The Exiled Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Cat Lady

My letter from the psychiatrist arrived, so I now officially have an appointment on Thursday!  It’s annoyingly at lunch time, which means I will go to work in the morning, come home at noon and go to my appointment, but – unless it’s over very quickly (which has happened to me before with NHS psychiatrists who just want to ‘process’ their patients ASAP) – I won’t be able to go back to work in the afternoon because by the time I get into town, it will practically be time to come back.  As I’m paid hourly, that is a financial loss, but to postpone the appointment would have meant waiting until January for another one.

On the whole I felt better today.  I got through over 130 records at work, which is an improvement on most of last week.  I think I mostly got through the morning by thinking about whether I could own guinea pigs in the back of my mind while working; in the afternoon I was a bit more down and began to doubt whether I could keep them and whether my parents will agree to my getting them (thus far Mum has cautiously expressed abstract approval and Dad has said nothing at all).  I’m glad that my rabbi mentor thinks that my owning a pet is “a wonderful idea” as, while he’s not infallible, he is usually right and he makes me feel a bit more confident that this isn’t a crazy idea.  We’re not really a pet-owning family, though, and I don’t think my parents really understand why this idea has suddenly gripped me.

Reading The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome at lunch brought me down a little, as I worry again that I won’t be diagnosed on the autistic spectrum – or with anything else unexpected – and will be left floating again with treatment-resistant depression and no help from the NHS other than drugs.  I feel there must be something going on other than pure unipolar depression, but I’m not a psychiatrist and I don’t know what it might be, other than guessing at autism or trauma.  But I’ve been wrong about things like this before.  I wish I had a psychiatrist I trusted and knew well, but the NHS doesn’t work like that.  I had one for a while, but only because she broke the rules by continuing to see me.  She thought I was autistic, but didn’t give me an official diagnosis and I think she came to see me as a frustrating problem patient.  She certainly seemed to stop listening to me after a while.

On the way home I felt a bit more down, probably from tiredness and hunger.  I found myself thinking of the wave of recent engagements of people doubtless ten or more years younger than me in my community.  While I try to be open to the idea that there might possibly be someone female out there of compatible age, religious outlook and personality who can at least tolerate my geekiness, borderline autism, social anxiety and depression, however improbable that seems, it is difficult to imagine how I could ever meet her and get talking to her.  I know someone who insists that there is nothing proactive whatever one can do to get married; it is completely up to God when and how you will meet your mate, but you will meet eventually.  I find this hard to accept.  Some people simply don’t get married and, in any case, in Judaism we are supposed to be proactive with our lives, at least up to a point (she accepted proactivity only in accepting arranged dates, but, as I’ve said, people aren’t arranging dates for me).  In any case, without a well-paying job that would let me support a family, talk of marriage seems pointlessly premature.  And without finding out what is wrong with me and finding a way of coping with it, it seems unlikely that I will ever manage much in the way of a career.   I guess this is the problem: that my issues are interlinked and it’s impossible to deal with one at a time.

Well, I seem to have brought myself down pretty well now.  I’m very tired and still somewhat hungry even after dinner.  I want to go for seconds, but I’ve put on a huge amount of weight on clomipramine and am wary of eating too much.  Life can be very frustrating.  I fear I’m going to turn into the male equivalent of a crazy cat lady.

Sukkot and Stress

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Alone, Miserable and Unloved

I’ve stumbled home late, thanks to crowding at Kings Cross Station (it took about twenty minutes to walk from the Metropolitan Line platform to the Northern Line via a circuitous route), and in pain, thanks to backache (I’m going to have to switch from a rucksack to a cabin bag as I take too much with me.  That’s probably a psychopathology in itself).  I’m also hungry, but dinner won’t be for ages.  Because dinner is late and because I want to eat in the sukkah (the booth where we eat during Sukkot), I’ll have to eat with my parents and their friends, which means I won’t get to relax by reading while I eat, which means I’ll go to bed tense and tomorrow will be difficult and the problem will probably happen again only I’ll be in a rush because of shiur… OK, this is probably catastrophising now.  But I do feel stressed.

I’ve become paranoid at work.  I feel certain that I’m making loads of mistakes, but I’m scared to ask questions for fear of drawing attention to them.  I overthink things, which may be a trace of OCD or plain anxiety.  Whenever I go to get a drink or to the toilet, I’m sure my boss is thinking that I’m getting up too often and not working hard enough.  At the same time, I feel I should be talking to the other team members more and that everyone is thinking that I’m weird and anti-social (there’s a fair amount of background chatter in the office, but the marketing team, which is what I’m part of, doesn’t seem to chat much, although not in an unfriendly way).  I have a continual feeling of incompetence from when I enter the office in the morning until I leave at the end of the day.

At work I’m looking up lawyers’ biographies online to copy and paste their contact details into a spreadsheet.  Their hobbies are usually predictably boring: reading, cooking, theatre, socialising with friends and family, travel…  I did find one Doctor Who fan (and a female one at that, although I guess that’s less noteworthy than it was twenty years ago), but generally it seems that while being a fan of a sports team is socially acceptable, being a fan of a TV programme is not.  This just reinforces my feelings of weirdness, although I doubt I should be comparing myself to lawyers in any way, shape or form.  I’m sure a lot of my peers from school and university have ended up as lawyers though; even in my small friendship group, I have a solicitor and a barrister.  I do feel that I could/should be earning lots of money, if I wasn’t depressed.  Earning lots of money doesn’t interest me much in itself, but if I had a choice between being miserable and rich and being miserable and poor, I’d choose miserable and rich.

I feel lonely.  I shouldn’t think about how unlikely it is that I will ever get married, but I do.  I feel that it is not surprising that the two relationships I have had have been with someone who was not religious and someone who, although initially religious in a somewhat unconventional way, became less and less religious while we were dating.  I feel that no frum woman would pick someone as weird, geeky and religiously dysfunctional as me.  Any woman who picked me would be ‘settling’ in some way, either a religious woman ‘settling’ for a husband who didn’t go to yeshiva and who doesn’t learn or daven as he should and who is too obsessed with ancient science fiction TV programmes, or a geeky woman who is ‘settling’ for someone who is frum (religious).  I also worry that I seem to always be a rebound relationship, but that might just be coincidence.  Even so, I can’t imagine being anyone’s first choice, or being any kind of choice except out of desperation, fear of loneliness and late-thirties broodiness.

My complex PTSD book tells me that recovery from complex trauma takes years.  Factor in dealing with the social anxiety and depression separately and learning to deal with autism (if I really have it…) and I feel that it could be years until I’m remotely functional (I do not feel functional at all at work), let alone able to experience joy and love.  I fear I will always be alone, miserable and unloved.

Addendum: I got through dinner OK.  I ended up eating my dinner while everyone else was sitting around eating snacks as aperitifs, so I felt like everyone was staring at me eat.  I ate far too fast because of that, although I was also exhausted and in need of food and relaxation.

I felt bad for a couple of reasons which I probably shouldn’t go into here… sometimes I wish I could be more unconstrained here.  But things tonight made me remember that I had a wonky childhood, even if it wasn’t actually abusive or neglectful, and that my relationship with my parents will probably always be a bit wonky.  They also (for different reasons) stoked my fears that one day I will just lose control and do something terrible.  It’s difficult.  Now I need to go to bed very tense and try to sleep to get up at 6.00am tomorrow for extra Sukkot prayers and extra time to eat in the sukkah… and now I’m catastrophising again…

The Inner Critic

I overslept again this morning.  I would have got to work on time, but there was a slight train delay and I was a couple of minutes late.  This office doesn’t seem to be as strict about timekeeping as my last job, but I felt bad.  I think of myself as a punctual person, at least when other people are involved (when I just want to do something by a certain time for myself, my time management is not always the best, largely due to depressive procrastination and probably also to self-sabotage stopping me doing things I enjoy).

Previously, I had been working through most of the data my boss gives me each day, but leaving some over for the next day.  Today I was asked to go through all the data by the end of the day.   I managed it, but I had to stay a little late and I felt that I was rushing a bit, which worried me as I am still making mistakes, although I think I have found a new way to check my work before submitting it.

The stress of having to do all that work on time and the stuffiness in the office, combined perhaps with my inner critic attacking me for lateness, slowness and mistakes (more of the inner critic in a moment) resulted in a headache by lunch time.  I went for a walk instead of working on my Doctor Who book, although the headache didn’t really go until I took some painkillers.

I’m having some trouble with my Complex PTSD book.  The book tells me that I need to challenge my inner critic.  The book says the inner critic is an internalisation of the voice of one’s abusive parents.  The problem is that I don’t hate my parents the way the book thinks I should and I certainly don’t think they were abusive.  I acknowledge that my issues date back to childhood experiences, albeit not just with my parents, but I don’t think my parents were terrible parents and certainly not abusive ones; there were a number of difficult things going on when I was a child that were not in my parents’ control that were the source of my problems, including my borderline autistic traits (at a time when these were not widely recognised) and some other family issues, as well as bullying at school.  My parents would have benefited from guidance that could have helped them make some better parenting choices, but I don’t hate them or feel furious with them.  It’s upsetting to read a book that seems predicated on my seeing my parents as being hugely abusive and my needing to challenge them.  At the same time, it is silly to deny that a lot of my childhood was upsetting and maybe even traumatic in the technical use of the term and years of psychodynamic therapy still haven’t exhausted all the things I would like to say about it (but feel I shouldn’t say here).  I don’t know where this leaves me, especially as I’ve just stopped psychodynamic therapy.

The other issue is that to challenge the inner critic, I am supposed to state that I don’t deserve to suffer.  The problem is that I think I do deserve to suffer.  I suppose I can acknowledge that I’m not so bad.  Although I don’t really think I’m a great Jew, I’m not doing anything really terrible in the Harvey Weinstein school of awfulness.  But… when the depression (and/or all my other issues) is bad I act out.  I won’t spell out what I do (and it isn’t anything illegal, dangerous or which directly hurts me or anyone else), but I think it’s bad, Judaism thinks it’s bad and some secular people think it’s bad.  I sometimes feel like I deserve the depression (and/or everything else) to punish me and that not being able to marry is very much a punishment middah keneged middah (measure for measure).  But then I think I became depressed when I was in my teens and Judaism teaches one doesn’t get punished until one reaches the age of twenty (God gives a cooling off period to gain maturity) so the depression can’t be a punishment.  But then I think that even if it wasn’t a punishment then then, it could be now.   And I go back and forth.  My therapist and my rabbi mentor know about this stuff.  My therapist says I’m normal and loveable.   My rabbi mentor says that lots of people struggle with this halakhah (law) and that I’m a good person.  But I can’t internalise it.  And the self-loathing and despair just makes me act out again.  (This is probably why the rabbis said not to think of yourself as wicked.)

I used to get pure O OCD thoughts, worrying that I had accessed illegal websites without realising it and would go to jail and be disowned by my friends and family.  It was probably built on this self-loathing and fear of discovery… yet there is also a desire for discovery.  I want to write in more detail about my acting out and have been dropping heavy hints.  I’m just fed up with hiding myself.  I want everyone to see how awful I am.  Then there is no risk that anyone will ever love me again, and I won’t suffer any more disappointment.

I think I need to see a CBT therapist, as I’m not going to be able to challenge these thoughts alone.  I emailed the therapist who helped with my OCD, but she hasn’t got back to me yet; I see on her website that she has, however, put up her prices…

Oh, and Dad thinks that the ginger cat that lived near my parents’ house and which seemed to like me (s/he rubbed affectionately back and forth against my legs once, wich is more affection than I’m used to getting) died.  I keep thinking about whether I could look after a cat.  I suppose that, having resigned myself to never being well enough to get married and have children, I’m thinking about other options of someone to care for.

Colonel Runaway

One problem of the concept of ’emotional flashbacks’ that I’ve mentioned is the difficulty I have in distinguishing an emotional flashback (if there really is such a thing) from my ‘normal’ feelings of depression, despair, anxiety and self-loathing.  Or maybe there is no difference – they really are the same thing.  The book I’m reading on C-PTSD did seem to imply that a lot of what is diagnosed as depression and anxiety is actually misdiagnosed C-PTSD, which might explain why the usual depression treatments have been so ineffective for me, but I’m wary of doing my usual thing of finding a potential new diagnosis and getting very involved and emotionally-invested in researching it before a psychiatrist tells me I don’t actually have it (cf. bipolar disorder, autism and other things).  I guess I feel like the boy who cried wolf with myself.

Emotional flashbacks or not, it has been a difficult Shabbat (Sabbath) and I am ashamed to say that, yet again, I mostly responded by running away.  I ran away from shul (synagogue) early during Ma’ariv (the evening service) this evening.  This was partly because I had a migraine (and was aware that I’m likely to feel just as bad, if not worse, on Wednesday, as fasting always makes me ill), but also because I was feeling deeply depressed and socially anxious.  I’m not quite sure what triggered it.  There are too many possible causes, or maybe it was the cumulative effect of all of them.  I was initially a bit upset that I couldn’t join in the lechaim (drink, in this case whisky) at the Talmud shiur (class) for finishing the first perek (chapter) of Talmud because I don’t drink because of the depression and my anti-depressants.  Then at Mincha (the afternoon service) someone took my usual seat, which upset me more than it should have done (symbolic of my not having found my place in the community?), then I didn’t realise there was going to be a seudah shlishit (third Shabbat meal) and had already eaten mine at home (after eating seudah shlishit one can’t eat again until after Shabbat) and the rabbi’s Shabbat Shuva shiur (class) about Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) depressed me – I’m not sure if I felt I couldn’t be forgiven or that I would be, but didn’t deserve to be (or maybe it was something else).  The last straw was an acquaintance coming up and talking to me and I was reluctant to mention that I haven’t been at shul much recently because of depression and social anxiety, but then I got trapped in my white lies about everything being fine… so it all got to much for me and I ran away from shul during the Amidah, skipping the extra post-Shabbat prayers.  I suppose also ran away by sleeping too much to avoid my thoughts and to avoid shul, as usual.

As I mentioned, the rabbi’s shiur about Yom Kippur upset me and I’m not entirely sure why.  He quoted a parable from Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, that what happens on Yom Kippur is as if a king gave his friend the crown jewels, and the friend dropped them in raw sewage, and then the king personally wiped them clean.  Likewise HaShem (God) gives us a pure soul, which we sully over the year with all our sins, and then on Yom Kippur He personally cleans our souls and returns them to a pristine state.  The rabbi also compared it to a king changing his baby’s nappy, not caring about how disgusting it is and even cooing over the baby while doing it to show his love.  That should be a reassuring image, but somehow it wasn’t.  I just feel inadequate and undeserving of forgiveness.   Perhaps – and this is somewhat speculative – I feel I would rather die than be forgiven, not in some kind of rebellious Miltonic sense, but just that I don’t feel I deserve forgiveness and I’m scared of HaShem, but not in the way we’re supposed to be.  I’m sure it’s all rooted in my childhood, in the traumatic experiences that I can’t talk about here, although I want to, but it’s hard to know what to do.

I suppose I just want to be told that I’m good, but am scared of it.  Scared of being told that I’m not good, but also scared of being told that I am good.  I don’t feel I deserve to be told that.  Sometimes I fantasise about meeting some great rabbi (past or present) who could tell me that I’m a good person, or having some kind of semi-prophetic dream about it, but I think that scares me, without my really knowing why.  He didn’t mention it today, but the rabbi has often stated the kabbalistic (mystical) that sinning creates a negative spiritual entity, which God sustains Himself, when he would be justified in telling it to sustain itself off our souls.  I don’t know what that means or whether I believe it (I’m wary of saying that I don’t believe in kabbalah at all, but I find it impossible to understand and, unlike halakhah (Jewish law), which I also struggle to understand, I don’t even understand the general principles behind it or connect with it at all, and a lot of it does seem illogical in a way that I don’t find with other aspects of Torah).  I haven’t heard that idea from anyone else, although I have heard the idea that male masturbation creates demons from the unused semen.  I don’t know whether I believe that either.  But I find it easier to believe that I’m creating hundreds of negative spiritual creatures every year from my sins than that HaShem forgives me for everything and coos over me like a loving parent.  Maybe that makes me a terrible person, or maybe I’m just messed up.

Six Symptoms in Search of a Diagnosis

I’m not usually much of a hypochondriac, except with mental health/developmental stuff.  Reading Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker has thrown up a lot of questions about whether I have complex PTSD, as I’ve mentioned in recent posts.  Today I read about the Flight-Freeze Hybrid.  The idea is that there are four primary responses to trauma (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) , but lots of people have a mixture with two predominating.  If I have C-PTSD, then I’m probably a flight-freeze hybrid.  Flight means I run away from danger, freeze means I shut down.

According to Walk, people with a flight-freeze hybrid response are usually men who were traumatised for being vulnerable in childhood.  They work until exhausted (flight often translates as workaholism or sometimes OCD) and then collapse and vegetate (freeze translates as depression) until recovered enough to take flight again.  They seek isolation or intimacy-lite relationships and often have love lives that are primarily fantasy/pornographic.  It would, I suppose, explain why I go through cycles of work-depression.  I haven’t been well enough to be a workaholic since 2003, but I do push myself with work, recovery and, sometimes, social engagement, which sometimes gets results and sometimes results in burn out, often both.  I have had psychiatrists say to me that for someone experiencing the kind of intense depressive thoughts that I have, I’m surprisingly functional.  It would also suggest that I’ve been self-sabotaging my attempts to find like-minded friends and a wife, although I’m not sure how I’ve done that, as it looks to me that I’ve just been really unlucky.

I guess it’s something to think about, although I don’t know if I would have the confidence to speak to a psychiatrist about it.  I feel that psychiatrists can be dismissive of my ideas about what might be wrong with me.

Quick Notes from the End of the Week

I had my last session with  my therapist.  We spoke a bit about the C-PTSD book I’m reading.  She said that lots of things can be traumatic to a child, so I could well have experienced childhood events as trauma even if I wasn’t actually abused in the strict legal sense, especially as there was bullying and other difficult events for me.  We spoke about not necessarily needing a label of PTSD/trauma, just an awareness of how I feel and why I feel it.

She sounded pretty hopeful about my chances for the future and we’ve left things open so that I can go back to her if I want/need to after I’ve tried some CBT.  But I really do feel I need to try a more practical form of therapy to work on my low self-esteem now, especially as I feel (and she agreed) that psychodynamic therapy has done a lot of good for me in understanding my feelings and where they come from historically and now I need to move on to something more practical.

My father’s uncle died yesterday.  I didn’t know him very well, but my father was close to him and is very upset.  The funeral was today (Jewish funerals are usually done as soon as possible, preferably within twenty-four hours).  My great-uncle was the last person of that generation (grandparent/great-uncle/great-aunt) in my family, on either side.  It’s sobering to think that my parents are now the elder generation (albeit that my parents both have cousins who are ten or fifteen years older than they are) and that I’m now of the ‘younger adult’ generation; I already have second cousins once removed who see me as an adult figure, and there will perhaps be more children, closer to me one day, who will see me as an uncle, maybe even as a father (it could happen, theoretically).  It’s another reminder of mortality and the inexorable passage of time at a time of year when such things are omnipresent.

Checking In

I am still alive.  I know it’s three days since I posted, which is an eternity for me.  To be honest, I might not be posting regularly for a while, because my new job and the upcoming Jewish festivals are going to take up most of my time for the next month, especially as I don’t dare to blog at work after what happened at my old job, doubly so as this is an open-plan office and I don’t want people reading over my shoulder.

The new job is going OK.  It involves checking lists of data are correct by googling the people on the list and comparing what is written there.  I’m basically being paid to Google-stalk and LinkedIn-stalk people (not Facebook-stalk as this is all business addresses).  It’s boring, but diverting in a way.  There is an element of “quest” about trying to find the data and I like the fact that I get to put my research skills to some use (knowing how to do a Google site search is finally useful).

Mood-wise, I’m OK for a bit and think I’m getting settled, but then I suddenly get hit by a wave of anxiety.  I worry that I’m going too slowly at work and am going to get in trouble for not working fast enough (my previous boss told me off for this), so I speed up my work, but then I make sloppy mistakes and worry I’ll get in trouble for that.  I guess I’m still learning the ropes, but I feel bad about the mistakes my boss caught and worry that I will keep making them.  I haven’t got so much depression at the moment, but I’m dreading what Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) will do.  Fortunately I managed to keep my religious OCD in check, as I was worried it would get worse again now I’m back to living with my parents.

And that’s it really.  My life is mostly work and anxiety about Yom Tov.  I finished watching Doctor Who for the book I’m writing.  I’ve still got a couple of pages of notes that I haven’t had time to write up yet, but the second draft is basically done… but I need to a draft 2.5 to a few chapters because my idea of the book and the ‘evidence’ I needed changed partway through, so I need to rewatch all of 1960s Doctor Who again, plus the 2017 season because I didn’t think I picked up everything I could.  But I’m pausing that re-viewing for a while as I need a break.

I’m reading a book on complex PTSD, but it’s confusing me as to whether I have it or not, especially as I wasn’t abused, and although I did have a traumatic childhood in some ways, I don’t always feel that it was bad enough to ‘deserve’ PTSD.  I fear another autism-type ambiguous situation.  Plus the book has a lot of hippy-drippy stuff about reparenting yourself and talking to your inner child.  I don’t really respond well to that sort of thing.  It’s also all written in the third-person feminine (‘she’) and I know that’s just a stylistic thing, but somewhere in my unconscious it reinforces the feeling that I don’t ‘deserve’ PTSD, that boys shouldn’t be traumatised or, worse, boys are all abusers and get no sympathy.

The next month, for me and for most religious Jews, is going to be a mixture of spending hours in shul (synagogue) introspecting and praying; eating too much; fasting too much; spending (too much?) time with family and friends; doing weird Jewey things like throwing our sins in the river, sitting in a hut in the garden eating in autumn and waving branches around; and getting drunk and dancing (er, not all these things all at once.  Different things on different festivals).  And then cramming work in to the days that aren’t festival days, when we’re allowed to work, to make up for all the time off.  Some of this stuff I find hard even at the best of times and with depression and social anxiety it gets ten times harder.  I’m going to try not to be too hard on myself and just do what I can, but it’s going to be a challenge.  I’ll try to check back in periodically, but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a bit.

And in case I don’t get the chance to write before Sunday evening, shana tova u’metuka/have a good and sweet new year!


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.


Life and Death

I was the first person to get to shiur (religious class) last night.  The assistant rabbi, who takes the class, made the usual small talk gambit of asking how I am and if I had any news.  I didn’t really want to get into talking about myself, but I don’t like to lie and I’m a bad liar, so I started to tell him about my job situation.  I felt really stupid telling him about leaving my old job, as if it was a stupid thing for me to do, which perhaps it was.  Fortunately we got interrupted by other people arriving.

I found it hard to concentrate at shiur.  I kept thinking about dying and being dead.  When I got home I flicked through a book on complex PTSD (which I’m still not convinced I have) which said that “passive suicidality” (fantasising about death without actively planning suicide) is common among people with complex PTSD.  That is probably the case with me, regardless of whether I have complex PTSD, as I think about death and dying a lot when depressed, but don’t usually make plans to kill myself, although I do sometimes take precautions in case I do impulsively try to hurt myself.  The author of the book felt that passive suicidality is a form of childish fantasy, of wanting to remove oneself from the situation one finds oneself in, which fits the way I experience it (“childish” in the sense of its something a child without power to alter his/her environment would fantasise as an escape, not making a value judgement about it).

The shiur was about seeing HaShem’s (God’s) sovereignty everywhere.  The assistant rabbi said that we don’t really experience this in our lives.  I felt that I do see it a bit, but because I don’t experience HaShem as benevolent, it is hard to be glad about it or trust that things will turn out well.  So, I can acknowledge that HaShem gave me a job really quickly after leaving my old job, within a week but it’s hard to hold on to that, partly because it is not really a career-enhancing job, nor is it likely to last more than three or four months, but mostly because when something good happens to me, I assume that something bad is going to come out of it sooner or later, even if the bad is only the loss of the good (which is more frustrating in some ways than never having the good in the first place).  I feel when something goes well, I’m just waiting for it to go disastrously wrong.  This is how my life seems to have gone: every good thing being short-term and leading to bad things that are long-term and painful enough to outweigh the short-term good things.


I came across this article on identifying your life’s mission that I’ve read in the past again.  It reminds me of something the assistant rabbi was saying yesterday about needing to know what you want out of life at this time of year so you can pray for it.  I still have no idea how to answer the article’s questions that are supposed to help find your mission in life: what are the five or ten most pleasurable moments of your life? (I don’t know.  I can’t think of many overwhelmingly positive moments.)   And what would you do with a billion dollars and six hours a day of discretionary time? (I have absolutely no idea.)  Mostly I want to be dead, inasmuch as my fantasy is just not to have to engage with the world any more, because I can’t face it and I don’t feel I do very well at living in it.  The thought of actually doing something just triggers anxiety as I’m sure I can’t do it.  I’m certainly struggling with career choices.  As my new job is short-term, I’m still looking at career emails from agencies and websites, but I don’t know what I want to do.  I was reminded today of my boss in my old job asking me if I really wanted to be a librarian when she told me that she didn’t think I was able to meet the revised job specification.  I do feel that I don’t seem to be as suited to librarianship as I thought I would be, but I don’t have a clue what to do instead.

I just looked at the cheshbon nafesh (self-assessment) I did this time last year.  I was stressed, but feeling positive: I felt I had brought the OCD under control with CBT and I was making significant improvements with my depression on clomipramine and was trying to see myself as ‘someone with depression’ rather than a ‘depressive’ i.e. not to be defined by my illness.  I was positive about my job and living away from home.  I felt that I was making friends at shul (synagogue).  I had read or re-read quite a few religious books over the previous year, although I felt I had missed most of the (far too long) list of targets from the year before.  It feels like almost all these things have disappeared now, except controlling the OCD.  Even the clomipramine doesn’t seem to be doing much.


I just bought the complex PTSD book that I was looking at last night.  It may have been a stupid thing to do given that (a) it is far from clear that I have complex PTSD; (b) I have a huge pile of books to read already; and (c) I do not have such a good record with self-help books (e.g. the social anxiety book I bought that was useful for understanding social anxiety, but which I could not follow through with the practical steps to recovery).  I bought it because, regardless of whether I have PTSD, it looks like it has some useful stuff about self-love.  Anyway, that’s my salary for my first hour and a quarter of work next week gone.