Tested

I felt quite depressed on waking again.  Although I must have been in bed for about twelve hours (this was at nearly 1pm), I still felt tired.  On the whole I’m probably doing OK, mental health-wise, at the moment, but I get bursts of depression and/or anxiety most days that last for a while and I’m definitely struggling to find my ‘place’ or role in terms of career, family, dating and fitting in to the Jewish community.  I tried telling myself that where I am (moderately depressed and anxious, autistic, unemployed etc.) is where God wants me to be, but it’s hard.  I keep wondering why I have to be like this.  But I don’t think we can know such things, at least not at the time.  Maybe years later, when we see how things turn out.

I just did a civil service initiative and judgement test for a job at a ministerial library that I applied for.  Part of the test was on attitudes to work.  I think the ideal candidate bounds out of bed in the morning and hurries joyfully to work and sets him or herself a number of career goals culminating in becoming the head of a department by the age of forty.  The test is not really set up for someone confused about their career choice and suffering from depressive anhedonia (lack of enjoyment) and lack of motivation.  My concentration during the test was poor too.

Then there was an initiative test which was based largely around management issues.  I’m not ready for a management job (and probably never will be), which suggests that the job is not right for me.  I found the multiple choice framework frustrating, as I frequently wanted to add clarification or a caveat, or felt that none of the answers given were very good, even though I could not think of a better one.  I suspect that I’m not management material.  I got through it rather quickly.  I was told it should take about fifty minutes, but I did it in thirty, which makes me worry I went through it too fast, but I couldn’t really connect the questions to anything that might really have guided me.  I did do some study of management for my librarianship MA, but nothing that really helped here.  Although it is fun to imagine Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Machiavellian civil service chief from Yes Minister being made to sit one of these tests (“Where’s the option ‘brief against your critics to their boss until he fires them’?”).

I did, apparently, pass the test and am still being considered for the job, which is good.

Advertisements

Toads

(My post titles become more elliptical as my mood goes down.  You can tell I’m not actually trying to attract readers.  The reference is to Philip Larkin, in case anyone cares.)

My mood has gone back down again, mostly because of my uncertain future.  I coped OK at work, but I overheard one conversation where my line manager’s line manager was advising some young people on a career in librarianship which made me realise (remember would be a better word) that I’m not actually doing anything to push my career on and wouldn’t know where to begin.  Then I had a meeting with my line manager where she said she’s pleased with my work, but reminded me that my contract expires in five weeks (which I took as a sign that it won’t be extended) and asked me where I would like to gain more experience while I’m here?  This offer is good in itself, but I did what I always do when faced with (a) an on the spot decision or (b) careers stuff in general: I froze and couldn’t think of anything (classic autistic executive function issues).

I did eventually say something reasonably positive, but I feel down overall.  I can’t seem to work out how to do something that I’m reasonably good at, enjoy at least a bit, and which doesn’t leave me a nervous wreck the whole time.  Because of depressive anhedonia, the only thing I even vaguely enjoy is writing and I don’t know how to get paid for that when I have no contacts, no confidence in my writing and a range of interests that is too wide in some ways and probably not deep enough in others.  I saw this post, which should be useful for me, but it just makes me feel panicked and confused.

Now twice I’ve been asked by different line managers in different jobs if I really want to be a librarian; my insistence that I do is becoming less and less convincing.  I don’t actually know what to do with my life or how to do it.  I just feel stuck.  I’m just waiting for someone to help me, because I do not feel capable of actually doing anything.  Twenty-two years of education (approximately, on and off) did not actually prepare me for the real world, not even the career-focused MA that was supposed to train me for a career.

I literally do not feel able to function in the real world, in terms of career, socialising, family or anything else important.  I admit I can function at a basic level (cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning), but nothing harder than that.  I really feel that I want help with mental health and autism in the real world, but the courses I’ve been on that are supposed to help with those things didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know.  So either I know more than I think I know and need to learn how to apply it in practice or I’m not getting the help I need, possibly because of the difficulties of dealing with multiple diagnoses.

In addition, I have a meeting with a matchmaker on Sunday and I really don’t feel that I could possibly be attractive to anyone while I’m only working part-time and imminently about to be unemployed.  I feel guilty for even arranging to see the matchmaker, which is a bit silly.  I suppose I don’t have to go on dates, I could say my financial situation is problematic and could they keep me on file, but not actively set me up with anyone just now, but that is quite embarrassing to have to admit to.  I think I will have to do so, though, otherwise I’m only setting myself (and other people) up for heartache.

I’ve returned from shiur (religious class) feeling a little better, but I think this is tiredness rather than truly improved mood.  I struggle with the usual banter at shiur at the best of times, but I really wasn’t in the mood for it tonight, nor for the talk before and after of families (again) and the shul (synagogue) dinner tomorrow that I can’t go to because I missed the deadline (partly my fault, but partly because of poor marketing).  I did at least eat less junk food there than usual, but I’m fatalistic about losing weight while on clomipramine (I’ve put on a ton of weight since I started taking it), and I don’t think my GP or psychiatrist will let me come off it; they insist its working and the fact that I’ve felt somewhat better lately only strengthens their argument.  The weekend looks set to be difficult emotionally, between going to shul knowing many people will be staying for the meal and I won’t and the meeting with a matchmaker on Sunday (I already feel a fraud).  For now, I will go to bed, and hope that I feel better tomorrow.

I know I sound like a lazy, entitled child, but I genuinely feel completely lost and overwhelmed, unsure of what I’m actually capable of doing or how to do it.  The fact that I’m probably autistic means that I can’t actually do the thing that most people in this situation would do, which is network and talk to people.  I was thinking of going to a networking workshop, but it’s the same day as the Robert Alter talk I already booked to go to.  The talk isn’t until the evening, but I don’t think I can do the workshop and the talk  in one day and still have the energy to get to work the next day.  I hate the way my issues make me so pathetic and useless.

“I don’t believe in modern love”

I’m in a bad autism environment today.  I’ve mentioned we’ve got a decorator in; he’s decorating the room next to mine.  I dislike the smell of paint, which sometimes makes me ill, plus he has the radio on really loudly.  It’s Radio 4 Extra (or whatever they call it these days), which is drama and comedy and so probably somewhat better than music – it’s not loud enough for my autistic brain to attempt to tune in to the words too much, but it is still loud enough to be annoying.  I was glad to be out most of the day, first at my depression/resilience course and then shopping and I will be at work tomorrow.  The smell is going to linger, though, and the decoration will continue for a while.  The decorator is estimating he’ll be finished by the end of the week, but my Dad and I are sceptical, particularly as we’ll want him out of the house by about 3.00pm on Friday for Shabbat (the Sabbath).

***

Resilience course today was focused on activity.  We listing activities done over the week; activities we enjoy; activities that make us feel better; activities that we don’t enjoy, but have to do, but are important for our well-being; and what activities we would like to do.  I realised that I do actually do things I enjoy, at least in theory, perhaps too many given how many essential-but-not-enjoyable things I do (albeit I do more of those now I’m working again)… The problem is that (a) I don’t actually enjoy a lot of the stuff I theoretically enjoy because of anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure) and (b) I spend too much time that could/should be spent doing something either productive or relaxing on procrastination when I feel too exhausted or depressed to read a book or job hunt and just stare into space on the train or aimlessly surf the internet.  I’m going to try to limit internet use to after 5.00pm Monday to Thursday (Fridays and Saturdays I don’t procrastinate on it much because of Shabbat, while activity on Sundays varies too much from week to week to set a rule).  Hopefully if I can reduce procrastination I can increase productive time without reducing enjoyable activities (even if I don’t always enjoy them).

The problem I seem to be having with the course is that while a lot of their tips are straightforward and seem good (and some have been suggested to me before, when I was seeing an occupational therapist), it can be hard to implement them.  I am a bit concerned that the tips would probably be better for someone with mild depression or anxiety.  Some people on the course seem to have done several courses through this scheme and that suggests to me a bit that people with severe depression or anxiety can get stuck in the system, getting enough out of the courses to keep coming back, but not enough to actually recover.  This is something that I have experienced myself in previous occupational therapy.  The other difficulty is appearing to recover, getting discharged from the support system, then getting very depressed again as a result of a trigger, which might not even be a ‘bad’ thing – I think I’ve been triggered by positive events before.  Any change can be difficult for people at risk of mental health issues especially with autism, which craves routine, and even positive or neutral change can remind the unconscious of negative events in the past and trigger a relapse.  Then one has to start all over again, remembering or relearning the skills.  Other people on the course seemed to share this experience.

***

I have a bit of a crush on one of the women at the group.  I even ended up speaking to her briefly today, which is a major thing for me with my social anxiety.  Also, there were a couple of awkward moments when our eyes met and I smiled awkwardly which makes me worry that I come over as stalkerish.  She seemed shy, gentle and geeky, but, statistically speaking, she’s almost certainly not Jewish and from her clothes (trousers) she certainly isn’t frum (religious Orthodox Jewish).  I wouldn’t date anyone who isn’t Jewish and I’d be a bit wary of dating anyone who wasn’t frum although I did date E. who wasn’t frum.

I’ve had crushes on people who are ‘off-limits’ before and they (the ‘bad’ thoughts/feelings) do go eventually.  I don’t believe that crushes are “LOVE”.  They’re just hormones.  I think love is something you build slowly over time through caring actions (being very frummy here, but true) and mostly when people talk about being “in love” (noun as opposed to “loving,” verb) they mean hormones.  Likewise when they think they’re not “in love” any more it often means the hormones have gone and they haven’t built anything deeper.  Nor do I think that LOVE can, or should, conquer all.  I think there are things it can’t overcome and, statistically-speaking for many people religious differences are very hard to bridge long-term.  There are also things I think love shouldn’t overcome and I think (and I’m aware how reactionary this will seem to many people, but I’m going to say it) breaking Jewish law and breaking faith with the traditions I follow are, for me, too big a price to pay for a relationship.  I don’t just want to get married, I want to build a specifically Jewish household.

She is cute though.  So right now I’m trying to sit with the crush feelings and not feel too guilty about ordinary human feelings, even though some people would say I should stop myself from having them (how?  I would if I could).  It wouldn’t be so frustrating if it wasn’t for the fact that I struggle to meet Jewish women who do tick any of the boxes she seemed to tick: gentle, geeky, understanding of shyness and mental health issues.  Very frustrating.  I’m not really sure how I could ever meet someone like that in the frum community.  I’m not sure if I could really go to a shadchan (matchmaker) with a list like that, short though it is, along with my core values, which are probably integrity, commitment to Judaism and desire for knowledge.

Oh, and the person has to actually like me which has been a stumbling block in stopping many of my crushes from turning into relationships.

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.

Down Again, Down Again, Jiggity Jig

My parents and my cousin went to football today (Spurs vs. Bournemouth… perhaps inevitably, the family are Spurs fans (they have a reputation for being the most Jewish club).  Spurs won 5-0).  I’m not sure whose idea it was; I think it was my parents’ and then my cousin asked to join them, but I’m not sure.  I don’t like spectator sport, so I stayed at home.

***

I woke up feeling really drained and quite depressed again.  It’s only got worse as the day has gone on.  I wish I could have a good day that wasn’t followed by a bad one as ‘payment’ for it.  I don’t feel up to doing the chores I was supposed to do today.  I forced myself to go for walk and to do ten minutes of Torah study.  I should also try to write back to the author Yaakov Klein, who emailed me about my recent comment about his book on my blog, although I’m procrastinating about that because I feel ashamed that I got annoyed with what he wrote.  But really, I just want to eat and sleep.  My problem with depression used to be fighting the urge to sleep too much.  That’s still an issue (I got up after 11.00am today), but lately it’s become just as much of a struggle to avoid eating.  I’m probably better at fighting the urge to comfort eat than the urge to oversleep, but it’s hard.

I don’t even feel particularly motivated to watch TV, let alone do anything more active.  I’ve got a lot of anhedonia today, although there’s a lot of exhaustion and depression too.  I just wrote the following about anhedonia in a comment on the Mental Health at Home blog:

Anhedonia is hard too. I find that it can be the hardest thing because the people around me will give me more sympathy if I’m visibly exhausted or suicidal, but if everything just seems meh, no one really cares or even knows that I’m sitting there not enjoying things that in the past I would have liked. To make it worse, I suspect I’ve had anhedonia since my early teens (at least) so it’s difficult to remember by this stage that I used to enjoy stuff a lot more.

***

I’m thinking about relationships again.  I don’t know why I’m so desperate to be in one, considering I usually avoid social interactions.  Actually, that’s not really true.  I do know why I want to be in a relationship: because I have a complicated relationship with my parents and sister stemming from a difficult, love-starved childhood (for reasons not in my family’s control) and so I’m desperate to be loved by someone to try to meet that long-felt, rarely-met need for affection and care.  This is not a particularly healthy reason to want to be in a relationship, doubly so when you consider that it’s compounded by a lot of religious repression and guilt about perfectly normal sexual desires, plus the fact that my lack of romantic success in the past makes me feel that I’m destined to be romantically and sexually inadequate forever, even if I do end up getting married.

I just wish someone really understood me and connected with me, I suppose.  I want to love and be loved, which probably isn’t surprising given my personal history (loneliness, bullying), but I worry I want to be loved more than I want to love someone else.  I’m not sure I could express love correctly anyway.  Whatever “correctly” is in the context.  Autism, social anxiety and depression do not make it easy to develop social skills, and I guess that loving is a social skill.

I’ve been told that I’ll meet someone when I least expect it, but that’s not how dating really works in the Orthodox world, where people mostly get set up on blind dates by third parties and it’s often all researched and thought out beforehand.  That said, I did start dating E. out of nowhere (she contacted me through my blog and we emailed for a while platonically before dating), but that didn’t end well and I can’t imagine lightning striking twice with another random emailer.  Actually, thinking about it, I met someone else I briefly dated through my blog, in a slightly different way, so maybe I’m wrong.  Or maybe lighting will strike twice, but not thrice.  Although I find it hard to imagine that anyone could like me even platonically, let alone romantically, having read the embarrassing, self-centred rambles I post here.

I just feel it would feel good if someone loved me, and let me love her, but I would still be depressed, anxious and autistic, so it wouldn’t really change anything.

Still Feeling Like the Most Evil Person in the World

Warning: this is a stream of consciousness-type set of thoughts I had today, even more than usual.  It’s also really long.

I tried to apply for a job again, but I found it hard even to concentrate on reading the job description, let alone apply.  My eyes just glazed over and I couldn’t focus, literally as much as metaphorically.  In the end I sent in applications for two jobs at the same institution (one higher-ranking than the other).  I don’t really think I will get either of them, and I think a job agency has already submitted my CV for one of them.

***

I cooked dinner (I mean a proper meal from fresh ingredients) for the first time in months.  Hungarian ragout from a cookery book I got for my birthday in July and hadn’t yet used.  E. recommended the book.  Dinner tasted really good, but my feeling of triumph was undermined by feeling bad that I didn’t eat with my parents.  I was set to eat by myself and watch Sherlock when they asked if I was going to eat with them and I am autistically bad at last minute changes of plan.  I felt I should be more flexible.

***

The other thing I did today was going for a twenty minute brisk walk in the cold and dark and drizzle because I needed the exercise.  I kept thinking cheery thoughts like, “People like me shouldn’t exist.  There ought to be a law against it” and being glad my sister is married and hoping she has children so that my parents can be grandparents and generally feeling that I have let my parents down and not given them enough naches (reflected pride).

My Mum told me today that someone whose parents used to live down the road from us and who I was at primary school with, has moved to Peru (?!) and had a child.  This person had learning difficulties and, I think, quite serious behavioural problems when we were younger.  She also said that his brother, who was a couple of years below me at Oxford and who has held some high positions in the Israeli civil service service has just got engaged.  So I feel like a real under-achiever and failure again.

***

I did a search for ‘autistic shidduch‘ (blind date) and rapidly came across a post of my own and very little else that was relevant.  The number of resources for people with mental health issues in the Jewish community and in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community is slowly increasing and stigma is slowly reducing.  However, I have not come across anything at all for people with high-functioning autism in the frum community (in the UK or elsewhere), yet there must be such people.  ‘Autism frum community’ didn’t turn up anything relevant, although search engines often read ‘frum‘ as a mis-spelling of ‘from’ and ignore it as a stop word.  (This was on duckduckgo.com which, unlike google, gives you a straightforward list of hits rather than adjusting it according to your previous searches.)

As I’ve said before, I think that you can go far with high-functioning autism in the frum community IF you’re male and IF you can make Talmud study your special interest (although there was some discussion of this idea here).  If  you do that then you will be seen as a great scholar for studying fifteen hours a day and your perhaps poor social and communication skills and lack of interest in money and material goods will be seen as evidence of extra piety.  Even stimming is considered normal if you can do it as shockling (swaying back and forth rhythmically during prayer or religious study).  If  you are recognised as a Talmid chacham (great scholar), you will be provided with a wife and an income and people who will take care of the practical side of your life so you can spend all day studying.  The problem arises if you are female or a man who is not good at Talmud study or any other type of Torah study.  Then it is much harder to find a place in the community.

***

Liora suggested I should write down an objective record of my religious growth, but I don’t know where to start.  I literally can not think of anything that I am doing well at the moment, certainly not where I’ve had growth over the last year or two.  The only thing in my life going better is that the religious OCD is more under control now than it was two years ago, and even that flares up a bit at times (like recently).

***

I wonder why anyone reads this blog.  It’s so boring and repetitive, and badly-written.  I only write it to try to shut up the monologue in my head, but it doesn’t work.  According to WordPress, I have 207 followers at the moment (although I think I have a few more following in other ways), but most of those are spam sites that I don’t weed out.  From my likes and comments I think there are ten or twenty people regularly reading what I write, which is ten or twenty more than I would have expected.  Maybe it’s like people staring at car crashes.

***

I’ve had this crazy idea lately that I should write a book titled Everything You Wanted to Know About Orthodox Jews, But Were Too Scared to Ask.  It was originally to be written for non-Jews, because frum (religious) Jews don’t generally explain themselves to non-Jews because Judaism is a non-missionary religion, but I often (well, sometimes) get random non-Jews coming up to me in the street and asking me stuff about Judaism.  But then I thought that maybe non-religious Jews (who, sadly, often know very little about their own heritage) might want to read something non-kiruv-ey (not trying to make non-religious Jews more religious) that was just factual and accessible and also covered non-religious/not only religious topics like “Where does Jewish humour come from?” and “Why do Jews care so much about Israel?”.  But then my mind starts throwing up all the difficulties, like, “I would have to go back to primary sources, the Talmud and the law codes, and my Hebrew (not to mention my Aramaic) isn’t good enough?” and “How can someone as wicked and flawed as me write a religious book?”  Possibly also, “I would write something not acceptable to my rabbi/community and suffer for it.”  Bear in mind I already worry about that with regard to the Doctor Who book I’m working on.  Just writing a book about a TV programme is problematic and I have little hope of hiding it from the community, as if I get published my parents will tell their friends, which include the assistant rabbi’s father, who will tell his son because I know how these people behave.  Still, at the moment it’s hard to believe it will actually get finished and published.  So then I think it is better that I don’t write the book and just hope that someone else does it.

To be honest, there are several books I’d like to write that I don’t think I’m ever going to write, on Judaism and on Doctor Who.  I just don’t seem to be able to get my act together with things, plus I’m still doing a lot of research for the book I’ve started writing.  Part of me wants to just try writing as my job rather than applying for jobs, but I’m too scared to do so.

***

My Dad is upset as it’s his mother’s yortzeit (death anniversary) today, plus tomorrow is the English date of her death; my sister’s mother in law is also having major surgery tomorrow.  In his mind the link is ominous.  I don’t really notice anniversaries that way and this is going to sound terrible, but I don’t get worried about other people the way the rest of my family do.  I feel a terrible person for saying that.  It may be autism (I rather hope it is, otherwise I’m a terrible person), but I don’t really know how to fix other people in my mind in order to worry about them as much as I worry about myself.  I’ve mentioned that I’m somewhat solipsistic in that the world in my head seems infinitely more real than the world of other people.  I struggle to make connections with people, even friends and family.  I suspect I would worry more if I had a wife or children, but it’s hard to be sure.  When I have a crush on someone, she does loom larger in my mind.

Dad wanted me to go to shul (synagogue) with him for Mincha and Ma’ariv (the Afternoon and Evening Services) when he went to say Kaddish, but he didn’t tell me and I had already davened Mincha because I got up too late to daven Shacharit (say the Morning Service) and so wanted to put my tefillin on at Mincha, which I would not do at shul as it would attract attention.  So I feel bad for not going, but on the other hand he didn’t ask me to come (he dropped a hint to Mum, who told me), so I also feel autistic and unable to read other people’s minds.  I feel like a ‘normal’ person would know he wants me to go, given that he usually does, and plan his day accordingly, but I didn’t, because I’m not good at thinking about other people.  This makes me feel like a bad person who is just using autism as an excuse for selfish behaviour.

However, I do have some empathy.  There was a terrorist shooting in Israel last week (the mainstream UK news typically ignored it).  A lot of people were injured, including a pregnant woman and her husband.  Her baby was born by emergency cesarean, but died after a couple of days.  I think the parents are still in hospital, the mother in a medically-induced coma.  This really upset me and I have been praying for the family, but it’s not something I keep thinking about the way I think about my loneliness and depression.  When I see it on a Jewish website or when it is time to pray for them, I feel upset and somewhat angry (at the terrorists and the mainstream global news media that ignores or downplays violence against Jews), but it’s not something I really focus on.  I don’t know if that also makes me a bad person.

***

I don’t even know if I really am autistic.  I’ve had so many conflicting diagnoses that I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% sure one way or the other.  Even in my screening two weeks ago I worry I said the wrong thing, emphasised the wrong traits, gave the wrong answers in the questionnaire, “wrong” in this context meaning things that don’t really apply to me and which I said to get an autism diagnosis.  I know enough about autism now to be able to distort the results even unconsciously.

***

I want to eat all the time at the moment.  I guess it’s comfort eating from depression or clomipramine-induced carbohydrate craving, another reason to want to change meds.  It’s not something I’ve really struggled with in the past, at least not to this extent.  It’s a real effort not to eat junk.  I was eating a lot of nuts and raisins, but then I thought they’re also fattening, so I’m trying not to do that, but when I’m depressed and anhedonic and not enjoying anything, it’s hard to cut out something I do enjoy.  However, I have ended up overweight lately and it isn’t doing anything for my self-esteem or belief that I might be able to date one day.

***

I followed someone on Twitter even though I’m trying not to use it any more.  And I did it mainly because she follows this blog, and I thought she might want to be nudged in the direction of my Doctor Who blog and couldn’t think how else to flag up its existence without betraying my Secret Identity.

Basically, I don’t understand half the stuff I do and I don’t know whether it’s autism, mental illness or me just being stupid and weird.  Currently, my mind is on me being stupid and weird.

***

I’m trying to do what Yolanda said and write something good about myself, but I can’t think of anything.  I really am a terrible person.

Triviality in Extremis

The title is a deliberate contradiction which sums up how I feel at the moment: that I’m struggling with powerful emotions, but the things I achieve are trivial and pointless.  Tonight I was reminded that when you’re exhausted and hungry and lonely and depressed (indeed, thoroughly miserable) and reading about transgressive art and its roots in the collapse of religious faith after World War I, it can be hard to remember that you believe in God and transcendent truth and meaning and purpose.

Other than that, today was dull, in distressing ways.  I sat at my desk crying again this afternoon, trying not to be seen by anyone.  It was easy, because, while in the morning I was seated between my boss and the other temp, around lunch time they moved away.  I’m really trying to tell myself that wasn’t anything to do with me.  I tried listening to music at work to blot out the noise of people talking, but I simply can’t concentrate on anything requiring even a minimum of brainpower with music going.  I thought music might be at least an improvement on chatter, but it turns out to be harder to block out.  Another suggestion of autism.

I think about death a lot, and how much I want to die.  Death does seem seem rather pointless (see my first paragraph), but so does life.  I don’t really enjoy anything at the moment.  I said this to my Mum and she listed a load of things that she thought I enjoy, but I’m not sure that I do, at least not at the moment.  I might enjoy reading and watching Doctor Who on some level, but I think some days it’s a struggle even to do that, and certainly my enjoyment is impaired even if it is there to some extent.  I certainly don’t enjoy (or do) anything further up Maslow’s pyramid, or requiring greater concentration or commitment.  Even with Doctor Who, I’ve basically given myself a task to do with it (write my book) rather than being able just to enjoy watching it.

A couple of people responded to my post from yesterday saying I should try to date the woman my Mum wants to set me up with.  I’m open to that in theory, although really sceptical about whether anything good can come of it.  My track record with shidduchim (blind dates) is not good.  I know shidduchim are the main way people meet in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) world, but I’m fairly convinced the matches happen by pot luck rather than any precise matchmaking logic: throw enough young men and young women together and biology will do its work sooner or later.  I don’t really have any hopes for someone as weird, geeky and messed up as me – or, to put it slightly more nicely, I don’t have hopes of meeting someone equally unconventional.  Up until now, every attempt at dating has been derailed by my geeky weirdness or my mental health issues and related precarious financial situation (worse than precarious, actually, as that would imply a degree of stability that might be lost, whereas I don’t have any stability to start with).  The only exception was the first woman I dated, and that was derailed by her failure to respect my boundaries and the fact that we were going in different religious directions.  She at least was geeky (I guess E. is also geeky, in a way), but her understanding of my mental health issues was unfortunately undermined by her own issues, which resulted in her inability to respect my boundaries in a healthy way; that she simply ignored me when my depression was bad can, I suppose, also be seen as a boundary problem, if you want to be generous.

I don’t know enough about the woman my Mum wants to set me up with (I need a shorthand for that) to know if she’s likely to be geeky or understanding of mental health issues (and related poverty) and it scares me that the only way to find out is to go on a date with her.  I tried asking my Mum for information, but she clearly didn’t know anything beyond, “Single, frum, early thirties, lives locally” nor did she really understand why I would want to know anything more in advance of a date.  I did possibly find her LinkedIn page and she had an unusual choice of degree subject, which makes me think maybe she is somewhat quirky and unusual, but people do sometimes end up doing weird degrees for pragmatic reasons, like not getting on their first choice course.

Beyond that, I just feel that there’s zero point in going on a date at the moment, with my mood and my financial situation as they are.  I feel no one could ever want me in this state (I find it hard to think anyone could want me in any state, but certainly not like this) and I should wait until I see a psychiatrist to discuss medication changes and try to get some CBT to see if that can help my self-esteem issues, but both those things are going to take a while to happen.

Sukkot and Stress

Today has been stressful and isn’t over yet.  I had to phone someone to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.  I phoned at lunch time and was told the person I needed to speak to (I assumed the psychiatrist) was with a patient; he would phone back later.  I wasn’t brilliantly happy about being phoned at work, but I consented.

I was phoned near the end of the day, when I was rushing to finish the work I was set (I was set more than usual and as my boss was off sick, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to do all of it or not, so I rushed the last bit to get it done (although I was still late) and I am now worried that I made mistakes; the other temp said she sees it as an ongoing project and doesn’t rush to finish).  Because I was stressed, I was not in a positive state of mind to start with, but it quickly became apparent that the person I was talking to was not a psychiatrist, but some type of administrator (the NHS is full of administrators).  He also clearly had no idea of my case history.  One might think that one advantage of a huge socialised healthcare system is easy sharing of information.  One might think that.  It never happens.  I don’t think there are actually accurate records of all the medication I’ve been on over the last fifteen years, which scares me.

He seemed horrified that I haven’t had CBT (actually I have, I clarified, but fifteen years ago).  I got the impression that he seemed bemused that a quick burst of CBT and some antidepressants hadn’t sorted me out long ago, because obviously no one could have serious depression.  He suggested that I access the IAPT and self-refer to some local group that offers… well, I’m not quite sure what it offers as the guy was not talking clearly and I had half switched-off when I realised that he had no idea of who I was and what my problems are and was trying to fit this very square peg in a round hole.  (The other half switched off when he admitted he was phoning me from his car.)  But I think they offer occupational support and group work, although I’m not sure if that’s proper occupational therapy and group therapy.  I don’t need the former as I’m working at the moment (the guy browbeat me into saying that I could go on my day off as I only work four days a week; I couldn’t be bothered to tell him about Shabbat and early winter Fridays) and I don’t really need a therapy group as I have depression group and autism group.  But I said I would self-refer, because it can’t hurt and because I felt it was the only way I could get my real prize, a referral to a proper psychiatrist and maybe some CBT on the NHS (rather than privately) to work on my self-esteem and social anxiety, which would be a win if I can get it to fit with work and Shabbat.

I feel bad that I was a bit short with this guy, but I was at work and had nowhere private to go (it’s an open plan office) so I was in the toilet, with other people, with the cleaner going in and out, trying to be heard on the phone but not by other people, talking aloud about really private stuff, realising I was talking to someone who had no idea who I am or what my problems are and who is just trying to tick a load of boxes that are either unhelpful or which I ticked over a decade ago without result.  (I actually really hate the NHS and half hope someone will have the guts to privatise it, which is not what long-term NHS users are supposed to say; we’re supposed to be all, “Oooh, Jeremy Corbyn, save the NHS from Evil Tories!”  I don’t think a privately-run system will be any better, but at least it won’t be a political football any more and we might get rid of some pointless bureaucrats.)

Anyway…

The other news is that on my lunch break I finished the complex PTSD book (albeit that I skipped some not so relevant bits).  It was a useful description of trauma and emotional flashbacks and makes me think that there probably is an element of trauma in my history and it might be why I struggle to make progress with traditional depression treatments.  I have, however, already mentioned my fears that the attitude of “Your parents were abusive and you have to stop wanting to please them” isn’t terribly helpful for someone who wasn’t actually abused.  Also, while the book keeps talking about the need for unconditional self-love, it doesn’t always make clear (a) how to do this (although it did make me realise that my catastrophising about being single forever is a form of self-criticism) and (b) how to self-love without becoming a narcissist.  I have fears that if I stop beating myself up, I will inevitably end up like Donald Trump.  Plus, it doesn’t tell me how to love myself when I feel that I have genuinely done terrible things that are not deserving of forgiveness, or at least not until I have improved my ways a lot more than I have managed until now.

But my ordeal was not over.  I came home exhausted and hungry, but my father’s oldest friend was coming over to eat in the sukkah (the temporary hut Jews eat in on Sukkot to remember the Israelites in the wilderness).  I get annoyed at the way that my parents make me say hello to their friends generally, as it always seems awkward (I don’t know what to say or do), but at least I know their local friends.  Their non-local friends are harder to talk to, but this friend is hardest of all.  I have always found him overbearing, both in size (he’s well over six foot tall) and manner.  Frankly, although I can only remember one or two concrete instances, I always think of him as teasing me in a way that feels less friendly for me than he probably thinks.  (And this was before he spent a couple of years in a German prison for drug smuggling – seriously.)  I said hello from a distance, and disappeared.  He made a comment about hearing me from a distance and my parents were annoyed, but these days I have not got patience for difficult people.  Plus, I suppose my father’s oldest friend being here just reminds me how I’ve drifted from my own oldest friend, who I am still vaguely in contact with, but who I haven’t seen for years and who forgets I’m not on Facebook, so I found out about the birth of his children late, through my sister, which upset me, although I suppose it’s not his fault.  My father’s friend is still here and I can here him and my parents through my window, which is depressing me and making me worried that I will still  have to speak to him.

Shiur (religious class) also upset me.  The usual self-critical thoughts about not being holy like everyone else, not having simcha shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments) or simcha at all, not being married… plus everyone else got there early (I’m guessing there was a WhatsApp message I missed because my phone is not working properly) and was seated in the sukkah and eating before I got there, so I missed the social side and I didn’t get a drink because the plastic cups ran out and I was too shy to ask for another one.  I was too shy to answer any questions too, although I knew the answers to a few and could have showed off, although I suppose that’s no great loss.  Someone there was very rude, pressuring people to go to a fund-raising event and to bring whisky to shul on Simchat Torah next week when he doesn’t know people’s time and financial commitments (and some may, like me, avoid things due to social anxiety or some other legitimate reason).  This was the same person who, on finding out that I’m single, responded that it was “time” for me to get married, as if I was overwhelmed with offers of marriage and was foolishly wasting my time in hedonistic pleasure seeking (which is the exact opposite of my depressive anhedonia).  (To be fair, he did also offer to have me over to his house for Shabbat meals while I’m single.)  This shouldn’t have upset me, but obviously it did, because I’m still angry nearly two hours later.  This person is probably very holy (at any rate, all he seems to do is “learn” Torah), but perhaps he is so holy he forgets how ordinary people have to live.  Maybe that’s something I can take from my misery, that at least it has made me marginally more empathic and non-judgemental than I might otherwise have been, although if this is me with empathy and tolerance, I worry what me without them would look like.

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).

Shame

I went to the doctor about my medication.  He prescribed 10mg tablets, but was wary of giving me a lot given that I was feeling suicidal last week.  He prescribed for two weeks (upping the dosage to 80mg twice a day, to avoid having to split a tablet), to get me through the holiday and gave me a post-dated prescription for another two weeks that I can’t get until I come back.  However, the chemist has now run out of the 10mg tablets.  I should have enough to get through the holiday, when I add in the tablets I’ve already got, but I don’t know what will happen if they still don’t have any when I get back.  Taking twenty-four tablets a day is going to be a pain, but going cold turkey from the only antidepressant that has ever been really effective for me will be worse.

I go to New York on Sunday.  I may be able to see some friends other than E. when I’m in New York, but it’s not clear.  They’ve left it to the last minute and are squeezing me in at the end of the trip, if I’m lucky.  I hope I can get WiFi there, as all my arrangements are going to have to be via WhatsApp.

I’m just thinking depressed stuff about not having friends, God hating me and so on.  I was going to write about it, but I’ve written it before and I don’t know how true it is.  I mean, people probably don’t hate me.  Even the friends who don’t get in touch (which is most of them) probably just forget about me rather than hating me, especially as I don’t use Facebook.  My oldest friend forgot to tell me about the birth of both his daughters because I’m not on Facebook.  I heard through my sister.  I haven’t seen him in years now.  I guess he’s always busy now he’s a rabbi.  But it does seem that I have a history of being friends with unreliable people who stand me up or don’t get in contact.  At least E. and my non-biological sisters contact me and respond when I contact them.  For years I didn’t have any friends like that.

I feel the frum (religious) world I feel can be cliquey.  People have their friendship groups and it’s hard to join, even aside from my issues about talking to strangers.  I think people often make new friends through mutual friends, so it’s hard for me to as I don’t have many frum friends.  Nor do I go to shul (synagogue) much to meet people that way, and I don’t have children to meet people through their school.  I guess also people don’t know what to do with single people in the frum world, at least over the age of twenty-three or so.  I guess if you invite them to meals, you have to invite two, to balance the numbers (because everyone else is there with a spouse), so it’s easier not to invite them.  People aren’t rude to me about my being single, but I’ve heard other people complain they are, which also scares me off from trying to make friends a bit and makes me even more ashamed to be single, which I guess is silly as I won’t get set up on dates if I don’t try to socialise more.  That said, I’m more scared about being rejected for being not frum enough and being geeky.  A lot of frum people only socialise with people on the same level of frumkeit.  I’m weird in having non-frum and non-Jewish friends (I sometimes wonder what would happen if I do get married and all my friends get to be in the same room as each other.  I’m not sure how they would react).  I feel too weird to fit into the frum world and am ashamed of my geeky interests and try to hide them as much as possible from other frum people, although I feel anxious about sharing my geekiness and Doctor Who fandom with anyone really, a legacy of childhood bullying.  Now I’m unemployed too, so that’s a whole new measure of shame (actually, I’m technically still under contract for another three weeks or so).

I don’t really enjoy anything in the world and I haven’t since I was a teenager.  I don’t care much about food, I don’t drink, I’ve never taken drugs or smoked, I don’t travel much.  I don’t enjoy my religious life, I get no simchah shel mitzvah (joy in the commandments).  I envy the people who enjoy Torah study and are refreshed by davening (prayer); they are just chores to me most of the time.  I don’t get much enjoyment from music.  I get a bit of pleasure from books and my favourite TV programmes, but perhaps not as much as other people seem to get.  I don’t get hyper about new Doctor Who episodes the way some fans do, and probably not just because I prefer the original series.  I don’t even binge watch really.  Even when I’m very depressed, it’s very rare for me to watch more than an hour or an hour and a half of TV in a day.  I can’t spend a whole afternoon and evening watching TV the way my mum and my sister can, I just feel too guilty for wasting my time.  The same goes for reading, although when I’m depressed it’s hard to read for long anyway.  Someone at my shul only seems to enjoy three things: Talmud study, his family and whisky, but he is a very happy person with these three things.  I just have anhedonia and can’t enjoy anything.

The only joy and pleasure I really want is to love and be loved, and it seems that is denied me.  I really want to talk about my childhood and the root causes of my issues here, but I can’t for various reasons.  I just feel that I have never experienced love in an uncomplicated, healthy way since I was four or five years old.  All the authority figures in my life have made love conditional or just ignored me.  Because of this, I just assume that HaShem (God) is the same, that His love for me needs to be earned, and whatever I do won’t be good enough to earn it.  So He punishes me by withholding the one thing I want, to love and be loved by a gentle, kind woman, and by making me depressed and socially anxious all the time.  People tell me HaShem doesn’t hate me, but it definitely seems that way looking at my life, especially when I compare to that of many other people.  I know shouldn’t compare, but it’s hard.

My oldest friend, who I mentioned above, has had big issues in his life, but he always bounces back.  When I had to take time out from university in my final year, I never fully recovered and I struggled through my final year with severe depression and loneliness.  When he had to take a year out, he recovered within a few weeks, spent the rest of his year off in paid employment, then went back to university and finished his degree.  He got paid to train as a rabbi and was assured of a job.  I try not to envy him, but it’s hard.  We grew up together and everyone compared us, because we were inseparable until we were thirteen or so and we looked somewhat alike (except that he was much taller, stronger and more striking with red hair).  But, like the two identical goats from the ancient Yom Kippur service, our fates since then have been very different.

Mind you, it’s not just him I compare myself against.  One of the friends I might possibly see in New York just had an article published in my beloved Jewish Review of Books.  I feel I should be doing things like that.  He’s had several books published.  I feel so inadequate compared to both of these friends, and to most of my friends.  Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to form friendships, because I’m ashamed of myself compared to most people.  It would explain why my close friendships are with people who are also struggling, and why they sometimes end when they get their lives together again.

I know I can’t tell what will happen in the future, my life may improve (I don’t want his life to get worse.  I don’t want to take away other people’s blessings, just to have some for myself).  But it doesn’t feel like it could after all these years, especially as I don’t know why HaShem would suddenly decide to bless me when I’m such a wicked person and when He seems to hate me so much.

I don’t feel I’m asking much out of life from HaShem: the mental health to fulfil and enjoy the mitzvot (commandments) like a good Jew, someone to love who really loves me and understands and accepts me, and with whom I can have happy and healthy children, and enough money to pay the bills and save a little for my old age.  A few friends who can accept me.  But it seems even that is too much and I don’t know why.  I feel like since childhood I’ve been told (by actions and sometimes explicitly in words) that I’m useless, I’m not good enough, I’m not deserving of love.  I’ve had to work twice as hard as everyone else to get any kind of recognition or support and even then I’m constantly told that I’m not doing well enough, I’m not trying hard enough, even though I’m trying my best with minimal energy, concentration, motivation, mental health…

I know I have to love and accept myself before anyone else will love and accept me, but (a) I have heard of lucky people who were loved without loving themselves and were healed as a result and (b) I don’t know how to love myself when it has been drilled into me that I’m useless and reprehensible and deservedly hated by almost everyone and by HaShem.  Even reading this post back it just seems clichéd, pointless and badly written, like every other post on my blog.

Hieronimo is Mad Againe

I technically have treatment-resistant depression, which means, as the name implies, that it doesn’t go away whatever I do to try to shift it.  I feel like I’ve tried everything over the last fifteen years: medication, psychotherapy, CBT, occupational therapy/work, diet, vitamin supplements, meditation, exercise, light therapy (admittedly with a sunrise alarm clock rather than a light box), trying to get alternative/supplementary diagnoses (bipolar disorder, autism), creativity, prayer… apart from ECT, which my psychiatrist, when I was seeing her, wouldn’t allow me to have, I’m not sure what else I can do (I don’t believe in alternative medicine (despite my attempt at light therapy) or segulot).  But, of course, strangers don’t know that and everyone has their method that “must” work, which is one reason I shy away from telling people about my depress

Not having a job or a spouse is depressing, but it’s hard to get either when you are depressed, which makes getting better very difficult.  Likewise, although perhaps not to the same extent, with loneliness.  I don’t think people like me can maintain friendships long-term or hold down jobs long-term, let alone date and marry.  Only recovery would hold any hope for me, but I have long since given up hope of recovery.

I feel I have let everyone down again.  I think I’m probably incapable of feeling love.  I’m too selfish.  Maybe people intuit that and stay away from me.

One of my non-biological sisters (friends who are like older sisters to me) read my post last night and said my only priority should be getting better.  I guess it should be, but I don’t know how.  I spent a few minutes proof-reading and posting a post I wrote a week or two ago, but never got around to posting, on my Doctor Who blog, about the narrow sub-genre of TV science fiction I enjoy so much.  For a few minutes, I forgot how depressed I am.  I need to find a way to get paid for doing this, even if it isn’t my main career.  I don’t really know how to get started though and I fear my interests are too narrow and my lack of awareness of academic cultural studies jargon and theory would be a fatal handicap.

Every so often I seem to think of the story of Jeff in this article from Aish that I read years ago, although today I came across it again by chance.  It upsets me.  Apparently, God doesn’t answer my prayers because I’m not “sincere” enough.  This is apparently shown by the fact that I don’t expect good things from him and don’t think myself worthy of good things.  Sigh.  I’ve been bullied and emotionally neglected from a young age.  I’ve been depressed for fifteen or twenty years or more.  I have learnt from this to have zero self-esteem and to think that I’m wicked and worthless.  How am I supposed to expect things to get better when all the evidence shows that God hates me (as does almost everyone else) and only wants difficult things for me?  It’s hurtful to say it’s all my own fault when I have faulty brain chemistry and a difficult mental health history.

How am I supposed to change what I believe?  I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, which is hard enough at times.  Ignoring the question of whether I should in fact be rewarded for that belief rather than punished, the only way I can square this with my life-long experience and pain is to believe this is somehow what I deserve or at least need.  So how do I believe that things will change when I have no evidence that I am less wicked, or that God has changed what He thinks about me, or that He wants me to do anything in this world other than suffer, for whatever reason?  All the evidence of my life points that way.  Whenever things seem to go better for a moment, like when I started my last job or was dating E. and I become thankful to God and hopeful that things will change, I seem to be punished and have everything taken away from me again.  There’s a concept in Judaism that while we believe in  miracles, we aren’t allowed to pray for them, only for natural salvation.  If you lose your job, you can pray for a new one, but if you lose your legs, you can’t pray that you spontaneously grow a new pair, not because God can’t do it, but because the average person is not worthy of such a miracle.  I think it’s clear by this stage that my depression is not going away by anything less than miraculous intervention.  Unfortunately, the article is nearly twenty years old and the rabbi who wrote it  has passed away, so I can’t ask him what I should do.

I have twice in the last twenty-four hours, without really intending it, found myself shouting at God to “F*** off,” at least in my head.  I don’t even feel guilty, as I feel He’s been saying the same to me for thirty-five years.  I feel agitated again.  I suddenly had a burst of energy and went for a brisk walk and after ten minutes I ran out of energy and had to get home somehow.  I thought about throwing myself under a car and I wasn’t sure if that was a serious suicidal thought, a symptom of the agitation or just more pure O OCD.  It’s hard to tell when it’s so quick, like I can’t really tell if I really want to tell God to f*** off or if it’s just my depressed/agitated/who-knows-what thoughts.

This article from Aish was more helpful than the other one, although I’m not sure I know how to use the ideas.  I can’t do things that make me happy, because nothing much makes me happy right now (anhedonia).  I did mention writing above, but I feel whatever energy and brainpower I have for that should be going on job hunting and I’m not sure I really have the concentration and motivation to write right anything coherent now (this post is increasingly incoherent).  I will try to accept that resilience takes time, although I don’t think I’ve grown more resilient over the many years that I have been depressed.  And while I accept there are major lows, there don’t seem to be any countervailing highs.  And the ‘new normal’ has been my normal for so long that it’s the good times that seem like the aberrations and I don’t know how to adjust to this.

I also came across an old Hevria post from last year that I had forgotten about.  It’s about being an introvert in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) community.  I had written a long self-hating comment there about not fitting in and generally being a useless person.  Someone commented back but I didn’t receive the comment at the time because he replied to the comment below mine by mistake.  S/he said that my introversion is part of my life mission.  This may be true, but as I have no idea what my life mission is, except that it seems to involve an inordinate amount of psychological pain and that no one can help me find out what it is, this is not terribly helpful.

I revised my CV, although there was not a lot to add to it from the last few months.  I really hate the personal interests section.  I don’t know why employers ask for it.  What they are basically asking is, “Please tell me that you have unusual and interesting hobbies, preferably ones that involve intelligence, extroversion and team work, but also imply that you rarely get a chance to pursue these hobbies because you’re so fanatically devoted to work.  Do not under any circumstances imply that you enjoy solitary, introvert things like reading, watching TV, blogging, going for walks (hiking in groups is acceptable) or just sitting idly with your thoughts.  Don’t even think about implying that you prefer your hobbies to your career and that in the ideal world, you would find a way of making your hobby into your job.”  Apparently, rather than just listing stuff I’ve been paid to do, I also need to highlight “Key Achievements”.  I have literally no idea what my key achievements are.  Sometimes (like this week) just getting through the day without hurting myself is an achievement, but that’s not really something to put there.

Stuff online reminds me that most people are having a lot more sex than I am.  Some people are even loved with it.  Mind you, the monks in The Name of the Rose were having more sex than I am, and they were supposed to be celibate.  I feel so lonely.  And, for all a a few people have said I’m a good writer, I find it hard to believe, given that I’ve had such little interest in my writing.  Nor does it seem better to me than the bulk of writing online and in the press, although to be fair it doesn’t seem much worse (and I use a lot less cliquey slang, although in these postmodern, anti-elitist times, that’s probably a criticism).  But I’m never going to be a literary novelist or even a literary essayist.  Even if my thoughts weren’t word soup.

Other stupid things I’ve done today: google my ex (not E., my first ex, from five years ago) even though I know she’s no longer religious and I would probably have very little in common with how her life has gone now, which makes me sad for reasons I can’t explain, and also because, as a bi-pride campaigner, she’s dealing with her sexuality issues in a rather more tangible way than I’ve ever managed to deal with mine.  Also: think about suicide, google to see how lethal my antidepressants are, and start counting up how many I had “just out of curiosity.”  Feeling very agitated and worried for myself again.

Trying to listen to calming classical music, but I don’t really know classical music, and what I do know is lively, so it was Pachelbel’s Canon again.  Music to go mad to, I suppose.  Dave Owen suggested years ago that one day the Doctor should regenerate because of insanity rather than physical injury.  I’d like to see that.  I suppose it would be considered unheroic nowadays.

So: agitation, can’t concentrate, racing thoughts, pacing, biting nails, wringing hands, hitting myself, thinking and reading about death and suicide… I should probably be on suicide watch, but I’m scared of telling my parents.  I was planning on being home from tomorrow afternoon to some time on Monday anyway for various reasons, so I guess that’s good, I can see what happens without telling anyone.

Struggling

Warning: contains excessive self-loathing and self-pity which may induce vomiting.  Do not drive while reading.

I felt really agitated again late last night, although I managed not to post again, although that was a struggle.  Posting can be compulsive at times.  I overslept again and struggled to get up.  The heat still doesn’t help, but I’m so exhausted even when I wake after hours of sleep.

I’m crying again.

I feel guilty that my non-biological sisters and E. have been in touch yesterday and today and I still feel bad.  It doesn’t really help when I speak to my parents either; if anything, I feel they understand me less, but I feel I’ve let them down even more, which just makes me avoid talking to them, which never works.  I say I want people to be in contact, but when they do, I don’t know what to say and feel awkward and guilty for not feeling better after they message.  I also feel like I’m taking advantage of E.’s feelings for me to stay in contact with her and get her to message me when I’m down when really I should let her have a clean break from me.

Also, friends and parents being in touch means I continually have to tell people that I have a plan, I have a schedule, but in reality I’m just too depressed to stick to them.  I oversleep, take hours to get enough energy to get up and have breakfast, shamble around the flat like an extra in a zombie film, procrastinate (sometimes literally for hours), rush through the late afternoon trying to get stuff done, but also procrastinating, then I stay up late trying to do things and oversleep the next day.  Trying to cut my losses and going to bed early doesn’t usually lead to getting up earlier the next day, though, as exhaustion is due to depression rather than activity and lack of sleep and even if I do sort out my sleep, at the moment late summer Shabbat (Sabbath) times mean Friday and Saturday are guaranteed to be late nights (very late in the case of Saturday where I don’t get back from shul (synagogue) until gone 11.00pm) and disrupt everything again.

I feel stupid and useless.

I cleaned the flat, but felt frustrated that I could only do it half-heartedly.  I would feel better in a cleaner environment, but I don’t have the energy for really thorough cleaning and having a clean flat is lower down my list of priorities than job hunting or exercise (of which I have done very little lately).

The final chapter of my Doctor Who book is floundering on the fact that I can’t think of much original or interesting to say about Steven Moffat’s time on the show, particularly about Clara and about the monsters.  I feel even more stupid and useless.

I had dinner with a friend.  It took about an hour for me to adjust from feeling lonely/depressed/socially anxious to make reasonable conversation.  I have a lot of anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) at the moment.  I’m an introvert, so it’s unsurprising that I can find conversation hard, but I can’t enjoy watching DVDs or reading.  In fact, I can’t really concentrate to read properly at all (or write properly; I fear this is incoherent).

My friend is a researcher and writer so I asked him a bit about his research and writing jobs (historical and Doctor Who).  He said that they have come either from his PhD work or personal contacts, which is not good news for me.  I think I would go crazy and kill myself if I did a PhD and I am not involved enough in Doctor Who fandom to have contacts in it, for various reasons.  Online message boards can be time-consuming and full of craziness (I was more involved in online fandom years ago, when I was too depressed to even try to find a job).  I’ve been nervous about going to conventions, partly from practical religious reasons (Shabbat, kashrut), partly from social anxiety/autism reasons (crowds, strangers), partly because my experiences of fandom online makes me feel that I don’t really fit in any of the subcultures.  Still, my friend said he would see if he could put my name forward for some freelance work.

As well as that, I signed up to try to get some careers advice and for some more job alert emails from different agencies.

I feel as if I have let everyone down and I’m not even entirely sure how.  I’m avoiding my parents and my sister because I don’t know what to say to them.  E. and my non-biological sisters keep messaging and I feel that I’m not doing what they think I should be doing.  I feel so useless, professionally, personally and religiously.  I don’t feel that I’m the answer to anyone’s question, again professionally, personally and religiously.  I just want to cry.

Some depressed and/or unemployed people work with children or animals.  I like children (young children, not the teenagers I used to work with), but I’m nervous of working with them and they can set off my OCD.  I’m a bit scared of animals.  My family are pretty anti-pets.  I vaguely floated the idea of getting a cat when I move back with my parents only to have it shot down pretty quickly.  Plus they say I’ll just feel worse when it dies, which is probably true, although that seems like the kind of frightened running away they are always telling me not to do.

I sometimes wonder if I seem too functional for my own good.  I’ve met people online and then in person and I always warn them I’m not so functional in person as I am online, but they usually say I’m fine, just quiet.  I wonder if I come across as more functional than I actually am.  If I was just lying in bed all day feeling awful maybe people wouldn’t expect so much of me.  But I would still expect things of myself.  So, I get up every day, even when I don’t feel like it.

In the second Sapphire and Steel story, a malevolent entity, The Darkness, is feeding off the resentment of ghosts whose lives were wrongly cut short.  In the end, Steel rather ruthlessly deals with it by letting it consume innocent ghost-hunter Tully years before his time (this in a children’s programme!).  I feel that The Darkness would have a lot of resentment to feed on from me.  I feel I’ve lost fifteen or twenty years of my life and seem destined to lose the rest and I don’t know what to do about it.

Prufrock

I went to the cinema today to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  It was difficult.  Just getting the energy to go there was hard enough.  I nearly turned back at the bus stop.  The shopping centre the cinema is in was full of sales shopper, far too busy for me.  The film did not really hold my attention and I suddenly started crying in the middle of it (silently, thankfully).  My mind kept wandering to other thoughts, some prompted by the film, others just coming out of nowhere.  Well, not really nowhere, they are the thoughts I have all the time, but they weren’t directly sparked by the film.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is the concepts of yeud and tikkun (destiny/mission and rectification) in Judaism.  The concepts are particularly associated with kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and mussar (ethical character development), but are not unique to them.  Yeud is one’s mission or purpose in life and is a positive action to be done; tikkun is a the key character flaw that one has to rectify in oneself and often manifests as an action to be avoided.

I have been thinking about them with regard to dating and more generally.  I don’t know what my yeud or tikkun are.  I have heard that to find your yeud, you should think about what you would do with unlimited time and money.  I honestly don’t know what I would do.  Going by what I enjoy doesn’t help as depressive anhedonia means that I don’t really enjoy anything very much.  I suppose enjoy writing; at any rate, I give up my lunch breaks at work to write (my book or my blog), so I guess it must have some meaning and joy for me.  But I’m a very bad writer and over a decade of practise hasn’t got me very far.  I very much doubt I will ever get that book published, for example.  In any case, I can’t imagine HaShem (God) put me on earth to write about Doctor Who or to witter on endlessly about how depressed and lonely I am.  When I was too depressed to work I had lots of time (albeit with limited money and no energy and poor concentration and motivation) and I did do a lot of writing.  However, it never really got me anywhere, bar getting a couple of readers who are still with me on this blog.  Even then I spent a lot of time just idly surfing the net, looking for something but not knowing what.  I guess this is where a lot of people start looking at religion, to find meaning or purpose, except that I already have religion and it doesn’t help me in these respects.  Maybe it would be different if I could write something decent and meaningful: poetry, fiction, criticism, mental health-related writing – I have tried all without much success (success both in terms of number of readers and feeling I have achieved something/happiness with what I have done).

As for my tikkun, that’s just as hard to find.  I can think of lots of character flaws or religious flaws that I have.  Working out which is the most serious is rather harder.  Maybe if I understood properly I would see they come under a general heading like, “Be accepting of others” or even “Be accepting of yourself.”

I have been thinking a lot recently of Lord Lundy who, according to Hillaire Belloc (a raging antisemite, but we’ll ignore that for now) “was too freely moved to tears and thereby ruined his political career” and not just because I cry a lot at the moment.  It’s this verse I keep thinking of: “‘Sir! you have disappointed us!/We had intended you to be/The next Prime Minister but three:/The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:/The Middle Class was quite prepared./But as it is! . . . My language fails!/Go out and govern New South Wales!”  I don’t think anyone was literally expecting me to be the next Prime Minister but three, but I have long felt myself to be a disappointment to my parents and teachers.  My parents deny this and most of my teachers have probably forgotten me (they could barely remember me when I was still in school/university), but still the feeling persists.  The feeling that I should have done something with my life, more than just being “a poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian” at an FE college somewhere.  That I had the brains and background to make something of my life, and I lost it because of my mental health.  I look at my peers (the few I’m still in touch with) and see doctors, lawyers, rabbis, executives of big charities, civil servants, political speechwriters…  It’s very dispiriting to compare myself.  I know, I shouldn’t compare myself.  But as long as I can’t find my yeud, my mission and be satisfied that I’m doing something worthwhile, in fact what I was put here to do, the best thing that it is possible for me to do, I will keep comparing myself.  And, of course, I fear any woman I might be interested in is comparing me negatively with a lot of other, more eligible, men.

On a somewhat related note: on a whim I decided to email the shadchan (matchmaker) for people with medical issues a second time before going to the general matchmaking site.  I didn’t think anything would come of it, but within a couple of hours she had replied.  She wants me to send a “shidduch profile”.  I was aware that I would have to write one, but I’m only vaguely aware of what goes on it.  Basic stuff I suppose, as on a CV, like age, height, profession, interests.  What one is looking for in a spouse.  I suppose a man should put what yeshiva he went to, but obviously I can’t.  I’ve done this kind of thing before for online dating, but I don’t know if there are specific frummie (religious) things I should be putting on there and I don’t know who to ask.

This page is helpful, but also frightening.  Do they really need to know my parents’ shul (synagogue)?  And my sister’s name and spouse?  I was aware that this sort of thing goes on in the frum world, but somehow I hoped to avoid it.  Do I put this stuff in or wait to be asked for it?  And I guess I count as having a “non-standard background”.  The frum world really annoys me sometimes.

I feel thoroughly pessimistic about this whole thing.  I sat in the cinema today feeling thoroughly lonely and miserable, thinking that no one could ever love me.  On the way home, I got the email from the shadchan, which just made me feel worse.  I’m sure I’m going to fall foul of an “unknown unknown,” some arcane aspect of frum protocol that has no basis in halakhah (Jewish law), but which I would know if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or if I was better integrated into frum society.  If I somehow fail to do that, my issues and freakish personality will see off anyone who might be interested in my profile.  I feel I shouldn’t even bother writing the profile, but just accept that I’m going to be lonely forever and do something else with my life, something productive.  But, as we’ve seen, I’m not actually capable of doing anything productive.

I suspect I’m going to spend the rest of the evening in a miserable funk.  I’m vaguely sorry for writing such a ridiculously self-pitying post, but I guess it’s my blog and I’m not making anyone read it.  I guess it’s better to write this than go back to self-harming.

Addiction (Books Do Furnish a Room)

I don’t have many vices, or indeed things I enjoy, but I have an addiction to buying second-hand books.  Being a librarian allows me to feed my addiction, as I can buy cheap books off the withdrawn pile.  But whatever slight boost I get from buying them (and it is a slight boost, my anhedonia sees to that) is eroded later when I realise I’m never going to read all the books I buy.

Today I ended up with four books from the “for sale” pile.  One on Islamism, one on politics and economics (deliberately buying something that will challenge my political views, vague and contradictory as they are), one on political history (probably the most interesting-looking) and one on psychology: one of Maslow’s books on self-actualisation.  I thought should at least own the book, given that I use his hierarchy of needs to beat myself up about the impossibility of my ever being happy and having “peak experiences” when so many of my basic needs can not be met.

Goodness knows when I will get to read the books.  I don’t have much time for recreational reading as it is between my job, the book I’m writing, my blog (which is often a need for self-expression rather than a luxury) and my religious obligations; when I do have time to read I’m often too tired or too depressed to do so, and all these books look heavy-going.  I already have a huge ‘too read’ pile (or piles, plural, as I’m a re-reader – it often takes me two goes to really ‘get’ a serious book, whether fiction or non-fiction; the same goes for TV and film, incidentally) and I’m getting stack more books for Chanukah, possibly indicative of a lack of imagination on my part.  There was no point asking for DVDs as I’m going to be stuck watching Doctor Who for another year or so as research for my book.  I would like a new tie for shul, but other than that I hate getting clothes for presents, as I have little interest in them.  I wanted something I would enjoy after a difficult, tiring term with resurgent depression and lots of little somethings on several nights of Chanukah (rather than one big one on first night) so I could feel I had some parental attention after my sister’s wedding even if the monetary cost to them is the same.  We don’t do surprise presents very much in my family and anyway my sister is the only person I really trust to buy me surprise presents, so I had to choose something.  Anyway, the librarian doth protest too much, methinks.

Still, I once worked out I spend about £1 a week on books.  Even if I spend twice that, it’s still only about £100 a year and I do at least read some of them.  As hobbies go, it’s cheaper than most.  £100 would be fewer than ten trips to the cinema, and I must get more than 30 hours of pleasure out of a year’s worth of books.