Friends and Blogging: Questions

You may have guessed from recent posts that there has been ‘Drama’ in my life, not of the good kind.  A couple of friends broke up with me (if that’s the right expression) and did so in a very angry and hurtful way.  I don’t particularly want to go into that now, not least so that I don’t say something I regret later, as I’m feeling a lot of anger, hurt and confusion.  But I wanted to ask my blog readers, particularly those who also blog mental health stuff, a couple of questions, primarily to make sure that I’m not missing some key social cue or behaviour.

  1. Is it considered acceptable to write on your blog in a non-identifiable, non-critical way, about people in your life, e.g. “I saw a friend for lunch today”?
  2. Is it insulting to say that after seeing said friend you were tired, in the context of a blog that makes clear that you have ongoing problems with tiredness for health reasons?
  3. How much should one talk about one’s own problems on one’s blog?

In terms of the third question, I know I have (as my friends put it) a “whiny, self-obsessed blog”.  I write for myself, to help me process my thoughts and emotions, which I find difficult because of depression and autism.   I put my writing in the public sphere not because I think I’m super important, but because I can’t write a private diary, for whatever reason (I’ve tried).  I need to feel like I’m talking to someone else.  Given that most of my posts get a few likes, I’m assuming there are a small number of people here who get something out of my thoughts about struggling with autism and mental illness; a few people have told me as much – that it provides insight into their own struggles or some other benefit.  I don’t try to get people to read my blog; most of my real-life friends don’t even know about its existence.

I feel I’m slipping into paranoia, second-guessing my actions and trying to work out if I’m behaving in an acceptable fashion or if I’ve brought all this down on my own head.  Wondering whether any of my other friends are going to suddenly turn around, accuse me of selfishness and say they can’t cope with my issues any more.  Sadly, a number of friends in the past have not been able to cope with my issues and I begin to wonder how I will keep the friends I still have.

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Stressful Week Ahead

I don’t have much to say today.  Or rather I do, but I don’t feel that I should say it, so this is a bit of a placeholder post to check in with the people who I know read this regularly and to hint that there will probably be more stressful posts in the not too distant future.

I’m not currently in therapy and I use my blog as my main outlet for emotional release, so it’s hard when something is upsetting me that I don’t feel I should talk about here.  I know my blog isn’t truly anonymous (and it could potentially become totally non-anonymous if I ever publish material from it as I would like to do) and talking about people behind their back seems wrong even if it isn’t clear who they are.  But I am currently dealing with a difficult situation.  I think I know deep down what the answer is, but it’s painful, and not just to myself.  I hate to hurt someone else, even if I know that it is necessary (although I’m not completely sure that it is yet).  I’m trying to keep an open mind for now without over thinking things, but I’m not terribly good at either of those things.

This situation and my job interview on Tuesday between them are going to throw me out of my comfort zone and make the next week or two difficult.  I think I really just want to be safe or comfortable in my life, with a settled career, family and community, but I don’t have any of those things (I have family in the sense of my parents and sister, but not wife and children) and the effort to get them is a big struggle, often too hard for me to cope with, or so it seems.  I suppose God probably doesn’t want me/anyone to be too comfortable in this world, because we’re here to grow and growth generally doesn’t come from comfortable complacency, but I wish I could be a bit more comfortable.

What is more positive is that I’ve finished the third draft of another chapter of my Doctor Who book. I’ve got three more chapters to redraft, and I need to write one from scratch for the latest episodes.  The problem is that I still can’t get it to ‘sing’ the way I want.  It’s OK, but it’s not great and I’m not sure whether anyone would really want to publish it.  It’s very frustrating.  I have things to say, I just don’t seem to be able to write them the way I would like.  I know a few people seemed to like the blog posts I wrote that the book is based on, but I’m not sure whether anyone would pay good money for the book version, even if it is significantly longer (approximately twice the length with one and a half new chapters, if I finish the one I need to write from scratch).

Things Done Today

Things done today:

  1. Tried, for the third day running, to apply for a job at a particular institution, struggled to describe how I meet the criteria, procrastinated, decided the job is at too high a level for my experience and gave up both disappointed and relieved;
  2. Spoke to my rabbi mentor, a conversation in which I felt I did not really express myself clearly or describe my anxieties;
  3. Wrote a blog post that somehow got out of hand and turned much more political than I usually feel comfortable posting here;
  4. Did about thirty minutes of Torah study;
  5. Went for a fairly brisk thirty-five minute (or so) walk;
  6. Redrafted another chapter of my Doctor Who book, the first chapter in this draft about which I haven’t had a vague sense of unease.

I feel that today was frustrating, although I can see I did some good things, especially points four to six.  I just feel that I should be able to do more, the background level of mild depression notwithstanding.  There are so many little (and big) chores that I need to do that just get pushed away constantly, so many religious and family obligations that I feel I’m not meeting and I wish I had more time to spend on my writing.  Or maybe it’s that I wish I could give myself permission to spend more time on my writing.  I’m not sure that “redrafting” is quite the right word for what I’m doing with the text of my book either; I’m deleting material and making slight changes, but, so far, nothing very significant.  That’s probably a sign I’m either doing very well or missing something very wrong.

The DVD of the latest series of Doctor Who arrived, which I wanted anyway, but bought more urgently when I realised I probably should write a chapter on it for my book.  I think that it’s too early to really judge this new era, but I suspect a publisher would want me to make the book as up-to-date as possible and any new fans attracted to the programme by Jodie Whittaker will want something on her Doctor.  Plus, omitting it leaves me open to the accusation that I don’t see the female Doctor as ‘real’ Doctor Who, which is not the case.  I am still on the lookout for a cheap copy of Resolution to bring my collection of TV Who up to date, although I suspect I will have to fork out the full price if I want it in the next month or two.  £13.99 for an hour of so-so TV seems a bit much.  I think it’s still on iPlayer, but I’m a completist (arguably I get what I deserve if that’s the case, but that’s an argument for another time).

Careers, Autistic Organisation, Yom HaShoah and the Half-Life of a Blog

A rather long and varied post today, as it’s been a long day.  Here goes…

I had a phone interview with someone from a recruitment agency that specialises in library and information roles.  It seemed to go OK, apart from her suggesting I change something on my CV that she found inadvertently misleading, which made me feel foolish.  I don’t know why I feel such an idiot when people point out my mistakes, especially as in this case I don’t think what I wrote really was misleading.  I always feel inadequate when talking about my work experience and I fear that people will ask about the gaps on my CV or somehow intuit that I’m wondering if I’m in the right career.  And of course any personal interaction brings fears that because of my autism I’m saying too much or too little or saying the wrong thing, things that neurotypical people would manage more intuitively than I can do.  To my relief she was actually positive when I said I was ideally looking for part-time work for health reasons, as she said that those roles can be hard to fill, as most people are looking for full-time work.  The jobs she wants to put me up for now are full-time, though.

The woman who interviewed me was nice, but I always find interviews stressful and I couldn’t do any real work immediately afterwards, just processed some emails and went for lunch to recover.  Even after lunch I was procrastinating and found it hard to get down to job hunting.  It doesn’t help that looking at job specs for corporate law librarian work doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm.  I’m really just applying for these on the off chance, without relevant experience or much interest.  I just want to feel like I’m doing something, and if I waited only for jobs that I was enthusiastic about, I feel I would be waiting a long time.

Filling in job applications is almost impossible.  I did fill in a couple of simple forms, but I should have done more.  (I know people say I use ‘should’ too much and should (ha ha) be more compassionate on my self, but it’s hard when I achieve so little.)  I wasn’t feeling so depressed today, but something about these applications makes me feel depressed and I procrastinate or feel like crying.  It doesn’t help that the application I’m currently filling in (for a job at the library of a major public sector organisation) is, realistically, for a job that is far above me (the salary is about £10,000 more than I’ve been earning), so I don’t have the experience and skills they are asking for, but having told myself to fill it in, it seems wrong to back out, so I stick with it, trying to find examples of my relevant professional skills.  (It doesn’t help that I don’t always have great recall for things that don’t interest me, like work.  If ever there’s a job application that requires knowing a lot of trivia about Doctor Who, I’ll cope much better.)  But I keep getting distracted by aimless internet browsing or reading Alex or Cul de Sac comics.  Maybe I should just accept that this isn’t the job for me and give up?  But I hate giving up on things.

***

I stopped working on my Doctor Who book for a couple of weeks because of Pesach, but I’ve returned to it now.  I redrafted two chapters this week.  It’s frustrating that somehow the prose doesn’t flow as I would like, although I’ve never liked reading my own writing.  I’m always surprised that so many people have said they like my writing.  Of course, it isn’t the kind of book one would buy for the style.

I worry that it’s overlong too.  I’ve cut it down, but it’s still slightly too long, at least according to this site (which admittedly is about novels, not this particularly niche brand of non-fiction).  I’m about halfway through the third draft and ideally I would like to send out chapters to a couple of friends to look at before I try the fourth draft (somehow I’ve got the idea in my head that four drafts is about right.  I think Terry Pratchett and Steven Moffat have both said something about doing four drafts).  However, I’m wary of asking people.  Partly it’s that I don’t always take criticism well (I tend to catastrophise and assume that my work is unbearably rubbish if someone makes even a constructive suggestion), but mostly it’s that I know everyone is busy and doesn’t have time to do unpaid consultancy work, especially as the friends who I think would be most willing to help have serious real-world concerns at the moment and I don’t want to bother them with this.  So I’m not sure what to do about that.

Nevertheless, I am generally pleased at how well it’s going and that I think I’ve managed to say some new things about classic Doctor Who, which is not easy given its age and the sheer volume of stuff that has been written about it over the years.

***

As well as procrastinating, I find it harder and harder to be organised.  At school I always had the right books, did my homework on time, went to the right lessons and so on, but since leaving the more rigid environment of school and having more control over my schedule and planning it, things have gradually got harder.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my Dad says I’m a terrible planner: I draw up detailed plans, but find it impossible to stick to them.  Similarly, I keep my desk and floor tidy, but I suspect this is often at a cost of just piling things in drawers or shoving papers in folders without necessarily knowing exactly where things are going; financial papers in particular are a struggle for me to organise and I’m often vague and uninterested about my finances and need advice and help from my father to deal with them.

I used to think there was nothing wrong with my planning ability per se, I just got distracted and procrastinated because of depression while depressive exhaustion made everything take longer than I expected, but I increasingly wonder if it’s an autistic executive function issue, that I just lack something in my brain that would help me stick to my plans or fully understand my finances.  Again, it would probably help if my day was spent largely on something I enjoyed or found meaningful, instead of applying for jobs I feel equivocal about.  I wonder if autistic rigid thinking and difficulty thinking laterally or creatively about problems is a factor too, if there might be a better way of organising my time/room that I can’t see because I’m too stuck in “This is how I’ve always done it, this is how I always have to do it.”

***

What is the half-life of a blog?  This is something I’ve been wondering lately.  I used to read a lot of Jewish blogs.  I think they had a positive role in teaching me Jewish social norms and frum (religious) language, something that, as someone with autism, I struggle to learn through observation and imitation as done by most children or ba’alei teshuva (people who are ethnically Jewish, but raised non-religious and who become frum in adulthood).  Nowadays I seem to come across fewer of them and many I used to follow are updated rarely or not at all.  I thought this blog would attract mainly Jewish readers and even used Jewish terms as metadata (‘tags’ to non-librarians) to try to attract them, but most of my readers, so far as I can tell, are not Jewish.  Have all the Jews left what used to be called the J-blogosphere (the Jewish blogosphere)?

I did an experiment and went to a blog I used to follow.  It’s long defunct, but had a very long and comprehensive blogroll (remember those?) of other Jewish blogs.  I picked a dozen or so at random and clicked the links.  Only two or three have been updated in the last five years or so and many were not accessible at all, although it’s not clear for how long they have been inaccessible.  A different blogroll shows more active blogs, but often specifically Jewish food blogs (although that may simply reflect the interests of the blogroll compiler).  I know E. is very involved in Jewish food blogging, so that’s obviously still an active area.

Has everyone else migrated to Facebook and Twitter?  There seem to still be lots of general blogs out there, so where did all the Jewish blogs go?  I know some forms of social media are more popular in some communities than others (e.g. I believe Twitter took off in the UK long before it reached the USA), so maybe that applies here too and people have just left Blogger (which was where most Jewish blogs were hosted) for Facebook or Twitter.  It’s a shame as I don’t like Twitter and Facebook and feel out of the loop.  There is a similar issue with online Doctor Who fandom being increasingly based on Facebook and Twitter, but I do at least still follow a couple of Doctor Who blogs and there are more out there that I know about that I don’t like/follow for one reason or another.

***

Most Jewish festivals and fasts are very old, but at this time of year, there are four days that have been created within living memory and which are therefore somewhat controversial, with many Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews not observing and other Jews debating the best way of observing them.  These are Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim (Holocaust Day, Memorial Day, commemorating those who died as a result of war and terrorism in Israel, Israeli Independence Day and Jerusalem Day, celebrating the reunification of the city of Jerusalem).  My personal involvement in these days has varied over time.  My shul (synagogue) does not observe any of these days, but sometimes I go to events at my parents’ shul, which does observe them.

Tonight was the start of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day – distinct from International Holocaust Memorial Day in January, which is not a Jewish creation).  I went to my parents’ shul.  I was apprehensive about how I would cope, worried about being around a lot of people and having to listen to speakers for a prolonged period as much as with the subject matter, but I was mostly OK.  I did cry, but I stayed for the whole thing.  I did notice that I disassociated a bit inasmuch as I would sort of switch off from engaging directly with the speakers and start viewing the event as a historian or sociologist, thinking about how the Holocaust has been commemorated in different times and places and where the emphasis is placed or thinking about theological responses to the Holocaust and things like that.  I think I do that sometimes, particularly with large events like this where I feel uncomfortable.

Part of the event was a short talk about the Holocaust in Libya by a man who was there (albeit as a baby).  Libya was controlled by the Germans’ ally, Italy, during the early part of the war.  I’d always been led to believe that Italy’s involvement in the Holocaust was muted and half-hearted until the Nazis took control of the north of the country in about 1943, but I learnt there was a concentration camp in the Sahara desert for some Libyan Jews and others were sent to European death camps.  This was all news to me and I found it interesting.

So Wonderfully Normal

Every day I have to win the battle all over again.  Today was much the same as many days recently: insomnia last night and tired today, anxiety and depression on the way in to work, mainly anxiety and catastrophising about dating.  I felt better after lunch (some people aren’t themselves until they’ve had their morning coffee; I’m not myself until I’ve had lunch, which is more problematic), but worse again in the afternoon, feeling that I’m not coping with life, work or relationships (not just dating, but family too).  Working with my line manager in the afternoon, I felt spectacularly incompetent.  Why do I always make my worst mistakes when my line manager is watching?  Or is it because she’s watching (social anxiety)?

I did feel bad for not eating dinner with Mum and Dad (we don’t usually eat together during the week) and eating in front of the TV instead, but I’m just completely exhausted and unable to ‘people’ (interact) and if I don’t watch TV while eating, I won’t have time and if I don’t watch TV and unwind I will not be in a fit state to work tomorrow.  Maybe it’s just as well that I’m not married as I do worry about how I would cope with a wife and children.  But it’s so lonely being by myself, especially as my parents don’t always understand me.  This is probably an unsolvable dilemma.

***

Speaking of which, everyone (parents, friends, rabbi mentor) are probably right that I shouldn’t let imminent unemployment deter me from dating, but I think the risk of getting hurt is too strong at the moment.  While I don’t automatically think that I should swear off dating until I’m working and have got made some kind of progress with my mental health and autism diagnosis and/or acceptance of myself, I probably don’t need to throw that in there just now, especially with Purim and Pesach approaching, with all the practical and emotional problems that come with them.  I think it’s worth waiting a bit to at least try to set things up in my favour, however lonely I am right now.

I guess this particular instance of dating was different inasmuch as I know that this person (I’ll call her D) is probably more understanding of mental health issues than most and I saw from her JWed profile that we have one or two values in common.  But I still can’t shake the feeling that no ‘normal’ person would date me, that even despite her being someone with an understanding of mental health issues, I would need to find a geeky autistic woman to accept me, even though there aren’t so many of those in the wider community, let alone the narrower and more conformist Orthodox Jewish world.  I guess I’m just worried that D is too “normal” to ever be able to like or understand me, although I’m not quite sure what I’m basing my assumption of “normal” on.  I suppose no one is really “normal”… except that most people are quantifiably less “not normal” than I am.

I guess the bottom line is that I should leave dating for a few weeks.  Whether I ever pursue dating D is probably best shelved until then too.  Although my experience is that very few things in my life are ever resolved in a meaningful way; the can is kicked down the road indefinitely or other worries come and displace one particular worry from my mind.  Maybe I should be negotiating Brexit…  The question, as ever, is how to deal with the loneliness and hopelessness in a vaguely healthy way, the feeling that no one understands me or cares and that no one ever will.  I know that some people do care about me and I know that I don’t have any solid evidence that I will never get married (just a lot of circumstantial evidence), but I still feel lonely and despairing.

***

More realistically, it might be good to see if CILIP, the professional body for librarians, run a cataloguing refresher course, as I feel my cataloguing skills have gone very rusty and that would be an asset in the labour market.  I still struggle to see myself as employed and happy, though, just as I can’t see myself in a real relationship and happy.  I can’t imagine myself happy in any context, really, except perhaps being dead and in the afterlife, which is not reassuring.

***

Reading the digest of Purim laws that the rabbi of my shul (synagogue) sends out to stoke my religious OCD to ensure the community performs the relevant mitzvot (commandments) correctly, I feel anxious again.  I’ve pretty much told myself that I’m just going to try to get through Purim any way I can and if I do some mitzvot in a sub-optimal way or even miss out on some of them… well, I’ve done mitzvot, including Purim ones, in a sub-optimal way before or even missed out on them completely.  There were many years when I was not able to go to hear the Megillah in the morning as well as evening and some years I think I didn’t hear it at all; at the time I told myself it was depression, but in retrospect social anxiety and perhaps autism were bigger factors.  It is a big worry, though.  I want to do the mitzvot and to have a meaningful day, difficult though it is for me to find meaning in any aspects of Judaism at the moment, let alone through the day when we connect to God with extreme joy.  (Something I liked about D’s profile was that she stressed her desire to keep halakhah (Jewish law) while also having wider cultural interests and she wanted a husband who had hobbies.  Except that I wasn’t supposed to talk about this.)

***

I may be able to see my private psychodynamic psychotherapist again, but not until after Pesach and it would depend on whether I could fit it in with any work I might be doing, as she is only free on Mondays.  So now I’m waiting to see two therapists, as I’m still on the waiting list for CBT on the NHS.

***

I’m thinking of making my blog invitation only.  Unfortunately, I think that would mean that only people who read blogs through WordPress could read it, which is a problem as I have real-world friends reading this who don’t use WordPress.  I do worry about how much information I’m putting into the public domain, though, especially if I am trying to pursue a career in writing.  I know this blog is anonymous, but it’s not very anonymous if you really want to find my true identity.  Advice will be gratefully accepted.

***

I should probably explain that the post title is me being sarcastic about myself and my day.  It’s a quote from the first ever episode of Doctor Who, about a teenage girl who is acting strangely; her teachers hope she is meeting a boy, which would be “so wonderfully normal” for her, but she turns out to be an alien who lives with her grandfather in a police box which is a time-space travel machine.  Today I feel about as normal as she is, and about as likely to have a secret assignation with a member of the opposite sex.

Writing, Dating and Other Diversions

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was good, although I’ve got the post-Shabbat slump at the moment.  Whether Shabbat finishes at 10.30pm in the height of summer or 4.45pm in the middle of winter, I always feel exhausted afterwards, probably because, by definition, it’s dark outside (Shabbat finishes when the stars come out) and, of course, there’s always tidying up to do (which admittedly is harder at 11.00pm in the summer), and although I’ve done my share of that tonight, I was struggling a little bit with some religious OCD thoughts that came up while I was doing it.  Telling myself that “My thoughts are not always my friends” does seem to help though.

Otherwise I’ve been quite well the last few days.  I still didn’t get to shul (synagogue) this morning, but I think I need to psych myself up for that at some point rather than just expect to start going again.  It’s a pity it’s hard to break it down to smaller steps that I can work on gradually (going later is almost as hard, in some ways harder, than being there for the start).  But my mood overall for the last few days has been positive, with optimistic thoughts about dating and writing and a lack of anxiety and depression, for all that I’m a bit worried about something I did at work.

***

I watched Star Trek Beyond this evening with my parents.  Watching films always seems to leave me drained in a way that watching TV does not.  When I go to the cinema, I assume it’s probably the sensory overload that does it, but I don’t know what does it on DVD.  Maybe concentrating for two hours is draining, even on days when I’m not consciously feeling depressed.

***

I’ve got a vague idea about writing the depression book a few people have said that they would like me to write.  I think, potentially, I could wade through the 1000 posts on this site (actually probably only about 600; the others are brief, private, personal journal posts) for material that can potentially be reworked and/or augmented as a book about depression.  But whereas I blog stuff as it happens to me or as I think of it, I could pick apart different themes (depression, autism, being mentally ill in the frum community) and stitch fragments of posts together to arrange the book thematically.  Maybe.  Or maybe this wouldn’t work, I’m not sure.  It needs some thought.  I don’t know what type of book people would want, what ‘value added’ they would want beyond the blog.  Please let me know your thoughts, particularly if you’re one of the people who has encouraged me to write a book on depression.

I want to set aside time on days when I don’t work to write the three (!) books I’m hoping to write: the Doctor Who book that is two-thirds written and which I’d like to get reasonably close to finished by Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) in the autumn; the book on Orthodox Judaism for non-Jews; and the depression book, if I can get it to work.

***

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, has sent me a pencil, badge and cardboard bookmark to mark my renewing my subscription.  The bookmark says, “I’m taking my career seriously – ready for the next challenge!” which seems a bit of a stretch for me.  I’m really not sure where I am with my career at the moment.  I’m hoping my job gets extended past March, but I’d rather spend the non-work days in the week working on my writing than working in a library.

***

I’m still thinking about trying to date again soon.  It requires working up a certain amount of courage.  I feel positive about it, but once I stop to think, it’s harder to accept that someone could want me, depression, autism and all.  I just read a couple of articles about “older singles” in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, which basically means singles over thirty or so years old.  They always say “X is in his late thirties and still single despite having nothing wrong with him.”  I know what they mean, but it always makes me feel, “If you’re neurotypical and mentally healthy and can’t get married, we’ll feel sorry for you, but if you’re autistic and depressed… well, what do you expect?”  I know that’s not quite what they mean, but it’s how it comes across.

Weirdly, I keep thinking about an acquaintance from school who I hadn’t thought about for years.  I didn’t really know her (it was a big school, with 240 children in a year and we didn’t have any classes together), but she always said hello to me using my name and it suddenly occurred to me the other day that maybe she liked me.  It’s weird to think that anyone at school could have had a crush on me, though, as I had terrible acne and was not good at making friends or even talking to people outside my immediate tiny friendship circle, especially not girls.  So maybe she was just being friendly.  But I’ve been vaguely wondering what would have happened if I had asked her out.  Or even if I’d actually spoken to her properly (I don’t think we ever really had a conversation).  I’m not sure why I keep thinking about her, though, particularly as I can’t really remember what she looked like.  Maybe that’s it: I remember her as a cheerful, positive and friendly presence (I didn’t experience many of those at school) more than a physical body and maybe I want that in my life.

Draining Shabbat

Well, that was a difficult Shabbat (Sabbath).  The main difficult thing was an argument with my Mum.  I won’t go into details.  It’s difficult to use this blog to vent (which I need to do at the moment as I’m not in therapy and my rabbi mentor is unreachable) while also keeping the laws of honouring parents and not gossiping.  I wrote a couple of paragraphs trying to do that, but then felt I still said too much.  I need to ask my rabbi mentor for guidance on what is OK to say on an anonymous or perhaps more accurately, semi-anonymous, blog but he’s really busy with work at the moment and I can’t get hold of him.  A lot would depend on how much this blog can be considered truly anonymous, and safe to remain anonymous indefinitely and I would not like to swear to that as there are half a dozen people reading this who know me away from the internet and who might theoretically meet my parents one day.  Some of those friends have offered to listen to my feelings about family privately, but it’s the same situation about not feeling I can share things.  I could phone Samaritans, but frankly it seems too petty and I’m worried about making such a big thing about it as it would set me off again.

I want to say more and keep trying to do so, but every time I try writing, it drifts into stuff I don’t think I should say.  I’ve wanted to deal with these feelings/thoughts/events in fiction before, but I’ve never really worked out how to do and suspect I don’t have the skill to disguise things particularly well, so the truth would be obvious.

The other thing that happened, which was more positive, was that someone I only vaguely know at shul (synagogue) invited me for Shabbat dinner next week.  He is one of the few people in the shul more or less my own age, so that is positive, both in terms of making friends my own age and in terms of being more accepted in the community (and maybe getting set up on shidduchim (dates) one day).  He is someone I envy somewhat, as he has the things that I can’t manage to get, in terms of family and career, but also someone I admire, inasmuch as he seems to be very frum (religious) and involved with the community as well as having a sharp intellect for Talmudic study and good middot (ethical character traits).  I’m very anxious though, worried that I will do or say the wrong thing somehow or come across as not frum enough.  I came home from shul on Friday night rather anxious because of this.

On the plus side, I did deal in a fairly calm way last night with a situation that a year or two ago would have triggered my kashrut OCD in a big way, although on the down side I did get triggered again and responded less well today.  I suppose life and especially mental health issues and autism are all about growth, but sometimes (often) it seems to be some steps forward and then more backwards; the difficulty comes in the periods where the backwards steps outnumber the forwards ones.  But perhaps unsurprisingly after all this psychological stress, I was exhausted last night and slept for a long time.

I had a strange dream about having a cat who, despite never having been let out the house, was somehow pregnant and apparently had five kittens, but then I realised there were ten and then fifteen.  I’m not sure what this means, except that I’m thinking seriously again about getting a pet (although not a cat) and maybe the dream was a reflection of that.  We did once have a cat give birth behind our garden shed, but that was about thirty years ago and probably not directly on my mind last night.  We thought it was a stray, but it turned out to belong to someone who lived in the area who claimed cat and kittens, much to my disappointment and my parents’ relief.

I’m still struggling with my thoughts for a book on Judaism aimed at non-Jews and non-religious Jews written in an informative rather than apologetic (in the sense of ‘defensive’) manner.  I keep thinking it could only work if it was personal, though, as I don’t have the knowledge to write an academic work, but I can’t work out how to marry the personal with the informative.  I guess I can’t work out what exactly it is that I want to say.  Maybe if I could do that, it would be easier to work out how to say it.  Of course, there is a whole halakhic question in how much I could write about Judaism for a non-Jewish audience; another thing to discuss with my rabbi mentor when he’s free.

Dot dot dot. Dash dash dash. Dot dot dot.

Just back from a twilight walk (twilight is about 4.00pm here at the moment).  It was only for twenty-five minutes, but it was a real struggle.

I just feel like a mess today, completely drained and depressed and worried about the future.  I also feel run down, like I’m coming down with a cold, which doesn’t help (it could actually be a cold, but depression can make me feel like this too).  I still have a long to do list, having achieved very little over the “holiday” time before my new job starts, which wasn’t really supposed to be a holiday for me.  I spend time when I should be sorting these things feeling too depressed and drained to care about shopping, bank accounts or pensions, which is wrong of me or at least not good of me.

I probably shouldn’t have sent that email to the Aish.com agony aunt.

I probably shouldn’t think the internet can substitute for real personal interactions (real world interactions are much harder, though).

I probably shouldn’t think I can get anything right.

I probably shouldn’t be here at all.

I don’t believe I’ll be happy this year, or any year.

I don’t think I want to die, I just want to be happy, but I don’t know how.  I don’t really know how to die either, but it’s certain to happen at some point, unlike being happy.

I don’t want to die, but why does living have to be so painful?

I hate this blog.  I hate my writing.

What does it say about me that the only things I get praised for (my writing, my rapport with children) are things I don’t believe are true and, in the case of my writing, actively dislike?

I’m feeling a lot of loneliness and self-hatred today.  I wonder why anyone reads the trivial, tedious, negative things I write.  I wonder if I will ever be loved, or happy (the two seem to go together, although maybe they don’t).

My Mum is upset by how I’m feeling today, but I struggle to understand what she is feeling.  I cognitively know she is upset, but it’s hard to feel it.  That could be autism or depression.  I blame myself and feel more guilty.  Why do I always have to ruin things for everyone else?

My sister wants me to come and see her new house mid-renovation on Sunday and I’m already feeling upset about it, partly for understandable (I think) reasons that I won’t go into now, but also because I’ve already seen the house once pre-renovation and will see it when it’s all done and I wonder how many times I have to go and see this house and end up feeling terrible that I’m never going to get married and own a house.  And then I feel guilty for feeling that too.

My parents said that 2018 was a good year for me, but that seems to be based mainly on my solo trip to New York.  They think I made the right decision leaving my job in further education, but I’m not so sure.  They’re optimistic about my finding a permanent new job and getting a firm autism diagnosis, but I’m not sure about that either.

I can’t find the words to fit what I feel right now.  Alexithymia is awful when writing is your only release of emotions.  I wish someone loved me romantically.  But I know I probably couldn’t cope if someone did.  I know people care about me in other ways, but I spend a lot of time avoiding them or inadvertently being rude to them because I can’t cope with it and don’t know how to respond.

I don’t know how much of that last paragraph is true.  I really don’t understand my feelings today.  Alexithymia is, indeed, awful.

I can’t cope with my feelings.  They overwhelm me.

I can’t cope with my guilt.  It overwhelms me.

I feel that I’m such a terrible person, that nothing good will ever happen to me, that nothing good deserves to happen to me.  I wish I could explain more (because I deserve to be publicly shamed), but don’t have the guts

Wind Up Where You Started From

I feel exhausted today and rather depressed, which isn’t really a surprise, considering that yesterday was a busy day with a lot of social interactions and then I stayed up late writing a blog post that was supposed to help me process the events of the day, but actually made me feel more stressed.  I suspect despite ten hours of sleep, I am still running a deficit of energy spoons.  I went for a twenty minute walk that exhausted me, which definitely makes me feel out of spoons.  I wanted to do my weekly Talmud study today and work on my Doctor Who book, but I don’t feel like doing either at the moment, although I might try again after dinner, when my mood might be a bit better.  Everything is just an effort at the moment, I feel so exhausted and depressed.  I’m just sitting in front of my laptop and vegetating, which is bad, as sooner or later I hit something that upsets me even more.

***

I wonder if I should have posted what I did yesterday.  In trying to process my feelings, I said more than I would normally say in public about my political views.  I tend to hide most of my opinions (about anything) from other people as much as possible to avoid confrontation and rejection.  This is probably not particularly helpful or conducive to making friends.

***

Despite writing a post that was twice as long as usual last night, I realised this morning that I forgot things I should have mentioned, such as being my being upset by my friend’s defence of Jeremy Corbyn against alleged [real] antisemitism accusations, but hiding my feelings to avoid causing offence; discussion of my nihilistic despair about the state of the world; and thoughts about the Jewish educational conference Limmud that my other friend was just back from.

Limmud is one of the few positive innovations to come out of Anglo-Jewry in the last few decades, a non-denominational religious educational conference aimed at all Jews which has now spread globally.  It’s very popular, albeit controversial among some Orthodox Jews, who refuse to attend events where non-Orthodox rabbis and educators speak.  That doesn’t bother me, but it would bother me a bit that my community would probably not be so happy with me going.

However, the real reason I’ve never gone is social anxiety and autism: literally thousands of people go to Limmud and attend talks, communal meals and entertainment together and the idea frankly terrifies me.  This despite the fact that I’ve been told it’s a good way to meet a partner who is serious about Judaism (as if I would have the confidence to talk to strangers there…).  I really ought to go, as a number of my friends have gone in the past, as have my sister and brother-in-law and they all enjoyed it (but then, they aren’t autistic and socially anxious).   I just haven’t worked up the courage to go yet.  I guess I feel that I do have a reason not to go now that I understand my social anxiety and autism a bit more.  I wish I could have told that to people who questioned my social withdrawal years ago at Oxford.  It’s funny that I accept my social anxiety more as a ‘real’ thing now it’s linked to autism than I did when it was just something free floating.

***

On a positive note, here are the Doctor Who miniatures I painted last week (left to right: first Doctor, fourth Doctor, K9, fifth Doctor, tenth Doctor, eleventh Doctor, twelfth Doctor).

DSC00758

Miniatures 2

***

The last few days I’ve been wondering if maybe I could write that book about Orthodox Judaism after all.  I think I should avoid apologetics, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to write a personal account if it’s honest about being personal and non-generalising.  It’s still a scary thing to contemplate writing, though, both from the effort required in research and writing and the backlash I might get from things I write from people whose opinions I care about.  In the worst case scenario, my book ends up in cherem (banned).  That’s not likely to happen, as I’m not important enough in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world for it to be worth banning anything I write, but people might regard things I write as incorrect, heretical or (more nebulously), true, but not something one should tell non-Jews and non-frum Jews about.

***

I’ve never really celebrated secular New Year’s Eve, less from religious reasons than social anxiety.  My plan for tonight involves DVDs (probably Sherlock: His Last Vow) and perhaps a book (Mythago Wood) if I have enough energy spoons to read, which does not seem so likely at the moment.

My parents have got ten friends over for dinner tonight.  I will be expected to come down and say hi, something I hate doing.  I can feel everyone staring at me and asking small talk questions that I can’t answer easily, like “How are you?” (“Really depressed” isn’t an acceptable answer) and “What are you doing?” (“About to start a job I’m terrified I’m going to mess up”).

It’s difficult reading people reflecting on happy and successful years, when I don’t feel that mine was like that.  It’s difficult in another reading about sad things that happened to people in 2018 (because I’m not a sadist).  Jews greet the new year with a mixture of awe and trepidation, which seems to fit better with the types of years I experience than alcohol-induced levity and blind optimism. According to the Jewish calendar, we’re nearly a third of the way through the current year (5779) already and it hasn’t been great, so I don’t think things are going to go much differently via the Gregorian calendar.

Anyway, felicitations and what-not.

Still Feeling Like the Most Evil Person in the World

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

The Most Evil Person in the World

I don’t really have anything to say today (plus ça change) and I don’t have much time before Shabbat (yikes), but I needed to say something.  I feel so depressed and lonely today and the internet is my main way of reaching out to people.  I’m trying to stay off Twitter and random internet surfing, so that means blogging.  I’m glad I’ve met some people who read my blog offline, even if most of them live too far away for me to see them regularly.  I feel worryingly self-obsessed here, though, like the OCD-suffering narrator of the Young Adult book I’m reading, who is about to discover that her best friend has written her into her Star Wars fan fiction as a self-obsessed and useless character.  She has just got a boyfriend, though, whereas I’m terminally single.  I didn’t go on a date until I was twenty-seven, whereas she’s still in high school.

On my last post, Ashley Leia commented, “is there any sort of widely accepted Orthodox view of what God is likely to think of non-frum Jews? It’s a very broad generalization, but I would imagine the average non-frum Jew is committing quite a few more sins than the average Orthodox Jew.”  The problem – and I’ve travelled on this train of thought a lot – is that not only are we not supposed to judge others, we aren’t even supposed to be able to judge others, because God judges everyone uniquely, based on their personal history, situation, strengths and weaknesses and temptations.  So I shouldn’t compare myself with other people who I might feel are doing worse than me to boost my self-esteem and even if I did, I can’t really know that I’m better than them; maybe on their level they’re meeting 100% of their potential while I’m meeting only 25% of mine.  Judaism focuses on meeting potential more than absolute values.  (Technically we are allowed to envy the good deeds of people better than us if it inspires us to do better, but that’s a depressing thing for me to do.)  So, even if I want to say, “Well, I may do X wrong, but at least I keep Shabbos and kosher which that person doesn’t do” that may be meaningless, because maybe that person is even expected to keep Shabbos and kosher while I’m supposed to do that and a load more besides.

The problem (aside from having major sins on my conscience that I feel terribly guilty about) is that I have no real objective view of how I’m doing religiously.  I’ve tried asking my rabbi mentor, but he refuses to answer the question and no one else knows me well enough to be able to tell me.  So that makes it easy for the depression and low self-esteem to convince me that I’m the most evil person in the world.

Anxiety and Anger

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

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

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

Time Capsule Fragment

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the point where I stopped writing.  Goodnight.

Fifteen Years

I’ve had some difficult thoughts today.  I had a vague feeling today that I should stop writing this blog, because I don’t think I present Judaism well.  Not compared with sites like Aish.com or Chabad.org or even Hevria.com.  I make it sound like it’s all sin and impossible rituals and guilt, when really it isn’t.

I hate myself and have thoughts of suicide.  The main things stopping me are thinking of what it would do to my parents (I don’t think about my friends, which makes me feel guilty) and the fear of making a failed suicide attempt and ending up with terrible, permanent injuries.  It did occur to me that it’s more or less exactly fifteen years since I nearly attempted suicide (it was in Michaelmas Term of 2003 at Oxford, so any time from October to early December, but I think more towards the start or middle than the end).   I find it hard to think of tangible things that would be worse if I had killed myself then.  I’ve done some extra mitzvot (commandments) in the meantime, but also some extra averot (transgressions), so I’m not sure how that balances out.  I haven’t really done anything worthwhile with my life.  Or is that just the depression talking?  It’s hard to be sure.

The pharmacist had a big bag of clomipramine for me as some of the tablets have finally come in.  With my parents away next week, I’m a bit scared to have them in the house with me feeling like this, but I don’t know what to do with them.  There isn’t anyone I could give them to.

I’m fairly sure I’m not actively suicidal at the moment, but I do wish I had never been born and I would like to die (I guess that’s one ambition I’m sure to fulfil eventually).  I can’t see things improving.  Life is an endurance test for me; I can accept that HaShem (God) has His reasons for this, but I wish I had a clue of what they are, just to give me some chizuk (strength, inspiration).

My parents have been encouraging me to do teacher training again.  It seems to have become an idée fixe for them, a panacea that will cure all my problems (Dad seems to think being a teacher will make it easier to get married, possibly because I might meet a single female Jewish frum (religious) teacher at a Jewish school, although I doubt I could talk to her much if I did).  I can’t really blame them, as I have my own idées fixes.  Getting married or getting a girlfriend was one for a long time and still is, to some extent.  Getting an autism diagnosis has probably taken the first place now, although I don’t know what good it would do me.  I thought of emailing Dr Tony Attwood, who wrote The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome to ask what he thinks I should do, but it seemed chutzpahdik (someone or something having chutzpah – is that accepted enough in English now to not need translation?  Audacity is the nearest word).  I would basically be asking for a free consultation (via email – he lives in Australia).  In any case, the email address on his website probably goes to a secretary.

I’ve cooled off on the thought of buying guinea pigs.  I guess what my Mum said about my not being able to look after them, or to look for jobs if I use my energy up looking after them, has worried me.  Plus the thought of going into a pet shop and asking to hold the guinea pigs (as Dad said, to check I can do it) and of asking for help choosing a cage etc. has triggered my social anxiety to a great extent.  I don’t know how much I want them any more.  Maybe they were just another idée fixe.

I do feel lonely though.  I nearly wrote “I want to get laid,” but that’s not exactly true (and vulgar).  I do want physical affection and in-person support from someone who loves me.  I guess long-distance support from my friends isn’t enough.  My parents are sources of support and physical affection, but… I don’t know, it’s difficult with them sometimes, because of how they are and how I am and because of things in the past, but I can’t talk about that here, which is frustrating.  I feel guilty because of this.  If my parents aren’t good enough and my friends aren’t good enough, it could be that the problem is ME and I’m not good enough at accepting love.  In which case getting married or having a girlfriend wouldn’t make any difference.

I feel that my role in life is to suffer and endure.  At least, that’s what I’ve been doing more than anything else in my adult life.

I don’t want anyone to read this and worry about me.  I think the chances of my hurting myself are slim.  I’m pretty sure I would phone Samaritans if it got that bad, and I don’t think it will.  I’m tired more than suicidal.  I’ve just spent fifteen years or more struggling to survive, and I don’t know what else I can do.

My Family and Other Animals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fierce Dogs in the Cellar

Nietzsche described depression as having “fierce dogs in the cellar.”  I feel like I have a whole pack of fierce dogs in my cellar: depression, anxiety, OCD, and they’re all baying for my blood at the moment.  Even the OCD, which I thought I’d got rid of, has come back.

***

I went to bed late last night (about 1.30am) because I was writing a job application and (I admit) blogging, but I woke up at 6.30am with a headache that wouldn’t shift.  I watched TV for a bit until the headache went, but trying to go back to sleep after that didn’t work; I just lay in bed feeling depressed and having OCD thoughts: I made a kashrut (Jewish dietary law) mistake recently and am waiting to hear back whether I need to do anything practical about it.  I guess it’s a big improvement on how I was two years ago, as then I would be in a total panic, thinking I had treifed up the entire house (made all the crockery etc. non-kosher), whereas now I think there’s probably nothing practical to do, except feeling stupid for making a mistake.  I wish I could accept mistakes as part of life rather than beating myself up endlessly for them.  I try not to get angry with other people for their mistakes, but, as I’ve noted before, I treat myself much worse than I treat other people and worry that if I forgive myself for anything I’ll just become complacent and end up as a terrible person.

***

I tell myself that I don’t care how many people read my blog and to some extent that’s true.  I’m not generally agonising over follower numbers or likes the way I used to.  Still, once I get followers (and I’ve acquired a few recently), I worry about losing them.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really understand why anyone would read my blog.  I worry about being “too much” for people.  Too Jewish, too geeky, too mentally ill.  I look back at some posts (e.g. yesterday’s) and shudder at how much I give rein to what I feel without thinking what other people will think of me.  I don’t have much confidence in my writing ability, especially here, where I give freer rein to my thoughts than in more ‘formal’ writing situations.  I suppose I don’t have confidence in my self as someone other people would want to know, through my blog or in real life.  I guess it’s the classic Jewish thing of not wanting (as Groucho Marx said) to belong to any club that will accept me as a member, a mindset that dogs pretty much all my social interactions.  As with most of my issues, it stems from low self-esteem and a childhood of being bullied and ostracised, but I don’t know how to move on from it.  I’m hoping if I can get some CBT soon it might help, but I’m worried it won’t.

***

Part of my trouble in finding a correct diagnosis is my the difficulty I have in describing what I feel and in understanding how other people experience the world, what is ‘normal.’  This can be particularly true with my religious life, given that religious Jews are rarely portrayed in fiction and are usually presented negatively when they are.  For example, it occurred to me a while back that I have always felt uncomfortable with my tefillin on.  I just thought that this was one of those things, perhaps even a bad reflection on me that I felt uncomfortable performing a mitzvah (commandment).  But now I wonder if it is autistic sensory sensitivity.  Or it could be something that everyone who puts on tefillin feels, but no one talks about it because it’s too mundane and taken for granted.  I think my father finds his tefillin uncomfortable, but he binds his far too tightly.  I’ve never had the courage to ask anyone else.  Likewise, when my OCD was bad, it was a relief to discover I’m not the only frum (religious) Jew who struggles with seeing images of Jesus and Buddha while davening (praying) thanks to OCD.

***

My instinct is to say that I’m a loner, but I’m not sure that it’s true.  I dislike crowds, but I think I need a few good friends.  But I’ve spent much of my life feeling very lonely.  According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology, loneliness, from a health/mortality perspective, is “comparable to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day… It exceeds the risk of alcohol consumption, it exceeds the risk of physical inactivity, obesity, and it exceeds the risk of air pollution.”  Whoops.  One article I saw suggested that people who don’t fit into their community should move to another one, but that isn’t always possible.  Certainly in my case, my choice of community, although wide by the standards of where I used to live, does not provide any community that would be a perfect fit for me.  My shul (synagogue) has positives and negatives and I have to learn to live with that.  I can’t find a “shul for weirdos” as that author of that article was able to do.

***

I sent off a job application.  I just feel anxiety and despair about the whole job hunt process.  I want to have a job and be financially independent, something I haven’t managed in thirty-five years (I’ve never worked full-time and even when working I’ve still had my income supplemented by my parents because I have never earned enough to be fully self-sufficient), but my experience of my current and previous jobs are too negative: too many mistakes, some of them stemming from social anxiety, but many through sheer carelessness.  I hope that’s due to depression (at any rate in the past I was not a careless person), but I worry that I’ve become a careless person and ultimately whether the carelessness is due to depression or not doesn’t really make a difference to the fact that I don’t feel capable of doing a job well.  In the job before that I made fewer careless mistakes (or maybe they just weren’t found as I wasn’t being supervised so carefully), but was frequently absent due to depression and anxiety, which is not encouraging either.

Looking to complete a second application this weekend, I found myself having to choose between a job I was not really qualified for; a job I probably was qualified for, but for which the employer wanted a recent graduate straight out of library school; a job that had all the negative aspects of the revised job description I turned down at my previous job because I didn’t think I could cope with it, but only on a three month contract (the job seems far too complicated and involved to be done in just three months); another job I’m technically over-qualified for, but which I suspect would still push me to my limits, given how I feel right now; and one I’m applying for out of desperation because it doesn’t seem as obviously a bad a fit as the others.  Actually, on second thoughts, it also looks worryingly similar to the job they were turning my old job into and which I (and my then boss) didn’t think I could do.  I worry – again – that the librarianship profession has changed.  I could have been a great academic librarian… fifty years ago, before the internet, when librarianship was about managing a collection of hard copy books and knowing how to search card catalogues and reference works to answer reader queries.  But now academic librarianship is about teaching information literacy, managing online resources and marketing library services to staff and students.  But I’ve started the application now and will finish it.

I did procrastinate a lot over the application.  I hate the fact that I essentially have two jobs at the moment: my part-time (four days a week) paid job and my unpaid job on non-work days (bar Shabbat (the Sabbath)), applying for a new job.  I don’t have time to tackle various chores that need doing, let alone relax, yet because of my mental health situation, I need time to relax a lot.  So I end up procrastinating and neither applying for jobs or truly relaxing.

Someone at work, interviewing applicants for a position, remarked that there’s a clear difference between candidates who want a job and candidates who want the job.  I fear I’m in the former category.  I don’t actually know what job I could do well and at the moment have very little confidence that I could do anything.  At the moment I don’t really have any ambition.  At times it feels that the only thing I want is… perhaps not to die exactly, but not to be here.  To be on another plane of existence.  Not to deal with the heartache and the thousand shocks that flesh is heir to, and which I seem to be singularly bad at dealing with.  I vaguely want to have a career, friends, community, marriage, children, but I have no real plan of how to get any of these things and I doubt I would know what to do with them if I did get them.  I don’t see myself as really competent to work (although officially I’m fit to work and don’t qualify for benefits) and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to marry me, unless it was someone who was ‘settling’ because she was desperate for children.

***

Walking to the shops, I visualise myself watching my own funeral in ghostly sort of way.  This is a morbid fantasy I have when I’m very depressed, or even mildly depressed.  I worry whether there will be anyone there, or whether I will be so alone that I won’t get a minyan (prayer quorum).  I worry what the eulogies will say, because I can’t think of very much that is positive that one could say about me.

***

I fear this blog is getting tiresome.  The same topics – my ambiguous relationship with autism, my anxieties about work, my loneliness and fear of being single forever, my belief that I am a reprehensible person, my struggles to fit into the community I have chosen for myself – seem to dominate week after week.  It bores me, let alone my readers, but I am not sure what I can do about this.  It all stems from my poor mental health and consequent lack of direction.  Actually, even my mental health may not be the primary issue; it increasingly seems to me that my low self-esteem and lack of self-knowledge is at the root of the depression, rather than the other way around.  I don’t know who I am, and I don’t like what I do know.  I can’t take my friends or family seriously, because they all like me a lot more than I do.

Jewish and Whoish

I’ve often written about my feelings of having a fractured identity.  It’s like there are parts of my life that don’t go together.  Being geeky and a Doctor Who fan doesn’t fit terribly well with being a frum (religious Orthodox) Jew, particularly in a somewhat Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) community that isn’t always a good fit for me in itself.  And so far my attempts at paid employment have not fitted terribly well with my mental health issues and borderline autism, while identifying as autistic makes me feel a fraud, given that two assessments have ended with my being classified as neurotypical, but with a lot of autistic symptoms (but, of course, I can’t access help for those symptoms because I don’t have the appropriate diagnosis).

I started this blog thinking it would be a Jewish blog about mental health, but it turned out to be a mental health blog with Jewish overtones (and Hebrew/Yiddish vocabulary).  My assumption was that most of my readers would be Jews with mental health issues, but so far as I can tell that isn’t the case.  Most of my readers are non-Jews with mental health issues or autism (I didn’t even expect to blog much about autism, given my non-diagnosis).

It’s confusing to know who I am sometimes.  A lot of the time, really.  Maybe that’s why I like being with young children and want a pet (more on both of those things below); young children and animals just accept you as you are without feeling the need to stick a label on you or force your square pegs into their round holes.

(Although I’m aware that the person who labels and forces me the most is myself.)

Working my way backwards through things that happened to me during and after Shabbat, I’ve started another job application, for a cataloguing role.  Good pay, but only an eight month contract.  I’ve applied, even though I feel very negative about my ability to do any job competently at the moment.  The online application form is really badly designed and annoying.  Actually, I can feel my anxiety level rising as I fill the form in.  This is due to my anxiety about coping with work, not the badly designed form, although that doesn’t help.  I’m procrastinating a lot, again out of anxiety; it took an hour and a half just to fill in basic details about my qualifications and previous employment because I keep getting distracted because I don’t want to focus on it.

Someone who lives in our road gave me a lift home from shul (synagogue) tonight.  I accepted because it was pouring with rain.  It was awkward, though.  He had music on very loud and I struggled to hear what he was saying.  I don’t know how much of that was autistic sensory sensitivity, how much was social anxiety (when I’m socially anxious I get so caught up in my anxious thoughts that I don’t take in what the other person is saying) and how much was just that the music was very loud.  I suppose I could have asked him to turn it down, but it honestly didn’t occur to me.  He saw I had a Gemarah (volume of Talmud) with me (because I’d gone to Talmud shiur (class) before shul) and asked what I was learning (Orthodox Jews always talk of “learning” Torah rather than “studying,” a habit that irritates me no end).  He asked which perek (chapter) I was up to and I struggled to answer, as I had noted my progress more by page number and, in any case, I’m struggling to keep up with the shul’s weekly Talmud study programme and am only vaguely aware of what I’m studying (admittedly I understand aggadata (the non-legal part of the Talmud) more than halakhah (the legal part)).  I couldn’t remember the chapter names at all (the chapters are always named after the first two or three words of the chapter) and felt rather stupid, as I generally seem to end up feeling when I talk to people I don’t know well.  This is why I usually try to avoid being given lifts, because I don’t like being trapped in a conversation with someone.

Our shul, like most shuls in the UK, has volunteer security (sadly, the risk of attack is very high and the shooting in Pittsburgh has just reinforced this).  I had asked to be taken off the security rota for health reasons.  My depression and social anxiety mean that I haven’t made it to shul for a morning service for a long time.  I haven’t specified what my health reasons are though.  I didn’t realise that I was supposed to be on duty this morning.  I don’t know if I wasn’t told or if I just deleted the email without reading it because I thought I was not on the rota.  At any rate, in the evening I was told that I had missed my slot.  They weren’t angry about it, but I felt bad, because I don’t like to let people down and also because I think I’m going to have to open up more about the nature of my health issues and say that just because I can make it to shul for Shabbat (Sabbath) evening services, doesn’t mean that they can assume I am well enough to make it for morning services.  I still struggle to tell people about my issues, though, even after all these years.  It’s hard to tell why.  I guess I worry how people will react and I suppose I feel weak and useless for still being depressed after fifteen or twenty years.  I feel that I should have got over it by now.  Maybe that’s why I’m desperate for an autism diagnosis, because then I’ll have something that I won’t need to feel guilty for not being able to change because it’s not something you can cure.  Or maybe I just want to pile up as many diagnoses as possible to justify why I’m not still functioning properly after all this time and treatment.

I feel the same reticence with job applications.  Diversity rules mean employers have to ask if you have medical issues requiring “reasonable adjustment” to do a job, but I never mention the depression because I’m worried they won’t employ me, even though that’s illegal.

Over Shabbat dinner my parents were encouraging me to become a primary school kodesh (Jewish studies) teacher.  They’re trying to be helpful, but I can’t really see myself doing that.  They say I’m gifted with children, but I find that hard to believe.  I enjoy being with young children (pre-teen), but I get scared that I’m going to accidentally hurt them or let them hurt themselves somehow (this is probably pure O OCD) and I can’t see myself handling a class of thirty children.  I can see that teaching would be fulfilling, though, and teaching kodesh would mean working in a Jewish school, which would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about having time off for Jewish festivals and Friday afternoons in the winter, when Shabbat (the Sabbath) starts mid-afternoon.  However, I feel I need more experience around children before I make a decision that big, plus I’m not happy about retraining – teacher training, but I’d also have to brush up my Hebrew, particularly my grammar (modern Hebrew and biblical Hebrew have different verb conjugations and I get confused between the two, inasmuch as I can remember either).  I also suspect that I would have difficulty getting accepted as a kodesh teacher, given that I never went to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) as most Orthodox Jewish men do for at least a year.

Going to yeshiva is a big thing for Jewish men.  People form their intellectual out look, meet friends and find role models, but, more than that, in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world people will, rightly or wrongly, read a lot into a person’s choice of yeshiva: their religious outlook (how modern or fundamentalist), their politics (how Zionist), even I think their personality type.  Who a person gets set up with on dates is based a lot on one’s choice of yeshiva or sem (girls’ religious seminary).  If you go to Gush or Mir or YU, people make assumptions about you.

Of course, I know deep down that I would probably have had a lousy time at yeshiva.  I struggle to study Talmud and even in a modern yeshiva that wasn’t opposed to Western culture, there would have been little time for secular interests, certainly not Doctor Who.  Plus the style of study in a yeshivaBatei Midrash (study halls) of hundreds of pairs of students loudly arguing about texts is not good for someone either autistic or socially anxious.  And I wasn’t even that frum when I was old enough to go (which of course is one reason I didn’t go), although I suppose had I not been depressed when I finished at university, I might have gone for yeshiva for a while as some of my peers at Oxford did.

It’s funny, actually.  Although not going to yeshiva has had a huge effect on my life (or at least has convinced me that it’s had a huge negative effect on my life, which may not be the same thing), the actual studies are not really what I regret missing out on.  It’s actually spending time with holy people, great talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), to learn from their characters.  This is the envy I have when someone says that they knew rabbi so-and-so at yeshiva.  I think a lot about what it would be like to meet one of my heroes from Jewish history.  The answer, I suppose, is that I would be too shy to talk.

On a related note, someone whose blog I read is struggling with religious matters (it’s not fair for me to go into details here and they aren’t really relevant), which reminded me of when I had a lot of religious questions, earlier in my depression and felt like I could lose my faith.  I can’t remember how it ended; probably there wasn’t a day when I woke up and said I didn’t have any major doubts.  I found some answers, but mostly I think I found Jewish religious existentialism, although it was a long time before I found a philosophical name to put to specific Jewish teachers whose writings made sense to me, and that helped reframe the question.

Religious existentialism teaches that doubt and questioning are part of life and that the search for answers is the religious life, not something you go through to become religious.  I realised that ‘proof’ is not how real human beings live their lives, that we base our lives on experience and human interactions, not abstract reasoning (although this is hard for someone who has difficulty with social interactions).  I still struggle with certain passages in Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and things like the problem of suffering or biblical archaeology, but I realised that the God of my religious heroes, the God of Hillel and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and the Kotzker Rebbe – is a loving God because a violent, abusive God would not have compassionate, just and loving followers.  Any questions I had came to seem less important to me than trying to be a good Jew like my great ancestors.  I’m not sure if this makes sense to anyone else. I think in matters of personal philosophy, everyone has to find their own answers, and the answer that satisfies one person won’t satisfy another (which is quite existentialist in itself).  I suppose what I’m saying is that my Yiddishkeit (Jewish-ness) is bound up with the history of my people and the example of great tzaddikim (holy people) much more than abstract philosophical reasoning or the details of texts (which is very Jewish).

I suppose the big question is why, if I’ve learnt to live with doubt, uncertainty and big questions in my religious life, and to some extent in my political life (I don’t really affiliate with any party any more), why do I struggle so much with doubt in my personal life: doubts whether I am autistic, doubts about my career, doubts about relationships and marriage, doubts above all about whether I’m a good person.  Really it’s more like certainty that I’m not a good person, even though lots of people have told me otherwise.

Some of it is low self-esteem and consciousness of the way that my mental health issues sometimes result in my acting in a way that I don’t agree with and would not do if I was not undergoing stress of some kind.  Some of it is what I said before about not fitting in.  I don’t feel that I fit in to any of the communities I find myself on the fringes of.  I don’t feel a fully religious Jew because of my geeky Doctor Who fannishness, but sometimes I don’t feel that I belong in the fan community, which has a lot of vocal militant atheists.  Plus the laws of Shabbat and kashrut (dietary laws) make interacting with non-Jews difficult.  I won’t go to conventions on a Saturday and going anywhere with food is problematic (a problem at my depression group too, where I can’t go to the more social meetings, which are on Saturdays and often involve food).  Although the main thing keeping me from Doctor Who conventions is social anxiety.

On an unrelated note, I spoke to my parents about getting guinea pigs.  My Dad felt I should go to a pet shop first and check I’m OK handling them, which makes sense.  My Mum was worried that I would be too depressed to care for pets or would neglect my job hunting if I was caring for them, which seemed a bit of a remote possibility.  I’m not sure if she’s completely happy with the idea.  Then again, I’m not sure how happy she needs to be, given that the guinea pigs would be in my room.  I probably do care too much about what my family think of me sometimes e.g. part of the reason I gave up on online dating was that my sister was so opposed to me doing it.  For what it’s worth, my rabbi mentor was really enthusiastic about my buying a pet and I trust his judgement on most things.

I suppose I just worry that my Mum might be right and I won’t be able to look after a pet.  I mean, with most things (dating, work etc.) my parents say I have certain abilities, but I find it hard to accept.  Here, Mum is suggesting that I might not be able to do this, so logically I should have absolutely no confidence in my ability, which makes me wonder if this is just a silly idea.  We’ve never had pets other than goldfish (I think my Dad had a budgie as a young child), so I have no idea how I would react to pets, whether I could care for them or what they would do for my mood.  I hope they would make me feel better, but they might not.

Silent Screaming

I think I got about eight hours sleep (I’m not sure, as I can’t remember when I went to bed), but I woke up feeling very tired and depressed and glad that I don’t work on Fridays.  I just feel wiped out by another work week, really (with added psychiatric review and major work mistake), and glad that my contract is nearly over.  I don’t know how I would work in a permanent job for four days a week, let alone five.  Unfortunately, it seems part-time work is hard to find, at least in areas I might be good at.  I’m still not convinced I’m in the right career, but don’t know what else to do.  The idea of doing a PhD in antisemitism and then going to work for a Jewish thinktank has a certain amount of appeal, especially after Pittsburgh, but I’m not sure I could cope with it practically or emotionally (immersing myself in antisemitism), socially useful though it would be.  My Mum still thinks I should retrain as a primary school teacher and it’s true that I find young children restoring rather than depleting, but the prospect of being responsible for thirty children at once terrifies me.  I don’t feel I cope that well with three or four children at the asylum seekers drop-in centre, and that’s only for a couple of hours a month.

Someone on BBC News drew her OCD as a cartoon character.  I’m not an artist, but my depression would probably look like an anthropomorphic cloud, dark (despairing) with downturned mouth (depressed), and rain (tears) and lightning (irritability/anger).

The shiur (religious Torah class) last night was interesting.  I thought over some of the issues that came indirectly out of it afterwards.  I don’t want to go into details, as it’s private, but it did help me a bit to understand how I could understand my suffering without seeing it as a sign that God hates me and is angry with me, which I’ve felt for years, although sadly it seemed to indicate that my main role on Earth is to suffer.  I hope I’m wrong about that.

I talk a lot about Jewish community stuff here, but I tend to shy away from detailed descriptions of Crazy Jewish Ritual, partly because I know most of my readers aren’t Jewish.  Maybe I shouldn’t do that.  Anyway, here is something Crazy I’ve been doing this week, although I don’t think it’s a common thing to do.  Maybe it will help other people psychologically even without the underlying beliefs.

I have mentioned struggling a lot with my religious life lately, feeling guilty, feeling angry with HaShem (God), struggling to daven (pray) and to study Torah.  I came across this passage in The Empty Chair: Finding Hope and Joy: Timeless Wisdom from a Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:

The Rebbe said: When do I have my meditation?  When everyone is around me, that’s when I seclude myself with God.  I know how to cry out in a silent scream.  What I say is heard from one end of the world to the other, yet those around me hear nothing!

Anyone can do this.  Imagine the sound of such a scream in your mind.  Just as the throat brings a scream from your lungs to your lips, there are nerves that draw sound into your head.  When you do this, you are shouting inside your brain. Direct that shout to the One above and it will open Heaven’s gate.

I had heard of this before, but not tried it.  When I was struggling with my hitbodedut meditation this week I tried this, thinking of everything in the world that makes me depressed and anxious and self-hating and just screaming silently in my head.  I don’t know what it does religiously, but it was surprisingly cathartic psychologically.  I’ve been doing it for a few nights now.  It does feel like a real release of tension, particularly as I open my mouth as wide as I can, as if I was letting out a really loud scream, tensing all the muscles in my jaw.

One of those socially-awkward things that seem to happen to me a lot: I commented on a friend’s Doctor Who blog, forgetting I was logged into this account rather than the one for my non-anonymous Doctor Who blog (I’m always getting my two identities mixed up.  I could never be a spy or a superhero).  He’s now following this blog.  I don’t have a problem with that (my anonymity here is more to hide me from potential employers/dates (ha ha) rather than friends), but I don’t know if he realises this is me, if you know what I mean.  I worry that unless I can find a way to broach the subject in a way that doesn’t embarrass him some confusion will result down the line.

Over the weekend I hope to broach the subject of getting a pet (guinea pigs) with my parents more forcefully than before.  We aren’t really a pet family and my parents are wary of my getting a pet (I think they’re mainly worried how I will cope if/when it dies), but I really think it might help my loneliness and depression, especially as I’m likely to be home in my room alone a lot when my contract ends.  Wish me luck…

Am I a Disappointment?

Today was just awful.  I struggled to get up, struggled to stay awake on the train to work (I didn’t read at all, not Mishnah, not autism book and not fiction).  Then, when I got to work I discovered that I’ve made a mistake, potentially through all my work over the ten or so weeks I’ve been in this job.  I don’t know exactly how serious the mistake is.  I sent an email to apologise, but my boss is away until after my contract finishes.  The person standing in for her didn’t think it was so bad, but she wasn’t sure.  I started catastrophising and worried about them suing me to get my wages back or even my going to jail because the mistake involved potential infringement of GDPR regulations – if this sounds excessive, it’s worth noting that I have a history of pure O OCD fears that I’ve committed a crime without realising it and will go to jail, so that’s probably where that came from (Wikipedia has reassured me that a written warning is the most one would get for a first or accidental offence).

I spent the rest of the day struggling with this anxiety (some of which, as I say, was probably OCD), alongside despair, shame and self-loathing.  Years ago I went to a confidence class where I was told that everyone except brain surgeons and airline pilots has the right to make mistakes in their work, but I seem to do nothing but make mistakes.  Even this mistake came from over-compensating from previous mistakes, trying to avoid making them.  I’m seriously wondering if I should even be in the workforce at the moment, given that my depression-occluded concentration makes it so hard for me to avoid mistakes, even without struggling with depression and anxiety all day.  But I’m not sure what the alternative is.  I don’t qualify for benefits (or I didn’t last time I was assessed) and I don’t want to live off my parents.

I feel such a huge disappointment to everyone.  I was sure my boss regretted hiring me even before today.  I’m pretty certain my boss in my previous job came to regret hiring me.  She more or less told me that she didn’t think I could do my job, at least not the parts that involved interactions with staff and students.  I worry that I’m a disappointment to my parents too.  They say I’m not, but I can’t help but compare myself negatively with my (younger) sister, with a steadily-progressing career, a husband and now a house.  I wonder if I’m a disappointment to my religious community and rabbis.  It seems likely, as I don’t do the things a frum (religious) Jew should do.  I don’t know if I’m a disappointment to my friends.  They probably have minimal expectations for me, so don’t get disappointed, which is probably just as well.  But I feel like I’m a disappointment to everyone else I come into contact with.  I guess even this blog is a disappointment to anyone looking for genuine insight into mental illness, or anything other than self-absorbed navel-gazing, really.

The K is for Kindred

Work is still hard.  It’s very depleting.  I don’t know if it’s the noisy, open plan nature of the office (worse today with a demo of striking Uber drivers outside – their UK headquarters is apparently in the next office block), the fact that I push myself without taking breaks as I would like and probably need, or the boring and repetitive nature of the task, but I struggle with exhaustion the whole time and on through the evening.  I take frequent drink breaks and toilet breaks (the toilet is at least quiet and sometimes I stay there a minute or two longer than I strictly need), but I still get badly depleted by the end of the day.

I went to bed later than I wanted to last night, but I was feeling really tense and felt I had to watch some Doctor Who to relax or I would not sleep.  I still had an anxiety dream, partly about religious OCD-type stuff, partly about the woman I dated two summers ago.  We broke up on good terms (she tried to set me up with someone else a few months later), but she couldn’t cope with my social anxiety (although that was not the only reason we weren’t suited) and the dream made me somewhat anxious and ruminative about dating, especially as there were other anxiety-provoking elements (the OCD imagery and thinking someone was about to attack me in the dream).  I woke up early, but a bit tense and unable to get back to sleep, although it was almost time to wake up anyway.

The dream was probably in part because my Dad wants to talk to a Modern Orthodox rabbi he knows about getting me set up on dates with Modern Orthodox women (a better bet than the more Haredi/ultra-Orthodox women I suspect I would be set up with if I followed the advice of people from my shul), but I’m not sure I can see the point right now.  It seems logical to wait until I’ve had a psychiatric review and some CBT for my low self-esteem and social anxiety.  Part of me can’t see the point of dating at all, because I always end up alone and miserable.  The OCD elements in the dream, which I don’t really remember in detail now, were probably because I’m struggling with my religious OCD in eating at work.  I’ve mostly kept it under control, but I can see how easily I could spiral back down.  The negative side-effect is that I’m the only person on the team who never offers to make tea or coffee for the other team members; I feel bad about it, but I would never cope with handling the non-kosher mugs.  I can’t explain this to them, though.

Part of the reason for the depletion at work is the autism and social anxiety.  So much of the time I feel like a small child trapped in a world he doesn’t understand and can’t cope with.  I feel that my autism has gone undiagnosed because I have learnt coping strategies and workarounds that make me look neurotypical to outsiders, but deep down I struggle to learn and remember what truly neurotypical people intuit automatically.  I feel I have a vast algorithm in my head about how to interact with other people that I have to consult for almost every interpersonal interaction.  Doubtless it started as a simple flow diagram when I was a baby (“Is someone cooing over me? –> Yes –> smile at them”), but with every new situation I find myself in, new branches of questions and answers have been welded on until it takes far too long to navigate a way through it and find quick answers, leaving me unsure what to say or do far too much.  I feel it was only through being in safe, familiar environments (school, academia or at home depressed) that I survived up until now; now in a work environment, I am just not coping.  It was the same in my previous job, so it’s not just this job that is the issue.

***

I’ve been struggling to do my hitbodedut for some time now.  Hitbodedut is considered a form of Jewish meditation, although it’s more like prayer: talking to God spontaneously in the vernacular (not set prayers in Hebrew).  On Friday  nights (Shabbat), perhaps when I’m more relaxed, I sometimes get overwhelmed with thoughts and just lie on my bed crying.  On other nights I just can’t think of anything to say at all.  I just sit there and my mind wanders to other things.  Sometimes I can’t face it at all and just skip it, despite feeling it really helped with the depression in earlier years.  Sometimes I feel angry with God, which is OK in Judaism, but I can’t express it and feel guilty despite knowing it’s OK.  To be honest, all prayer and Torah study is hard, bordering on impossible at the moment, but hitbodedut is hardest, whether because it’s not obligatory or because it brings me face to face with my deepest thoughts and fears.

***

I’m re-reading Philip K. Dick’s VALIS books (Radio Free Albemuth, VALISThe Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer).  It probably wasn’t a sensible idea.  In 1974 Dick, who was probably pretty unstable already (he thought God had given him the answers to a high school exam and by this stage had drug issues) had what was probably a psychotic episode, but which he interpreted as communication from a gnostic saviour deity.  Except when he thought it was a message from aliens.  Or that he was inadvertently eavesdropping on a Soviet experiment in telepathy.  One of them, anyway, if not all three.  He spent the rest of his life trying to work through and understand what happened to him, both in his “non-fictional” Exegesis and in his final novels.

The novels are related more by theme than by plot.  I’m currently re-reading Valis, which in many ways is the craziest of all of them (Dick is two characters/narrators in the novel, the sane Philip Dick and the unstable Horselover Fat (Horselover = Philip in Greek, Fat = Dick in German).  There’s an amazing evocation of what it feels like to realise that you are losing your sanity and how the twisted ‘logic’ of mental illness works which is both moving and funny and perhaps helps me to understand myself, but to get there you have to read through pages of insane theology about occluded gods and saviours and living knowledge and the Black Iron Prison.  Reading it, I wonder if this is how I sound to my blog readers.  I don’t mean about my religious beliefs, but my self-perception and what I write about my mental health issues and experiences.  When I say, completely honestly, that I think that I will never get married, that I feel that I am very wicked and that God hates me and that, no matter how much good I do and how much evil I avoid, I won’t have any Olam HaBa (Heaven) and how this world feels more like Gehennom (Hell/Purgatory) than Olam HaZeh (the physical world), when I say all that, do people just switch off or even laugh, as people might at Dick/Fat’s Exegesis?  It’s a scary thought.  I know my parents just switch off when I say I’m never going to find someone to love me, because they don’t think it’s true, and someone whose blog I read told me not to predict what God is going to do by assuming I will be single forever.  It’s frustrating when what seems obviously true to me is unintelligible to everyone else and as a result they see me as funny or stupid when I really feel despairing and lonely and in need of empathy.

The other thought I have is to wonder whether this blog is my Exegesis.  I certainly invest a lot of time in it the way Dick invested a lot of time in his Exegesis.  I haven’t read the actual Exegesis, only the extracts in VALIS, and I don’t really want to read it for several reasons, but the published version is nearly a thousand pages and apparently that only represents about a tenth of what Dick wrote.  I don’t know how many pages I’ve blogged over the years, at the four blogs I have, at different times, had (not all were mental health blogs, though).  But it must be a significant amount, given that most of my posts are a thousand words or more.  It’s a horrible image, in a way, writing and writing and writing from early in the morning until late into the night (on days when I’m not at work, I often start a blog post in the morning and add to it throughout the day before posting in the evening; this post was started just before 6.00am, but that was the result of unusual circumstances (waking up from a disturbing dream)).  So much cogitation, so little concrete growth or recovery to show for it!  I suppose I do understand myself a lot better than I did twelve years ago, when I started blogging, but I don’t know how much of that is from blogging and how much from therapy (and growing up).  It’s a disturbing thought, anyway.

Washed Out

I feel washed out today.  I got up at 10.30am, which is early for me on a Sunday, but I just feel depressed, lethargic and unable to motivate myself.  The last month has been very stressful and I desperately need some downtime, but I have a long to do list today, most importantly applying for a job.  I should probably have lunch and drink coffee to get myself through the afternoon.

I still feel lonely, but I don’t have the confidence to do anything about it.  I mean confidence that someone could like me, and that I could find her, rather than confidence to talk to people, although I lack that too.  My rabbi mentor said that this time last year I felt I would never find anyone who was into me and then I met E., which rather misses the point that (a) E. isn’t frum (I still struggle to imagine anyone frum being into me) and (b) even E. couldn’t cope with my mental health issues in the end and  broke up with me (I can’t imagine anyone coping with them).

I just want to be a good Jew.  It’s very hard, though.  Sometimes I feel that I “should” be an atheist.  I mean that atheism would fit my personality and life-style a lot better than frumkeit (being a religious Jew).  A lot of the people I know/have known through Doctor Who fandom are atheist or agnostic; the people I’ve had most success with romantically have been non-religious or going that way; sometimes I have doubts and even when I don’t have doubts about the existence of God, I can’t believe that He loves me.  My depression, social anxiety, possible autism and possible complex trauma place a huge added burden on my religiosity in different ways.  If I wasn’t frum, I might think of myself as a good person or at least a better person; the things I do that really upset me are not considered so bad in the secular world.  And so on.  But deep down, I really believe, and I have reasons to believe that make sense to me.  And if I believe, I want to be frum.  I hope at least my desire to be frum counts for something, even if I can’t realise it.

Sometimes militant atheists say religious people are focused on an illusory ‘next world’ whereas they (atheists) are living in the here and now.  I don’t know how much that applies to Jews.  Judaism downplays the afterlife a lot.  We believe in it, but it’s not our focus, and “Do it because you’ll be rewarded in Olam HaBa (the Next World)” is an argument I associate more with less-educated people than with rabbis or professional educators, who tend to speak about fulfilling God’s will for its own sake or tikkun olam (making this world better) or the inherent beauty of Jewish life.  I do honestly and genuinely believe that an Orthodox Jewish life, for all its difficulties, its hardships and its occasional apparent illogicalities, is a beautiful way to live, the most beautiful I have ever come across.  The problem is that my mental health issues and possible autism make it so hard for me to live it.

I guess I really just want someone to hold me and say they love me.  It doesn’t matter so much if that’s God (not that God can literally hold me, but you get the idea) or a wife.  I guess my parents hug me and say they love me, but that’s not always easy to hear because of my childhood.

It feels like the only thing in my life at the moment is work, and I don’t do that well or enjoy it.  I haven’t had much time to work on my Doctor Who book or blog lately or to paint the Doctor Who miniatures I bought a while back or to run or to cook.  I guess that’s Tishrei.  And now I’m working my way through all the stuff I should have done over the last month and couldn’t because of Yom Tov (Jewish festivals).

I feel that even my blog posts are repetitive, going over the same ground again and again.  I’m not sure whether anyone’s still reading.  Part of me is hoping I don’t get the job I’m about to apply for, so that when my contract finishes in seven weeks I can have a break.  A proper break, not Yom Tov (non-Jews/non-religious Jews tend not to realise that Jewish festivals are as much stressful as relaxing).

I glanced at the news.  The world is still continuing in its insanity.  I think I should leave it alone until it grows up and decides to behave like an adult.  It’s hard to avoid it, though.  Sometimes I want to be a hermit.

Childish

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

Burnt Out

Today was a bit of a wasted day.  OK, not totally wasted.  I was at least not very emotionally depressed today, even if I was still suffering from exhaustion and poor motivation.

I slept late again (having stayed up later than I wanted watching Doctor Who for my book.  I should really have just gone to bed as I was very tired).  I felt burnt out all day.  I spent two or three hours making a spreadsheet of all the jobs I can apply for.  It was helpful, as I can now instantly compare job title, salary, closing dates and more to decide which job to apply for next and which to leave (temporarily or permanently), but it took much longer than I expected.

It didn’t help that I procrastinate too much and spend time idly internet browsing, which I suppose is a sign of lack of interest or enthusiasm in job hunting.  I got caught up in the ends of yesterday’s Doctor Who identity politics hooha (or should that be Whoha?) and another online argument today and again these bled in to my feelings about antisemitism and the left.  (According to the Labour Party, Jamaican-style jerk rice is unbelievably racist and offensive, but Holocaust denial, Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style antisemitic conspiracy theories, blood libels and being friends with terrorists who target Jewish civilians aren’t.)

Ugh, I can feel myself getting sucked back into politics.  These days I hate politics.  I dislike all the political parties in the UK and don’t feel represented by any of them.  But the whole Labour antisemitism thing has taken me by surprise.  It’s been ticking over since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015 and I’ve known about it and been intermittently angry, upset and worried about it, but suddenly in the last week or two it’s really got hold of me and I’ve been looking at websites that deal with Israel, antisemitism and the left, something I usually only do when there’s a specific scandal or flare up of Middle East violence.  I’m not sure which came first, though, that or the thought of doing a PhD that deals with antisemitism in some way, but they do seem to go together.

The first thing I had published semi-professionally on the internet (semi-professionally in that it was for a commercial website, but I didn’t get paid for it) was on antisemitism and anti-Zionism (when the latter turns into the former) and I’ve read quite a bit about it over the years and thought about it a lot.  I suppose I want to understand it, but I’m worried that part of me thinks that if only I could understand it, I could do something to stop it or persuade people to think differently, but I don’t think that life is that easy and I’m not at all sure that it’s sensible to do a PhD with that kind of expectation.

Today I also posted a review on my Doctor Who blog, which I have neglected of late, and I tweeted for the first time to try to raise its profile.  I think it may take me a while to get the hang of Twitter, though, and I still have to be sure I don’t get sucked into more procrastination and more depressing politics and antisemitism.  Twitter seems to be the general clearing house for abuse and hurtful speech of all kinds (religious, political, cultural) and even people I know and like as nice and good people away from Twitter give in to their angrier side on Twitter, in retweets and likes, if not in tweets, particularly about politics (Trump and Brexit as well as Corbyn).

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth being on it just to raise the profile of my blog, particularly as I’m not sure that I’m able to do that effectively anyway.  Maybe I should just buy a book on SEO?  To go with some more books on antisemitism (I already have a couple) to see if they spark any ideas?  (I’ve catalogued this book and wanted to read it for years, but I’ve never got around to it, partly because it’s depressing and partly because I read a lot on public transport and it weighs about as much as a brick.  Also this book, this one and a few others.)

Twitterings, Thoughts and Theses

Today has been a rather better day than recently (actually, although yesterday was hard, the evening was good: my sister and brother-in-law came over and I told everyone about my New York trip and showed them my photos).

The bad news first (to get it out of the way): I spent three hours filling in an online application only for me to lose the whole thing when the internet crashed, as it periodically does on my laptop for reasons unknown.  I was actually trying to save it at the time, because I got worried that the internet would crash and I would lose it.  Which it promptly did.  I don’t know whether to apply again, as it was a long-shot application and I’m not convinced I would be any good at it, or enjoy it, if I somehow got the job.

Also, today was a bad day to chose to set up a Twitter account to promote my new Doctor Who blog as there was a big argument in the Doctor Who online community about racism.  Doctor Who fans can be very ‘right on’ and also very argumentative and dogmatic, weirdly, for fans of a programme that is supposed to be about tolerance and open-mindedness.  In the context of the ongoing argument about antisemitism in the Labour Party, this made me wonder why people who are (rightly) so aware of most types of prejudice can be so blind about antisemitism in their ranks.  The fact that argument had spiralled out of something in the latest Doctor Who Magazine and rapidly turned into people telling two half-Chinese journalists who edit it that they should be offended by, and not enjoy, a particular episode from the seventies that treated the Chinese in a way which now seems racist, even though these journalists enjoyed anyway just reminded me of the way Jews get told by certain non-Jews to be offended by some things and not offended by others, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with what I actually find offensive and antisemitic.

This all reignited the thoughts about whether I should do a PhD in the history of antisemitism and then move into some kind of career involving researching antisemitism to fight it, an idea I have been toying with (in a “someone should do that” sort of way) for years without ever thinking I would seriously act on it… more on this later.

I didn’t realise how aggressively Twitter markets other people to you, though.  I haven’t been on Facebook for years, so I wasn’t expecting to see every single thing that the people I follow do turn up on my timeline.  And I’m only following four people at the moment!  (Strictly speaking only one is a person, the others are groups or organisations.)  I’m going to have to be careful with this, it’s going to be easy to get sucked in, both into procrastination and into arguments.  Bear in mind my political views in particular can be idiosyncratic so no one agrees with me.

With all that out of the way, the good news: I managed to get an appointment with a doctor this morning.  My usual doctor is away, but I saw another one.  He was very understanding, increased the dosage of my antidepressants and referred me to an NHS psychiatrist.  He also booked me in with an appointment with my usual doctor later in the week to keep him in the loop.  He booked me in directly, so I didn’t need to go back to the receptionists.  It also looks like the larger dosage tablets of clomipramine are back in stock at the pharmacists, so I should be able to reduce the number of tablets I take while increasing the dosage I take.

I also got a job interview!  The Jewish careers advice service where I saw the careers advisor last week had sent my CV out to some places and one is interested.  It’s only short-term (eight to sixteen weeks, depending on whether they decide to employ one person or two) with the possibility of being flexible with hours.  It’s billed as research, but it looks mainly like searching names and contact details on company websites and inputting them into a database.  At least it’s a start.  The date of the interview hasn’t been set yet.

That said, I was feeling strongly today that I need to do something academic-ish.  I felt in the past that academic librarianship would be that thing, but I’m increasingly unsure.  The CBT therapist I saw for the OCD was not convinced that it was intellectually-stimulating enough for me and she may have been right.  Certainly cataloguing doesn’t involve as much reading as I’d hoped!  And working in libraries for the last couple of years has made me itch a bit to something that involves more abstract thought and writing.

So, I’ve been kicking around thesis ideas again.  To summarise my thinking so far, I looked at all the areas I’m interested in and tried to see what might work.  A cultural studies thesis on Doctor Who or science fiction?  Not sure it’s really considered rigorous enough to open the doors I want and certainly I would feel a bit silly spending years on end writing about Doctor Who, much as I would probably enjoy it.  Plus, I’m not into the jargon and postmodernist theory that accompanies so much of the field.  Jewish stuff?  My language skills aren’t good enough for Tanakh (Bible) or the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe and I don’t have the grounding in general philosophy for a PhD on Jewish philosophy.  I’m not sure that I feel any great affinity for any general historical topic at the moment and my gut tells me that the main topic in Jewish history that I feel I could write about is antisemitism.  I think I have some things I could say here, but it’s hard to know if I’ve got anything substantial and new to say or anything that could be said at thesis length or how I would go about researching it or if I have the right language skills, or, or, or, or…  I don’t know.  It’s scary and I don’t know who to talk to about it and I still don’t know if I’m willing/able to do a thesis.  But I do think something about antisemitism, either historical or contemporary, and probably focusing on antisemitism, perhaps on Israel and the political left or maybe a more general thesis on the image of the Jew in wider culture and how this informs political and philosophical debate on Israel and Judaism in Western society… despite decades of secularism, I think a lot of Westerners, even militantly secular ones, view Jews through the spectacles of Christianity, which is hugely problematic (the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, once called Richard Dawkins a “Christian atheist” in a debate; Dawkins was apparently not amused, but his view of Judaism does seem to be unconsciously filtered through centuries of Christian anti-Jewish polemic).

So unfortunately I spent a lot of the day thinking about antisemitism, and about the ongoing hooha in Doctor Who fandom, and how the two are linked, conceptually, if not directly.

In other news, more evidence of my being tuned to a different wavelength to other people: I suddenly stopped dead in the street while walking home to watch some ants (but there were a lot of them, probably a whole nest), which maybe isn’t so normal.  Then when I got home watched Dad unloading the dishwasher and it was genuinely not until he had about three plates left that what he was doing registered in my head and I realised I should help (to be fair, I had just put the washing on the line, so I did some housework).  Then I couldn’t concentrate on job hunting because I was really pleased with a joke I came up with and kept replaying it in my head (someone on Twitter was posting about portraits of American Presidents and I wanted to say that you can tell that Nixon’s a portrait is good because of the way the lies follow you around the room).  I need to find some kind of way to live in this world like a normal person. (I’m normal, it’s everyone else who is weird.)

One last good thing: I put up posters of Doctors one through twelve (plus the Valeyard and the War Doctor) in my room a few weeks ago and now, thanks to the latest Doctor Who Magazine I’ve got the incoming thirteenth Doctor up too.  It’s silly, but having her picture on the back of my door makes me feel more optimistic about the thirteenth Doctor and the upcoming episodes.  (I was worried I wouldn’t like the new series.  Doctor Who fans do this a lot.  I have hardly ever gone into a new series without at least a bit of worry that it wouldn’t be as good as it used to be.)

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.

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).

Struggling

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

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

I’m crying again.

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

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

I feel stupid and useless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

“Overweight, under-powered museum piece”

And after a couple of somewhat good days, it all comes crashing down again…

I wish I could stop myself shluffing (napping) after Shabbat (Sabbath) lunch.  I don’t think I can cope with such a large meal at that time of day.  I couldn’t sleep last night from having slept too much during the day.  Eventually I got up and did some stuff in my room (I was still at my parents’ house) while watching Doctor Who until I got tired.  I am overweight and out of shape; the title quote (from Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos) is the Master’s view of the Doctor’s TARDIS, but fits how I feel about myself lately.  I try telling myself the C. S. Lewis thing that I’m a soul with a body not a body with a soul, but I’m not enough of a mystic and that’s always seemed fairly un-Jewish to me (I’ve heard frum Jews quote it, but I’m not sure they knew they were quoting on of the twentieth century’s foremost Christian apologists).

This morning I inevitably overslept.  I tried to go for a run, but it was pretty poor.  I stopped after twenty minutes because I was feeling faint and light-headed (possibly because it was gone 3.00pm and I hadn’t had lunch, but I’d only had breakfast at noon, so I’m not sure it was that), having walked a lot instead of actually running.  At least I got home before the rain.  I suppose I got into my jogging stuff and out the door twice in three days, which I hadn’t managed since last August.

I read in a book about depression not to take any serious decisions while in the midst of an episode.  This is probably good, as if I followed every thought coming into my head at the moment I would:

  1. resolve to date only women at least as frum (religious) as me;
  2. resolve to date only women less frum than me;
  3. give up on the idea of dating and marriage and children altogether;
  4. stick with my job;
  5. change job;
  6. change employment sector;
  7. change career completely and become a writer;
  8. write a religious science fiction story;
  9. give up on writing a religious science fiction story;
  10. give up on writing a fictionalised version of my depression/childhood story;
  11. give up writing my Doctor Who book;
  12. give up writing my blog.

Of these only the last two can really be dismissed as passing whims: I get enough out of both to want to stick with them even if the book never gets published and even though the blog just seems like attention-seeking whining most of the time.  At any rate, I’ve made friends through the blog and get positive feedback from people who get something out of it, so it’s obviously fulfilling some sort of purpose, even if I’m not entirely sure what that purpose is.  Of the others, I have given up on writing about my childhood experiences (somewhat to my annoyance) and also on the science fiction story (which is annoying in a different way).  I don’t think I can write poetry or fiction any more, if I ever could.  I’m stuck with non-fiction prose, which means confessional (on the blog) or about Doctor Who and other TV science fiction (on my other blog and book(s)), which I suspect is a saturated market that I don’t quite fit into.

You may have guessed that I’ve been feeling depressed again.  Fortunately, I found out there is a heter (permission) for clinically depressed people to listen to music during the omer, so that’s helped a little bit, although I’m only listening when I feel I need to and not when I’m just bored while walking home.  I’m catastrophising again, though.  I feel nothing can work out well for me hence, I suppose, the comprehensive list of thoughts about what to do, or not to do, with my life, as I try to find an option that looks likely to succeed when nothing seems to look likely to bring anything other than more misery.  I suppose the answer is to wait a few months until I find out if my work contract is being renewed for the next year and wait to see if I can make progress with the social anxiety over the next few months before dating.  That said, I’m not convinced that the social anxiety is the major problem there, I think the depression and not being a good fit for the subculture (the frum (religious/Orthodox Jewish) world) I want to marry into are much bigger issues.  Actually being able to get to shul (synagogue) for Shabbat morning services would be a good start, if I could work out how to do that.

However, while I never thought of myself as impatient person, it turns out I’m really rubbish at just waiting indefinitely for stuff that may never happen.  I want to get on with my life and feel that my life as it is at the moment is both bad for me (it makes me depressed) and bad for the world (I’m not contributing anything worthwhile e.g. doing a worthwhile job well (I do a moderately worthwhile job badly in my paid work), doing something positive Jewishly or raising children).  I suppose I feel that being in my mid-thirties without a ever having had a full-time job, having only had one relatively short-lived serious relationship (five years ago) and having no children, I’m entitled to feel that my life went wrong somewhere and to wonder how I get it back on track.  I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other people and I know everyone has issues, but somehow I feel many other people’s issues aren’t quite as serious or long-lasting as mine.  I don’t know whether that’s true.  No one goes on about their issues as much as I do, but then most people don’t have a blog, and perhaps most people use social media to present an idealised perfect version of themselves rather than stressing the negatives of their life, the way I do.  Perhaps I give as unrealistic a presentation of my life as my peers who (I assume) post pictures of their perfect spouse/children/home on Facebook and Instagram.

I was close to tears again while cooking dinner (spicy bean burgers, the trickiest item in my repertoire) and actually burst out crying when davening Ma’ariv (saying evening prayers).  I only really cooked dinner from necessity and not wanting to be beaten after being defeated by jogging.  Am I lonely?  I don’t know.  I don’t know that I necessarily want someone to talk to anyone, although my sister phoned before and I cheered up a bit while talking to her, if only because I feel I need to put a brave face on around other people, so I don’t bring them down and because they don’t really understand what I’m going through, even my family, who have been around me like this for years and years (I guess I assume that my blog readers either understand or don’t get dragged down by me).  Perhaps I want someone to be around, but I’m not even sure about that.

I don’t know what I want right now, except that this isn’t it.  I don’t feel competent to work or maintain friendships, let alone relationships or being a parent.  I feel sure that HaShem (God) is gearing up to break my heart again, but I don’t know how to stop it.  If He wants to do it, I don’t suppose I can, or should.  I suppose it will make me a better person in fifty years time and when I get to one hundred and twenty and die I’ll reap the rewards – except that I feel I will screw up my response to the tests and end up getting karet again, and never get to know where my life was supposed to be going (although maybe that would be worse: knowing how good things could have been if I hadn’t mucked them up).

I don’t know what I actually feel competent doing or enjoy doing, except for one thing (writing about Doctor Who and science fiction TV), which  I don’t know how to monetise or subsidise from paid work, nor does it feel particularly socially useful.  I don’t think writing yet another book about Doctor Who is going to fix the economy, cure cancer or bring world peace.  I can’t even guarantee that it will bring much in the way of enjoyment to its readers (if anyone will actually buy the thing).

There probably is more to say, but it’s late, I need to get to bed, and I feel too stressed, depressed, agitated and angry to sleep.  I’m not sure what I do now to get to sleep.

Mirror Image

I wasn’t planning on writing today.  A few things happened over Shabbat (the Sabbath), but I was going to leave them until tomorrow or later.  I slept through too much of the day again and am not tired now (it’s midnight as I begin to type), but that’s a minor thing.  But then I read a post on a blog I follow that upset me.

I won’t link to the blog as I comment there under my own name.  But it’s the blog of someone else Jewish very much like me: frum (religious) upbringing, but I think not currently frum, but severely depressed, lonely, social anxious, autistic and possibly also with OCD.  Also PTSD from being abused in hospital, which I don’t have.  She is currently very depressed and suicidal.  I have been praying for her for some months, since finding out how depressed she is, and hoping that things will improve for her because I know exactly what she is going through.  I comment on her blog when she posts, which is very irregularly, but she never responds and I worry that I am making things worse, although I’m not sure how I would be doing that.

It’s very frustrating seeing her like that and knowing that there is nothing I can do to help her.  I’m reluctant to give her my email address in case she misinterprets and given that she has never responded, I doubt she would want to email me anyway.  I just wish there was something I could do to help her.  I guess I know how my family and friends feel about me now.