Busy Day

Today was a day when a lot seemed to happen, even though I don’t necessarily have much immediately obvious to show for it.

I was woken up by the phone ringing at 10.00am.  It turned out to be the person who interviewed me last week.  I got the job!  It’s for twelve weeks with the possibility of being extended for a few more.  I was told at the interview last week that the job is boring and not something I would want to do as a career, but I’m glad not to be unemployed.  Although I’m nervous about going into a new job and then almost immediately going into the autumn Yom Tovim (Jewish festivals), which are going to disrupt the first month or so.  At least my employer seems to be OK with that.  I’ll be working Monday to Thursday most of the time, so I won’t have to worry about leaving early on Fridays to be home for Shabbat except for the first few weeks when I’m making up Yom Tov time on the Fridays.  The job is ‘data researcher’ which sounds very grand, but I’ll basically be googling people’s contact information on company websites and cutting and pasting into a spreadsheet.  The offices looked really expensive, though, which I guess I found a bit intimidating, coming from the education sector.

Already I’m feeling anxious and telling myself that I won’t be able to do it, that I’ll be too slow, that I’ll get fired (although I would have to do something really bad for them to try and end such a short contract early) and so forth, but I’m glad that I’ve got some money coming in and something else to put on my CV and I feel a bit excited.  I rewarded myself with scrambled eggs on toast for lunch, which I hadn’t had for ages.

***

Yesterday I realised I was making sloppy mistakes in my job applications.  Mostly things like spelling and grammar, things which I’m usually very good at getting right.  I think I mistook a recruitment agency for the law firm I was applying to work at (law librarian), although to be honest their website is not entirely clear on this.  I find it easy to make that mistake when a job is advertised by a recruitment agency without the name of the company they are recruiting for being given.  I don’t know why so many jobs are advertised that way.

I know what it means: it means I don’t want to be job hunting and I probably don’t want to be working in this sector, so my brain is simply refusing to cooperate, the way it does sometimes.  Usually it does this by just shutting down and going into depressed mode.  I suppose, as it was already doing that, and I was trying to push through it, it felt the need to up its game.  I’m not sure what to do about job hunting now.  Obviously this job isn’t going to lead to a career and probably by the end of 2018 I’ll need another new job, so I need to keep looking, but I don’t need to keep applying for every job that looks vaguely doable as I am at the moment.

***

The comment I mentioned in this post led to a blog comment conversation in which I said some stuff I had been thinking for some time without saying: I know I compare myself to other people too much, but I have the impression, which may be completely wrong, that everyone in my shul (synagogue) is basically a tzaddik (saint). OK, not a tzaddik exactly, but that they are all doing exactly what they should be doing and only need to refine their middot (character traits) even more.  Whereas I feel that I have a lot more to do even to get back to where I was the last time the depression was in remission for a long time, let alone to move forwards.

I wonder sometimes what sort of targets people have if they’re FFB (frum from birth i.e. raised religious) or if they’ve been a BT (ba’al teshuva, someone who became religious late in life )or a ger (convert to Judaism) for a long time.  When they do all the ‘basic’ stuff (Shabbos (the Sabbath), kashrut (the dietary laws) etc.) and their goal is just to be even more grateful or patient or generous or whatever.  I guess I mean that I know that we’re all on a never-ending life-long journey, but everyone else seems to me to have arrived, and I haven’t even left yet.

I’ve been mentally ill for as long or longer than I’ve been frum (religious) and certainly longer than I’ve been an adult, so I don’t really know who I am away from mental health issues. Because of that, it’s hard to tell what is the ‘me’ that needs to be worked on and what is just poor mental health.

The person I was communicating with in that exchange opened up about some of the things that challenge her, which was a bit reassuring that even other frum (religious) people have difficulty with fairly basic things, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I should be better at things than I am.  People say I’m a perfectionist, but certainly in my last job my boss was not entirely happy with my work, which suggests to me that I’m not very good in at least some areas.  It’s hard to work out what those areas are though.

I still feel that, even at the age of thirty-five, I don’t know why I’m here on earth, what my unique mission is.  I don’t know what I bring to the table, so to speak, and I don’t know how to find out.  I feel that I’m probably doing the wrong sorts of things without knowing what the right sorts of things would be.  I feel I need to find out soon, as I feel it would take a lot of work to complete my mission and I need to start on it soon, but I don’t know how to find out what to do.  Maybe I’m wrong and I’m already doing it, but that seems unlikely as I don’t seem to be doing much that’s worthwhile.  This is where I end up comparing myself to friends and peers who seem to be doing a lot more than me and/or a lot better than me.

***

I went to autism group in the evening.  I was somewhat quiet at first, even though it was a much smaller group than last time.  I did manage to join in though.  I ended up having a really long conversation with someone.  The group was sitting outside on the terrace at the Barbican.  About 8.00pm, people started to leave, but the two of us were still talking as the light got dimmer and the outside got colder and we eventually relocated inside.  We were talking about autism and mental health issues.  In particular, she felt a lot of people on the spectrum have undiagnosed complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or post-traumatic stress without it being a disorder.  I had never really considered the possibility before, as I associated it purely with war veterans and survivors of abuse.  The part that particularly interested me was the idea of emotional flashbacks, where you experience the emotions of a traumatic time in response to a contemporary trigger without the memories of the original event experienced in other flashbacks.  I think I do experience things like this, although it could just be my awareness of my emotional history from therapy.  Having briefly looked online since getting home, I’m far from convinced that I have some kind of trauma issue, but I think it’s worth looking into further.

We also spoke about unconditional self-love as a way of dealing with trauma or depression and she gave me one or two tips for this.  I was already thinking about going back to the CBT therapist who helped me with my OCD to try to deal with self-esteem and/or social anxiety issues, although a lot will depend on fitting in with work, which is going to be in flux for a while longer.  Still, it was all worth thinking about and it was nice that I was able to talk to a stranger for so long.  It certainly seems like a friendly group, and I would want to keep going (despite the uncertainty over whether I have autism), although juggling autism group, depression group and shiur might prove a challenge, especially while working.

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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.

Slight Update and New York Holiday Part I

Today has been hard.  I tried to take a test for a job I applied for, but struggled with it; I’ll have to finish it tomorrow.  I was depressed anyway, and thinking that I can’t manage to do a PhD after all, then flipped back to having ideas, then to despair again.  I feel like I’ve spent the last two days moving back and forth between agitated/energetic “I can do it” and passive despairing “I can’t do anything.”  Maybe my psychiatrist was right about there being a bipolar element in me, I don’t know.  Then I spent about two hours with my parents cleaning my old flat.  I think I probably had higher tolerance than my Mum for dirt, or less time/energy for cleaning (although she usually has a paid cleaner), which embarrassed me.  I didn’t have much energy or motivation for cleaning today, but struggled through and handed back the key to my landlord, so I guess I’m officially back to living with my parents.

I thought I should really start to write up my notes from my holiday in New York, so here goes:

Sunday 5 August

The flight to New York was OK.  I read quite a bit and tried to write some notes for a book I want to write, but the plane was not really an environment conducive to work.  There was an issue with the shuttle bus to the airport when I landed which worried me, but I got it sorted.

The hotel was fine, but had seen better days.  I had to ask for a safe and a fridge to be put in my room and the WiFi in my room was patchy and I often went to the library downstairs to connect to the lobby WiFi, which seemed to work better.  My room window faced a courtyard with high walls on all four sides, so no natural light came in.  But it was all hygienic and there were no cockroaches or rats, so it was good enough.

Because of US laws about importing food, I had to buy food when I arrived rather than bringing anything in.  The hotel receptionist didn’t seem to know where to suggest other than Whole Foods, which I suspected would be expensive organic stuff and I was right.  However, I desperate, so I got bottled water, fruit, milk and then – joy! – discovered kosher bread, cereal and peanut butter upstairs.

I had some culture shock on arriving in New York, although I’m not sure why.  I’ve lived in London all my life, so a big city should not have been such a surprise to me.  I suppose I live in the suburbs and commute into town when necessary and even when I worked in Canary Wharf, the skyscrapers there aren’t like Manhattan, completely blocking out the sky.  Maybe it was just exhaustion, anxiety, stress and mixed feelings about the thought of seeing E. in person, but I felt close to tears in the shuttle bus, although I did feel better after getting settled at the hotel and having something to eat.

Monday 6 August

E. and I were both running late, but eventually met.  We spent much of the day in Central Park, looking around and chatting.  It felt a bit weird that this was the first time we had met in person.  Afterwards we did some shopping in the area and had pizza for dinner.  It was a quiet day, but I wanted that to deal with jet lag and culture shock.

An amusing story: over lunch, E. told me to believe in myself more.  Then in the afternoon we went into a Jewish bookshop where I picked up a book and opened it to a random page, which was a chapter entitled, “Believe in Yourself”.  I bought the book, although not because of that.

It was a very good day, slightly marred by my getting a bad headache/minor migraine in the evening, possibly from dehydration and I couldn’t take anything because my solpadeine was still in my hotel room and I didn’t know which American painkillers are safe to take with my anti-depressants.

Tuesday 7 August

E. and I went to Ellis Island by boat via Liberty Island, although we didn’t get off at Liberty Island.  I was really disappointed when planning this trip that the Statue of Liberty was sold out, but I think it may have been for the best, as I’m not sure going inside would have added much.  It’s just a statue, really.

Ellis Island was fascinating, though, and I felt it struck a good balance when talking about things like Nativism, slavery, treatment of Native Americans and so on.  It could either have glossed over these things or turned into a politicised privilege-checking fest, but it wasn’t either of those.  I don’t know much about pre-twentieth century American history, so the exhibition about population movements in North America was actually more interesting to me than the one on Ellis Island itself, some of which I had heard elsewhere.

The weather, like the previous day’s, was hot and humid and it really stayed like that for the whole of the trip, although things got slightly cooler and less humid after thunderstorm on Tuesday evening.  The only place I’ve felt so humid is the tropical greenhouse at Kew Gardens (the London one).  It was very tiring being out in the heat and humidity and that perhaps contributed to my getting more tired and doing less than I would have liked over the week.

E. and I went for kosher Mexican food for dinner.  I hadn’t had Mexican food before, so that was a good new experience.

Wednesday 8 August

I woke very depressed and anxious, so anxious in fact that I lay in bed for about two hours thinking that I was physically ill because I felt so nauseous.  Eventually I forced myself to get up, far behind schedule, but I managed to get out on time, if only because I had planned a late start anyway.

I went to the United Nations and had an interesting tour (the General Assembly seemed to have a smaller floor space than it seems on TV), although I was disturbed by the fact they went out of their way to side with the Palestinians against the Israelis even where it was not really necessary.  For example, out of all the international conflicts in the world, there was only one that got its own (big) display, Palestine (it didn’t even say Israel-Palestine, just Palestine).  Then in the gift shop, one could buy postcard of the national flags of every UN member state, with the caption, “Britain”, “India” and so on.  Only one said “State of X,” the “State of Palestine”, even though there is no such internationally recognised state.  It’s just petty, really.

Afterwards, I went back to the hotel to pick up some things, as I hadn’t been allowed to take much with me to the UN.  I ground to a halt for an hour or two, lying on the bed until I got the energy to go out again.

I was thinking of taking a bus tour of New York, but I wanted to see the New York Public Library first, thinking it would not take long, but I ended up staying for a long time.  I have never seen such an ornate library!  I was scared to look around because it is a working library and perhaps I should have been bolder to see more.  I popped in to an exhibition on sixties radicalism, but I found it triggering for me, as all political stuff seems to be these days.  I feel I don’t really fit in anywhere on the political spectrum and that everyone will hate and reject my opinions, one reason why I’m nervous about thinking of doing a PhD in a subject as politically-coloured as cultural studies.

I managed to walk to a small kosher restaurant for dinner.  The food was great, but it was really crowded and noisy.  In fact, I found New York as a whole much bigger, louder and smellier than London.  A  really bad place for autistics/Aspies, in fact.  I’m OK in much of London, which may just be experience and the knowledge that I can go home at the end of the day, but New York was a very difficult experience for me at times in terms of sensory overload.  Still, I navigated my way around the city by myself for the first time and didn’t get lost, mugged or run over, which I think is a win.

To be continued…

Testimony

I’m trying to think of my blog as a testimony, rather than a “helping” blog.  A lot of mental health blogs have factual information, encouragement or coping strategies, which obviously my blog doesn’t.  I guess some people must like it, even if I think there are only a dozen or twenty people who read it with any kind of regularity.  It helps me to write down my feelings, which I guess is the point.  If anyone else benefits from reading them, then that’s an added bonus.

So, from the point of view of testimony, I have to say that while I’ve mostly been OK this afternoon, there was a period where I felt suicidal for a while.  I basically felt that I was “a shit” (I don’t normally use profanity, but that’s what I thought) and that I didn’t deserve to have any friends and it would be better for everyone if I got murdered in New York.  For years I’ve been terrified of going to New York in the belief that it’s too violent, although I think recently London has overtaken New York for violent crime.  To be honest, I should probably be more worried about being alone in my hotel in the evenings and especially over Shabbat (the Sabbath) when I could get lonely and suicidal.  At least in the evenings I can message E.  Although now it’s looking like I might get to see some Hevria friends too.  I feel a bit bad for complaining so much that none of them wanted to see me.  I guess some people are just very last minute.

I procrastinated a lot over packing today, but I did actually get done, albeit that my Mum ended up helping me, which was not my intention.  I am trying to be more self-sufficient.  This afternoon’s disaster was that I realised that I was so worried today about getting clomipramine that I forgot that there was also lithium and olanzapine on the prescription that I could not get made up yesterday.  The pharmacy can’t make up half a prescription, so I’ve got to try to get another emergency appointment tomorrow for another prescription, which will doubtless make me very popular with the doctors and especially the receptionists.    I feel stupid, but at least I haven’t self-harmed or worse and I feel better.  Anxious that I’m going to get completely lost in New York and maybe ripped off by taxi drivers, but not suicidal.  I have at least got most of the packing done, except for hand luggage and stuff I need over the weekend (which admittedly is quite a bit of stuff).

Also from the point of view of testimony, one other interesting thing happened.  One of the main tests for autism spectrum disorder deals with theory of mind – essentially whether you realise that other people don’t know the same things you do.  The famous theory of mind test is here.  Unfortunately, I read about it in a psychology book long before I suspected I might have autism, so I can’t really be tested with it.  Sometimes I have come across the test and I’ve tried to read through it quickly and answer impulsively before I remember what the correct answer is.  I think I usually get it wrong, but it’s not clear and it could just be because I’m rushing.

Anyway, I was watching an episode of Dad’s Army where Corporal Jones and company had managed to jam a lighthouse light on during an air raid and in an effort to turn it off, Captain Mainwairing and Sergeant Wilson tried to sabotage the local electricity substation.  The episode ended with Wilson worrying about the bill for the damage they had inflicted.  The thing is, I assumed he was talking about the damage at the lighthouse itself; it took a minute for me to remember that he didn’t know anything about that and was thinking of the substation.  It’s hardly a scientific test, but I definitely lost track of what he knew and assumed he knew the same as I did.  I don’t know if that really proves anything, but I do know that when reading a book or watching a TV series with different characters knowing different things about the plot, I do go over who knows what very carefully in my head, although I don’t think I do this as much as I used to.  I remember when watching Babylon 5 for the first time spending time tracking who knew what about the big, epic five year story arc.  I don’t know if that proves anything either, but I think it’s worth recording.

I don’t know what’s normal, whether other people watching TV or reading a book momentarily lose track of which characters don’t know the same things as the viewer/reader or if that’s indicative of theory of mind issues.  I think it’s believed that high functioning people with autism can reason through some theory of mind problems logically and cover their lack of intuitive understanding, which is what I did here: I worked out what was known by whom, but it took me a moment to do so.

Good News/Bad New

I spent about three hours or more yesterday writing a job application for the first job that I’ve seen that I think I actually want to apply for (rather than applying because it’s a job and I need a job).  I ran out of time, though, so I had to send it today.

I ran out of time yesterday because I went with my Dad to clear out my flat.  We spent two hours there and we still didn’t clear it all out.  All my crockery and some of my non-perishable food is still there, plus the stuff in the bathroom.  The flat needs a good clean too, including the perpetual battle with mould in the bathroom.  I also need to empty many of the boxes we brought back yesterday, because I can’t live with them on my bedroom floor, from practical reasons but also because I hate mess.  I’m not sure where all the books I’ve acquired in the last two years are going to go, though, as I’m really pressed for shelf space.  It does really feel like I’ve moved back with my parents now.  Insert miserable face emoji here.

I went to bed late yesterday again.  Because of the job application and clearing out the flat (which was almost a full day’s work in total, but started midday because I overslept again) and because I needed to clear away a load of stuff from the flat that my Dad had put on or by my bed, I didn’t get to bed until 2.00am.  Actually, I fell asleep fully dressed.  I woke up again around 4.00am, quickly changed into my pyjamas and brushed my teeth and went to bed properly a few minutes later.  I have to be exhausted to fall asleep without doing my muscle relaxation exercises (except after Shabbat lunch, strangely).  Then, as usual, I slept for ten hours and even after getting up and drinking coffee, I still felt too exhausted to move.  I felt so exhausted that I felt physically frail and faint.  I guess I’m drained by moving, both physically and emotionally.

E. suggested treating my days like work days to get up earlier, but I find it impossible to treat an artificial deadline for getting up like a real deadline.  It’s not even conscious.  I set alarms, but I turn them off in my sleep or sleep through them (to the annoyance of my parents, as they sound for five minutes at a time, but I don’t hear).  When I had to get up by 7.00am for work, however, even if I slept through my alarms, I would naturally wake at 7.00am, however little sleep I had had.  I don’t know why this happens or how to use it to my advantage.

I feel bad about being tired all the time.  Even people who are understanding about the depression (my parents, E.) don’t always understand this, at least not to its full extent.  I think the equation is often (tiredness from depression) + (tiredness from having to socialise when possibly autistic and socially anxious) = constant tiredness, because one or the other is always there because when I’m less depressed, I’m often forcing myself into social situations instead, even if just work or shul (synagogue).  Depression just leads to a constant sense of exhaustion and I’ve been depressed for so long, I no longer know what my ‘normal’ energy level would be.

I had some OCD yesterday and today too.  I know it gets triggered by stress and upheaval and I have a lot of both right now, and I felt that I did bring it under control fairly swiftly, but I worry that it’s going to get worse again.

On an unrelated note, I was depressed by this article which argues that formal matchmaking by paid matchmakers in the Orthodox Jewish community only works for about 13% of the people who try it.  It seems that most people in the frum (religious) community are set up informally by people known to them.  The problem, as I’ve said many times, is that I keep myself too much to myself, and my parents’ social network is mostly the wrong age (children too young) and/or not religious enough for me to be set up with anyone suitable.  I’ve only ever been set up on four dates that way, two of which never happened because the women weren’t interested (well, one wasn’t interested and one I have absolutely no idea what happened).  So I have no idea how I could meet someone.  I actually got talking to a couple of women a little bit at volunteering on Sunday and I hope to see them next time, but I don’t know if I could ever actually ask one of them out.  I’m very bad at that sort of thing.

The real positive today was going to autism group.  It turned out to be a sort of a cross between a social group and a support group in that we sat together in one group, but spoke to each other in smaller, informal groups.  We spoke exclusively about our experiences of autism/Asperger’s, but in an informal, back and forth way rather than one person at a time to the whole group as in my other support groups.  I enjoyed it, though and found it useful.  I learned something about empathy, which had always confused me.  Autistic people, famously, have impaired empathy, but I know lots of autistic people say that this is not true.  Certainly, I know I feel empathy, even if I don’t know how to respond to other people’s emotions.  Someone at the group said there are two types of empathy, emotional empathy and cognitive empathy.  People on the autistic spectrum have the former, but not the latter, meaning that they can perceive and be moved by other people’s emotions, but don’t know how to respond and take their perspective.  I feel this fits how I am: I can recognise other people’s emotions sometimes quite strongly (I don’t like sad books and films because they make me sad), but I don’t know how to respond to those around me, sometimes to the annoyance of my family.  The person who said this said that both forms of empathy are innate, but looking online, some people seem to feel that only emotional empathy is innate; cognitive empathy can be learned, which may explain why I feel I’ve got better at perspective taking over the years rather than assuming that it means that I am not autistic, as I think some psychiatrists felt.

One other thing that came up was language use.  This is another area where I don’t register as autistic, because I’ve been told (including at the group tonight) that I have good language use.  I don’t know why this is the case, and I guess it is evidence against my being on the spectrum, which makes me feel more confused.  I had hoped to come away from the group with a clearer idea of whether I’m autistic or not, but I feel as confused as before about my diagnosis, albeit that I understand autism in the abstract a bit better.  Still, it was good to meet and flex my social muscles again so soon after volunteering and I hope to go back.

Tomorrow: pre-holiday haircut, unpack some stuff from the flat and sort out holiday stuff IF everything goes to plan, which lately it hasn’t.  I need to try to get some people who live in New York to understand that I’m coming next week and it would be really good if they spoke to me now about if/when they want to meet, as I’m not going to be easy to contact once I’m there.  Especially the landlord of the flat I’m renting for the last few days who still hasn’t told me where the apartment I’m renting actually is.  I’m really annoyed about how that part of the holiday is going, a couple of people have really let me down there, but I’d best not say more.

Asylum

I volunteered today at an asylum seekers drop in centre run by an Orthodox Jewish shul (synagogue) organisation.  I was sorting donations of clothes and then looking after children in the play area.  I wanted to volunteer partly because I think it’s a good cause, particularly for Jews (Jews have been refugees enough times to know what it feels like and, to be blunt, the people using the service are likely to come from countries where Jews are not always held in great esteem, so it’s good to do something positive while identifying as Jewish, in an Orthodox shul), but also because I thought it was a way of working on my social anxiety.  I spoke a little bit to other volunteers, but I found it hard and there were times when I felt self-conscious when I thought that I had made a mistake, even a trivial one, or even when someone else thought that I had made a mistake when I had not.

It was good to play with the children.  I often find young children (pre-school and primary school) easier to be around that adults: they can be more accepting of people who don’t know all the social codes and rules (although when they don’t accept, they can be cruel) and it’s easy to make conversation with them: ask them what their teddy is called or what colour their jumper is.  Plus they have imagination and aren’t jaded by life, which is not always the case with adults, myself included – it’s good to be refreshed by them.  It got off to a bad start when someone passed me a baby and I picked him up badly (or possibly he was passed badly).  I get very nervous holding babies in particular because I worry about dropping them, so, again, this was something I wanted to work on and later a baby (the same one I think) got me to pick him up and seemed quite happy being held by me (although I was so nervous had some slight tremor in my legs), so I think that was a success overall.

I’ve been having weird anxiety dreams lately.  I won’t bore you with the details, but they were much more vivid and with a stronger narrative than my usual dreams (I usually do not remember my dreams and when I do they seem vague stream of consciousness impressions rather than narratives) and I woke up quite distressed.  On Saturday morning I woke up early enough that I could have gone to shul, but didn’t partly because I was distressed from a dream where my rabbi and/or community (I forget the details) disowned me because they found out I accept evolutionary theory.  It was vivid enough to trigger my social anxiety and keep me from going to shul, even though I was aware that it was just a dream.  It’s just another thing that underlined the fact that I don’t 100% fit in to the Jewish community.  I like the commitment to Torah and davening (prayer) and to Yiddishkeit (“Jewishness,” a somewhat wider term than ‘Judaism’) at my shul, which is probably moderately Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), but I find it insular sometimes (I suspect some people at my shul would not see helping Muslim refugees as a priority for time and money).  On the other hand, the more Modern Orthodox communities I grew up in and which run the drop in centre, while more open to the world, can be very lacking in serious commitment to Torah and davening.  It’s difficult to know where I fit in, even without my mental health and borderline autism making it harder for me to fit in and meet my obligations as a frum (religious) Jew.

I felt better last week than the week before, albeit still depressed at times and worried about my forthcoming trip to New York.  I wasn’t feeling suicidal any more, so I decided not to go to the doctor, while keeping the option in mind in case things get worse.  It probably wasn’t surprising I got so depressed; in the last few months I’ve lost my girlfriend, my job, my home and probably my therapist in rapid succession.  Part of me still feels weak and useless for being depressed, especially as I blame myself, on some level, for all four losses, and am not sure what I can do to move on.  Well, I know I need to get a new job before I can do anything else, but I’m struggling with that.

I feel a lot better for having volunteered today, for all that I struggled with moments of self-doubt and social anxiety at times.  Some people with depression and autism feel better with animals; with me, it seems to be small children.  I guess it’s the same feeling of freedom from social conventions, joy and cuteness.  I do feel utterly exhausted now, though, and I doubt I will be in a fit state to do much this evening.  I only hope I feel OK tomorrow, as I need to do some things for the holiday and move the bulk of my stuff from my flat to my parents’ house (my house now,  I guess) and deal with the huge pile of job search emails that have built up even over the weekend.

Stuff and Nonsense

At the risk of turning this into a dream blog, I dreamt of having ‘pure O’ OCD last night.  I don’t usually have obvious mental health issues in my dreams, but here I was very worried that I would do something very wrong and whether I should avoid certain situations because they might give me an opportunity to do that wicked thing or whether I should actively seek out those situations because there was no real risk of doing anything wrong and I needed to expose myself to my fears to confront the OCD (exposure therapy).  I even wondered in the dream if I should go back to the CBT therapist I saw about the religious OCD to see if she could help with this.  It was possibly related to some volunteering I hope to do on Sunday and perhaps also to general anxiety.

Today I feel mostly OK, albeit a bit slow, mentally and physically, when doing chores around the house, making lunch, doing stuff for my blogs and so on, but as soon as I think about sitting down to the job hunt, a wave of sadness hits me.  It’s not even full on severe depression, just mild to moderate depression and melancholy, I suppose a bit of a sense of futility and despair, just not knowing where I belong in life and how to get there.  A slight prickling at my eyes and a bit of a lump in my throat, as if want to cry, but am not quite able.

It’s also hard to find work that suits me.  So many writing jobs turn out to be full time 9.00am-5.00pm in an office, which surprised me.  I thought I might find something more flexible.  I’m also not sure that I’m the right person to write copy for one of the world’s largest car brands, given that I’ve never even tried to learn to drive.  But I’m applying for a few things.  I feel like I should be applying for more, but even the ones I am applying for are jobs I don’t feel I can actually do, much less want to do.  I feel very under-qualified.  And I’m really not sure I’m culturally suited as a copywriter for the marketing company that boasts of a corporate culture with social nights out and annual trips to Ibiza for staff who achieve their annual targets.  I think the only thing I would hate more than a trip to Ibiza would be a compulsory trip to Ibiza with my boss.  Mind you, they were also offering an “Unlimited book allowance” which I assume is for research purposes, but you never know.  I’m trying to apply, once I work out how to tell them that I want a career in marketing when I don’t and that I have experience of writing copy, when I don’t have that either.

I do have an appointment with a careers advisor when I get back from New York.  I’m terrified about what he might say.  When I write stuff online people seem to like it, albeit that I probably write too much and too formally to really succeed as a blogger (as opposed to article writer), but I can’t find an outlet that will pay me for my work.

I spent a while setting up an online profile for a website that deals with freelance writers, but I got suspicious when it asked me to rate my previous employers.  It seemed dodgy and I left.

I did find some other sites for freelance writers to find work, but they weren’t as useful as I had hoped.  I decided I wouldn’t be able to write about pop culture in a fun, yet feminist, way containing photos and memes as one job required.  Nor did I feel able to write “identity pieces specific to the writer that a niche group can also relate to” as I don’t think “depressed, socially anxious autistics” are really a group advertisers would be hoping to attract.  Nor do I think I have a “deep passion” for “life in my 20s [I think I missed that boat]… pop-culture, social media, [or] staying on top of millennial trends.”  Nor do I think I can write about power tools or coffee.  It seems that there are some niche jobs out there, just none that fit my niche.  (I’ve had similar experiences dating.)  I did find a remote working copy editing job that I thought might be a start, but I don’t have the considerable experience they wanted.  I found a list of magazines that accept submissions.  Aside from it being American (not such a problem), they didn’t have any that specialise in mental health except for ADDitude Magazine.  A few people have suggested to me that I ought to writing a misery memoir, but I have no idea how to structure it, what aspects of my story people might be interested in or why other people would be interested at all.  I thought an article or two might be a start, but only if I can find somewhere to pitch it too.  I probably need a happier ending, though.  Or some kind of sense of an ending, not just unending depression.

I feel I made a massive mistake in leaving my job, but not enough to apply for the job I left as my family suggested yesterday.

I’m slowly relocating my life from the flat to my parents’ house.  I brought my big office chair home today, as I was getting back ache from my parents’ chair.  Continuing the theme of rearranging my life, I’m going to try to go to an Asperger’s “meet up” (I’m not sure if it’s exactly a support group) next week in town that Yolanda found for me.  They’re OK with the fact that I’ve got a complicated diagnosis situation, although I suspect I will still feel like a fraud.  I’m not sure if there is a charge though; one of their meetings is advertised as having a £30 charge (I assume for a speaker).  I have messaged to try to find out, but my message got mangled by email for some reason so I hope I get a reply.

I’m even thinking of going to a Doctor Who fan meet up soon.  (They used to be on Saturdays, but have moved them to Wednesdays since I last looked.)  That’s scarier than a support group, though.  When I go to a support group, I know other people there are struggling, but at the Doctor Who meet up people could be fairly normal, if geeky.

I set up a Gmail account to get a new email address so that I could set up a non-anonymous Doctor Who blog on WordPress, hopefully moving my current blog on LiveJournal to it.  Livejournal is mostly used by Russian language speakers these days and doesn’t look as good as WordPress.  Hopefully it will be a way of raising my profile as a writer and a fan.  I’m stuck for a title, though.  I was advised to find something not obscure (my Doctor Who references tend to be original series, not revived series) and immediately obvious as Doctor Who but also not something lots of other people have used for blogs and websites.  This has been proving difficult.  I’m not great with titles, as the often desperate titles of my blog posts show (e.g. the one on this post).

Sensitive, Depressed or Autistic?

I’m still job hunting.  I applied for two jobs yesterday and two today.  It seems the library sector was not as good a fit for a borderline autistic/Aspie as I thought.  Almost all the jobs going seem to require promoting the library service to other staff, which was the element of the renewed contract I was offered at my old job that I thought my boss was saying I would not be able to do, and which I felt I could not do.  It’s surprising how many librarianship jobs have a strong interpersonal element, or even an element of training others, but I have seen stuff in my professional training and development about the industry moving that way, towards teaching and education and away from classifying, cataloguing, maintaining and giving access to books.  I feel under-qualified and under-experienced for every job.  I increasingly feel that I should have stayed in the job I was offered, difficult though it seemed, because I’m not going to find anything to which I am better suited.  I applied for some jobs anyway, but I can feel myself hoping I won’t get called for interview, which is not the right mindset to go in with.

I just can’t see myself being able to do these jobs (a disproportionate number of which seem to involve law librarianship at very exclusive law practices), let alone doing them and being happy.  I feel my life took a wrong turn somewhere, probably a long time ago (university or even school) and I don’t know how to get back on track.  I try to job hunt, but I keep getting distracted and procrastinating, often blogging or wanting to blog, here or on my Doctor Who blog, which I guess is telling.

Looking at my CV and application, I seem to lack a lot of the skills I feel I should have acquired by now.  Looking at my experience, it seems to have been mostly trivial stuff, punctuated by the occasional brief moment of initiative or responsibility.  Is everyone’s first job or two like this, I wonder?  Perhaps they are.  I think my peers are all long past this level of work, though.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else.  It’s impossible not to, though, because I want to know how I am faring in the world and in the absence of an absolutely objective God’s-eye perspective, I can only judge myself against other people.

I want to write an honest CV that would read something like: An overly-rule bound individual who struggles to use his initiative, is pedantic to the point of missing unspoken instructions, is profoundly uncomfortable with social interactions and goes completely to pieces under pressure.  He is unable to make a decision, however trivial, without serious procrastination.  His skills are limited as a result of his training at a third-rate university and are increasingly out of date as he has done little professional development.  He suffers from mental health issues and, frankly, you’ll be lucky to get more than a couple of months consistent work out of him.  He won’t steal the office stationery, but there’s a strong chance you’ll catch him self-harming with it.  Plus it’s likely that any spoken instructions will be lost under the tidal wave of racing socially anxious thoughts that start up whenever someone talks to him.  He has yet to develop any serious Howard Hughes-type eccentricities, but give him time.  And whatever job you give him, he’ll probably be wishing he was blogging.

I also realised that I still can’t remember what my gross annual salary is.  To be fair, I can remember my net monthly salary, but I can’t remember the monthly gross and I have to work out the annual by multiplying the monthly.  I don’t think this is the biggest problem in the world, but it was one of the things that convinced E. that I was too unworldly for her.  It also necessitated a time-wasting walk back to my flat to retrieve my contract so I could check.

The world does often seem too miserable, sordid and complicated for someone like me to thrive in it.  When I was a child, I would often hear it said that I was “sensitive.”  It always seemed that being “sensitive” was not considered a good thing.  I do feel too sensitive to operate in the real world, which upsets me greatly, as I think people should function in the real world and not retreat to solipsism, fantasy or, except for certain select individuals, an ivory tower (my three great retreats).  I don’t know what the exact correlation is between ‘sensitive,’ ‘depressed’ and ‘autistic,’ but I suspect there is one.

I know I write about sex and being a virgin at thirty-five a lot (too much) for a frum (religious) Jew, but I feel it somehow symbolises a lot of my areas of ineptitude: that I can’t form lasting relationships, obviously, but also that I struggle with relationships in general (friendships, family relationships – obviously not the same as being married, but there is some overlap of intimacy, involvement and concern) and that I’m not good with the entire practical, concrete side of life (again, as E. noted).  Then there is the religious side of things that comes with marital sex being a mitzvah (commandment), both for spousal intimacy and for procreation, two areas where I have obviously failed which lead in turn to social dislocation from a community geared towards those who married and started a family in their early twenties or even late teens.  I was at a kosher restaurant this evening with my family and I could see the young frum women in there and in the street outside, and I felt so conscious that they could never love someone like me, and wondered how I will ever find someone who can accept me for who I am.  I felt that this would be a suitable topic for a poem, but I haven’t any poetry for years, not since being rejected as a writer for a website.  Also, when I wrote about sexuality for Hevria.com, I was told that I need to stop viewing women as “anxiety-inducing sexual objects.”  Obviously I ignore the many positive responses I had to the article from women and focus on that one critic (it was a nasty thing to say, though, and I hope ungrounded).

Even at dinner (it was to celebrate my birthday) I felt somewhat inadequate.  I enjoy eating out sometimes, but I do find the noise somewhat draining (a classic autistic trait).  I also felt that the conversation was a bit uncomfortable for me at times.  We spoke a bit about my leaving my job and my job hunt and whether I should have accepted that revised contract.  We also spoke a lot about my sister and my brother-in-law’s ongoing and complicated house move.  I felt that we were saying that I may have made a serious mistake with my life decision and gone backwards while they are moving forwards in a big way, moving up the property ladder (a big thing in the UK, especially in London where property prices are astronomical, although strictly speaking they were already on the ladder).

It feels that the more I try to work on my career, socialising, family, relationships and so on, the harder it becomes, rather than the easier.  I was told that the more I socialised, for example, the easier socialising would become, but it has stayed the same or even got harder for reasons I do not understand.  It is as if I pushed against the world, and it pushed me back, harder.  Similarly taking on new work responsibilities only led me to more social awkwardness and greater expectations of achievement (from myself and in others’ view of me), without actually making it easier to achieve anything.  Working less than two-thirds of full time would seem a backwards step after my previous job, but I am not at all sure that I can manage even those hours.  I wonder again if I should make a third attempt to get myself diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s or whether I just use that possibility as an excuse for living with my parents, being unemployed and being unmarried.  It is very difficult to know what to do, especially without being supported by my therapist.

Conforming and Job Hunting

I have essentially moved back in with my parents.  I had to give a month’s notice on the flat, so I’m technically still renting for another three and a bit weeks, but I was so lonely and depressed there, and the noise and smells from the building works next door were so disruptive, that I’ve moved a lot of my stuff back and am sleeping here.  If I’m not working, I don’t see the need to be woken up at 7.30am by builders.

I keep thinking about ways my life could have gone differently in all kinds of ways.  Just one example: I do wonder what would have happened if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) for a gap year the way I was ‘supposed’ to (i.e. the way the Jewish Studies teachers at my school expected me to do without ever saying anything to encourage me or help me choose one).  Eva said on one of my previous posts about this that I would have found yeshiva too extrovert and conformist.  I feel that that’s kind of the point, that it would have made me conform, so I actually fitted in to my religious community rather than sticking out from it (or, I suppose, pushed me into rebellion and secularism, although I don’t really see that as a positive).  Anyway, a more modern yeshiva might not have been so conformist.

I guess I feel that if I want to be accepted as part of the community, which includes being set up on dates with suitable women (if there are any left, which I very much doubt), I need to conform to the community’s rules: go to minyan more often, learn more Torah, especially Talmud, go to yeshiva, don’t have any unusual interests, dance on Simchat Torah even if I can’t stand it…  If I don’t conform, I can hardly be surprised when I have no close friends in the community and am not really noticed or helped.  I feel that I should have let myself be ‘brainwashed’ into conformity like so many of my peers when I was in my late teens/early twenties.  Then I would have a community, friends, a wife, children, things to talk about to them, like so many of my peers who I run into.  The self-esteem that comes from being accepted in a community and having friends and family around me.  If I had higher self-esteem, I probably would find it easier to get a job – plus I would probably have been like all the other frum men and got a boring job in accountancy or whatever rather than an unusual job with few prospects and difficulty being frum with it.  I might never have got depressed, or never realised that I was depressed (as I have probably been mildly depressed since my early teens).  Now I have my individuality, but I’m lonely and miserable and I hate myself.  I’m not sure that I got a good deal.

I don’t even know what frum (religious) men are allowed to be interested in.  When I try to listen in to other people’s conversations at shul (synagogue) or before shiur (religious class) starts, it’s usually about sport, sometimes about work or politics.  Occasionally about something religious.  That’s about it.  I guess they make ‘small talk’.  My Dad is big on small talk.  I find it confusing and irritating (one of my introvert/Aspie traits) and when he tries it on me, I find myself getting confused, bored and/or irritable very quickly.

Note: I wrote the previous two paragraphs before lunch.  A few hours later, I had been reminded of many of the negative aspects of conformity in parts of the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world, from opposition to secular studies, to anti-vaccine campaigning, to the ostracising of ‘outsiders’ and refusal to believe that ‘insiders’ (particularly rabbis) can have done wrong, even in the face of evidence and confessions.  So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be an outsider.  I guess really I would like it if there was a more vibrant Modern Orthodox movement in this country, as there is in Israel and the USA.  Here the centrist United Synagogue is rather stodgy and middle aged and, more to the point, it’s seats are largely filled by people whose relationship to Judaism is traditional and by rote at best, rather than passionately and diligently observant.  But moving to the US would be very difficult, as would moving to Israel, albeit for very different reasons.

I glanced through the latest magazine from CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, of which I am a member.  It was filled with stuff about becoming a chartered librarian and going to CILIP conferences… all stuff I ought to be doing, but which I find scary from a low self-esteem and social anxiety/Aspie viewpoint (ditto for going to Doctor Who conventions, which might be good for my writing career).  Perhaps fortunately, I have just made an appointment with a career advisor for next month.  I suppose I should have been an academic, had I been rather more gifted and substantially less mentally ill.  I hate this whole business of selling myself, whether for a job or a relationship.  It’s hard to sell oneself when one loathes oneself.  I have discovered that LinkedIn can be as depressing as Facebook for seeing one’s peers doing much better than you, but I summoned up the courage to ‘connect’ with someone who I did my librarianship MA with, on the grounds that she was very clever and has probably done well in her career and therefore is a good contact to have.  I feel mercenary.

Anyway, I applied for a couple of jobs.  One I’m over-qualified for, the others under-qualified, but I decided to go with them anyway.  I’m not sure if there’s not a lot out there or if I’m just not looking in the right places, or taking too negative a view of my skills and abilities.  Someone said I’m not in control of my life, which is true.  I feel like a child so much of the time, a rather anxious and timid child with poor social skills and perhaps autism.  I don’t know how to take control of my life.  I’m sure it would solve a lot of my problems if I could (career, friendship, community, marriage).  But I just don’t know how one becomes an independent adult.  It’s as if, while I was always academically gifted, beyond a certain point I just failed to learn social skills and, later, career skills.  I wonder again if there’s any point in pursuing yet another autism assessment.  I don’t know.

The Infinitely Deferred Marshmallow

I need to write, but don’t really feel able.  Just had therapy.  I sat in almost complete silence for forty-five minutes (like when I first went to counselling, more than half a lifetime ago), then ended the session early because there seemed no point in continuing.  I felt that my therapist was saying that I made the wrong decision in turning down the job and that there was nothing she could do to help me if I was moving backwards from employment and living independently.   This is probably true.  It underestimates how much I thought my boss was telling me not to take the job I was offered, though.  My therapist focused on my boss’ surprise when I turned the job down and ignored what I said about my boss making it very clear that she did not feel I had the people skills for the new job I was being offered.

I feel I’m just a screw up.  I feel I let everyone down: my therapist, my friends, my non-biological sisters, E., my sister and especially my parents.  Everyone was right: I should have taken a job that would have left me miserable, but would at least have had a steady income.  I can’t see myself getting a new job.  I certainly can’t see myself getting the other things I want in life (community, wife and kids).  I’m just a completely useless screw up.  I haven’t really succeeded since the sheltered, structured environment of school, which suited my (real or imagined) autism.  Even at Oxford, where initially I did well academically, I failed socially.  I used to cry in my room with loneliness, even in my first year, before the depression ‘officially’ began in my second year.

I used to cry in my job.   I don’t think my therapist believed me when I said that, or at least she didn’t think it was a good reason to give up on the job.  I don’t know how many people literally cry at work and whether they should all keep their jobs.

There’s a famous experiment where researchers offer children one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in twenty minutes.  Being able to wait for the second marshmallow is seen as a predictor of self-control and adult success.  I feel like my life is one whole string of infinitely deferred marshmallows, with other people stuffing their faces with their marshmallows and blaming me when I say it must surely be time for me to have one now.

My therapist seemed to make it clear that she can’t do anything else for me and doesn’t think we should continue meeting.  We’re not meeting next week while I think about it.

Today is my birthday.  Thirty-five.  Felicitations, ha ha ha.  I still feel like an anxious, emotionally neglected, bullied child.  I want to go back to bed.  I want to hurt myself.  I want to die.  I don’t have the energy to do any of these things.

I’ve let everyone down.  I’m such a screw up.

Top Priority

You know it’s a bad day, depression-wise, when putting on your shoes is too complex, energetic and difficult an action to manage.

Today was a wasted day.  I was supposed to do job hunting stuff, but all I managed was a few minutes of Torah study and a short walk to the shops, plus a cursory bit of davening (prayer).  I had to force myself to eat dinner and watch Doctor Who, I really just wanted to curl up in bed and withdraw from the world.

I’ve had a few thoughts:

  1. I think I need to go back to my parents’ home.  I’ve paid the rent at my flat for another month as I had to give a month’s notice, but at the moment I’m too lonely in the flat by myself, staying up too late and sleeping too late.  The noise (and sometimes smells) from the builders next door is disruptive too and the flat is uncomfortably hot too much of the time, especially as I can’t open the doors (the main means of ventilation) until I’m dressed, which is late, and I don’t like opening the front door while the builders are around.  Moving back in with my parents won’t solve all of that – and it will bring a load of new problems – but it might help with some of it.
  2. It was brought home to me how useless and self-hating I am at the moment and how off-putting that is to my friends and family, let alone women I might be interested in (not that I am right now).  I need to make recovery my top priority.  I just don’t have a clue how.
  3. I forced myself to walk to the shops to get milk, although I didn’t need any urgently.  It was a struggle.  I feel so unfit.  I need to make exercise my top priority, get back into running.  Being fitter will make me feel better.
  4. And getting a job, I need to make that my top priority too.  That would boost my self-esteem and income, which would be helpful.  It would also make me more attractive if I want to date again.
  5. And Jewish stuff should be my top priority too.  That would help me fit in to my community and make friends.  Making friends is a top priority for recovery.  And religion could give my life meaning, which is important for recovery.  And God said to do it, so it must be important and helpful.  So that should definitely be my top priority.
  6. And volunteering/helping others should be my top priority too.  Anyone who has read vaguely patronising stuff about depression knows that helping others is the best way to get better.

So, actually everything I was already trying and failing to do should be my top priority.  And I can barely get up and put some cereal in a bowl for breakfast.  About the only thing not my top priority is writing, which is about the only thing I enjoy and want to make a career from, although lately I don’t have the headspace for anything other than mental health blogging (I have a growing pile of notes for my book that I haven’t typed up yet).  No wonder I’ve spent the last few days feeling totally overwhelmed and in meltdown.  I honestly don’t know where to start, but I can’t do everything at once.

Also, I should stop reading the news, because it’s either terrifying stuff about geopolitics or banal stuff about untalented ‘celebrities’ who I have never heard of, often in articles using slang terms I don’t understand.  Sometimes it can be both types of article at the same time e.g. when an obscure reality TV star becomes most powerful man in the world.

I just feel wiped out.  I do feel that I won’t recover, find another job, fit in to my community, get married, have children… anything I want really.  This doesn’t seem like depressive catastrophisation, but a realistic assessment of the evidence.  People tell me otherwise, but they seem to be making an unrealistically positive assessment.  The history of the last fifteen or twenty years of my life seems to indicate otherwise to me.

I feel so ashamed of myself.  I feel that after fifteen or twenty years I should have moved on from this.  I feel people only tolerate me and my mental illnesses and my borderline (not even undiagnosed) autism up to a point and beyond that they treat me like I should have more control over my life.  But really I feel that I can’t do very much at all so much of the time. I feel if I can’t always convince my parents of this, how can I convince anyone else.  Sometimes I feel that people with physical illnesses aren’t treated like this, or with more serious mental illnesses.  Sometimes it seems a miracle to me that I can get through a day without even hurting myself, without trying to kill myself.  But it’s hard for other people to understand that.  I ‘only’ have depression, not a ‘real’ illness like cancer, or even a ‘real’ mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one where you’re behaviour is noticeably different.  I was pretty subdued, downbeat and lacking in self-esteem long before I was officially diagnosed with depression, hence my uncertainty as to whether I’ve been depressed for fifteen years or twenty or longer.  I feel so messed up today.  I just burst into tears watching Doctor Who.  Twice.  Admittedly it was The Day of the Doctor, but I have seen it before and knew what was coming.  I still cried a little when all the Doctors turned up and again when Tom Baker walked in.  Managed to laugh and cry then.  I’m such a wreck.

Screw Up

I stayed up late last night.  It was my fault.  I was doing various things, some necessary, some just acting out from my mental health issues, but also watching the Doctor Who episode Nightmare in Silver, which I found myself enjoying somewhat, even though in the past I have disliked it.  Usually re-watching stuff while very depressed makes it less enjoyable, but occasionally I get lucky.  Obviously that episode needed to be watched in  a “I’m exhausted, show me something silly and escapist that I won’t think about too seriously” frame of mind.

I was woken up early today, I think around 8.30am, maybe earlier, by the builders next door starting work noisily.  Very considerate of them.  Then they accidentally cut off the electricity to my flat and my landlord’s house and they had to come in to turn off the circuit breakers because I was too tired to get involved.  Unfortunately, once it was sorted I went back to sleep because I was too exhausted to stay awake.  I didn’t wake up until 3.00pm or later.  I must have slept for twelve or thirteen hours.  The builders had cleared off early.

I got an email from the careers advisor I applied to see last night (one of the job-related things I stayed up late to do).  My appointment is in the middle of my holiday in New York and there is no option to apply for a different slot.  I’m not cancelling a holiday that cost over £1000 for a careers advice slot, so I will email, but I’m worried they won’t let me change, only cancel.

I’ve been thinking about Hevria.com again and getting turned down as a writer.  At the time writing was just a hobby, but now I wonder if a regular writing gig, even unpaid (I believe Hevria writers are paid now, although they weren’t when I applied) would have helped my career.  It can’t have harmed it.  I don’t like to admit this, but getting turned down was a massive blow to my confidence as a writer and even several years on (I can’t remember exactly how many; it must be three or four) I still feel ‘blocked’ on some level.  I know I’ve hardly written any poetry since then, when I was writing a poem a week or so for eighteen months or so before it.

Mind you, Hevria is really political now, for a site that was never meant to be political, although by ‘political’ I mean ‘anti-Trump.’  I don’t like Donald Trump, but I don’t think he’s Hitler, and it’s a bit tedious continually being told he is, especially as I am neither an American citizen nor an American resident and have other things in my life.  That was another thing I thought I could offer Hevria, a reminder that not all Jews are North American or Israeli (though statistically about 90% are, to be fair).  Anyway, it was not to be, and I should let it go, like all the other things in my life that were not to be that I can’t let go (going to a different school, asking someone out when I was at school, going to yeshiva, sticking with counselling when I was sixteen, getting diagnosed with depression earlier, getting diagnosed with autism at all, staying in my job, E…. most of these things I turned down or self-sabotaged, so I can’t really blame anyone else).

Sigh.  It’sgone  5.30pm, I’m still in my pyjamas and the only thing I’ve done today that could be called worthwhile is tracking down a rogue quote from Doctor Who ex-showrunner Russell T Davies (just one word!) for my book.  The job hunt websites I stayed up late signing up to yesterday are sending me wildly inappropriate stuff, but maybe I’m just too unskilled, mentally ill, autistic and useless to do a real job.  I was just lying on my bed, trying and failing to cry, just thinking how much I hate myself and I hate my life and I wish things could go differently, the way other people’s lives go, but I don’t know how.  I’m just a screw up, in every sense.

Incoherent Ramblings of a Deranged Madman

I did eventually calm down and go to sleep last night, then slept through the whole morning, waking at 1.00pm, but being too tired to get up before 1.30, despite the noise from next door (I live in a converted garage; apparently the owners of the adjoining garage are converting their side into a flat too).

I feel exhausted and depressed.  I feel as if the immensity of everything, of possibly endless unemployment, the difficulties of self-employment and the loneliness of possibly permanent singledom (while carrying a torch for someone who just wants to be friends) has really hit me.  That said, I don’t feel any specific anxiety.  Yesterday’s agitation has been replaced with total lethargy and I can’t really think at all.

I just got a spammy email from PayPal telling me that a lot can happen in four months.  Indeed.  In four months I moved from single to in a relationship to single again and from employed and fairly sure I would still be employed in a few months if I wanted to unemployed.  Still depressed, though.

I wonder why I left my job, as it seems impossible even to feel non-depressed enough to find and apply for a job, let alone get one, and the thought of writing for a living, even non-creative writing, seems unlikely – I have no confidence in my writing and certainly not in my ability to network, submit on spec or take editorial criticism.   I just feel utterly drained today.  The heat doesn’t help and it’s worse in my poorly-ventilated flat (one advantage of moving back in with my parents, I suppose).

I feel I underestimated how much the events of recent months would affect me, particularly now I’m off work and have time to think about things.  I suppose this is my normal holiday slump magnified by the doubt and uncertainty and the anxiety of job hunting and career shifting.  I suppose I blame myself for leaving my job and maybe for what happened with E. and I certainly can’t see a way ahead with either.  I feel disgusted with myself for acting out yesterday, although I have no idea how I ended up in such an agitated condition (or what I can do to stop it happening again).

Looking at Hevria stuff online just underlines how far I am from the centres of Jewish life (Israel and America/New York), but even if I was there, I doubt I could get involved.  I want to meet some Hevria people when I go to New York in a few weeks, but it’s hard to find anyone willing to meet with me.  And I feel like I don’t fit in with their frum-but-bohemian lifestyles, either the bohemian part or, increasingly, the effortlessly frum part.  Being frum is increasingly a hard struggle and I’ve never really seen God’s hand in my life the way the others seem to.  And I don’t feel creative, although I’ve been told I’m a good writer (I find that hard to believe).

I’m thinking about moving my Doctor Who blog to WordPress, if I want to try to boost its popularity to try to promote my Doctor Who/science fiction writing/criticism.  Livejournal seems to be fairly dead these days, for English language blogs at any rate.  I need to blog there more often, though.  I think the only way I could keep it separate from this blog (which I would have to as this one is anonymous and the Doctor Who one isn’t) is to set up a paid account, although even then I’m not sure if it would let me separate them (as I only have one email address to register with them).  I don’t really mind paying £3 a month though, and it might be worth it for no ads and a blog title without ‘wordpress’ in it.  I ought to learn to use LinkedIn better too.  Correction: I ought to actually use my LinkedIn account.  (It scares me.)

Procrastinating.  I just think, “I’ll just sit here for a few more minutes.  I’ll just look at such and such a website.  I’ll just check my emails again.”  I used to think this was desire for connection, but I’ve been in touch with friends today.  I just feel lazy.  I hate myself today.

My main achievement today has been to clear my email folders.  I’m good about keeping my inbox under control, but lately my outbox and trash folders had become over-full, plus I still had nearly every email E. had ever sent me, which seemed pointlessly romantic and depressing because it reminds me that no one I can’t get a relationship to work even when I manage to find someone who likes me.  It took longer than I hoped, but less time than I feared.

People keep reminding me about things I need to remember to do for my holiday or job search.  I’m not sure whether to be angry that they think I’ll forget or ashamed that they might be right.  I feel like everyone is treating me like a child, but also that they possibly (probably?) need to do so.  I wonder how well I could function by myself if I had to.  This is part of the reason E. broke up with me.  Of course part of the reason I’m inexperienced at these things is simply that I haven’t been well enough to do them.  I’ve never been well enough to go on holiday by myself before, nor have I needed to do a prolonged job search.  For a long time I was too depressed to work.  My first job came from a voluntary position that I talked into a paid position and my second job I just applied for out of the blue and won without any prolonged searching.  So I’ve never had a prolonged period of job searching before.

I’m trying to think of intelligent questions to ask my friends who are writers and researchers about their careers and I’m really struggling.  Sometimes I feel so useless.  It’s hard to tell if it’s depression, autism, learned helplessness or if I am just genuinely useless.

I feel guilty about not having gone for a run yesterday or today, but I walked over to my parents’ house to pick some stuff up today and I was completely exhausted.  It’s only a fifteen minute walk, but I was really slow.  Every movement was an effort. My legs felt like they were lined with lead.  I hate being this depressed.  I ate ice cream, even though I know I’ve put on a ton of weight with my medications.  Two years ago I was reasonably slim; now thanks to clomipramine I’m somewhat overweight despite probably eating more healthily now than previously.

My Dad says it’s a shame that no one from Hevria wants to meet me in New York.  He says the lesson from this is that people say one thing and mean another.  I think the lesson is more that everyone secretly hates me and wants nothing to do with me.  At least E. is going to spend time with me although I’m worried that will be painful for both of us.  I’m still terrified of getting mugged or lost or missing my plane.  It would help if I had direct contact details for more Hevrians rather than having to go through the two people whose details I do have and who I think have forgotten to tell anyone else that I’m coming despite my asking them to do so.

I will be thirty-five in a few days.  It’s easy to say I just want someone to love me, but it’s not that simple.  For someone to love me and be able to live/cope with me, I need a full-time job or at least some kind of job that pays better than my last one.  I also need to have frum (religious) friends who will set me up on dates.  For that to happen, I need to be better integrated into the frum (religious) community.  For that to happen, I need to have less social anxiety and to be coping better with my religious obligations (prayer, Torah study) and for that to happen I need more simcha shel mitzvah (joy from the commandments).  For any of this to happen, I need some kind of medication or therapy regime or set of coping skills that allow me to cope with my depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem and borderline autism a lot better than I currently am, not just for a few months (as occasionally happens), but consistently for a period of years.  This seems incredibly unlikely, given the events of the last twenty years or so.

I have probably been depressed for more of my life than not now.  At any rate, I’ve been depressed for almost all of my adult life.  I sometimes wonder what I would be like as a person and what my life would be like if I was not depressed.  It is very hard to know.

My life seems both pointless and hopeless.  I’m not suicidal, but I do wonder why I’m here.  I can’t see myself doing anything worthwhile in any sense of the word, and God knows (literally) I’ve hardly enjoyed myself for the last twenty years or more, since I was a child.  I don’t think I’ve grown much as a person either.  It’s hard to get the energy to hunt for work, plan my holiday, meet my religious obligations, become a better person or just do the chores needed to keep my flat/life in order (or look for dates, for that matter, not that I’m doing that) when everything seems to turn out so badly for me.  If I’d spent the entire day in bed today, I’m not sure I would have been a lot worse off…

Too Late for the Pebbles to Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decision Time

Where to begin… I told my boss I didn’t want to have my contract renewed.  I immediately made a social anxiety/autism blunder, as I was too scared to tell her verbally so I just emailed and she said I should have told her in person first.  She seemed astonished when I told her, which surprised me a lot, as yesterday she seemed to be warning me off from taking the offer.  She told me that the job description was not set in stone yet, that she may not become head of library services over the super-college, in which case someone else might change things.  Nevertheless, I stuck to my decision, as I can’t see things changing again with such a short time before the next academic year and so much still to do, plus I was pretty miserable even in my current job.  Still, I will wonder now if I’ve made the right decision, especially if I struggle to get a new job.  I’m looking for librarianship jobs, preferably with more backroom focus, but also writing and editing jobs, not necessarily creative writing.  Writing is about the only thing I do that refreshes me rather than depleting me.

Then I made my second social blunder, not telling my colleagues.  I don’t really know what I was thinking, except that I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to make a fuss.  About an hour after my conversation with my boss, the head of IT services in the library, who is effectively my boss’ number two, said he heard I was leaving.  So then I realised I had to tell the library assistants before they heard it second-hand too.  That was hard, both finding the words and the confidence to say them.  My mouth was so dry I could hardly talk!  They were quite upset; one looked like he might burst into tears.  I was quite touched that they were all so upset that I’m leaving, especially as I’ve only been there for fifteen months and they’ve all been around much longer.  Someone said I’m talented enough that I should find a new job easily, which I hope will prove to be true.   I stressed the change in job description and the commute in my reasons for leaving, rather than the mental health side of it.

The rest of the day was fairly dull.  It was hard to concentrate knowing that tomorrow is my last day.  I procrastinate like crazy over decisions, but once I’ve made them, I always want to put them into action immediately.  Technically I’m still under contract until mid-August (as my contract lasts until the end of the academic year, even though I only worked in term-time) so I’ve got paid job hunting time!  And a trip to New York.  It does look likely that I’ll have to move back in with my parents, though, which is a bit of a shame, unless I can find a good job very quickly, which seems unlikely, especially as I want to explore new areas and may need some time to focus on my writing before I’m ready to submit anything.

EDIT: I forgot to say that my boss emailed me to say that my “commitment to your role, your punctuality and attendance, and your determination to not let personal difficulties get in the way of doing your job to the best of your ability are commendable”, which was really nice.

Once Upon a Lunchtime

Today has been a really weird day.  The depression isn’t too bad today, for all that I was in tears in the library office earlier, but I’ve got so much on my mind.  I was in a bad state when I drafted this post at lunchtime, but I’m glad I held off posting because things are very different now.

Career-wise, at lunch I was fairly sure I was not going to ask for my contract to be renewed.  I did a list of pros and cons earlier and, while there were some big pros (like having a job), there were more cons and the cons were often weightier than the pros.  I also looked at my thoughts vs. my emotions and while my thoughts were mixed, my feelings about accepting the job were clear: anxiety, panic, despair, depression and dread.  I don’t know how much is the particular work environment (the college), how much is this specific type of librarianship (further education) and how much is librarianship in general, but yesterday we were doing some training with library staff from the other colleges in the consortium and the other librarians seemed to have a better grasp of both the technicalities of librarianship and the internal politics of this particular college (one of them looked a lot like David Tennant too, not that I’m envious or anything).  The autism, and my dislike of gossip, probably impede me with the latter; the former is probably due to my mental health issues causing me to do my MA at a non-very-good university that was probably a waste of money considering how bad so much of the teaching was, for all that I passed the course with distinction.  I don’t think I could ever be comfortable in an environment with this much interaction with ‘unusual’ students, but I fear my cataloguing skills are far too rusty for a cataloguing job, even though that was how I saw my career going.  I am open to doing a cataloguing crash course if I can find one through CILIP, the librarian organisation.

Then something upsetting happened at work this morning.  I’d better not go into details, but it just underlined how unhappy I am here and although that may get better with the reorganisation, it may get worse too.  Just to make matters more clear, in the afternoon my boss more or less told me that I can’t do the job I’m being offered and I shouldn’t accept the contract.  She didn’t quite put it like that (I guess to avoid an employment tribunal), but that was the gist of it.  That being the case, I don’t know why I was offered the contract in the first place (I suspect there may be politics involved).  In a way I’m pleased it ended like this, because otherwise I would always have wondered if I was giving in to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem and if I should have taken on the challenge of the new contract; now I know that no one realistically expected me to do it.  And some of my colleagues said they don’t we me to go, which was nice.

I’m going to go to a careers advisor and see what they have to say about jobs involving writing or editing, preferably from home.  Writing is one of the few things that invigorates me rather than depleting me, so I think I should try to get paid for doing it, even if it’s only journeyman work rather than something exciting and creative.  Interacting with students definitely depletes me and I want to avoid that as much as possible.

The other major thing on my mind at lunchtime was that I last heard from E. a few days ago, but she hadn’t got back to me since and I was worried about her.  I think she took the break up badly, worse than I did, even though it was her idea.  I got worried about what type of state she’s in and messaged her.  I was worried she wouldn’t reply, but we messaged back and forth a bit.  She was upset about the breakup and blamed herself.  I told her that that was unfair and that she shouldn’t punish herself.  We’re both upset that things aren’t working out for us romantically for banal reasons (finances and mental health), but we’re probably not the first couple to be defeated by those things and we’ve agreed to stay in touch as friends for now.  I’m still hopeful something more will come of it.  The whole situation was so weird that I feel it ought to mean something.  If I can get a job that suits me better and get to a better financial position, maybe we can reconsider.

The other thing that upset me today was that I think my online drama queening has upset someone I thought of as a friend.  I feel very bad about that.  I do feel that I have legitimate reasons for feeling isolated in the frum (religious) community and a right to be heard, but commenting on other people’s blogs, even when what they say is somewhat relevant, probably isn’t the best way of doing it.  What the best way of doing it actually is, is another question.

There are a few other difficult and scary things going on in my life right now, but I won’t bore you with all the details.  I guess I just need to find an aspie- and depression-friendly job/career so I can win back my aspie- and depression-friendly girlfriend.  I do feel somewhat more positive now, though, knowing that E. still wants to be friends and that I did my best with my job and it just didn’t work out, and no one wants me to push myself to do the impossible, even if their reasons for not wanting me to take the new contract are not the same as mine.

D-Day +1

This may be semi-incoherent, as I got to bed about 3.00am last night/this morning, having stayed up very late blogging to try to get my thoughts in order about my job without really having time to unwind and relax after a very stressful day.  I got up about 11.20am when my phone rang (it was on silent, but fortunately was on my bed, so I felt it vibrate), forced myself to eat breakfast and get dressed for my Skype therapy session at noon, then quickly davened (prayed) a tiny bit and here I am now at 1.10pm, trying to stay awake and set some thoughts in order.

Therapy wasn’t that helpful in deciding what to do, as my therapist was just really reflecting my thoughts back to me.  That’s helped me to clarify what I think, but not what to do, as I still have a big (if clearer) inner conflict.  I really think that if I take this “new” job (the new contract at my existing job), I will be suicidal again within six months.  I’ve been suicidal in the current job and I can’t see how things can be anything but worse in a job where the parts of the job I can cope with are perhaps smaller and the parts that really depress me and freak me out are certainly a lot bigger.  On the other hand, if I turn down the contract I could be facing a very long period of unemployment, maybe even permanent unemployment, and dependency on my parents, who are approaching retirement.  It’s very hard to hold down a job when seriously depressed.  It’s hard to hold down a job when on the autistic spectrum.  I don’t know how I can manage with both, without finding a very different type of job.

The other thing that occurred to me is that if my current boss stays on as my new boss (which is not certain) I will face the problem of having a boss who criticises my mistakes, but never praises me, in a job I will feel deeply insecure and in need of positive feedback about, just to get an idea of how well I’m doing.  I currently struggle to work out if she hasn’t criticised me because I’m doing good work or just because she hasn’t noticed my latest mistake yet.

I’m really struggling at the moment.  In the space of about two and half weeks (literally just while my sister was on holiday!) my girlfriend broke up with me and I have essentially lost my job, albeit with the possibility of a new, but problematic, replacement.  It occurred to me that if things were reversed, if I lost the job completely, but had a chance of an unsatisfying relationship and I was saying, “I don’t like X and I don’t think she could ever meet my needs, or I meet her needs, and I could see myself being suicidal in six months if we were together, but I need to be paired up with someone so I’m sticking with her” everyone would say I’m crazy and shouldn’t do that, and with good reason, but with the job, it feels like people are saying, “It’s a job, you need a job, just take it and screw your mental health.”

I do feel that I would like to devote attention to my writing, but I don’t know how.  I’ve had professional writers say I can write well, which has slowly permeated my low self-esteem.  For years I thought ‘writing’ meant writing novels or maybe poetry, which realistically I’m never going to write seriously, but I do feel that there are other, more workaday, types of writing I could try, particularly writing non-fiction about science fiction and for children – non-fiction books and also I have some ideas for religious books for children.  It is very hard to know where or how to begin, though.

I Coulda Been a Contender

Today was a day of mild incompetence (not always my own), punctuated by occasional moments of sheer despair.  In one of my despairing moments at work, I thought that I have everything in life except the things that make it worth living: love, joy, companionship.  But then I thought, actually, I don’t even have that.  I don’t have financial security (my parents still help me out and if my contract is not renewed I will probably have to move back in with them); I don’t have a job I enjoy, let alone a career that I’m progressing with; I have a couple of friends, but mostly long-distance, which is hard; and while I have my physical health up to a point, I’m not sure how easy it is to separate physical and mental/emotional health.  Depression leads to a general sense of being worn out and under the weather much of the time, as well as a greater likelihood of infection.  I do have the love of my parents and sister, difficult though we find it sometimes to understand each other (mentally ill autistic vs. healthier allistic) and a couple of long-distance friends, which is something, but I want more.  Is that selfish of me?   Maybe it is, but I don’t think so.  I could accept my friendships being long-distance (in some ways communicating by text and email is better for me), but I want to love and be loved.

I also reflected that in another life I might have stayed at Oxford (or gone on to Cambridge, I suppose, although my sister would have killed me if I was there when she was) and fitted in a bit better around academics.  At least there are a lot of Aspies there, diagnosed and otherwise.  But on getting to Oxford as an undergraduate, I rapidly felt out of my depth and although I did pretty well in my first year exams (missing a first by two marks), a few months later the depression set in (or became more obvious and intrusive) and my grades in my finals were acceptable at best.  I never felt like a really first class intellect and I don’t think I could really have been a professional historian.  Plus, Oxford and Cambridge are not good places to be Jewishly.  The Jewish communities are small, there are no kosher shops, let alone restaurants, and the Oxford Jewish community is pluralistic rather than Orthodox.  No mikvah or Jewish schools either, so not good for families.  I suppose if I wasn’t frum and had been more academically confident and less depressed, I might have stayed at Oxford as a post-graduate student and met some similarly shy and gauche female post-grad (perhaps in the sciences rather than the humanities so we wouldn’t feel in competition with each other) and been happy.  But I don’t think my life is built for happiness.

To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone other than my two exes was ever remotely interested in me romantically (although I know one other woman who says I’m cute), although I find it sufficiently difficult to read body language to be sure.  I know a woman recently was really invading my personal space and I couldn’t work out what was going on there.  At Oxford I thought someone was attracted to me and made a fool of myself confronting her about it.  She now lives two or three doors down the road.  I don’t think she remembers me, but maybe she’s just being polite and pretending not to know/see me.

I do remember a weird evening at Oxford.  There was a quiz between the Doctor Who Society and the Star Trek Society (this was in my penultimate term, when I was Doctor Who Society president).  After the quiz the Doc Soc (as we called ourselves then) went to the pub; we invited Trek Soc, but only their (female) president came.  I thought she was looking at me strangely all evening, but thought I was being silly (probably reflecting on my previous embarrassment).  When I started walking home afterwards she was suddenly beside me.  It turned out we were going in the same direction.  When we got to the house she lived in, there was an awkward scene on the doorstep where I wondered if she expected me to kiss her or ask for her phone number or something.  Of course, it would have been an unlikely intermarriage: a Whovian and a Trekker.  She was almost certainly not Jewish either!  Even if I hadn’t been frum (religious), it would probably have been very silly to start anything at that stage, as was approaching exams with my mental health in a terrible state (I was only managing about an hour of work a day).  But I do sometimes wonder what on Earth happened/could have happened/was supposed to have happened there.

I find myself thinking sometimes about girls/women I knew in my teens and twenties who I could have asked out but didn’t and how my life might have gone differently if I had, particularly with girls I knew at school, before the depression was really affecting me.  I suppose one shouldn’t really think like that, but sometimes I wonder if I had a chance for happiness and lost it already and that my misery is my fault and, more than that, I will get punished (here or in Olam HaBa (the Next World)) for messing up.  I sometimes think God should make situations a bit easier to read, at least for the autistic among us.

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.

The New Normal

E. broke up with me.  Aside from the obvious issues I knew about (religious differences, geographic distance, her earning more than me), she listed a load more I didn’t expect: that she thinks she wants a higher standard of living than I want or could provide; and she worries that I can’t handle practical things like finances without help and advice from my parents and so on.  All probably true, although I don’t think I’m quite as incompetent as perhaps I make out.

It’s funny, a frum (religious) woman once turned me down saying I was “too worldly”; now it seems I’m not worldly enough.  Anyway, the already impossibly long list of things I need in a prospective wife has now been expanded to: gentleness; a supportive nature; mutual physical attraction; compatible personalities; compatible interests; compatible values and goals; acceptance of my depression, OCD, social anxiety and borderline autism; accepting of my geekiness; a compatible level of frumkeit and compatible hashkafa (religious philosophy) but acceptance that my mental health issues severely impact my davening (prayer) and Torah study; acceptance of the fact that I didn’t go to yeshiva; acceptance of the fact that I’m not really integrated into the frum community; acceptance of the fact that I’m on a low income; acceptance of the fact that I don’t really function well in the world (I’m not sure how much that’s depression, social anxiety or autism, but it doesn’t really make much difference either way); and preferably being based in the UK, despite the tiny size of the Jewish community here and the even smaller size of the frum community.

It all seems staggeringly unlikely to happen.  I feel I should do something to warn myself off dating ever again, although as no shadchan (matchmaker) will take me on and as I don’t know enough people in the frum community to be set up on dates informally, and as I’m largely too shy to talk to women, and as there are few opportunities for single men and women to meet casually in the frum world anyway, it hardly seems worth the bother.

I feel that the odds would be against me even in the mainstream Western world.  In the narrow world of frum Jews, with its mishegases (“crazinesses”) and bizarre rules and expectations, I don’t have a chance.

I do wish my geekiness/autistic special interests were focused on Torah study, though, as I would be a lot better integrated into the frum community if they were, not just regarding dating, but regarding friends and community in general.  As I’ve noted before, I think autistic men can not just live in the frum community, but actively thrive and attain positions of responsibility, respect and leadership in it, provided they can make Talmudic study their autistic special interest.

The weird thing is that to me, most people, in general, do not seem particularly pious or intelligent or even particularly interesting.  There aren’t that many people I’m desperate to have as friends and it’s interesting that a lot of my romantic crushes have been from a distance, or on people who I knew had significant differences from me.  I assume that this is a function of my depression/autism-warped brain, or possibly just plain old arrogance, because most people make friends and find a partner just fine.  Maybe I’m too judgemental or elitist, or maybe I’m too neurodivergent, or maybe everyone looks boring if you’re too shy to start a conversation with them.

I’m not ruling out dating again one day, although I find it unlikely, but it looks like it won’t be for another five to ten years, when hopefully I will be more comfortable with myself and my community and maybe earning more money.  However, this in turn makes having children much less likely, as I don’t want to be a creepy forty-something dating women fifteen years younger than himself.  I just hope I can build some kind of life for myself in the meantime.  I probably do need to come to terms with my position in the frum community (not really inside it, but not exactly outside it either, more tangentially touching it) before I can really think about dating again.  The thing is, the community is too big and established to change for me, so I either need to change to fit in or leave.  I don’t really want to do either of those things.  I don’t think there is much of a position for the neurodivergent, mentally ill or just plain weird Jew is in the frum community.

I felt so alone today, even before E. broke up with me (although I had known she was likely to break up since Sunday).  I found myself crying at work again and I wasn’t sure if it was hay fever or depression.  I think it probably was not hay fever.  I just want to be loved, and to give love, passionately and romantically, physically as well as emotionally (obviously my parents love me, but that’s not the same thing at all), but it never seems to last long on the very rare occasions that it happens.

I hope that things will somehow miraculously rectify themselves, but somehow I doubt it.

I feel that I’m a wretched disappointment today.  I disappointed God by not being a good Jew, I feel I disappointed my parents by not giving them grandchildren or nachas (reflected glory) (not much nachas, anyway).  I disappointed my schoolteachers and didn’t justify the effort they put into my education by meeting my promise as an early high flyer.  I know my boss considers me a disappointment at work, too slow, lacking in confidence with the students and prone to making stupid errors (speaking of which, I feel I have made a serious blunder in my role in the reorganisation of the library as part of the college restructure).  I disappointed E. in the end.  I think of the all the children who scorned and bullied me at school and who now have some modicum of money, status, love or happiness, looking down on me and feeling vindicated.  (Actually, they probably don’t care any more.  They probably don’t even remember me.  To be honest, I struggle to remember them a lot of the time and they had a much bigger effect on me than I ever had on them.)

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading Moshe Koppel’s fascinating Judaism Without Apologies blog, which has been looking at the interaction between traditional Jewish values and Jewish society and comparing them with secular liberalism, essentially combining ethics with descriptive sociology and a little microeconomics and game theory.  He concluded that Jewish life – rich, meaningful, multidimensional Jewish life, of the kind I want, religiously and culturally rich, non-ghettoised and open to the wider world, but without being assimilatory – is increasingly possible in Israel, but nowhere else.  I asked him if he thinks there is any hope for those of us unable to leave the diaspora (there are many reasons why I can’t leave); his response was a paraphrase from the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (which pleasingly he expected me to recognise and understand in the original Hebrew), that “in a place where there are no people [i.e. distinguished people], endeavour to be such a person.”  That’s complimentary, but not very reassuring, as it paints me as the sort of lone voice in the wilderness that I tend to think of myself as when very depressed, but which is counter-productive most of the time, as it stops me reaching out to other people and just encourages my solipsistic introversion.  Maybe it’s just as well that it seems that I won’t manage to have children, as I’m not sure what sort of Jewish heritage I could leave them.

There is more to say, but I ought to have some dinner and go to bed.

Tawdry Quirks

“If you had any more tawdry quirks, you could open a tawdry quirk shop. The madcap vehicle, the tousled hair, the clothes designed by a first-year fashion student? I’m surprised you haven’t got a little purple space dog, just to ram home what an intergalactic wag you are.” Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice Simon Nye

I’ve been thinking of that line today.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because I realise I’ve been rumbled, that various people around me realise that I’m a fraud.  I am actually quite good at some fairly complex tasks, but I can be really rubbish at some (many) very, very basic ones.  Which may or may not be the results of depression, social anxiety and/or autism, but that’s not really the point.  Well, I’m not exactly a fraud, as I never claimed to be very good at anything much, but I’m worried about rejection in a big way.  In two very big ways.  And it frightens me.  Because I think my “tawdry quirks” would make it hard to pick myself up again, in general and in those particular areas.

Half-Term Halfway

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

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

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

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

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

See-Saw

I sometimes wonder what happened to the people I was at school and university with, the people who were indifferent to me, the people who might have been my friends if I had had more confidence and social skills and the people who bullied me.  (I don’t know why they bullied me.  Because I was clever?   Because I was awkward and Aspie?  Because I was a Doctor Who fan?  Because it was easy?  All of the above?  I don’t know.)  I think sometimes about the girls I could have asked out who might have said yes, but who probably would have said no.  I can’t remember all the names or even all the faces, just a sense of not fitting in, of not being accepted.

I assume they are all happy, successful and loved, no matter how unpleasant and socially maladjusted they seemed twenty years occur.  It occurs to me that this might not be true.  Yet it seems pretty impossible for them to be miserable if I am miserable.  Like Yaakov and Esav (Jacob and Esau), Jerusalem and Rome, if one goes up the other must surely see-saw down.  If I’m miserable, they must be happy.

Sometimes I tell myself that my suffering is a kapparah (atonement) for the world.  This is a lie, but it helps me to get through the nights.

Stuck in the Middle with Who?

I finally feel I achieved something this holiday: I went for a run for the first time in nearly eight months.  My trainers were covered in dust from lack of use.  To be honest, I walked quite a bit of it, which was bad even by my standards (I still find it hard to run continuously for twenty minutes or more and I do wonder how much is the depression depleting my stamina), but at least I was out for half an hour when I only expected to manage fifteen or twenty minutes.  I came back exhausted and a bit faint, but also somewhat reinvigorated.  So that’s a positive result.  I’ll try to go for another run on Sunday.  I’d like to build a run every Sunday and Friday through the summer, although the latter might be harder to fit in between therapy and Shabbat (the Sabbath).

I guess I’ve achieved a couple of things this holiday, actually.  I managed to get through Pesach OK, albeit with depression and some religious OCD, but less than the last couple of years except for one bad twenty-four hour hour period.  I did some chores that needed doing and I went out yesterday with my Dad.  I proof-read another two chapters of the second draft of my Doctor Who book today and have been taking notes for revisions on the next chapter.  I realised that writing the book has required me to read the feelings and motivations of various characters implied, but not explicitly stated, by the scripts and body language and intonation of the actors.  I think I’ve done this better than I expected, but it is something I often have to do consciously and struggle with sometimes; I’m not always sure I’ve read them correctly.  I’m not sure where that puts me on the autistic spectrum inasmuch as I find this hard (autistic),but I can do it to some extent (not autistic).  I guess it is a spectrum, with various degrees of severity.

I’m also trying a couple of new techniques for dealing with the depression, using my davening (prayers) as a mindful meditation technique (as per Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in Jewish Meditation) and trying to accept my difficult thoughts and emotions rather than repressing them or getting anxious or depressed about them or indeed encouraging them, but I’m still trying to learn how to deal this and I wouldn’t like to say if they’re working at this stage.  Maybe I will write more on this when I’m more certain of how I’m managing it.

I suppose that those are all positive achievements, considering I was only off for two weeks and most of that was Pesach.  It’s always hard to accept that I’ve achieved things, though.

The rest of this post might be considered a very long digression, but it’s necessary to shed some light on something I’ve referred to here before more than once.  In fact, there might be a couple of people reading this who know that this is something I’ve been writing about and worrying about for many years, but I’ve seen something that makes me think this isn’t just my paranoid/introverted/depressed/autistic/whatever feelings, but something that others have observed in more objective ways.  If you want the short version, it’s mainly just me saying that a clever academic somewhere else online agrees with me about my being socially isolated in the Jewish community.  As for the long version:

On the Judaism Without Apologies blog Israeli polymath (computer scientist, political scientist and Talmudist) Moshe Koppel has been writing a sort of comparative psycho-sociological study of Orthodox Judaism and the Orthodox community versus the liberalism of non-religious American Jews.  I find it fascinating, even though I would query some of it and need more time to digest more of it (I’m hoping there will be a book version, because I suspect I internalise and evaluate information better in book format than blog format), partly because of the light it has shone on my evolving political views and my uncomfortable position in the Orthodox world.  I’m going to leave my (possibly somewhat unusual) politics out of this post and just look at the sociological side of things.

Koppel has been making his study concrete by looking at a couple of stereotypical fictional characters to represent each world, primarily Shimen, an Orthodox Jew and Holocaust survivor, and Heidi, a fairly secular American Jewish baby-boomer.  His most recent posts have been looking at the fine balance of Shimen’s religious world and the way this world has vanished in the next generation to be replaced by two streams of Orthodoxy going in opposite directions: a religious fundamentalism rejecting Western culture and a somewhat conflicted (or hypocritical), accommodationist attitude in more moderate religious thinkers.  Broadly, the former corresponds to Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) Judaism, the latter to Modern Orthodoxy (I would question this a bit, as I felt he was taking examples from the extreme of Modern Orthodoxy and Open Orthodoxy and ignoring what is sometimes described as Centrist Orthodoxy, but we can leave such hair-splitting of practice aside for now).  Various posts have used game theory and sociological theory to show how forms of communal identification and ideological progression in both worlds result in a need for ever more extreme virtue signalling and radicalisation in both directions i.e. the fundamentalists become ever more fundamentalist to prove they aren’t liberal, while the liberals become ever more liberal to demonstrate they aren’t conservative.

The reason I bring this up is that the most recent posts explained to me my position in the Jewish world, and it is precarious.  Koppel describes Shimen’s generation as neither Charedi nor Modern Orthodox, preceding the evolution of these viewpoints, taking what it wanted from the wider world (some secular education, some bits of mainstream culture) while quietly ignoring what it deemed problematic.  Likewise, Shimen was able to balance the universal and particular elements of Jewish ethics.  Shimen probably didn’t know many non-Jews, but he probably didn’t really hate them either or think about them much at all, really, as long as they left the Jews alone.  But the next generation, confronted with an increasingly seductive, but increasingly anti-religious (both in the formal, atheist sense, but also in the sense of simply having ethical norms that are very different) wider culture is locked into one of two responses: build a ghetto and shut out Western culture as much as possible by demonising it or bend halakhah (Jewish law) as far as possible, if not further, to accommodate as much of contemporary Western thought and practice/society as possible.  Again, the former is the Charedi way, the latter the Modern Orthodox.

My rabbi mentor once said I have a strong dislike of religious hypocrisy.  It’s one of the most treasured things anyone ever said about me.  As a result, I find both approaches problematic.  I feel uncomfortable bending halakhah to fit ever-changing political and social mores and I have enough of a philosophical problem with postmodernism to be wary of trying to live my life in accordance with postmodern liberal standards.  But I also disagree with entirely shutting out Western civilisation, which has many good points (as a geek, I have to say there is little geek culture in the Charedi world).  Neither approach seems to me to do justice to the entirety and complexity of Jewish thought, the former prioritising liberal values ahead of problematic Jewish ones, the latter downplaying the universalist aspects of Jewish thought and at times adopting a prejudiced attitude to non-Jews and non-religious Jews that I can not share.  Hence the aspects of my life that I am wary of sharing with my fellow shul (synagogue) congregants: my love of Doctor Who and other vintage television science fiction; my deep and treasured friendships with non-Jews and non-religious Jews, some of them female; my reading of non-Orthodox theologians and bible critics; the fact that I used to work for a non-Orthodox rabbinical college and so on.  And, I suppose, the aspects of Judaism I don’t talk about much here, where I have a mostly non-Jewish audience, although this is due to irrelevance to my blog’s main topics as much as controversy.

Koppel’s argument is that Shimen’s middle ground has largely vanished.  I think, for various reasons (smaller community size; older communities; more antisemitism; different attitudes to religious education in state schools; a non-Jewish political culture that is different and where religion and identity politics are less contested) the division isn’t quite as stark in the UK and perhaps other European countries as in the USA (Israel is certainly a whole other kettle of fish which Koppel hasn’t got on to yet).  But it did give me some sociological back up for why I feel so alienated in my religious community, why I have the classic moderate Orthodox dilemma of “The people I pray with, I can’t talk to; the people I talk to, I can’t pray with” and why that makes it difficult for me to achieve the intimacy needed for close friendships and marriage within the community.

I do feel nostalgic for Koppel’s (or Shimen’s) world of “Litvishe gedolim [Lithuanian Talmud scholars] playing chess at the opera” and am saddened that it’s a world that has largely gone for good.  I don’t know what the solution is, either for me or for the wider community.  Koppel has hinted that he sees the possibility of growing a uniquely Jewish culture in Israel, which might be possible if the religious and secular communities don’t tear each other apart and if the Arab-Israeli Conflict doesn’t flare up again, neither of which looks likely to happen for long.  But even if that’s the case, while an idealistic part of me would like to make aliyah (move to Israel), I don’t see it as a realistic idea for me for a whole tranche of reasons, not least my mental health situation and the language barrier.  So I don’t know what I can do about meeting people like myself.

Maybe compartmentalisation, keeping my geeky friends/life and frum (religious) friends/life separate, is the only solution, but it doesn’t feel like a long-term answer.  Unless I can find a wife as unusually positioned as my self, my children are likely to end up significantly more fundamentalist or significantly less religious than I am*.  But I’m not sure how to find such a woman (even aside from all my other issues – mental health, geeky, etc.), but then, I don’t suppose many Charedi or less-frum/fundamentalist women would be particularly interested in me with my traits from the other side of the divide.

* And perhaps not even if I do find such a wife, as school and yeshiva mould character as well as parents and there is a well-known phenomenon of teenagers becoming significantly more or less religious/fundamentalist than their parents due to these influences.

The Death of a Thousand Cuts

I still feel exhausted and depressed, although not as much as yesterday (I’m off work this week as it’s still the end of term break).  I was texting a friend who asked how I was.  I said that I was OK, just burnt out and down, before realising that that meant that I’m not OK, even if that is how I have felt most of the time for as long as I can remember.  The weather doesn’t help: rainy, but not even a proper storm (I like thunderstorms), just interminable drizzle.  I’ve also got food cravings, which is probably partly boredom, partly clomipramine.  I’m trying to graze on fruit, nuts and vegetables rather than carbohydrates and processed sugar, but it’s hard when I feel so down and could do with comfort eating.

I’m still struggling with concentration.  My boss noticed that at work a while back.  For example, today I needed to get my wallet.  I went to the cupboard, opened the door, stood there looking at my books for a couple of seconds, thinking about what I should be reading and trying to work out why on earth I was standing at the cupboard looking at the books.  Then I remembered I wanted my wallet, which is in my coat pocket, which is in the wardrobe next to the cupboard.  So I went to the wardrobe, opened the door and again stood staring for a second before I realised that the coat isn’t there, because when I came home it was wet from the rain, so I left it to dry in the bathroom.  This all takes time, even before I got back to my desk, wrote this paragraph and then wondered where I’d put my wallet in the meantime.  It doesn’t take a lot of time, but the cumulative effect is quite a lot of time, particularly at work, where I struggle every time I have to shut one computer window or open another (and I have to do that a lot on our library management system).  I don’t know how much of this is depressive poor concentration and how much is autistic poor executive function.  Having been depressed most of my adult life, it is hard to tell.

I went to the dentist today.  My teeth are fine, but I was upset that I shook a little.  It was my desire not to shake that triggered the shaking.  I had to just try to relax and not try not to shake, which is difficult.

My depression group meets this evening, but I don’t feel I have the stamina to sit through an hour and a half talk about medication options when I know none of them really work for me, except clomipramine, which works a bit, but has led me to put on a ton of weight.

Following on from recent posts, I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I probably shouldn’t date for a while.  It’s probably sensible not to put a time limit on it, but I suspect I should wait at least six months to see if I can sort out the social anxiety as my rabbi mentor suggested, although I’m more sceptical than he is as to whether I will suddenly get a rush of people offering to set me up on dates if I do wait that long, and I’m pretty sceptical of ever meeting someone who ticks all my boxes: compatible religious beliefs and practices; compatible character; compatible values (integrity, family, growth, learning); tolerates my geekiness; and tolerates my mental health issues.  As I can’t do anything about my geekiness and mental health or her tolerance level, it’s easy to think I should at least compromise on religion, character or values, as I think I mentioned the other day.  Likewise, I feel that I might possibly be an OK person by the not-very-stringent standards of pluralistic/permissive Western society, but that I’m a very bad frum (religious) Jew, so the temptation is to date non-frum women (who might think I’m OK) rather than frum women who will be angry that I don’t daven (pray) enough or with a minyan (quorum), that I didn’t go to yeshiva (seminary), that I don’t study Talmud and so on.

Nevertheless, I think that compromising religiously would probably be a mistake, at least beyond a certain point.  Identifying that point is difficult, though, as some compromise is necessary in a relationship.  My Mum likes to ask hypothetical questions about whether I would marry someone who disobeyed such and such a Jewish religious law, but it’s impossible to tell in the abstract.  My gut instinct is never to compromise on religion, because it will just lead to problems down the line, but surprisingly my rabbi mentor didn’t think it should be an automatic red line for me.  I can’t remember exactly what he said (it was some years ago), but he was of the opinion that chemistry and trust were the key elements in a relationship and that a relationship with partners on different religious levels could work if they trusted each other and compromised.  This is quite different to what the frum websites and dating advisors say and seems strange to me, yet my rabbi mentor is the wisest person I know and not usually radically wrong.

It’s hard to know where to draw the line, though.  I know someone who doesn’t want to have a TV for religious reasons who was dating someone who does watch TV.  She was willing to give it up for him, but he still stopped seeing her, because he was afraid she would come to resent him for getting her to give it up.  I can see where he’s coming from, but I still feel he made the wrong decision.  Then again, I don’t know what I would feel if a less frum (religious) woman was offering to become more frum for me.  To be honest, I can’t really see myself as enough of a catch for that to actually happen, but if it did, I would probably feel that a big burden was being placed on me to be a super-good husband to be worth the change.  And the bigger the change, the expectation to be super-good.  I suppose I should try to avoid the question by dealing with my social anxiety and self-esteem such that frum people will set me up with frum women as normally happens in the frum community, rather than leaving me to find my own dates in situations where most of the women I meet are not frum.  I just can’t really see that happening.

I think I’ve mentioned that I have emails and blog comments from friends printed out and blue tacked on my cupboard doors to build confidence.  One thing I want to put up somewhere, if I can find somewhere respectful to put it, is Rashi’s commentary on Devarim/Deuteronomy 18.13.  The verse says, “You shall be perfect [tamim] with HaShem your God.”  The obvious question is how can human beings be perfect?  Rashi quotes the Midrash (Sifrei) and answers, “Walk with Him with simplicity [temimut – the same etymological root] and depend on Him and do not inquire of the future, rather, everything that comes upon you accept with simplicity [temimut] and then you will be with Him and His portion.”  Inquiring of the future is really about not soothsaying and fortune telling, but I it’s not too much of a stretch to see it as a warning against the anxious procrastination and catastrophising that I do too much.

The other thing I mentioned the other day was trying to use mindfulness techniques when davening (praying), as I wasn’t having much success in doing breathing meditations.  I think it’s helping me to have kavannah (concentration), but just now I found myself bursting into tears while davening Mincha (afternoon prayers).  I suppose that’s good in a way, but I’m not sure how good.  I should be cooking dinner now, but I feel too sad to do anything.

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…

Whoops

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” – Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

You remember before Pesach when I said that it should be impossible for me to think that I might end up accidentally eating chametz (leavened bread, food made with it or made or served on utensils that have been used with it)?  Famous last words.  Someone just did something I would never have done and we have a Problem.  I think it’s OK, but I’m not sure.  I messaged my rabbi on whatsapp, but the message hasn’t registered as being seen.  He’s probably in bed.  So, it’s another anxious night.

It’s at times like this that my OCD reinforces my depression and social anxiety and I just want to avoid other people so I can do things my way without having to worry about other people messing things up.

In other mistake news, I did another autism online test.  Then I discovered I already did it last year.  At least the results were almost the same: 117/200 both times for neurodiversity (Asperger’s), 77/200 for neurotypicality as opposed to 84/200 last time.  So I read as about 60% autistic, which I guess would fit with the psychiatrists being contradictory about whether I’m on the spectrum or not; I have some symptoms strongly, but not others.

Tonight I feel lonely and want to be hugged, but I’m nervous of talking to my parents for fear of my OCD and irritability triggering an argument or something.  I wish I was in a relationship with someone who really understood me and was able to show affection for me and calm me, but I don’t think that such a person exists.

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a pity/That I’m like me”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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