought rugelach pastries and florentine biscuits because it’s her birthday this week. I’m not crazy about florentines, and, unusually, we actually have some at home at the moment, but I had a rugelach as I felt exhausted from the morning’s exertions. Then watching everyone else eat got too much for me and I had a digestive biscuit too. I much prefer them to florentines. (Note for Americans: digestive biscuits are what you call graham crackers. They were originally advertised as preventing flatulence (!) and so were called digestive biscuits. However, they have no medically-proven digestive benefits, so they aren’t allowed to use that name in the US. I don’t know how Graham comes into it.) So much for dieting. Actually, I’m not dieting, and I’m not even trying too hard to avoid treats (although maybe I should try a little harder). Just as going on clomipramine suddenly sent my weight up, so reducing the dosage has reduced my weight, although not as much. Once you know that your weight loss/gain is largely not driven by what you eat, it becomes hard to stay motivated not to eat the odd bit of junk.

I left a bit early, as there were more people than we needed and I wanted to go to Sister’s early enough that I could get home before the Zoom calls E and I had planned with wedding photographers. This was not brilliantly successful, as I found the area around North Finchley Bus Station confusing and the TfL directions unhelpful. I wandered around the area for quarter of an hour before finding a bus stop for the bus I wanted, but I don’t think it was the nearest one. Then I had to wait ten or fifteen minutes for a bus.

I stayed at Sister’s for a bit over an hour. I wanted to spend some time with Nephew, who I hadn’t seen for a while, and it made sense to do it while I was in the area and Mum and Dad were there watching him. He’s grown a lot since I last saw him and is focusing his eyes much better now and generally looks more alert and interested in his surroundings. He’s too big to cradle now, so I carried him on my shoulder for a while. I think he liked the fact that I was “bouncing” a bit on my feet when standing still. Sister has bought him some flashcards to help his focusing, with black and white pictures of animals or patterns/shapes (black and white because young babies can only see strong contrasts, apparently). We showed him some of these and he seemed to be interested in them.

I got home in time for the Zoom calls with wedding photographers, but not in time to do much. I wanted to do some more Torah study (I had done a little on the bus), but was too tired. Both calls were good and it is hard to choose between the two photographers, even without taking into account that we have another two more calls tomorrow. One has done more Jewish weddings and would allow us to print the photo album directly; the other seemed slightly more professional (although this is hard to tell and probably not significantly different), but we would have to get a third party to print the album. Both seemed to react well when I said I have autism and social anxiety and am worried about how this will affect the photos. I worry about looking rigid and unemotional. I didn’t mention the tremor, as it doesn’t seem to show in photos and I worry a bit that speaking about it makes it more likely to happen by making me worry about it more.

I was exhausted even before the calls. Volunteering seems very tiring lately. I was even more exhausted afterwards. I spent too long procrastinating online, but then felt not tired briefly and managed to spend fifteen minutes reading The Guide for the Perplexed by Rambam (Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, generally known in the non-Jewish world as Maimonides). It says something about the internet that reading a twelfth century philosophy/theology book seems so much calmer and more intelligent than browsing online. However, I still struggle to follow many of the arguments and those I do understand often seem based on a faulty pre-scientific Aristotlean worldview. The book makes me want to take a history of philosophy course to learn which arguments were debunked and how and what still has validity. When I finish it (which won’t be for months, I’m not yet halfway through), I hope to read Rabbi Dr Samuel Lebens’ A Guide for the Jewish Undecided with more contemporary arguments for God and Judaism. Maybe I’ll read some of Menachem Kellner’s books on Rambam too, and re-read The Guide, which really demands multiple readings, with this context in mind.


I realised today that I was feeling calm and happy. It seems that work is a big source of my stress and low mood, as well as environmental factors at home. Someone on the autism forum said the other day that the environment is the main cause of anxiety in autistics and I can believe it. However, it is hard to achieve an autism-friendly environment, especially if you have to work and doubly so if you can’t work from home. At least moving out of my parents’ home should give me some more control over my home environment even if there is nothing I can do about my work environment for now.


Lately I’ve been having itchy eyes. I wondered a bit if it was hay fever already (it started in January). I took anti-histamines on a couple of days without results, but they may be out of date (do they stop working?). I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but it’s uncomfortable.


For euphemism watchers: I saw a blogger post a trigger warning today about an “unaliving incident”. It took me a while to realise that this was a reference to suicide. Google tells me that “death” is censored on the TikTok algorithm, so “unalive” was used instead and has taken off elsewhere. Ashley used to talk about the “euphemism treadmill” (the term is Stephen Pinker’s) whereby a word gains negative connotations and so is changed to something less offensive, which quickly gains the same connotations, so the word is changed again, and again, and I think that that’s similar to what’s going on here. I guess it shows that the euphemisms are not just imposed by those wanting trigger warnings and the like, but also by those trying to subvert those warnings. It also makes me think of the Doctor Who story Paradise Towers, where gangs of feral teenage girls have their own argot including “made unalive” for “killed.”

More Overwhelm and More Wedding Thoughts

It’s late and I’m tired and I have volunteering in the morning, but I need to offload some thoughts.

I feel overwhelmed at the moment, particularly at work, but also generally. We are now closer to E and my wedding than to last Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Even so, it seems too far away still, but also scarily close when I consider what still has to be done.

I mentioned that I sent a “Save the Date” email yesterday. I checked my email at work and found I had a number of responses. Strangely, my immediate response was anxiety. I am not sure why. I guess it was a feeling of expectation, that people expect certain things now (the wedding, I mean). But when I got home and steeled myself to read the responses, I was pleased that so many people seem to be happy for us, particularly people that I am not so close to (my Dad’s cousin; my sister’s parents-in-law). I was particularly pleased that one friend who I haven’t seen since before COVID said he intends to come, as not only he is the other side of the country, but he and his sister are basically full-time carers for their parents and I wasn’t sure he would be able to get away. Despite this, there’s a part of my mind that says something regarding the wedding will go wrong. I’m trying not to think about it, but it’s there.

I was still feeling overwhelmed at work today, even though there was less to do than last week and I didn’t have to use the phone at all. J asked me to proofread a very important letter. I felt proud at spotting various errors and proving my worth (so to speak), but then I felt anxious that he might feel bad. It feels like a lose-lose situation sometimes.

I stayed for Mincah and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Prayers) in the shul (synagogue). Someone who had come to say Kaddish (a prayer said by mourners and on the anniversary of a death, not actually a prayer for the dead, but people think it is) said he wouldn’t be back until next year. My initial reaction was annoyance that he expected there to be a minyan (prayer quorum) so he could say Kaddish, but he doesn’t care about making a minyan for other people or even because (gasp!) Jews are supposed to pray communally and a community should have three daily prayer services. But then I felt guilty because I used to be a regular “minyan man,” going to shul for two or even all three of the daily services every day, but social anxiety, autistic issues and COVID have meant that I haven’t done that for the better part of a decade. I wonder if I will ever get back to it.


I seem to be connecting with people better on the autism forum, but I get scared of saying the wrong thing. Some people are struggling and I want to help, but I don’t always know how. Likewise, blog friends are struggling, people on Facebook and above all E is really struggling at the moment with wedding and moving stress. I’ve offered to jump on a plane to see her, but she says there’s no point at the moment. E and I speak daily (except Friday and Saturday because of Shabbat) and text all the time (except Shabbat) and she knows she can say what she wants and I’ll listen. It’s harder to gauge how much to try to help other people, how much just seems weird or intrusive, or what I can even realistically do that is helpful and not patronising. I worry in particular about people (I was going to say women, but really nowadays it’s people) thinking I’m coming on to them or something awful like that. And I also need to look after my health and my own feelings of overwhelm! But I worry about people. It’s not true that autistics are not empathetic.


A comment I left on one of those “trying to help” posts that I need to internalise myself:

In terms of “roles,” I’m increasingly of the view that the individualistic Western view of an atomised self is wrong, or at least over-stressed. We are ourselves *in our relationships with others* as much as by ourselves. If you’re a good brother, husband, shul member (etc.) please give yourself credit for it! Our selves are a complex balance between individuality and relationships. And, yes, I’m talking to myself here as much as to you, as I’m bad at remembering this.

Overwhelm (Again)

It’s been a quiet few days, so I haven’t posted. I had a headache on and off on Friday, not a bad one, but a persistent one despite medication. That contributed to my not going to shul (synagogue) in the evening, combined with the usual end of week exhaustion.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was quiet. I did some difficult religious study: a bit more of The Guide for the Perplexed, focusing on an argument for the existence of God (largely irrelevant now, as based on an Aristotlean worldview that is no longer held); a complex Talmudic section that I will have to go over again to have any kind of chance of understanding it; and an interesting, if depressing, article I had printed out from Rabbi Jonny Solomon about the lack of interiority and spirituality in the Modern Orthodox community.

The fire alarm went off on Saturday morning. Rather disturbingly, even though it’s right outside our rooms, neither Mum nor I woke up, although I had a weird dream about the fire alarm going off. Dad at least woke up. Still, even though I knew I’m a heavy sleeper, it’s disturbing that it failed to wake us. What if there had been a real fire? I’ve never been so worried about not being woke…

I didn’t get much response on the piece I posted on the autism forum about being Jewish and autistic, just two comments, plus the first commenter responded to the second one. There was one interesting comment where the commenter said they’re autistic, queer and blind and that while there are a lot of queer people in the autistic community, they feel their blindness separates them from everyone else in a fundamental way and suggested that’s similar to how I feel about being Jewish. It’s not a perfect analogy (I don’t see my Judaism as a disability), but I suspect there’s a lot of truth to it in terms of feeling fundamentally different and unknown, even unknowable, in a community that prides itself on its tolerance. I guess it feels that some things, while not intolerable, are inconceivable to outsiders.

On the plus side, a couple of people friended me on the autism site, including the person I tried to friend weeks ago.

I woke up at 9.45am today (Sunday) and got up rather than going back to sleep, mostly because I was too hungry to sleep. It was good to get up a bit earlier, even if I spent a long time online before getting dressed. I feel I wasted the day, although I did manage to do several things, and I was fighting against low mood/depressive and anxious feelings for much of the time.

I did some Torah study. Unfortunately, it’s a very difficult parsha (portion) this week, mostly legal, with complicated and unclear syntax in many places and, to make matters worse, lots of places where Jewish law rules completely differently to the apparent literal meaning of the text, while still basing itself on it. I also managed to quickly put together a “Save the date” note on Canva (I hope to send it out before bed) and went for a walk. I didn’t manage anything else, although I would have liked to have done so, but maybe that’s enough for a depressed and anxious day.


E set up an online countdown timer to our wedding.  I look at it quite a lot. I’m glad we’re down to double digits in terms of days now, but ninety-eight days is still nearly three months. I miss E a lot. She’s hoping to get some idea of when she’s coming to the UK soon. It will be good when we’re in the same house, even if we aren’t sharing a bedroom/bed.


I’ve managed to fix the wedding Dalek, at least for now, but I worry it’s going to be too fragile to take to the wedding. Sigh.


I posted the following on the autism forum.

I struggle to advocate for myself in the workplace. I have to deal with things like using multiple documents at once or doing things with multiple steps which is hard with executive functioning issues. I have lists of what to do, but I still make mistakes sometimes, not least because I don’t always remember to look at the lists. I also have to make and take phone calls occasionally. Periodically, there are days when I have to make a lot of important and very difficult phone calls, which means dealing with social anxiety, spoken word processing issues, telephone issues and problems talking to people and remembering the correct responses or even problem solving on the spot. That doesn’t happen too often, thankfully, but it did last week.

I feel uncomfortable with this aspect of the job, but I’ve had long periods of unemployment and don’t want to risk losing this job, which in other ways is good (relatively high pay considering the hours and workload; a very understanding and laid-back boss). When I try to think of possible adjustments, autistic rigidity kicks in and I feel like there are no adjustments I can ask for that would be both reasonable and useful. I don’t feel that asking not to use the phone is not [1] reasonable, given my contract. I actually don’t know what reasonable adjustments I would like, I just know that I feel a certain level of depression and anxiety in the workplace, not to mention feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm. I just feel I have to deal with it somehow or lose the job.

I would be grateful for any possible suggestions.

[1] I actually missed out the crucial word “not” in the forum post and couldn’t work out how to edit it! I had to add a comment to clarify.


I just posted the following on the autism forum. I’m nervous about what response it might get, and I won’t find out for twenty-six hours or more because of Shabbat (the Sabbath).

I often feel that I don’t fit in anywhere. I know that’s a common feeling with posters here. People only feel comfortable around “neurokin.” However, I’ve never really felt that inherent connection with other autistic people. Partly it might just be me. I have often wondered if not fitting in has become so much a part of my personality that I unconsciously stop myself fitting in anywhere. That may be true. But I feel a lot of it is being Jewish, indeed an Orthodox Jew. It feels like I have two different identities. We live in an era of multiple, overlapping identities, but I feel like I have two identities that make me massively different to “normal” people, two identities that completely shape my sense of self and my outlook on the world, two identities that summon me to an inherent connection with others (neurokin/mishpachah (“family” i.e. other Jews).

The problem is, I feel torn. I can’t leave behind either identity and I wouldn’t want to leave behind Judaism (I’m honestly not sure about autism), but I feel like among other Orthodox Jews, I feel different because I’m autistic, and among other autistic people I feel different because I’m Jewish. And it’s hard to tell which identity is more stigmatised and misunderstood among outsides, autism or Judaism. (I should probably clarify that Jewish identity is multi-stranded. A person can be ethnically and culturally Jewish without being religiously Jewish, and, more rarely, vice versa. I happen to be all three, ethnically, culturally and religiously Jewish.)

Religious Orthodox Jewish identity brings with it for me so many different thoughts, beliefs, practices, insights, viewpoints, that I struggle sometimes to find common ground with people who aren’t frum (religiously Jewish). It’s not deliberate, we just view the world and live our lives very differently and it can be hard to find common ground.

That said, I have always had non-Jewish and Jewish-but-non-religious friends, so I guess the empirical evidence is that I can bridge the cultural gap in a way that most frum Jews are not willing or able to do (most Orthodox Jews socialise mainly if not entirely with other Orthodox Jews).

I’m just so lucky to have found my wife. She’s the only person who gets me 100%, or near enough (I don’t think anyone can know someone else 100%). She is Jewish, but she’s actually not as religious as I am, although she is interested in becoming more religious with me. But she’s Jewish AND geeky AND, while she doesn’t have a diagnosis, we suspect she might be autistic. And she just accepts me for who I am and lets me be me. She hits my “intersectionality” as well as anyone could, although it’s interesting that she isn’t as observant as me; I guess I feel that there really must be very few of us like that. I suspect a lot of autistic people raised frum stop being religious because being autistic in the frum world is so hard, practically and socially. Others probably go undiagnosed due to social stigma and the fact that the Orthodox community tends to lag somewhat behind the secular Western world in terms of social trends, so we may see awareness and diagnosis suddenly rise in ten to twenty years’ time.

I feel like I ought to do something to reach out to other frum autistic Jews, but I don’t know what. I’m on a couple of Facebook groups for autistic Jews (not just religious ones), but they’re pretty quiet. It really feels like there aren’t many people like me out there.

Overwhelm and Incompetence

Today was a bad day really from before I actually woke up. I awoke from a bad dream. I can’t remember it now, but I was feeling quite disturbed for a while. I remember thinking that my unconscious seems to have a better imagination than my conscious mind and that I need to find a way to tap into it. Then again, most of the dreams I remember are completely incoherent, so maybe not. I did feel quite anxious, although I felt better after eating breakfast.

I had to do the Very Scary Task again at work. I realised that the difficulty with this is only partly social anxiety. A lot is struggling to process what is said to me on phone and to deal with questions on the spot, as well as the fact that I still struggle to remember all the procedure, for reasons that I am unsure of (possibly some kind of psychological block on something I find frightening).

I also had to deal with other phone calls, a LOT of noise (building works in our building and one nearby, plus a group of schoolchildren visiting the building – not our office, but we could hear them) and various other issues I won’t go into here. At one point, I lost Wi-Fi and it took me a while to realise it had spontaneously switched to flight mode (or I had accidentally switched it somehow). I went to the bank, but was too overwhelmed by the people on one of the busiest streets in London. By the afternoon, the phone ringing was making me jump and even the printer was too loud. I felt overwhelmed and wanted to hide in the toilet, although I didn’t.

I did manage to go to the opticians after work and try to get new lenses in my spare glasses (I’ll get my main pair done afterwards). There was noise and it was very busy. I felt didn’t cope, but I got through it, so I guess I did cope.

I did manage to spend a lot of time decompressing when I got home without screens and that really seemed to help me feel better.


I spent some time today thinking that J must think I’m incompetent. It’s not just the mistakes I make (although there are a lot), but the hesitations, uncertainty and checking. If he asks me something, I answer positively, but then I worry if that was right and start to sound uncertain, so I then go and double-check, which looks unprofessional, even if I had answered correctly first time.  Work today just felt impossible and I remembered my boss in my further education library job who more or less told me that I wasn’t good enough.

This then spilled into wondering how I can get married when I feel I won’t contribute enough to the household. I don’t mind that E earns more than me, but I wish I earned more than I do. I really need to get some more proofreading work (which reminds me that I need to check I’ve been paid for the work I did, and to try to get a review for it). I know E loves me and wants to marry me anyway, but I still wish we were more financially secure.

This all led on to wondering if I should tell J that I struggle at work or ask for adjustments. J knows I’m autistic. If you recall, I had an article about being autistic in the Orthodox Jewish community published on a Jewish website, under my own name and with photos of me. I wasn’t so keen on the photos bit, but it is standard on that site for those kind of personal story essays. I didn’t think anything more of it, but about a day later J texted me to say he’d seen it. I had stupidly forgotten something that I say a lot, which is that the Jewish community is very small and we all know each other (J wasn’t the only person I knew to see it, but I still think it was the right decision).

The problem is that I don’t know what reasonable adjustments I could ask for. I don’t think it would be reasonable to ask to be excused from speaking to people on the phone or doing the Very Scary Task. They are too important for me not to do and the Very Scary Task only comes around infrequently (and I am slowly getting more adjusted to it). I’m not sure what exactly my problem is, just that often everything feels very overwhelming. I am still thinking about asking to work later in exchange for a mid-afternoon break.


The other thing I kept thinking about today is that I want help people, but I’m not very good at it. I don’t really want to go into detail about this here, though. Years ago a psychiatrist told me that I want to help, but I can’t because I don’t understand people and I think she said I never will and I just need to accept it (I wasn’t even known to be autistic at that stage). That feels very true, sadly. I guess E is the right person for me because I can understand her enough to give her what she needs.


I listened again to Burt Bacharach’s upbeat theme tune to Casino Royale – not the Daniel Craig film, but the largely forgotten 1967 spoof. I did this because I saw that he had died, and this is the only song of his I really know. Casino Royale is mostly awful, but I really like the theme, corny 60s tune though it is. If I was the kind of person who knew how to edit video and had a flagrant disregard for copyright, I would set the grim violence of the Daniel Craig Casino Royale to the jaunty 1967 Casino Royale theme. “He’s gonna save the world at Casino Royale!”

Authenticity, Sin and the Perpetual Outrage Generator

I had therapy this morning. It was productive. I’m not sure that’s the right word for therapy, but you know what I mean. We covered quite a bit of ground, but mostly around the idea of unmasking and finding my authentic self, which we’re concentrating on at the moment. I joined this with a couple of other ideas that have been on my mind recently.

One is that I’m trying to move away from the concept of ‘sin’ as a way of judging my actions to an idea of whether my actions are taking me towards God or away from Him. I think sin is real (although the English term has all kinds of connotations that aren’t present in the Hebrew chet, which really just means ‘to miss the target’), but I don’t think it’s a helpful way for me to view things right now. It’s better to ask myself if I’m moving in the right direction or not, rather than assume a right/wrong binary which can be confusing when dealing with the way my autism and other issues affect my religious life or the way E and I are moving together religiously now, but are starting from different places.

This also reminds me a bit of something Rabbi Kahn said on a Orthodox Conundrum podcast I listened to recently, where he quoted Rav Shagar as examining not just what halakhah (Jewish law) required in a certain case, but also what God would want. Rabbi Kahn said Rav Shagar was complaining about rabbiswho examine halakhah, but don’t think about what God wants, don’t even conceptualise that God would desire something that might not correspond exactly with halakhah, perhaps don’t even conceptualise God as having desires for humanity relating to values rather than halakhah. (The Maimonidean in me wants to stress that God doesn’t “want” or “desire” anything; these are metaphors we use to understand God in human terms, but you get the idea.)

I mentioned some of this to my therapist and she said that the idea of moving towards God can be connected to the idea of connecting with my authentic self. The idea is that connecting with God is a way of connecting with my authentic self and vice versa. Part of me worries this is dangerously subjective, but I think there is truth in the idea that my authentic self has a natural connection to God, if I listen to it.

Similarly, I’ve been trying to help other people online recently (perhaps not in the best possible way, but that’s another topic for another day) and I think this connects to the idea of moving towards God being a movement towards myself. Just as moving towards God is a movement towards my authentic self, so is a movement towards the authentic selves of others a movement towards my authentic self. I’ve never read Martin Buber’s I and Thou, but I know he speaks of the idea of “dialogue” being about the connection between two authentic selves (I think he might say “souls”). I do think authentic dialogue (in Buber’s sense; I think the term has probably been overused since then) can be a way of finding my authentic self, and also of finding God.

There is a Peanuts cartoon I’ve been thinking about recently, where Linus says that we are here to help other people and Charlie Brown thinks about this and says, “Then what are other people here for?” The point is not that some people are here to help others; rather we are all here to help each other and thereby grow and imitate God, who has no needs and therefore gives without taking.


Somewhat related to trying to find my authentic self: I need to try harder to stay offline and off my phone, although this may not be possible until my wife is living in the same time zone as me. Blogging helps me to process my thoughts and emotions. Some news, social media and even idle internet browsing is positive or at least neutral. But too much is not good for me, like too much junk food. Internet news, social media and idle browsing are mostly passive and deadening (obviously blogging isn’t these things). I do sometimes engage with social media posts, but beyond a certain point, it becomes passive, when I’ve said all I’m going to say and read some positive responses and the rest is just repetition or argument. Likewise, I do read some thought-provoking or genuinely incisive news and commentary, but there’s a lot of repetition and verbiage “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Argument is the real killer for me online. The internet is a Perpetual Outrage Generator (POG). Everything  is the Most Offensive Ever, from politicians to films to other posts. So much of the internet is geared at making us angry at people and things that we had never even heard of before!

The other thing I realised is that the internet confuses is the difference between the urgent and the important. Everything on the internet is urgent, because the internet (or POG) wants you to see and respond NOW because it knows something else will be vying for your attention in thirty seconds time. Even beyond this, the fact that so much of social media is on infinite scrolling feeds means that if you miss something when it goes live, it’s hard to come back to it later. So it all feels URGENT.

However, much internet content is simply not important, whether it’s outrage or a listicle of top ten craziest Harry Potter fandom theories. It’s just the literary equivalent of junk food. Yes, there is serious internet content out there (long-form journalism, serious essays on many subjects that appeal to me, such as Judaism or history) and I do try to read some of it, but most of what I consume is not in this category. In fact, I actually dislike reading long essays online and tend to print these off to read in the real world.

My real world books, whether fiction or non-fiction, Jewish or secular, are mostly a lot more important than the internet. They contain information that someone thought was worth writing at great length, that someone else thought was worth publishing and that I thought was worth buying (I’ve acquired a lot of free books over the years, but you get my point). Yet these important books are not urgent. They literally sit on my shelf where I left them until I’m ready to read them. They don’t get lost in an infinite scroll of new books, nor is the author going to turn up and say that actually, he’s outraged about something else now and could I read that instead (OK, technically this could happen with books, but not as quickly as with social media posts and generally if a book was worth writing, it will still be worth reading some way down the line).

The bottom line is that I feel more authentic, calm and at peace when offline, whether I’m reading books, watching TV (which I find much calmer than the internet), doing Torah study, meditating (I need to write about my new experiments in meditation, but not now) or even davening (praying) by myself. It’s just hard to pull myself away, especially as I’m online connecting with E or doing wedding planning stuff so much.


Speaking of books, I finished Dune Messiah. I did enjoy it until I got near the end and it all fell apart. I have no idea of what was really going on. Frank Herbert was great at science fiction world-building, reasonable at characterisation, but bad, or just uninterested, in plot. I need a break from Dune before reading Children of Dune, so I will probably read First World War thriller Greenmantle next.


Other than therapy, today I went to get new glasses, but couldn’t find any I like, so I’ll go back tomorrow and try to get new lenses for my existing ones (having checked that I have a spare at home to get me through the two weeks before the new ones come back). I spent some time trying to expand a short piece I wrote about special needs children at the Pesach seder to something long enough to pitch to a Jewish website. It’s a work-in-progress and I’m not happy with it, but I’m further along. I just hope that I can finish it in time for it to be posted before Pesach, with all the wedding stuff going on. I didn’t get much time for Torah study, though, or much else at all.


I emailed Rabbi L asking to meet to ask some questions about the wedding. He suggested 8.30am on Friday morning, right after Shacharit (Morning Prayers). I would struggle to be able to get up that early after a work day and don’t want to risk burnout by trying. However, I haven’t told Rabbi L about my autism, autistic exhaustion and burnout. So I think this will be a difficult conversation as I try to do that, but my worry is that if I don’t, he will keep asking to see me in that timeslot.


My diet is going badly in terms of avoiding junk. I don’t eat a lot of junk, but I was trying to eat virtually none, without success. Like avoiding social media, a little is probably healthier than none, although not necessarily easier. But I am lighter than I’ve been since I was put on clomipramine in late 2017, which is when my weight shot up and I became overweight. I stopped being overweight a number of months ago, but I’d like to lose more of my tummy before the wedding, if possible.

No. Just, No.

It’s ridiculously late already (I’m trying to be off the computer earlier, without success), and I have therapy in the morning tomorrow (it’s usually in the afternoon), but I don’t want to go two days without blogging, even though I don’t have much to say.

When I was last in New York, E lent me The Rosie Project, a romance novel about an autistic (it says “Asperger’s”) scientist trying to find a partner. She read it years ago, before she met me and couldnt’ really remember it, she just remembered the autism theme and thought I might enjoy it. I started it on the Tube home from work yesterday.

The main character seems to be based on Professor Simon Baron-Cohen’s “extreme male brain” theory of autism, but not on actual autistics who are not all emotionless androids who can’t use contractions, slang or humour, who are not super-organised to the last minute (who are often disorganised and unpunctual, in fact) and who are not incapable of empathy. I have encountered a few people who are a bit like the main character and certainly some who share his negative view of allistics (non-autistics), but he seemed too extreme a case to be funny or relatable.

I got to page twelve before I gave up. I couldn’t get past the scenario presented, that all allistics would murder a crying baby in cold blood without a second thought to save their own lives, if they were hiding in a Holocaust-type situation, except perhaps for one or two who would use the baby as live bait to lure the enemy into an ambush. This is (a) tasteless and (b) untrue. As a Jew, I found the assumption that I would murder a baby in the Holocaust to save myself doubly offensive.

I asked E if the main character ended up married to a “manic pixie dream girl”-type who makes him more “human” and she said yes. Predictable (admittedly the cover picture and blurb gave a big hint). I’m not convinced this relationship would work in real-life, even if I grant that people like the main character even exist in real-life. OK, semi-comic romance novels, like Golden Age detective novels and James Bond films (both of which I like) are not supposed to be daringly innovative or realistic, but I don’t feel inclined to judge this book favourably.

The book had the “added value” bits that many books have at the back now, including an interview with the author (where he insists he does indeed know autistic people), links on autism and suggested book club questions. The autism links sent people to Autism Speaks, a notorious US charity that many autistics regard as essentially supporting torture and eugenics against autistics. And the book club questions invited participants to share their “bad date” stories with each other, showing it’s not just autistics who have no tact and don’t know how to make conversation.


As for today, I had volunteering in the morning. During the coffee break, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the conversation and my attempts to join in mostly failed as people talked over me. I felt better afterwards, when one other volunteer chatted to me while we threw a huge stack of cardboard boxes into the bins and I was able to say that we’ve booked a date and a venue (also a rabbi and, more or less, a caterer, but I didn’t say that). I’m definitely better in one-to-one communication than in a crowd, even the half-dozen or so at volunteering.

In the afternoon, I looked at wedding photographers’ websites. I found it hard to work out which ones I liked. E and I spoke about it afterwards. We’ve got a shortlist of four photographers, of whom we’ve already set up a Zoom meeting with one. I’m quite nervous about the wedding photos. I don’t feel I photograph well, which is probably at least partly due to social anxiety and my medication-induced tremor, but my autism might be a part of it too. I think I look tense, rigid and uncomfortable around people and/or when having my photo taken, probably because I am tense, rigid and uncomfortable around most people or when having my photo taken. So we want to try to find a photographer that can work with that or at least who doesn’t think it will be a huge problem.


Modern communication in social media land, part one: I know we’ve discussed here before the habit of blanking out letters in words that are deemed offensive or triggering e.g. r*cism, N4zi or, as I saw today, Asp*rgers. I’m not entirely sure what this achieves, just as I was never really sure what it achieves when newspapers blank out letters in swear words (I believe all newspaper editors have a policy on which words can have an initial letter and which are so offensive they have to be entirely obliterated by asterisks e.g. “The protestor shouted that the former President was a ******* s***”). Whether you’re going to be offended or triggered, you can easily, and probably automatically, work out what the word is anyway, so presumably you’ll still be offended or triggered.

More pertinently are people really triggered by seeing “racism” or “Asperger’s”? I’m autistic and Jewish and hence about as likely to be triggered by “Asperger’s” as you can get and it does nothing to me (Hans Asperger, after whom Asperger’s Syndrome was named, probably cooperated with the Nazi programme of murder of the mentally ill, although to what extent is still unclear). I’m not quite sure how we will end racism (for example) if we can’t talk about racism without self-censoring the actual word for fear of triggering people. And while I understand that abuse survivors can be triggered easily, I’m really not sure there is much we can do about it in this case. If we want to end abuse, we need to use the word “abuse.” It is another example where I’m inclined not to say anything at all online for fear of being accused of writing something offensive.

(I believe there is growing evidence that trigger warnings are themselves counter-productive, but that’s an argument for another time.)

Modern communication in social media land, part two: has the word “gaslight” lost its meaning? I mean its modern, internet-age meaning of lying to someone about the past to deceive or confuse them rather than its original meaning referring to a form of lighting. It seems to be used now as a general term of abuse to accuse someone of saying something bad or incorrect.

Today I saw the following interaction on Facebook (simplified):

Person A: referred to “girls’ Shidduch [arranged blind dates] resumes” in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) world.

Person B: said that it’s offensive to refer to adult women as “girls.”

Person A: said that “girls” is generally used in the Haredi world to refer to unmarried women of any age.

Person C: “A woman is telling [you] that [calling] young single women “girls“ is inappropriate and you gaslit her.”

Person B is right that using “girls” in this context is offensive, even though it is indeed the norm in the Haredi world. But I can’t see how Person A is gaslighting anyone. “Gaslit” here seems to mean “has provided an inadequate excuse/explanation” which is not what gaslighting is. I saw another, similar, if more ambiguous, example on Facebook a few weeks ago. Puzzling.

Less Than Brilliant

No proper post today, as my brain exploded some hours ago under the weight of work, mistakes at work, a commute home involving a not-quite hilariously offensive portrait of autism in a novel, a long wedding-planning Zoom and frequent bouts of apparent low blood sugar. I did write a reply to an article on the autism community about having autism being “brilliant”. I worry that I’ll get flamed there, but decided to post anyway, possibly because I’m operating without a brain. I thought I would post it here too so you can see what I’m talking about if I complain tomorrow about getting flamed.


(I’m going to get hated for this.)

Your mileage may vary. Or, my mileage.

I don’t really see my being autistic as “brilliant.” I’m not as negative about it as I was a year ago, but it still seems that, for me (I stress, FOR ME), the negatives massively outweigh the positives. Yes, it’s nice that I can name 300 Doctor Who stories in order (or could, before the last few years nearly destroyed my enthusiasm for my longest-standing special interest – I’m going to get hated for this too), but that doesn’t compensate for struggling to get and hold down a job, being unable to work full-time, giving up on the career I wanted because I couldn’t find a suitable workplace, struggling to make friends, not fitting into the religious community I want to be a part of, being increasingly unable to tolerate busy shops and public transport, etc. etc. etc. I just had a moderately difficult day at work (and not even a whole day) and an hour and a half wedding planning Zoom meeting and my head is ready to explode, and has been since about half-an-hour into the Zoom. This is not “brilliant.” Some of this we can blame on structural ableism (ugh, don’t like that phrase), but I’m not convinced all of it is in that category (another discussion for another time).

I don’t think allistics are horrible people living their lives in a totally alien way to how I would like to live mine. I know some nice, thoughtful, considerate allistics who are quite like me in terms of personality, but can do a full day of work or a trip to the shops without feeling that they’ve been wrestling a gorilla by the end of it. My point is that my personality is not the same as my autism and I don’t think the latter is necessarily responsible for all of the former.

If you can make your autism work for you, I’m very happy for you, but this is how I feel about MY autism. Basically, the only thing that is positive about my autism is that it’s very unlikely that my wife would have married me if I wasn’t like this: my “Renaissance Man” attitude (as my therapist put it) of having both religion and worldly knowledge and culture (although I’m not sure how autistic Renaissance Man really was – in some ways that seems the opposite of autism!). Which is obviously a massive positive, but I worry that for the very same reason, we are going to struggle, because I am never going to earn enough for our combined income to be enough for our needs. (My wife says she wants to be with me anyway. She’s amazing.)

If I can make the proofreading side hustle (ugh, don’t like that phrase either) I’m trying to set up work, then maybe I’ll feel more positive towards autism. My proofreading skills are probably another rare autistic gift, but like Superman near Kryptonite, they fail embarrassingly in the office, perhaps under the stress of masking. However, at the moment, I don’t feel great about the proofreading, as I struggle with the self-promotion and networking needed to succeed (again, not naturally autistic skills). But, as I said, if YOU think YOUR autism is a benefit, then I’m very happy for you (I mean that genuinely).

Wedding and Marriage Thoughts (Part 1?)

After some awkward back and forth between E and the rabbi we want to marry us, we managed to confirm a date/time for our chuppah (religious wedding)! It’s the 21 May (please God). I’m suddenly superstitious about saying things like “Please God!” which I don’t normally say. I’ve had some anxiety this afternoon that somehow the wedding won’t happen or we will have to move the date and all the friends and family from overseas that we want to invite (a big proportion of the small guest list) will lose money on their plane tickets and be angry with me.

There are probably some subsidiary anxieties, like learning to balance E and my parents. It still feels strange adjusting to having E rather than my parents as my primary emotional support after having lived with my parents for so long. I wasn’t that close to my parents as a teenager, but when I had my big breakdown/burnout/depression/whatever at university, they were shocked that I hadn’t told them what was happening to me, particularly that I was suicidal. After that I tried to keep them in the loop more, and I also realised it was safer to rely on them than friends who are more likely to get overload with my issues (as happened at university). I did also find professional support in therapists, psychiatrists and my rabbi mentor that I didn’t have in the big breakdown/burnout, which helped spread the load, but I still spoke to my parents about a lot of stuff.

I think E’s understanding of the world is closer to my own, so I’m pleased to be able to talk to her, but I guess it feels weird trying to work out exactly how close, emotionally and practically, I’ll be to my parents after I move out, especially as E’s parents will be on another continent, so not local for help, but I don’t want E to feel that my parents get more input to our lives than hers simply because they live closer. It’s particularly hard to confide more in E than my parents now, given that the time and distance gap makes it hard to contact her sometimes, whereas my parents are usually around in the house with me.

The wedding planning stuff probably took quite a bit of time. I went for a walk, which helped the anxiety a bit. It is hard still being long-distance, especially doing wedding planning. I did some Torah study, but not much else; wedding planning and anxiety took up a lot of time and emotional energy.

Letters to No One

On Thursday night, I stayed up late on the autism forum, responding to posts. Some people were in an extreme emotional state and I wanted to try to help.

I woke up late on Friday and felt extremely drained. I doubt it was just the autism forum’s fault, as I often feel this way by the end of the work week, but the forum probably didn’t help. Whatever the cause, the result was that I felt too drained for shul (synagogue) on Friday evening. I did manage to do some Torah study after dinner and a bit of Dune Messiah reading.

I felt a bit better today, but did go back to bed for a while after lunch. I managed to do some Torah study again, but not much else. I’ve been lurking in my room as my parents are doing a “supper quiz at home” downstairs with eighteen friends (E was amazed they have so many and I told her these are just their local friends. E thinks they are super-allistic). This is a charity quiz where people form tables in different houses to participate. The questions are sent in advance, opened at a particular time, then have to be entered online before a deadline. The answers, and the winning table/house, is released a while later. Obviously, there is a lot of trust here about not cheating.

This is an annual event, although usually fewer than eighteen people (plus Mum and Dad) are able to attend. I used to participate, despite social anxiety/overwhelm, but after a couple of years, the quiz setters stopped asking trivia questions as it was too easy to google the answers and switched to lateral thinking questions, which I’m not good at. So, I’ve been lurking upstairs. When I went down earlier, most of the friends were engaged in the quiz, but two men were talking politics in the kitchen alongside someone who was quizzing another friend, a GP, on her health issues.


Last night I dreamt about a friend who stopped talking to me when my depression/burnout/suicidality was very bad, back when I was an undergraduate. It was a complicated situation that I won’t go into in detail here and I was largely at fault, even though this snapshot presentation might suggest otherwise (I was totally overwhelming her with my emotional needs and refused to seek professional help early enough, instead overloading my friend). I think she tends to surface in my dreams at times of change and emotional stress, so I guess this was probably triggered by moving forward with the wedding.

I do occasionally remember her and wish that I could let her know that I am autistic and that this was at least partially responsible for my handling the situation so badly, but I’m not sure why I want to do this. To explain myself so that she won’t hate me? Or so that she won’t beat herself up? Probably both. We did have a brief correspondence about nine months after she stopped talking to me, when I naively thought I was over my depression and was preparing to go back to university, where we both said that we blamed ourselves. I had no idea I was autistic at the time.

I started writing a letter tonight. Not an “actually going to post it” letter (I have no idea what her address is, beyond that she lives in Israel now), but a “I need psychological closure, so I’m writing this for myself and will throw it away afterwards” letter, which I’ve done once or twice before. However, I felt that I was just making excuses for myself and disowning my bad behaviour, so I stopped writing.

I had also thought about writing another “psychological closure” letter, to various Jewish Studies teachers I had at secondary school, who were disappointed that I didn’t go to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) for a year or more after school and before university. Again, I wanted to tell them about my autism and about the way I intuited what a bad environment yeshivah would be for an undiagnosed autistic. To tell them that despite not going there, despite years of depression/burnout and emotional distress and perhaps years of feeling marginalised in the frum (religious Jewish) community, I am still frum. But this seemed to be more about me justifying my life to myself again, and probably in a passive aggressive way, so I didn’t even start to write that one.

I do occasionally wonder sometimes if these rabbis remember me, and whether they really thought they had failed to make me become frum. Unlike the university friend, who I haven’t seen since for twenty years, I did actually see one of these rabbis in a kosher restaurant a number of years ago, and another one used to daven (pray) in my old shul occasionally. I never said anything to them and they either didn’t see me or didn’t remember me.


There was Drama on the autism forum again. It’s identity politics stuff that I won’t go into. I think many people online thinks that they are being “silenced” by “those in power” and that places aren’t a “safe space” for them. This is true of people on both sides of the political divide. I guess because there are just so many thoughts on the internet (many of them totally incoherent) that it’s easy to assume that Everyone disagrees with you, even that you are being silenced by Everyone/Authority. You overlook the people who agree with you and only notice the negatives. I fall into this trap myself sometimes. (That said, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you sometimes.)

There is enough good on the forum, threads I benefit from and threads where I hope I’m able to help others, that I want to stick with it, but there do seem to be more (a) silly and (b) political posts lately and I feel they get in the way and provoke Drama. I just want to discuss living with autism on the autism forum!


I’m watching episode one of Undermind, from 1965. It’s a science fiction serial, written by a bunch of different writers, several of whom worked on the original run of Doctor Who (Robert Banks Stewart, David Whitaker, Bill Strutton and Robert Holmes – Whitaker and Holmes are two of my all-time favourite Doctor Who writers). So far, I find it intriguing, although dated in places. The initial episode concerns a drunken cabinet minister who hits an off-duty policeman, who brings charges. Within a day or two, the minister has resigned and committed suicide out of shame. Nowadays the scandal would drag on for weeks, he might not even resign (cf. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott punching someone who through an egg at him during the 2001 general election campaign and getting away scot free) and if he did, he’d be back in office in months. Or go on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. There’s also a gollywog in shot in a children’s playroom in a couple of scenes, which certainly wouldn’t happen now. But overall, it’s interesting me, and like a lot of vintage TV, it seems faster off the blocks than modern TV. Today, episode one of almost any drama seems to be an hour of slllloooowwwwlllllyyyyyy introducing the characters, and not much plot.

The sound quality is appalling, but it’s a vintage programme. I’ve found vintage programmes that were broadcast on the ITV networks aren’t restored as carefully as BBC programmes. The BBC has an unofficial “restoration team” of fans of Doctor Who (initially) and other vintage television who ensure these programmes are often broadcast-standard despite being sixty or seventy years old as a labour of love. That doesn’t seem to happen with ITV series like Undermind or The Avengers.

Autistic Exhaustion in the Frum Community

I feel like I’m on the brink of autistic exhaustion today. I got up at about 10.40am even though I felt really tired, because I knew the Tesco order was about to come and I had to be ready. It’s supposed to come between 11am and 12pm, but it always comes fifteen or twenty minutes early. I don’ t know why. Perhaps there are a lot of other people around here who have an order between 10am and 11am every week. Bending down a lot to unpack the crates made me feel ill from low blood pressure. I had breakfast, but went back to bed for a ten or fifteen minutes afterwards as I still felt bad. I’m not sure if it was shifting into autistic exhaustion by this stage, as one of the weird symptoms I get of that is a ‘head rush’-type feeling like getting up too fast with low blood pressure. By lunchtime, I was still feeling very drained and struggling to do anything. Maybe I did more yesterday than I thought, or maybe it just took more out of me because so much of it was social (volunteering, wedding planning Zoom call). I had to go for an eye test (see below) and didn’t do much else. I had some wedding conversations with my parents and with E and did some Torah study and one or two small chores, but that was about it.

My eye test was OK. My eyes are healthy, but I need new lenses, which might make The Guide for the Perplexed easier to read (if not understand). In retrospect, my eyes probably have been strained a bit recently, but I put it down to not polishing my glasses efficiently, which is actually a really weird thing to think.

I feel like I’ve been a bit spendthrift recently. Over the last few days, aside from wedding Daleks, I’ve bought the CD The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (I’m getting into The Kinks at the moment. I don’t think they were better than The Beatles, but I think they did some things better than The Beatles), the DVD of the 1960s BBC science fiction thriller Undermind (as part of my apparent attempt to watch all surviving British TV science fiction of the 50s, 60s and 70s), the final Harry Potter book and a large-format Doctor Who coffee table-type book. I didn’t spend a lot of money; the most expensive were Harry Potter (£4) and Undermind (a few pence more), but I feel vaguely materialistic, and I probably shouldn’t be buying books when I have so many still to read.

When I got home, I discovered I had been under-charged for the Doctor Who book. Most hardbacks in the charity shop are £2.50, but this had a sticker saying it was £4. Neither I nor the woman serving me noticed this, as the sticker had been stuck, upside-down, on the back, instead of the front as is normal. I’m not sure what to do. It’s only £1.50, and usually I wouldn’t care, but it was a charity shop and it feels vaguely like robbing the poor. I feel I should make an extra donation, but I don’t know that I would have bought the book if I knew it was £4 and I don’t want to guilt myself into paying it.


I posted this on a Jewish autistic Facebook group:

This is really a sequel to [redacted] post about being hard on ourselves from a couple of days ago. I beat myself up a LOT. Today I am struggling with autistic exhaustion and don’t really want to do much. Yesterday wasn’t particularly busy, but did feature quite a lot of social interactions and that is probably what exhausted me. But I find it hard to give myself a break about it, just adding to the exhaustion by piling on self-blame. I often struggle with autistic exhaustion and it holds me back from a lot of things, as do social anxiety and difficulty ‘peopling.’

I find I beat myself up most about religious stuff. I criticise myself for not doing enough Torah study, and not enough Talmud in particular. I criticise myself for mostly davening at home and davening a very cut down Shacharit, even though these have contributed to a significant improvement in my concentration while davening. I have a general sense of being a Bad Jew, which I guess comes partly from feeling I missed so many stereotypical frum life experiences and never having really fitted into a frum community as well as these autistic issues.

The other week I emailed the Maaglei Nefesh support email. (They’re an organisation that provides support about mental health-related halakhic issues from rabbis with mental health training.) I said that I know autism isn’t a mental illness, but I don’t know where to turn. I said more or less what I said here. I was told that if I feel exhausted or overwhelmed, then I shouldn’t feel obliged to go to shul or do other social-related mitzvot, and I shouldn’t feel pressured to do mitzvot generally that I feel my autism prevents me from doing. I found this helpful, but as the exemptions mostly depended on feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, I just know I’ll end up thinking “am I feeling exhausted/overwhelmed *enough* to consider myself exempt?” To be fair, the rabbi said I could email back with more specific questions, which I may do, but I’m struggling to formulate anything more specific than a near-constant feeling of exhaustion and overwhelm.

Does this resonate with anyone? Please tell me I’m not alone!

I got a couple of responses, which is good, although no one really has a solution. At least I know I’m not alone…


I wasn’t going to do a daily post today, as not a lot happened. I went to volunteering, then slumped a bit in the afternoon, as has happened recently after volunteering, not so much in mood as in energy. I think volunteering uses a lot of energy, particularly when we’re doing it in the cold in the garage. I had six layers on today (undershirt, tzitzit, polo shirt, jumper, fleece, coat, plus gloves and scarf) and didn’t feel hot until I came into the building for the coffee break.

I spoke to E about wedding stuff in the afternoon and then cooked dinner, badly. We had run out of turmeric. We didn’t have ordinary-sized onions either; I meant to use two small, but forgot about the second one. It was actually OK taste-wise, but was more liquid than it could have been.

The reason I’m writing is that while I was cooking, I listened to a recent Orthodox Conundrum podcast, about a rabbi who died a couple of weeks ago who was a pioneering teacher of women’s Talmud. Traditionally, women were not taught Talmud at all. The podcast was interesting, but it just reinforced my feelings that I am a bad Jew for not having gone to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) and not knowing how to study Talmud properly, and also that I will never be accepted by the frum (religious Jewish) community for never having been to yeshivah and being unable to study Talmud properly. I appreciate that these are two different feelings (1) I am a bad Jew; (2) the community will not accept me.

I’m not sure how to deal with the first feeling. I think deep down I know that I’m not the worst possible Jew. I at least try to be a good Jew. But the second feeling is really bothering me. I guess at a certain point it starts reinforcing the first feeling, so the two are linked. Status for men in the frum community is linked so much to Talmudic study and I struggle with that. I find it ridiculous that in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, an honest person who isn’t a great scholar is low status, whereas someone who cheated on their rabbinical exams, committed massive fraud or is a prolific child abuser can be considered a great tzaddik (saint) (all examples taken from real life, sadly). I don’t really want to be a part of a community that has those warped priorities and the Modern Orthodox community does at least seem to be waking up to the reality of these kinds of abuses. But that just brings the alternative problem of still not feeling accepted.

I don’t know how much of this is my paranoia colouring my experiences. I’ve struggled to fit in, but maybe that’s because of autism as much as lack of yeshivah study and Talmud knowledge. I wrote at length here about some examples, but on re-reading, they don’t really prove my point and I deleted them. They were times I felt that I didn’t fit in to the frum community, but there was no evidence that the other people involved were judging me negatively (although I’m pretty sure one was), let alone why they might have been doing that. Maybe people don’t care that I didn’t go to yeshivah, they just struggle to understand who I am because my autism stops me participating in the community in the usual ways and I sometimes come across as weird in real life. Even so, I feel isolated. I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter if they don’t like me because I didn’t go to yeshivah or they don’t like me because my autism stops me communicating with them or connecting with them in the usual ways. The fact is, I can’t communicate with them and they don’t like me.

It did occur to me after writing the above that, when I lived in a not-so frum community, I was able to lead services and give Torah speeches and that did seem to raise my status in the community, although I don’t know if they were responding to my knowledge or to the fact that I was helping the community.

I guess I feel that I want someone to give me a medal and reassure me that I’m a good person/Jew. I shouldn’t rely on other people for my self-esteem, which is easy to write and hard to do. How do you even change something like that? E thinks I’m more than OK, and I think that does make me need external validation less than I used to, but the feeling is still there.

Anyway, I was supposed to write this quickly to off-load, and it took over an hour, and I feel like I’ve not done enough today… We did have a long Zoom meeting this evening between E, my parents, E’s mother and myself talking about wedding stuff. It lasted an hour and a half and E and I continued talking and texting about it for quite a while afterwards. I found it pretty draining. I also confirmed that I don’t have strong opinions about a lot of wedding-related decisions, but I do have strong opinions about one or two surprising things. So, I guess that was something else I did, but I didn’t have time to set up another freelance proofreader profile or to work on my novel, two things that are secondary to the wedding right now.


I don’t want to discuss politics, but the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said, “The question the people of our country are now asking is: are me and my family better off after thirteen years of Conservative government?”

Surely it should be “are my family and I better off…”? Am I being pedantic? I don’t know about Labour’s economic policy, but I don’t trust their education policy.


Facebook is showing me adverts for a sofa company that offer “Free Staingard” (whatever that is), which my addled brain read as “Free Stalingrad”. As Monty Python said, “You wouldn’t have much fun in Stalingrad.”