The Exiled Child

“We are not of your race.  We are not of your Earth.  We are wanderers in the fourth dimension.” – Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (I think only the untransmitted pilot)

7.30pm: just back from picking up my prescription (I got it all in the end).  Really agitated when out.  Images of hurting myself, wanting to hurt myself.  Agitation, perhaps unfocused anger.  I want to write about my childhood trauma.  I want to write about the wicked things I do that make me hate myself so much.  I don’t want to be here.  I can’t function in this world.  One day I’m going to lose it, hurt myself or someone else or just scream and shout until they come and take me away and section me and hospitalise me.  I’ve had a couple of close calls over the years, my luck can’t last forever.  I’m an incompetent defective freak.

I don’t belong here.  This place, this time, this isn’t my home.  Please let me go home.  I’m a very small child and I want to go home.

9.00pm Mid-watching a Jonathan Creek episode I had never seen before to try to cheer myself up.  Bad mistake.  The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb, about the murder of a Jonathan Miller-type scientist/comedian/intellectual, turns out to be fall of stuff about how stupid and evil religious people are.  Plus, it’s also full of sex, which I guess is no surprise (murder mysteries are generally about sex or money, they’re the main reasons to murder someone, and sex is more interesting to write about), but also Jonathan Creek’s new wife has persuaded him to sell out, stop living in his antique windmill, creating magic tricks and become a high-powered business man, which just makes me feel more inadequate.  I couldn’t – and wouldn’t want to – be a big businessman (I would live in an antique windmill, though), but E. might not have broken up with me if I was, nor would I get people asking me (as happened on Friday) if they’re right that no one becomes a librarian for the money.  Actually, senior librarians are paid well and I think being a senior librarian at a university library is comparable to being a senior academic, but, let’s face it, I’m never going to manage that either.  I’m too depressed and unworldly (not in a good way), uninterested in anything beyond my autistic special interests and simply bored and panicked by the thought of professional development or networking (social anxiety!).

9.45pm DVD finished.  Exhausted, but not sleepy.  Agitation is tiring, fantasising about hurting myself is tiring.  Not hurting myself is surprisingly tiring.  Not telling anyone about this is emotionally draining.  I should go to bed because I have work tomorrow, but I feel like I’m carrying a lot of agitated nervous energy in my muscles.  I don’t know what to do.  My life is such a mess.  I’m such a mess.

I don’t belong here.  This place, this time, this isn’t my home.  Please let me go home.  I’m a very small child and I want to go home.

Boldly Going

Today’s good news is that my contract at work has been extended to the end of March.  I don’t know how much credit I can take for that, as I’ve only done three days work so far, most of which has been spent on induction and training!  But it’s good news and takes some of the pressure of job hunting (which I’ve let slide somewhat in the last fortnight).  I am still terrified of making some huge and staggeringly costly mistake with the rare books, though.

***

I mentioned yesterday an issue with my shul (synagogue) fees.  I got phoned by one of the finance people just now.  I was taken by surprise – I do prefer to plan ahead for phone calls, otherwise I tend to panic, be confused, or just want to hang up because I’m not mentally in the right place.  This happened earlier when it was just my sister phoning to see how I am, so a surprise call from shul (which is causing me a lot of anxiety at the moment, both about being mentally well enough to attend about whether it has the right hashkafa (religious outlook) for me) and finances (which cause lots of people anxiety) was not welcome.  I confess I panicked and when he asked if it was a good time to speak, I said no.  Not really a lie, as I do need to get ready for bed soon, but I feel bad about it.  And now I’ve got a return call hanging over me, although he has at least given me the option of What’sApping.

Sometimes depression, social anxiety and autism make me do things I wish I didn’t do.  I mean things that are against my core values, like lying to someone (OK, I didn’t really lie, but I kind of did), the acting out that I don’t like to talk about here, or just being irritable.  I feel I’m far too irritable with my Dad in particular, but I don’t know how to change.  His method of communicating isn’t exactly great for communicating with someone on the spectrum, but I don’t know how to tell him that, especially if he won’t read the leaflet I left for him.

***

I got upset by something on Aish.com yesterday, which I felt was victim-blaming me for my issues and implying that if I really believed in God I would not be depressed, or at least I would not be unmarried and in a difficult financial situation, because if I really believed in God, He would make everything better.  E. said that I shouldn’t read Aish.com so much and that she sees their essays as pure propaganda.  I actually do see the theology presented there as simplistic.  I find some of their self-improvement and relationship advice interesting and useful, but reading more theological posts tends to get me annoyed sooner or later, but I do it anyway.  Maybe I should try to stop.

I just feel I need for contact with people sometimes and, given that my rabbi mentor is snowed under with work and not responding to my emails and that the rabbis at my shul are more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) than I feel comfortable with, and that given that I have almost no frum (religious) friends, it is difficult to see where else I can go for religious discussion/support.  I do have a couple of frum friends, but I don’t like to bother them all the time.  There is the London School of Jewish Studies, but going to their classes involves staying out late, which is hard to do on work nights (and all the people there are twenty years or more older than me anyway, which doesn’t help from a social point of view).  Hevria used to help, but I’ve got hurt there in the past and I struggle to connect with many of the current crop of writers; I’m currently trying to avoid it as I probably should avoid Aish.  From that point of view, reading Aish is probably inevitable, like the way I aimlessly surf blogs and the like online trying to connect with people in other ways, even though I usually end up ‘triggered,’ lonely and miserable one way or another.

Re-reading this post from another blog today, I saw the following quote:

“For some, the satisfaction of leading a life bound to Torah is its own reward, but others might need to be assured that the righteous reap rewards and the wicked suffer punishments in the most prosaic of ways, preferably instantly and in plain sight.”

I try to be  in the former category, and, to be honest, my life being as it is, it’s the only really viable strategy for me to stay frum (religious), to accept access to the Jewish tradition as a reward in itself, but Aish is reflective of the idea, common in the frum community, that people get paid back for good or evil really quickly (William Kolbrener has a couple of good essays attacking this mentality in his book Open-Minded Torah).  I find this latter view theologically naive and simply false, but it’s hard not to get sucked into it when I see people on Aish, Hevria, Chabad.org or the parasha sheets in shul on Shabbat (the Sabbath) telling these kind of simplistic miracle stories and feel I inadequate and hated by God for not experiencing these kinds of miracles.

On a related note, I also struggle to cope with the idea of God as an unconditionally loving and forgiving parent.  I have no problem with God as benign Ruler or just Judge nor (more philosophically/metaphysically) with God as an infinite Being or the source of existence.  But because of some of my childhood experiences it’s very hard to accept the unconditionally loving parent.  My parents do love me unconditionally, but stuff that happened to me as a child that I can’t go into here made it hard for me to recognise that and accept it, let alone translate it to another level of reality and believe that I have a supernatural Parent who cares about me and wants to do good for me, or at least that He wants to do concrete goodness for me in the short-term, in this world, rather than some vaguely defined goodness in the future/the afterlife.

***

I’ve been clearing out old health-related papers: a huge pile of psychiatric reports going back to 2009 (which I think was when the NHS started sending them to me; there was apparently no report for my last meeting, late last year), and another big pile of CBT homework and occupational therapy reports.  CBT was helpful for me for my OCD (although not for depression) and occupational therapy was also helpful, as much, if not more so than psychotherapy, CBT and medication in getting me through my MA and into the workplace, but it’s vaguely unsettling to see so much of the last ten years of my life reduced to scraps of paper, and to be aware that much more could have been added that has been disposed of previously or was simply never sent to me (the psychiatric reports from 2003-2009).  Part of me worries that I will need this stuff some day, but I’ve never needed it until now and the NHS ought to keep copies (ha ha ha).  A lot of it is questionable anyway; the reports showed that my psychiatrist was often not listening to what I said, from how to spell my GP’s name to more important matters about my mood and cognitions.

***

(This next paragraph is relevant to a mental health/autism blog, it just takes a while to get there…)

I’m watching Star Trek: The Next Generation: Parallels.  I like Star Trek, but I haven’t watched it for a couple of years.  (I haven’t yet summoned up the courage to watch the latest series, Discovery.  The fact that they’ve made a big thing about being the first Star Trek series to use the f-word makes me wonder what their priorities are and if it is going to be ‘contemporary’ and ‘edgy’.)  The Star Trek universe is a reassuring, but slightly bland utopia, where all angst, doubt or guilt has been eliminated, along with personal eccentricity (unless you consider liking baseball an eccentricity).  The only person I can think of who has any of these traits is the minor character of Barclay, who is gradually therapied into ‘normality’.  Almost every character has won a shelf full of awards at Star Fleet Academy or on active service and several of them were ‘best X in their year.’  I wonder what would become of a weird freak like me in such a world, and whether autism has been medically eliminated in the way that Down’s Syndrome apparently hardly exists in Iceland because almost all foetuses found to have it are aborted.

(That’s at least relevant on a mental health blog; I’ll spare you the rant about the way Federation-style postmodern liberal pluralism strips other cultures of their internal coherence and meaning, leaving an empty, valueless, but inoffensive husk.)

As I say, I do like Star Trek, but this annoys me sometimes.  Doctor Who doesn’t present mental health or developmental disorders in a better way and arguably in a worse one, given how many villains are implicitly or explicitly identified as “mad”, but it does have a better track-record of showing harmless eccentricity in a positive light.

One thing I do like about Star Trek, though, is the camaraderie, the sense that the characters are real friends, although this makes me feel lonely and wish I had a group of close friends I could see regularly or work with.  The series bible forbade interpersonal conflict between the main characters, which is an odd thing to do from a dramatic viewpoint, but did create a cohesive set of characters, as well as providing reassurance for people like me who have difficulty dealing with conflict or accepting that friends can have disagreements and stay friends.

Another Psychiatric Assessment, and the Orthodox Jewish Religious Spectrum

I desperately feel like I need a break after my last job for the sake of my mental health, but I’m not sure that I’m going to get one.  I was woken up at 9.30am today (I wanted to lie in) by someone from an agency who wants to register me tomorrow so that I can apply for a short-term job.   So I had volunteering yesterday, my therapy assessment today and now registering tomorrow.  After that I’ll need to get to work on my presentation for the job interview on 5 December and if I don’t get that job, it’s back to job applications (realistically I’ll continue with the applications in case I don’t get the job).  I just feel exhausted and burnt out; goodness knows how I’ll feel by the end of the year (hard to believe that’s about a month away now).  Now I’m feeling sulky and miserable about the whole situation.  I suppose it’s probably good to keep busy, as once I stop the depression takes over and it’s hard to start again, but I feel miserable about it.

I feel bad that I got so annoyed about yesterday’s Doctor Who.  I told myself I wasn’t going to write long critical reviews any more, but it annoyed me.  I probably also over-reacted to the line about “Love your neighbour” being from the New Testament (it’s not.  It’s Tanakh/”Old Testament”).  I know they weren’t being intentionally antisemitic, but it is a classic antisemitic line.  I feel that identity politics and Twitter create a situation where everyone is shouting about being REALLY OFFENDED so you have to over-react to everything just to get heard and taken seriously.  I wish I didn’t get caught up in it all though.

Tonight I’m off to the London School of Jewish Studies to hear Rabbi Rafi Zarum speak about Chanukah (from their website: “This timely lecture will look at the clash between Athens and Jerusalem as it plays out today in the assimilation of Jews into modern culture.  Can traditional Jewish faith survive in the face of Western secularity?
What are the rules of engagement?”).  He’s a very good speaker and the topic is interesting, if potentially somewhat triggering for me, so it should be good, and I’m looking forward to hearing a more Modern Orthodox speaker after spending so much time lately in the more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world.

I’ve spoken quite a bit about Modern Orthodox vs. Charedi without really explaining the difference.  It may surprise you to know that there aren’t really any major differences in belief or practice between the communities.  The Charedi world accepts extra stringencies and is more literalist in its approach to sacred texts, but the essence of the commandments and beliefs are the same, unlike the differences between the Orthodox and Progressive communities.  And, in a sense, the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds aren’t really different communities.  It’s more a spectrum with very Modern at one end and very religiously conservative at the other and most people on a point somewhere in between with a fair bit of mingling between people who are somewhat more or less modern.  The difference is about approaches to modernity and it plays out in a number of ways.  For instance, attitudes to secular education, attitudes to Torah/science conflicts, attitudes to mainstream culture, attitudes to Israel and Zionism, gender roles, and so on.  Someone may be quite modern in some areas and more conservative in others, but usually are at a similar place on most or all areas.

However, in this country at least (I think things are different in the USA and Israel) more modern communities tend to have a membership comprised largely of people who are ‘traditional’ but not fully observant of the mitzvot (commandments) and who don’t take prayer and Torah study particularly seriously.  There is a lot of talking in the services, difficulty getting a minyan (prayer quorum) during the week, poor attendance at educational events and so on.  So, if one is (like me) quite Modern philosophically, but also very serious about Judaism, it can be hard to find a community that fits.  The choice is between a community that fits ideologically, but doesn’t offer the kind of vibrant Jewish life one wants or between a more active community that doesn’t fit philosophically.  It’s a difficult choice.  In my case the choice was made easier by the fact that the nearest Modern Orthodox shul (synagogue) was just too big and unfriendly for me and also by the fact that it’s my parents’ shul and I had no independent identity there, I was just my father’s son.

For me another problem is finding a wife at a similar place on the religious spectrum.  If I go to a professional shadchan (matchmaker) I suspect (perhaps wrongly) that I will be matched with people on the more Charedi end of the spectrum and certainly if people from my shul try to match me up that is where they will be coming from.  That’s not necessarily a problem if she doesn’t have a problem with my own outlook; however, I feel she might well have such a problem.

Sigh.  I’m OK when I’m thinking or writing about Judaism or Doctor Who or history, but then I stop and think about the Real World again and reality seeps back in.  I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment: a long period of unemployment or another job I can’t do well.  I wish I could get some sense of what is different about me and why, and what I could do to function better in the world.  I don’t even know where to look.  I’ve just typed up a ‘to do’ list, which makes me feel a little better.  At any rate, a printed list will look better than scraps of paper, and saves me continually copying things from one day to the next in my diary when, inevitably, I only get a couple of things done every day before being overwhelmed with depression (or procrastination).  There are sixteen things on the list (albeit that one is “Peanuts exhibition” because I’m worried if I don’t write it somewhere I’ll forget until it’s over.  But fifteen unpleasant tasks).  The list ranges from the minor (polish my shoes) to the major (open a new bank account that my Dad thinks would be good for me; do serious clothes shopping as many of my clothes have worn out or no longer fit because of all the weight I’ve put on with clomipramine – I hate clothes shopping).  Then there are the small, but tricky tasks, like writing for the umpteenth time for the £70 refund of money I’m owed by my shul, this time threatening to stop paying my fees unless they at least tell me why they won’t even respond to my emails (the treasurer is the wife of an old friend of my father and I know they have had a number of major life-cycle events, good and bad, in recent months, so I would be understanding if she’s busy, but she should at least respond to my emails to say she is aware of the situation).   And, of course, there’s job applications that I should be working on daily.

And then it goes from feeling I can’t cope to feeling that I’m a terrible person and that I want to die.  It’s quite frightening how fast it can change and with no obvious reason.

Later

I just had an hour long telephone assessment for CBT on the NHS.  I feel very drained.  Assessments are draining anyway, and I find speaking on the phone even harder than in person.  I had a lot of thoughts about whether I was describing my symptoms accurately and comprehensibly, whether I’ve been on therapy too much to qualify for more NHS therapy, whether the fact that CBT didn’t help in the past for my depression means that they will assume it won’t work now for my self-esteem, whether I’m wrong to feel that helping my self-esteem will have a knock-on effect on my depression rather than the other way around…  I had to talk about the behaviour I am not proud of and why it makes me hate myself, which is difficult to talk about to someone I don’t know, over the phone.  I was also asked a lot of questions about suicide and self-harm that were hard to answer.  I think about death and suicide a lot, but it’s hard to put a figure on what I think the probability is of my trying to kill myself.  How does one even put a number on that?  Pressed to give a probability out of ten, I said three, which seemed small, but the psychiatrist seemed incredulous or just worried that I was saying there was a 30% chance I would try to kill myself and put that way it did seem large and worrying.  I honestly don’t know what the correct answer is as there are so many factors involved.

Apparently I should find out whether I’m on the waiting list for CBT either later today or next Monday (I assume the psychiatrist only works on Mondays), but the waiting list itself is three to five months at the moment.

I feel I need to stop to relax for a bit before I go out to my shiur later, so I’m not going to try to do anything else today except finish off the laundry I started earlier.  I feel somewhat tearful and depressed.  Also alone; I’m glad my parents are home this evening, as I doubt I will talk to anyone at the shiur later.

“I Will Work Harder”

I worry that I may have lost a – well, friend is too strong a word, but friendly acquaintance – by owning up to my weaknesses/bad habits.  I nearly owned up to them publicly, or rather, I did, but then tried to retract what I said.  I have a pathological need for confession and absolution, and probably a desire to be hated by others as I hate myself by revealing my shortcomings.  This only applies online, though.  In person I can’t even admit to things that aren’t particularly shaming like my mental health or geekyness.

***

I feel like Boxer the horse from Animal Farm.  I beat myself up endlessly about my moral and religious failings and I keep telling myself “I must work harder” just as Boxer was always saying “I will work harder”.  But it never works.  Perhaps I work as hard, or harder, at my religious and moral life than most people (or most frum (religious) Jews), but the results are much less.  I try to judge myself based on my effort (which according to the Talmud is what God judges), but it’s hard.  I can’t accurately measure my own effort, let alone anyone else’s; I can measure outcomes.  I can see that I’m not going to shul (synagogue) as often as others, that I’m not studying Torah as much and so on.

So I try to work harder, but I can’t because I’m already at my emotional limit, if not beyond it (all that crying must signify something).  My rabbi said (at Ne’ilah on Yom Kippur, the holiest time of the year) that making resolutions to do more were pointless as they won’t work; we should be doing things better and smarter than before, using our existing routines and schedules in a better way to get more out of the year.  Don’t try to study an hour of Talmud each day when you get home exhausted, but use your half hour train journey to do it instead.  This is probably good advice, but I’m not sure where I have the free capacity at the moment to follow it.  I don’t know what I can actually change right now.

Intimations of Mortality

I was going to go to autism group after work, but on the train I felt terrible, exhausted and overstimulated.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I struggle with, especially as some times I’m fine with some things, but not at other times.  I have no problem with trains most of the time, but they are hard at rush hour, and I’m not sure if it’s the noise, the heat or the people, which means it’s hard to tell if it’s social anxiety or autism.  Similarly, I can’t tell if I struggle at work from the noise (autism) or the fear of interactions with others (social anxiety) or the feeling that I’m doing badly and am going to get fired (depression and low self-esteem).  Then being depleted makes my blood sugar drop and I feel faint and sometimes start trembling, so I have to eat, which makes me worry about clomipramine-induced weight gain…

Whatever the reason, my work days are terrible ordeals at the moment.  At some point in the afternoon today I found myself crouched on the floor of the toilet, trying to escape from things.  If this was a permanent job, I would be seriously considering resigning.  As it is, I’m counting down the next six weeks.

I do worry if I’m fit to work, but, again, it’s hard to tell anyone that, because I’m not sure myself if the problem is depression, social anxiety or autism.  Someone told me that where I live one can have free (i.e. state-provided) help with autism, including a pre-assessment (for want of a better word) where they tell you whether you are likely to be diagnosed with autism and what that would entail.  I don’t know if I qualify because I’ve already been assessed twice and told I’m not autistic, but if I can go, I’m seriously thinking of going and saying that I really think that I’ve been wrongly diagnosed and that I’m autistic, that much of my life only makes sense if I’m autistic and that several mental health professionals (and some friends) strongly believe that I’m autistic, especially as the diagnostic criteria have been revised and broadened since I was assessed.

I had a lot of death fantasy today, not so much wanting to die, although there was some of that, but wondering if I’m dead and in Gehennom (Purgatory).  It’s probably just as well that I’ve finished reading VALIS, as that was probably encouraging me in that kind of solipsistic fantasy.  I just want not to be here.  I can’t imagine my life ever being worth living.  I just seem to be a mass (or mess) of mental illness and autism and trying to unpick and cure – or even just alleviate – one part of my problems runs into the problem that they are all interconnected and you can’t deal with one without dealing with all the others first.

My self-belief is at an all time low (which is saying something).  I can’t see myself managing to get a permanent job and stay at this level of functionality indefinitely.  I don’t even need to worry about getting married, just worrying about functioning is bad enough.  I don’t think I have ever worked as hard with depression this bad as I have this year.  Usually when working with depression in the past I was doing very short hours or studying with control over my study schedule, but now I’m nearly working full time with a long commute at rush hour.  On one level it’s impressive, but I worry that I’m going to burn out; goodness knows what that would entail – suicide? psychosis?  To be honest, I don’t think it would be either, but I don’t know what it would be.

I feel inclined to withdraw from social things, as I did with autism group and as I have been doing with shul (synagogue).  It occurred to me today that I probably do have a couple of friends, or potential friends, who could accept me if I would open up to them, but I’m scared that if I do that they won’t accept and I’ll be worse off than I am now, where at least I have them as somewhat friendly.  So I don’t open up and so never get to move those friendships on to closer friendships.  I don’t know how to talk to people about my mental health/autism and I don’t know how to explain that they dominate my entire life to the exclusion of almost everything else.  And then there’s the shame I feel about my geeky interests with other frum (religious) people, so that’s another key part of me I don’t open up about.

I did at least get to shiur (religious class), as by the evening I had eaten and relaxed a bit and felt somewhat restored, although I was inwardly a bit disquieted by the unusually large number of men packed into the assistant rabbi’s dining room.  The topic was not so easy for me either as it was about having purpose in life and living according to that purpose, whereas I don’t feel I know my purpose at all and don’t know how to find out; I’ve been told I can work it out by listing the five happiest moments of my life and what I would do with a million pounds and six hours of free time a day, but I don’t think I can think of five times I’ve been really happy and I simply don’t know what I would do with money and time.  This was also tied in to having a spouse and children to take forward your mission, which is obviously sensitive to me.  The assistant rabbi was saying that a person can be studying Torah and doing mitzvot (commandments) and still be messing up by not studying the Torah and doing the mitzvot  needed for his precise mission, so obviously that’s just going to reinforce my feeling that I’m a bad person and I’m not going to go to Olam HaBa (Heaven).  And he spoke about my acting out too and about that being wrong (not that he knows that I do it, he just meant it generally).

In terms of finding my mission in life, sometimes I think I should try to contact the author of this article and ask if she can offer any tips on finding my life’s mission, but I don’t know what she could say that isn’t in the article.  Other than that, I have no idea what to do.

The Inner Critic

I overslept again this morning.  I would have got to work on time, but there was a slight train delay and I was a couple of minutes late.  This office doesn’t seem to be as strict about timekeeping as my last job, but I felt bad.  I think of myself as a punctual person, at least when other people are involved (when I just want to do something by a certain time for myself, my time management is not always the best, largely due to depressive procrastination and probably also to self-sabotage stopping me doing things I enjoy).

Previously, I had been working through most of the data my boss gives me each day, but leaving some over for the next day.  Today I was asked to go through all the data by the end of the day.   I managed it, but I had to stay a little late and I felt that I was rushing a bit, which worried me as I am still making mistakes, although I think I have found a new way to check my work before submitting it.

The stress of having to do all that work on time and the stuffiness in the office, combined perhaps with my inner critic attacking me for lateness, slowness and mistakes (more of the inner critic in a moment) resulted in a headache by lunch time.  I went for a walk instead of working on my Doctor Who book, although the headache didn’t really go until I took some painkillers.

I’m having some trouble with my Complex PTSD book.  The book tells me that I need to challenge my inner critic.  The book says the inner critic is an internalisation of the voice of one’s abusive parents.  The problem is that I don’t hate my parents the way the book thinks I should and I certainly don’t think they were abusive.  I acknowledge that my issues date back to childhood experiences, albeit not just with my parents, but I don’t think my parents were terrible parents and certainly not abusive ones; there were a number of difficult things going on when I was a child that were not in my parents’ control that were the source of my problems, including my borderline autistic traits (at a time when these were not widely recognised) and some other family issues, as well as bullying at school.  My parents would have benefited from guidance that could have helped them make some better parenting choices, but I don’t hate them or feel furious with them.  It’s upsetting to read a book that seems predicated on my seeing my parents as being hugely abusive and my needing to challenge them.  At the same time, it is silly to deny that a lot of my childhood was upsetting and maybe even traumatic in the technical use of the term and years of psychodynamic therapy still haven’t exhausted all the things I would like to say about it (but feel I shouldn’t say here).  I don’t know where this leaves me, especially as I’ve just stopped psychodynamic therapy.

The other issue is that to challenge the inner critic, I am supposed to state that I don’t deserve to suffer.  The problem is that I think I do deserve to suffer.  I suppose I can acknowledge that I’m not so bad.  Although I don’t really think I’m a great Jew, I’m not doing anything really terrible in the Harvey Weinstein school of awfulness.  But… when the depression (and/or all my other issues) is bad I act out.  I won’t spell out what I do (and it isn’t anything illegal, dangerous or which directly hurts me or anyone else), but I think it’s bad, Judaism thinks it’s bad and some secular people think it’s bad.  I sometimes feel like I deserve the depression (and/or everything else) to punish me and that not being able to marry is very much a punishment middah keneged middah (measure for measure).  But then I think I became depressed when I was in my teens and Judaism teaches one doesn’t get punished until one reaches the age of twenty (God gives a cooling off period to gain maturity) so the depression can’t be a punishment.  But then I think that even if it wasn’t a punishment then then, it could be now.   And I go back and forth.  My therapist and my rabbi mentor know about this stuff.  My therapist says I’m normal and loveable.   My rabbi mentor says that lots of people struggle with this halakhah (law) and that I’m a good person.  But I can’t internalise it.  And the self-loathing and despair just makes me act out again.  (This is probably why the rabbis said not to think of yourself as wicked.)

I used to get pure O OCD thoughts, worrying that I had accessed illegal websites without realising it and would go to jail and be disowned by my friends and family.  It was probably built on this self-loathing and fear of discovery… yet there is also a desire for discovery.  I want to write in more detail about my acting out and have been dropping heavy hints.  I’m just fed up with hiding myself.  I want everyone to see how awful I am.  Then there is no risk that anyone will ever love me again, and I won’t suffer any more disappointment.

I think I need to see a CBT therapist, as I’m not going to be able to challenge these thoughts alone.  I emailed the therapist who helped with my OCD, but she hasn’t got back to me yet; I see on her website that she has, however, put up her prices…

Oh, and Dad thinks that the ginger cat that lived near my parents’ house and which seemed to like me (s/he rubbed affectionately back and forth against my legs once, wich is more affection than I’m used to getting) died.  I keep thinking about whether I could look after a cat.  I suppose that, having resigned myself to never being well enough to get married and have children, I’m thinking about other options of someone to care for.

Acting Out, Suicide and Uncrossed Lines

It’s a bit silly to post again today, but I want to get this down before I forget, as it’s a sudden realisation I just had and as it’s not very long it’s probably OK.  And maybe this is something to sneak out when people aren’t looking anyway.

When the depression is bad, I act out sometimes.  Nothing illegal or anything that hurts anyone, but something that the person I want to be would not do.  Imagine I responded to the depression by eating ice cream.  Then, imagine a limit in my ice cream eating that I have never gone beyond: say, eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting.  Then imagine that I console myself when very depressed saying, if it gets very bad, at least I could eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, because I’ve never done that, but I know it’s there, as a concept.  And then I realise that, regardless of the healthiness (or otherwise) of eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, I will never do it.  I will never go through with it, no matter how depressed I am.  I just can’t cross that line.  Which should feel good, but instead I just feel envy for all those people who do eat a whole tub of ice cream when depressed.  They as miserable as I am, but at least they get to enjoy that ice cream that I never will.

It’s the same with suicide.  Suicidality can be calming (not always, but sometimes), because I can think that I have a way out if things get unbearable.  But now I think I’ll never have the guts (or whatever) to go through with suicide.  So I envy… not people who have committed suicide, but I do wish that I was dead.  I want to be out of the world, and deep down I think I know that I could never bring myself to hasten that (not even by eating whole tubs of ice cream).  So I feel trapped.

I don’t know how to get out of this, how to find a way to feel glad for not eating the ice cream, even to feel glad for being alive.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever really felt glad for being alive.  I either took it for granted or I felt that I wanted to die.

The Biggest Almighty Screw Up in the World; or, More Family Tensions

(You probably need to read this post first, if you haven’t already.)

My sister just phoned.  I feel doubly bad because (a) I vented about my parents, which I probably shouldn’t have done (stuff I didn’t put in the previous post because of honouring parents and not gossiping) and (b) we argued a bit.  Actually, we didn’t argue per se, it just felt like that because I’m sensitive and conflict-averse, but she sounded annoyed with me and I was annoyed with her.  I thought, after my previous post, that I would be clever, and ask her not to problem solve, and tell her that my issues were social anxiety and fear of the unknown, not anything she could fix.  When she offered to find someone for me to go to for Shabbat meals, I said I was happy eating alone in my room (OK, “happy” is an exaggeration, but “sufficiently socially anxious for eating alone in my room to be preferable to a roomful of strangers” is a mouthful) and she sounded annoyed and then when she started problem solving my fear of getting lost/mugged by saying get maps I said I have maps and the problem is that I’m terrified of going to New York BY MYSELF!!! not a realistic fear of getting lost and she sounded annoyed about that too.

I don’t know what to do.  I tried really hard to navigate that conversation more successfully and failed.  Admittedly it didn’t turn into an argument, but it was tense.  I literally do not understand my family.  My family literally do not understand me.  Interactions with my family are often triggering (not quite in the PTSD sense, but triggering of depression and anxiety because the roots of my issues are based in stuff that happened in the family when I was a child and that is, in some sense, still happening, albeit in an attenuated way and I can’t talk to them about it because I don’t want to upset them and they would just get defensive and, yes, we have tried family therapy).  I don’t know whether we don’t understand each other because I’m autistic and they’re not or if I’m not autistic but they still don’t get me for some other reason, but right now I feel like THE BIGGEST ALMIGHTY SCREW UP IN THE WORLD.  (And I nearly used a much ruder word than ‘screw up’.  It’s how I feel about myself right now.)

It’s 10.00pm.  I haven’t davened Ma’ariv or done any Torah study today.  I haven’t had dinner, or finished emptying crates from the flat (and hunger is now making me faint, stressed, irritable and depressed).  I haven’t emailed the friends who are finally trying to make arrangements to meet me on my holiday.  I really want to act out in a number of interesting, but unhealthy ways right now, but I’m trying not to.  I haven’t done more than five or ten minutes of Torah study a day most days for two or three weeks now, which makes me feel lousy and that HaShem (God) hates me almost as much as I hate myself right now.

Anyway, I remain, yours etc.

The Biggest Almighty Screw Up in the World

Family Tensions

I will admit from the start that this story doesn’t reflect well on me.  I started writing to vent, but the more I wrote, the more I realised that it really is my own fault.  I’m writing partly to get perspective, partly to explain why the next X number of months while I live with my parents are going to be tough, and why it’s doubtful that anyone could bear to live with me for long.  Also, no explanations of Jewish words/concepts this time as I’ll be here all night.  Sorry.  If you’re not Jewish, you’re just going to have wing this one.

I just had a conversation with my Mum that went something like this:

Me: My friend who I thought was taking me to shul on Friday night next week when I’m in Crown Heights has said he doesn’t go, so I’ll have to daven at home.

Mum: Why don’t you go online and see if there are shuls in Crown Heights?

Me: I don’t want to wander around Crown Heights by myself at night in case I get lost.  It’s an area with a lot of crime.

Mum: But there may be a shul on your road.

Me: If I did, it would be Chabad.  I’ll be the only person there not in a suit and is clean-shaven.

Mum: We davened at Chabad and we didn’t stand out.

Me: You davened at Chabad House.  It’s geared up for kiruv.  It’s not the same.

Mum: So you’ll be a guest and they’ll make you feel welcome.

Me: They’ll try to convert me.

I can’t remember what Mum said next, but it ended with me saying that I understand the frum world more than her and her storming out while I said something unpleasant (I am not proud of this, but I am being honest).  This was just after Mum and Dad had a conversation across me while I was in the room, but as if I wasn’t there, asking who is giving me a lift to the doctor tomorrow morning when I hadn’t asked for a lift and was planning on walking.

OK, I admit I handled this whole situation badly, partly because I’m tired, hungry, stressed and anxious.  I know I’m a difficult person to live with, but there are also psychological issues here.  I guess the specific issues here that I can see now I’ve calmed down a bit are:

  1. My parents think of me as a child.  This is partly because I always will be their child, but mostly because I’m unmarried, live at home, am unemployed and am lacking in some life skills.  They don’t treat my sister as a child to the same extent, even though she’s younger than me.
  2. I hate being thought of as a child, especially as I realise that in many ways, I am still a child.
  3. I don’t like it when people try to solve my problems.  A lot of the time, when I raise a problem, especially if I don’t specifically ask for advice, I’m looking to vent, not to have a solution thrust on me.  I’m not good at taking advice.
  4. Worse than that, what I say the problem is is not always what the problem actually here.  Here I came up with lots of problems, all of which were true to a greater or lesser extent, but the real problem was only vaguely touched on: I hate walking into a new shul by myself.  The fact that the shul would be Hasidic makes it worse, but that is the issue.  When I calmed down, I googled shuls in Crown Heights as Mum suggested and in a few seconds found two on the road I’ll being staying on, albeit I think quite a way away.  One at least was Hasidic (although not Chabad), but that isn’t the point.  The point was, I had said my problem was one thing, when it was really something else.
  5. The something else here, and probably usually, is social anxiety.  That’s what stops me walking into a new shul.
  6. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I tend to try to tell people that my problems are hopeless.  I generally want either to be agreed with and proved that they are hopeless or to be disagreed with and proved that there is hope.  However, no one can prove the future, so people just try to problem solve or dismiss my problems, both of which anger me.
  7. I just have personality clashes with my parents which naturally lead to a lot of bickering.  To be fair, there is a family dynamic of bickering.  I am not by any means the most argumentative person in the family.  There are deeper issues here that would carry me outside what I think I can halakhically say in public, even anonymously, but there are historical family issues that mean that when arguments start, a lot of bad buttons get pressed for me – not anger management ones, but catastrophising, feeling frustrated, not taken seriously, isolated and ignored and so on.
  8. You may have noticed that being ignored and isolated is pretty much the worst thing in the world for me, and I spend a lot of my life worrying that I will die lonely and unloved and then go to the afterlife where God will tell me that He hates me and isn’t interested in me.  Basically 90% of the biggest mistakes I’ve made and sins I’ve done, and perhaps also a lot of arguments I’ve got into, come from my fear of being isolated and ignored.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost ALL my problems are rooted in this dynamic of the family dynamic of bickering leading to feelings of isolation and rejection.

There probably is a lot more I could say if this was a therapy session, but the takeaway point is that I realise that that argument was (a) largely my fault (my parents might have realised after thirty-five years that social anxiety is at the bottom of most of my fears, but I don’t blame them for not doing so) and (b) was largely preventable.  But I can’t work out how I could have got out of the argument.  From the point where I nonchalantly said I’d have to daven at home (when I was just venting, not looking for a solution to a problem or even much of a response), I was basically locked in to an argument because every further step pressed more of my buttons about rejection, isolation and not being listened to, but because I couldn’t openly admit to my fears, I was just driven to more bizarre (albeit logical in my head) reasons to defend my position.  Logically, my Mum was right: google and find a shul (plus I don’t know how dangerous Crown Heights really is, as a non-New York resident.  I was just freaked out by people on Hevria joking about crack addicts on the streets.  I basically don’t want to be in Crown Heights at all and am only there because of a friend who has seriously let me down and am finding more and more reasons to hate the fact that I’m going to be there and worry that they’re going to find my bullet-ridden corpse in the gutter).

In my defence, all I can say is that some of my fears are justified.  Orthodox shuls are often not welcoming, sadly, and ultra-Orthodox communities in particular are notoriously insular and suspicious of outsiders, especially those who, by dress and bearing, are clearly not ultra-Orthodox themselves.  That doesn’t really justify what I said, though.

Jam Tomorrow

I managed to get a few chores done and cooked dinner (just rice and vegetarian sausages with tinned sweetcorn.  Doesn’t really count as cooking).  Other than that, I haven’t achieved anything today, except to feel depressed, despairing, lonely, anxious, incompetent, angry and Aspie, as well as a bit headachey.

I feel so incredibly furious right now.  I mean, at the world in general and maybe at God, and maybe the Jewish community.  I want to scream and shout and rage at the way I have done, if not everything, then at least most things that I was told to do to be liked/happy/successful and none of it has worked.  It’s always, “Well done for trying, now do this” (if I get congratulated at all on what I’ve achieved).  There’s always something else I have to do.  I can never be happy or loved romantically, not even for a short time.  How do other people get to be happy and loved and, if not rich and successful, then to pay the bills?  I know everyone has issues, but I can’t help feeling that my issues have been going on longer, and are more painful and persistent, than most people’s.

The stupid thing is that I’m already calming down, because I know that life isn’t fair (not from our understanding of it, anyway; maybe from God’s point of view, in the Next World, but not here) and that no one promised me even a modicum of happiness and romantic love and really I can’t complain and, of course, deep down I know I’m mainly angry at myself for not being able to deal with my issues and for acting out and succumbing to negative coping strategies.

Back on the hamster’s wheel again tomorrow.  Round and round and round and never arriving.