A random selection of stuff that went through my head today with even less thematic unity than normal…
Ashley Leia commented on the previous post regarding the high level of socialisation required in the Orthodox community. I guess that’s what a lot of my blog is about, really, and certainly what I would want a book on mental health and autism in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community to be about: that Orthodoxy does require a lot of socialisation and it isn’t always possible for people to fit in.
This dovetailed with a thought I had last night after I posted. When frum people talk about what they like about Judaism and when non-Jews say what they admire about Judaism, some things often come up: strong family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals. The problem is that because of my mental health issues and autism, things I struggle with in Judaism include family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals. It feels sometimes like I have the usual difficulties of Judaism and more without the positives, or without many of the positives. Sometimes I wonder why I’m frum, but I just “happen” to believe and am not hypocritical enough to believe and not do, or at least not try to do.
I’m having silly crush thoughts about someone I knew from a previous shul who I haven’t seen for about four years and who I have never (as far as I can remember) spoken to, not even to say hello. When she saw my parents at a party last year, she apparently asked them how I was, by name. I didn’t think that she knew me, let alone knew my name. Somehow I can’t see that going anywhere, but I’ve been thinking of her for the last few days for no very obvious (or good) reason. Even if I thought it was a good idea for me to be dating (which I don’t) and that she might be interested in me (which she almost certainly isn’t) I wouldn’t really know how to get in contact with her, nor would I have the confidence to do so. But, still, I keep thinking about her. My Dad once claimed that he’d had a dream where I was married to her. (My Dad thinks his dreams are precognitive, which is why he isn’t worried about me not getting married and having children, because he’s seen my wife and kids in dreams. I’m rather sceptical of things like that.)
I’m a very lonely person. I’ve never had many friends and, even now, when I do have a small circle of friends, most of them live far away and I communicate with them by blogging, emailing, texting and/or What’sApping. I long for real intimacy. I mean the feeling when one really opens up to a close friend or especially a partner and is understood, and they open up and are understood in return. This has been a rare and short-lived phenomenon in my life. I suppose it’s related to what I said last week about existentialist Judaism and finding holiness in the interpersonal.
I went out to do some shopping for ingredients for dinner. I was out walking for an hour and came back with nothing. I couldn’t find lentils in the two small supermarkets and I’d forgotten that the big Sainsbury’s shuts early on Sunday and they were closed when I arrived. I became so focused on finding the lentils that I forgot we needed apples too. By the time I got home I was feeling too depressed and exhausted to cook much anyway.
I felt very depressed and despairing when I was out, not about myself, but about society as a whole. Sometimes it’s easy to convince myself that society is just corrupt, and that Jewish society has been corrupted too, and that (as per the Rambam) I should go off somewhere and be a hermit. I don’t think society has passed the point of no return, and as a student of history, I’m not really convinced that society is worse than ever before, overall, but one only needs to look in a newspaper to see that there’s a lot wrong with the world.
Nevertheless, I felt very agitated when trapped with my thoughts, despite taking advantage of the heter (permission) to allow depressed people to listen to music in the omer. I don’t know why I experience this agitation sometimes, what triggers it or ends it, nor do I understand the anger and grandiosity that can accompany it. I don’t know where it comes from or why or how to calm down without just waiting until I’m burnt out and exhausted, not to mention still depressed, just too tired to think. I’ve been told it isn’t mania, as I once thought. It seems to be associated with loneliness and comes particularly on days when I am alone. It started while my parents were out today and continued while I was out shopping, but when I got home and saw my parents it subsided (maybe I do need to get married ASAP). The immediate triggers are usually seeing political stuff online or in the newspapers, particularly stuff about antisemitism or other political events that trouble me. But I’m not sure if they are really the triggers; it feels like they are just the proximate causes and there’s a deeper psychological cause somewhere that I haven’t identified.
Sometimes, particularly when I’m very agitated, I feel, on some level, that I want to die for everyone’s sins, although that’s not a very Jewish thing to say (in theory we don’t believe in vicarious punishment. It does appear in some sources, but we downplay it). When I was at university I had a couple of borderline-psychotic episodes for for a second or two I was convinced that I was Mashiach (the Messiah).
I just want my suffering to be meaningful beyond myself. It’s hard just thinking that, at best, I might be atoning for some of my sins and saving myself from different suffering in Gehennom (Purgatory). It’s much better for my ego and sense of purpose to feel that every day I suffer somehow pushes the world towards redemption, that every tear I shed spares a child from a terrorist’s rocket. It’s hard to find real meaning in my suffering, so it’s easy to slip into fantasy. I suppose that’s why I want to write a book about my experiences, to try to rescue them (the experiences, I mean), to let other people find meaning in them. There is very little written about mental health from a frum Jewish perspective and, as far as I can tell, virtually nothing at all about high functioning autism.
In the end I did manage to do a few useful things today: I went shopping/walking for an hour, did ten minutes of Torah study (all I could face, really) and spent an hour and a half redrafting another chapter of my Doctor Who book as well as watching and taking notes The Ghost Monument episode for the chapter I still have to write. I also cooked a packet of couscous. I feel I should have done more, though. I wanted to do ‘real’ cooking, not convenience food and I feel frustrated that I can spend an hour and a half or more on my book (not to mention blogging) and only ten minutes on Torah study, but the latter is draining while the former is restoring. Still, it feels like a wasted day. I can sort of see that maybe (maybe!) it shouldn’t feel like a wasted day and maybe I shouldn’t be beating myself up for not doing enough Torah study, especially as at one point I didn’t think I would manage any, but it’s hard to think like that.