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.

D-Day

Warning: this is a long post.  You might want to make yourself a cup of tea first.  It isn’t going to be pretty.  Don’t say you weren’t warned…

The big news today was my meeting with my boss about my contract.  It got off to a bad start when she told me that the college had picked up more stuff about suicide that I had apparently posted when blogging on my lunch break at work this week.  This surprised me, as I thought I had mainly been working on non-blogging writing this week and I haven’t felt suicidal for ages anyway.  It was perhaps this post and the statement that “I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.”  (Thanks to one of my friends for remembering that.)  I’m still slightly surprised their software got it, though as it seems pretty vague to me.  I don’t think I was thinking of suicide when I wrote, just being exhausted and worn down by work and my life.  It is a bit scary that I wrote that without thinking that it was particularly suicidal.  I still don’t feel it’s particularly suicidal.  That’s just how I am and how I’ve been for years.  Which I guess is sad.

Then my boss spoke about renewing my contract.  It was positive inasmuch as she said that there was still a strong chance that the college would renew my contract, but, because of the reorganisation and the transition from contract work to permanent work, the job would effectively be an entirely new job.  I’d work all year round (rather than having most of the school holidays off), but the hours and salary would be the same because I’d do a twenty-four hour week instead of a twenty-eight hour one, with one hour less per day, but one late night (probably midday to 8pm).  I will sometimes have to go to the other colleges in the super-college, but will probably be mainly based at our secondary campus.  I will be in a new role, being in charge of some of the day-to-day running of the library (I think, I’m not sure about this), interacting with librarians in the other colleges, starting and managing projects and seeing them to a conclusion.  I will give talks to students on things like information literacy (I think) and will try to develop strategies to ‘sell’ the library to them.  I will have responsibility for purchasing and weeding books in a particular area, possibly across all the colleges in the super-college.

I don’t mind losing my holidays, as I just got depressed in them, but gaining one hour a day seems a waste: not long enough to do anything productive with it when I come home tired.  The late night seems very disruptive to my sleep pattern and if it’s on a Thursday (it will be Tuesday or Thursday) I will have to miss shiur (religious class), which is my main social activity, plus, because of the length of my commute, I will get home from work half an hour after I’m supposed to start getting ready for bed, even without having dinner.  Our secondary campus makes me feel depressed, as it’s a horrible dingy old Victorian school that smells of school dinners, although the badly-lit library is being refurbished and will hopefully be airier.

Above all, I don’t think I can do the new job.  I don’t feel capable of running a library (although I don’t think my boss used the word ‘run’ – I stupidly didn’t take notes in the meeting because I thought it was going to be a much shorter and simpler thing, just, “We want to renew your contract doing the same thing as this year; what hours would you like to do?”).  I don’t feel capable of making up new plans to run a library out of thin air and I don’t feel capable of project managing them to positive conclusions.  I’ve done public speaking before, but I really don’t want to do classroom-type teaching or even extra one-to-one interactions with students and I can’t sell anything.  Even the interactions I already have with the students make me incredibly nervous: I start worrying that I’m going to start shaking and I sometimes make stupid mistakes and say the wrong things, which has caused problems in the past.  And I’ll be more isolated at our secondary campus, depending on how the college reorganisation develops, potentially without the team-mates that I rely on for support and advice.

Added to all this was the fact that my boss reiterated that while in theory I could take Jewish holidays off, in practice that was not an entitlement and I might not be allowed if there was some sort of schedule clash.  Jewish holidays aren’t negotiable for me.  It’s not, “I want to be with my family.”  It’s, “If I do this, it will be an incredibly serious sin.”  I’m trying to think of a secular or Christian parallel in seriousness, but it’s really hard.  There isn’t anything that’s not quite murder, but only just.  I guess it would be like being told to rob a bank.  It’s that serious.  I could lose all hope of having Olam HaBa (reward in the next world).  So that panicked me too.

My immediate reaction was that I was already barely keeping all the balls I’m currently juggling in the air and now I was being asked to carry on juggling those balls while also juggling some clubs too, and burning ones at that.

I think my boss saw how worried I was looking.  She said the work I had done on the catalogue this year was good (possibly the first time she’s really praised me since my end of probation report nine months ago) and the fact that I was being offered a new role is a sign of support.  But she also asked if I really wanted my contract renewed and if I really wanted to be a librarian, which is less positive.  She also made it quite clear that she doesn’t think I interact well with the students and that the new job will involve a lot more of that.

I spoke to my parents about this and tried to make clear that I don’t think I can do it, to their dismay.  They genuinely can’t understand why I don’t want to do this.  For one thing, it would give me money to allow me to continue living away from home, otherwise I have to move back in with them.  Beyond that, my Dad is impressed that I’ll be running the library at the secondary campus (I’m not sure that the word ‘running’ was used and if it was I find that even more terrifying).  They see the opportunity as a vote of confidence in my work, which wasn’t how I felt my boss spoke about interpersonal skills.  They are sanguine about my ability to cope with changed working hours and late nights.  They say I’ve done public speaking before and well, which is true, but I haven’t done it for years.  I can’t remember how depressed I was last time I did it, but it wasn’t to a hostile audience of teenagers and it was on a subject I knew and loved.  They didn’t really comment directly on my other fears, but seem to think I am turning down something that would be very positive for my career and finances in the vague hope that something else will come up or that I can find a way to make writing work for me.  I said to them what I said to my boss, that it wasn’t one particular fear that maybe I could resolve, but the cumulative effect of a load of problems that might not be deal-breakers by themselves, but when loaded together become insurmountable.

The discussion got quite heated and basically turned into an argument where I couldn’t understand why they didn’t empathise with my fears and they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t excited about this opportunity and was actively looking for ways to get out of it.  Then I had to try to calm down as I was having dinner with some old friends from Oxford days.

I had a good time, but I ended up speaking a lot about the job.  I also ran myself down quite a bit, I think, not just about the job, but about my upcoming holiday, saying I’ll probably get lost and fail to find the kosher restaurants (in New York!) and when one friend suggested putting me in touch with an old Oxford acquaintance who lives in New York, I said he wouldn’t remember me and wouldn’t want to meet me, when really I was scared that I he would remember and would want to meet and I wouldn’t know what to say and would feel bad that he’s now married with children while I’m struggling.  For what it’s worth, my friend did seem to think that old Oxford acquaintances would remember me and want to see me; she was quite insistent on this, actually.  I do find it hard to believe, though.  This week I’ve had several run-ins with old acquaintances who I either avoided from fear of not know what I should say or fear of what they would say or who apparently didn’t recognise me (but maybe would have if I had shown recognition of them), including one in the restaurant.

I got pretty morose on the way home which may have come from eating a rich dessert and then crashing (I’m not sure whether this is really something I susceptible to or not and don’t eat out often enough to really be sure – it could be that something else about eating out brings me down e.g. seeing friends and family, seeing couples).  I was noticing a lot of couples, frum (religious) and otherwise, in the restaurant and on the bus on the way home, which always makes me feel lonely.  The book I was reading on the bus didn’t help; a collection of stories by James Thurber, who is usually very funny, but I happened to be up to two stories in the book that weren’t funny.  One in particular was about a failed (ish) writer who is lonely and thinks society is made for couples and wonders if he could have married his ex-girlfriend if he didn’t over-analyse everything.  So that didn’t hit home at all, no way…

The thing is, I think the only thing I come anything close to actually enjoying in my life is writing and I don’t know how to do it in quantity (to get published) while working, but I don’t know how to support myself while writing.  I even enjoy writing little jokes and things for myself without telling them to anyone, mostly because not many people get my sense of humour and not all of those understand my references.  For example, today on my way home I was making up jokes about Donald Trump (I do this a lot) and for some reason (I know the reason, but it would take too long to explain) was thinking about what his coat of arms would look like.  I decided on a tweet rampant over an adult film star couchant (but not dormant), complete with his favoured use of the bar sinister*.  This amused me a lot, just thinking about it.  I get blocked with my writing sometimes, sometimes for long periods, but often I have a lot to say and just don’t have the time and energy to write it down, or the forum.  I have two blogs, but I also have a restless, curious mind and things I think about don’t always fit neatly into The (Jewish) Depression Blog and The Doctor Who Blog.  Just today at lunch I started writing something that could probably go in either, but I can’t cross-post as one blog is anonymous and the other isn’t.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to finishing it, however.  I really wish I could find a way to make writing work for me or find a library/information job that involves reading and researching more than interpersonal interactions and physically maintaining a collection.

* This was a joke on the Muslim ban (ban = bar) and a pun on the two meanings of sinister, but on googling just now to check that bar sinister is a real term in heraldry and not something I half-remembered, I discovered that the real bar sinister is an indication of bastardy…

Corrosive

I am not, by nature, an angry person.  I am arguably one of those people who turns his anger inwards as depression and OCD.  At the moment, I feel the angriest I’ve ever been with HaShem (God).  Usually I cool off quickly and apologise (often without thinking I’m in the wrong.  I just can’t stand the tension and feel I have to apologise), but here I calm down and then I start up all over again a few hours later.  I get triggered by thoughts of loneliness and despair, thoughts that I am wasting my life and by feeling obliged to try to get the energy and motivation to study Torah or daven (pray).

The worst of it is that ultimately I know that He’s right.  I don’t just believe in God, I believe specifically in an immanent, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, so that anything that happens to me has been deliberately allowed to occur by Him because it is the best possible thing that could happen to me right now.  And that just makes me furious, because why should the best possible thing to happen to me be my feeling lonely and despairing?  It’s like arguing with your parents when you know they’re right, but you can’t back down without losing face.  It’s even worse than losing an argument when you know you’re right, because at least you have a certain amount of dignity and self-esteem there.  Here I just feel like an idiot, complaining about something that I know I have no right to complain about.  No one ever told me that life was going to be easy and it’s stupid of me to want it to be.

I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.  I just want something to change, but I don’t know what to do.  Contrary to the magical thinking (segulot) that permeate much of contemporary Orthodoxy, I don’t think I can force God’s hand.  As for prayer… I once gave a fifteen minute drasha (religious talk) on prayer, setting forth three different perspectives on prayer and what it does.  1) Prayer is a mechanism by which we can change ourselves and become worthy of what we want (Rav Hirsch); 2) prayer is a method of creating community (Rav Soloveitchik); 3) prayer is a method of building a relationship with HaShem (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov).  The community aspect isn’t relevant here.  The idea of prayer as a vehicle for growth is problematic for me right now because I don’t have the energy or motivation to grow any more.  And as for building a relationship with God… well, at the moment I want to shout at Him or just sulk because I don’t know what to say.  I’ve hardly done any hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer over the last few days because I don’t have anything to say to Him any more.

I feel ridiculously silly, but I can’t calm down.  Every time I feel that I could be this lonely and depressed for the rest of my life, I get angry all over again.  It reminds me of my least favourite moment in one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories, The End of Time, where the Doctor, realising that he is going to have to give up his life (ish) to save his friend goes into a huge sulk and complains that it’s not fair.  It’s a horrible moment bereft of all heroism and dignity (I’m not a great fan of the tenth Doctor or David Tennant, but they deserved better).  That’s how I feel.  I know I’m posturing like an adolescent.  I know.  But I can’t help it, because I really feel on the brink.

I’ve been told that it’s OK to be angry with God, it’s even an argument I’ve used myself, but I still feel silly, especially as I suspect some of the anger is really directed at E., or at my situation in general, but I can’t express it to them, so it gets turned on God instead.

Here we segue from the very embarrassing part of the post to the incredibly embarrassing part.

I also feel (and this is not new) a lot of anxiety and guilt about sex, which probably feeds into the anger against God for keeping me single.  I feel guilty whenever I feel attracted to anyone, for feminist reasons as much as religious ones.   I have heard lately about involuntarily celibate men turning into women-hating monsters.  I remember after the Fort Hood shooting, an irresponsible newspaper article listed five signs of serial killers, and I had all five.  I’ve had a girlfriend now, so I guess I’m 20% less likely to become a misogynistic serial killer, but I worry about myself sometimes.  This is doubtless pure O OCD again, as I don’t think I’m realistically likely to turn into a a serial killer (misogynist or otherwise), but I do have a lot of hang ups about sex, questions and anxieties and also fear of being alone forever.

I’m not sure if my hang ups are the cause or the result of being a virgin at thirty-five (OK, strictly speaking I’m thirty-four for another couple of weeks, but unless my life changes in a series of radical ways, it will still stand).  It’s possible that they both feed each other and grow, which is a depressing thought.  It occurs to me that by this stage this is probably going to be another reason why I will end up single forever; any frum woman would be shocked by how jaded and impure I am, while any non-frum woman would doubtless find me laughably naive and inexperienced.  I’m beginning to suspect that sex is never going to be something I could be fully comfortable with, even if I get married.

It’s fairly safe to say that I have a lot of powerful emotions that I’m not allowed to express, either by circumstances, upbringing, religion or personality, and that these eat away inside me.  I’m not quite sure what I can do about this, except talk about it a lot in therapy and try to work through it that way.  I mostly feel too inhibited to blog about it.  I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with this post.  I can’t really express myself in fiction or poetry, let alone art or music, although I wish I could.

Jam Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

I Want to Scream

Feeling thoroughly angry and despairing.  My holiday is shaping up to be the worst ever, although I may still get to see one or two Hevria people.  I’ve screwed up the travel insurance, which resulted in my father treating me like I’m a moron.  The two things I can’t stand are being ignored and being treated like an imbecile and I’ve had plenty of both so far with this stupid, pointless holiday.  Why did I ever think (a) that I was competent to do this and (b) that E. would stay with someone as screwed up as me long enough for the trip to be worthwhile?  I did seriously consider cancelling it, but I would have lost too much money and it would have felt cowardly.  I’m going to have to go abroad by myself one day, so I might as well get it over with.

There’s a lot of more general anger too, against HaShem (God) for making me suffer so much with my mental health issues and against the Jewish community, which takes care of its own, but doesn’t seem to consider me its own, in terms of helping me fit in to the community, find meals for Shabbat when I’m on holiday and, of course, find a spouse.

I worry that all this anger and hatred and unjustified self-pity (i.e. I’m not really justified in pitying myself so much, because really I can’t say I don’t deserve this) is going to coalesce and I’m going to turn into some kind of antisemitic (self-hating Jew), misogynistic anti-theist.  I don’t want that to happen, but I’m worried it might.

There’s a metaphor from the Midrash or the Talmud or something about a chamberlain who has the keys to the inner chamber of the royal treasury, but not to the outer door, so he can’t get to the riches inside.  I can’t remember what the original context is, but I feel a bit like that.  It’s no good frum (religious) people telling me that everything God does is for the best, that no suffering is unjust and that if I suffer now, I will be rewarded later, probably in the next world, because I feel I don’t have what I need right now to meet the immediate challenge (get through the out door/cope with my immediate feelings of anger, loneliness, despair, rebellion, hatred etc.) to get to the inner chamber (later reward).

Right now I feel like I just want to curl up on the bed and cry, but I have important stuff to do.  Watching Doctor Who just made me feel worse (The Girl Who Waited, a reasonably good episode, but too romantic and depressing for right now – the perils of watching stuff in order.  Next up is The God Complex, which probably also isn’t such a good idea right now for different reasons).

 

Pressure

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

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

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

Back to Reality

Things are mostly back to how they were before Pesach (Passover).  Unfortunately, this includes the weather (a dull, wet, depressing day) and my mood, which is still low.

I’m trying to work out if I should try dating again.  I suspect I’m not ready, but I also suspect that I will never be ‘ready.’  I also suspect that the only person who would be in a relationship with me is someone with similarly serious issues.  This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but my only previous relationship resulted in my having to take care of myself and my girlfriend, while she ignored my issues and was in denial about her own (her words, more or less, not mine) and I couldn’t cope with that any better now than I did five years ago (is it really five years ago more or less exactly that we broke up?).  I suspect I find it easy to fall for vulnerable women who (a) are less likely to reject me for being broken myself and (b) have mental health issues in common with me (because so few people have anything else in common with me).  I also probably feel that I don’t deserve, and couldn’t find, someone without major issues willing to go out with me for more than one or two dates.

I know logically I shouldn’t be dating, but I worry that I’ll never be ready, for all that my rabbi mentor suggested that I could be a lot better in six months.  I can’t see the self-administered CBT for social anxiety really going anywhere, although I’ve promised myself to have a proper go at it now that Pesach is over.  Nor do I know how to deal with the loneliness.  All the cures for loneliness I’ve heard of (talk to people, do a group activity, attend a place of worship) presume neurotypicality or at least an absence of social anxiety and depression.  For me, doing those things just increases my sense of being socially incompetent and alone forever, if I’m even able to do them in the first place (cf. my failed attempts to get to shul (synagogue) in the mornings recently).

Another reason I’m likely to struggle to maintain a romantic relationship is the problems I have maintaining a good relationship with my parents when I feel like this.  There’s a vicious circle that goes: someone shouts at me for something that is or isn’t my fault (it doesn’t matter which) –> I feel more depressed –> I snap at others –> other people shout at me –> I feel more depressed (etc.).  This is why I couldn’t cope with being paired up and it’s better that I live on my own.  I’m dreading having to move back in with my parents if my work contract isn’t renewed.  I could cope with getting married if my wife was particularly understanding, but I don’t deserve such a wife and couldn’t get one anyway (not least because of the loop noted above, although I have lots of other off-putting bad habits and vices too that I don’t generally blog about), so anyone I could marry would likely get into arguments with me a lot, which I couldn’t cope with.  Hence, I should/will be single forever.

I feel so alone today.  It’s not even loneliness in the usual sense of the word, because I’m not wishing someone was here with me.  It’s more feeling that no one can understand, accept or even tolerate me.  I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with my parents and I suspect that they feel the same about me, with good reason, which saddens me, but my attempts to be more sociable seem to make things worse.  I don’t even feel like I want anyone today, as a friend or girlfriend or wife.  I just feel so different to everyone else, that no one could understand me, and that I’m such a bad person and a bad Jew that no one could ever like or accept me.  I feel bad that I get no joy out of Judaism or Jewish festivals, for example (I didn’t enjoy Pesach at all, not even seder which I used to love), and telling myself that that’s because of my mental health and family situation doesn’t really help.  I know other people with mental health issues and families much less religious than mine who live joyous and meaningful Jewish lives.  Admittedly getting married and having kids seems to have been a big part of that, as does a period of sustained religious study in yeshiva or seminary.  Still, I feel that if they can manage it, I should too and God is angry with me for not doing so, and for acting out.

The quote of the day on the Jewish site Aish.com today says, “If you are not happy with what you have, you will not be happy with what you get.”  This just seems to tell me that I’m going to be miserable forever and there’s nothing I can do about it, because every attempt to move past the depression to get meaning and joy out of life ultimately fails.

There are a lot of disturbing thoughts in my head, and I don’t know how much is depression, how much is pure O OCD, how much is loneliness and how much is that I’m just a terrible, terrible, depraved person.  Or just someone who can’t cope with what’s going on in his head and as a result acts out in various bad ways, of which sniping at my parents is the least problematic.

More on neurotypicality, or otherwise: when I was young, I was sensitive to certain fabrics, particularly woolly ones.  Over time, this seemed to go away, but lately it seems to have come back somewhat.  I have a sweater that I’m finding it hard to wear suddenly because it feels too uncomfortable, even though I’ve been wearing it for years without a problem.  This is weird.  I haven’t heard of sensory sensitivity like that changing back and forth over time.  I suppose my sensitivity to noise varies with time, mood, activity and so forth too, but not in such a big way.

Mene, Mene, Tekel Ufarsin

Pesach is over for another year (or thirteen months, as next year is a Jewish leap year, which means an extra month added in).  I made it through, just about.  I had one twenty-four hour period (over two days) of more bad OCD, but was mostly OK, which is to say some OCD, but not overwhelming.

The last two days were hard in other ways, though.  I’ve been anxious/angry about antisemitism and thinking that this is the beginning of the end of Anglo-Jewry, that what is happening in France, where brutal antisemitic murders are increasingly common and largely ignored by the police for political reasons (because they are carried out by certain members (by no means all) of a particular minority group that the politicians don’t want to antagonise) and where the Chief Rabbi has told Jewish men not to wear kippot (skullcaps) in public because it’s too dangerous, is going to start happening here soon.  Over the last twenty years there has been a massive increase in aliyah (immigration to Israel) from the French Jewish community (many of whom only moved to France in the post-war era, fleeing antisemitic violence in previously French-occupied North Africa).  I could see myself moving to Israel some time in the next thirty years.  I could see myself having to move.

That said, while historically there has been a lot of intellectual antisemitism in the UK, including from the left (Bernard Shaw (as far as I know, the first person to say that the Jews are the same as the Nazis, less than a week after Kristallnacht), the Webbs, Chesterton, Belloc, Eliot, etc.) and although England had one of the earliest blood libels, in the modern era there has been little in the way of popular antisemitism in this country.  Mosley’s Black Shirts were never a mass movement in the way political antisemitism created mass movements across Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries or in the way political antisemitism has returned (on the left as well as the right) in the last twenty years or so.  I believe that Momentum is largely antisemitic, but I don’t believe that the majority of Labour Party members, let alone the population at large, are antisemitic.  The fear is that Corbyn and Momentum will offer enough bread and circuses that people will vote for them anyway, because while most people don’t agree with antisemitism, they don’t strongly disagree with it either, or even understand it will enough to disagree with it, particularly after decades of the BBC (which has a massive news monopoly in this country) insinuating that Jews (sorry, Israelis) are a uniquely racist and imperialist people/religion.

Such has been part of my thinking over Yom Tov, along with general thoughts about Western Civilisation tearing itself to pieces as the far-left and the far-right take over, or come close to taking over, in one country after another.  And, lo, I look at the news after Yom Tov and there’s been another terrorist attack in a European city.  The Jews’ revenge for being demonised by Europe: your cities are now as unsafe as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and for the same reasons.

However, all this has been a distraction from more personal angst.  I’ve felt very depressed for the last couple of days.  The OCD has been at bay, but I’ve been feeling cut off from God again, lonely and misunderstood.  I feel bad that I didn’t make it to shul (synagogue) in the mornings.  My parents say I need more “will power” which I find a bit upsetting.  I have the will to go to shul, I just don’t have the power, ha ha.  It’s hard to do things when the depression and social anxiety team up against me.  I was thinking again in shul today that God should have created me as a FFB (frum from birth) yeshiva bochur (Talmudic student) because He clearly loves them all much more than He loves me.

I argued with my parents a bit today.  I could see that I had woken up depressed and in a state where everything I say is going to sound grumpy and critical (I’m not sure how much this is depression and how much autism), so I tried to apologise in advance and say I didn’t mean to sound grumpy, I just couldn’t help it, and I tried to sound even-tempered but somehow there was still an argument.  I guess it was not entirely my fault.  I tried to defuse the situation.

What I have learnt from all this is that I probably do need to date only frum (religious) women.  I had been wondering, as frum women apparently aren’t interested in dating me, whether I should date non-frum Jewish women, if we had other values in common (integrity, family, love of learning, personal growth).  A lot of people in my family have done this, my Mum has long been encouraging me to do this (I have no idea why) and even my rabbi mentor surprised me by saying it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but I feel that if I marry a non-frum woman the mitzvot (commandments) will become a focus for resentment and argument.

Anyway, I’ve avoided the post-Pesach tidy up too long by writing this so off I go…