Bounded in a Nutshell

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare

I felt a huge amount of anger with HaShem (God) yesterday evening.  I’m just so lonely and feel so useless and I can’t see any way out.  It’s illogical to be angry with Him about my own failings, but I feel that if I wasn’t autistic and depressed, I wouldn’t be so lonely and isolated, which leads on to anger with Him for making me autistic (blame for the depression is more complicated).  I feel if I wasn’t autistic, I would be able to function in the frum (religious) world as He wants, but as it is, I can’t function.

I didn’t know how to process the anger, so I ended up hurting myself for the first time in a while.  I hit my legs with my fists while trying to talk to HaShem;  later I scratched myself slightly, but I’m not quite sure why I did that.  I have been fantasising about death again lately too, mainly just thinking that however bad things are here, one day I’ll be dead and unable to feel any more pain.

***

I’m still struggling with what to do about dating.  It still feels wrong, morally wrong, to date while I’m not just unemployed, but not even sure what I want to do with my life any more.  And I can’t face the thought of rejection and it seems there are so many reasons why someone would reject me (autistic, depressed, weird geeky interests, didn’t go to yeshiva or otherwise tick the appropriate frum boxes) even without being unemployed too.  Nor do I look forward to having to turn down someone I don’t feel is right for me.  And I’m wary of thinking that things will be better if I’m in a relationship (although it is true that I have felt better when I’ve been in a relationship in the past, even if I wasn’t “recovered”).

However, I just feel so lonely.  I feel like everyone has their partner except me.  This is blatantly untrue (a number of my friends are single), but reflects how I feel.  I feel that I am mostly self-contained.  I don’t need other people with me all the time.  I have solitary hobbies and even things like watching TV I prefer to do alone (I don’t like watching TV with other people because I don’t watch TV casually.  I don’t channel hop, I only watch things I want to watch and which I think are worth my time, but then I watch them with complete concentration and dislike noise and interruptions, particularly as the programmes I watch tend to be plot-heavy and reasonably complex to follow).  I should really be happy living alone as I’m an introvert and a bit of a loner.  But, as seen when my parents are away, when I’m actually alone, I do get more depressed, even though logically I should welcome being alone.  I do, on some level, need people around me, even if I don’t interact with them much.  I also need to be able to love and to feel loved and I’m rather starved of both of these things and have been much of my life.  My parents and my sister do care about me, but there are so difficulties in those relationships, most probably stemming from my autism and my having different “love languages” to my family.  We probably aren’t very good at showing love to each other in ways the other person can comprehend.

I try to cope with things and be self-contained (“If you are miserable alone, you will be miserable in a relationship” as everyone says), but I just feel so unbearably lonely and unloved that it’s impossible to escape the depression for long.

***

I saw the psychiatrist today.  It didn’t go well.  She focused on my unemployment, repeatedly telling me that I should get a job, which wasn’t terribly helpful.  She did suggest doing voluntary work, which is probably a good idea.  I didn’t feel like she was really listening, nor did I have the confidence to tell her that my depression and social anxiety are just as bad, if not worse, when I’m working, because of issues surrounding autism and mental illness in the workplace.  In fact, I haven’t told this psychiatrist about my autism at all, as the last one said that if I’ve been told I haven’t got it by the Maudsley Hospital, I don’t have it and that’s final.  As my GP has referred me for another assessment at the Maudsley, I’m not going to raise the issue again until I’ve had that assessment.

As well as sounding disappointed with me for not having a job, she sounded disappointed with me for not having friends.  I said I had “one or two” which is a simplification (I have two or three I’m in contact with regularly, but via text as they live elsewhere; I have one or two friends who live locally, but I usually only see them in shul (synagogue)).   I couldn’t really be bothered to explain as she didn’t seem interested and I was struggling to understand her accent; possibly she was struggling with mine too.  She asked if I am in a relationship; she didn’t really react when I said I’m not.  When she asked what I do when I’m not job hunting, I said I write a bit, which she misheard as “write a book” which is basically true so I didn’t correct her.

She asked if I have thoughts of self-harm or suicide and I said yes, because I have had them in the last couple of days, but she didn’t really seem to care as I said I wouldn’t act on the suicidal thoughts, which is probably true, and that I wouldn’t act on the self-harm thoughts, which was a lie because I did last night.  I don’t know why I lied; probably because it was very minor and I just wanted to get out of the appointment room.  I just didn’t feel comfortable opening up to her as she seemed to just want to process me quickly and get to the next patient and seemed to think that finding a job will be a panacea for me.

***

Today’s potential jobs: a school librarian maternity cover job (I don’t want to work in further education again after struggling previously); an “information assistant” that seems to be a library assistant role rather than an assistant librarian and has a lethal-looking commute; and a role billed as “knowledge librarian” but which also seems to be a library assistant role rather than a trained librarian role, judging from the lack of professional skills in the job description and which also requires SharePoint experience that I don’t have.  I was then reminded that I applied for a “knowledge librarian” role a few days ago; I think it was the same job as the job descriptions are similar, although it’s hard to be sure, as both jobs are advertised through different agencies and don’t state the name of the company that is advertising the job (this happens a lot and is very frustrating).

It is probably no wonder that I really want to do something else with my life, something I find more rewarding.  But, just as I don’t have the courage to start dating again, I don’t have the courage (or knowledge and perhaps the ability) to try to write professionally.

***

I feel like I’m coming down with a migraine, so the rest of the day is probably a wipe-out now.

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Meaning from Suffering

A random selection of stuff that went through my head today with even less thematic unity than normal…

Ashley Leia commented on the previous post regarding the high level of socialisation required in the Orthodox community.  I guess that’s what a lot of my blog is about, really, and certainly what I would want a book on mental health and autism in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community to be about: that Orthodoxy does require a lot of socialisation and it isn’t always possible for people to fit in.

This dovetailed with a thought I had last night after I posted.  When frum people talk about what they like about Judaism and when non-Jews say what they admire about Judaism, some things often come up: strong family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals.  The problem is that because of my mental health issues and autism, things I struggle with in Judaism include family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals.  It feels sometimes like I have the usual difficulties of Judaism and more without the positives, or without many of the positives.  Sometimes I wonder why I’m frum, but I just “happen” to believe and am not hypocritical enough to believe and not do, or at least not try to do.

***

I’m having silly crush thoughts about someone I knew from a previous shul who I haven’t seen for about four years and who I have never (as far as I can remember) spoken to, not even to say hello.  When she saw my parents at a party last year, she apparently asked them how I was, by name.  I didn’t think that she knew me, let alone knew my name.  Somehow I can’t see that going anywhere, but I’ve been thinking of her for the last few days for no very obvious (or good) reason.  Even if I thought it was a good idea for me to be dating (which I don’t) and that she might be interested in me (which she almost certainly isn’t) I wouldn’t really know how to get in contact with her, nor would I have the confidence to do so.  But, still, I keep thinking about her.  My Dad once claimed that he’d had a dream where I was married to her.  (My Dad thinks his dreams are precognitive, which is why he isn’t worried about me not getting married and having children, because he’s seen my wife and kids in dreams.  I’m rather sceptical of things like that.)

I’m a very lonely person.  I’ve never had many friends and, even now, when I do have a small circle of friends, most of them live far away and I communicate with them by blogging, emailing, texting and/or What’sApping.  I long for real intimacy.  I mean the feeling when one really opens up to a close friend or especially a partner and is understood, and they open up and are understood in return.  This has been a rare and short-lived phenomenon in my life.  I suppose it’s related to what I said last week about existentialist Judaism and finding holiness in the interpersonal.

***

I went out to do some shopping for ingredients for dinner.  I was out walking for an hour and came back with nothing.  I couldn’t find lentils in the two small supermarkets and I’d forgotten that the big Sainsbury’s shuts early on Sunday and they were closed when I arrived.  I became so focused on finding the lentils that I forgot we needed apples too.  By the time I got home I was feeling too depressed and exhausted to cook much anyway.

***

I felt very depressed and despairing when I was out, not about myself, but about society as a whole.  Sometimes it’s easy to convince myself that society is just corrupt, and that Jewish society has been corrupted too, and that (as per the Rambam) I should go off somewhere and be a hermit.  I don’t think society has passed the point of no return, and as a student of history, I’m not really convinced that society is worse than ever before, overall, but one only needs to look in a newspaper to see that there’s a lot wrong with the world.

Nevertheless, I felt very agitated when trapped with my thoughts, despite taking advantage of the heter (permission) to allow depressed people to listen to music in the omer.  I don’t know why I experience this agitation sometimes, what triggers it or ends it, nor do I understand the anger and grandiosity that can accompany it.  I don’t know where it comes from or why or how to calm down without just waiting until I’m burnt out and exhausted, not to mention still depressed, just too tired to think.  I’ve been told it isn’t mania, as I once thought.  It seems to be associated with loneliness and comes particularly on days when I am alone.  It started while my parents were out today and continued while I was out shopping, but when I got home and saw my parents it subsided (maybe I do need to get married ASAP).  The immediate triggers are usually seeing political stuff online or in the newspapers, particularly stuff about antisemitism or other political events that trouble me.  But I’m not sure if they are really the triggers; it feels like they are just the proximate causes and there’s a deeper psychological cause somewhere that I haven’t identified.

Sometimes, particularly when I’m very agitated, I feel, on some level, that I want to die for everyone’s sins, although that’s not a very Jewish thing to say (in theory we don’t believe in vicarious punishment.  It does appear in some sources, but we downplay it).  When I was at university I had a couple of borderline-psychotic episodes for for a second or two I was convinced that I was Mashiach (the Messiah).

I just want my suffering to be meaningful beyond myself.  It’s hard just thinking that, at best, I might be atoning for some of my sins and saving myself from different suffering in Gehennom (Purgatory).  It’s much better for my ego and sense of purpose to feel that every day I suffer somehow pushes the world towards redemption, that every tear I shed spares a child from a terrorist’s rocket.  It’s hard to find real meaning in my suffering, so it’s easy to slip into fantasy.  I suppose that’s why I want to write a book about my experiences, to try to rescue them (the experiences, I mean), to let other people find meaning in them.  There is very little written about mental health from a frum Jewish perspective and, as far as I can tell, virtually nothing at all about high functioning autism.

***

In the end I did manage to do a few useful things today: I went shopping/walking for an hour, did ten minutes of Torah study (all I could face, really) and spent an hour and a half redrafting another chapter of my Doctor Who book as well as watching and taking notes The Ghost Monument episode for the chapter I still have to write.  I also cooked a packet of couscous.  I feel I should have done more, though.  I wanted to do ‘real’ cooking, not convenience food and I feel frustrated that I can spend an hour and a half or more on my book (not to mention blogging) and only ten minutes on Torah study, but the latter is draining while the former is restoring.  Still, it feels like a wasted day.  I can sort of see that maybe (maybe!) it shouldn’t feel like a wasted day and maybe I shouldn’t be beating myself up for not doing enough Torah study, especially as at one point I didn’t think I would manage any, but it’s hard to think like that.

The Diogenes Club Shtiebel

I spent Shabbat (the Sabbath) struggling with social anxiety and autism.  It was the last official Shabbat in the community for both the rabbi and the assistant rabbi and their wives and there was to be a celebratory seudah shlishit (third Shabbat meal) in their honour.  On Friday night, after Lecha Dodi, people started circle-dancing.  I dislike this at the best of times.  Autistically, I dislike the enforced close proximity and having to hold hands with two strangers (or at least people I don’t know well).  Social anxiously, I feel self-conscious, that everyone is looking at me and judging me.  Depressively, I can rarely enter into the spirit of things and really enjoy it.  Plus, our shul (synagogue) isn’t always big enough for all the people, so the circle can be rather tight and uncomfortable.  Sometimes I force myself to join in with this, but after a tiring job interview on Friday and perhaps being somewhat disorientated by the layout of the shul being different to usual and, as a result, my not being able to sit with my friends, I just couldn’t face it, so I stood outside the circle with the mourners, feeling self-conscious.

In the morning I woke up on time to go to shul, which you may recall I’ve been trying to do for some weeks now, but then I remembered the previous night and couldn’t face the large numbers of people who would be there this week.  I went back to bed, which was a mistake, as I could have gone to a different shul or even stayed awake and davened (prayed) at home, but I was obviously too tired to think straight.  I did at least avoid napping after lunch by forcing myself to go for a walk.

The real test was in the afternoon.  Talmud shiur (class) passed fine, but then, because the school hall wish usually serves as the shul was being used for the seudah, we davened in a classroom, about eighty men squeezed into a room intended for thirty children.  I felt terrible.  I was just overwhelmed by the proximity to other people.  I managed to stay for the whole of Mincha (the Afternoon Service), although I didn’t really have a choice, as it would have been hard to push past dozens of people to get out.

I washed and went through to the seudah.  I tried to sit with my friends, but I wasn’t able to do so.  I made motzei and ate a bit, but I was feeling very uncomfortable.  There were probably around 120 people, including some young children, all making a lot of noise and crammed close together.  I wasn’t with anyone I knew and no one was talking to me and I did not feel confident to talk to anyone else.  To be honest, this is what usually happens at seudah: I just eat and sit silently and wait for the shiur to start, but I assumed there wouldn’t be a proper shiur here, just a few speeches.  I felt like I couldn’t cope and that I was being overwhelmed, so I decided to quietly bentsch to myself (which I know I shouldn’t do when there is a zimun, but I considered it a health matter) and go.  I went home and read and then went to my father’s shul for Ma’ariv (the Evening Service) even though I think they daven too fast and with too much talking because I couldn’t face the crowded classroom a second time.

Since I was screened for autism and found out that I am probably on the spectrum, I am more confident about avoiding social events if I feel they aren’t right for me.  I know I’m better off coming home when I feel OK than going and feeling terrible.  When I was a child, my parents told me to go to social events and to talk to people I didn’t know, on the grounds that eventually my shyness would go away and it would become easier to cope.  I now know that my brain is wired differently to most people and it will always be like that, however hard I try to make things different.  I feel less inclined to “force myself” to go to social things now.

Still, I wonder how to build a social life for myself.  I feel like I’m some kind of social diabetic.  If I socialise too much – and “too much” is really very little – I get overwhelmed and can’t cope.  But if I don’t socialise at all, I feel lonely and unloved.  It’s hard to find the right level.  Moreover, how can I meet friends, have a sense of community or find a wife (in a community where people are usually set up on dates by mutual friends or family) if I can’t bear to go to social events at shul?  I’ve been going to my shul for several years now and I still only have two or three friends and no one I can really open up to.  Certainly no one in my shul has ever tried to set me up on a date.

Even though I left feeling more positive than on some previous occasions when I have forced myself to attend events where I felt socially anxious and autistically overwhelmed, I was left with a vague sense of resentment and unfairness, a mixture of envy and hatred for all the frum men I saw in my community today who manage to do what I can’t do and socialise happily, with their laughter and their whisky and their sports conversations, not to mention their attractive wives and cute children, all the things I don’t have.  It’s bad of me to feel this mixture of envy and hatred with a dash of lust (for married women at that), but I do.  I beat myself up for it, but it doesn’t go away.  The loneliness it triggered has also led on to “crush” thoughts about someone (not from my shul, but who I’m very unlikely to meet again any time soon), despite my telling myself, and my shadchan (matchmaker) that I don’t want to date until I’ve sorted out my work situation.

A curious side-light on this: there is someone at my shul who irritates me.  I try not to be irritated, because it’s pointless and because it’s sinful, but it’s unavoidable sometimes.  This person always has to answer the questions in shiur and he talks over other people, even the assistant rabbi.  He doesn’t really seem to take much notice of other people’s conversation, but just focuses on what he wants to say.  I never thought much of it, but today he started a huge argument with the people setting up the seudah, saying that he couldn’t sit near a particular food because he can’t stand the smell and that they shouldn’t put it on the table near him.  He got incredibly, shockingly angry about it until someone calmed him down.  I found myself wondering if he was autistic himself (possibly undiagnosed).  It would explain his lack of awareness of social cues and the ‘taking turns’ aspect of conversation, as well as sensory issues (the smell of the food) and emotional management issues around them (getting angry might even have been a meltdown, although this was before the seudah started, so he couldn’t really have been overstimulated).  I thought this would help me to empathise with him, but I just got more annoyed with him.  I feel that I want to say, “You just walk blithely through life not noticing all the people around you who you’re snubbing, you expect people at the seudah to fit in with your needs and your wishes and you don’t care what happens.  You don’t even seem to realise that you are inconveniencing people.  You go to the shiur and enjoy it and enjoy showing off your knowledge, you go to seudah and enjoy it.  I go through life terrified I’m going to upset somebody, I rarely speak for fear of saying the wrong thing (upsetting someone or appearing stupid), I can’t cope with the seudah and have to leave early, yet I’m the one who can’t cope with the deep, powerful, terrifying emotions aroused inside me all the time, I’m the one who represses himself to avoid getting angry with people and takes it out by acting out on himself in different ways (thankfully I don’t self-harm often, but it has happened, and I beat myself up emotionally a lot and lapse into behaviours I’m not proud of like eating junk).”  I suppose it just seemed unfair, but then I don’t believe that life is fair, so I shouldn’t be surprised or complain, but it does upset me, the way I just can’t cope, but other people who may have similar issues somehow do cope, while most people don’t face these problems at all.

***

Despite all this stress, I did spend some time in hitbodedut prayer/meditation thinking about how my life is going.  I still don’t know what I could or should be doing with my life or my career, but I do feel that the law library job would not be right for me.  I just don’t think I could cope in that high-pressure, money-focused environment.  How I explain that to other people if I get offered the job is another question.

I do feel that I need to spend some (more) serious time working on my writing.  Rabbi Lord Sacks, Emeritus British Chief Rabbi says that “Where what we want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be.”  I only have a vague sense of what I want to do and what needs to be done (being a socially anxious autistic person means at times I have only a vague sense of other people’s needs), but at the moment I feel it’s pushing me towards writing.

I do feel that I am making progress in my life, albeit with glacial slowness.  I feel I understand myself a bit better than I did even a year ago: what I can do, what I could do, what I should do.  But it is hard; I’m crawling on my hands and knees in the dark, feeling my way forwards an inch at a time.

Tired of Life, But Afraid of Trying

Perhaps predictably, I woke feeling very drained and depressed today after the interview yesterday.  It didn’t help that I was woken up (and not early) by a phone call from the recruitment agency that have got me my interview on Friday.  The interview is now in the morning, not the afternoon, which is better for me in terms of having time to come home and relax a bit (and if necessary blog my experiences to offload) before Shabbat (the Sabbath), although I might have to miss my shiur (religious class) on Thursday night this week to have an early night.  I’m still terrified that I’m going to mess up the exam component of the interview.  I feel my interview experiences lately have not gone well and even the jobs I have managed to get have left me feeling that I’m under-performing, either in terms of not managing the tasks well or managing well, but in a role for which I am overqualified.

***

I was up late last night, partly because when I wanted to go to bed, I had an idea for a post for my Doctor Who blog (which I haven’t written on for months) that could be a bit controversial, although as only about three people read it, that’s not a huge worry (it’s on the programme’s diversity agenda, but not from the usual angles, either for or against).  I do feel it is something worth saying, which isn’t always my impression of my writing, including here.  I took some notes for it, but I didn’t really have the right mood or the time to write it today.  It could probably usefully wait until I’ve re-watched some more of the last series of Doctor Who.

***

My mood did improve as the day wore on, albeit that I could suddenly plunge back into depression if triggered.  I did some cataloguing practice and feel more confident than I did when I failed that cataloguing test last year.  I think I know how to use the indicators and sub-field codes reasonably well, I just need more confidence.  I think my bad performance in the test was partly due to depression or anxiety and partly to the type of test being different and potentially confusing (autism again?).  However, my concentration is appalling.  I hope it would be better in the test or at work.  Still, I managed two hours of cataloguing practice, a half hour walk (listening to a slightly gross In Our Time about parasitism), half an hour of Torah study and helping with the laundry, which is a lot more than I thought I would be able to manage when I woke up this morning.  I also managed to edit/redraft another chapter of my Doctor Who book (on the TV Movie, which reminded me of the quote referenced obliquely in this post’s title).  I still lost an hour of cataloguing practice from my plan, though.  My Dad is right: I really can’t stick to plans.

***

Regarding being triggered occasionally during the day: I think on some level I want to be triggered.  There are websites I’ve blocked because they’re triggering, usually political stuff or sites that discuss antisemitism or controversies within the Orthodox world or occasionally because the people involved in the site have upset me on a personal level.  However, I do frequently turn off the blocking software to visit these sites, which is counterproductive.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really have any sites that are meaningful for me to read and which are updated frequently enough to use them when I need a break from job hunting.  Or maybe the rush of righteous indignation is empowering, alerting or even enjoyable in some way.  Perhaps there’s even a kinship of outrage; they are outraged at this, I am outraged at this, therefore I am, on some level, like them and included with them, even if they don’t know of my existence.  The problem is that I can’t switch it off afterwards and end up brooding at how bad the world is.

It’s funny, being a sort-of member of two different cultures and not quite a full member of either.  I mean Orthodox Jewish society and secular Western society.  Both seem to me to have a lot of flaws, some quite serious, and sometimes I wonder how long either can survive without change, although change in a positive direction does not always seem likely.  But then, it could just be a product of me being on fringes looking in; maybe things seem more rational and sustainable from the inside.  It does seem sometimes that the world is going to a variety of Hells in a variety of handbaskets.  On the plus side, I can only die once; if the antisemitic terrorists get me, I can’t die of climate change, and so on.

***

I came across a blog post by someone I used to follow online, who I haven’t regularly followed for years.  She said she was once an “influencer” but now her time is mostly taken up with work and family, rather than writing, which is her dream (although her job is some kind of writing, I assume just not the type she had in mind).  Surprisingly, I find myself less envious of the work, spouse and children than of the idea of living my dream.  I can’t imagine seriously being able to do that.  I’m not even entirely sure what my dream actually is.  I assume writing on subjects that interest me (Doctor Who and classic British telefantasy; Judaism and antisemitism; mental health and autism).  I’m not sure how to monetise that.  Realistically, most people are probably not living their dreams and I’m not quite sure why I would be the exception.  Although being a professional writer does seem more slightly likely than getting married and having children.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m not ambitious.  There isn’t really much I want, or maybe there just isn’t much that I expect to get.  I’m not suicidal, but I am a bit world-weary.  The good things of this world seem to be outweighed by the bad, at least for me, and the good can only be gained by going through a lot of bad.  I’m not really convinced I have much in store for me in Olam HaBa (the Next World), but at least there is a possibility of the pain ending.  Also, significantly I always imagine the Next World, whether good or bad, as being alone.  I know most people who believe in life after death believe they will be reunited with dead friends or family and I suppose I’m open to the idea, but when I brood on it, I tend to think of myself alone with God and my thoughts, whether good or bad.  That feeling of “Oh, well at least I won’t be embarrassed in front of other people any more” is dangerously seductive to someone who has struggled to fit in and deal with social conventions all his life.  (I don’t know why I don’t think I’ll be embarrassed in front of God; perhaps because He knows all my sins and bad thoughts already.)

It probably would be good for me if I had more life-goals.  My Mum wanted to try to set me up a while back with the daughter of friends of hers, but I was reluctant because I knew she wanted a professional and I didn’t think I really fit the bill.  I suspect other women would think similarly.  But even beyond dating, more goals to root myself in this world would be useful.  Even having clearer writing goals might help.  I don’t have a dream income (I have absolutely no idea what a good income even is, as I’m pretty vague about money), dream house, dream car (don’t drive, no intention to learn in the near future)… I’m not even sure I have a particularly strong idea of my dream wife, despite laying out some criteria yesterday.  I’m just floating through life, fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to support me, trying to work through my ‘issues’ and get some kind of career/life, but totally uncertain about how to do it or what a successful result would look like.

Not Quite An Argument

I guess I posted my last post too soon.  I just had dinner with my parents and it didn’t go well.  Dad wanted to carry on talking about my job interview and told me that I should have answers to why I want the job and where I see myself in five years time.  I sort of have a stock answer for why I want a librarianship job in higher education, but it seems less and less accurate; I really don’t think I’m cut out to be an academic librarian (but then what am I cut out for?).  The five years question is just impossible.  I don’t know where I see myself in five months.  I don’t know if I even want to be a librarian in five years time.  Dad said that I should say I want to take on more responsibility in the library, which might not be true even if I stay as a librarian (like a lot of autistic people, I have very little personal or professional ambition).  I said that I could say that, but it would be a lie.  Dad got annoyed with me and I ended up saying, rather more loudly than I intended, “I’m sorry I’m depressed, I’m trying hard…” and then breaking off.

I know it’s not easy for my parents having their elder child living at home in his mid-thirties, especially as my younger sister has left home long ago and ticked almost all the adult boxes (career, husband, house, mortgage) and I know it isn’t easy that my mood is often low, that I’m often negative, pessimistic and irritable and that they still are, in some sense, my carers (not to mention my bankers).  But it’s not easy for me being in this situation either, and I’m the one who has to live with my emotions and my autism 24/7.

I insisted on doing at least some of the washing up to apologise, even though I have zero energy.

I feel really guilty right now, not so much for the incident above as for other things that I would sort of like to write about, but feel that I shouldn’t.  I don’t feel that I’m a very good or lovable person.

I don’t feel tired enough to sleep, but I have zero motivation, concentration or energy to do anything, not to read and not even to watch TV.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fill the next three hours before bed.

Confessions of a Justified Sinner

I feel depressed and listless today.  I don’t know why, aside from the usual reason (depression).

My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner, but I didn’t feel very social.  I was better once they arrived than I thought I would be, but dinner was mostly small talk, which I struggle with from an autistic point of view.  I get bored by the conversation and struggle to think of anything to say; when I do, I don’t always make myself heard.  I find the conversation draining especially as it seems to be very loud; I’ve noticed Mum and Dad are both getting a bit hard of hearing which may be why it seems to be so loud, but I find it draining.  I don’t know if other autistic people have coping strategies for this kind of thing.  I don’t want to be rude.  I try to take an interest in family members’ lives, especially big life events (my sister and brother-in-law are moving into their first real home together this week and my parents were talking about their recent holiday), but sometimes it gets too much for me.  I feel bad about this, but don’t know what I can do about it.

***

Purim is over now, so I should be in Pesach-preparation mode.  I usually find some interpretations of the exodus story or the haggadah to make the seder more interesting and not just a reading of the same text each year, but I have little enthusiasm for it this year.  It’s partly the depression and partly the – well, religious crisis is putting it too strongly, but lack of religious motivation I currently have, the feeling that I’m a bad person and can never change because God has stacked the deck against me with autism and depression.  Plus, last year I thought that no one actually appreciates what I say, except my Dad and maybe my sister.  I fear the other guests just want to get on to the meal and go home and that they tolerate me at best.  I don’t know if this is true.  I would love to go to a seder one year where there is a real discussion and I learn something, but I can’t see it happening any time soon.

***

I googled “how to deal with sexual frustration.”  Most of the pages assumed I was in a relationship I had got bored of and wanted to rekindle.  The ones that assumed singledom mostly suggested things that aren’t halakhically-acceptable.   Other than that, it just said sports or hobbies as displacement activities, neither of which have worked for me in the past and neither of which are really options at the moment, mainly because of depression leaving me drained.

Perhaps most people would have the confidence to date and if I was like them, I would be asking my parents to set me up with their friends’/neighbours’ children as they (my parents) want.  Certainly the daughter of my Mum’s friend whose profile I saw on a dating website has a couple of things in common with me.  But I’m too scared of rejection, too sure that no one could love someone as depressed, autistic and especially unemployed (or about to be unemployed) as me, especially as her dating profile specified that she wanted to marry a professional.  Maybe, as I implied yesterday, I’m scared to date for reasons beyond social anxiety, scared of losing independence or something, or just scared of yet more rejection.  Or maybe it’s just lack of self-esteem; confident people seem more able to blag their way to what they want, whether it’s a partner, a career or position and esteem within the community.

***

Out shopping today I felt very angry with God.  I know lots of autistic people would not change how they are and see autism as a difference and not a disability, but I keep thinking that so many of the bad things in my life would either not be present or would be easier to deal with if I was not autistic, or perhaps if my autism had been diagnosed earlier.  I might not be depressed, might not be single, might not be lonely, might not be unemployable, might not be so poorly socialised into my religious community… and so on, and so on.  Nor do I have the “autistic superpowers” some autistic people claim to have; I can sometimes go into hyperfocus, but I don’t have useful sensory sensitivity or a special interest that is socially useful or which makes me popular.  I suppose it’s crazy to go down the route of “what if,” but it’s hard not to when real life seems so stagnant.

I just keep asking why God would do this to me.  I’m open to the idea that God makes us suffer to grow or so that we learn to help others, but I can’t see how I can realistically help others when I’m in this state and as for growing, if anything, as earlier paragraphs might have indicated, I’m going backwards, getting less religious.  I guess if my emunah (faith) wasn’t so strong, I would seriously be contemplating going off the derekh (stopping being religious), I find my religious life so dull and sometimes painful and with such few positive aspects to it at the moment.  I just happen to believe that God exists and that this is how He wants me to live, for reasons I don’t understand.  I still worry that one day I will stop believing and doing and then all this effort will have been wasted.

***

There was an article in the Jewish Chronicle a few months ago about a charity in Israel that helps people with moderate learning disabilities, including non-high functioning autism, to get married.  They provide practical and emotional support for a couple with learning disabilities to learn to live together.  I think, how can it be possible for someone with more severe autism than me to get a job and get married, and yet my intelligence just seems to make it harder for me to find a job or a wife, for reasons that I don’t really understand.  It doesn’t help that I’m not sure what help I want/need at the moment.  A friend suggested A S Mentoring to me as being able to help with my employment needs, but having looked at their website, I’m not sure if they’re offering anything that could help me; I want to be more sure what I want before contacting them.  Similarly with dating, maybe if I had the confidence to date, a lot of the issues surrounding it would fall away, but I’m too scared of rejection to dare to ask to be set up with anyone or to ask someone out.

***

I did at least go shopping today and did about twenty minutes of Talmud study.  I also worked on my Doctor Who book for an hour and a half or so (albeit with distractions), sorting out the third draft of chapters two and three.  It’s quite good, but not great, but I’m not sure I really have the skills to make it better.

***

This bit is probably of limited interest to most of my readers, but I’m watching Quatermass, the fourth and final science fiction serial featuring Professor Quatermass, broadcast in the seventies, more than twenty years after the first three serials.  It’s a bleak story to watch while I’m feeling depressed (SPOILERS: pretty much all the sympathetic characters die horribly), but it is haunting and psychologically terrifying by turns, as well as reflective of the social unrest and stagflation of Britain in the seventies.  That things in real life never quite turned out as badly as they did in Quatermass might give hope that Brexit and populism might not lead to the end of civilisation as we know it.  (As an aside, and getting really far off the subject, Nigel Kneale is not often lumped together with John le Carré, but both share an outlook that might best be described as “Tory Anarchist” (to quote George Orwell), horrified by Soviet totalitarianism, but also disgusted by American capitalism, hoping for some kind of kinder, authentically British alternative, but resigned to Britain’s post-imperial decline.  There is definitely more to consider here e.g. the skill both writers have for creating a fictional world through dialogue and a few telling details. </autistic special interests>)

Running Away

Today seems to have been a day for running away from people.

I had the penultimate meeting of my mental health group.  Everyone seems to get on well and they are planning on creating a What’sApp group to stay in touch.  I feel that I have struggled to connect with people and I struggle to involve myself in such a loud group.  I also feel that the content of the group has been too familiar to me or the solutions proposed have been too simplistic.  For instance, today we spoke about being assertive, rather than aggressive, passive or passive aggressive.  I feel that I have tried some of the tactics in one relationship that I sometimes struggle with, without success.  They said that sometimes one needs outside intervention in a relationship, but that isn’t realistic for me.  That only leaves me with modifying my expectations from the relationship or just moving away from it, but neither of those are really feasible either.  It is hard to know what to do sometimes.  I thought of trying harder at changing my expectations or using the suggested tactics, but it’s hard to do something when you are so sure it won’t work.  Still, a few people in the group spoke about being stuck in abusive relationships, now or in the past, so I’m better off in that regard.

I wasn’t going to join the What’sApp group, but on the way home I wondered if maybe I should have done so.  I don’t have to actually meet up with them, and maybe it would be a useful online support network that I could use via text, which is a much better medium for me to communicate in.  Of course, most What’sApp groups in my experience turn rapidly into pointless time-wasting…

Continuing the ‘running away’ theme, there is an oneg (Shabbat/Sabbath party thing) run by my shul (synagogue) at someone’s house tonight.  Usually I would force myself to go, at least for an hour, but I really can’t face it this time.  I sit there in silence, eat some junk food, refuse whisky, don’t always find the ‘inspiring’ stories and divrei Torah (homilies) inspiring, join in with the singing, but only if I know the tunes, and then go home after an hour feeling drained and excluded.  In the past I have told myself that if I don’t go to these things, I will never make friends and fit in, but after nearly three years, I have not got many friends at my shul (and the ones I do have I have made in other places e.g. the weekly shiur (class)) and I don’t feel accepted and am beginning to think I never will.

The reason the people from my group want to continue to be in contact is that many of them say this is the first place that they really fit in with people who understand them, but I’m too weird, or at least too complicated, to be understood fully by most people.  That is something I am just going to have to learn to deal with, compartmentalising my life (Jewish bits, mental health/autism bits, geeky bits).  It does make me worry about getting married, though, as I feel one should not do that with one’s spouse.  (One would think, with so many people at my support groups, reporting being in abusive relationships that I would have an advantage in not being an abusive person, but maybe there are enough non-abusive-but-still-normal people out there.)

Then on Sunday I have volunteering and then my sister and brother-in-law are coming in the evening.  I’m worried I’m going to be a wreck. Volunteering exhausts me.  By the time I get home I won’t have much time to recover before they come, nor will I have time after dinner to recover from that before I have to go to bed as this week I’m working on Monday and I really need a minimum of eight hours sleep to function, something my family don’t always appreciate.  I suppose I feel like running away from that, but I can’t.

I am OK(ish)

I am OK.  I know I was talking about feeling suicidal at the end of my last post.  I didn’t do anything silly.  I texted a friend and watched Doctor Who until I felt a bit better.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I had calmed down a bit that I realised that I should have phoned Samaritans to offload.  Unfortunately, I often don’t think to do that until after the event, like today.  Then it seemed that it would just rake up bad thoughts by repeating everything that happened on the phone to Samaritans after I had calmed down.

The trouble is, there are ongoing issues in my life that I can’t easily resolve.  Obviously my career and my desire for an autism diagnosis and fear that I won’t get one can’t be solved quickly and easily, but there are other things that I feel that I can’t talk about here that are never going to go away.  I spent years in therapy trying to come to terms with them, without success.  I have always been told that if you want to fix a relationship, you can only fix your side; you can hope that your changes will cause the other person to change, but ultimately you have to accept the other person’s actions or walk away.  I don’t feel that I should walk away from the difficult relationships in my life, but I also have tried to change things and have got sucked down into the black hole of dependency again because of depression and autism.  The only real solution (becoming independent and building a new life) is nixed by the depression and autism stopping me working anything approaching full time and stopping me from finding even finding a new job easily.

I don’t know what the solution is to this.  It’s frightening to realise that my inner emotional regulation thermostat goes almost immediately from frozen (too depressed to do anything) to scorching (self-harm and suicidal thoughts) without any ‘comfortable’ range.  (I’m not sure how good a metaphor that is, but you get the idea as suicidality isn’t the opposite of depression, far from it, but you get the idea.)  I don’t really have any resilience to even minor troubles (and today’s problems were fairly minor, objectively).

I’m calmer now, but still somewhat tense and worried about a lot of things: asking for rearranged hours at work for my psychiatrist appointment and Purim; finding a job after March; finding some kind of meaningful way to resolve the problems I can’t talk about, which sadly seem tied up in a way, at least emotionally, with my inability to forge close friendships and a romantic relationship.  I feel the post-trauma paralysis, not wanting or being able to really do anything, but I need to get ready for work tomorrow, somehow, and to shower and go to bed.

Thanks for reading.  It helps me understand myself to write things down (there was a lot in the last post that I didn’t really understand until I wrote it down) and I can only write things down if I think that someone might read it (don’t ask me why).  I would say that I hope other people find this meaningful, but I wouldn’t wish what I’m experiencing on anyone else.

(And, yes, again the thought of pets comes to my mind as a method of emotional regulation, but, again, I feel that my Mum doesn’t really want me to have them and I don’t have the courage to go against that.)

The Exiled Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing Goals

There was more to say after my second post yesterday, but I decided not to inflict a third post on you in one day.  I missed my meeting at shul (synagogue) because I felt too depressed.  I was having a lot of suicidal ideation and although I didn’t think I was seriously at risk of hurting myself, I just couldn’t face going to a meeting and pretending to be normal and interested for three hours.  I hope this decision doesn’t come back to haunt me.  I phoned the Samaritans helpline, essentially as a the price I made myself pay for not going to the meeting, but once I got through to someone, I realised that I didn’t actually know what I wanted to say and found the ‘encouraging’ noises the volunteer was making really off-putting and after seven minutes I apologised and quickly hung up.  I felt bad about that, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do.

***

At well-being class today we were speaking about long-term goals in love, work, play and exercise.  I felt lazy, because I probably play too much (admittedly it’s more procrastination than play) and I was vaguely upset that religious goals were not on there because they are really important to me (or were, before I lost all motivation to be a good Jew) and obviously are not important to most other people.  But I was really stuck on work and love.  I know my long-term work goal is to work full-time, or nearly, and permanently rather than on short-term contracts.  But I don’t know what short-term goals to set to work to that.  I asked the facilitators for help, but the stuff they said (join agencies, sign up for job alerts) were mostly stuff I’m already doing without success, although I did agree to do an online personality test to see if I’m in the right career.

As for love, I know my long-term goal is to get married, but I’ve no idea how to get there and I suspect it is not a feasible goal while I’m this depressed and on such a low income.  I probably should have asked for help here too, but I couldn’t face explaining about frum dating (dating for marriage only; shadchans (matchmakers); almost all events in my community being gender-segregated; non-gender-segregated events at Modern Orthodox places mostly attracting an older crowd; why I don’t think going to young professionals kiruv events to try to meet women my age who might be interested in becoming more religious is a particularly good idea (it’s depressing that, writing this, I can see it is better than nothing, painful as it would doubtless be); etc.).

I can’t face going to a shadchan on my current income level and with my current levels of depression, because I think I would get thrown out, but I have zero chance of meeting someone frum without meeting a shadchan, so I think the realistic thing is to learn to live without love, somehow.  I know my parents can’t meet my emotional needs, partly because of personality differences and autism/neurotypical differences, partly because no one’s parents can’t meet all their adult emotional needs.  So I don’t know how to feel loved and worthwhile.  I’m not sure how much I ever have felt loved and worthwhile; very little I suspect.  (I don’t know at this stage if having pets would make me feel more loved or just used to dispense food.)

There was a touching article in The Jewish Chronicle last week about a charity in Israel that helps people with learning disabilities to marry (I did just try to find the article to link to, but I couldn’t find it on the website and the other news there was too depressing for words).  They provide practical, emotional and possibly financial support for people with learning disabilities to marry and live independently as a couple.  I feel if people with autism who are not high functioning can have full-time jobs and get married, I should be able to too, but somehow it’s all too difficult juggling depression alongside autism (even high-functioning).  There isn’t really any help in the community for more functional people with depression or autism; regardless of how we’re feeling, it’s assumed we can cope with things.  I feel like I’m stuck in the emotional equivalent of the benefits trap, where moving off benefits into work entails a reduction of income.  I’m too functional for anyone to believe there is anything wrong with me.

***

It just feels really scary living in my head all the time.  All day I’ve been seeing Sherlock Holmes jumping apparently to his death in Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall and I know my mind is telling me that that’s how I feel right now, falling so far and no one can help me (except he was faking his own death and had half of British Intelligence on hand to help him, we later discover).  I think so much about being a wicked person, being useless and defective, not being able to put things right, about God and everyone else hating me… it’s scary.  More than that, it’s tiring.

***

There was a problem with my medication again.  This time somehow my lithium was removed from the repeat prescription area as if I wasn’t on it any more.  My Mum (who I had asked to pop in to the surgery on the way home from work to pick it up for me) managed to sort it in the end, but I think she ended up arguing with the receptionists and I ended up arguing with her because she said I was being angry (when I was being assertive) and shouting (I was speaking loudly because I had her on speakerphone).

Why is it that whenever I try to be assertive, I get accused of being aggressive, and whenever I try to talk clearly (e.g. when I’m on speakerphone), I get accused of shouting?  I know it is possible for autistic people to be accused of being aggressive when they’re not trying to be aggressive.  I’ve spent half my life being told off by my parents for giving people “dirty black looks” when I thought I was just looking normally.  I suppose this is a similar thing, combined with the fact that shy people are often accused of being aggressive when they become more confident and assertive.  I think people prefer me as a doormat to someone who can take charge of a situation, and they prefer it when I listen politely to their (boring) conversations more than when I want to say something.

The whole experience has left me feeling tense, angry and self-critical.

***

I just did a personality test for my well-being course.  The outcome was not laid out particularly helpfully and what I could understand of it was not terribly surprising: I’m restrained, structured and sympathetic.  I’m bad at relaxing, being calm or keeping my composure.  I’m not daring, a thrill-seeker or a natural leader.  I like to reflect and to daydream.  I am, perhaps a little paradoxically, quite trusting and quite questioning.  This is all very predictable.  I did another test that suggested specific careers, which was a little surprising, because it gave me a 89% aptitude for archival work and only a 71% per cent aptitude for librarianship, despite no obvious questions that differentiated between the two, so far as I can tell.  The other jobs were typical Jewish jobs (and indeed typical autistic jobs) that would nevertheless bore me (IT, accountancy, actuarial work, financial analyst).  I do feel my life as an autistic person would be easier if I liked, and was good with, numbers.

***

Speaking of numbers, I haven’t sorted out my gift aid form for the shul yet.  I can’t summon up the courage to go through two years’ worth of payslips to see what I was earning and how much tax I was paying (not just a result of my vagueness about money; I had a couple of jobs and a couple of periods of unemployment in that time, so I think not knowing exactly what I was earning is more understandable for once).  I think the real reason has nothing to do with money or figures, though, and everything to do with the mixed feelings I currently have about my shul, and about Judaism.  I don’t think I would be happier as an atheist, though, although I might feel under less pressure (but not necessarily so).  It’s hard to think of myself being happy at all, to be honest.

***

E. said yesterday that she doesn’t think I’m ever going to fit into my shul community, which is probably true.  She says that she thinks I do push myself really hard to do social things and communal things, but I don’t enjoy them when I do them, not because of social anxiety, but because I’m not on the same wavelength as other people to be able to talk to them, which I guess is true.  I feel I “ought” to push myself to do these things, because I can hear my parents pushing me to do them when I was younger, but I don’t really enjoy them much.   She said I’m not a screw-up, I’m just dealing with some “really hard things” which is reassuring in a way, but I can’t see a way out.

Boldly Going

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Brief Update and Quotes

Not a lot happened today.  I was a wreck of anxiety and depression on the Tube into work and my line manager was late in, so I spent the first twenty minutes or at work so panicking and trying to work out what I was supposed to do, but once she turned up I calmed down and think I did OK, if perhaps a bit slow.  She’s away on Thursday and her line manager, who is supposed to be the person I speak to if I’m stuck, is in meetings half the day, so that will be a test of how well I’m adapting.  And then I’ll be halfway through my contract already!

Other than that there’s not a lot to say, except that I had another couple of autistic moments.  Someone from the shul (synagogue) financial team wanted me to sort out my gift aid form (a way charities can claim tax revenue back from the government, but only from donors who were taxpayers themselves) and I replied speaking of calendar years when I should have been speaking of tax years, of course.  Sometimes I astound myself at my unworldliness (that’s not good, by the way).  More amusingly, my line manager was talking about one class I need to help prepare for having “students from different time periods.”  I knew she meant students studying different time periods, but for a split-second part of my brain was thinking of time travellers coming to use the library.

Some quotes from the last few days, for me to ponder on as much as anything else:

Me (in a comment here about Google-stalking old acquaintances): Weirdly, more than I want to know what people are doing, I want people who came into my life to know just how hard my life has been. Perhaps the ones who hurt me, but mostly the ones who I potentially hurt (I don’t know if I did) or at least the ones who would have witnessed my craziness and freakishness. I wish they could just know that there are reasons for my being a freak (depression, autism), I wasn’t just some crazy weirdo who messed up their lives on a whim. – I’ve felt like this for years particularly regarding people who were around when the depression became unmanageable when I was doing my BA.  I guess it just reflects how messed up I feel I am and how much I feel other people perceive this.  I don’t know if they really do.  I feel anyone who knew me at university in particular must think that I’m some kind of freak.  I suppose it would be good not to think like this and try to move on, but it’s hard.

E.: Having autism doesn’t cancel out your good qualities.  It just means you might express them differently. – I need to internalise this.  I feel that autism and depression make me a freak (that word again), autism more so than depression, because depression is more common (I think) and somewhat more socially acceptable these days.  It’s a struggle to think of myself as different rather than weird.  I just hope I can find someone who sees that too (the quote from E. was in the context of a discussion about whether anyone would ever want to marry me).

Someone from well-being group: You can’t control the first thought, but you can control the second one.  – This actually seemed really empowering to me.  I wish I had heard it when my religious OCD was at it’s worst, but it’s something to remember if it flares up again.  But also it can apply to other unwanted thoughts (anger, lust, self-hatred, etc.).

“Let me speak, then, and get relief”

For I am full of words;

The wind in my belly presses me.

My belly is like wine not yet opened,

Like jugs of new wine ready to burst

Let me speak, then, and get relief;

Let me open my lips and reply.

I would not show regard for any man,

Or temper my speech for anyone’s sake;

For I do not know how to temper my speech –

My Maker would soon carry me off!

Iyov (Job) 32.18-22, translation from The JPS Bible (I would normally do my own translation, but Iyov is really hard).

I didn’t intend to write again tonight, certainly not at gone 1.00am, but I feel incredibly agitated, upset and angry.  There are a few things on my mind.

The main thing making me angry is something within the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community that I wish I didn’t have to speak about because it is a chillul HaShem (desecration of God’s name; something that makes non-Jews and non-religious Jews think badly about religious Jews, Torah and HaShem (God)), but I feel so upset and angry I have to.

Sholom Rubashkin is a convicted fraudster who was jailed for twenty-seven years for massive fraud at the kosher abattoir he owned.  He also happens to be a religious Jew, although “religious” here requires qualification.  He doubtless would never dream of breaking Shabbat (the Sabbath) or eating non-kosher food, but he apparently has not heard of the Talmudic dictum that dina demalchuta dina, the law of the land has the status of religious law, nor does he seem to realise that stealing from non-Jews is still stealing.

Even before he was jailed his business had close run-ins with the law, most of which were resolved outside of the courts, for issues concerning animal welfare, food safety, environmental safety, child labour and employing illegal immigrants.  He is not a good man.  But his sentence was viewed as excessive even by people outside the Jewish community and there was a big campaign involving, to be fair, a large number of prominent American politicians of both parties and lawyers, including Nancy Pelosi and the ACLU.  President Trump commuted his sentence (not a pardon as some people think) and he was released after serving eight years.

Rubashkin is now touring Jewish communities as a inspirational speaker, speaking about emunah and bitachon, faith and trust in God which he says helped him in prison.  He is coming to the UK soon; in fact, he might even be here already, which is why this has suddenly come on my radar.  His promotional material describes him as a “baal haness,” someone who has experienced a miracle.  He has apparently written a book, the blurb on Amazon.com for which states “Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin has become a symbol of spiritual endurance for Jews around the world.”  One Jewish newspaper even disgustingly compared him to Captain Dreyfus, the Jewish soldier framed for espionage who became a cause célèbre in nineteenth century France.

I feel so sick writing this.  He’s an criminal who should slink off into a hole instead of which he’s being portrayed in some parts of the community as a hero.  As far as I’m aware, the money raised from his speaking (minimum donation £20, which is a LOT) is going to charity rather than to him, but even so, money is being generated by a narrative which turns a very bad man who defrauded others into a hero who survived incarceration in prison through piety and which implicitly misrepresents him as a prisoner of conscience who survived by his faith, instead of someone who should have been stopped by his conscience and his faith from committing his crimes in the first place.

The reason this upsets me so much on a personal level is the fact that I feel so isolated in the frum community as it is and then to see it fêting this ganav (thief) is so painful, another rejection.  He is the hero and I’m – what? – some ignored, lonely, isolated freak who almost no one even invites for Shabbat meals.  I have been depressed for at least sixteen years, I have spent twice as long as Rubashkin’s prison sentence in the ‘prison’ of mental illness.  My emunah and bitachon, my faith and trust in God is very, very weak at times, apparently unlike Rubashkin’s, but I’ve had to hold on to it knowing not that God was punishing me for doing something wrong* but that I was suffering terrible mental and emotional pain for no obvious reason (my mental health issues began before the age of twenty, the age at which Jewish tradition states one becomes liable to punishment for sins, although I suppose that only proves that the initial cause of the depression was not punishment; later on it could have been a punishment) and had to somehow find a way to keep my faith and trust in a God who was doing this to me for no obvious reasons.  And now to see this ganav being praised to the skies and held up as a spiritual hero and master of bitachon is just sickening and painful.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good person and sometimes I think I’m a very bad person, but most of my worst sins have been the product of years of emotional neglect, bullying, loneliness and despair.  I am ashamed of them, I don’t try to profit by them and I would stop committing them if I could.  Yet it sickens, angers and, frankly, terrifies me to be in a world, in a community that lauds someone like that.  I don’t know what to do.  I should say that no one from my own shul (synagogue) has been praising Rubashkin to me, it’s just the wider Anglo-Jewish community, seeing his face looking out from newspapers and emails promoting his talks.  The worst thing was seeing one particular rabbi lauding Rubashkin in his Jewish newspaper column and attacking people who thought he was a criminal; this rabbi had been supposed to help broker a shidduch (blind date) between me and one of his congregants in 2017.  I think the failure of the shidduch to materialise was not his fault, but he certainly did not help me, being very difficult to get hold of.

When I turned on the computer again to write this, I wanted to write about several things that were upsetting me, but I feel burnt out and this is a long enough post already, and it’s nearly 2.00am, so good night for now; perhaps I will turn to the other things after sleeping.

* This assumes that Rubashkin actually realises he did something wrong.  Aside from his appeal to the judge in court before sentencing, I don’t think he has actually admitted any guilt or shown any remorse.

My Family and Other Animadversions

I argued with my parents last night.  It wasn’t a big argument, but it really upset me, as the topic isn’t going to go away.  Actually, strictly speaking I didn’t argue, I just got upset and ran off to my room.  I was so upset I spent a while messaging E. about it.  Then, when I was about to get ready for bed, I was still upset and spent half an hour writing about it to process it.  I was going to post it, but I decided at the end that I shouldn’t because it was talking badly about my parents; also, by that stage I had calmed down somewhat, so I posted it privately for my own records; I also emailed my rabbi mentor about it, partly as there was a halakhic (Jewish law) aspect to the argument, partly as he is a trained counsellor.  I miss not having a therapist at the moment and wonder when I will be able to have CBT on the NHS.

The upshot was that I didn’t get to bed until gone 2.00am and even then I was too alert to sleep until something like 3.30, although being rather congested from my cold didn’t help.

The other thing I did last night was write a list of stuff I would need to write that book people were encouraging me to write about Judaism.  I’m still not convinced I can actually write it, plus I’m not sure how financially secure I need to be before I devote time to it.  I don’t think my parents will be happy if I were to write instead of job hunting (the job I start next week is only a one month contract, with a possible extension for another two), but I if I wait until I’m in a much more stable place, I’ll probably never start.  Plus, if I had a job with longer hours, I wouldn’t have the time/energy to start.  It’s hard to know what to do.  I also don’t like the idea of working on two books at once, and I’m not giving up on the Doctor Who book I’m writing, which is about two-thirds finished, but I’m not sure how to balance them at the moment.

It still feels pretty crazy to even think of writing a Jewish book.  And I’m still not sure it won’t get put in cherem (banned).  OK, it probably wouldn’t get banned, as I’m not that important, but it might get me into trouble in my community.  Although that would assume it at least gets written and published, so I’m probably getting ahead of myself there, as I’m still not sure it will get written.  Writing the list of stuff I need was a way of saying to HaShem (God), “I’m willing to try to write this, but I’m going to need a lot of help, and I’m not sure whether you even want me to do this, so please help me or show me what You want me to do.”  I don’t know whether anything will come of that.  Websites like Hevria.com and Aish.com are full of stories about amazing things that happened to people when they resolved to do what (they thought) HaShem wanted them to do, but things like that don’t seem to happen to me.

There probably is more to say, but it’s a short winter Friday, Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts in under four hours and I have things to do, so see you on the other side of Shabbat.

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.

Pre-Interview Angst

Today I was OK, until I remembered that I have the interview tomorrow, or until I remembered how lonely I am, then I sank down again.  By mid-afternoon, I was staying down the whole time.  I feel like I did years ago, when I was too depressed to work.  I don’t know whether I physically can work right now, but I don’t feel able to do so and, in my experience, that’s all it takes to trigger overwhelming anxiety and despair when I even think about working.  I am not proud of this, as I think, generally speaking, people should work, if they can, unless they have some strong reason not to.  I think I should work.  I just don’t know how.

So, today I’m not really working on my presentation for the interview.  I read through it once and I might try to do it again before bed,  but I’m not going to add to it, even though it’s probably too short.  Similarly I’m not going to make a Powerpoint presentation to go with it, although that is mostly because of irrational anxiety that something terrible would happen if I did, even though I couldn’t think what could go wrong, realistically.  My parents suggested that I should write a short summary for the interviewers, which I have done.  I worked out how to get to my interview tomorrow (it’s right by where I was working in my last job), and various other places I’m going to in the next week.  Even that seemed a daunting task.  I’m so ridiculously under-prepared for the interview, there’s no chance of my getting the job.  It’s only a six month contract anyway, which makes the whole thing seem pointless.

I think, after my last two jobs, I have lost confidence in my ability to actually do a job properly.  I’m hunting for some kind of diagnosis that will show what I can and can’t cope with, so that hopefully I can find some kind of job I can do.  It worries me that the only jobs I seem to have done well were those with minimal responsibility.

***

I shook again while lighting Chanukah “candles” (strictly speaking, I use oil lights, not candles), quite badly, bad enough to make it difficult to light the lights, although not, I  hope, enough to be dangerous.  Tremor (a medication side-effect for me, particularly from olanzapine) isn’t as big a problem for me as it once was, but I worry about it getting worse.  At the moment it feels like any time I could shake makes me tense and anxious that I will shake, and that tension and anxiety actually causes the shaking.  I worry a lot that I will shake at my interview tomorrow, particularly when I give my presentation.

***

I get irritated with my Dad and I shouldn’t.  Then again, perhaps my irritation is not wholly unwarranted.  I don’t know.  This type of thing makes me feel guilty and self-loathing.  There’s quite a bit of self-loathing today.  I wish I was a better person.

***

I say I’m lonely, but actually connecting with people is hard.  I’m trying not to be irritable to my Dad.  I’m struggling to send or reply to texts, What’sApp messages and emails.  I was woken this morning by a phone call, but I didn’t answer because I was worried it was about the job interview tomorrow (I had just woken up and probably was not thinking straight).  I should have phoned them back to find out who they were, but I was too socially anxious.

***

I get the urge to eat a lot at the moment.  I guess it’s comfort eating.  I have had it in the past, generally when the depression is very bad.  I have the kind of depression that basically makes me want to hibernate, to eat too much and especially to sleep too much, particularly at this time of year.  I’ve put on a lot of weight with clomipramine, though, and I don’t want to put on more.  I haven’t remembered (or dared?) to weigh myself for ages, but I feel fat and I’m pretty sure I’m overweight for the first time in my life.  I want not to care, but I do, particularly as part of me still hopes to go back to dating at some point.  And there’s the health risks of over-eating to consider.  I try to mostly nosh on fruit and veg, but even that can be fattening (I probably eat far too many nuts and raisins) and I do eat some junk and, of course, with it being Chanukah at the moment there are doughnuts around (see how I worded that in the passive to avoid responsibility for eating them).

***

I forgot to take my tablets last night until I got to bed and couldn’t sleep.  All my childhood I had insomnia and then when I got depressed at university it got very bad, going to bed around eleven, but not falling asleep until 3.00 or 4.00am.  That lasted until I was put on anti-depressants.  Since then, the medication knocks me out.  It’s useful, as if I forget to take the evening tablets, I’m usually reminded by the fact that I can’t sleep even if I’m tired.  However, although I took the tablets last night at 1.00am or so, they didn’t put me to sleep for another hour or two, so I got to sleep very late again which is not good.

***

I broke my ‘No Twitter’ rule already, but after getting annoyed about politics, this cheered me up for fifteen seconds, even though I’m not usually a dog person.

Anxiety and Anger

I have a triage phone appointment next Monday to discuss CBT.  I have to fill in a questionnaire first, so I hope I can find the time to do that with work and being home alone.  I’m nervous that things won’t go the way I want even though I have only a vague idea of what I want from this.   I guess I’m used to being disappointed.

I’ve been pretty depressed today and also quite anxious about things, silly things, like when am I going to finish doing the research for the Doctor Who book I’m writing?  When am I going to have time to read all the books I want to read and re-read (I’m a re-reader and a re-viewer.  I don’t really understand people who only read a good book once.  I find I need to read or watch a story at least twice to fix it in my mind, and like revisiting good stories and characters)?  And so on. There was a lot of anxiety about politics too.  I should keep off Twitter, but I need to use it to promote my Doctor Who blog, which I’m only doing very tentatively.  So I read a bit and post almost nothing and don’t follow anyone, which is the worst of all possible worlds.  I was also feeling some anger, about politics and other stuff.  I’ve fallen out with someone (quietly – he doesn’t know he upset me) and the organisation he’s involved with (which wasn’t involved this time, but has upset me in the past) seems tainted now and I’m struggling to process what I feel even several months down the line.  I’m not very proud of that, but it’s there.  And anger about politics, but it seems like everyone’s angry about politics at the moment, not that that’s a sign of anything good (see Twitter again).

One of the things I was angry about was my autism non-diagnosis.  I was told that I have some autistic symptoms (I think I have more than was recorded, because I now realise I do things like stimming very subtly and wasn’t really aware of what I was doing or that it was relevant at the time), but not autism, so I couldn’t have any help.  The NHS just told me to continue with psychotherapy and medication.  It’s like being told that you aren’t diabetic, but you have some symptoms of diabetes and you could still die from it, but we aren’t going to give you insulin or teach you how to manage your diet because you don’t tick the right boxes.  So that’s getting me angry today.

“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).

Feeling a Useless Waste of Space

Well, that was horrible.

My usual way of dealing with difficult emotions is blogging, particularly as I don’t currently have a therapist to talk to.  But I can’t talk about my Shabbat (Sabbath) because of various Jewish laws, particularly lashon hara (malicious talk).  So I have to bottle up what I feel (somehow writing for myself doesn’t work; even though hardly anyone reads my blog, knowing that it can be read somehow makes all the difference).  Anger.  Humiliation.  Loneliness.  Being ignored.  Despair.  Self-hatred, possibly.  Probably more feelings that I can’t identify.  I’m supposed to be catching up on various chores tonight, but I’m not sure I have the psychological strength.  Still, these events, that happen every so often, do at least remind me that my mental health issues didn’t appear in a vacuum; you have to be treated very badly for a prolonged period to end up this self-loathing.  I just don’t know if I can get help to stop hating myself so much, and certainly there isn’t any way at the moment to stop these things from happening.

(It occurred to me after writing this that I could have phoned the Samaritans helpline, but it’s a bit late now.)

I feel that my parents and my rabbi mentor, although trying to support me, sometimes make things worse, because they say that things are getting better when I don’t feel that.  It’s true that I’m doing more; from 2005 to about 2008, I did nothing at all because I was so depressed (nothing in terms of paid or voluntary work – I was doing almost as much davening (prayer) and I think more Torah study then as now) and now I’m working four days a week (while it lasts), but I still feel painfully depressed and self-loathing so much of the time.  But because people can’t see into my mind and see how depressed I am, they assume things are improving, unless I get so upset that I start being rude and aggressive.  Yes, I have a job, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling well.   I feel that I have to really push myself to go to work; without a huge effort, I would not manage it.  In many ways I feel further from recovery than I did a few months ago.  I don’t know what my diagnosis is any more.  I’m sure there’s something other than depression and social anxiety, but I don’t know what any more.  The Asperger’s book is making me doubt whether I have autism after all; there may be complex trauma, but maybe not; perhaps there is something else?  Social communication disorder?  Something I haven’t even heard of?  I don’t know.  I do not feel confident about being diagnosed and treated correctly on the NHS any more, though.

I wish I knew what I was good at.  I want to do something worthwhile with my life, but I don’t feel competent to do anything, particularly given how badly I’m screwing stuff up at work, in both my current and previous jobs.  My shul (synagogue) was asking for help with various things, but the only I could do was repair talletot (prayer shawls), assuming they just want people to re-wind and re-tie the knots in the tzitzit (fringes), but I’m too scared to do that for other people in case I mess that up too and they don’t fulfil the mitzvah (commandment) properly.  And I can’t imagine anyone could love me, or at least not enough to actually want to marry me with all that entails rather than just being friends.  Because my recent dating experience has always involved being dumped for being too depressed or too weird.  The stupid thing is that I can see myself as a decent husband and father more than a decent librarian, academic, writer or other job I might consider.  Maybe that’s just because I haven’t had a chance to fail at it yet; I don’t think I’m a good son or brother, and I used to think I would be a good librarian, until I actually started being one.

I wish sometimes that I could meet some kind of prophet, gadol or rebbe who could tell me that I really am a good and worthwhile person and a good Jew, because I don’t believe it myself and I don’t think I could believe it unless it was from someone who had some kind of divinely-inspired insight.

I feel such a useless waste of space.

Triggers and Case Histories

(I’m experimenting with a timed post here.  I’m writing it on Sunday night, but it should post while I’m at work on Monday morning, so I’ve written it as if it were written on Monday.  So “yesterday” is Sunday not Saturday.)

I submitted a job application for a cataloguing yesterday.  I feel pessimistic about it, but I keep changing how I feel pessimistic.  Sometimes I feel my application will be rejected; other times I feel I’ll get the job, but won’t be able to do it.  I have completely lost whatever confidence in my professional abilities that I might once have had.

I spoke to my rabbi mentor yesterday.  I think I sounded more upbeat than I feel.  He said a lot of frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people feel far from God, struggle get in the right mood for Yom Tov (sombre for Yom Kippur, joyous for Simchat Torah) and that lots of people feel they don’t fit in to the community.  But I feel a bit as if I hadn’t expressed myself well or helped him engage with what I was trying to say.  I know it’s hard for everyone to engage with Yom Tov (a while back I posted here a quote from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, one of  the greatest rabbinic thinkers and Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, where he said that even he sometimes feels “cold” on Rosh Hashanah morning and has to get himself in the right frame of mind), but I feel that it’s harder for me, although I can’t quantify that or prove it.  I feel that I don’t fit in to the community at all, as shown by my difficulties making friends and talking to people.  I feel that I am having a kind of crisis of faith, as although I believe in God strongly and although I can accept intellectually that one day I might find meaning and purpose in my life/struggles (the two seem largely the same to me and have for decades), I can’t feel that at all emotionally.  What I feel emotionally oscillates between a cool disengagement and lack of desire to daven (pray) or study Torah, and a raging anger at God for letting my life be like this (depressed, anxious, lonely) for so long.  Then I feel guilty that I feel like this, not because it’s sacrilegious, but because other people have it so much worse and I should feel angry for them.

Speaking of not fitting in to communities, yesterday evening I was feeling fine, packing for work, when suddenly I got hit by intense despair and perhaps some anxiety.  This time at least I could work out the chain of thoughts that led to it.  It went: looking at Doctor Who stuff online –> thinking I should try again to be more involved in fandom as it would be fun and good to do something social that isn’t shul- or mental health/autism-related –> a lot of Doctor Who fans are very left-wing and into identity politics –> they’ll hate me because currently left-wing people in the UK are insisting that Jews make up antisemitism for political reasons –> vertiginous despair and loneliness, maybe some anxiety.  I’m not sure how I can cope when even positive thoughts (Doctor Who was really good tonight) can be so triggering.

In attempting to get an appointment with a psychiatrist on the NHS, I was told I could also apply to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) for help.  I’m not quite sure what they can offer me, but I feel I might as well try.  I summarised my condition on the online application form:

I suffer from treatment-resistant depression. I have consistently low mood and despair as well as occasional suicidal thoughts. Very occasionally I self-harm.  This has continued despite medication and talking therapies for fifteen to twenty years. Although I am able to work four days a week, I find work exhausting and struggle to get through the days. I often spontaneously start crying at work for no obvious reason and I struggle to work through intense depression, despair and anxiety. I lack energy and motivation most of the time and on days when I don’t work, I sleep up to twelve hours a day.

I also have social anxiety which may stem from high functioning autism and/or complex trauma. I find it difficult to know how to initiate and continue conversations and to read unspoken social cues. I struggle to make friends and to cope with social situations and avoid social situations as much as possible.

I also have extremely low self-esteem and struggle with negative, critical thoughts about myself as well as intense guilt and shame.

It seems somehow bland and clinical to see it written down like that.  Do I think it sounds whiny and pathetic or is that just the critical inner voice again?  I probably should have put more about my history with medication and therapy (that was supposed to go in a different box, but the drop-down menu wasn’t working properly), although my experience with these questionnaires is that no one reads them, least of all the person who actually assesses you for the service.  And summarising fifteen or twenty years of personal history in 2000 characters is not easy, nor is opening up about your deepest thoughts to anonymous strangers (so not at all like blogging…).  I shall have to wait and see what comes of it.

The Day of the Great Fast

I really ought to go to bed, as I have to be up early for work, but I need to write to process the day.

Today was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year.  It’s the only fast day I’m allowed to fast on given my current medication.  I don’t fast well, never have done (most of my family don’t either), which always makes the day problematic.  I secretly envy people who can get through the day without so much as a headache, spend the whole time davening (praying) intently in shul (synagogue) and still be in good spirits by the end.

Yesterday night (Jewish festivals start in the evening) was pretty good.  I went to shul and I remember that I had a fairly moving experience, although I don’t remember the details.  I know I felt very, very angry with HaShem (God) at the start.  I have heard that expressing anger at HaShem in prayer is permitted because prayer is supposed to be authentic, that Chana’s (Hannah’s) paradigmatic prayer in Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) which is the model of all Jewish prayer, was an angry prayer according to the rabbis.  I think after a few minutes it turned into intense sadness and perhaps also anxiety about what kind of a new year I might have.

I was tired afterwards and went to bed at 11.00pm.  Unfortunately, I slept for something like fifteen hours.  I spent the morning drifting in and out of sleep with bizarre dreams (meeting an old friend who promptly treifed up our kitchen; being attacked by gorillas in the garden, who turned out to be people dressed as gorillas; and, most strangely, being a Cabinet minister in John Major’s government.  God alone knows what any of those dreams mean, particularly the last one (which was chronologically first)).  When I was awake, I felt too drained, depressed and anxious to get up.  I could tell that I had low blood sugar.  I knew that all I needed was a glass of water, a bowl of cereal and a wash, but all these things are forbidden on Yom Kippur.  I think for the first time I was tempted to eat on Yom Kippur (fasting on Yom Kippur is one of the most widely-accepted Jewish laws.  Even people who do nothing religious all year fast on Yom Kippur).  I didn’t, but I’m slightly worried by how tempted I felt.  Maybe I’m just judging myself harshly.  I don’t think there was a serious chance that I would have eaten something, but it was strange that the thought even entered my head.

Eventually I got up and went to shul.  I arrived at about 4.30pm; Mincha (the afternoon service) had just started.  I struggled through the next four hours or so.  At times I felt so faint and frail that I had to sit down because I was afraid I would fall over if I stayed up, even in parts of the service where one is supposed to stand.  On the plus side, I didn’t get a bad headache and most of the time I didn’t feel like I was actually going to throw up, so that’s actually an improvement on most years.  But I did feel terrible for missing most of the day, even though I know I was too depressed to get through it.  I know I would have felt less depressed if I had eaten, but I also know that my priorities were right (fasting is a biblical commandment and outweighs the rabbinic commandment of set prayer), but somehow this doesn’t make me feel better.

The rabbi in his drasha (sermon) before Ne’ila (the fifth and final Yom Kippur service – only on Yom Kippur do we pray so many times in one day) spoke of not being an mediocre Jew.  The idea is that ten days ago on Rosh Hashanah we could be judged as righteous, wicked or in between, but on Yom Kippur HaShem takes all the in-betweens and reassigns them to one side or the other.  From now on, we’re all righteous or wicked, spiritually alive or spiritually dead.  No compromises.

The rabbi spoke about taking on one area to improve in, religiously, in the coming year.  I had already decided I was going to focus on curtailing my negative self-perception, ending my “internal critic” as the C-PTSD book I’m reading puts it, or talking lashon hara (malicious speech) about myself as I think of it, to try and make it sound religious and therefore more important to deal with, to encourage me not to back off from it.  (The Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen) spent his life campaigning against lashon hara and he said it’s forbidden to speak maliciously about yourself too – there’s an amusing story about this which sadly I don’t have time to share now).  I still feel I should do something more overtly ‘religious’ like commit to davening  with a minyan more, or with more kavannah (mindfulness) or saying more of Shacharit (morning service) or studying more Torah… I feel lacking in so many crucial areas, and knowing that it’s largely due to my emotional/mental health issues doesn’t make me feel any better.  But I feel that I’ve put off dealing with my low self-esteem for years and that’s probably why I haven’t succeeded at dealing with these other emotional issues.

The rabbi also spoke about the need to do something that is a kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name – something that makes people think positively about Jews, Judaism and the Jewish conception of God).  I don’t know that I really do that, and I’m not sure that dealing with my negative self-talk will really help with that, but I don’t think I can prioritise that today.

After Yom Tov I checked my emails and saw that the CBT therapist who I saw about my OCD and who I emailed to ask if she could help me with my self-esteem and social anxiety isn’t taking on any more clients right now, so I’ll have to find another option.  I’ve got one potential idea, but I need to make some inquiries.

I never know what one is supposed to wish other people after Yom Kippur.  It seems strange to wish shana tova (good new year) now the new year period is officially over and we’re moving towards Sukkot, but it also seems anticlimactic to wish people shavua tov (good new week), particularly as the week is nearly over.  Technically you can wish people Shabbat shalom (peaceful Sabbath) from Wednesday onwards, but that always seems strange.  Still, whatever it is you’re supposed to have at the moment, I wish you a good one.

Hurricane

Today was a struggle at work.  The usual story: do I go slowly to be thorough, but not get enough done or speed up and make mistakes, but process more?  I’ve probably been going too fast, or maybe I’m just not used to the work yet.  And at any rate, I’ve been making mistakes, but also feeling that I’m too slowly.  My boss has sent work back to me to be repeated, but hasn’t commented on speed, so I should probably slow down a bit.  It frustrates me that I can mess up such a superficially easy task.  I don’t know how much of that is laziness, depression, anxiety or boredom.

I went to autism group in the evening instead of shiur (religious class) and also instead of an early night.  This might have been another mistake, given how tired I was this morning and how drained I was feeling even before socialising at autism group drained me some more.  I feel a bit of an impostor at autism group.  There are other self-diagnosed people there, but as far as I know, I’m the only one to have been told alternately that I both am and am not on the spectrum.  I just feel a mess there, as most of the other people seem more socially able.  Someone there said I shouldn’t compare myself with other people.  I know this, but it proves impossible not to, and the comparison is always negative.  I’ve noticed that quite a few people at autism group work in computing, specifically software programming.  I don’t know of a humanities-style equivalent, although cataloguing might be it.  Pity I could never find a pure cataloguing job with the right hours and salary, or anything near it.

I just feel like the whole time my mind is a hurricane of depression, loneliness, anxiety, self-hatred, agitation and despair. Sometimes also suicidal thoughts, anger, bitterness and lust, although the latter is probably just a form of loneliness (actually, the anger and bitterness are probably loneliness half the time too).  Different elements dominate at different times, but one of them is usually there.  However, finding the right diagnosis (treatment-resistant depression/social anxiety/autism/C-PTSD/all of the above/none of the above) is like nailing the proverbial jelly to the wall.  I hope to see a psychiatrist soon and I will try to ask about reassessment.

 

Childish

I dropped some blogs from my reading list.  This is always a big thing for me, as I have such a limited social life that the blogs I read often seem like friends (hence over-sharing and drama queening).  I feel bad for culling friends, even if they probably weren’t really friends any more, if they ever were.  And it did confirm that I’m still very angry with one person, even coming up to Yom Kippur when I should be feeling forgiving.

I feel that social media should be a way for me to ‘meet’ like-minded people and make friends, and sometimes it has been, but not always.  Facebook and Twitter in particular seem full of echo chambers and sarcastic ‘take-downs’ instead of genuine discussion.  I like to read well-written, well-argued pieces that challenge my views, but the type of snarky one-liners one sees online are triggering to me regardless of whether I agree or disagree with them, I suppose because I see the target as being the victim of the playground bully, as I was.  Identity politics in particular seems to exist almost entirely in this aggressive state, with competitive victimhood thrown in for good measure, which I think is unhelpful even when factually correct.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of this online, especially in Doctor Who fandom.  Reading things like that really upset me, particularly if I feel under attack.

***

I went to see my sister’s new house today.  I know it sounds horrible to say this, but between this and being sort-of forced to donate something to buy a present for the assistant rabbi’s new baby last week (the assistant rabbi is my age), I feel as if I’m getting my nose rubbed in my inadequacies.  But I can’t say anything (except here).  It would seem ridiculously petty to refuse to go to the house or to refrain from joining in with the present.  But I do wonder if I will ever get any positive attention from people (and whether I could cope with it if I did) and especially whether I will ever reach those stages in life (owning a home, having a child), or some kind of alternate stage that would seem as rewarding to me.

I felt bad as I couldn’t stay for dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s flat (the house is about to be renovated, so they’re renting, currently leaving them with two homes while I have to live with my parents) with my parents because of differing kashrut standards.  The house was very nice, but did make me feel inadequate, as I can’t imagine I will ever be able to afford a house, let alone one as nice as that one will be (it needs a lot of work currently.  I wasn’t really able to visualise what my sister says they’re going to do).  I really can’t imagine getting married and buying a house or even a flat.  E. was right that I’m too dysfunctional and don’t earn enough.  I don’t know what hope that gives me for the future.  It makes me feel very depressed.

The other thing that upset me was that we were there for a long time and I got impatient to come home and get ready for work tomorrow, so now I feel stressed and upset at a time when I need to be in a good state of mind to rest tonight and go to work for the first time in six weeks or so tomorrow.

***

I spoke to my rabbi mentor this afternoon.  To be honest, I was not in the best state of mind because of the prospect of going to see my sister’s house and probably came across as surly and miserable.  I didn’t realise it until after talking to him, but being told to visit my sister’s new house put me in a childish mood, in terms of transactional analysis.  If I get treated as a child, I sulk, which I think is what I used to do in childhood rather than act up and throw tantrums.  In this instance, being asked if I wanted to go and, on saying that I’d rather see the house some other time as I had other plans, being told that actually, I should come or else people will get upset, did seem worryingly like the way things went in my childhood.  I suppose this might be an emotional flashback of the kind I learnt about at autism group and from the CPTSD book.  Watching Doctor Who as escapism to cope with it doesn’t work today, as I only had one episode left in my viewing of the whole series and it’s one that annoys me and, I feel, insults the memory of a character I liked.

My rabbi mentor encouraged me to do a cheshbon nafesh (moral self-audit) to focus on the things I’ve achieved in the last year.  I don’t really feel like I’ve achieved anything.  Likewise, he seemed to be a lot more hopeful about me eventually getting married than I am (I’m not sure if he felt that things might work out with E. one day or just that if E. likes me someone else could.  To be honest, both scenarios seem ridiculously optimistic to me).  The only positives I can think of are things which are simply not as negative as they might be e.g. despite struggling, I davened Mincha and Ma’ariv every day (without kavannah or a minyan), I did a tiny bit of Torah study every day (even though I didn’t really want to most days)…  The only other things I can think of is volunteer at the asylum seekers drop in centre, but I’ve only done that twice, and go to a couple of new shiurim (religious classes), one of which was replacing an old one (the Talmud shiur).  I suppose you could include going on holiday by myself and going to autism group, but they hardly seem a religious achievements.  So I guess that’s not total stagnation, but it’s not really growth either.  Nor do I know how to get past my anger and shame to engage in the teshuva process in an adult way.  I really do not feel like doing this cheshbon nafesh.

***

Missing a Plan

I was expecting to be burnt out and oversleep after volunteering yesterday, so I was surprised to wake up and get up before 9.30am.  However,  I turned out to be exhausted in a more subtle way.  I was OK doing basic tasks, but tasks requiring brainpower or needing to force my way through poor motivation (such as applying for jobs I don’t want and don’t think I could get e.g. today’s application for a law librarian post that said that experience of a law firm was essential, which I don’t have) were much harder and I even went back to bed for a bit after lunch.  It’s hard to sound enthusiastic about such jobs.  I did manage to fill in a job application, but as I had to do little for this one other than make slight changes to my CV and template cover letter (I wish all applications were so easy), it doesn’t feel a great achievement – it probably only took me about an hour when I’m aiming to do three hours of ‘work’ on job hunting a day.  Still, I had to save some energy for shopping and cooking as my parents are away.

I was going to post this as a comment on this blog post, but I decided I was drama queening again and only posted a shorter comment, so here is the longer version: I haven’t done a cheshbon nafesh (self-appraisal) yet this year and it’s looking like I might not do one for the first time in twelve years or more.  I failed miserably at last year’s targets.  I’m dreading Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and I’m not sure how much time I’m going to be in shul (synagogue) for due to depression, social anxiety.

More to the point, I feel really angry with HaShem (God) for the way my life has gone.  I acknowledge that I’ve made some bad choices, but mostly I feel I was set up to fail and even a highly competent person (which I am not) would not succeed with the mental health and other issues I’ve been given from childhood onwards.  I have no simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments) and have realised I never really have had any.  I’ve asked rabbis about this and been told that I won’t have any until I’m not depressed (which is scary as I don’t think I’m ever not going to be depressed) or that I should be able to get a bit (which just makes me feel a terrible person for not having any as if I’m deliberately stopping myself enjoying my religious life). I feel like I can’t actually do this any more without getting something back from it, selfish and wicked though that is i.e. I know I should be frum (religious) lishmah (for its own sake), but I’m just not that good a Jew.  I don’t think that most frum people are doing what they do 100% lishmah and not because they enjoy or get satisfaction from Shabbat, Torah study, davening (prayer) etc. at least a bit of the time.  Halakhically, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s religious life, quite the reverse.

I don’t feel particularly accepted in the frum world and part of me wonders if I really do want to be accepted there.  So, at the moment I’m basically sulking in my room (having left my job recently) and I worry that I’m going to do that over Yom Tov as well and just not go to shul.  I ask myself why should I apologise to HaShem when surely He has plenty to apologise to me for (making me depressed and lonely all my adult life for starters).  I feel like He hates me and spends all His time trying to make me miserable and I don’t know why.  I feel bad just thinking that let alone typing it, and I wasn’t really conscious of it until I wrote it just now, but I think it’s true (I mean, it’s true that I feel He should apologise, not that I think that an objective observer would say He should apologise. I haven’t gone that far yet).  It’s hard to do a realistic cheshbon nafesh coming from this place, where at least part of me feels unable to take responsibility for my actions, rightly or wrongly.  I know I recently quoted Rabbi Lord Sacks as saying that we can see ourselves as victims or we can take responsibility for our lives and he made it very clear that the latter is better, but I genuinely do not know how I can honestly take responsibility for things that seem to have been largely out of my control.  Nor do I feel able to make positive changes to my life.  I feel zero motivation to actually do mitzvot, except that I know I’ll be hit by guilt if I skip anything or do sins.

An analogy: I’ve put on a lot of weight since being put on clomipramine and it doesn’t seem to bear much relation to what I’m eating.  I’ve tried cutting back, but when I’m this anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure) it’s difficult to stop doing one of the few things I enjoy, to the point where it’s hard to care about my weight or health sometimes.  I haven’t gone completely over-the-top in eating, but I just ate a load of corn chips as a mid-afternoon snack more because it was too hard to resist rather than from real desire and that isn’t something I would have done in the past.  Likewise with my religious life, it’s getting harder and harder to motivate myself to follow those 613 dos and don’ts.  Concentrating on reward and punishment or the meaning of life and Jewish history or what HaShem wants from me is difficult when concentrating on anything is hard and it feels like HaShem is trying to hurt me.   It just seems so pointless to expend so much effort on a religion that I’m not good at and which gives me no satisfaction, joy, sense of community, meaning or purpose.

Rationally, cognitively, intellectually, theologically – whatever you want to call it – when I’m using my intellect, I don’t think that HaShem really hates me.  I’m not sure that He really hates anyone.  But I feel emotionally that He hates me, because He hurts me so much.  I know I’m supposed to assume it will be for the best in the end, but it’s hard to accept that anything good can come of this, particularly as my low self-esteem means I don’t think I’m getting any reward in the next world for everything I’ve suffered here.  Even when I say HaShem doesn’t hate anyone, part of me feels I should make an exception for very evil people like Hitler and then I’m off wondering if maybe I’m that evil.

Coming up to Rosh Hashanah without having done that cheshbon nafesh, I do feel that my life lacks focus and drive.  I’ve never really found my mission in life, the thing that is uniquely me, that I can do indefinitely without becoming depleted and that would make a positive difference to the world.  I thought it might be librarianship for a while, but now that looks unlikely.  Perhaps because of that lack of focus and joy, my relationships (in the broadest sense) and my everyday Jewish practice have to bear a huge burden of providing meaning and satisfaction which perhaps they could never realistically bear.

Well, it took just eight hours for me to start having suicidal thoughts after my parents left on holiday.  I don’t feel seriously suicidal, inasmuch as it’s possible to have non-serious suicidal thoughts.  I just feel that I don’t want to be here and no one would be worse off if I wasn’t here.  The people from my Thursday night shiur (religious class) are having a collection for the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, as his wife just had a baby daughter.  This just reinforces my feeling that only people with spouses and children really count in the frum community, even though that isn’t the intention.  Also the suggested donation seemed quite a lot to me, given that I’m unemployed, but I don’t like to ask for special treatment or for financial help from my parents, although I’m sure I would get either if I asked.  I have got an invitation for dinner on second day Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) today, so I’m not feeling totally unwanted, but I do feel on the fringes of the frum community right now.

I feel that there must be some secret to being frum that I’m missing.  I’ve seen people I was at school with who were perhaps not the cleverest or the most academic or the most well-behaved students suddenly become super-frum and, in some cases, get smichah (rabbinic ordination) and I wish I knew what the secret was.  It seems like I was academic and well-behaved enough for me to get on well in the frum world, but somehow it hasn’t worked out like that.  My inability to study Talmud, or even to really want to study it, is a massive liability in a community built around Talmudic study (at least for men) and my social anxiety makes community life in general and daily communal prayer difficult.  And then of course there’s the way that my mental health issues and my ‘weirdness’/geekiness/possible autism make me feel alone and uncomfortable around most frum people and make it hard for me to date, even though marriage is, if not the passport into the frum community, then at least the proof that you are a mature and responsible adult (even if you’re only nineteen).

Furious

I am furious.  I am so angry about this.  “Zionists” apparently don’t understand history or “English irony”.  I have a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford; Jeremy Corbyn got two Es at A-Level and did not move into higher education, so I think I know which one of us is more qualified to be doling out history lessons.  And as for the irony… well, the fact that the most humourless man in British politics, a man with all the comic sensitivity of being hit in the face with a plank of wood, is accusing people of lacking a sense of irony is ironic in itself.

But this isn’t a politics blog and I wouldn’t mention this here were it not for the adjective “English,” which, combined with the statement that British Zionists have “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably [emphasis added] all their lives” leads to the suggestion that they possibly haven’t lived here all their lives, or that even if they have lived here all their lives, they still have the whiff of the shtetl about them.  That Jews – and I think the implication has to be that he means Jews, not, say non-Jewish Zionists like Tony Blair – aren’t really English.  That we don’t belong.  And this is the leader of the largest “progressive” party in the country, the man who could easily be Prime Minister in eighteen months if (when) the Brexit negotiations go wrong, using language more usually associated with the far-right.  They don’t belong here.  They haven’t lived here as long as we have.  They don’t understand us.  They aren’t really us.  No wonder he’s been praised by neo-Nazi Nick Griffin and former KKK leader David Duke.

This ends up on a mental health blog because of the emotions this brings up in me.  Remember what I said earlier this week about not fitting in?  Well, now I begin to feel that on an epic scale.  The old feeling that, however long we live somewhere, Jews are never quite accepted.  That we never belong.  As they say, paranoia is when you think everyone is out to get you; Jewish paranoia is when everyone really is out to get you.  I don’t think that’s true, I don’t think all non-Jews are antisemites, but I think a lot more of them are than I thought five years ago.  I feel a bit frightened.  I feel glad that, if things continue getting worse, I can indeed move to Israel (ironically – that word again! – the better Corbyn and Momentum do, the more Jews move from Britain to Israel).  But most of all I feel angry.

Anger is a hard emotion for me to deal with.  Because of stuff that happened in my childhood that I can’t go into here, anger feels dangerous to me.  I admit I get sarcastic with my parents sometimes, particularly when the depression is bad, but when I get really angry, as with my American friend the other week, I stifle it inside myself and burn myself up inside holding on to it.  I run conversations or blog posts or comments that I’ve read or that I want to write in my head over and over, I can’t concentrate, my mind races, I want to EXPLODE with all the stuff in my head.

Not this time.  I feel fairly calm, or I was until I sat down to write this (I’ve got a bit worked up now).  Just coolly, calmly angry and determined that I have to do something to fight the spread of antisemitism in this country and the ‘mission creep’ that lets its spread from legitimate criticism of the State of Israel to dubious anti-Zionism (dubious because why should this one state out of all the dozens in the world involved in some kind of conflict with neighbours be destroyed?  Plus I have yet to see a blueprint for its destruction that wouldn’t end in ethnic cleansing or genocide of its Jewish citizens) and then on to foul antisemitism.

And so, I come again to feeling that I ought to be doing a PhD in history, focusing on some aspect of antisemitism.  Even before I saw the story, I had been thinking earlier today that it might be sensible to buy a couple of the books I wanted on antisemitism and use some of my time, now I’m out of work, to read them, seeing if I can cope with immersing myself in antisemitism and if they spark questions in my mind that might be fruitful for PhD research.  I still don’t know if I have the energy (in terms of depression) or inclination for a PhD, but I really feel that I’ve been given a good shove in that direction.

(Oh, the job interview was OK, but not great.  I should know by Wednesday whether I was chosen.  Thanks, Jeremy Corbyn, for selfishly relegating my main news to a footnote in my own blog.)

Welcome to Elul

I didn’t intend to post today, because I have to be up early tomorrow, but as I slept too much over Shabbat again (couldn’t sleep last night, then once I did sleep I didn’t wake up until midday, then slept for another three hours in the afternoon), I’m not likely to fall asleep any time soon and I’m probably better off venting than carrying stuff around in my head, which was probably why I couldn’t sleep last night.

I had a weird moment at dinner when my parents were asking my questions about my holiday and I was getting annoyed because I was sure they knew the answers, but then I realised I hadn’t told them.  I don’t know if that was an autistic lack of theory of mind moment and I couldn’t comprehend that they didn’t know something I did or a (depressive?) poor memory moment were I genuinely forgot that I hadn’t told them.  It didn’t help that my Dad was asking a lot of open “what was your holiday like?” questions which I always struggle to answer any more coherently than “good,” although worse still are the “tell me about your holiday?” questions which I struggle to answer at all in any way other than “what do you want to know?” because I have no way of processing that much data in such a vague and unstructured way.  Ask me “what did you do on Tuesday?” or “did you enjoy Ellis Island?” and I can answer, but not something that open.  I don’t know if that’s an autistic thing or what.

It’s Elul,the month of the Jewish calendar when we prepare for the festivals in the next month, particularly Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  Jews believe that on these days our lives for the coming year are planned out, dependent on whether we repent from the sins of the previous year.  The shiur (religious class) at shul (synagogue) during seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal) today was on this theme, about this being a time of favour from HaShem (God) where He is eager to help us change for the better and waiting to shower blessings on us.  And I just sat there thinking, who am I kidding?  Why am I even going to bother going to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?  Every year I go through this charade of trying to fight the depression and social anxiety to get to shul at least for a little bit and of trying to introspect and improve and I never change and my life stays awful.  HaShem hates me, He has good reason to hate me, I’m a terrible person and an especially terrible Jew.  When I went to a shul where most people were not frum (religious), at least I could feel that I was frum and that I had a role in the community doing things like leading services and giving drashot (religious talks), but here everyone is a tzaddik (saint) and a talmid chacham (great Torah scholar), or at least that’s how it seems.  I’m probably the least frum person in the kehillah (community).

I just feel that HaShem is constantly plotting ways to hurt me, with good reason.  If something goes well for me for a short while, it’s only so that it will hurt more when it is taken away from me.  The best thing that happened this year was dating E., but that was only so that when she broke up with me, I would know there was no hope for me in the future, because I’m pretty sure that she’s my bashert (soulmate) and as we can’t marry, there’s no chance of my marrying anyone else.  Likewise, I enjoyed going to New York, or at least some of it, but since I’ve been back I’ve been in deep depression.  I feel I made a huge mistake in leaving my job and I can’t imagine that HaShem has any good at all planned for me in the coming year.  I feel so angry with Him, but it’s pointless because He’s right and I deserve to be treated like sh!t because I am sh!t.  I would pray to be written in the Book of Death this year (the idea is that there are two books, the Book of Life and the Book of Death, and on Rosh Hashanah you are written in one for the new year and then sealed into it on Yom Kippur), but I suspect I have been written in it for many years, because the books are for spiritual life and death, not physical life and death and I think I’ve been spiritually dead for years – I don’t do mitzvot or study Torah or anything.

The other thing on my mind is that I need to be careful where I comment online at the moment.  I should probably steer clear of Hevria for a bit, partly because there are a lot Elul posts that tend to prompt me to write comments about how awful my life is, but mostly because I’ve realised that I’m still absolutely furious with one of the writers over how he treated me around my holiday and some of what he writes about (can’t go into detail without falling into lashon hara (malicious talk) territory, but I basically think he comes across as pretentious and self-righteous and has been doing that consistently for a couple of years now and I’m sick of giving him the benefit of the doubt).  There’s another blog I used to love, but the author got married last year and whenever she writes that HaShem (God) has someone for everyone, that everyone will get married eventually, I just want to scream, but I’m scared of saying the wrong as she also lost her mother last year and I don’t want to upset here or get into competitive victimhood.  To be honest, I’m pretty irritable in real life at the moment too; even when I’m not consciously angry, my depression makes everything come out sounding grumpy.  I feel I should lock myself away in my room and avoid people, but that’s not really possible now I live with my parents again.

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I remain, yours etc.

The Biggest Almighty Screw Up in the World

Family Tensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: They’ll try to convert me.

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

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

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

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

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

Suicidal Thoughts

I probably shouldn’t blog for a third time in one day, especially when the first post was long and drifted into incoherence (as of 10.00pm it hasn’t had a single ‘like’ which I don’t  think happened for a while – I usually get one or two) and the second was probably drifting along a line between neurosis and psychosis.  But I’m still agitated and my mind is still racing and I’m trying to cope.

I feel quite suicidal again.  I went to shiur (Torah class), but struggled.  I lied and said I was fine when I should have been honest about how I feel.  But how do you say to people that you don’t know well that everything is not fine, that everything is pretty awful all things considered and that the things they take for granted on waking up every day – family, job, income, community, life, sanity – I have to get up and fight for.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I didn’t jump off the pedestrian walkway onto the dual carriageway even though part of me really wanted to.  (It would be a horrible way to go, though.  About the opposite of dying painlessly in your sleep.)

I thought a lot about suicide during shiur.  The assistant rabbi spoke in the shiur about concepts that can’t be explained in words, either due to their inherent depth or the speaker not really understanding them.  For me suicide is only partly from despair, although total despair and lack of hope for any improvement in my life at all is a necessary precondition for feeling suicidal.  I am not sure, however, that it is a sufficient condition.

For me suicide, as I fantasise about it, is in part a performance, an action done to communicate an emotional state to other people.  Suicide comes from loneliness, but probably not from being utterly alone.  It comes from having things that I want to say to other people that I can not say, either due to shyness, inarticulacy or the fact that I no longer have any contact with them.  Inherent in my suicidal fantasies is the concept of somehow knowing that other people will hear of my suicide, that they will know and that they will understand a particular message, the message that I am unable to cope with life and, as a subtext, that they are partially to blame for my inability to cope.  Hence the fact that suicidal thoughts are linked strongly for me with googling to try to find out what peers from school and Oxford are now doing, people who on some level I blame for my problems.  (This does not reflect well on me, I know.)

Having been ignored most of my life, the desire to be known, the desire for my pain and my struggle to be known is almost overwhelming.  I want to scream; dying would be the biggest scream I can imagine, the only scream I could make that might have the chance of pushing Trump, Brexit and Syria off the news for a few minutes, at least for the small number of people who have met me at some point in my life.  And they might think, “I didn’t know he felt so bad.”  And they might think, “Maybe I should have said something to him.”

I understand that these feelings are quite common, common enough for suicide prevention charities to ask the media to downplay reports of suicide and avoid romanticising them or attaching any kind of aura of glory or fame to the deceased (see here).

Of course the idea of killing myself to communicate my inarticulable feelings to other people is based on several false premises.  One, that I can actually survive long enough to see and get some satisfaction from the result (I do sometimes fantasise about making a failed suicide attempt, but that would most likely result in people being angry with me, the usual response of friends and family to a failed suicide attempt).  It also assumes that my suicide can and will be understood the way I want, whereas it is likely that many of the people I would like to know about my death would never hear (the global Jewish community is small and close-knit, but we don’t all hear about each other).  Many people I remember have probably long-forgotten about me and even if they have not and they hear, they might still not draw the conclusions I want.  They might think, “I always knew he was weird/screwed up/a failure.”  They might assume that the trigger for my suicide came long after they knew me, which would not be entirely inaccurate.  Or they might descend into permanent blame and depression themselves, which I don’t really want because I’m not a sadist or vengeful.  I want to be understood, not ruin everyone else’s lives the way mine was ruined.

The other side of suicide, about which there is not much to say, is the idea of a redemptive death.  Suicide can’t really be construed in that way.  Since adolescence I have fantasised about a heroic death that would somehow save others.  It’s not likely to happen, not least because I know I’m a coward and could never do anything brave.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never gone through with a suicide attempt, although there have been a few close calls.  The first is a fear of pain.  I don’t fear death very much, but I do fear pain and the thought of a long, lingering death or a failed attempt resulting in permanent, painful injury is not pleasant.  Few methods of suicide seem even remotely painless and certain of success.  Second is not wanting to upset my family and, now, my close friends (it’s probably only in the last year or so that I feel I have friends close enough to care).  Third is the flipside of what I said about wanting people to feel guilty: I’m not a cruel person and I don’t really want people to feel guilty about my death for the rest of their lives.  It’s a fantasy when I feel very angry and alone, but not one I really want to come true.  I have no desire to hurt anyone, just to be understood.

The problem is that I don’t know how to communicate these feelings healthily.  I suppose I have therapy and I have this blog, but both run into barriers of articulacy – I can not articulate all the things I feel, because I am overwhelmed by my feelings and lack the vocabulary to describe them.  Plus neither is much of an audience.  Therapy is with one person and my blog is with a handful of people, most of whom don’t know me in real life.

Somehow I wish a bit of my feelings could be known to the people around me without having to go to the extreme of hurting myself or trying to kill myself, but without my needing to find the words and the confidence to say them.  Of course, people probably wouldn’t know how to react if I did tell them, even assuming that there is a type of reaction that I am looking for that wouldn’t leave me feeling embarrassed or useless.

Listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, feeling agitated

This is a sort of an addendum to my last post.
“What is that noise?”
                          The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                           Nothing again nothing.
                                                        “Do
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
“Nothing?”
       I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?” 
It seemed sensible to post a chunk of The Waste Land, I’m not sure why.  It freaks me out when I feel agitated like this.  It really does feel like I imagine hypomania would, even though I’ve been told by two psychiatrists that I’m not bipolar (mind you, I’ve been told by lots of psychiatrists that I’m not autistic).  It’s when I’m in this state that I’m most likely to hurt myself, not least because in this state I sometimes feel angry and paranoid and my anger and paranoia tends towards self-destruction.  It’s also in this state that I’m most self-pitying, helpless and attention-seeking (this would be how I feel when I leave self-pitying comments on other people’s blogs), so apologies to the three people who have just received cry for help texts from me.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.
I’m listening to Pachelbel’s Canon to try to calm down, but I don’t think it’s helping.  Watching TV is probably not a good idea, but I might watch some Doctor Who to try and calm down.  At any rate, I don’t feel able to get to bed.  Eat porridge for warm milk to soothe and put to sleep.