Liveblogging Depression 6

20.01 Doctor Who: The Sea Devils: Episode 2.  Old Doctor Who is better than new Doctor Who.  Swordfight!  Bad jokes!  Also, squishing stress ball (Evel Kneidel, the stress matzah ball) – helpful.

20.27 I suspect this experiment isn’t working, so I’ll stop clogging up everyone’s feeds and go back to doing one post.

20.40 Lying on the bed again, for the umpteenth time today, feeling awful and worrying.  Worries I won’t recover.  Worried I will never be able to speak my mind about anything for fear of being demonized and losing friends.  Terrified that no one could ever love me, that admitting my mental health issues will just lead to rejection.  Even worried that this liveblogging experiment failure will lose me my small base of followers.  I trust that God’s will will come to pass, but what if He wants me to be lonely and unloved?  That is, after all, how He seems to have wanted me to feel for so much of my life.

20.46 Not at all hungry, even a little nauseous, but feel I ought to eat something, so opting for cereal (muesli).  More Doctor Who.

20.58 Still haven’t actually got around to eating and DVD.  Parents aren’t answering phones.  Might well take more olanzapine tomorrow without waiting to hear from psychiatrist.

21.06 Just spoke to Mum, she agreed with me that I should just take the olanzapine tomorrow morning and tell the psychiatrist rather than waiting for him to email me back, otherwise the depression might get worse and I might miss work.

21.11 Emailed the psychiatrist.  Worried he will tell me I should have stayed on the lower dose for longer, but feel I know my mind and my body better than a doctor (this is halakhah, incidentally).

21.16 Ma’ariv.  Poor kavannah (concentration).  Worried that no one really reads what I write here.  Worried about That Thing, that I will never find someone who can love me for the broken person that I am.

ca21.25 Text from friend offering support, feel a bit better.

21.37 Dinner and Doctor Who, interspersed with texting friend.  Also, make lunch for tomorrow, pack.

Still to do: shower, hitbodedut, bed.

Liveblogging Depression 5

ca19.50 Daven Mincha.  Zero kavannah.  Still afraid that this isn’t just withdrawal and that I’m permanently depressed again, or that it was triggered by withdrawal, but will not be cured by increasing the dosage of the olanzapine.

20.00 Ought to have dinner, but really not hungry.

Liveblogging Depression

18.52 Doing Torah study, Bamidbar/Numbers 31.13-54, hardly the most inspiring passage (and I hate having to translate long numbers from Hebrew, I always get confused), but where I am in my daily parasha reading.

19.06 Web-browsing again.  I’m making myself feel depressed, but I’m scared to say what is depressing me.  “I tolerate this century, but I don’t enjoy it.” Doctor Who: 100,000 B.C., Anthony Coburn

Liveblogging Depression (Sort Of)

17.45 To blog or not to blog?  I have already written one post today and I am worried that if write another in this state, I will write something I will later regret, whether something private or something political or controversial.  I don’t have many readers, but I’ve noticed that those I do have come from diverse ethnic, national and religious backgrounds; I’m guessing their political backgrounds differ too.  To write about something other than mental health is to open myself to criticism and rejection.  Doubly so on a day like today, when I am not thinking coherently and probably could not construct a meaningful argument for anything I believe in.

I tried to watch Doctor Who (The Sea Devils) earlier, but lost concentration after ten minutes, which is pretty much unheard of.  Did drift back towards it later.

18.09 Reading politics online, really should know better.  Given up hope of running today.  Worried about getting to work tomorrow.

18.41 Finally tidying up ‘lunch’, feeling that I have to hide who I am to be accepted.  Can’t go into detail even here, for fear of being rejected.  Feel unbearable tension inside me, not sure how to cope with it.  I wish… but I had better not say it.

OK, I was, as I say, “sort of” liveblogging because I was writing this periodically, but only planning on hitting ‘publish’ before bed.  I have been editing a bit too.  I’m going to take the plunge now and post little snippets throughout the evening, so, in the unlikely event that anyone wants to interact in real time via the comments, they can.  Apologies in advance for taking up a lot of your friends feed.

“It is only a beginning, always”

It seems a bit weird to quote Richard Nixon in the title line of a post, but I came across the quote (apparently a favourite of the disgraced President’s) in a newspaper article today and it seemed something worth holding on to.  The last few days have been difficult.  My OCD has rocketed up and my anxiety has been higher too.  There’s been some guilt over stuff I probably shouldn’t feel guilty about.  The Thing That I Seem To Talk About A Lot For A Thing That I Don’t Talk About has loomed large in a more negative way, connected with the guilt and anxiety.  The high OCD levels led to some tension with my parents, particularly my father; I am worrying about him as several months after being made redundant it looks like he won’t find a new job and he’s taking it badly (he was distracted for a while with job searching, but he’s grown despondent about that, and also with house decorations and planning my sister’s wedding, but those have reached a temporary lull, with things being as far advanced as they can be for now and not likely to be resumed in earnest for a while).  So I feel guilty for bickering with him, even as I felt that it was hard not to at times.

I went to bed very late last night, having stayed up for over an hour blogging and another hour watching Doctor Who; after last week I told myself I wouldn’t do either, at least not to the same extent, but I did anyway.  I must have more self-control next week, at least while Shabbat is going out so late.  Shabbat finishes about 10.20pm at the moment in London; factor in Ma’ariv (the evening service), walking home from shul (synagogue) and tidying up and it’s about half-past eleven or later before I even sit down to blog and it always takes longer than expected.

Inevitably, I woke up late this morning feeling very lethargic.  I slept for about ten hours, so it was not entirely due to going to bed late; depression is probably a factor there too.  My mood is somewhat low today, more depressed than anxious/OCD, although there is some of that too.  I want to try to go for a run, even if I do nothing else, but I am not sure if I will manage it.  I feel like I just want to go back to bed.

I’m worried about drifting back into depression, as I seem to have been doing in the last week or so.  A few factors are possible.  The ongoing stresses of That Thing.  Reducing the dosage of olanzapine, which may have been doing more good than I thought (supporting evidence: last time I tried to come off it, I also got worse and I am only trying again because my psychiatrist was insistent).  Exhaustion at working three full days a week for a full term with only one week off, itself interrupted by Yom Tov.  The start of the Three Weeks of mourning, which always brings my mood down and stops me listening to music to cheer myself up.  A general sense of loneliness and feeling that I still haven’t got my life where I want it to be, particularly religiously – feeling other people (FFB and BT) are innately more religious and pleasing to God than I am, that my mental health issues cripple me religiously and stop me getting to where I should be, to where God wants me to be (again, the Three Weeks and the start of what I think of as the long road to Yom Kippur exacerbates this).  And it all becomes a vicious circle where feeling a bit depressed and anxious sets of the OCD, which makes me feel more depressed and anxious, which makes me worry that I am falling back into mental illness, which makes me more depressed, anxious and OCD…

Hence the quote in the title, trying to see this as a new beginning not a return to negativity.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, another nineteenth century rabbi I admire greatly, spoke a lot about this, about starting anew every day.  “If your tomorrow is the same as your today, what need have you for tomorrow?” (Quoting from memory as my books on Breslov are all at my parents’ house.)  It’s hard to hold on to that when I just feel stuck, however.

Finding Myself on the Road Back to Kotzk

Thoughts have been flowing through my head all day, but being Shabbat I couldn’t write anything down.  I’ve been up and down.  There’s a lot of anxiety based around That Thing That I Won’t Talk About (Yet).  The Thing is currently good (not sure if I’ve made that clear), but there’s a fear that I will ruin it somehow.  There’s also a great deal of guilt connected to it, one way or another, which is probably misplaced.  I’d really like to write about it, but I don’t think it would be wise.  I try to trust in God that things will work out OK.  Of course, I’m mature enough now to know that that’s “OK” from the point of view of His plan, rather than “OK” according to what I want now, so there can be pain when my wants are adjusted to meet His reality (what I want isn’t necessarily what I need).

The shiur (talk) in shul (synagogue) at seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) was about finding oneself (from Rabbi Y. B. Lieberman).  It was good, but I’m not sure I can repeat it all (to be fair it was about fifty minutes long and on a fairly high level, with quite a bit of Hebrew and Aramaic thrown in).  The key point was that one needs to find oneself before one can serve God or help other people (the technical point for those who understand: mitzvot between man and his fellow = Avraham; mitzvot between man and God = Yitzchak; mitzvot between man and himself = Yaakov which is the synthesis of the other two (this is all according to the Maharal)).  The idea was that growth, finding yourself and connecting that inner self to God and to others is better than doing amazing things without that connection.  The parable was a man who gave £3,000,000 he could afford (because he was rich) to build a shul so he could get his name on a plaque and because the committee provided an escape from his family versus a man who gave £300 to the same fundraising campaign but had to scrimp and save to find it, but who really put his heart and soul into it.  The latter is obviously better, but it’s always been hard for me to hold on to this when I have been unable to do things because of my depression and even now that I am doing more, I still focus on beating myself up about what I find hard or impossible (serious Torah study, davening (praying) with kavannah (concentration), davening with a minyan (prayer quorum) etc.).  But I do wonder how much I know myself and what kind of connection I have with God.  It’s easy to fool myself into thinking I know myself and that I have a strong connection with God when I have no such thing, it’s just pride and wishful thinking and probably a dose of denial.

There was a time when I was very into the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe.  (A Rebbe is a Hasidic religious leader, not quite the same as a rabbi, Hasidism being a sub-grouping of ultra-Orthodox Jews, although many Jews, such as myself, are open to elements of Hasidic teaching without being fully Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox.)  He lived in the nineteenth century and was a fascinating personality.  Considering that Orthodoxy can easily become conformist, he stressed individuality and originality to a great extent.  He probably had a slightly anarchist streak; at any rate, he had no time for money, status or fame and showed no respect to those that he did not consider worthy of it, no matter what their position was in the community.  He didn’t write any books (surviving ones, anyway; he wrote pages of notes, but burned them), but was known for his pithy, almost epigrammatic teachings, although it is hard to know how many of those attributed to him are authentic.  He may have suffered from mental illness; at any rate, he spent the last nineteen years of his life shut away in his study, rarely receiving visitors and living on a bowl of soup a day.

I drifted away from his teachings for a long time, for an apparently trivial reason, but recently I’ve been forcing myself to re-read my favourite collection of his sayings, slowly, reading just a few a day, savouring them and mulling over the implications.  I knew I had to return to him to find myself.  In one of the most well-known stories about him, a student comes to him and asks to be his Hasid.  The Kotzker asks him why he came and the man says, to find God.  The Kotzker (who could be abrasive) says, “You wasted your time.  God is everywhere; you could have found him at home.”  Bemused, the man asks why he should have said he came.  The Kotzker answered, “To find yourself.”  I know I need to return to Kotzk to find myself, to learn how to be an individual, to learn the moral passion of the Kotzker.  To learn how to survive in a world of hypocrisy and sham piety.  To learn the art of silence.  To learn that individuality is not expressed (as the world says) by doing what I want, but by serving in the way that only I can.

“There is nothing more whole than a broken heart, nothing straighter than a crooked ladder.” – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk


It’s funny, when I started writing this blog, I expected to be writing little essays on Judaism and mental health.  The way it has turned out, I’m writing more of a journal of my feelings of depression, OCD, anxiety and borderline Asperger’s while in recovery.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t really fit the image I had of myself and my writing style.  Of course, that’s partly because the “essay writing” side of my brain has been occupied working on my Doctor Who non-fiction book and I have generally been busy with and tired from my new job.  I don’t seem to have many readers (so far as I can tell from page views, likes and followers), but I think I’m OK with that.  I’m really bad at the marketing/SEO side of blogging and neither of my previous blogs had many readers (although if anyone wants to link to me on their own blogs, I won’t say no!).  I used to worry about that more; here I think I’m glad I have half a dozen or maybe a dozen readers who seem to read most of what I write and get something out of it, even if I do wonder what people find to enjoy in my ramblings about life, mental health and working in a library (I now have the official title of “Assistant Librarian (Collection Managment)” which sounds very formal and important!).

Anyway, today is another lethargic day, but not really depressed emotionally.  I feel OK, I just haven’t got the energy to do anything.  I think I’m still recovering from the week, so I’m awarding myself another quiet day and not going for a run, as I would normally try to do on a Friday.  I just don’t have the energy.  I plan to watch Doctor Who (The Curse of Peladon) until I need to get ready for Shabbat.  I overslept ridiculously, partly because I went to bed very late (1.00am), but even so, I slept for about eleven and a half hours, which I think I needed.

I have to tell myself that I am still in recovery, not recovered.  Maybe I will always be vulnerable (I won’t say weak) and have to take care of myself.  I hope I can find a wife who can be accepting of that, given that earlier this year I dated someone who couldn’t cope with it, which makes me scared of opening up in the future about my depression.  (As an aside, I found a cool children’s book at work to explain about depression to very young children.  I made a note of that; hopefully it will be useful one day.)  Maybe I won’t be able to work completely full-time, or not for a while.  I just hope I can manage the transition from three to four full days a week in September.  At any rate, I have coped with a full term of working three days a week, which is good.  I have another week left before the long summer holiday, which I’m not actually contracted to do, I’m working extra for TOIL (Time Off In Lieu) so that I can take three days of Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) off as unpaid leave in the next term.  Also, being around for the library stock take is probably good work experience for me, as I’ve never done a stock take before.  But I think I really do need at least some of this long holiday to recuperate before the next term, which I guess is the advantage of working in a college library, even if the reduced pay (obviously I don’t get paid for those weeks) is a pain.

Closer to Optimal

I have eaten dinner and watched half a Doctor Who story (Day of the Daleks; the second two episodes, tonight, were rather better than the first two yesterday, unusual as most Doctor Who stories get worse as they go along, particularly in the original series.  But I digress.  As usual).  I feel rather better.  While I think today’s kashrut worries were real, I think I over-reacted to my fears and have them more in proportion now.  I feel a lot calmer and not so bothered about my sister’s wedding (I have just eaten the last of the leftovers that I had from the engagement party; it was a chocolate brownie that was still delicious nearly three weeks on).  I do still feel some of yesterday’s loneliness, though, the wish to have someone to hold my hand and snuggle with.  I don’t know why I suddenly feel so lonely, except that I do feel lonely when under mental strain, when I feel alone facing a scary world, which is how I felt today.

Tired now, bed I think.