High Anxiety

I had a job interview today at a Very Important Organisation.  The Very Important Organisation is so important that just going there for an interview is worth talking about, but also so important that it’s pretty much impossible to talk about it without giving away what it is, so I’m going to be silent here.  Suffice to say I nearly couldn’t find it, but got there on time in the end.  I thought I did OK in the interview because I only had a little autistic mental freeze, but the interview lasted about twenty-five minutes and at the start they said it would be forty-five minutes to an hour, maybe more, so I either aced it or did so badly they just wanted me out of there.

I started feeling anxious on the way home about whether I could actually do the job.  I became anxious about having to do cataloguing, even though it wasn’t on the job spec or the overview they gave me at the interview, because one of the interviewers said something about seeing it on my CV.  I’ve become paranoid about my cataloguing skills, feeling that I’m so rusty that maybe I should not say I can do it any more, but then what would I put on my CV?  I also asked if the job could be done as as job share, which did not go down well, so if I get it, I would probably have to do it full-time and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

Later this afternoon I got a call from an agency offering me an interview and test (gulp) at a law firm (as a law librarian) this Friday.  I’ve never really seen myself as a law librarian, but I will go along and see what happens.  There is a test, details unknown, which terrifies me after messing up (or more accurately, being unable to complete) the last cataloguing test I did.  I worry that my skills are so rusty as to be useless.  It feels sometimes like interviews and tests exist just to further lower my self-esteem.

***

I broke up with L., if “broke up” is the right term when we’d only been on two dates.  I just didn’t think there was enough chemistry.

“Chemistry” seems such a stupid, intangible thing to break up over.  I can see that L. is kind and gentle and that maybe the fact we had both been through a lot of difficult times could help the relationship.  Moreover, in the past, I used to get annoyed when people broke up with me for a lack of chemistry.  In fact, I used to think I would date someone with no chemistry and see if it would develop, but now I realise just how important it is, even if it is undefinable.  I could see it was just never going to develop on its own, no matter how hard I tried to force it.  I feel sorry for L., as she is a nice person who has had a hard life, but marrying someone out of pity is not a good idea and she deserves better than that.

The scary thing is that for a week or so I convinced myself that the chemistry was there.  At the end of our first date, I was sure that L. was about to say she didn’t want to see me again and I was fine with that as I didn’t really feel anything, but to my surprise, she wanted to meet again and so I said yes to give it a chance.  Then for a week or so afterwards, in my mind I thought we were perfect for each other and were bound to get married eventually, but as soon as I turned up for our second date and met her in the flesh again that certainty evaporated immediately and I realised it was just fantasy.  I was projecting what I wanted out of the relationship onto her, not relating to her as a real person.

Breaking up does feel like the right decision, upsetting though it is to have to say that to someone (I’d never really broken up with anyone before, except one instance which was a semi-mutual thing; usually they break up with me).  I’ve also asked the dating service I met L. through not to set me up with anyone else for now, as I want to concentrate on my job hunt.  I think I have enough uncertainty and stress with that and my wait for an autism assessment without adding any more stress in.  My parents and (I think) my rabbi mentor seem to think I could be dating, but I just don’t think I can handle it right now, despite my loneliness.  Plus, being unemployed doesn’t make me terribly attractive.

***

Still, I think I have learnt a bit from the experience.  From my dating experience over the last couple of years, I feel that I’m looking for someone kind and intelligent, but who probably is already quite frum (religious).  I’ve dated non-frum women who said they would become frum for me, but I worry that that would make Judaism into a barrier, plus I want someone who is interested in active spiritual growth with me, not just doing something as a chore to make me happy.  I realise I’ve probably priced myself out of the market here, as someone frum might want a partner who went to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or who goes to shul (synagogue) or studies Talmud more often than I do.  Plus I also need someone who can accept my mental health situation and my financial situation, which is not going to be easy.  They also need to accept my geekery, which can be hard in general society, let alone frum society.

Put like that I wonder a bit if I made the right decision with L., but I think I did, although I may be single for a long time yet.  The relationship didn’t have any of the joy or excitement I associate with starting other relationships, which is not a promising start.

***

It’s hard to prise my feelings apart sometimes.  My Mum said yesterday that she thinks my depression is a lot better and when I say I’m depressed now I often mean I’m anxious.  There could be something in that.  I certainly seem more anxious than I was in the past.  Thinking about work/career, dating, marrying and having children or just the future in general does make me feel anxious at the moment because it all seems scarily open, but time is ticking on, as I said yesterday.

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Pain

I feel bad today, but I can’t work out what ‘bad’ means.  I guess it means ‘depressed.’  I’m struggling to understand my feelings again.  I did feel close to tears at times.  Earlier I was virtually crying, except that I couldn’t quite manage it.  I should feel anxious, about Pesach and about working late tomorrow (I’m going in at 1pm and working until 9pm to help with a public evening event, which will mean – gulp! – talking to strangers) and I do feel a bit anxious about these things, but I’m not sure that that’s what I am really feeling.  For much of the day I just wanted to curl up in a ball and ignore the world, really.  That’s more depression than anxiety, although, looking at the news, maybe it’s a rational response to the world (cf. Catch-22).  At any rate, it’s hard to do anything today.

I feel guilty, too, because I make myself out to be a better person here than I actually am.  I confess a lot here, but I can’t quite bring myself to confess everything.  So people think I’m better than I actually am.  I feel bad about that.  I suppose I have the idea that if everyone knew all my faults and accepted them, maybe I could accept them myself or forgive myself or something.  Or maybe I just feel bad that that people think I’m a good person when… well, in the past I would have said “when I’m not a good person,” but today I feel more that it should be “when I’m not such a good person,” which I suppose is an improvement of a kind.

***

I did look for extra cataloguing training on the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) website, but I couldn’t find anything current.  I tried to sign up to some education and research mailing lists on JISCMail, but got panicked by the sheer numbers of lists there and the obscure areas they deal with (A forum on Hoshin Kanri [?]; Huddersfield Consortium College Libraries; Hull Geochemistry and Geobiology; Historians of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland – that’s just some of the Hs).  I signed up to a higher education list in the end and thought I would see how that goes before I decide whether to sign up for any more.  I’m not very good at CPD, or anything connected with my career, really.

***

My self-perception has really altered in the last year.  I used to think that I would be good at a job if I could find the right one, that depression was the main obstacle to my building a career, that one day the right combination of therapy, medication and activity/occupational therapy might – might! – help me deal with my depression, that I was an organised person and so on.  Now I have this huge thing called ‘autism’ looming over me as a potential diagnosis.  In some ways that’s good, because it leaves open the door to hoping that one day I will find the ‘right’ way to work and to live in order to have a career and potentially a family with my mental health issues managed at the root rather than just treating the symptoms, but in the meantime I am struggling to know who I am, what I could/should be doing about my career and relationships (relationships with family and friends as well as romantic relationships), how I can live and what I can expect of myself in my religious life.  I guess it’s no wonder I feel depressed, exhausted and confused so much of the time.

I wish I could have some kind of careers advice session, except not just about my career, but about the whole of my life, that someone would tell me what kind of career would suit me, where I fit in with the Jewish community, what type of woman I should be trying to date and how to meet her, how to cope with everyday life…  A S Mentoring might be able to help with some of that, but I’m not sure how to formulate the questions I need to ask yet, as well as being nervous about asking for help and embarrassed that I seem to need to rely on charities (mental health (JAMI) and autism (A S Mentoring, Mencap)) all the time when I feel I should be able to do things for myself.  Plus, I feel somethings are harder because I have more than one issue.  Autism and depression can interact in different ways and it’s not always clear which is predominating at any given time e.g. when should I try to push through exhaustion on the grounds that it’s just a symptom of depression and when should I accept it as a sign that I’m overstimulated and need quiet and rest.

I did fill in the online form for A S Mentoring, so that’s something positive I’ve done today.

***

Other than that, I didn’t do much today.  I went for a forty minute walk in the sunshine, which was good.  I started to apply for another job, but it was hard to overcome the depression.  This one is listed as a librarian role, but from the qualifications they are looking for, I think it’s another job where a librarian would be over-qualified and that it’s really a glorified library assistant role.  I tried to fill the online form in, but kept lapsing back into despair.  I find this whole process so tedious and I’m terrified that while I have the skills to write job applications and I apparently interview well, I’m actually incapable of holding down a real job.

***

This article is very true.  It would have been pretty much impossible for me to have had support for autism at school, certainly at primary school, as high-functioning autism/Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t recognised until the year I started secondary school; when I was a child, if you were verbal, you weren’t autistic, end of story.  Even so, I think my parents and teachers were aware that things weren’t right in some way and that I was a target for bullies (but usually different bullies; I wasn’t usually consistently targeted by the same people, which made stopping it hard, especially when it was kids I didn’t know from other years shouting stuff at me in corridors when we passed) and was lacking in confidence, but that wasn’t considered special needs.  My Mum tried to get me to see the school counsellor, but handled it badly and just upset me and my form tutor once told me I needed to… I can’t remember his exact words, but he basically told me I was working too much and needed to develop my life outside of work .  But the general view was that my grades were good, so I was doing well, even if I wasn’t socially integrated, especially as I don’t get meltdowns or stim in a very obvious way or have other external symptoms of autism.

I suppose I was also lucky, going to a Jewish school, that there were voluntary shiurim (religious classes) to go to at lunchtimes, so I didn’t have to spend them in the playground.  On days when there weren’t shiurim I could be quite lonely and miserable if I got separated from my small circle of friends (e.g. they were at music practice or we got split up in the lunch hall crowd), which happened quite frequently.  I do wonder if I would be in the emotional/psychological state I’m in today (depression, social anxiety) if more support had been available when I was growing up, but I guess that way madness lies.

***

I keep having mini revelations about my autism.  I used to think I was a bad writer because I don’t use much metaphorical language, not in my blogs and non-fictional writing, but also not very much when I was writing fiction or poetry.  Now I realise that that could be autism.  I don’t struggle with non-literal language the way some autistic people do, but I don’t use it much and I’m very aware of, and irritated by, clichéd language, which often consists of tired metaphors that are just taken for granted and not even used as metaphors any more.

***

I looked at some articles on Neshamas, which I hadn’t done for ages.  I don’t know why, because I could have guessed it would be upsetting.  I suppose I was lonely and I just wanted to connect with people who feel as awful as I do, even if it’s just by reading what they wrote.  I read stuff written by women who are being abused/raped by their husbands.  It makes me angry and upset that this happens.  But also, it makes me think that I do have something to offer in a relationship, in terms of not actually being abusive.  But then after a moment it somehow seems inadequate.  That those women deserve better than the men who are abusing them, but that they would also deserve better than me.  That I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone’s needs, I just wouldn’t hurt her.  That I’m objectifying women just by wanting to be in a relationship with someone, even though I just want to be able to give to someone.

It’s possible that I’m not thinking straight about something here, but it’s hard to tell what.

“It’s the end [of Purim], but the moment has been prepared for.”

(Sticking with the fourth Doctor quote theme from yesterday)

Purim

I struggled to get to sleep, being upset from what had happened earlier, and then had a disturbing dream.  I was working or (more likely) doing work experience somewhere for a week.  I can’t remember what the job was exactly, but it was some kind of creative work.  On my last day, all my colleagues mocked me for my incompetence.  I had done everything wrong, including misunderstanding an article by a famous writer even though I should have known his political views and realised I was misrepresenting them.  I think I ran away and was possibly pursued by my colleagues.  I asked why they kept giving me creative jobs if they could see that I’m not creative, but there was no answer.  Obviously there’s a lot of work anxiety in there (my real-life contract ends next week and the famous writer in the dream is one associated with that job), but also social anxiety and anxiety about my ability to be creative as I start the third draft of my Doctor Who book.  Perhaps there’s some political anxiety too.

7.30am  Despite disturbed sleep, I got to shul (synagogue) for Shacharit (morning prayers) and the Megillah (Book of Esther) reading.  I was a few minutes late for Shacharit, which I suppose was partly intentional as I’m out of the habit of davening (praying) the whole of Shacharit and was apprehensive about being there for the whole service.  I did hear the whole of the Megillah though.  I had the same OCD anxiety as last night about hearing every word as per halakhah (Jewish law), but I think I heard everything without having to repeat anything.  I actually felt quite tense and anxious as it went on, worrying that the noise would stop me hearing everything.  I think it was probably low blood sugar as I hadn’t eaten breakfast beforehand (really one should not eat before praying, although I usually do because I’m too depressed and exhausted otherwise, but I was trying to be good today), especially as I had some social anxiety after the service.  I felt better after breakfast.

***

2.00pm  I went to my Dad’s shul for Mincha (the afternoon service) because the service in my shul was in our weekday premises (the shteible, a small room rented in a larger shul, itself above Tesco).  In three years, I had never been to the shteible; I’ve had social anxiety about going in by myself and have been putting off going (more on this below), so I went to my Dad’s shul, which was also less far to walk.

***

4.30pm  I was invited out for Purim seudah (meal) at friends from shul, really my closest friend in the area.  I knew all of the men there from shul; the women were mostly their wives.  I had a good time and even joined in the conversation/banter a bit, but I did get overwhelmed with the noise at times.  I had moments when I felt, “Yes, I can fit in in a frum society, I can “speak Torah” intelligently and make appropriate jokes,” but at other times, I felt that I didn’t fit in with aspects of frum society.  I guess I’ll never completely fit in anywhere.  That’s probably that’s another reason I’m desperate to find a wife who matches me, so that at least I will have someone like me, and then we can try to raise kids with our values.  Still, no one tried to encourage (or “encourage”) me to drink (it is customary on Purim afternoon to get drunk, although Judaism being Judaism there is much dispute about what “customary” and “drunk” mean… amusingly, I got a job email today looking for a Research Coordinator at somewhere called “The Institute Of Alcohol Studies”  which was appropriate).

7.40pm  Around this time we had finished eating, but hadn’t bentsched (said grace after meals) yet.  I was going to ask if we could bentsch and I could go, as I was getting exhausted and ‘peopled out,’ but I didn’t really have the confidence to show that I was flagging, plus I guessed the men would be going on to Ma’ariv (the evening service) and I thought it would look bad if I disappeared just before then.  I decided to make the most of it and use it as a chance to go to the shteible with other people and see what it was like.  We walked there, as, while no one was drunk drunk, no one able to drive was sober enough to do so safely.  Ma’ariv was fine and then I walked home.  My Mum said that I looked happy and had had a very full and successful day.  I think I felt that, but it’s hard to be sure, as I second-guess and over-analyse myself so much and struggle to identify my emotions (alexithymia).

***

Other things than noise and social interactions that my autistic brain couldn’t cope with today: a training video for safeguarding children (for my volunteering) that played distracting music in the background while people were talking; and a job application that wanted me to “be willing to accept ‘change’ as part of the daily routine.”  The latter sounds profoundly disturbing to me, but it, or things like it, seem to be a common job requirement, like “being a good team player” (again, not always good for autistic or socially anxious people) and being “highly motivated” (not so good with depression).  I probably ought to be a hermit, or a lighthouse-keeper.

***

On days like today, when everything is going reasonably well, and I feel, if not happy, then at least content and not depressed or anxious, and I even go to shul and feel a part of a community, then I can say that God is merciful and everything is for the best in the long-run, and I can accept my suffering and willingly go into the valley of the shadow of death for Him.  It’s only the rest of the time, when I’m despairing and anxious and lonely and cut off from everyone that I can’t bear it.  In other words, I can bear my suffering except for when I’m actually suffering.  Unfortunately, the times when I’m suffering far outnumber the times when I’m not suffering.

***

That said, I feel a bit down about the way that my family interprets my words and sometimes my body language as angry and aggressive when that is not my intention.  This has happened regularly since childhood.  This is also common with autism, I believe, but happens with neurotypical people too.  It’s upsetting, though, especially as I really do get irritable more than I should because of depression and the strain of masking all my problems in public, as well as my autistic communication problems with my Dad.  There is a lot more to talk about regarding my relationship with my family, and the extent to which I’m trying to run away from it/them by getting married, but I can’t really talk about it here; it’s one reason I want to go back to my psychodynamic psychotherapist.  I want to make things right, but I don’t know how and I worry it’s not just a problem of human weakness of the kind most people experience (irritability, anger), but of the cognitive and experiential differences between me and my family.

***

Peopled out now, need a shower and autistic alone time with Quatermass and the Pit before bed or I won’t sleep…

Alone

Sometimes I think I should go off and become a hermit somewhere, but I dreamt about Brexit last night.  So, you see, there is no escaping the real world…

I’m having another day when I can’t tell if I’m depressed or just tired.  I suppose I’m so used to be both that it’s hard to tell when there’s just one without the other.  I’m looking at potential jobs to apply for and updating my CV and my confidence in my ability to work is still very low.  I can’t see myself doing any of these jobs.  I feel that between my depression-interrupted career and my social anxiety- and autism-impaired ability to network and go to CPD conferences and the fact that my librarianship MA was at a not very good university (because of the depression, in a complicated way), I’m not really able to do all the things that, in theory, I ought to be able to do.  I know I’m over-qualified for my current job, at least on paper, but I’m OK with that, as I feel I can do my work without freaking out about things.  I know lots of people with autism end up under-employed and I’m worried about being one of them, but I’m not sure what to do about it at the moment.

I’m on my own for Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner tonight as my parents are going to friends.  I could go to the oneg (Shabbat event) at my shul (synagogue), but, as I said last week (I originally thought it was last week), I don’t enjoy these things and having a more certain autism diagnosis makes me feel that I won’t enjoy these things however much I try.  These days I feel less inclined to force myself to try things that I really feel I’m unlikely to enjoy.  I am forcing myself to go to a networking workshop on Monday, but that’s because, although I’m sure I won’t enjoy it, I might get something out of it.  But I was quite looking forward to having time alone tonight, to do some Torah study and read more of 13 Minutes, at least until my mood dropped.

I’m alone again all next week, as my parents are away in sunnier climes (Sarn Lanzarote).  I hope I cope OK.  I’ve got a busy week, with the networking workshop on the same day as the Jewish Book Week event I’m going to (the first time I’ve gone to Jewish Book Week) and then two consecutive days of work followed by an appointment with a psychiatrist.  With my parents away, I will need to fit in cooking, laundry and probably also shopping as well, somehow.

Even on days like this, when I’m not really so depressed and haven’t been for a few days, I wonder if I’m always going to be like this.  I feel like I’m 50% or 60% there.  I’m functional at a basic level.  I’m working part-time.  I’m doing some basic Torah study and I pray sometimes and occasionally make it to shul.  I have some friends (mostly long-distance, but in a way that suits me as I prefer text and email to speech).  And I’m working on my books and worrying I’ll never get them finished, or published.  But there’s so much more I want.  It would be too much to say I have career plans or even goals, but I want to do something useful, enjoyable (on some level) and closer to full-time.  I want to have more friends who are really on my wavelength.  I want to get married and have children.  I want to get my books published.  And all these things seem far away.

And then suddenly, mid-afternoon and mid-Shabbat preparations, I was hit by a wave of depression and loneliness, I don’t know where from.  It’s scary that it can come out of nowhere like that and hit me.  I just feel overwhelmed by things and unable to do anything and I’m no longer looking forward to an evening by myself.

Busyness, Loneliness and Jewish Studiousness

I didn’t have work today, having gone in on Monday instead, so I got to sleep in.  I actually slept for something like eleven hours and finally woke feeling refreshed.  I don’t know why I need to sleep so long; I used to assume it was the depression making me exhausted, but it may also be the effort of masking depression and autism in social situations and at work.  I started sleeping longer at weekends when I was a teenager, which is probably fairly common, but that was also the time I first started showing symptoms of depression and when school perhaps started becoming harder from an autistic point of view, as the nature of friendship changed and became less about playing together and more about sharing emotions.

The downside of sleeping in is that doing everything I wanted to do today became harder, especially as I was feeling a bit down, or at least sluggish (it’s not always easy for me to tell the difference between the ‘low mood’ and ‘low energy’ aspects of depression, which I guess is alexithymia again).  I probably wanted to do too much anyway, but as I said yesterday, chores have a habit of breeding.  I needed to get a haircut and buy an anniversary card for my uncle and aunt, catch up on this week’s Talmud study, speak to Remploy about career’s advice and workplace support options for someone with depression and autism and a few smaller things.  I also wanted to get through some more Doctor Who episodes for research (not relaxation, as it’s become a chore at times to do it, although I enjoyed the much-maligned The Gunfighters). 

I managed everything except speaking to Remploy, which was good, especially as I can now put aside the second drafts of another two Doctor Who book chapters.  I shook quite a bit while having my hair cut, which wasn’t good.  I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about not getting everything done.  As I said, I probably wanted to do too much anyway.  The problem is I hate having my haircut and I was nervous about having to contact Remploy so the urge to procrastinate is there, along with the fear that I was procrastinating even if I wasn’t.  Of course, the reason I’m so sluggish today is probably at least in part because I did quite a bit yesterday, so to some extent there’s a trade off.  I will see if I can speak to Remploy before I go into Shabbat mode tomorrow afternoon.

***

I try to push myself sometimes to read things that are out of my usual comfort zone, so I’m reading 13 Minutes, a thriller about teenage girls and their cliques and bitchiness.  It’s been making me think of my school days, which were miserable, but I realise from the book that a lot of what was going on went over my head.  I just wasn’t aware of a lot of stuff in terms of interpersonal dynamics (friends, lovers, enemies).  I don’t know if that was autism or just being out of the loop, if the two aren’t really the same thing.  I certainly wasn’t really aware of my peers having sex like the characters in the book.

Now, of course, I think about it too much.  I feel that there’s a huge part of life I’m locked out of.  I don’t know why I fixate on that.  I’m not a great traveller, but I don’t feel that I’m missing out much there.  I don’t touch drugs or alcohol, but I don’t feel that I’m missing out on them.  Maybe because I long for intimacy more than sex per se and feel I’ve never or rarely experienced the kind of closeness I want with people.  Or because from a frum point of view, sex is bad until you get married, when it’s good, which makes it harder to write off.  My frum peers have lots of children by this point.  I hope I get rewarded for my abstemiousness at some point, but I worry that I won’t.  It’s not like I really had a choice; I couldn’t have sex even if I wanted, women have never exactly thrown themselves at me.  Tehillim/Psalms asks God to store our tears in a flask and record them as a sign that He is with us.  It can be hard to feel that my suffering is somehow preserved for a meaningful goal, though.

***

On a more positive note, I mentioned doing the weekly Talmud study above and while I still feel that I understand very little of the actual arguments of which the Talmud is mostly comprised, I think I am slowly learning key words and logical terms.  In the long run, that’s probably more important than actually understanding the arguments.

In the last few days I’ve felt more confident in my own Jewish knowledge in general, at least compared with other ba’alei teshuva (people ethnically Jewish but raised non-religious who became religious later on in life), which is a positive thing given that many of the people in my shul are ba’alei teshuva.  I feel that I probably do know a lot compared to the average ba’al teshuva, although most of the time I’m too scared to reveal my knowledge.  I also feel that I have more of a sense of an underlying philosophy of Judaism than many Jews have.  I feel like a ba’alat teshuva or geyoret (convert to Judaism) might accept me as a husband, although there is still a feeling that she would be ‘settling’ for me in the absence of someone better and that a frum (religious) from birth Jewish woman wouldn’t accept me.  I don’t know whether this is true.

***

Related to this, I do feel today that someone might want to marry me; the problem is finding a job to support a family/make myself more attractive and in working out how to actually meet women, given that I’m not integrated into the frum community enough to get set up on dates.  Plus, as I said, I do still have the nagging sense that if someone did marry me, she would be ‘settling’ for me, not marrying me because she really wants me in the first instance, although for a while today even that feeling disappeared.  But there’s no telling what I will think tomorrow.

Weary, Stale, Flat and Unprofitable

I feel exhausted today.  Also, I’m quoting Hamlet for my title again, so I must be depressed.  I’m not sure why.  The meeting with the matchmaker yesterday was stressful, but I thought I had got over it.  I did some work on my books (the Doctor Who one and the mental health one) yesterday evening which I usually find restoring, although I procrastinated quite a bit over the mental health one, which might indicate that I should have just gone to bed.  Some of it was probably realising that the mental health book isn’t going to be a case of just stitching together old blog posts; it’s probably going to require significant new material.  Which is OK, aside from my usual lack of confidence in my own abilities, it just means it’s a bigger undertaking than I thought/hoped it might be.

Still, I slept for about nine hours and didn’t wake up too late today, but somehow I just can’t get going or focus today.  Some of it is that I feel a bit physically ill as if I’m coming down with a cold (although I spend a lot of time feeling like that without ever actually having a cold.  It’s true that depression can mimic the ‘coming down with something’ feeling indefinitely).  But I think the main issue is that I have some anxiety about rearranging work days for the moved psychiatrist appointment and for Purim.  If I give in, I’ll start to have the annual anxiety about Purim and Pesach too (tonight is Purim Katan, which means a month to Purim and two months and a day to Pesach, yikes – given how much winter depresses me, I think I’d welcome spring a lot more if it didn’t mean getting through Purim and Pesach again).

***

Meanwhile, I need to start serious job hunting again, as my contract expires in six weeks.  My sister told me that statistically men will apply for jobs that they only meet 60% of the criteria for, whereas most women will only apply if they meet 100% of the criteria.  I seem to be statistically female here, as I do the same thing.   I also struggle to apply for jobs where I would have to ask to work different hours, either because they want someone who will work on Saturdays or because I want to work part-time and they want someone full-time.  My parents and my sister say that I don’t lose anything by applying, but I guess I feel that I’m being ‘difficult’ again.  I’m not convinced that the perfect job, or anything approaching it, is actually out there, at least not for me.  I have so many, um, issues at the moment (need to work part-time, need to be in an autism-friendly environment, need to be able to take Shabbat and Yom Tov off, don’t cope well with pressure, and some of my professional work skills have gone rather rusty) that I struggle to imagine any employer wanting me.  Or me wanting any of the jobs: of the three job descriptions I was just looking at, one was in a law firm’s library (boring) and required working late on Fridays, into Shabbat, as well as a host of law library experience that I simply don’t have; one was so strangely worded that I’m not entirely sure what the job involves except that it, too, requires working on Friday nights and Saturdays; and the third requires a lot of precise skills for a short-term job and turned out to have been filled despite the job advert still being up.

Just looking at the job description and desired attributes on adverts makes me feel anxious and useless; I can’t really imagine being able to do anything.  My cataloguing skills have gone very rusty through disuse, as my job interview a few months ago showed.  I don’t keep up with CPD; it’s an effort just to work part-time, let alone to do unpaid “work” in my free time.  I quiver at the thought being required to show “problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork, and ability to deliver work under pressure” and the like.  Strangely, I do actually seem to interview well, surprisingly given my autism and social anxiety, which is possibly an unexpected extra benefit of the Oxbridge interview training my school provided (it was a state school, but had a good record of getting students to Oxbridge, at least for a comprehensive school).  Half the time I don’t even understand what a job description wants, with silly bureaucratic-ese like “You will enjoy working to effect positive change” (I wanted a job where I could effect negative change, maybe in the oil industry or local government).  I wish they could write in plain English (maybe this is autism again).

***

You might tell from all this that I’m still lacking in self-esteem, with no sign of the CBT to help with it that I’ve been on the waiting list for since early December.  I struggle to think of anything I can do well.  I’m told I can write quite well, but I struggle to believe it, or to find a way of earning a living through it.  Some of my friends say I’m a good friend, but one can’t really live off that (the world would probably be a better place if we could).

***

The World of an Autistic, Dyslexic, with Depression and Spinal Problems wrote recently about the need to  have something to look forward to.  I’m struggling with that at the moment.  I mentioned about my growing anxieties at this time of year.  Plus so many of the things in my life at the moment I’m just trying to “get through”.  Watching Doctor Who, which is usually one of my favourite things, is a chore at the moment as I’m just doing it for research for my book without necessarily wanting to watch the episodes for themselves; I really want to just get it over with, so I can focus on redrafting, and watch other things on TV.  Likewise, reading The Dispossessed is just something I’m trying to do, even though I can see it’s a good novel; it’s just taken me too long and I’ve lost track of the characters,  not helped by everyone having made-up science fiction names.  There’s some hopefully-good-but-stressful things later in the year, which inspire hope and anxiety in equal measure, but nothing purely good or in the short to medium term.

***

Another classic autistic moment today when my Dad said that I could withdraw cash in the post office.  I thought he meant there was a cashpoint in there, but he meant for me to go to the counter with my debit card and withdraw that way.  I flatly refused to do this because I got so confused and panicked (I’m ashamed to say) until my Dad told me what to say.  Then there was another autistic moment as my Dad asked the attendant if it was true that the branch was being shut down soon; the actual meaningful part of the conversation lasted just a few seconds, but they carried on talking about the evils of management for a couple more minutes even though no new information was added and I wasn’t entirely sure they were really listening to each other.  This is neurotypical conversing and I can’t do it, and it’s really hard to network or make friends not being able to do it.

***

Later

Really upset.  I can’t explain why.  I’m not sure how much of that is depression (I’m too depressed to introspect and speak) and how much is autism (I don’t understand my emotions and can’t articulate them, at least not in person).  I spent a while trying to write a job application for a job I probably am not qualified for and definitely could not accept without negotiating different terms (unlikely to happen) because it is full-time and requires working evenings and Saturdays.  After a while, I thought I might be better off looking at the Remploy website and seeing what help they could offer me.  They have online advisors, but I don’t know what I want to ask.  My mind froze up and I was catastrophising and assuming nothing can help me.  I tried to ask my parents for help, but it all went horribly wrong for reasons I don’t understand, as it often does, and ended up with Mum apparently accusing me of wanting to do no work for the next year before I get an autism diagnosis when I just meant that legally I can’t legally claim support for autism yet, only depression.  I worry that I’m in the wrong career, but I don’t know who I can talk to about finding a more autism-friendly career or about improving my work skills and CPD.

I can write this down; why can’t I say it?  Is it autism again?  Or what?  I guess I want people to make choices for me, because I find decisions so hard.  That is autism.  My parents are going to a workshop for families of people with autism on Wednesday; I hope they might understand me better afterwards.

The other scary thing is that I go really quickly from “I have a problem” to “I want to kill myself.”  Just now having job difficulties made me feel depressed, and then when my Mum accused me of not wanting to work, I ran off to my room and just wanted to kill myself.  I have heard that this is a common autistic problem too, a lack of nuance in emotional responses, so you go from nothing to the most extreme reaction really quickly.

***

In Iyov (Job), Iyov has a repeated fantasy of suing God in a court of law, feeling if only he could do this, he would be vindicated as suffering unfairly.  I wonder if wanting to write my mental health book isn’t just an attempt at bring the world to account for being beastly to me.  That doesn’t reflect well on me, but more to the point, it isn’t going to happen.  There isn’t going to be a day when my family, friends, colleagues, line managers and peers apologise to me, even if they have really hurt me unfairly.

Over-Thinking?

Early afternoon:

The Doctor Who story The Space Museum, most of which I watched last night, has the regular characters trying and apparently failing to change their own futures, only to realise that they have had an effect on the people around them that has saved them.  I find myself wondering if I’ve ever had a substantial positive effect on those around me, as I can’t think of anything I’ve done myself that will change my own future to something even vaguely positive.

***

I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and spent the next couple of hours alternately trying to sleep and watching Doctor Who again (The Chase now, perhaps Doctor Who‘s least successful attempt at comedy.  Say what you like about The Horns of Nimon, at least it raises a smile).  I did eventually fall back to sleep, but not before a lot of lying in bed feeling depressed and lonely.  I suppose I did at least steal a march on my Doctor Who research viewing.

***

I have a meeting later today with a matchmaker from the values-based matchmaking service.  This feels like a huge mistake.  Every time I’ve tried dating it goes horribly wrong.  Now I’m going to have to list my core values as religious commitment and integrity while covering up that I don’t do a lot of stuff frum (religious Orthodox Jews) Jews should do because of mental health issues and autism.  So much for religious commitment and integrity.

Basically, I’m just too broken for anyone to be able to love me and perhaps for me to really be able to love anyone else.  I think I should wait a couple of weeks and then ask for them not to set me up with anyone for the foreseeable future, ostensibly while I find a permanent job with longer hours, but also until I get ‘better’ (which is never going to happen).

***

Just seen an article stating that people with mild/high functioning autism/Asperger’s Syndrome do no better in life than people with more severe autism, in terms of careers and relationships, even if (like me) they were highly functional as children.  “‘The implication of our findings is that the consequences of having an autism spectrum disorder with profound difficulties in communication skills and social impairment can’t be compensated for by either high intellectual level or normal language function,’ says lead investigator Anne Myhre, associate professor of mental health and addiction at the University of Oslo in Norway.”  Apparently high quality early intervention is the only real way of having a positive outcome, which is bad news for me (I’m thirty-five and still not officially diagnosed, although convinced that I’m on the spectrum).  I don’t think I will qualify for benefits and having been on benefits for depression in the past, I would not to live off them (it’s pretty soul-destroying even if you have no alternative), but I don’t want to be a burden to my parents and I worry what will happen when they are gone.

***

Later…

The meeting with the matchmaker was OK in the end.  Much quicker than I expected; she asked for some personal details, briefly asked about career, hobbies and interests and then values (my own core values and those I am looking for).  I was expecting that she would ask questions to help me articulate and understand my values.  As it happens, I have a fairly good idea of my values from thinking about them with regard to previous relationships and my well-being class, but I felt a bit under pressure to rattle off a list of things I see in myself and want to see in a partner.

I listed my core values as religious commitment (which she didn’t count, apparently because I’d already asked to be matched only with shomer Shabbat women), integrity, and pursuing knowledge.  I think I may have also put personal growth on the list too.  In terms of what I’m looking for, it’s religious commitment and integrity again, but also empathy and trust.  I think the matchmaker may have put empathetic on my list of own values, but on reflection they probably are core values for me too.  I never think of myself as empathetic because I think, “Oh, I’m autistic, I don’t understand people” but (a) autistic people can feel empathy and (b) a lot of people say I’m empathetic, so maybe it’s true.  I certainly try to understand what people feel, even if that’s something I have to do consciously and with difficulty because of the autism rather than doing it intuitively like neurotypical people can do.

I did mention a bit about depression and autism, despite feeling overwhelmed with different advice from different people about whether to do so.  I don’t think they can legally tell anyone something like that anyway and the matchmaker didn’t seem to think it would be a problem, but there’s obviously no telling how a date would react if I told her.  I do still feel pretty pessimistic about dating, partly because of my financial situation, partly because I can’t believe anyone could really care about me with all my issues.

I felt really tense afterwards, as if I had had a very traumatic experience.  This seems to happen to me a lot lately; I suppose I’ve always been somewhat anxious, but nowadays I seem to experience everything remotely stressful as actual trauma.  Or maybe I’m more aware of existing feelings?  A while back my therapist (when I was in therapy) lent me a CD on dealing with trauma and maybe that made me more aware of the symptoms, bearing in mind that I often have a poor understanding of what I’m feeling.

The dating service is free and only matches people if they can find a someone who meets the criteria (i.e. both people’s values match); they don’t just match people for the sake of it the way professional matchmakers do.  So there’s no way of knowing whether I’ll even get a single date out of this, but I guess I feel like I’ve done something.

I am doing OCD second-guessing at the moment, going back over what I said and wondering if I should have said something else.  I feel I fudged it a bit.  I thought of preparing a list of values beforehand, but decided against it because I thought they would ask me questions to help me understand myself in more detail.  When this didn’t happen, I floundered a bit and now I’m worrying if I said the right thing.  I have to say that I think about my core values quite a lot, but the ones lower down the list shift a bit depending on my recent experiences, which values I think I’ve been showing more recently and which I’ve not focused on so much.  So I do worry a bit about whether I chose the right values.

I guess sooner or later I have to just accept that everything is in the hands of HaShem (God) and accept I can only do so much, doubly so with something like marriage.  Unfortunately, while I don’t currently feel that HaShem hates me, I feel He probably does want to put me through a lot of difficult situations, for whatever reason, so it’s hard to be confident and trusting.  I suppose that takes me back to The Space Museum at the start of this post and the feeling that our lives are essentially unpredictable and the patterns we think we see turn out to be illusory, while things we miss turn out to be far more important.

Or I could be over-thinking things again.  I have been told that I do that.

Communication Problems

Shabbat was stressful in several respects.  After shul on Friday night, the person who invited me for dinner a couple of weeks ago invited me again, that evening or next week.  I can’t really handle the super-laid-back nature of many frum Jews with regard to sudden changes of plan (aren’t religious people supposed to be control freaks?).  Autistic people are not good at last minute plan changes.  I didn’t want to go to his house without telling my parents and I felt I had a reason not to go next week, but I couldn’t remember what it was.  It was only later that I remembered that I had the first session of my new course at The Network on Friday morning and that’s likely to leave me drained for the rest of the day.  But I couldn’t really hear everything he was saying to me anyway, partly because I was getting overwhelmed by the amount of noise in the room, partly because of my social anxiety.  When I’m talking to someone I’m nervous about talking to, my internal monologue starts saying stuff like, “Oh no, someone’s talking to me, what if I say the wrong thing?  What if he thinks I’m crazy?”  It’s hard to hear anything over that, let alone to respond appropriately.  I would like to be friends with this person, though, especially if he really wants to be friends with me and isn’t just doing it as a mitzvah (commandment/good deed) because I’m single.  He may even know a single woman to match me up with, although to be honest it’s doubtful that many of the people he or  his wife know that are our age are single.

***

When I got home I had a conversation with my father that was awkward for other reasons.  I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really communicate well at the moment.  I find his rambling, discursive mode of conversation confusing while I think he finds me curt and pedantic (which is probably not untrue).  I’m trying to sound less blunt, but it’s hard.  I’m really not expecting anything to change here until my parents go to an workshop for families of people with autism in about three weeks time.

Anyway, Dad asked me how old my line manager is and I said I can’t tell, which surprised him, although I thought he might have remembered that I can’t really estimate ages at all.  Then he asked if I’m enjoying my work and I said I don’t know.  I suppose he was more justified in being surprised at that answer, but I really don’t know if I’m enjoying it.  I didn’t even try to explain alexithymia (difficulty knowing or understanding one’s emotions) to him as I could see that being a difficult struggle, but I just tried to say that it keeps me occupied, but is pretty menial work, albeit that I get paid quite well because it’s a role that requires care and responsibility in handling rare books and documents.  Still, it was once again hard to help him to understand my worldview.

***

After dinner I tried reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.  I like Le Guin, but I just can’t get in to this book, which is probably more a product of the various things going on in my life right now rather than the book itself.  After a while I gave up and carried on with The Complete Peanuts instead (I’m up to volume four, covering 1958-1959).  While it would be a stretch to read too much in to it, in terms of mental illness, Charles Schulz really knew how to express loneliness and life’s disappointments, but somehow he made us laugh at them.

***

I went to bed early for a Friday, hoping that I would get up early and go to shul for the first time on Shabbat morning in over a year.  However, although I briefly woke up early, I fell asleep again.  I don’t know how much of that is laziness, depression or social anxiety keeping me away from shul.

***

While I was asleep I had a dream that two orangutans were living on the roof of our house.  However, these orangutans were very carnivorous, grabbing birds and squirrels and killing them by smashing them hard against the windows before eating them.  I was going to call the RSPCA to get rid of them, but conversations about this had to be conducted in whispers at the other end of the house to prevent the orangutans hearing, as they could speak English; one had a pipe in his mouth, but I don’t think he actually smoked it.  I have no idea what on earth this dream might mean.

***

My parents hosted a supper quiz at home tonight for a charity.  It’s an annual event.  People host friends at their home and different homes compete.  They open the envelope of questions at 8pm and have three hours to enter them online.  Most of the questions are lateral-thinking ones rather than general knowledge to prevent people Googling the answers.  I used to join them sometimes, but these days I get put off by the numbers (usually around twenty people, although this year it’s fewer) and the fact that I can’t really answer lateral thinking questions, only general knowledge ones.  There’s a house in Oxfordshire that seems to win ever single year.  At any rate, the house was crowded tonight.  I’m hiding in my room with Doctor Who, both watching it and typing up over a week’s worth of notes for my book.

***

Tomorrow I’m off to my sister’s in-laws for her mother in-law’s birthday party.  It was delayed as she (my sister’s mother-in-law) is very ill.  I’m nervous, as I’m not going to know many people there and I’m worried that, although the food is being provided by a kosher caterer, I may have kashrut OCD issues.  I’ve been told I can leave early; fortunately there’s a bus that stops at the bottom of their road that, after a long journey, does eventually stop near our house, so I can get home easily, albeit not quickly.

***

Thought: I’ve had crushes that went nowhere on lots of women who I thought were perfect for me, but who would, in retrospect would have been terrible for me.  Does this mean that God is saving someone amazing for me?  Or that there isn’t anyone in the world who could possibly be right for me?  The latter seems more logical, especially as if someone is amazing for me, I would (in fairness) have to be amazing for her, and I can’t see myself be amazing for anyone, certainly not in the next five to ten years.

The Two Minutes Hate

(I have mixed feelings sometimes about the purpose of trigger warnings, but it’s pretty clear that this needs one for suicidal ideation.)

“I hate myself.  I hate my life.  I hate disrupted sleep.  I hate waking up late every day.  I hate being exhausted all the time.  I hate not having the motivation to do anything.  I hate never enjoying anything.  I hate not understanding my emotions.  I hate making stupid mistakes, particularly at work.  I hate sniping at everyone all the time, even when I don’t mean to.  I hate catastrophising all the time.  I hate despairing all the time.  I hate not meeting my religious obligations.  I hate being lonely.  I hate being sexually frustrated.  I hate being overweight due to medication and I hate hating being overweight.  I hate not being able to cope with basic social interactions.  I hate avoiding social occasions I might enjoy if I wasn’t depressed and socially anxious.  I hate freaking out when people try to talk to me.  I hate being overwhelmed by background noise.  I hate the inward-looking narcissism of mental illness.  I hate spending too long aimlessly surfing online because I don’t have the energy/motivation to do anything productive and because it’s the only form of interaction I can cope with, but ending up just making myself more lonely and depressed.

I hate hating myself and my life.  I hate thinking about hurting myself and killing myself so much.

Above all, I hate being so bleeding miserable all the time.”

This is basically how I woke up today.  I went to bed really late (2.00am) because I felt too awake and depressed to actually get ready for bed; then I couldn’t get to sleep because I was too awake and depressed.  So I slept through most of the morning again and woke up catastrophising about starting my new job in under a week and wondering if I’m actually going to make it there.

I wish I could see an upside to my life, but I can’t.  I know the trend among autistic people is to see high-functioning autism as a difference with certain positives rather than a disability, but I can’t see any positives to my autistic traits and certainly not to my depression and social anxiety.  I really just want to die, but I’m too scared to attempt anything (and vaguely aware there are people who would be upset, but I have to concentrate hard to feel that through the nihilism and pain).

How long is it possible to go on hating yourself and wanting to die?  I’ve been suicidal, on and off, for sixteen years or more.  Not constantly, but at times.  I don’t know how long it’s been cumulatively.  When I feel really depressed, let alone suicidal, it’s hard to remember that I’ve ever been not depressed, but at the rare times I’ve been emotionally OK, it’s hard to remember I’ve ever been depressed.  So it feels like I’ve been suicidal, or at least fantasising about suicide, for years, but it might not be.

I’ve been told I should phone the NHS crisis team when I feel like this, but unless you’re actually literally about to try to kill yourself, they aren’t interested and tell you to phone your GP, who sends you back to the crisis team…  Typical bureaucracy.  I could phone Samaritans, but I don’t feel I have much to say at the moment.  Maybe eat lunch and see how I feel after that, if I feel up to phoning Samaritans.

I’m not going to do anything, I just feel like **** and wish I wasn’t here.

Virtue Signalling

It’s been a slightly strange day, with a lot of emotions this evening in particular.  As usual, I’m writing as much to process and understand my thoughts for myself as I am to present them for other people.  So, apologies if this is less coherent than usual.  Also, apologies for the mammoth length, about twice as long as usual.  There’s a lot to say, and I feel I could probably write more if I had the time.

***

I’m only vaguely aware of my anxiety.  I think I mentioned that at the CBT assessment I had a few weeks ago, the result was that I was told that I have at least elements of anxiety as well as depression, but over the years I have not been so aware of the anxiety, other than social anxiety and, at times, OCD (which is an anxiety disorder).  This is despite the frequent comorbidity of anxiety with both depression and autism.  One therapist felt that the depression was so strong that it drowned out the anxiety except when the anxiety was itself very strong.  It’s also possible that I just haven’t noticed the anxiety because of alexithymia (difficulty identifying and understanding my emotions).  Certainly when my mental health issues first became identifiable, at school, I was feeling nauseous every morning on the way to school, but it was only years later that I realised that that was almost certainly anxiety rather than general feelings of being “emotionally low” (which was the non-diagnosis my doctor gave me at the time to try to avoid prescribing any medication).  At any rate, the anxiety this morning may have started as social anxiety about volunteering, but quickly spiralled into general catastrophising about other aspects of volunteering and my new job.

***

I volunteered at the asylum seekers drop-in centre again today.  As mentioned, I was feeling rather anxious about it beforehand, primarily because I wanted to slip out near the end to go to Mincha (the Afternoon service) in the shul (synagogue) (the drop-in centre is in the shul hall, not the main shul building) and I was worried about not knowing the code to the shul door and getting locked out (I should clarify that the drop-in centre is not in my shul, but another one some way away).

The format of the day is two hours of preparation for the asylum seekers, which I usually spend sorting donations of clothing, two hours with them, where they can get food, donations of clothing, nappies and toiletries and see professionals (varying according to who has been able to come, but usually lawyers and doctors, sometimes dentists or counsellors) and then a certain amount of tidying up afterwards.  I was initially sorting donations of clothing to start with and as is often the case, I felt more than a little awkward.  The clothing tends to come all mixed up and I’m not always good at separating male and female clothing or adult and children’s clothing.  Obviously there are some things that are clearly in one category or another, but others are less clear.  To be fair, other people struggle sometimes too, but I do not feel confident asking for help.  I also feel that the other volunteers are able to talk to each other more easily; I always feel like I have a sign on my forehead saying AUTISTIC-SOCIALLY ANXIOUS-DEPRESSED and that everyone can see how awkward I am.  This is probably my paranoia, but it feels real.

After that, when the asylum seekers came, I volunteered in the childcare area again.  There were a lot of children there today.  Thankfully there were quite a few volunteers, although many were older children themselves (the children of volunteers tend to help in the childcare area, probably because it’s more fun than helping adult asylum seekers sort through clothes and unused nappies.  That’s why I help there, anyway).  The autistic side of me I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of noise and things going on at times.  I tried to focus one level of attention on the children I was with at the time while I focused another level of attention on the childcare area as a whole, to check nothing dangerous/unpleasant was going on.  The children were well-behaved (actually, they almost always are well-behaved), although one boy has a habit of trying to take my glasses off me.  I spent a lot of time today looking after a toddler who kept trying to crawl over to where some of the older children were playing with a ball.  As I had visions of her getting trampled, I kept trying gently to encourage her away from them and at one point picked her up and carried her away, although I’m not confident carrying children and try to avoid it, as they can usually sense I’m anxious and sometimes start crying.

I realised, for all my parents say I’m good with children (and I’ll concede that on some levels I am good with children; I’m certainly patient with children and willing to play repetitious games for long periods), I don’t know how to talk to them.  If I recall correctly, one of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders can be difficulty talking in age-appropriate ways and I do struggle to do that.  My instinct is to talk far too formally to them.  I usually suppress that instinct, but I don’t really know what to say instead and tend to ask very simple questions or distract them with toys.  (Bear in mind that most of the children at the drop-in centre are five or six at most, often much younger, although I’m not quite sure how that should affect how I talk to them.)  I’m struggling to put this into words, but when I see the other volunteers talk to the children they seem to do it much more naturally and age-appropriately.  To be fair, as I say, I do have the patience and stamina to spend two hours sitting on the floor drinking imaginary cups of ‘tea’ and waving teddy bears about, which the other volunteers tend not to do, going for breaks or changing activities.  I just point this out as another autism symptom I need to note before my assessment.

***

Another social thing I struggle with at volunteering is talking to the other volunteers.  I do know a few people by sight or even by name now and one volunteer I actually know from my previous shul, before I moved house.  But I find it hard to make conversation with them or to introduce myself to people I don’t know.  I’ve heard people say that volunteering is a good way for shy people to find a partner, but that hasn’t been my experience, partly because I’m the wrong age (most of the volunteers are ten or twenty years older than me), partly because I’m too shy and don’t really know what to say to women I don’t know.  I know the first time I went I did get talking to two sisters who seemed to be about my age, but I haven’t seen them since, sadly.

***

(Pause, change ends, eat oranges)

(I really did just eat an orange)

***

In the evening, after coming home for a much needed shower and Doctor Who break, I went for dinner with a couple of old friends from my university days at Oxford.  We get together every six months or so to catch up.  Our lives have gone in quite different ways, so it’s good that we still want to meet.  One of my friends is a political scientist working on migration and statelessness (a hot topic at the moment, obviously – she was recently in Mexico interviewing women on the caravan bound for the USA).  She spoke at length tonight about the plight of the stateless.  I had no idea that there are so many people in this category (an estimated fifteen million) nor the reasons for it.  I would have assumed they were mostly refugees, but apparently a lot are people who have simply failed to fill in the appropriate paperwork through suspicion of the authorities (e.g. Roma) or traditional lifestyles (e.g. migrant pastoral farmers), particularly when new states have been created in post-colonial territories or following the break up of states like Yugoslavia and the USSR.   They have now missed the appropriate deadlines for application for citizenship and fallen through the gaps in the bureaucratic systems and can’t work, marry or travel; they can’t even officially die.

I mentioned the asylum seekers drop-in centre.  I was pretty blatantly virtue signalling, but I wanted to find common ground with my friend.  I usually avoid politics as I feel my political views are a little unusual.  I suppose they aren’t monumentally weird; I’m not a Fascist or a Pantisocrat.  Realistically, I’m just a centrist with small-l liberal and small-c conservative aspects to my personality, but I have a fondness for George Orwell’s term ‘Tory Anarchist’, which to me reflects not a hyphenated identity, but a dialectical tension between the ordered and anarchic sides of my nature (it’s an anarchism rooted less in Bakunin and Kropotkin and more in the prophets and rabbis of ancient Israel, who had a deep-seated suspicion of governments, money, power, authority and militarism.  As Philip K. Dick said, the Jews have always fought for freedom).  Whatever the reason, I have an instinctive ability to take the opposite view of whoever is talking to me.  This is not from natural contrariness on my part, or not consciously.  I am naturally conflict-averse and long to avoid any kind of political quarrel.  But I seem doomed to offend everyone if I speak my mind.  My frum (religious) friends and acquaintances are likely to be conservative.  I don’t know, so I could be stereotyping, but Orthodox Jews tend to be conservative.  On the other hand, my other friends tend to be very liberal.  When I’m with the former, I feel liberal, even anarchist, but when I’m with the latter I feel super-conservative.

Today I did not feel super-conservative.  I was actually deeply moved by my friend’s account of the plight of the stateless.  In retrospect, I fear that there is very little that can be realistically done in the short to medium term, but I guess this is the conservative side of me speaking (progressives tend to see all problems as solvable; conservatives tend to see some problems as manageable at best).  In retrospect I can see why governments might be unwilling to award citizenship to literally millions of strangers from unstable parts of the world, sight unseen.  But I feel that dialectical tension again, because I want to do something to help.

Hence, my doing something I would not normally do and virtue signalling by bringing up my voluntary work.  I am not entirely sure what I was thinking, but I think I wanted to signal agreement and empathy for the people she has met, as well as tacit support, in broad, non-committal terms, for her goals (“tacit support, in broad, non-committal terms”… I even sound like Sir Humphrey Appleby.  Ugh).

***

On the way home I thought about my friends, and how I feel too liberal for some and too conservative for others.  I thought about my shul, and how the rabbi would probably not approve of my voluntary work at a centre for non-Jewish (often Muslim) asylum seekers, even though the shul that runs the centre is Orthodox.  I was in a Jewish part of London and, seeing the frum men and women, I thought as usual about wanting to have a frum wife, but in this context I wondered if it would be possible.  After all, I could end up with a wife who liked my friends, but not my shul, or one who my rabbi would accept, but my friends would loathe.  I remembered that E. was quite adamant about not being married by my rabbi when we were dating.  At volunteering, I wondered if I would ever meet someone right for me.  Sociologically, the Anglo-Jewish community is polarising into the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) and the Jewishly unaffiliated and uninterested.  Even the United Synagogue middle-of-the-road types are generally not frum enough for me any more.

***

I sometimes feel like a man of far too many parts, unable to really fit in anywhere.  I want my wife to be someone I feel completely comfortable with and accepted by, but this seems impossible.  Granted, that’s partly because I feel so ill at ease with myself, but even if I did like myself, it seems impossible for anyone else to accept me.  And now I remember a friend who I opened up to a bit about my political thoughts who never responded to that email… did he simply overlook it or run out of time?  Or was he shunning my views?  He is at least still my friend, so he can’t have found them that obnoxious.

And, if it wasn’t nearly 2.00am, I could raise the Z word (‘Zionism’) which is a whole can of worms in itself.  But I should get to bed.

***

Sigh.  Writing this was supposed to help me calm down and sort out my thoughts before bed, but it has actually made me much more tense and anxious as well as more alert and not ready to sleep.  I wish I just could be a normal person, with normal, straightforward views, rather than trying to make myself an outlier in every community of which I could vaguely be considered a member.  And I wish I could accept that it’s possible for people to like me without their agreeing with every political, religious and cultural opinion I have.

Emotions

I went to bed late having achieved very little of what I planned for yesterday, but at least it was for a good reason (having my plans disrupted by getting a new job).  I did sleep through the whole morning, though and still woke up exhausted.  To be honest, when I sleep more than nine hours, I suspect I sleep too much; too much sleep can actually make you more tired.  But it can be hard to get up when I’m depressed and/or burnt out.  I spent the afternoon filling in paperwork for my new job, when really there are other tasks (mostly different paperwork, and emails to friends I have neglected) that I want to get on with before I start my new job.

I feel a bit more positive today, although I’m still terrified that I’m going to make huge mistakes in my new job.  My confidence in my ability to function in the workplace has plummeted thanks to my last two jobs.  It doesn’t help that I’m still not sure why I find it so hard to function: is it depression, social anxiety, autism or an interaction of all three?  Comorbidity is difficult.  It’s hard to build coping strategies when you aren’t sure what the problem is.  I just hope it’s not laziness or incompetence.  I don’t think it’s laziness, but I worry that it might be incompetence.  I do feel that depression has made me stupider.  I doubt that I could win a place at Oxford these days as I did in my teens.

Still, I do feel more positive about my position and about my life in general today.  This job fits so well with the other things I’ve managed to get set up, particularly the resilience course I’m doing, that it does feel bashert (predestined), not a  word I use very often.  It’s easier to believe that HaShem (God) is controlling my life in a positive way when things seem to be going well, even though perhaps it shouldn’t really make a difference, given that I don’t significantly doubt the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent God, just whether He cares about me or, more accurately, whether I’m good enough for Him to care about me.

When I stop to think seriously about the future, I feel less optimistic.  I guess I’m like a cartoon character than can run off a cliff and keep going until I look down and realise there’s nothing supporting me.  I can feel OK and positive about the future, but then I think, “This is a short-term, part-time job; I’m still no closer to finding a permanent job or to being able to take a full-time job; and without a job, and with all my ‘issues,’ I have nothing to attract a partner, and I doubt I will ever earn enough to support myself when my parents aren’t able to…” and so on.  That’s when I plummet like Wile E. Coyote.

I don’t think I’m particularly logical much of the time; to be honest, looking at the world, I doubt whether most people are logical most of the time, regardless of their religious views or lack thereof (I’m not even thinking of big, scary socio-political things here, just day to day things).  I know I’ve said before that I used to think of myself as a logical person, but in recent years I’ve come to realise that I’m a very emotional person who just thinks he’s logical.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being emotional some of the time, but it’s problematic when I’m emotional, but think I’m being logical e.g. when I come up with complicated ‘proofs’ to show that I’m a bad person, that no one cares about me, that my future will be terrible etc.

Actually, one of the scary things about mental illness is how it warps your perception of reality.  I remember stuff that I thought was true when my OCD was worse, stuff that now seems unlikely or even completely illogical, but which I was sure was demonstrably true at the time.  Scary stuff.  And that was just neurosis, not psychosis!

I find emotions difficult, particularly from a religious viewpoint.  I guess the fact that, like many autistic people, I’m probably somewhat alexithymic (have difficulty identifying and understanding my emotions) doesn’t help.  The Torah commands, or appears to command, various emotional states: loving HaShem and one’s neighbour, not  coveting other people’s things or bearing grudges etc.  I think there was a disagreement between the Medieval commentators about this.  Some said, the Torah does indeed command emotions.  Others said, it commands actions only; if the Torah commands love, it only commands to act lovingly; if it forbids bearing a grudge it forbids only acting on a grudge.  This is easier to accept than the idea that we can switch our emotions on and off (and also fits with the fact that Jewish thought generally prefers to deal with particular actions rather than abstract concepts, unlike Western philosophy).

It only occurred to me last night that the alexithymia might influence me in another way.  I’ve written before about being upset that I don’t experience simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments) and that one rabbi told me that I won’t experience this until I have got over the depression (which I no longer think will happen; I just think I will have to learn to manage it) while my rabbi mentor said I should have some simcha shel mitzvah even now.  It occurs to me that I might not really know if I’m experiencing any simcha shel mitzvah and maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up so much for not experiencing it.

Elementary

It’s funny how I sometimes feel the ‘wrong’ thing i.e. not what I think most people would say I should be feeling.  I don’t know if this is due to depression or autism (or both or neither).  After hearing about my new job, I was initially excited and nervous, which is understandable.  But then a while later I was in shock: numb and a bit nauseous, with slight tremor.  Later I felt on the brink of tears, for the second time today (the first was while sitting waiting for my job interview).  I’m fairly sure they weren’t the happy sort of tears (although that has confused me in the past, I suspect like a lot of people with autism and/or alexithymia), but I’m not sure why I felt sad.

Like a lot of autistic people, I get upset by changes of plan.  I had planned to go to my interview today, come home, have lunch and watch Sherlock to unwind, then tackle some emails and chores.  Except that I found out about getting the job at lunchtime, which I didn’t expect (I thought I would have to wait until tomorrow or even Friday) and so my afternoon has been disrupted by conversations with family and friends in person, on the phone and via text and WhatsApp message, so that it was long past 6.00pm before I did anything else and I only managed a fraction of what I wanted to do.  It’s understandable, but the autistic part of me is frustrated and upset and threatening to catastrophise it into a huge disaster.

***

I’m not sure how coherent the rest of this post is, so please bear with me.  I’m writing about emotions that I don’t fully understand or even experience clearly, trying to understand them…

One day I need to look carefully at how I react to fiction, particularly DVDs and books.  I think I discussed it a bit with my therapist when I was in psychodynamic therapy.  I know I mentioned here recently that I see books and DVDs as friends; I suspect I’m not the only autistic person who finds fictional characters easier to understand than real people.  Fictional characters are more likely to have their motivation and thoughts spelt out by narrators (whether first or third person) and one can always go back a line or rewind a few minutes and replay an action or conversation until you can understand it.

At my autism workshop yesterday, it was mentioned that women with autism, unlike many men with autism, can build or enjoy elaborate fantasy worlds, but that they sometimes have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy.  They didn’t elaborate on this, though, as there were no women present.  I may have mentioned that I have some autistic traits that I think are found more in autistic women than autistic men (from my research, which is ongoing), particularly my ability to rote-learn neurotypical behaviours like small talk and eye contact and to prepare certain topics of conversation before a social encounter (I can consciously make myself do these things to some extent, which I couldn’t when younger, but it takes a lot of energy and I feel very self-conscious doing it).

Certainly I feel that I enjoy certain fictional worlds.  I don’t believe them to be real exactly, but they do exist in a very vivid and real way to me, perhaps more than aspects of the real world.  I probably do know more about Doctor Who than about my friends’ lives, perhaps even more than some close family members’ lives.  I think I also vividly project myself into these stories to try to understand my emotions, because I usually struggle so much to understand myself and my emotions (alexithymia).  Certain images or moments in stories can become a mental short-hand for me about certain emotions.  As I may have mentioned before, I don’t think just in words (as is apparently normal for neurotypicals) or in images (as many autistic people do), but a mixture of the two, like a blog post with embedded pictures of GIFs.

I mention all of this because I watched the Sherlock episode The Reichenbach Fall today and it brought up a lot of confused feelings.  In the story, Moriarty frames Sherlock Holmes for a series of crimes and eventually forces him to (apparently) commit suicide.  The episode made me think quite a bit.  The image of Holmes jumping of the top of Bart’s Hospital is one of those ’embedded images’ in my brain that comes to mind a lot when I’m feeling overwhelmed by depression or social anxiety, when I just feel that I’m in free-fall and I don’t know what to do and I just want to die.  (Maybe it’s a comforting image, in a way, because I know that Holmes’ death would later be revealed to be faked.)  Holmes’ reactions to his friends also interested me.  In earlier episodes he has said that he has no friends and is incapable of friendship, yet in the end he risked his life to save Dr Watson, Mrs Hudson and Inspector Lestrade (even though he only faked his death, there must have been a risk that his plan would go wrong – you can’t jump off a tall building without some risk).

I sometimes tell myself that I have no friends, but deep down I know there are people who I am pretty sure do like me and would do things for me and I would do things for them.  It is possible that this is an immature, or at least imprecise, definition of friendship, doubtless due to autism again (my understanding is that some autistic children can manage friendships when very young, when friendship is just about sharing toys, but struggle with adolescent and adult friendships based on emotional intimacy.  This was my experience).  But it can be hard to work out where the boundaries lie.  I upset friends sometimes by saying that I am alone; on the other hand, sometimes I think I would make sacrifices for people who I should not make sacrifices for, people who aren’t really my friends, and, if I do that, I will end up feeling used and angry (this happened to me a few months ago, with someone I thought was a friend who treated me badly; when I did something positive for him, far from supporting the friendship, I ended up feeling angry and used).

I also thought about Sherlock’s relationship with the pathologist Molly Hooper.  Throughout the series, Sherlock treats Molly very badly and exploits her crush on him to get her to do pathological work for him and to give him access to corpses.  Yet in this episode he sort of apologies to her (as much as he ever apologises to anyone) and says that he respects her.  If I recall correctly, we discover in the next episode that she was one of the few people he let into his plan to fake his suicide and that the plan could not have worked without her help.

This made me think quite a bit.  I mentioned recently that I have a kind of crush on Molly – not on the actress, but on the character – and this made me wonder what it says about me as a person and what I should look for if I ever try dating again.  I like Molly because she’s intelligent and gentle, traits I would look for in a mate.  She cares deeply about Sherlock, and I would want a wife who cared about me, but I also feel empathy for her and the bad way Sherlock treats her; I would not want to treat my wife that way.  On one level she is exploited by Sherlock, but she is really one of only about two people (Watson being the other) who can call Sherlock out on bad or reckless behaviour and have any chance of being listened to and I would want a wife who can be honest with me like that.  And she always forgives Sherlock; I feel that, while I would want to treat my wife better than Sherlock treats Molly, I would inevitably upset her inadvertently sometimes, because of my autism and depression (irritability) and I would need to find a wife who is more than averagely patient and forgiving.

I am not sure how I go about finding someone with these traits and identifying them in her, though, or if I’m really looking for an ideal that can only exist in fiction.  The latter seems likely, especially as I feel that even if I could find an intelligent, gentle, honest and forgiving woman, she would be unlikely to find me attractive, particularly as I feel I have few positive points of my own to offer in return and that I have a lot against me in terms of autism, depression, social anxiety and low and insecure income, even before one factors in the fact that I want to find someone who shares my Jewish religious beliefs.

Frustrations

I’m writing on a break from the post-Shabbat (Sabbath) tidying up, which is exhausting, while also What’sApping my Mum (who is still in Israel), so this may be even less coherent than usual.

Shabbat was OK, but somewhat lonely.  I didn’t get into as much of a depressed/agitated state as I have sometimes in the past when spending Shabbat home alone, but this was probably because I spent most of it asleep.  I didn’t get to shul (synagogue) at all, which was frustrating, not least because I’m not sure how much was depressive exhaustion and how much was social anxiety, although why that should be worse when my parents are away is a mystery, as I go to a different shul to them.  Maybe when other people are around I feel I need to put more of an effort into trying to get out.

I went to bed early for Shabbat (before midnight) and slept for about thirteen hours or more; I then dozed for another two and a half hours after seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal), which was one reason I missed shiur (religious class) and Ma’ariv (the evening service).  Sleeping extra on Shabbat is a mitzvah (commandment), but I think one can take it too far.  I’m certainly worried I won’t sleep tonight, even though I need to be up early tomorrow to volunteer at the asylum seekers drop-in centre.

I’m already feeling somewhat anxious about volunteering – a vague sense that something will go wrong, or I will do something wrong, without really knowing what, and a fear that for one reason or another I won’t be able to slip out and into the main shul building for Mincha (the afternoon service), even though there isn’t really any reason why I shouldn’t be able to do so (the advantage of volunteering in an Orthodox shul).

I was also supposed to do some things tonight, particularly replying to an email from a friend that I’ve been putting off because it was very long and will take ages to reply to, which is wrong of me, as well as buying Chanukah presents for my family, which may not arrive in time.  It doesn’t look like any of this is going to happen, because of sleeping until 6.30pm and then being slow and depressed.  To be fair, I tried to buy the presents during the week, but was prevented by various issues with Amazon (who I usually try to avoid) and they may have to wait until my parents get home and can decide for themselves what they want to do.

I’m struggling a lot again with thoughts and feelings that I can’t put into words.  There’s a lot of religious stuff in my head at the moment that may not be healthy.  I wish my suffering could be some kind of tikkun (rectification) or kapparah (atonement) for myself or the Jewish people or the world, but I doubt it is the latter.  I suppose on some level it probably is a kapparah for myself, but it would be good to know what it is atoning for, so it seemed less arbitrary.  Really I want to help other people somehow in my suffering, but it seems unlikely that that is the case.

This may be part of what lay behind a dream I had last night.  I can’t remember the details, but in the dream there were two women I asked out in real life who had turned me down.  One (in real life) was someone I knew online who I thought I had connected with (another frum geek) and the other was someone I was at school with and then met years later through a Jewish mental health charity and became friends with for a while.  I thought she was flirting with me, but apparently I was wrong (she repeatedly said I was a “genius” and also that I would have “really cute children”).  Neither was interested in me; I still comment on the former’s blog, but the latter cut of all contact with me.

In the dream, the latter was talking to the former about her issues (in the real world she had bipolar disorder and had repeatedly been hospitalised as a suicide risk; she also had a history of anorexia).  I wanted to help too, but she kept refusing to speak when she was aware that I was listening, until I realised that she didn’t want my help and that the only way I could help her was to leave her alone (there was then a surreal sequence I can’t fully describe about a dead tortoise in the garden; no idea what that represents).

This seemed to be an unconscious articulation of the fact that I want to help people, but often can’t do it, either because of my own issues or because I don’t know how to help people because of my autistic symptoms.  In particular, I had been reflecting before going to bed, and not for the first time, how frustrating it is to me to see all the discussion on Jewish websites and newspapers about the need to re-engage young Jews with Judaism and Jewish culture and encourage the raising of Jewish children (assimilation is still running strong).  I want to have children and give them a strong grounding in Judaism and a love of Judaism and Jewish culture (not just the religion, but the wider cultural aspects), but it looks like I never will marry and have children.  This upsets me a lot.  I suppose if I had to rank what I most dislike about my various conditions, the actual depression and social anxiety would probably come in about third, because I’m used to coping with them (up to a point anyway).  First would be the loneliness, particularly the romantic/sexual loneliness and second would be the feeling that I will never have children, the feeling of being the end of the line, that the tradition will, in some sense, end with me (in a manner of speaking… I’m still hoping that my sister and cousins will have children, but who knows what will happen?).

OK, now I’ve brought my mood really far down, I guess I should try to finish tidying up and then have something to eat, do some Torah study (done none at all today, thanks to falling asleep this afternoon) and get to bed at a reasonable time.  Hopefully eating might help my mood a bit, as I may have low blood sugar again; I haven’t eaten anything for nearly six hours, nor have I drunk much.

Time Capsule Fragment

I wrote this about an hour ago and interrupted myself before posting.  It feels somewhat unfinished.  I don’t feel as bad now as I did then, but I want to post it as a sort of time capsule, albeit one preserving a recent time, but also as a demonstration of how bad I feel at times, often when I’m not able to post.  I kind of wish I could have a reverse time capsule, with my future self sending encouraging messages back to me, but then again, maybe there’s nothing encouraging to say about my future (this is me positive, wait until you see the negative).

I’m feeling really bad and I don’t know why.  My parents haven’t even gone away yet, although they are out at a charity event at the moment (EDIT: they’re back now).  I want to write what I feel, but when I try to write it all becomes sanitised.  I can’t put what I feel into words.  I’m not sure I entirely know what I feel.

I’m beating myself up because of a religious OCD situation that isn’t really my fault and probably isn’t anything to worry about, but I feel I made a mistake and It’s All My Fault if it Goes Wrong.

Sometimes I wish I was asexual (I believe a number of autistic people are).  I can’t see myself ever getting married, and I wouldn’t have sex outside of marriage (my first girlfriend thought that I wouldn’t even if I was married to her and maybe she was right).  It’s a mitzvah (commandment) for men (not women) to get married and have children, but it’s unlikely that I ever will.  It would make my life easier and less guilt-ridden.

I want to hurt myself, but I feel too scared.  I feel that I’m just messed up beyond all hope of repair.

None of what I’ve written remotely portrays how much emotional pain I feel I’m in right now (plus physical discomfort, as my parents turn the heating up far too high for my liking.  I’ve only recently discovered that sensitivity to heat can be an autistic sensory issue, although I shouldn’t say that as Officially I am Boringly Neurotypical and any unusual behaviour is just common or garden weirdness and the intractability of my depression is just Bad Luck).

This was the point where I stopped writing.  Goodnight.

My Family and Other Animals

At work this morning I realised I messed up my timesheet last week.  I think it’s OK; I forgot to date it and only put my name twice when they wanted it three times (twice printed and once signed).  But it makes me feel like a useless idiot again who can’t get anything right.  I hope it’s just depression-lowered concentration.  I feel a lot more stupid than I used to be.  I did at least process about 135 records even though I was feeling very depressed and working slowly.  I had thoughts of wanting to die, though.  I really can’t see my life getting any better.

My parents keep suggesting to me that I should become a primary school teacher (this is the teacher training course they want me to do). I really don’t know what to do about this.  It’s a nice idea, but I can’t see myself doing it at the moment.  I can’t really see myself doing it at all unless I have more experience with children.  I’m also scared of flitting from one career to another without settling on anything.  My sister suggested becoming a teaching assistant first and I thought of looking for another volunteering opportunity with children, although they seem to be few and far between, but I don’t think I feel I could even do that right now.  I don’t really want to be responsible for children while I feel this bad, for all that I do tend to cheer up when I’m with children.

On the other hand, my Mum’s doubts about my ability to look after a pet has taken the wind out of my sails regarding getting one, that and social anxiety about going to a pet shop and asking to hold the animals and buy equipment.  I know little about pets and I have an image in my head of going to a pet shop being like that Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch where Mel Smith goes to a shop to buy “a gramophone” and gets mocked by shop assistants Rowan Atkinson and Griff Rhys Jones for his total lack of technological savvy.

I know I shouldn’t rely on my parents so much for my self-esteem (such as it is) and for advice at my age, but I find it hard not to.  My relationship with them is complicated, to put it mildly.  It’s at times like this that I wish I was still in therapy, but I’ve stopped seeing my psychodynamic psychotherapist for a while so I can see if CBT might help, although I heard recently that people on the autistic spectrum (which may or may not include me) struggle with CBT because they don’t notice their mood changes until they have got quite extreme.  That fits me whether or not I’m on the spectrum.

Plus, as I just noted on the Mental Health at Home blog, I’m still dependent financially on my parents and  I don’t know what will happen to me when my parents are gone, given that I don’t seem to be able to hold down a regular job, but am apparently not sick enough to claim benefits.

There is a lot more I could say, but I’d better not say more in a semi-public setting.  Actually, despite all I write here, there’s so much that I can’t say, for one reason or another.  It’s hard, because writing is the way I process and release emotions, but I’m constrained by the laws of lashon hara (malicious speech) and kibbud av ve’em (honouring parents), as well as by accept conventions of what is OK to talk about in polite society and my fear that if people knew the real me, they would not want anything to do with me.

End of the Week Bits and Pieces

I forgot to mention yesterday that I changed where I was sitting in the office (we hotdesk), so that the two people who pace up and down while on the phone were in front of me rather than behind me.  This seems to have helped.  They’re just as audible, but not so distracting.  It seems that noise behind me makes me more alert and anxious than noise in front of me.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee about where I’ll be able to sit over the next three weeks.

I just got phoned by a variation on this scam.  Luckily I was suspicious and googled them rather than phoning them back.

I wish I could be as non-judgemental of myself as I am of others.  That said, I am judgemental of others, but then I make myself think about things and realise that what they have done isn’t so bad and they probably have extenuating circumstances.  But I can’t even do that with myself.  I feel that I know that I’m a bad person and that while it isn’t my concern what other people do, it is my concern to make sure that I do the right thing, so I should beat myself up until I change, which never works.  I don’t know what a better method is, though.

Before my meeting with the new psychiatrist on Thursday, I’m trying to write two lists.  I don’t always remember what I want to say and I’m worried I’m not going to be confident about talking about alternative diagnoses, so I want to have something written I can give him/her.  One list is of the depression symptoms, the other is other problems I’ve been having and other things that make me think I’m on the autistic spectrum, although I’m not sure whether I’ll say that I think I’m autistic.  Please let me know if there’s anything I talk about here that I’ve forgotten.

The depression list is:

  • Very low mood.
  • Despair.
  • Occasional thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Anxiety, especially social anxiety and anxiety related to work.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Easily and frequently exhausted.
  • Inability to experience pleasure.
  • Loneliness.
  • Disrupted sleep at weekends, albeit primarily on non-work days.
  • Panic attacks on the way to work the other week.

The other list of symptoms is:

  • Difficulty understanding and describing my emotions.
  • Difficulty making eye contact.
  • Difficulty reading body language.
  • Body language and voice tone that makes others think I’m angry or upset even when I’m not.
  • Intense interests.
  • Difficulty moving from one task to another and multitasking.
  • Poor spatial awareness/get lost easily.
  • Difficulty holding a conversation without a prepared ‘script,’ especially small talk.
  • Sensory overload from noise at work, in restaurants, etc.
  • Fidgeting and stereotyped/repetitive movements (spin on chair, move feet and hands, stroke face, deliberately press on fingers or put in desk drawer).
  • Tactile – I like feeling certain objects with my hands or even lips.
  • I can’t always tell when people are joking.
  • Difficulty remembering or understanding long and/or implicit instructions.
  • I tend to stick to routines.

Some of these could be depressive, some I think point towards autism, but it’s hard to be sure.  I’ve been told that I didn’t experience all of these as a child, which is one reason why I wasn’t diagnosed with autism in the past.

For some of these symptoms I know the technical terms (alexithymia, ideation, anhedonia etc.).  I’ve been to so many psychiatrists and therapists and read so many books I’ve picked stuff up.  But I was worried that if I used the terms, I would seem pretentious and showing off and maybe would make the psychiatrist think I was telling him/her what to do.  But on the other hand they might be helpful and show that I have done some research.  What do you think?

The Language of Music and the Music of Language

I got to depression group this evening.  It was good to speak to people who understand depression, to be heard and to hear others.

I’ve been listening to classical music in the office.  I’ve always felt that classical music is somehow ‘richer’ than the popular music I usually listen to (mostly rock), but I always feel that I don’t have the time or attention to listen to it while walking to the station or doing housework.  I mention this here, because I realised that classical music is a good analogy for me.  I want to describe why I feel classical music has more ‘depth’ and ‘richness’ to it than rock, but I can’t, because I have no musical training and consequently don’t have a vocabulary to describe what I hear and feel.  Even words like ‘depth’ and ‘richness’ do not accurately describe what I feel, they merely evoke it, and that imperfectly.

It is the same for me with emotions.  I don’t understand my emotions, I am not always fully aware of them, and I lack a vocabulary to fully describe them.  People on the autistic spectrum can lack the vocabulary to describe emotions beyond the most basic.    This is why I struggle to express to other people what I feel.  It is particularly bad with my parents, because they have to endure the consequences my bad moods without me being able to explain to them what I am feeling to make them understand why I am not always behaving well.  This is particularly true when speaking; in writing I can take my time and think about the write words and I have the confidence to write at length without being afraid that people will lose interest, whereas when speaking I tend not to speak at length, particularly about mental health.

“I Told You I Was Ill”

Ugh, I don’t know if I can write today.  I feel totally drained.  At work I usually get through about 130 records; on a good day, I think I’ve done up to 150.  Today I managed 89.  I’m not sure how much of that was because I felt terrible (depressed and sensory overload – I really wanted to strangle some noisy people.  I’m not usually an angry person, but I was feeling very angry towards them) and how much was that it was just a difficult batch of data.  Unfortunately, the next few lots look just as bad.  If my boss was here and if my contract didn’t end in less than a month, I would probably be having the “I need to talk about my mental health” talk.  The one I hate having, but keep having to have at different universities and workplaces.  Asking for “reasonable adjustments” (ugh again).  Then my Dad gave me a lift home from the station and I bickered with him.  It’s my fault, but I guess his autism-unfriendly style of talking was not something I could cope with when feeling drained and overwhelmed after a difficult day at work and a difficult journey on the Tube.  Then I argued with my Mum, which was less my fault, but not entirely.

I feel so tense today, like elastic stretched to breaking point.  I worry what will tip me over the edge and what will happen if I go there.  The fear I’ve had for years that if I get stretched too far, I’ll become unpleasant or even violent.  Or that I’ll become psychotic or spiral downwards into worse mental illness.  I feel like I have so many rules.  My rules, family rules, friends’ rules, society’s rules, Jewish rules, playground rules…   Honour your parents.  Love HaShem your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.  Love your neighbour (and not his wife).  Stand up straight.  Always be punctual.  Pray and study and do good deeds.  Read improving books and a newspaper you don’t agree with.  Eat your fruit and veg and not processed sugar.  Never be cruel or cowardly, never give up or give in.  Don’t let them see you cry.  Keep silent or make small talk, but don’t talk about what matters.  Don’t lose your temper.  Don’t be stupid, but don’t be too clever.  Don’t show off, but don’t shirk duty.  Don’t conform, but don’t stand out.

Don’t think that, don’t think that.  Don’t even feel it.  Not ever.

I just wish everything wasn’t so difficult for me.  I don’t know how I was so functional at school and am so dysfunctional now.  I guess that’s one reason I would like an autism diagnosis, so I wouldn’t feel completely rude and incompetent the whole time.  To show myself and others that I have a reason to be screwed up.  Hence my fantasies of not just getting an autism diagnosis, but sharing it with people: the first woman I asked out, my first girlfriend, my former boss… everyone who I think saw me at my worst and probably thought badly of me as a result.  I don’t know if that’s an apology on my part (“I’m sorry for being screwed up and for screwing up our interactions”), a desire for understanding or a somewhat defiant explanation.  I don’t think it’s revenge.  But it also makes me question whether I really am autistic.  If I’m this sensitive to things (fluorescent lights, noise, stress, people, multitasking), shouldn’t it have been more obvious when I was growing up?  I was just shy, perhaps socially anxious and almost certainly alexithymic, but I didn’t react the way I do now.  I don’t know the answer (as usual).

Effort : Reward

The news is so depressing today.  Sometimes it’s hard to work out where my life ends and the world begins, they’re so awful.  I’m not sure if that even makes sense.  I mean… actually I don’t know what I mean.  I don’t think that the world is a product of my depressed mind (which would be solipsism and/or psychosis).  But I don’t quite mean that my depression is a product of the world (although on one level it is).  I guess I mean that they complement each other in a disturbing way.  That the world is bad enough to fit my mood, and my mood is bad enough to fit the world.

A few people have said that I should focus not on the religious stuff I don’t achieve, but on how much I’m achieving compared to the effort I put in and my abilities, taking into account depression, social anxiety, possible autism or social communication disorder and so on.  To be honest, this is a Jewish idea.  The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot says that the reward is proportional to the effort and I have heard from a couple of sources that the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz), one of the leading Orthodox rabbis and halakhicists of the twentieth century, would stand for someone with Down Syndrome out of respect because they are serving God on their level better than other people.  However, it’s hard for me to hold on to it, because I have no realistic understanding of what I should be able to achieve and how much effort I put in.  Sometimes I feel like I’m working flat out, putting in all the effort I can, but mostly it doesn’t feel like that.  I have no objective way of knowing, I can only compare myself with other people – my peers – who are doing so much more than me, even though I don’t know how much effort they put or how much effort they can put in.

I still feel very lonely.  It’s hard to work out what that loneliness is.  If I say I want to connect with someone, that feels OK, but if I say I want (to be blunt) to have sex with someone, that feels not OK, even though both Judaism and psychiatry recognise sex as a basic human need, and even though for me the desire for sex is connected to the desire for love and intimacy (I couldn’t be promiscuous, just from my personality).  Mind you, sometimes even saying I want to be loved feels selfish and wrong.  I should just love other people without expectation of return.  I find it hard to love people.  I guess it’s the autism, and the alexithymia.  It’s hard to understand what I feel.  E. said I was an “amazing boyfriend” but that still wasn’t good enough.  I don’t know how I could ever love someone properly, or have someone love me the way I need.

I’m supposed to go to volunteer at the asylum seekers drop-in centre (I can never work out if there should be an apostrophe in that – I would think so, but the organisers don’t seem to put one in) , but I don’t feel up to it.  I just want to go back to bed.  I’m still in my pyjamas at 11am, even though I need to leave in half an hour.

Reflections

I seem to be in the habit of long days (Sunday evening until Thursday afternoon), going to bed at 11pm and getting up at 6.20am and trying to pack my day with work and whatever Torah study and prayer I can manage, and shorter days (extended weekends from Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon), going to bed any time after midnight and sleeping for ten to twelve hours and trying to do more Torah study and prayer, as well as household chores, than I can manage on work days, but generally feeling too burnt out to do very much.  Long work days are filled with intense depression and I think also anxiety (although it can be hard to tell — alexithymia again) at work, but the fear of missing work and getting in trouble keeps me going somehow.  Weekend days have less intense emotions, at least most of the time, but also a general feeling of lassitude and difficulty in getting motivated to do anything, even though I have lots to do, just not as obviously urgent as on work days, or at least things that won’t lead to immediate conflict if I miss it or am late.  Consequently, I don’t have time for hobbies (working much on my Doctor Who book and blog, cooking, jogging, painting miniatures) and I still don’t have much energy for prayer or Torah study.  Often the lack of time on the Tube that I can use to read Mishnayot means I do less on non-work days, while I usually sleep through Shacharit (morning prayers) on these days although I do at least get to a couple of shiurim (classes) which I can’t seem to manage on work nights and I tend to get shul (synagogue) at some point on Shabbat (the Sabbath) which I don’t manage at all on work days.  This routine is not healthy, but I don’t know how else to get through the week right now.

I don’t think it’s particularly feasible for me to be thinking about dating while my mental health is so unbalanced and my income stream (such as it is) is about to be cut off in five weeks when my contract ends, but I’m still quite lonely (although I’ve been worse) and I wish I had a wife and children to love and share my life with.  I suspect I’m a more affectionate person than I’ve ever really had the chance to demonstrate, if I could find the right woman.

Other than general lassitude (and consciousness that it’s getting close to Shabbat, which starts about 5.40pm today), I feel some social anxiety and inadequacy.  I feel that my boss must surely regret hiring me and that the people at my shul (synagogue) community might look down on me; even if they don’t, I look down on myself for not davening (praying) or studying Torah as much or as well as they do.

Further to what I wrote yesterday about finding something I can do well, my Mum is trying to encourage me to consider retraining as a primary school teacher, specifically limudei kodesh (Jewish studies) in a Jewish school.  I’m not convinced that I’m as good with children as she thinks, though, or that I could handle working full-time in a school.  Also, the thought of being in charge of a whole class of children terrifies me; I get nervous enough looking after a handful at the asylum seekers drop-in centre, and their parents are only in the next room.

I tried to phone a local private therapy centre (the ones who were supposed to phone me back last week, but didn’t) about CBT for low self-esteem and social anxiety.  It was a struggle with my social anxiety just to make the call about treating my social anxiety (!), but they were shut anyway (they may shut early on Fridays because I think the practice owner is Jewish and frum (religious) although I don’t think all the staff are).  I shall have to try earlier next week, but I was just too exhausted to phone earlier today.

Mood Rating

(This is really a note to myself, but I thought I would post it publicly in case anyone else is interested or finds it useful.)

Since 2003 I have been rating my moods out of ten every evening (except Shabbat and Yom Tov), where 1 is unbearably awful (I have sometimes reached 0, added when I reached new depths that I had not guessed existed when I rated myself 1/10) and 10 is normal (actually 8 is my de facto normal; even in periods of remission, I’ve rarely felt able to award myself 10/10, but over time 8 became shorthand for “basically OK”).

Between 2003 and 2010 (really more like 2015) for long periods – months and at times years – I was unable to study or work because I was so depressed.  At these times I think I floated consistently around 3/10.  Lately I’ve been feeling that I’m doing better than at times in the past.  I’m going to work every day and staying there, not coming home early with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts as happened a few years ago.  But I think I’m judging myself as much on achievement as mood (I think I used to rate achievement every evening too, but over time I dropped it as unnecessary).  I am achieving things, in terms of working despite my depression.  But my mood is often incredibly low.  I’ve been rating myself 4s, 5s and 6s on work days – bad compared with non-work days, which can be mildly depressed 7s or effectively normal 8s, but better than times when I’ve felt at 1, 2 or 3 for months on end.  But I wonder if I should be rating myself lower than I actually am because my mood at work is so low that it’s almost impossible to work and I just sit at my desk crying.

The other tricky thing is change over the day.  I do feel a lot better when it reaches 5pm and I leave the office for another sixteen hours.  I rate my mood at the end of the day, so there’s an immediacy bias to how I feel after having blogged, had dinner, watched some TV and relaxed a bit rather than how I felt during the day.  Sometimes I put a range of values to reflect this change e.g. 5-7/10, but I wonder if I’m not doing that often enough.

It’s difficult to deal with the subjectivity of emotions, even without alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding one’s emotions)…

Messed Up

I have a somewhat strange relationship with anxiety.  On the one hand, I have had a number of psychological assessments over the years and I often surprised the psychologists at how little anxiety I registered on their questionnaires, considering how strongly depression registered (the two usually go hand-in-hand).  On the other hand, I am no stranger to the gnawing feeling of dread about the future.  When I was at school and university, I used to feel particularly nauseous on Sunday evenings, dreading the coming week, and first thing in the mornings.  It was the latter that brought my mental health problems to light for the first time.  I went to the doctor complaining of disrupted sleep and inexplicable nausea during the day, especially on the way to school.  It turned out, after a number of physical tests had drawn a blank, to probably be my first major depressive episode with anxiety explaining the nausea, although this was not diagnosed at the time.

One therapist suggested that the depression was so strong that it ‘drowned out’ the anxiety except at certain points when the anxiety was very strong.  That may be true, although I think it may also be the case that the anxiety had been present for so long that I stopped noticing it, at least the morning/Sunday evening type of anxiety, and/or that as far as possible I dealt with the anxiety by avoidance, particularly in the years 2005-2008 or so, when I simply stopped functioning and spent all my time in my bedroom, reading and blogging online and watching Doctor Who, only going out for meetings with psychiatrists or therapists, being too depressed to work.

Sometimes the anxiety shades into pure O OCD, where I go from worrying that I’ll be fired to obsessing that I’m going to do something that would get me fired even though I know it to be wrong and have no conscious intention of doing it.  OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder (although apparently this has recently changed in DSM-V, but not ICD 10), so I guess that isn’t surprising.  At other times the anxiety would catastrophise into despair, where I would stop worrying that something bad would happen and just assume it would happen and feel depressed as if it already had happened, particularly regarding careers, dating and recovery.

***

I was a drama queen on someone’s blog again yesterday.  I wish I didn’t do this.  It was about the coming Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals) and setting targets for growth over them and in the Jewish new year.  I just feel that I can’t cope with any of that right now, that I’ve got a lot of anger and resentment issues with God and I can’t cope with the idea of making him my King (which is what Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is all about) or asking for forgiveness (Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)).  I feel, if anything, that He should be asking me to forgive Him for everything that He’s done to me over the last twenty years, but then I feel bad for feeling that.  I’m hopefully speaking to my rabbi mentor on Sunday, but I’m not sure how much of this I will be able to bring up.

***

I just feel tired a lot of the time.  Physically tired and tired of life.  I’ve felt like this on and off for many years.  I just feel that my life is not good, that I don’t enjoy it or have meaning or purpose, or feel that I’m doing anything useful with it.  I feel I have no reason to want to stay alive.

I feel confused too.  I don’t know where my life is going.  I have ideas for what I could do, but I don’t know how feasible they are or whether I would actually enjoy them.  The world frightens me, both on a personal level and, increasingly, on a social/political level.  This doesn’t feel like my world, but I don’t think it ever was.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with me and E. and I’m not sure I really know what I want to happen or what would be sensible.  To be honest, I don’t know what I feel about HaShem (God) either.  It’s easy to say that I hate Him and am angry with Him, but I’m not sure that that’s an accurate picture of what I feel, at least not all the time.  I don’t know if this is alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding emotions) again.  It’s hard to know what I feel about HaShem.  I feel strongly that He exists and is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.  I’m not doubting in that sense (and I have had times of doubt in the past, so I know what I’m talking about).  But I find it hard to believe that He cares about me and even think that He hates me, which I guess means that I think that I deserve to be hated.

I just wish I could sort out my life somehow, but I’m not sure what a ‘sorted out’ life would look like.

***

Just further to what I wrote here over the last few days, I did a tiny bit of reading on complex PTSD.  I did seem to have quite a few of the symptoms and certainly there was an ongoing situation in my childhood that seems to my unprofessional mind to be potentially traumatic, but in my mind I would not feel confident at all to say I’m a sufferer.  I suppose I feel that I have so many issues that have not been ‘officially’ diagnosed (autism being the big one, as I have had repeated and conflicting diagnoses, but also I was never officially diagnosed with OCD or social anxiety, even though both seem very likely) that I am wary of adding any others, especially as my therapist feels I have a tendency to want to be The Most Mentally Ill Person in the World.  So, I’ll probably shelve that for now, but it is at the back of my mind.

***

I just got back from shopping.  This led to several bad things: the realisation that even walking briskly for five or ten minutes exhausts me; the discovery that there is a supply problem with my antidepressants again, leading me to suspect that they are no longer being produced; and suicidal thoughts.  In just over a week, Jews all over the world are going to be literally praying for their lives, hoping for a good new year, a year of life, and part of me just wants to die.  I do not want to be here any more.  I feel that I’m a disappointment to everyone and that it would be no different if I was never born.  I’m just holding on because a few people care about me, which I don’t understand, but I don’t want to upset them, and because I’m a coward and scared of making a failed suicide attempt and ending up physically damaged, but still alive and depressed.  I don’t feel I have any real hope for the future.  I’ve been depressed for so long now, it’s impossible to believe things can get better.  In fact, I think things will probably get worse.  I just screw everything up.

People tell me I have to stop comparing myself to other people and to learn self-love, but no one tells me how to achieve these things.  I don’t feel I deserve to love myself, I don’t understand how other people could love me, I don’t believe that HaShem loves me and I don’t know how to love myself without becoming even more wicked than I already am, because I’ll just end up ignoring or justifying all the bad things I do.  I don’t know what the way forward from this is.

(I’m not sure how much of the last two paragraphs is true.  It feels true, but it also feels true that there’s part of me that doesn’t want to die, although it’s pretty confused about why, as it’s not much more hopeful for the future.)

Too Late for the Pebbles to Vote

“The avalanche has already started.  It is too late for the pebbles to vote.” – Babylon 5: Believers by David Gerrold

Today was my last day in my job, although technically I’m still under contract until mid-August and the next few weeks are paid holiday, although I’ll be using a lot of it to start job hunting.  I’ve already started getting in touch with contacts I have in the areas of writing and researching that I might be interested in to get an idea of what would be involved.

Today was a slightly odd day, as I’d done most of my work and there wasn’t much point starting anything new, so I just helped out with the library reorganisation a bit.  About 11.00am all the library suddenly trooped into the office and stood in front of my desk, rather to my surprise, and presented me with a leaving card and present (a mug decorated to look like the scrabble tile of the initial of my first name), which must have been bought quickly, given that I only turned the contract down yesterday.  I had a bit of an autistic/alexithymic moment, being overwhelmed by a rush of different emotions that were hard to identify: pleasure, embarrassment, happiness, regret and probably more.  But I was really glad that I seemed to have made such an impression in a relatively short period of time.  I just hope I communicated that, as the overwhelming emotional rush made it hard for me to know what to say or do.  A little later an ex-colleague, who got transferred to one of the other colleges in the super-college a few months ago, popped in to say goodbye.  She happened to be in the building and heard I was leaving, so she came up, which was really nice, as I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her.

There is a bit of regret and maybe even a little self-recrimination that maybe I should have tried out the new contract and seen how it goes and maybe I’m running away from social stuff a bit, but something happened today that I won’t go into here that made me think I was right to leave.  Plus, while I should push myself on the social anxiety front, I also need to play to my strengths and the new job description was just too much too quickly (in terms of required interpersonal interactions).

E. is really supportive of my decision too, which matters a lot to me, as I respect her opinion a lot.  My family, while I think initially leaning towards encouraging me to take the contract, are now more supportive of my decision, even though I’m going to have to move back in with my parents soon for financial reasons.  And my non-biological sisters have been really supportive while I’ve been trying to make up my mind too and they think I’m doing the right thing.

At shiur tonight someone asked how I am and I mentioned about my job, even though my instinct was to hide it.  Afterwards, while I was walking back, I stopped to respond to a text and someone from shiur and caught up with me and spoke to me.  After I got panicked enough about talking to him that I got my address wrong (!) he asked the question I dread most i.e. where do daven (pray) on Shabbat (Sabbath) mornings?  I am usually asleep, a combination of depressive exhaustion after the work week with a bit of socially anxious avoidance of crowds.  I mentioned that I have some health issues and don’t always make it to shul (synagogue) without going into details.  I always feel really awkward saying that, but I don’t know what else to say.  It’s better than lying and pretending I daven elsewhere, I guess.

On a somewhat related note, I wanted to respond to this post (about a podcast for frum (religious) women who struggle with balancing careers, family and religious lives) by saying that I feel the need for one for men too, but I was worried I might be deemed sexist (to be honest, I’m so scared of identity politics calling out that I’m scared to express an opinion on a lot of things).  But I would like someone to tell me what is normal and what is halakhically acceptable (acceptable according to Jewish law) for frum men (and if ‘normal’ is the same as ‘halakhically acceptable’ here).  I know that women have their own challenges which in many ways are harder, but as a frum guy I feel a pressure to: 1) earn money to support a family (a particularly sticky point for me at the moment, given that this was why E. and I broke up); 2) do my share of the chores to support said family as well as 3) spend quality time with said family, especially encouraging my children’s religious education and growth.  Furthermore I have to 4) daven three times a day 5) with kavannah (mindfulness) and 6) a minyan (prayer quorum) as well as 7) study Torah for a couple of hours daily 8) ideally at least some of the time with a chevruta (study partner) (not my preferred mode of study) and 9) ideally Talmud and halakhah (Jewish law) (which are not my favourite areas of study, either for interest or ability – this post just made me feel totally inadequate, as the author is so far ahead of my ability) and 10) working on developing my character attributes in line with Jewish teachings while still 11) staying sociable at shul social events like kiddush (refreshments after Shabbat morning services) and seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) and discussing work, politics and sport (boring!).  Most of these things I find hard because of my mental health and probable neurodivergence.  I guess I would like to know what is ‘normal’ here and what the basic level of ‘acceptable’ is.  I feel everyone from my shul does all of the above, at least to some extent (OK, they don’t all study Talmud, but they do all seem to study Jewish stuff) and I’d like to know how much (and how they fit it in), but it’s not really the done thing to ask, and asking would entail speaking about the way depression, social anxiety and probable autism hold me back.

Pressure

I’m struggling at the moment, not so much with my breakup as with the emotions it has released.  The feeling that I will never find someone who can see past my considerable baggage and drawbacks (the religious inadequacies, but also my low income and professional status, lack of a full-time job, still being quite dependent on parents etc.).  I had real stabs of envy recently.  I won’t go into details, but I got hit with strong feelings of envy and even anger about other people’s success and settled family life.  This is completely incongruous, absurd even, as other people’s happiness is not taking away from mine.  I find it hard to deal with powerful destructive emotions like this.  It’s probably taken me years to really admit that I have them.

The good that came out of this is that I was discussing things in the comment section of a blog I read (I’m not going to link, as I didn’t comment anonymously there – I still have some non-anonymous (nonymous?) accounts out there), but I was discussing my religious inadequacies with someone frum (religious) and, in the course of the discussion, I came to realise that a lot of my feelings of envy and anger at frum people and, even more so, my feelings that they will reject and hate me are reflections of my own fears and perceptions of my own religious inadequacies.  I hate myself and I think I’m not meeting my religious obligations, so I think no one in my community could like me and certainly no woman from my community would want to marry me.  It’s hard to know what to do with those feelings, though.

There’s a lot of pent-up emotion inside me at the moment.  This post has only scratched the surface, partly from lack of time and partly because I don’t want to share all my dark thoughts, but also because I don’t really understand everything I feel, which makes me worry that I’m just going to explode dangerously one day, in some way that I can’t predict.

Half-Term Halfway

Hi!  I’m still here!  I haven’t written much lately because my relationship with E. continues to be great and I’m scared of tempting fate by writing about it (not that I believe in fate, but you know what I mean), but the rest of life is a struggle at times.  I’m on half-term this week.  It had been going OK, but not great, catching up on chores I don’t have time to do in term time and wishing I could have a proper break, but today has been difficult.  I’ve been slipping further behind with my chores (I wanted to work on a short story I started writing months ago and haven’t even been able to sit down to it; likewise I haven’t done much of the Torah study I had planned), but today I found I couldn’t find one of the ingredients for a recipe E. recommended, so I can’t make it and now I have the other ingredients sitting in my fridge with me not sure what I can do with them.  (If anyone knows of uses for corn flour, spring onions, feta cheese and yoghurt, I would like to hear from them.  The spring onions and maybe the yoghurt are the only ones I think I could eat by themselves, although maybe I should summon up the courage to try the feta by itself.)

The rest of my shopping trip today was more successful, resulting in a new tie (a very belated Chanukah present from my parents), two new pairs of work trousers (sadly a larger size than in the past with the weight I’ve put on since being put on clomipramine), a new drainer for the kitchen and a picture frame to replace one I broke nearly three years ago and had been unable to replace (it’s an unusual shape, being nearly square).  And my Mum said she really enjoyed going shopping with me as a mother-son bonding thing.   So that was all positive.

What was less positive was the drive home, which took about fifty minutes, two or three times longer than it should have done.  By the time I got home, I was feeling incredibly depleted from the drive home and from the shopping itself.  I don’t find shopping centres as difficult as some autistic people do, but the noise, the people and perhaps also the lighting do seem to be tiring for me after a while and I spent about three hours shopping today.  So it probably isn’t a surprise that I feel depleted, doubly so as I feel vaguely as if I’m coming down with a cold.

I also felt bad that E. is having a bad day, and I felt powerless to do anything practical to help her, stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.  She was very good natured about it (because she’s awesome), but I felt a bit like a bad boyfriend, even though I know it’s not really my fault.  It’s at times like this that I wish I could find better words, though.  I know I can write about depression and Judaism and Doctor Who, but it’s hard sometimes to express how I feel, even to myself, let alone to anyone else.

I’m going to have dinner in a minute, watch some Doctor Who and write off the rest of the day.  Things seem a bit better just for writing this down and putting it in perspective: I can see that the day wasn’t so bad.  And whatsapping E. has cheered both of us up, I think.  I just wish that I didn’t spiral so easily down into the black hole of depression, anxiety and autistic traits.

Anxious Child Mode

I guess I’m in my anxious child mode again.  Shavuot  was quite good, but one day later it feels like ancient history besides work.  Work at the moment is dull.  I haven’t been blogging about it much because it’s persistently dull.  There’s stuff that needs doing and I’m doing it, but it’s dull and no one could possibly enjoy doing it, at least, not to the extent that I’m required to do it.  I tell myself that if it was fun, they wouldn’t pay me to do it.  I also have to do my first exam invigilation this week, which I’m dreading, partly because I’m worried I’ll do something so disastrously wrong that the exam will be voided, all the students will be failed and the college will lose the right to hold any exams in the future, but mostly because I have to get up half an hour earlier, when I’m persistently unable to get up any earlier than I usually do.  I also come home from work exhausted and depleted, which just triggers depression and anxiety.

The other reason I’m in anxious child mode is the Big Secret I’ve been alluding to in recent weeks.  The secret, in case anyone didn’t guess, is that I’m in a relationship for only the second time in my life.  This is very good and happiness-inducing, but also anxiety-provoking because (a) relationships are scary, (b) this is a long-distance relationship, which I’ve never had before and (c) because there’s a big difference in our respective religious levels (my girlfriend has a strong Jewish identity, she just doesn’t express it so much religiously).  We set out our red lines regarding points (b) and (c) before starting the relationship and we seemed to have a basic level of compatibility, but it’s still a scary thing to go into a relationship with, particularly for someone with minimal relationship experience like me.   Everything else is amazing; my girlfriend (I’ll call her E.) is everything I could have wanted: gentle, caring, intelligent, interesting and fun to talk to, understanding of my mental health and borderline Asperger’s, encouraging of my writing ambitions and, weirdly, really into me.   But I still worry that nothing really good ever happens to me, that something will go wrong sooner or later.

The journey home from work turns out to be the real killer, when I’m exhausted and hungry and stressed and probably a bit dehydrated and packed into a tiny Tube train with a thousand other exhausted, hungry, stressed people, fighting for space, not to mention air… it’s easy to give in to catastrophising in such a situation.  I have sufficiently little successful dating experience, or any dating experience, really, that it’s easy to convince myself that I’m feeling the ‘wrong’ thing or the ‘wrong’ amount of the ‘right’ thing.  It’s a lot harder to just relax and enjoy the ride, which is what my parents and my rabbi mentor said to do (yes, my rabbi mentor has been actively encouraging me to date E., religious differences notwithstanding!).

This whole situation made me aware of an aspect of my personality that I hadn’t really noticed before.  Some people are rational and some people are emotional, and in and of themselves, both modes of thought have their advantages and disadvantages.  However, I’m emotional, but I’m convinced that I’m rational (or have been until the last week or so), which means that I get overwhelmed by emotional inputs (particularly due to depression, anxiety, alexithymia etc.), but I treat them as if they are rational data points.  This has a particular tendency to happen on that journey home, when I start thinking, “I’m really anxious that this won’t work, therefore there must be strong logical reasons that this won’t work” or “I don’t feel as overwhelmingly ‘in love’ as I did this morning, therefore I’m not feeling anything romantic any more.”  It’s rather crazy as it’s clearly being driven by my anxiety and by other factors affecting my mood (tiredness, hunger, etc.), but I’m treating it as if it’s an objective fact.  I’m trying not to pay too much attention to these thoughts, but as someone who overanalyses himself, it’s hard.

If I can get through this work week, next week is half-term.  I don’t have anything particularly exciting planned, aside from my Mum’s birthday dinner, but it will be good to have more time to Skype E. and to plan a trans-Atlantic trip for later in the year to meet her in person.  Naturally, I’m catastrophising on that already, from “What if I get lost?” to “What if I get mugged?” to “What if E. breaks up with me and I’m left on a romantic holiday by myself?”  However, trans-Atlantic trips can’t be planned at the last minute, so eventually one has to hope and pray that the relationship will last the next two and a bit months (at least).

Weekend Post

I haven’t written for a couple of days because I’ve been busy.  On Friday I went for a run without a cap because why would you need a hat in London in April?  I got sunstroke.  Ouch.  Climate change!  It left me feeling so ill that I missed shul (synagogue) in the evening, which I felt bad about.

Yesterday I overslept and missed morning shul again, but I did at least stay awake in the afternoon instead of napping, which gave me time for extra Torah study and a stroll outdoors.  I went to a sheva brachos (marriage celebration) in shul between Mincha and Ma’ariv (the afternoon and evening services) for a couple I didn’t know, but I wanted to be part of the community, who were all invited.  This is a normal type of thing to do in frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) circles.  It was difficult, as I didn’t get to sit with the people I knew best and made awkward small talk with some people I didn’t know so well.  The father of the bride used so much Yiddish in his speech that I couldn’t really understand all he said, which made me feel a bit of a misfit, then the groom’s best friend made a speech that made me feel even more of a misfit, because it was basically about how we should only learn Torah and not have outside interests. This tied in with what one of the people next to me had said, that he used to be a bookworm before he was frum, but now he only reads Torah and Talmud.  It made me wonder if I am in the right community, although I don’t know of another that fits me better, and at least I share some values even if I can’t always live up to them with my mental health issues.  Then I spent the evening writing an email and having serious conversations with my parents and then eating lots when I suddenly got really hungry late at night, so I didn’t get to bed until nearly 3.30am.  Admittedly watching Doctor Who late at night didn’t help (I’ve finished the ninth Doctor’s run now, but have several pages of notes to write up for my book because I haven’t had long enough lunch breaks at work to work on it), but I needed to unwind after the sheva brachos and serious conversations.

I went jogging again today and still did poorly.  I’ve been jogging for about three years now, maybe four (admittedly I barely went out for the last eight or nine months), but I still can’t go more than a couple of minutes without slowing to a walk because of pain and exhaustion.  I can’t work out how other people can push through this.  Am I a wimp?  Do I have a low pain threshold (possible, as I think there is some evidence that depressed people are more sensitive to pain)?  Or do I have some undiagnosed physical health condition (that’s probably hypochondria)?  Certainly at school we had to do a fitness test every term.  I was never amazingly fit, but when I was about thirteen, my fitness suddenly dropped dramatically and never recovered.  No one ever followed it up; the PE teachers were not the best and they ignored me because I was bad at PE; probably there was a government regulation that a fitness test must be given each term, but no regulation that the results should be analysed and followed through, so no one did.  Still, in retrospect, I wonder if that marked the start of my depression.

I found out today that the son of the rabbi of my parents’ shul got engaged.  He must be only a little more than half my age.  I’m trying hard to feel happy for him, and for the couple yesterday (who I’m guessing were also young, although probably not quite so young), but it’s hard.  I don’t want to take away anyone’s happiness, and I tell myself that the world is so painful and upsetting for so many people that more bracha and simcha (blessing and happiness) in it can only be a good thing for everyone, but I feel left out and wonder if I will ever experience real joy or romantic love.

It’s funny, I tell myself that the Orthodox world contains many diverse and varied types of people, with different opinions and interests and if I took my time to get to know more of them better, I would find many interesting and unusual people… yet the ease with which so many frum people manage to pair off and marry at such a young age makes me wonder if 80% of them are basically interchangeable in terms of personality, values and interests (if they have any interests outside of Torah and chesed (acts of kindness) as per that speech yesterday) and can basically marry almost anyone else in the community.  It’s only the 20% of us who are quirky and eccentric (or freakish and weird, if you want to be less charitable) who end up alone.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that over the last few weeks, I’ve been describing my emotions to myself and trying to accept them for what they are, which seems to help a little with the depression and alexithymia (difficulty feeling and understanding emotions).  I guess it’s a kind of mindfulness technique although, while I’ve tried mindfulness before, I don’t think I saw this technique anywhere in exactly this way.  One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing it is that I have a lot more emotions than I thought I did.  I thought I was mostly feeling depression, loneliness and despair, with a bit of anxiety at times, but actually there are a lot more emotions in there.  Many of them are very difficult to deal with, like loneliness and lust (because I don’t really have an outlet for them) or depression and anxiety (because I don’t really have any practical way of coping with them), but just narrating them to myself does help a bit.  I’m also trying to learn how not to judge myself for feeling things, because emotions are just emotions, although it’s hard when they lead on to actions that are not ideal e.g. when I get depressed and irritable and am sarcastic and short with my parents.

I feel depressed again now, which I hadn’t felt for most of the weekend.  I don’t know if getting tired jogging triggered me or something else.  I could just be hungry.  I know I seem very open about my issues here, but there’s a lot that I don’t share, because it’s too personal, or because it involves other people, or because I don’t understand it well enough to articulate it, or because it’s too shameful.  Quite a few of those lights are flashing now and it’s always frustrating when that happens, as blogging is one of my few ways of at least trying to deal with my feelings.  A lot of it boils down to feeling that I will be alone and unloved forever, and not knowing how I will live with that, and how I can live with my human desire to give and accept love (physically and emotionally) when no one is willing to receive or give to me.  There’s also a fear that just maybe there is someone out there for me,  but because of my social ineptitude or procrastination I will somehow miss her and we will both be alone forever, which somehow seems even worse than there simply not being anyone weird enough to take me.

I started this post saying that I had been busy, but now I feel depressed, I feel I haven’t done much this weekend, between losing a chunk of Friday to sunstroke, oversleeping on Saturday morning (yet again) and oversleeping this morning (yet again).  I went to the sheva brachos yesterday and did some Torah study (at home and in the new Talmud shiur at shul, where I actually understood the topic for a few minutes), wrote an email, went for a not terribly successful run today and cooked dinner.  I guess that’s not nothing, but it’s not everything I wanted to do either: I didn’t book the holiday I want to go on or do any Torah study so far today (I wanted to get a proper look at this week’s page of Talmud in advance of next Shabbat’s shiur).  I guess I should be thankful for small victories, and I try to be, but it’s hard and I never seem to get any credit for trying.  Actually that’s not quite true as my Mum praised me for going to the sheva brachos and trying to talk to people yesterday.  It is hard to be happy with who I am, though.

Understanding and Accepting My Emotions

I went to bed just after 1.00am, but I woke up before 7.00am.  I’m not sure why.  It was possibly related to a strange dream I had that mixed my previous job with the shul (synagogue) where I used to volunteer and a bit of my current job.  I felt tired, but I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep.  I lay in bed for a while, thinking and trying to understand my emotions.

This seems like a good time to talk about the way I have been trying to cope with my alexithymia (inability to feel and understand emotions), as I know there is at least one person reading who also suffers from it.  (I should say that I’m somewhat self-diagnosed.  At least, my therapist noted that I have difficulty understanding my emotions, but she didn’t know there was a technical term for it.)  I have only been trying this method for a week or so, and it is something I improvised for myself rather than having learnt it from someone else, but it seems to be helping, so here goes.

When I have a strong emotion, rather than be scared of it or try to repress it or even to wallow it, I simply try to describe to myself what I am feeling and accept the feeling as a feeling, nothing more or less.  So, this morning I was lying in bed, wishing I had a wife to snuggle up to.  In the past, I would have felt guilty for this and tried to repress it or else wallowed in it and made myself feel lonely and frustrated at my apparently permanently single state.  But today I simply told myself, “I wish I was snuggled up with my wife.”  I think I may have described a bit the warm feeling I thought this would give me.  Then I just accepted the feeling and sat with it, neither feeling guilty nor wallowing in loneliness.

So far I have mostly been using this method to deal with the feelings of loneliness and sexual frustration that overwhelm me so much of the time.  I haven’t tried it so much with the depression because it is hard to remember that I can do this when I feel very depressed.  Nor have I tried it with the violent ‘pure O’ OCD thoughts because I haven’t had many of those this week.  An example of these thoughts would be when I am waiting at the train station and imagine jumping in front of the train as it comes in.  This is a common thought for me and I think it is an OCD fear rather than a suicidal/depressive fantasy.  I don’t really want to jump in front of the train, I just worry that I will do so.  What I hope to think when I have these kinds of thoughts in the future is, “I am afraid that I will jump in front of the train” and sit with the fear, rather than panic that I am actually going to jump in front of a train one day or wallow in suicidal fantasies.

It is useful to me just to put a label on my thoughts and feelings.  For so much of my life, I have not really understood what I have been feeling or why.  I have usually been scared of my feelings, particularly strong sexual or angry feelings, which I feel I should repress for religious reasons.  In fact, Judaism generally teaches that our inner drives and emotions are neither good nor evil.  Good and evil applies to our actions rather than our emotions.  Although there are different ideas about dealing with emotions, Judaism generally teaches that all our emotions have at least the potential for goodness, otherwise God would not have created them.  It is up to us to decide to use them in a responsible and ethical way.  With some exceptions, the rabbis did not generally feel that negative-seeming emotions can actually be repressed indefinitely.  One Hasidic rabbi was asked by his student how to “break” his desire for a particular sin.  He responded “you can break your back, but you won’t break a desire.”  Instead, he counselled sublimating the feelings in more positive activity.  For instance, lust can be used to build a loving and nurturing relationship with a spouse, while envy and greed can be used to spur us to greater meaningful achievements.  Even hatred, the most negative emotion, can be used to hate injustice and suffering and work to end it.

I don’t know why I have suddenly started being able to do this.  Some of it probably comes from years of my therapist asking what I am feeling and trying to get me to label my emotions in therapy.  I suppose that this is a good time of year to be doing this, inasmuch as the period between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) is a time favoured for personal growth in Judaism, being the period between the exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Mount Sinai when the Israelites worked on their character traits to be ready for the giving of the Torah.

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

I somehow overslept this morning.  I heard my Mum shout goodbye when she left for work (I guess just before 9.00am) and I thought I stayed awake, but I must have dozed off because next thing I knew it was 10.20 and my Dad was worried I was going to miss my blood test (a routine check because I’m on lithium tablets).  I must have slept through both my alarms.  I got to the blood test on time, but only because Dad was able to give me a lift.  I was worried that I was going to shake, but I didn’t, although I clearly looked worried enough that the nurse had to reassure me.  I didn’t like to say that the problem is less the needle and more my fear of shaking.

I did at least walk home, which took half an hour.  I was thinking the whole time about antisemitism.  When the depression is bad, I sometimes fixate on it.  As I said yesterday, I don’t want to turn this into a political blog, but it does upset me.  I couldn’t really focus on the music I was listening to again.  I feel a sense of religious certainty that Jews will survive somewhere in the world; we have, after all, survived 3,000 years of persecution while our persecutors have vanished into history, which is, after all, what Pesach (Passover) is about, the festival of redemption.  Still, I hate injustice and I hate feeling hated for no good reason.  I hate feeling hated at all, but these days (i.e. since leaving school) I’m mostly hated by antisemites, not people who actually know me.

I more or less burst into tears while davening Shacharit (saying morning prayers).  I’m not sure if it was because of antisemitism or just depression or something else entirely.  Certainly I had almost no kavannah (usually translated as ‘concentration,’ but ‘mindfulness’ might be a better word), but then I haven’t had much kavannah for ages.

Aside from a half hour walk and ten minutes of very difficult Torah study (reading Yechezkel/Ezekiel in Hebrew – from the really difficult chapters at the end), I haven’t really done anything today.  I just feel too drained.  I don’t really have the motivation to do anything fun for Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of Pesach) and it’s not appropriate to do chores unnecessarily.  I can’t think of anything to do and when I try the religious OCD makes me panic about taking food anywhere.  I might go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum next week (after Pesach).

I feel lonely and unlovable again.  More unlovable than lonely, I think, although it’s hard to tell (alexithymia).  I can’t imagine that anyone could care about me.  This is a silly thing to think as my parents and my sister care about me and even if that’s because we’re family, I do have a couple of friends.  It never feels enough, though.  I want a deep, intimate relationship and have no idea how to get one or whether I could really manage one.  My experience of my one previous relationship suggests I might be able to, but so much seems different since then.  I was supposed to decide over the holiday whether to go back to dating and, if so, whether to go to the Jewish dating site that matches people based on their values or to a shadchan (matchmaker).  To be honest, I don’t think I have the courage to do either.  I want to be in a relationship, but I don’t feel I currently have the stamina to find and build one.  Sadly, Hevria never acted on my suggestion to find a Hevria shadchan for weird, geeky creative frum (religious) Jews, although as most Hevrians live in America and most of the ones that don’t live in Israel it’s doubtful that they would have been able to help me much anyway.

I just feel so exhausted.  I tried to read, but I just don’t have the energy (it apparently takes less energy to write than to read.  I don’t know what that says about my writing).  I left the following comment on the blog of one of the presenters of Are You Autistic? yesterday: “I have been thinking of being reassessed but I’m terrified of being told I’m neurotypical again. I know that sounds a strange thing to say, but an autism diagnosis would explain so much about me: my treatment-resistant depression, OCD and social anxiety would actually seem like the logical outcome of something ‘real’ rather than a over-reaction to very normal childhood stresses.”  It’s strange to feel that my experiences somehow don’t count just because I’m different in personality, but not medically different, but I do feel as if I “shouldn’t” be depressed and anxious from such relatively trivial childhood experiences, that there has to be a deeper explanation of my depression.  Maybe there isn’t.  Maybe I’m just messed up and that’s all there is to it.  I don’t know how I get unmessed up, or at least learn to manage my messed upness.

The first woman I asked out (this was when I was approaching twenty and at Oxford) said when she turned me down that if I liked myself more, I would want to date someone more like myself.  Aside from the fact that I thought that she was quite like me, this is made problematic by the fact that there are so few people like me.  I won’t quite say there’s no one like me any more as I have met a couple of people somewhat like me (albeit mostly over the internet), but I don’t know how to meet a woman who shares my interests AND values AND can cope with my issues AND whose issues I can cope with (bearing in mind that someone who can understands my issues probably has issues of her own).

My friend Elad Nehorai of Hevria and Popchassid said that writers of personal writing (which I guess is what I am doing here, although calling it ‘writing’ probably gives it more dignity than it deserves) can choose whether to portray themselves as victims of circumstance, witnessing changes around them, or as people with agency who grow, learn and evolve from their experiences.  He obviously sees the latter as better.  I very much fall into the first category.  I don’t think I’ve learnt anything from my depression, OCD, social anxiety or autistic traits.  It’s just a daily struggle to survive each day with them, to go to bed at night still alive and in one piece and not consumed by powerful negative emotions.  Which is another way of saying that I didn’t do any creative writing again today.  I know I should write even when I don’t have inspiration, but I have… is there an opposite of inspiration?  (Exhalation?)  Whatever it’s called, the depression has sucked all creativity out of me.  I’d like to work on my Doctor Who book, but I decided it wasn’t right to do that on Chol HaMoed as I am hoping to earn money from it (ha ha ha) so it felt too much like doing paid work, which is to be avoided if possible on Chol HaMoed.

On the plus side (I have to take the good where I can), I realised that the A for Andromeda DVD had the scripts of the missing episodes as pdfs, so I’ve been reading those.  I should have realised it earlier, given that they did something similar with The Quatermass Experiment.  The episodes are much better read than watching still pictures and text summaries, but reading is hard and slow, doubly so when the text is laid out as a shooting script, not a transcript, with handwritten emendations and technical instructions and the reproduction is not very clear (it’s nearly sixty years old).  The problem is that I feel too depressed and exhausted to do anything other than vegetate in front of the TV, but I have another three episodes to read before I get to the sole surviving TV episode.  I can’t move on with Doctor Who because I’m at my parents’ house and the DVDs are in my flat and, as I said, I don’t really want to move on with my book this week.  So do I watch something else?  Star Trek comes from a very different science fiction tradition and I’m not sure I feel like it.  The Lego Movie is a possibility, but I’m not sure that I’m in the mood for something so upbeat.  It’s a problem.  A first world problem, admittedly, but a problem when I’m depressed and just trying to keep my head above the water.

“It’s a pity/That I’m like me”

(Another one of my written-piecemeal-during-the-day update posts.  And a super-mammoth one at that.  Possibly I should just go on Twitter or Facebook, except that neither is good for my mental health.)

12.10pm  I don’t know what time I went to bed last night.  I know it was very late, probably around 3.00am, but earlier than two nights ago (about 4.30am).  I got really hungry late at night and stayed up late eating matzah and jam and junk food.  Not good on any level, really.  I have been eating more junk food over the last few days, which I tell myself is OK because of being happy on Yom Tov (Jewish festival), but is more comfort eating than anything else, and the cravings I’ve had since I was put on clomipramine.  Anyway, I woke up today about 11.30am after a strange Doctor Who dream.  I feel completely drained.  My Dad just asked if I was OK because I was huffing and puffing as I went up the stairs.  I just want to go back to bed.

1.50pm  Still in pyjamas, having got no further towards getting dressed than putting on socks.  Idly browsing the web was a mistake, because it led to politics which led to antisemitism.  Depressing.  I should avoid this stuff, but I care too much.  I wrote a long paragraph about antisemitism here, but cut it because this is a mental health blog, not a political one and I don’t have the stamina to get arguments.  I will say that I believe the way forward is empathy and dialogue, but I don’t know how you enter into dialogue with people who have already judged that you have nothing to say to them.

2.40pm  Dressed.  Davened Musaf and Hallel (said the additional Pesach prayers and Psalms), but left Minchah (the afternoon service) and tefillin (my custom is to wear them on Chol HaMoed with a silent bracha) until after lunch because I’m still too exhausted.  I suddenly had intense religious OCD while davening.  I asked my rabbi mentor something about Pesach two years ago that he said was fine, but I’m worried (this is where the OCD comes in) that I didn’t explain it well enough, so I asked him again the other day, but he hasn’t got back to me.  (I’m guessing that he’s not checking email over Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the festival, where some work is allowed) or is busy with his children off school.)  Deep down I know that if there is an issue, it’s not my fault, as he said it was OK, but I worry that I didn’t ask the question properly and that it is my fault.

3.30pm  I watched Are You Autistic? (recorded last week) over lunch.  It just confused me.  It made me wonder if I’m not autistic after all, which, of course, was what I was told when I was assessed.  It’s hard to process the fact that I have lots of autistic traits, but am also missing lots of traits that should be present for diagnosis.  Perhaps my difficulties really do stem from strong introversion and social anxiety (which I was also told I don’t technically have); reduced concentration from depression could account for the poor executive function.  I don’t know how many of my non-autistic traits can be attributed to social masking and other coping mechanisms (see this post I wrote recently).  I feel that if I was diagnosed with autism, I would be able to understand myself and seek support, not least at work, but just being a bit weird leaves me confused and unable to ask for help.

I had more OCD over lunch too.  I sort of kept it under control, but I have a nagging feeling of having done something wrong (religiously) and that I should ask a rabbi about what happened, even though I know that would also be wrong (psychotherapeutically).

4.00pm  There’s more feelings of inadequacy around my writing.  The feeling that I should have been a regular writer for Hevria, but I got turned down for reasons I never really understood and feel guilty about mentioning so often.  What should have been a boost to my confidence (that they’ve published me several times) turns into another reason to beat myself up (that they didn’t want me to write regularly and pay me.  The payment is more symbolic than mercenary – it would show that someone values my writing.  I’ve only been paid once for a piece of writing, two if you count the professionally-published piece where the writers’ fees were donated to charity).  I wouldn’t have been able to cope with writing regularly anyway.  I have several pieces for Hevria on my computer that I’ve never submitted, I’m not sure why.  I don’t know if it’s fear of rejection or, worse, fear of acceptance.  There’s the worry that I’ll never sell my Doctor Who book(s),  that I don’t write well enough, that I don’t write originally enough, that I’m too out of sync with standard fan criticism (which these days is just identity politics and sarcasm)…

I feel too exhausted to do any creative writing today.  It would just be painful.

Edited 10.30pm  I think when I wrote this, the previous two paragraphs were not connected in my mind.  Reading them back, they clearly are connected.  It’s easier not to even try to do something than to try and fail, or be rejected.  I guess I will have to try harder to write tomorrow.  This is why I’m not cutting the previous paragraphs, even though I do not come out well from them; in fact, I come across as petty and bitter.  I hope that’s the depression talking.

5.00pm  I finally managed to daven Mincha.  It felt like an endurance test with depression and exhaustion, with OCD thoughts in the background.

5.35pm  Fighting the urge to go back to bed and start the day over again.  Or just to go back to bed.

6.10pm  Back from a twenty minute walk.  I didn’t realise how cold it was and went out without a coat.  Thoughts about antisemitism mutated into general despair about politics and the Western world.  I could hardly hear the music I was listening to, my thoughts were so loud.  (Does that even make sense?  It happens to me a lot.  I get sucked into a maelstrom of thought and lose contact with everything around me.  Sometimes at work I’m trying to work, but my depressive thoughts start and become so vivid that I don’t even notice my physical surroundings any more.  When I’m with my parents, they see me staring into space sometimes and ask if I’m OK when I’m just thinking, which of course breaks the concentration, for good or for ill.)

6.50pm   Feeling lonely and unlovable.  I don’t have the energy/motivation to actually talk to anyone, but I wish there was someone to (literally and metaphorically) hold my hand and watch TV with me.  I feel more unmarriable than ever, particularly as I’ve more or less decided that I shouldn’t date until I’ve made progress with my social anxiety, which seems unlikely to happen any time soon, and that the depression is constantly going to hold me back from forming a serious relationship, which also doesn’t seem like changing any time soon.  I found myself thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have broken up with my ex (five years ago this month!), which is a scary thing to think when she herself admitted that she wasn’t really there for me and our religious paths had diverged.

It seems unfair that other people get to have fun and I don’t (not that marriage is just for fun by any means, but I’m talking generally).  I tell myself that this life is for growth, not for pleasure, but that just seems like “the opiate of the masses.”  Anyway, Judaism is not opposed to the sensual pleasures of this world, it merely seeks to harness them for a holy purpose.  Which reminds me that my shul (synagogue) rabbi said I won’t feel simcha shel mitzvah (the joy of performing the commandments) until I’m over the depression (which makes me despair) and that my rabbi mentor disagreed and said I should feel a bit (which just makes me feel guilty for not feeling it at all).  I am nearly halfway through Pesach and while I am not as OCD anxious as I feared I would be, I have not really had any simcha shel mitzvah (unless you count playing with my friends’ children) and am not sure how to get it in the next four days.

8.00pm  Just watched the first two episodes of the DVD of 1960s science fiction thriller A for Andromeda.  I knew that all bar one of the episodes were missing and reconstructed from photos, surviving clips and captions, but for some reason I thought there was audio too (as per missing Doctor Who episodes), but in fact this is not the case and watching the episodes was harder work than I expected, probably harder than I really needed.  I do feel calmer for having watched it, although this partly because OCD anxiety and depression have been replaced by feeling too exhausted to care about anything.  Still, it was involving enough, if showing its age in places.  I really like old British TV science fiction and feel they don’t really make anything like it any more.  I look forward to reaching the surviving sixth episode and then the sequel, The Andromeda Breakthrough, which survives in its entirety.  Apparently there was a remake of A for Andromeda a while back which I will probably check out at some point.  Another book I could write at some point: something about the Quatermass and Andromeda serials and their various spin-offs and remakes.  Although I don’t know who would buy it…

9.00pm  Over dinner I thought that I want to feel reciprocated love, even (I’ll say it) to feel lust that is reciprocated for once.  I’m fed up of having my most powerful emotions being invalidated by others by their one-sided nature.  I suppose no one can actually invalidate my emotions, but I’ve been told a couple of times over the years by women I’ve liked, “You don’t love me,” which was probably true, I probably didn’t literally love them, but in my naivety I thought I did love them and being told that I didn’t hurt.  It’s hard to have a good understanding of love and related emotions when (a) you have an alexithymic incomprehension of all your emotions and (b) every time you feel something romantic or sexual you end up rejected and burdened with guilt.

10.40pm  Another day over with very little done.  I did manage fifteen minutes of Torah study, which was fifteen minutes more than I thought I would manage, but other than a short walk and this post I haven’t achieved much.  I haven’t even hoovered the bedroom carpet, which is filthy and which I haven’t got around to doing since last week.  Tomorrow, I suppose, is another day, one on which I have a routine blood test, so I will at least have to be up earlyish.