Bounded in a Nutshell

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare

I felt a huge amount of anger with HaShem (God) yesterday evening.  I’m just so lonely and feel so useless and I can’t see any way out.  It’s illogical to be angry with Him about my own failings, but I feel that if I wasn’t autistic and depressed, I wouldn’t be so lonely and isolated, which leads on to anger with Him for making me autistic (blame for the depression is more complicated).  I feel if I wasn’t autistic, I would be able to function in the frum (religious) world as He wants, but as it is, I can’t function.

I didn’t know how to process the anger, so I ended up hurting myself for the first time in a while.  I hit my legs with my fists while trying to talk to HaShem;  later I scratched myself slightly, but I’m not quite sure why I did that.  I have been fantasising about death again lately too, mainly just thinking that however bad things are here, one day I’ll be dead and unable to feel any more pain.

***

I’m still struggling with what to do about dating.  It still feels wrong, morally wrong, to date while I’m not just unemployed, but not even sure what I want to do with my life any more.  And I can’t face the thought of rejection and it seems there are so many reasons why someone would reject me (autistic, depressed, weird geeky interests, didn’t go to yeshiva or otherwise tick the appropriate frum boxes) even without being unemployed too.  Nor do I look forward to having to turn down someone I don’t feel is right for me.  And I’m wary of thinking that things will be better if I’m in a relationship (although it is true that I have felt better when I’ve been in a relationship in the past, even if I wasn’t “recovered”).

However, I just feel so lonely.  I feel like everyone has their partner except me.  This is blatantly untrue (a number of my friends are single), but reflects how I feel.  I feel that I am mostly self-contained.  I don’t need other people with me all the time.  I have solitary hobbies and even things like watching TV I prefer to do alone (I don’t like watching TV with other people because I don’t watch TV casually.  I don’t channel hop, I only watch things I want to watch and which I think are worth my time, but then I watch them with complete concentration and dislike noise and interruptions, particularly as the programmes I watch tend to be plot-heavy and reasonably complex to follow).  I should really be happy living alone as I’m an introvert and a bit of a loner.  But, as seen when my parents are away, when I’m actually alone, I do get more depressed, even though logically I should welcome being alone.  I do, on some level, need people around me, even if I don’t interact with them much.  I also need to be able to love and to feel loved and I’m rather starved of both of these things and have been much of my life.  My parents and my sister do care about me, but there are so difficulties in those relationships, most probably stemming from my autism and my having different “love languages” to my family.  We probably aren’t very good at showing love to each other in ways the other person can comprehend.

I try to cope with things and be self-contained (“If you are miserable alone, you will be miserable in a relationship” as everyone says), but I just feel so unbearably lonely and unloved that it’s impossible to escape the depression for long.

***

I saw the psychiatrist today.  It didn’t go well.  She focused on my unemployment, repeatedly telling me that I should get a job, which wasn’t terribly helpful.  She did suggest doing voluntary work, which is probably a good idea.  I didn’t feel like she was really listening, nor did I have the confidence to tell her that my depression and social anxiety are just as bad, if not worse, when I’m working, because of issues surrounding autism and mental illness in the workplace.  In fact, I haven’t told this psychiatrist about my autism at all, as the last one said that if I’ve been told I haven’t got it by the Maudsley Hospital, I don’t have it and that’s final.  As my GP has referred me for another assessment at the Maudsley, I’m not going to raise the issue again until I’ve had that assessment.

As well as sounding disappointed with me for not having a job, she sounded disappointed with me for not having friends.  I said I had “one or two” which is a simplification (I have two or three I’m in contact with regularly, but via text as they live elsewhere; I have one or two friends who live locally, but I usually only see them in shul (synagogue)).   I couldn’t really be bothered to explain as she didn’t seem interested and I was struggling to understand her accent; possibly she was struggling with mine too.  She asked if I am in a relationship; she didn’t really react when I said I’m not.  When she asked what I do when I’m not job hunting, I said I write a bit, which she misheard as “write a book” which is basically true so I didn’t correct her.

She asked if I have thoughts of self-harm or suicide and I said yes, because I have had them in the last couple of days, but she didn’t really seem to care as I said I wouldn’t act on the suicidal thoughts, which is probably true, and that I wouldn’t act on the self-harm thoughts, which was a lie because I did last night.  I don’t know why I lied; probably because it was very minor and I just wanted to get out of the appointment room.  I just didn’t feel comfortable opening up to her as she seemed to just want to process me quickly and get to the next patient and seemed to think that finding a job will be a panacea for me.

***

Today’s potential jobs: a school librarian maternity cover job (I don’t want to work in further education again after struggling previously); an “information assistant” that seems to be a library assistant role rather than an assistant librarian and has a lethal-looking commute; and a role billed as “knowledge librarian” but which also seems to be a library assistant role rather than a trained librarian role, judging from the lack of professional skills in the job description and which also requires SharePoint experience that I don’t have.  I was then reminded that I applied for a “knowledge librarian” role a few days ago; I think it was the same job as the job descriptions are similar, although it’s hard to be sure, as both jobs are advertised through different agencies and don’t state the name of the company that is advertising the job (this happens a lot and is very frustrating).

It is probably no wonder that I really want to do something else with my life, something I find more rewarding.  But, just as I don’t have the courage to start dating again, I don’t have the courage (or knowledge and perhaps the ability) to try to write professionally.

***

I feel like I’m coming down with a migraine, so the rest of the day is probably a wipe-out now.

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More In Heaven and Earth

I was woken far too early by a large bee that was trapped between the blind and the window and was making a lot of noise.  I failed to prod it out the window and decided to stay up, open the main windows (I only had the small ones open) and wait for it to leave of its own accord while I had breakfast.

On waking I noticed something odd.  The photo of my maternal grandparents, which sits on the bookcase opposite my bed, was on my bedside table, on the other side of the room.  I’m sure I didn’t put it there.  I do believe in God, but I don’t believe He randomly moves my stuff around.  I don’t believe in demons, ghosts, reincarnation, astrology, the evil eye, clairvoyance and various other things that some of my coreligionists believe in.  I am sure there is a rational explanation.  I just don’t know what it is.  I suppose the most likely explanation is that I got up and moved it in my sleep, somehow, although I have no history of sleepwalking, even as a child.

I am rather disconcerted by this, but I will endeavour not to tell my parents.  Similar things have happened to my Dad and he reads great significance into them, hinting, although not quite explicitly saying, that he feels them to be messages of some kind from his late father, something which I do not feel comfortable with.  I have no wish to encourage thoughts like these.  Still, it is disconcerting.

***

I submitted the job application I’ve been working on all week, the one where there were a lot of vague open questions that my autistic brain struggled with, and others that indicated that they wanted more experience than I had and a greater commitment to CPD (continuing professional development) than I can manage at the moment.  You know you’re trying to bluff your way through something when you start an answer “I endeavour…”  I think I have zero chance of getting the job and I doubt it even counts as good experience, given how much I struggled with it.  I feel a bit of an idiot.

***

There’s a book I’m reading, one chapter each week on spirituality, based on the weekly parasha (Torah portion read in the synagogue).  I’m struggling with it.  I don’t like to give up on books, but I’m worried it’s having a negative effect on me.  I just can’t work out how to have the kind of dynamic spiritual life the author suggests, full of inspiration and natural highs, enthusiasm, love for God, love for others and more.  I know it’s the depression, but I don’t think there is ever going to not be depression there for me, at least on some level.  I don’t know how I can enjoy my religious life.  This is especially problematic as “going through the motions” religiously, doing stuff by rote is criticised in Judaism, both by this book and by other teachers (e.g. my hero the Kotzker Rebbe said something along the lines of, “Someone who studies Torah and is not moved by it, who sins and forgives himself, who prays today because he prayed yesterday – a completely wicked person is better than him!”).

I wonder if I will ever have the religious life I want.  I want to have religious joy, simcha shel mitzvah (the joy of fulfilling the commandments).  I want to enjoy studying Torah again.  I want to feel part of a community.  I want to build a bayit ne’eman beYisrael (faithful house in Israel, a metaphor for a religious home).  But I worry that I will never manage these things.  For one thing, it seems to be a catch-22: if I don’t have joy, I won’t be able to get motivated to study Torah or to pray enthusiastically and mindfully.  But if I don’t study Torah or pray enthusiastically, I won’t earn the joy of the commandments.  Even at a basic level, if I cut Torah study and prayer to the bare minimum, there’s no room for joy from them.  They’re just chores, quickly dealt with.  Similarly, I can’t become part of a community while I feel myself to be so spiritually impoverished, but I can’t grow spiritually without being part of a community; I suspect I can’t get married without being part of a community either (to get set up on dates), but I suspect if I ever become fully integrated to a community, it would be because of a wife who is able to navigate things better than I can.

***

A related realisation I’ve come to in recent years: probably the biggest argument against the existence of God, or at least the Jewish conception of God, is the existence of suffering.  Why would a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God allow so much undeserved suffering?  I think there are really only two possible answers: either there is no God (or at least not a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient one) or suffering is the point.  Not that we’re made to suffer per se, but that suffering is a key part of what happens to us here, to stimulate character growth and empathy and to give us challenges to overcome.

But it’s hard to believe that all the time.  Some of it is subjective, feeling that I’ve suffered in my life more than other people.  This may be true, but it’s hard to tell as I don’t know everything others have been through or will go through, or what I will go through in the coming years.  But some of it is more objective (although still somewhat subjective), feeling that I can’t go on any more.  I feel tired a lot of the time, and not just depressive exhaustion.  I’m not suicidal, but I often feel I have exhausted everything life has to offer me and that I have no strength to go on any more.  I have no enthusiasm for Jewish life or for life in general.  I don’t really have any hopes or ambitions for the future, and the thought that one day I will be dead is still quite calming – that I won’t have to worry about things any more.  It doesn’t help that these days the world around me (in the news) just confuses and scares me, but even without that, I feel drained and negative.

I don’t know how to get more energy and motivation.  This is, believe it or not, a good day for me.  I don’t feel as depressed and lonely as I did earlier this week, when my parents were away.  I have some energy.  I finished a job application, did nearly an hour of Torah study and worked on my book for an hour or so as well as going for a twenty-five minute walk.  But even so, I feel a lack of enthusiasm, joy and meaning.  Even writing my book, which in the past was restoring, felt like a struggle, although I did manage to write a thousand words or so.

***

An aside: someone who goes to the shiur (religious class) I go to was absent last night.  Today the shul announced that he and his wife had a baby.  He is my age or perhaps slightly older.  I try to feel happy for people, but every time I hear of someone my age marrying or having a child, I seem to feel my life slipping away from me.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”

I’m feeling lost today.  Can’t concentrate on anything.  Slipping into daydream and fantasy, as I do when very depressed (and maybe when not depressed, I’m not sure).  We’re all the stars of the films of our lives, but I probably take that too literally.  Listless.  Feeling unable to do anything.  I’m worried that last week (two job interviews and a breakup) has pushed me a long way backwards.

Procrastinating.  Aimlessly browsing online, not reading anything.  Why is everything online so angry?  Isn’t anyone open to the idea that they might not be right, or at least that other people might also be right?  I know that when I feel like this, it’s companionship that I’m searching for rather than socio-political or cultural commentary, but I can’t find that online.  So I’m just wasting time.  I wish I had more real-life friends, and I wish they lived more locally, but it’s doubtful whether I would see them if they did.  I don’t even really have the confidence to talk to my shul (synagogue) friends at kiddush or seudah.  I don’t get to sit with them or I’m too shy to say anything or I assume that they don’t want to speak to me.  There was a message on the shul What’sApp about trying to organise a trip to see the Cairo Geniza collection at Cambridge.  This ticks almost all my boxes (Judaism, history, libraries), but I haven’t yet responded, because I don’t know the person’s phone number to respond (all posts on the What’sApp are via the shamash or the rabbi) and am too shy to ask around.

Similarly, I should stop procrastinating over asking my fan friends to look at my Doctor Who book and just ask them.  ‘m worried that they have too much on, but that they would say yes anyway and I would feel guilty.  Beyond that, it boils down to the fact that I like writing, but am less keen on showing people my writing or getting feedback on it.  Perhaps this is not so different from being too shy to speak to people, even my friends, at shul.  Then again, I’ve never had more than twenty likes on a blog post, so maybe almost no one is interested in my opinions after all.

***

I guess in my head there’s an unhealthy binary choice between “Being Myself” and “Fitting In”.  I don’t think, objectively, that most people sacrifice their inner selves to fit in, but at the same time, I probably should accept that, with my history of being bullied and ignored, and my strong, but unusual/autistic personality and interests, it is probably inevitable that I feel deeply ambivalent about fitting in anywhere.  I find it hard to believe anyone could accept me for who I am, so I hide myself (or hide my ‘self’) in any community.  That goes double for my shul where I’m aware that there are issues where I absolutely don’t agree with this community and never will, it’s just the least worst option currently available.  Probably if I was accepted somewhere, I would feel that I had sold out in some way. As a great man said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”  (I just left a similar comment on this post on Hevria.)

I guess I just want someone to tell me that I’m a good person, but I don’t think I would believe them if they did.  I recently hit 300 followers on my blog, but I think a lot of them are spammy and I suspect (from my likes) that most of them aren’t actually reading it.  TL;DR is my middle name.

***

I somehow managed to apply for another job.  Nevertheless, I feel I should have done more today, and better.  I know I wrote a job application (although most of it was reused from an earlier one), I did some laundry and cooked dinner (a new recipe, Indian lentils and rice.  I burnt the rice) and went to shul for Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Services).  But all the same, I feel I should have worked on one of my books and done more Torah study and davened with more kavannah and written a better job application.  And not burnt the rice.  No, I know I should do more and better.  I’m not supposed to be seriously depressed and low functioning, I’m supposed to be moderately to mildly depressed and functional.

I use ‘should’ a lot and I’ve been told not to, but it seems to me that Judaism is a religion of ‘shoulds’ not choices or ‘maybes.’  In any case “I should not use shoulds” just becomes another ‘should.’

***

I finally got feedback from the academic librarianship job I was interviewed for a couple of weeks ago.  The said I had good answers and “a good deal of empathy in my answers”, which is positive, but also that I’m “reserved and quite serious” and lacking in personality; they also felt I was unable to understand the relative informality of the institution.  It was better feedback than that from the Very Important Organisation, but still a bit dispiriting.  I didn’t get the law librarian job either, but the feedback from that was much better; they said that I gave good examples and coped well even though I was nervous and that they would be willing to look at me again if another position in the library became vacant.

***

There’s a long article in The Economist’s 1843 Magazine about the struggles of gifted children that I empathised with.  Talk of loneliness and bullying sounds all too familiar, as do not being able to connect to other children and having intellectual development that runs far ahead of their (the gifted children’s) emotional development.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I had gone to an educationally-selective school.  Would that have helped my socialisation?

The strange thing is, in a 5,000 word article that mentions intellectual precociousness, sensory sensitivity, anxiety and overthinking, poor social skills and social meltdowns, the words “high functioning autism” or “Asperger’s Syndrome” are not mentioned once.  No wonder I’ve struggled to get diagnosed.

***

I told my father that I asked the values-based dating service shadchan (matchmaker) not to look for anyone for me for a while.  I didn’t want to tell him, but he kept asking questions until I had to either tell him or lie outright and I’m not dishonest (I’m also a terrible liar).  I don’t think he thought it was a particularly good idea, which was why I hadn’t told him.  He seemed to think that if I hadn’t told the shadchan, she would have found someone else suitable for me very quickly, which I think is wishful thinking, bearing how long it took her to find L.  He also thinks someone could be interested in me even though I’m unemployed, which I think is unlikely, L. notwithstanding.  I also feel I need time out from dating to decide what I want to do with my career, whereas I think my parents are assuming I’m just looking for the right library job.

His concern does make me think that I’m running out of time to get married, certainly if I want to have children, but I think that anyway.  Nevertheless, I do get lonely and I do find myself wishing someone would drop out the sky and accept me the way E. did, but then even E. only managed to accept me for two months.

***
I had distressing violent thoughts of dying again today.  I don’t know what to do with them.

Waving a Magic Wand

Trigger warning: suicide

On a previous post, Yolanda said I have “strong faith”.  I don’t feel like that, certainly compared to other people in the frum (religious Jewish) community.  Partly it’s that I avoid social markers of faith, like saying “Barukh HaShem!” when people ask how I am (literally “Bless God,” but idiomatically “Thank God”).  But I feel that I don’t trust God.  I know that faith and trust are different things in Judaism; faith is about thinking God exists while trust is about accepting that whatever happens is for the best; but it is hard to have the former without the latter.  In a sense, on an intellectual level, I can accept that everything is for the best, but I can’t feel it.  My life just seems so miserable, I feel that there has to be more to it than this.  But I worry that if the “best possible outcome” for me for the last twenty years has apparently been (on the grounds that whatever God causes to happen is for the best) for me to be lonely and miserable, thinking of myself as a freak that no one could like, let alone love, how can I know that the next twenty years – or sixty years – won’t be the same?  I don’t think I could bear that.  This is when I start feeling suicidal.  I think I could cope with suffering if I felt there was a purpose or end to it, but being lonely and miserable indefinitely for no obvious reason is just too much to bear.  But I don’t know what the alternative is.  I don’t seriously believe that stopping being frum (religious) would make me happier, although it might make life a little easier and would widen my dating pool, but I think the key limiting factors on my dating are my mental health issues and autism and my under/unemployment.

***

Speaking of dating, Ashley Leia said I should date women and let them decide if they want me rather than decide in advance that they won’t date me.  That does make a kind of sense, and my parents and rabbi mentor have said similar things… but in my brain dating seriously without an income is disingenuous and futile.  Maybe that’s not accurate.  But I’m scared of the rejection I feel sure will follow dating in this state.  And I worry about meeting the right person at the wrong time and her rejecting me because I’m unemployed or depressed and then I’ll never get a second chance with her because she has tagged me as not suitable.

Of course, the problem is that I want other people to make decisions for me but then I don’t cooperate with them.  The other problem is that I’m terribly lonely, so I think endlessly about how things would have to change so that I could date, which just makes me feel more hopeless.  So I procrastinate endlessly and feel lonely and depressed all the time.  I find it doubtful that anyone could really make me happy, to be honest.

***

I could write an equally long, equally depressing rant about my career.  I’m not sure how much I want to be a librarian any more; it turned out not to really be like my experience in the library where I first worked, first as a volunteer, then as a paid employee.    I haven’t kept up with my CPD (and my training, at a not-very-good university because of depression, was arguably not good enough in the first place) and I feel pretty unemployable in my chosen career.  It’s a struggle to wade through job adverts and try to reply, I’m so lacking in self-belief.  Lots of jobs require work on Saturdays too, which I can’t do for religious reasons.  Then there are all the jobs I’m over- or under-qualified for…  I have to hope something will turn up, but as with dating, there’s no guarantee that it will, or that I will be good enough for the opportunity or psychologically ready to accept it.

Someone suggested A S Mentoring to me, but I’m not sure they are really offering anything that would be useful to me.  I suppose I should contact them and find out… which is also scary.

***
I suppose what I really want is for someone to wave a magic wand and for me to wake up in a new life with the things I want.  But real life doesn’t work like that.  I don’t mind having to work for things, but it seems that no matter how hard I try, I never get the things I work for and I can’t go on much longer without getting some kind of result.

***

I went shopping for a very belated wedding present for my sister and brother-in-law (long story why it’s been so long).  Out walking and seeing all the Purim stuff in the Jewish shops, I reflected that it is only a few days until Purim, the happiest festival in the Jewish calendar, and yet the one I struggle with the most (well, tied with Pesach).  I feel like Judaism is built for mentally healthy neurotypicals (for all the autistic precision with which Jewish law is codified).  There isn’t anywhere for someone who can’t join in with the festive crowd, who can’t drink, doesn’t have children or grandchildren and probably never will…

There’s a constant pressure to Do Things, whether from Judaism or work or family and friends.  I just constantly feel that I have to do painful things so I don’t “let people down,” but no one is making sacrifices for me (except for my parents supporting me rent-free).  I can’t cope with the constant pressure to be perfect.  I’m not perfect, nowhere near it.  Why can’t anyone understand that and leave me alone?

I honestly don’t know what I would do if someone said, “OK, you can choose the life you want.  You can decide if you want to pray or study Torah and how much, what to do for work, what family and social life you want.”  I can’t imagine would what actually feel good or how I can work that out.  In reality, I probably couldn’t cope with a career or being married.  Western society doesn’t really present me with an alternative to having a career and frum society doesn’t present me with an alternative to getting married.  I think I could manage, and might benefit from (in terms of personal growth as well as support and happiness), a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, but that’s not really an option in frum society.

***

Related: I just shouted at my parents.  My Mum eagerly told me that my sister and BIL have concrete under their shale patio.  I neither knew nor cared about this, no one having told me that it was a concern and I can’t really bring myself to care.  Then Dad insisted on showing me a photo and I didn’t know what to say and ended up saying, “I don’t know what you want from me – to say “MY GOD THAT’S THE BEST GARDEN I’VE EVER SEEN??!!!”  They did at least see the funny side.  I shouldn’t have done it, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to take any kind of interest in my sister’s house without becoming monumentally depressed, yet everyone else seems to be expecting me to be as fascinated as if I were going to be living there myself.  At least if she had a baby, I could play with him or her.

***

I feel like I can’t take any more.  I can’t stand being so lonely and miserable.  I want to die, but killing myself…  I can’t put it into words, but I do and don’t want to kill myself.  I do because I want to escape, but I don’t because I couldn’t put my parents through that, and because, I suppose, some part of me still hopes I might one day have some small measure of joy, albeit probably not in this world, and that would never happen if I killed myself.  Plus, I suppose I can’t help feeling that killing myself would just lead to more punishment somehow.

I don’t want people to worry about me.  I’m not going to do anything.  I wouldn’t dare, really.  I just wish so much that this wasn’t happening to me.  I just wish that I wasn’t here.

Thanatos

Trigger warning: suicide

Also, rather long and involved, if that needs a warning

Well, that was an awful, awful day.  The stupid thing is that nothing particularly bad even happened.  I made some stupid mistakes at work and looked like an idiot in front of my line manager and her line manager, but it wasn’t anything really terrible.  But it just sent me over the edge.

I woke up feeling depressed, which was not a good start.  Already by the time I was on the way to work I was feeling that “I don’t deserve to live.”  I felt I just couldn’t cope and wanted to die.  There was a feeling of wanting to attract attention.  People look down on people who hurt themselves as a cry for attention, but that seems to ignore the fact that sometimes there just aren’t the words to say how you feel.

At work I went very slowly, not deliberately, but I was just struggling to work and to feel that I could cope.  Already by lunchtime I messaged E. to say I was having a lousy day, even though I could see that nothing bad had happened.  By mid-afternoon I had embarrassed myself in front of my line manager and was locked in a vicious circle of feeling useless –> making mistakes –> feeling useless –> making mistakes.  I felt like an idiot, which, as my brain helpfully reminded me, is from the Greek idios meaning private or on one’s own.  I have been on my own for so long that I have turned into an idiot.

Also, my brain now sends me depressive self-hating thoughts in Greek…

Floundering, I felt that I should be doing menial work instead of my actual job, but then felt that I couldn’t actually do that either.  I’m not suited for menial labour.  I need intellectual work, but narrowly defined and without the need for special qualifications.  I don’t think this work exists, unless I can find a way to get paid for my writing.

Feeling that I was unemployable did not cheer me up, unsurprisingly, and I started thinking about hurting myself again and about suicide.  I felt that I wanted to die, more than anything.  I texted E. to say that I was only holding on for family and friends, but really that was a lie.  I was just holding on for my parents.  It pains me to say it, but I was so far gone that the thought of my friends or even my sister might not have been enough to keep me going by themselves.  Things just seemed so hopeless.  It seems so impossible that my career could improve or that anyone could ever love me, especially without a good career (note the way that I see a career as valuable primarily to make me more marryable).

This cycle carried on for the rest of the afternoon.  It’s hard now, hours later, now I’ve calmed down, to really describe how I felt.  I know I’ve tried to write these thoughts down and blog them in the past, but it’s hard, because at the time there’s a tension and an agitation and my thoughts start racing, but I think not being able to communicate the thoughts makes them worse; once I can start to write them down, I can begin to see logical flaws in them and even the act of writing them down or speaking them through with someone (if I can see a therapist or phone Samaritans) can help to calm me down.  But at work I was trying to plough on regardless with my job and that just increased the pressure and the agitation.

Eventually, the day finished and I could come home.  Or so I thought.  I was halfway to the station when I started having OCD thoughts about not having locked up the rare books store room properly.  I tried to stay with the thoughts and go home, but it was too much for me and I went back to check.  By that stage I could see that I was in a state.  My blood sugar was probably very low and I was thinking all kinds of self-loathing thoughts, thinking that I should stop being frum (religious) if I want to get married.  I thought that if I walked back to the station straight away I would end up in a terrible state, so after checking the rare books, I went to the staff room and ate all the food I had with me (an apple and a cereal bar), after which I felt somewhat better and went home.

I was still having difficult thoughts though.  I don’t use profanity as a rule, but I’m ashamed to relate some of the things I was thinking.  I was still thinking that I just wanted to die, that I would rather die than recover, because recovery seemed so impossible.  Because Gehennom (the ‘bad’ afterlife in Judaism, but more like Purgatory than Hell) couldn’t be worse than how I felt.  Because Gehennom lasts for only one year, and because at least in Gehennom I wouldn’t be humiliated in front of other people on a regular basis.  Feeling really angry with God.  Just furious.  I can’t even remember everything I thought, it was so terrible and strong.

And the final insult, I returned home to a letter from the taxman (or taxwoman, in this case) informing me that, no, they made a mistake previously, I do really owe them another £60 from the last tax year.  I don’t mind paying the money – well, I do, but it’s not the main irritant.  It’s having yet another thing to sort out because other people screwed up.  It’s not like our public services are doing much for me.  Maybe I ought to phone the crisis team and demand my money’s worth.

I usually blog my day when I get in to offload, but I was too worried about what I would write if I went straight into it, so I forced myself to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers), eat dinner and watch TV for a bit to calm down.  I felt – I still feel – exhausted and somewhat in shock.  I usually avoid caffeine in the evenings, but I drank some tea because I really did feel in shock.  I watched some of The Quatermass Experiment (the live 2005 remake of the 1950s science fiction serial).  Part of it was set in my place of work; I think they might even have filmed some of the non-live cutaway shots in the street I was walking down two hours earlier when I was having OCD thoughts, which was a bit unnerving.

I still feel exhausted and a bit in shock and my shoulder muscles are really tense, but my mood is better.  I have a bit of a ‘coming down’ feel, except I’m coming down from something bad rather than good.  Coming up, maybe.  At least I’m home and safe in my room with my books and DVDs.  I guess for an autistic person quiet, space, familiarity and special interests (books and DVDs) are all important (perhaps even all-important).  I bought some chocolate (minstrels, one of my favourites) on the way home because I felt I needed to have some kind of reward for getting through the day in one piece, even if it won’t be help me lose weight.

***

When I’d calmed down a bit, I recalled the first time I was suicidal, in fact when I nearly took an overdose, when I was in my third year at Oxford.  I sat down to take an overdose, but at the last instant changed my mind and phoned someone (a friend who wasn’t talking to me because she couldn’t cope with my being suicidal, but that’s another story).  About a week later I casually mentioned this to the university counselling service counsellor I was seeing and she was astonished that I had neglected to mention this suicide attempt and that I didn’t think it was worth telling her.  She asked me what my parents would think if I killed myself and I said they would be upset; she said they would be devastated.

I wonder now, over fifteen years on, whether this was autism, not the suicidality, but not thinking it was important enough to mention to my counsellor and only being able to express my parents’ grief in a partial and limited way.  It’s like the way I downplayed my sister’s grief and my friends’ grief if I were to kill myself.  It’s hard for me to conceptualise it and I don’t know how much is self-loathing (no one cares about me) and how much is autistic ‘mindblindness’ (not being able to imagine how other people feel generally).

***

This morning, while my thought processes were getting out of control, I thought that knowing that I’m probably autistic, I need to find adaptive solutions to my problems, accepting the reality of autism and probably also of some kind of permanent level of depression, at least in the background, rather than technical ‘tweaks’ of the kind I have been trying to make for years.  The tweaks were sometimes successful (the occupational therapist I used to see probably made more positive changes to my life than anyone), but I really need to change the way I live to adapt to the reality of my situation, I just don’t know how.  It’s possible – probable, even – that adaptive changes have been suggested by therapists and psychiatrists before now, but that I couldn’t implement them, perhaps partly because I hadn’t been diagnosed as autistic (technically I still haven’t been diagnosed, of course).

I don’t know what changes I could make, though.   I’m already more or less accepting not going to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings without trying to guilt-trip myself, which may or may not be a good thing; today I was wondering if I would make it to shul for the morning Megillah reading on Purim next week or if I just feel too overwhelmed to do that too.  It seems to be easy to feel that I can’t do things with autism rather than that I can do things.  Maybe I should be accepting that I can make it to shul.  Should I just accept that I will never have a job I feel comfortable in, that I will never get married?  It’s hard to know what is realistic, much too easy to try to do too much or too little.

When the depression was feeling bad earlier I wondered if I would find it easier to get married if I wasn’t frum.  I couldn’t give up Shabbat and kashrut, but anything else would seem like fiddling at the margins.  Should I be looking for non-frum women who are willing to compromise (as E. was)?  I’m afraid of the tensions that might result and what sort of compromise I would have to make in return.  But a non-frum woman would not care about my not davening with a minyan (community) or learning (studying Torah/Talmud) enough.  I would date a frum woman with ‘issues’ although I would be nervous of how our issues would combine, particularly if she had mental health issues.  However, a lot of ‘issues’ in the frum world are not things that I would consider issues at all (ba’alat teshuva or geyoret, parents divorced, siblings stopped being frum etc.) and I would be happy to date such a person.

On the other hand, lately I’ve felt my frumkeit slipping in little ways.  Nothing big.  I still believe in God (even if I’m angry with Him some of the time), keep kosher, keep Shabbat and so on.  But I don’t beat myself up so much for missing davening or shul or Torah study and it’s getting harder and harder to avoid cultural stuff (books, TV, films, music) that feels treif and that I would previously have avoided.  I don’t know where this is going though.

Nearly Shabbat

15.00  Feeling terrible.  I should be getting ready for Shabbat or working on my books, but I can’t.  Want to go back to bed.  I wish I was dead.  I don’t know if I really think that.  I’m coming to realise that the feelings that I think are wanting love or sex might not be that at all, but something else (or something else tied up with wanting love and/or sex), so maybe feeling “I wish I was dead” is really something else too.  About loneliness or self-hatred, which is probably what the “wanting love/sex” feeling is too.

***

My sister wants to go out with me motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening), but I don’t really want to.  Maybe on Sunday, if it’s not a big thing, but not Saturday evening.  I don’t know though.  I don’t know and I don’t know how to say anything.  I’m just shut down (not in an autistic sense but actually maybe in an autistic sense; I don’t really understand melt-downs and shut downs and how they fit into my life).

***

Listening to Elton John sing Tiny Dancer over and over again.  Sometimes, particularly when I’m very depressed, I listen to the same song over and over (apparently even this is an autistic thing).  Usually there’s some kind of link from the lyrics to how I feel, but I think this is just about the music.  The song used to be triggering for me, for complicated reasons, but this seems to have worked as exposure therapy.

***

The assistant rabbi said yesterday that people who are frightened of getting drunk on Purim have no “inside”, because if you’ve got a real inside (inner world) there’s nothing in there to fear.  I’ve never been drunk, I don’t really drink at all and I’ve always been very scared of getting drunk and I’m glad depression and antidepressants give me reasons not to drink.  What does that say about me, and my “inside”?

***

16.45  Shabbat chores finished.  I should really have hoovered, at least the kitchen and my bedroom, but I don’t feel able.  I’m exhausted.  I’m not sure if I’m going to go to shul, I just feel exhausted (plus when I’m home alone I always feel nervous about going out with the Shabbat candles lit even though I’m only using tea lights).  No time to work on my books.  I guess this week was never going to be easy between networking course, work disruption and my parents being away.

***

This post is stupid.  My blog is stupid.  Why do people even read this?

Crash

Today I crashed.

I suppose it started yesterday, when I got into a very agitated state in the evening when my parents were out.  I went to bed trying to count the number of people I thought would be upset if I killed myself, which was not an encouraging sign although it was good that I did at least acknowledge that some people would be upset, whereas in the past I might have assumed that no one would really care.

I woke up feeling much the same this morning.  I wanted to try positive self-affirmations again (don’t ask me why, as they haven’t worked in the past), but for every time I can tell myself I’m a good person, I tell myself several hundred times more that I’m a wicked, defective freak.

At work I felt terrible, really despairing and sure I couldn’t do my work properly.  I felt like I was going to fall asleep and had a powerful urge to hurt myself, because I felt so unable to cope.  I struggled to work because I was thinking about death so much, fantasising about overdosing and calling myself a defective freak who can’t do anything right.  I was feeling that I hate myself so much that there are no words for it and that I don’t hate anyone else this much, not even those who made me like this.

I somehow got through the morning, but was not restored very much by lunch.  I’m struggling more than I expected to with a forty-five minute lunch and wonder if I should ask to switch to one hour lunches and leave at 5.15pm instead of 5.00pm.  It didn’t help that there were two people in the staff room watching different programmes on their phones without headphones, which I felt was rude and antisocial.

Things came to a head when I went to prepare some books in the book store and virtually had a panic attack, terrified that I was going to damage one of the rare books.  I got into a complete state and phoned my Mum to ask what she felt I should do as I wasn’t being particularly rational.  She said to come home as I sounded too agitated to do any work.

I obviously needed to tell my line manager that I was not well, but I decided to tell her about the depression in some detail.  She was really supportive and said I should think about whether there are any changes I could make at work that would help me.  She also said that she’s really pleased with my work so far and that I’ve picked up a lot in a very short space of time; also that there isn’t much that I can do disastrously wrong in my job and that I’m very careful with the rare books.  I mentioned going too slowly in previous jobs because of my fear of mistakes and she didn’t think that that would be an issue here.  She was so supportive I went for broke and mentioned the autism as well.  I’m not quite sure why I did that, but it seemed appropriate to mention it as context and it turns out just as well that I did as she said she had already wondered if I’m on the spectrum (it seems that everyone thinks I’m autistic except the psychiatrists making the assessment…).

On the way home I had a telephone appointment with the duty GP at my doctor’s surgery.  It was slightly awkward as I had a couple of ‘autistic misunderstanding’ moments, which I guess is not surprising when I’m agitated and taking a serious private call in the street.  He felt that I should see my regular doctor, but unfortunately the regular doctor is off tomorrow, so I’m booked in for Thursday morning, which will make me late for work.  I did get a bit annoyed that he said that, if I’m suicidal, I should phone the crisis team, not the surgery.  I’ve done this in the past, only for the crisis team to say if I’m not actually about to try to kill myself, I should go to the GP.  Seriously, when I phoned the crisis team to report suicidal thoughts within twenty-four hours, I was told only to phone if I was actually having them at that moment.  As I know the GP will speak to me if I’m in crisis, even if he says I should phone the crisis team, whereas I know the crisis team will not speak to me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer as to which one I phone, regardless of what the proper protocol is supposed to be.  (More NHS fun and games.)

It was awkward telling my parents all this.  I suppose there isn’t an easy way to tell anyone you’re having suicidal thoughts.  My Mum got very emotional when I told her; perhaps because of this, I couldn’t tell my Dad that at all, just saying I was having “difficult” thoughts.  It’s awkward because most people don’t realise that (in my case, at any rate) there are a spectrum of thoughts that I would describe as “suicidal” from suicidal ideation (thinking or fantasising about suicide and dying) to vaguely noting how you could kill yourself to actively working out how you would kill yourself.  I don’t always find it easy to tell the difference between them, to be honest, so maybe I shouldn’t expect others to do so.

Mum burst into tears when I spoke to her.  Dad… I just struggle to talk to Dad at all these days.  We literally don’t speak each other’s language any more and I don’t know why.  His speech has become more garrulous and rambling, full of unnecessary detail, diversions and repetitions as well malapropisms and vague pronoun use (using pronouns without making it clear what objects they refer to) which are not easy for my autistic brain to understand.  He, on the other hand, has always found my vocabulary difficult to understand and I probably do some of the things I complain about him doing, like not sticking to the point or throwing in unnecessary detail.  Things are not helped by the fact that I think that both my parents are beginning to go a bit deaf and I can’t always tell if they’ve not heard something, heard it and are processing it or are just choosing to ignore it.  My Dad and I seem to bicker a lot more than we used to because of this and I’m not sure why it’s happened.  It upsets me, not least because I think it’s at least in part my fault, but I don’t know what I can do about it, especially as I can’t seem to explain to them about autistic thought patterns and how difficult Dad can be for me to understand.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

So that was my day.  I’m still feeling elements of post-trauma shock.  I know it sounds silly to say ‘trauma,’ but I guess that was how I felt telling my line manager about my issues.  I’m still feeling rather shaky and in shock.  I’m about to watch some Doctor Who for distraction and to make progress with the research for my book, which hopefully will make me feel a bit better.

Inadequate and Defective

(Massive trigger warnings for suicide)

I feel awful.  Just totally inadequate and defective.  I bought a present for the people who invited me for Shabbat dinner and was relieved when no one answered the door (although I thought I could hear people indoors) and I had an excuse just to write a note and leave the present on the doorstep without speaking to anyone.  I don’t feel up to going to this big shul (synagogue) meeting tonight.  I don’t really feel fully part of the community anyway and I hardly ever make it to shul.  I wouldn’t know what to look for in a rabbi or be able to explain a vision for the kehilla (community).

I feel that I can’t find a role in the world.  Some people with autism can find a role, sooner or later, and I think that helps them to function and to feel they don’t have to succeed at things neurotypicals succeed at if they don’t want to.  A lot of people at my autism group seem to have jobs in IT, particularly programming, which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone.  I don’t have a role.  I thought librarianship might be it, but it looks like it isn’t, at least not without doing a considerable of remedial training.  I don’t have a role in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world, which has a very narrow selection of roles largely determined by gender.  I don’t fit frum male roles.  I’m not a great Torah scholar, I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), I can’t really study much Talmud, in fact I don’t have the energy, concentration and motivation to study much Torah at all.  In a previous community, I was involved with the shul, I was a regular attendee at minyan (prayer services) and often led services, but I’m too scared and ashamed of myself to do that in this, more religious, community and again, I don’t have the energy, concentration and motivation to get to minyan every day, let alone three times a day.  I’m never going to earn enough money to be a big philanthropist, I don’t have a home of my own to invite Shabbat guests to (and single men inviting people to meals would be considered weird; cooking is definitely gendered female (so my culinary abilities are a liability more than an asset in dating, sadly)) and it looks increasingly likely that I’m not even going to have children to get nachas (pride, reflected glory) off them.

That pretty much rules out all the frum roles open to me.  I don’t know what I do with the rest of my life now, especially as I’m not well enough to work full-time.

I’m having suicidal fantasies again too.  I guess the thought of spending two and a half discussing how to pick a new rabbi would make a lot of people contemplate death, but I really do feel a lot of the time that life has no promise for me.  Who would really want to live without love?  And not only does it seem certain that no one will be able to really love me the way I would want or let me love her, it seems unlikely that I will ever be financially secure, confident, well-liked or happy either.  I can’t see anything in my life that makes it worth living, but I can’t talk to anyone about this.  If I had cancer and missed the meeting tonight because I was too ill from chemotherapy, everyone there would understand and be concerned about me, but with depression it’s a completely different question.  I’ve hardly even told anyone about my depression because I’m so scared of the response I might get.  I guess stigma affects a person even if, like me, people have rarely said anything directly to me that could be considered stigmatising; it’s the fear of stigma that terrifies me.

It’s actually scary that suicidal thoughts have been such a part of my life for so long that they don’t even scare me any more.  I know I’m unlikely to act on them while my parents are alive, so they’re just more mental noise, like all the other static between my ears.  I’m such a drama queen that I would probably want to kill myself in some big, operatic way, like Sherlock Holmes faking his death by jumping off a tall building in public in the Sherlock episode The Reichenbach Fall.  That said, I think I’m more likely to kill myself with an overdose than anything else as the thought of doing anything that gets blood everywhere is not appealing to me.  To be honest, the two main things keeping me alive are (1) knowing, on some level, that my parents care about me and would be upset by my death and (2) the fear of making a bungled suicide attempt and ending up with permanent physical injury as well as depression.

I feel that anyone else having regular suicidal thoughts would be signed off work and focusing on recovery, whereas I’m so used to it that I just try to function, go to work, go to shul, go to this meeting, try to daven (pray) and study Torah and so on, feeling terrible all the while and no one (outside this blog, where I play the drama queen) knows anything about what is happening in my head, how much pain I’m in and how hard it is to keep going.  Sometimes I wish people did know.  That’s an attraction of suicide to me, actually.  Sometimes I want to make a failed suicide attempt, so I could let people know how I feel, because I don’t know how to tell them; I guess jumping off a building is a way of showing people that you have a problem.  I guess people would call that a cry for attention, I just don’t see that as a negative thing, I feel I’ve had very little attention in my life and it’s only fair that I get some when I need it.

It’s just horrible to spend the whole time feeling like a defective, inadequate freak.  Not feeling loved.  Not feeling worthwhile or useful.  I know I need to love myself and feel happy in myself before anyone can love me, but I don’t know how I can do that.  It’s not something you can just suddenly do.  I’ve tried positive mantras, but I just don’t believe them, just as I don’t believe that God loves me (and no one frum has been able to prove to me that He does love me).  The problem with the CBT approach of thought control is that I have too much evidence of not being good, lovable or worthwhile for me to easily accept that I am any of those things.  So I end up just fantasising endlessly about death and dying as a release.

Fragile with Tears

After posting last night, I became very agitated and morbid.  I wrote the following paragraphs, but didn’t post them, partly because I didn’t want people to think I was about to kill myself, partly because I try to avoid posting more than once in a day (trigger warning for suicide):

I can’t stop thinking about suicide.  I don’t even want to kill myself, I just think I will one day, maybe in a week, maybe in fifty years.  More likely in fifty years, to be honest, when my parents are dead and I’ve lost touch with most of my friends.  I was just looking at suicide prevention stuff online and it was all about “If you kill yourself, your wife and kids will remember you as a corpse, they’ll have to move house because the resonances of the room where they found your body is [sic] too strong, they’ll be questioned by the police.”  Nothing about what if you want to kill yourself because you’re never going to have a wife and kids.

I have to hold on to the belief that my parents care about me, but sometimes it’s hard.  They don’t understand me at all and I don’t understand them at all.  It’s partly neurotypical vs autistic brains, but also different personalities, values and intensities of religious belief…

I’ve been told that God loves me, but I find it hard to believe, unless God on some level loved Hitler too.

I’m not in any danger of killing myself tonight, but I know I can never be sure I’m safe forever.

The ellipsis in the second paragraph covers some stuff I’m angry with my parents about, very trivial, but I had second thoughts about putting it in the public domain again.  In hindsight, it’s clearly an exaggeration to say that my parents don’t understand me at all and vice versa.  They probably do understand me to some extent, but not completely or anywhere near completely (I don’t know if anyone understands anyone else completely, even people who have lived together for decades).  But they don’t understand a lot about my mental health issues and autism and it’s hard to explain it to them.  Likewise, we’re on different religious levels with very different outlooks on life.  I don’t know how much I understand them.  Our brains are wired very differently is all I can say, but that’s not terribly helpful even to me, let alone to them.

***

I hear a lot regarding autism that autistic brains are “wired differently”.  I’ve taken to wondering what that actually means.  Maybe I’m being, well, autistic about this, but brains don’t have actual wires in them.  Does it mean the synapses don’t function properly or the connections between areas of the brain aren’t there?

***

At my well-being group today (what I was referring to as “resilience class”, but this is a more accurate name) I opened up a bit about autism, mostly because someone else there was being open about being on the spectrum and another person was talking about having brain damage from being in a car crash.  I hope I opened up for the right reasons, though, as I’m not always sure that I do.  It felt fairly safe, not least because there were little more than half the number of people who attended the first session.  I guess that’s how these things go.  I started the session very depressed and tense, but finished somewhat better, but my mood went down again on the way home; I’ve probably been  up and down all day.

I do think that the group is really for people with minor depression though.  The facilitators were talking about triggers and saying if something triggers you and you still feel depressed after after a couple of days, it might be an episode of depression.  Someone spoke about being depressed for months on end, but I’m just permanently depressed.  Out of the last sixteen years, I’ve probably been ‘not depressed’ for about two years in total, split into chunks of up to six months.  So that made me feel a bit hopeless.

Someone did say something helpful about “You can’t control the first thought, but you can control the second one.”  I thought that was interesting.

***

I looked over the notes I took at my new job last week, but I’m still worried there is so much for me still to know, even though officially I’m only contracted for another six days (over three weeks).  I really worry I’m going to mess it all up, but I’d like to stay working there if I can, as a higher education library with few client-facing interactions seems to be the best working environment for me so far.

One of the papers, detailing the handling of rare books and papers, cautioned me to be careful when handling things that are “fragile with tears”.  It meant “tears” as in “rips”, but I keep reading it as “crying.”  I think I’m “fragile with tears”.

***

I’m still lonely.  My experience of dating E. has taught me that there’s no point in dating anyone until I’m more financially secure, though, which could take years.  I’ve decided I need to wait until I have a permanent job, even if it’s part-time.  At least that shows I’m serious about my career and supporting a family, even if I can’t do it alone.  If something drops from the sky, I might reconsider, but I don’t think it’s likely.  Things like that rarely happen to me, although twice I’ve ended up dating or nearly dating someone who contacted me through my blog.  “Did you wish really hard?” to quote Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife.  Obviously I can’t wish hard enough.

***

A discussion on another blog makes me realise that, for all I talk about the frum (Orthodox Jewish) community, I’m too much on the fringes to really talk about it.  I was brought up going to an Orthodox shul (synagogue), but we were traditional rather than fully observant and I didn’t become fully shomer mitzvot (keeping the commandments) until around university age.  I still don’t really have many friends in the frum community, which marks me out as unusual for a frum person as they usually socialise within the community and often express the opinion that they would struggle to find common ground with non-observant Jews or non-Jews.  For me, I suspect I gravitate towards non-frum people not for the reasons I would have told myself in the past (I hate false piety; the frum world doesn’t accept my interests) and more because, in terms of the mental algorithms I use to function in a neurotypical world, it’s a relief not to have to run the “don’t say anything heretical/socially unacceptable” algorithm when I’m already using a lot of energy running the “how to interact with neurotypicals” algorithm, the “how to talk about my special interests to people who don’t share them” algorithm and the “how to share appropriately about mental health” algorithm.

***

I was going to do a whole big thing about this article, but it would be wrong and pointless of me to do so.  I just wish I knew how to have the kind of joy and purpose in my life, and in my Judaism, that the author speaks of and the belief that God loves me and believes in me.  As for “committing suicide in installments”… it’s an effort not to commit suicide in one literal go, just surviving is good even if I die a little more inside each day.  It’s a shame that the author of the original seven questions has died and so I can’t email him and ask.

***

An aside: when I started this blog, I used both ‘autism’ and ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ in posts and as tags, as I know both are used online.  A few months ago I became aware that ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ has been dropped as a separate condition in the DSM-5 psychiatric guidelines and also that it now appears that Hans Asperger, the doctor after whom the condition is named, collaborated with the Nazis in his native Austria.  I feel very uncomfortable calling myself someone with ‘Asperger’s’ now or ‘an Aspie’ but I wonder if calling myself ‘autistic’ or ‘on the autism spectrum’ to people who don’t know much about autism is a good idea.  I suppose it summons up images of the severely autistic and non-functional (e.g. Rain Man, although I’ve never seen that film) which can lead to stereotyping or disbelief that someone as outwardly functional as I am could actually be on the spectrum, especially as I don’t have a firm diagnosis yet.

Does anyone else have any ideas?  This comes up mainly at my well-being and depression support groups, which is the main place I would be open about my difficulties.  I have only opened up to one or two friends who don’t read my blog about this so far and am wary of saying anything at the moment, although part of me would like to do so.  I generally don’t even discuss my depression with friends who don’t read my blog, let alone the autism.

The Seven Beggars

I had a silly Doctor Who dream last night, but for some reason I woke up very anxious about work, really worried that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m going to make a terrible mistake.  I’ve been thinking again that I wish I was dead just to be away from these worries and this loneliness.  I can’t see things ever get better in a substantial way.  Things seem so hopeless at the moment, although “at the moment” has really been for most of the last sixteen years, give or take the occasional six months of remission.  I’m trying to stay open to the idea that I might have a full-time job “one day” and manage to get married “one day” but “one day” is probably years if not decades down the line, which means I probably won’t be able to have children.  I worry what will happen to me when my parents are gone, given I rely on them for financial, practical and, to a lesser extent, emotional, support.

On the Mental Health at Home blog, Ashley Leia posted about being “over-educated and under-functioning” and having to revise career goals because of mental illness, all of which seems familiar to me.  I don’t know how to make more feasible goals, though. I still want to have some kind of full-time/nearly full-time job that will make me financially independent, able to have place of my own and a wife and kids, but none of those things seem at all likely to happen any time in the short or medium term and would require some major unexpected changes to happen in the longer term.

***

I went out today for about an hour and a quarter to do some shopping, but came back feeling exhausted and depressed, really just wanting to go back to bed.  I felt strong feelings of self-loathing and a feeling of not wanting to be alive while not being suicidal as such.  I messed around online for a while, which I shouldn’t have done, but then laid in the dark for a while, first listening to music, then silently, which seemed to help a little; I was still depressed and tired, but felt less exhausted and totally drained.  Perhaps I get autistic sensory overload when out shopping; it seems likely even if I’m not always good at recognising the signs because “I’m always like this” or “everyone gets tired.”  I should probably factor in more recovery time in the future, and after work, and do so in quiet and darkness rather than in front of the computer or TV.

***

I have mentioned before that my presumed autism went undetected for a very long time, even through psychiatric assessments, because I’ve learnt a lot of workarounds and algorithms (for want of a better word) for dealing with certain situations, especially social situations.  I suppose I have a different algorithm for interacting with non-depressed people, one for interacting with neurotypical people, one for frum (religious Jewish) people, one for non-frum people…  The reason I like to find people who are a lot like me, I suspect, is that I have to run fewer algorithms to interact with them or more simply, I don’t have to hide as much of myself.  To interact with non-depressed, neurotypical frum people takes up a lot of ‘processing power’ to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing, even before you factor in the fact that for many autistic people, the amount ‘processing power’ needed in a social situation or interaction increases exponentially with the number of people present.  Like running a lot of apps at once, using so many algorithms, so much processing power, is very draining.  So, at a social event, like the Shabbat (Sabbath) meal I’ve been invited to on Friday, I use a lot of energy just being in the room regardless of what I’m actually doing.  And, of course, work also requires a lot of processing power both for autism and depression.  This is why having a more client-facing role or being in a large noisy office was so difficult for me, because they were so draining.  So, I finish work or social situations incredibly drained, which triggers depression, and I can take hours or even days to recover (in which time I may have to go to work or into social situations again).

***

My Mum thinks I was at kindergarten with the person who invited me for Shabbat dinner this week.  The Jewish world is very small.  The flipside of this is that you can’t escape, or at least that it’s very hard to, which I find a bit depressing.  Sometimes I think I want to be forgotten.

***

I wish I could find the key to unlock the potential and joy hidden in my life, assuming such potential and joy could even exist for me, which I doubt.  I certainly can’t imagine anyone finding enough potential in me to date me for long.  I do really want to love someone though, which I guess brings me back to pets as an object of doting again, despite my Mum’s objections.

***

There was another engagement announced from children of members of my shul again.  It was also announced last Friday – engagement and birth announcements seem to be made twice, as soon as the rabbi hears, he posts something on the shul What’sApp group and then later there’s an email from the administrator.  There is a certain logic to this so that no one misses the news, but it feels like rubbing salt in an open wound.  I don’t really want to opt out of communal announcements, but I do feel like someone trapped outside in the cold, looking at a fun party happening indoors through the window.  I do feel bad for getting so upset and envious when this happens, though.  I don’t want other people to be miserable and lonely, I just wish I wasn’t so miserable and lonely.

***

Listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits while cooking dinner (red bean chilli, a familiar recipe because, once again, I feel too depressed to try something new – I’ve only once used the Jewish cookery book my parents bought me for my birthday in the summer), listening to the loud and angry chords for some reflection of my own inner turmoil.  By the time dinner is ready, I’m very agitated and wanting to hurt myself and am not sure if it’s from my thoughts (which have been going on all day), the music or looking out of curiosity on Only Simchas (not a site I usually frequent) and googling old friends and crushes to see what they’re doing.  Some of the men on Only Simchas are… less attractive than I am, or was, before clomipramine made me put on weight, but I guess they don’t have autism or depression and low incomes.  At any rate, not everyone looks younger than me, but the trend is definitely that the frummer-looking people do look younger than me, and the people I know (yes, it’s a small Jewish world) are significantly younger than me (like ten or fifteen years younger).  I shouldn’t look there again…

***

I keep thinking that I could bear my suffering if I knew it had a purpose, to help someone else somehow, but thinking that it’s just so I can reap more reward in the next world, or worse, to punish me for something, is not enough to be able bear it.  There’s a parable in the Talmud (somewhere early on in Brachot, can’t remember the exact page and I’m not going to look it up now) which in context isn’t relevant to me, but out of context sums up how a feel.  A man is in prison (presumably wrongfully… the Talmud was written when people, especially Jews, could be locked up by the monarch without having done anything wrong) and everyone says to him, “Hold on, tomorrow they’re going to release you and give you an expensive treasure to repay you for your experience” and he responds, “I don’t want the treasure, just get me out of here now!”

I feel that I can’t bear this any more, but somehow I have to.  Vicarious suffering is a complicated area in Judaism, but it doesn’t seem likely that my suffering could help anyone else, which is the only thing that I feel could keep me going.  I feel that I would gladly give up my life to help people, but I can’t live like this, so miserable and lonely, indefinitely without knowing why.  Maybe that’s just a reflection of how little I value my life, how little joy or meaning it gives me, that dying would be a release and potentially more invested with meaning than living.  I’m not suicidal, but it’s hard not to think about being hurt or killed right now.

Sex, Death and Other ‘Bad’ Thoughts

I wrote the first half of this post last night, but I didn’t want to post four times in twenty-four hours.  To be honest, I’m slightly reluctant to post something as despairing and self-loathing as this, but I feel compelled to do so, to confess.  I don’t know why.  It makes it a bit easier to cope, I suppose, although explaining how is trickier.  I hope people get something out of it.  There are twenty or so people ‘liking’ this regularly, so that has to mean someone likes this stuff, right?

I just feel so despairing.  I hate myself so much, and that self-hate seems to me to be entirely legitimate, if anything disproportionately small to the things I have; I should, if anything, hate myself more, not less.  Yet the few people I have let into my deepest secrets (some of them, anyway) tell me that I’m quite normal.  It is difficult to know what to make of this.

People seem to reach the conclusion from a rapid conversation that I’m an intelligent and good person.  This has happened to me on short phone calls to the Samaritans.  I do not know how they come to these conclusions, which seem astoundingly wrong to me.

Sometimes I wish there was a prophet or rebbe that I could go to and find out the meaning of my life and what I should do with it, or even just if I’m a good person.  But I don’t believe in da’at Torah (the belief that great Torah scholars have a quasi-prophetic ability to answer even mundane, practical questions in an inspired way).  Likewise I don’t believe in getting blessings from rebbes or rabbis or praying at the graves of dead tzadikim (saintly people).  I pray to God, but He always seems to say “No.”  I’m willing to trust that it’s for the best, but I wish He would give me more practical fortitude to keep going.

***

My rabbi mentor has not returned my emails for a couple of weeks.  I am a bit worried about him, and also concerned to hear the answers to some of my halakhic (Jewish law) questions which I don’t want to take to the rabbis of my shul, who will be too strict or at least too Charedi (ultra-Orthodox).  Similarly, some kashrut questions I sent to the London Bet Din (rabbinical court) (well, one question several times because I wasn’t sure if it sent properly) has gone unanswered.  I feel vaguely worried, but the fact that I’m coping OK is a sign that the religious OCD at least is under control; a few years ago I was a constant wreck, waiting to hear back from rabbis or the Bet Din about my questions.  Nowadays I can dismiss some at least of the questions as obviously unnecessary.

***

On to today: last night I struggled to get to sleep and then today I struggled to get up.  I actually woke up an hour earlier than I intended and couldn’t get back to sleep because I felt so stiff and achey – I think I had been cold and curled up.  My cold is mostly gone, but I still feel really depressed, unsurprisingly (it wasn’t just going to vanish with the cold).  I still really hate myself too.  I can’t understand how anyone cares about me, except that I must deceive them about who I really am.  Sorry about that.  I shouldn’t say that.  Except that I did, and I’ve struck it through, but not deleted it.  It’s hard to stick to what I said about trying not to criticise my blog here.

***

I started my depression/resilience/activity course today.  It was quite good, but very anxiety-provoking.  In fact, the whole day has been anxiety-provoking, both social anxiety and general anxiety.  I struggled on my course with the activity done in pairs as I did not really know what to say.  I don’t think my pair and I did it properly in the end, but I think I was confused.  I’m worried about having to set an achievable target at the end of each session, which amounts to two a week, as the class is on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then report back on success (or otherwise) in the next class.

On the course they said that one never goes backwards in recovery.  Even if one seems to go backwards, one is in fact learning necessary things about oneself.  It doesn’t seem that way.  Someone said he had been depressed for three years and was worried if he would ever recover; I silently worried that I have been depressed sixteen years or so and don’t seem to be able to recover for more than a few months at a time.

***

Freud, I’m informed, thought life boiled down to eros and thanatos, the sex instinct and the death instinct.  I think that I think about both too much.  I see the skull beneath the skin, to paraphrase Eliot.  I was certainly thinking of dying in my course today, when I was feeling anxious that I wouldn’t be able to set achievable targets and that I didn’t want to be monitored by a class of strangers or even to be in the room with sixteen people.  I just wanted to die.  It’s a release sometimes to think of dying, of killing myself or just of being dead.  I do believe in an afterlife, but most of the time I think I’m too wicked to deserve it, but Jews don’t believe in eternal damnation, so the idea of just not existing seems like some kind of a release.  I sometimes try to visualise my body decomposing, which probably isn’t a nice thing to think about.  I guess this is suicidal ideation, thinking about suicide and death rather than actually planning to kill myself.  My experience, as I think I’ve said before, is that crisis teams are not interested if you are merely thinking about death, only if you actually have a plan to kill yourself, although the distinction between thinking about death and having a plan to kill yourself is, I think, less clear cut than that policy implies.  I was probably thinking about this too much in the course today, a symptom of anxiety and despair.

To be honest, I was probably thinking of sex too much as well as death.  I think that thinking about sex at all is bad for me, both for religious reasons and because it’s fairly obvious to me that no one is ever going to be interested in me.  I beat myself up about sex a lot, though, because of religious reasons and feminist reasons.  For example, just feeling attracted to someone there instantly provokes guilt for hirhuim assurim (forbidden thoughts) and also for objectifying women.  It’s a relief in a way that no one else at the course seemed to be Jewish, so far as I could tell, so everyone is off limits anyway.  It would be good if I could just avoid thinking about sex and love, because I don’t think anyone could ever love me.

***

Whenever I see frum families, especially frum women, with their children, which happens a lot where I live, I feel that I will never get married and have children and I feel so lonely.  I wonder how almost everyone else in the community manages to pair off so easily and I don’t.

I see frum (religious) children where I live and imagine them on a trajectory from school to yeshiva/seminary to careers in accountancy and law (men) or teaching or occupational therapy (women) and marriage and children… A few will be hit by some kind of life issue and a few more will drop out of the frum community, but most are going to be on that path for life.  I felt vaguely today that I made a choice for the religious life over the secular one, thinking although it entailed sacrifices, it would bring rewards.  Actually, this isn’t really true.  I never sat down and said, “Today I’m going to be frum.”  I just drifted into it, from a traditional background to full observance over many years.  My point is that if I was offered that choice – and in a sense it is still before me, I could still stop being religious – that is what I would choose and why.  Except I never received the rewards of being frum, the this worldly ones anyway: family, community, support, meaning, spirituality; but I don’t have the worldly benefits of not being religious either.  I ended up with a non-functional depressive/autistic life that I can’t imagine anyone deliberately choosing.

***

I have so many ‘bad’ thoughts, they frighten me.  I worry about what they say about me, whether I will act on them.  When my religious OCD was worse, I did a lot of reading about it and learnt that everyone has ‘bad’ thoughts and that people who obsess over them with OCD (scrupulosity) are less likely to act on them than anyone else.  But I wonder why I have so many bad thoughts.  I wish I could know what other people think, to know if my thoughts are ‘normal,’ both in nature, intensity and frequency… thoughts of self-harm and suicide, thoughts of death and decay, sexual thoughts, violent thoughts, blasphemous thoughts, offensive thoughts…  I feel I must be a bad person, or at least a very unwell person, to have so many bad thoughts, even if I don’t act on them (and I’ve acted on thoughts that I think do make me a bad person).  I find it hard to dismiss them as just thoughts that everyone has as no one else seems to report them, except very unwell people, which is not encouraging.

***

I start my new job tomorrow.  I really wish I didn’t.  I just feel sure it’s going to go disastrously wrong.  I can’t work out why anyone would want to employ me, except, again, that I deceive them about how useless I really am (which is another thing I’m not supposed to write/think).  They just sent me a massive email with induction information.  I’m not sure why they waited until the end of the day before I start to send this – it would have been easier if I could have had time to read through it properly.

The Stuff in My Head

Another night of strange, disturbing dreams.  I should probably be glad that I usually don’t remember my dreams if they’re going to upset me.

***

I don’t really pay much attention to this time of year.  Not my festivals.  I do my introspection for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).  But 2018 has been crazy.  I had two jobs and got a third, but I messed the first two up and I’m worried I’m going to mess the new one up too.  I don’t know if I’m actually capable of holding down a job.  I did go on holiday by myself this year, for the first time, which was an achievement.  But otherwise the year was just depression and anxiety, and confusion about whether I’m autistic (still not conclusively resolved).

I guess if I take a longer-term view things are a bit better.  Five years ago I was limping to the end of an MA that should have taken one year, but actually took three and a half.  I was pleased about being nearly finished, but then the university started saying that because I had taken so long, they might give me a diploma instead of an MA, which would not have made me a qualified librarian (I got the MA in the end).  I had broken up with my first girlfriend earlier in the year after being sure that (a) we would get married and (b) I would never find another girlfriend if we broke up (the second of these wasn’t quite true, but nearly, at least so far).  I had never had a paying job, not even part-time (I don’t count coming in on occasional afternoons to do the filing at the office where my Mum worked when I was sixteen).

Since then I’ve got my MA, had three jobs and won a fourth and briefly been in another relationship.  This doesn’t make me feel much better, though, as the jobs were mostly disastrous and the relationship just got my hopes up only to dash them again; jobs and relationship alike both make me feel like an incompetent failure.

I probably have more friends than in 2013, but my social life is still largely based on the internet, despite moving to a different community with different shuls (synagogues) and starting going to support groups.

***

I feel so depressed today that it’s impossible to do anything.  Earlier I had Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon stuck in my head for some reason (I don’t think I’ve actually heard it yet this year), which is officially my least favourite song ever.  Not only is it a saccharin-sickly, sentimental (a choir of children!) and miserable dirge (and inaccurate – war is not over, however much you want it), it is indelibly associated in my mind with the winter of 2003/04, which was the worst time of my life, when I very nearly attempted suicide.

I was stuck in Oxford, first during term and then during the holiday, too depressed to work, but encouraged by my tutors to stay around in case my anti-depressants kicked in and I could catch up on the term.  I was regularly being visiting by psychiatric nurses, or irregularly visited, I should say, as I would have to wait in for them, but they would usually be very late, which messed up my plans and made me more depressed (although my plans were basically, “Try to get the energy to go out and buy food”) – this was long before autism was suggested, so I didn’t know just how bad I am at adjusting to changes.  My best friend (the woman I mentioned the other day) had stopped talking to me and I didn’t feel like opening up to anyone else in case they rejected me too, or perhaps just because I always find it hard to open up about depression (the woman who wasn’t talking to me had spotted the depression in me and asked me about it, which is pretty much a unique occurrence and one reason she was so special to me).

Happy Xmas (War is Over) was playing in a lot shops and getting a lot of airtime on the radio.  I don’t usually listen to music radio, but I also had terrible insomnia and was awake half the night in bed, listening to the BBC World Service, which has (or had) some music programmes late at night GMT.  I think as well as the Lennon original, someone had just released a cover that year.  Anyway, I heard it a lot and hearing it again just reminds me of that miserable winter and everything that happened in it.

***

The other thing in my head, weirdly enough, is Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech, not because of Brexit or splits in the Conservative Party that might bring it to mine, but for the famous quote about “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.”  I feel like that in my life, that my bat was broken before I even got onto the field.  I feel that whatever chance I might have had of love, family, friendship, community, happiness, anything I might want really, was taken away from me before I even had a chance to live in the world, first by autism and then by the difficult, perhaps even traumatic, things that happened to me as a child.  I know a lot of people with autism don’t consider it a disability, but a difference, even a positive difference.  However, I feel that I have gone so long without a diagnosis or help and have been on the receiving end of so much anger, hatred and incomprehension from other people that I simply can’t function in the world and would gladly get rid of this difference if I could, if I could just have a normal life.

I just want to have a normal life, with the normal amounts of love, friendship and happiness that normal people have.  Apparently this is too much to ask.  I think even then I could cope if I knew why I have to live like this.  I believe in God, so I believe there is a reason for my life being like this, being so miserable; ironically, it might be easier to cope with if I didn’t believe and just assumed there was no reason beyond blind chance.  It’s the not knowing the reason that makes coping with misery and loneliness extra hard, just as I can’t stand not knowing if I’ll ever find love and happiness.

I don’t know where I go from here.  I’ve been having thoughts of death all day, but I’m not really suicidal.  I went for a walk for half an hour and did some grocery shopping, but the effort of it exhausted me as if I had run a couple of miles.  I was supposed to sort out papers and emails today, but I’m not sure that I will be able to do so.  I also need to cook dinner as my parents are out tonight (a wedding, again, of someone rather younger than me – I am on the shelf).  All I want to do, all I feel capable of doing today, is sitting in my room and watching Doctor Who.

I just want to be loved.  Is that too much to ask?  My family do love me, they just don’t understand me, or always express affection in a way I can understand.   And I do have a couple of friends who care about me, but they’re so far away.  Knowing that doesn’t really make it any easier.  And still, I want to have a romantic relationship, which is a different kind of love.

***

I feel that I’m a really tightly wound-up person.  I worry that eventually I will explode or, more likely, implode, and I wonder what kind of damage that would do, and to whom.

***

I fear that this post has degenerated in incomprehensibility. I wonder sometimes what the people reading this blog think of me.  I get some likes, so I guess some people must find this interesting or moving, but I find it hard to believe that.

Another Psychiatric Assessment, and the Orthodox Jewish Religious Spectrum

I desperately feel like I need a break after my last job for the sake of my mental health, but I’m not sure that I’m going to get one.  I was woken up at 9.30am today (I wanted to lie in) by someone from an agency who wants to register me tomorrow so that I can apply for a short-term job.   So I had volunteering yesterday, my therapy assessment today and now registering tomorrow.  After that I’ll need to get to work on my presentation for the job interview on 5 December and if I don’t get that job, it’s back to job applications (realistically I’ll continue with the applications in case I don’t get the job).  I just feel exhausted and burnt out; goodness knows how I’ll feel by the end of the year (hard to believe that’s about a month away now).  Now I’m feeling sulky and miserable about the whole situation.  I suppose it’s probably good to keep busy, as once I stop the depression takes over and it’s hard to start again, but I feel miserable about it.

I feel bad that I got so annoyed about yesterday’s Doctor Who.  I told myself I wasn’t going to write long critical reviews any more, but it annoyed me.  I probably also over-reacted to the line about “Love your neighbour” being from the New Testament (it’s not.  It’s Tanakh/”Old Testament”).  I know they weren’t being intentionally antisemitic, but it is a classic antisemitic line.  I feel that identity politics and Twitter create a situation where everyone is shouting about being REALLY OFFENDED so you have to over-react to everything just to get heard and taken seriously.  I wish I didn’t get caught up in it all though.

Tonight I’m off to the London School of Jewish Studies to hear Rabbi Rafi Zarum speak about Chanukah (from their website: “This timely lecture will look at the clash between Athens and Jerusalem as it plays out today in the assimilation of Jews into modern culture.  Can traditional Jewish faith survive in the face of Western secularity?
What are the rules of engagement?”).  He’s a very good speaker and the topic is interesting, if potentially somewhat triggering for me, so it should be good, and I’m looking forward to hearing a more Modern Orthodox speaker after spending so much time lately in the more Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world.

I’ve spoken quite a bit about Modern Orthodox vs. Charedi without really explaining the difference.  It may surprise you to know that there aren’t really any major differences in belief or practice between the communities.  The Charedi world accepts extra stringencies and is more literalist in its approach to sacred texts, but the essence of the commandments and beliefs are the same, unlike the differences between the Orthodox and Progressive communities.  And, in a sense, the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds aren’t really different communities.  It’s more a spectrum with very Modern at one end and very religiously conservative at the other and most people on a point somewhere in between with a fair bit of mingling between people who are somewhat more or less modern.  The difference is about approaches to modernity and it plays out in a number of ways.  For instance, attitudes to secular education, attitudes to Torah/science conflicts, attitudes to mainstream culture, attitudes to Israel and Zionism, gender roles, and so on.  Someone may be quite modern in some areas and more conservative in others, but usually are at a similar place on most or all areas.

However, in this country at least (I think things are different in the USA and Israel) more modern communities tend to have a membership comprised largely of people who are ‘traditional’ but not fully observant of the mitzvot (commandments) and who don’t take prayer and Torah study particularly seriously.  There is a lot of talking in the services, difficulty getting a minyan (prayer quorum) during the week, poor attendance at educational events and so on.  So, if one is (like me) quite Modern philosophically, but also very serious about Judaism, it can be hard to find a community that fits.  The choice is between a community that fits ideologically, but doesn’t offer the kind of vibrant Jewish life one wants or between a more active community that doesn’t fit philosophically.  It’s a difficult choice.  In my case the choice was made easier by the fact that the nearest Modern Orthodox shul (synagogue) was just too big and unfriendly for me and also by the fact that it’s my parents’ shul and I had no independent identity there, I was just my father’s son.

For me another problem is finding a wife at a similar place on the religious spectrum.  If I go to a professional shadchan (matchmaker) I suspect (perhaps wrongly) that I will be matched with people on the more Charedi end of the spectrum and certainly if people from my shul try to match me up that is where they will be coming from.  That’s not necessarily a problem if she doesn’t have a problem with my own outlook; however, I feel she might well have such a problem.

Sigh.  I’m OK when I’m thinking or writing about Judaism or Doctor Who or history, but then I stop and think about the Real World again and reality seeps back in.  I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment: a long period of unemployment or another job I can’t do well.  I wish I could get some sense of what is different about me and why, and what I could do to function better in the world.  I don’t even know where to look.  I’ve just typed up a ‘to do’ list, which makes me feel a little better.  At any rate, a printed list will look better than scraps of paper, and saves me continually copying things from one day to the next in my diary when, inevitably, I only get a couple of things done every day before being overwhelmed with depression (or procrastination).  There are sixteen things on the list (albeit that one is “Peanuts exhibition” because I’m worried if I don’t write it somewhere I’ll forget until it’s over.  But fifteen unpleasant tasks).  The list ranges from the minor (polish my shoes) to the major (open a new bank account that my Dad thinks would be good for me; do serious clothes shopping as many of my clothes have worn out or no longer fit because of all the weight I’ve put on with clomipramine – I hate clothes shopping).  Then there are the small, but tricky tasks, like writing for the umpteenth time for the £70 refund of money I’m owed by my shul, this time threatening to stop paying my fees unless they at least tell me why they won’t even respond to my emails (the treasurer is the wife of an old friend of my father and I know they have had a number of major life-cycle events, good and bad, in recent months, so I would be understanding if she’s busy, but she should at least respond to my emails to say she is aware of the situation).   And, of course, there’s job applications that I should be working on daily.

And then it goes from feeling I can’t cope to feeling that I’m a terrible person and that I want to die.  It’s quite frightening how fast it can change and with no obvious reason.

Later

I just had an hour long telephone assessment for CBT on the NHS.  I feel very drained.  Assessments are draining anyway, and I find speaking on the phone even harder than in person.  I had a lot of thoughts about whether I was describing my symptoms accurately and comprehensibly, whether I’ve been on therapy too much to qualify for more NHS therapy, whether the fact that CBT didn’t help in the past for my depression means that they will assume it won’t work now for my self-esteem, whether I’m wrong to feel that helping my self-esteem will have a knock-on effect on my depression rather than the other way around…  I had to talk about the behaviour I am not proud of and why it makes me hate myself, which is difficult to talk about to someone I don’t know, over the phone.  I was also asked a lot of questions about suicide and self-harm that were hard to answer.  I think about death and suicide a lot, but it’s hard to put a figure on what I think the probability is of my trying to kill myself.  How does one even put a number on that?  Pressed to give a probability out of ten, I said three, which seemed small, but the psychiatrist seemed incredulous or just worried that I was saying there was a 30% chance I would try to kill myself and put that way it did seem large and worrying.  I honestly don’t know what the correct answer is as there are so many factors involved.

Apparently I should find out whether I’m on the waiting list for CBT either later today or next Monday (I assume the psychiatrist only works on Mondays), but the waiting list itself is three to five months at the moment.

I feel I need to stop to relax for a bit before I go out to my shiur later, so I’m not going to try to do anything else today except finish off the laundry I started earlier.  I feel somewhat tearful and depressed.  Also alone; I’m glad my parents are home this evening, as I doubt I will talk to anyone at the shiur later.

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.

“And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,/And in short, I was afraid.”

I’ve been having morbid thoughts all day.  I basically write my blog posts over the day.  If I’m at home, I have a blog window open on my computer and add to it across the day.  If I’m out, I send myself texts with notes of what I want to say.  The stuff I wanted to say today, particularly the stuff I was thinking about when I was walking home just now, was morbid in the extreme, stuff about wanting to die and everyone being better off without me and my not having done anything even vaguely good with my life and the unlikelihood of things ever changing.  I feel a bit better now I’m home.  I guess I still feel I do want to die, just not so urgently.  I don’t know whether I’ve done anything good or whether everyone would be better off without me.  It’s hard to tell, which is pretty damning in itself.

It is hard for me to believe that things could get better.  I don’t even believe my life will be better in Olam HaBa (The Next World).  I have said this a number of times, but I’ve never explained it.  It probably started when my religious OCD was bad.  I was fixated on the laws of Pesach (Passover), when the dietary laws are even more intense and complex than usual.  Certainly when I was growing up we did not keep these laws properly.  The punishment for not obeying them properly is karet, which is an ambiguous term, but probably means not having a share in Olam HaBa.  I had been told that no one gets karet these days because we’re on such a low spiritual level that we don’t have the level of conscious, knowledgeable hatred of God and Torah needed to incur it (I’ve never seen a source for that belief, but it seems to be widespread among Orthodox Jews).  I had likewise been told that you get karet for deliberately breaking the Pesach laws, not for not knowing the correct laws or making a mistake with them.  Nevertheless, I was sure I had incurred karet (although not my family, which also makes little sense).

Even though the OCD is less intense now and even though we probably do keep Pesach properly now, the feeling of being hated and punished by HaShem (God) persists.  I guess my life has been so awful for so long that I can’t believe that anything good could ever happen to me, and the only way that could be the case is if HaShem does not exist or desires to make me miserable.  As I strongly believe that He does exist, it is easy to feel He wants to make me miserable forever.  I know there are reasons why a good person might suffer, but I find them hard to internalise when the depression (and maybe pure O OCD) are going full-strength.  Even so, if my mission in life is to endure in misery, it is hard to see that as a positive thing, even if it is “only” for another fifty or sixty years before my eternal reward.  Fifty years of misery is not long compared to eternal reward, but fifty years is long compared to the fifteen or twenty years of depression I have already endured and I don’t know how I could get through another fifty years like the last fifteen.

That said, I doubt I would believe myself to be a good person even if HaShem told me I was.  I had disgusting thoughts on the way home and while I know on some level that they are OCD, it is hard not to think that I have corrupted myself over the years with bad behaviour and thoughts to the point where I can no longer control my thoughts.  I just hope I don’t lose control of my actions.

I avoid the news at the moment, but I saw a report last night that triggered conflicting emotions.  It was about disruptive children being placed in solitary confinement in schools so they can’t disrupt other children’s lessons.  The reporter made it quite clear that he thought that this was wrong.  Skipping over the fact that the solitary confinement booths looked a lot like the workspaces at my college library at Oxford, this left me conflicted.  The opponents of this disciplinary procedure argued that many of the disruptive students have mental health or developmental disorders such as autism/Asperger’s (the only condition named).  Obviously I felt sympathy to people with autism, but at the same time, I was conscious that the type of students being disciplined were basically the ones who made my life hell when I was at school and I would dearly have loved some of them to be shut up far away from me so I could work.  In particular, they interviewed one student about the treatment he received and the mental health issues that developed from prolonged solitary confinement, but they didn’t ask him what he did that was so disruptive that he was disciplined in this way.  This is the trouble I have when thinking about people who hurt me when I was younger.  As an adult, I know they most likely had “issues” of some kind of their own, but the fact is that I am dealing with decades-worth of misery and mental illness because of the behaviour of other people, people who have never asked for my forgiveness or perhaps even realised that they hurt me.  This is difficult.  At the same time, I know I have probably hurt other people, maybe as much as I was hurt.  This is also difficult.

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.

Emotional Pain

I cried at work again.  I’m in constant emotional pain, at least at work, but I can’t describe it to people, so I don’t get taken seriously.  (EDIT: not “taken seriously” is a bit harsh.  But I can’t tell even my parents how I feel, how I spend my whole time at work struggling just to keep my head above the water, let alone actually do my work.  See the quote below about autistic people being in a constant state of alertness and anxiety.)  Things aren’t so bad at home, but work is unbearable.  I feel trapped in my life.  At times I really don’t want to live, but I won’t commit suicide either, so I’m stalemated.  One of the Renaissance writers, someone like Sir Thomas More, said that the worst test God can give a person is to make him think that God wants him to kill himself.  I don’t think God wants me to kill myself, but I don’t know what he does want me to do.

I don’t want to think of myself as a victim, but the alternative seems to be thinking of myself as a failure, because I seem to fail at everything I try.

I wanted to go to a shiur (religious) class tonight, but I feel too exhausted, even a little faint (even after dinner), which might possibly be psychosomatic from the depression or, more likely, social anxiety.  I should fight it, but I don’t think now is the time.  I’m too tired and depressed at the moment and I worry that if I stay out late tonight, work tomorrow will be impossible.  The shiur was on sadness in Jewish thought, which might have been helpful, but might have been problematic, as ‘sadness’ isn’t the same as ‘depression’ and I could have ended up guilt-tripping myself into feeling that I am a bad person for being depressed, or for being depressed in the ‘wrong’ way.

More autism stuff that could be written about me from The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome:

“One of the problems faced by children with Asperger’s Syndrome who use their intellect rather than intuition to succeed in some social situations is that they may be in an almost constant state of alertness and anxiety, leading to a risk of mental and physical exhaustion.” (p. 29)

“Blame [for social difficulties] is directed at oneself: ‘I am stupid’; or others: ‘It’s your fault.'” (p. 30)

“”The child, sometimes as young as seven years old, may develop a clinical depression as a result of insight into being different and perceiving him- or herself as socially defective.” (p. 35)

The book also states that autistic children can use fantasy as an escape.  I think Doctor Who and Star Trek were for me escapes into a world where intelligence, difference and even eccentricity were prized, very different to my school.  I had a couple of geeky-but-non-autistic friends at school (primary and secondary), which probably kept me sane, although even there I kept somewhat distant from some of them and I think I was a bit nervous about going to other people’s houses if I didn’t know them well.  I did fantasise a lot, though.  Strangely (or perhaps not), I think my Walter Mitty life started in my teens, when most people are moving away from fantasy.  My friends were getting into things I had no interest in (wargaming, RPGing) and was sometimes scared by (girls, soft drugs), so I retreated into fantasy scenarios of saving the school from Daleks.  As I got older, aliens turned into terrorists and wish-fulfilment fantasies of escaping without a scratch like James Bond turned into masochistic fantasies of being hurt and on to suicidal fantasies of redemptive death, or just death.

My romantic life has largely been fantasy too, necessarily so, but problematically so.  Having such little real experience of relationships makes it harder that I ever will manage to adjust my expectations, and meet someone else’s expectations of me.

The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome also says that people with sub-diagnostic autism symptoms (which realistically is what I probably have and what I’m currently diagnosed with) can benefit from the same help that people with a diagnosis get, which is good, if I can find a way of getting help.  It’s also interesting that my sister and my Dad have some sub-diagnostic symptoms, which again is supposed to be common in families of people on the spectrum.  Although no one is going to mistake someone who likes small talk and hates silence as much as my Dad for someone on the autistic spectrum.  I guess that’s another reason why I want a diagnosis.  Growing  up my parents told me that they were shy as children and I should just ‘push myself’ to talk to other people and that it would get easier with practise.  It never did, and I suppose if I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, that would be a kind of justification for failing to master small talk and social skills.  Maybe that’s not a good thing, maybe it will just encourage me to isolate myself.  I don’t know.  I don’t really know about a lot of things right now.

Failure to Thrive

I did not sleep well last night, waking up in the middle of the night with a headache, not being able to get back sleep, getting up and doing some things before suddenly dozing off when I finally thought I would get dressed and start the day.  My uncle and my sister came over for lunch (my brother-in-law is unwell) and we ate together.  Surprisingly, it was warm enough to eat in the garden.  The resultant mental hangover may have contributed to low mood in the afternoon.  At any rate, I was over-analysing things, wondering if I was contributing enough to the conversation, if I was over-sensitive to the sunlight and judging everything through the prisms of autism and social communication disorder.  The conversation got onto the topic of the new series of Doctor Who at some point, and the older generation opined that it was “too politically correct.”  I don’t particularly agree (although I agreed about the lack of Jews in general and frum (religious) Jews in particular in Western culture), but as usual with dissent I withdrew from the conversation rather than state an opposing view, from fear of being attacked or rejected.  This is not particularly healthy.

After lunch (which went on until after 4pm), I went for a walk.  I was feeling very miserable (perhaps from socialising, perhaps from eating too much ice cream, getting  a sugar rush and then crashing), feeling that the world does not have anything to offer me and that I would really like to die (while I was thinking this, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy came on my iPod…).  Then I ran into one of our neighbours with his young children (aged I guess about eighteen months and three or four years) and they were very curious and wanted to talk to me, so I played with them for a few minutes and I did feel somewhat better after that.  Maybe my Mum is right that I should be looking for a job working with young children, I just don’t feel confident to look after other people’s children, let alone teaching them.  On which note, the asylum seekers drop-in group I volunteer at is taking place on Sunday.  I was thinking of skipping this time, because I need to apply for jobs and because I’ve hardly done any cooking in weeks because of Yom Tov and various other things, but I’ve agreed to go now.

After returning home I spent a while working on a job application at a very prestigious public body.  I very much doubt that I have the experience and skills needed to get the job, or even to be called for interview, but I’m trying to fill out the application.  I have quite a bit still to do, but I’ve run out of time tonight, although it has been hard to stay focused on working on the task when the thought of getting the job, or even being called for interview, while appealing on some levels, is also terrifying.  Family lunch plus walk plus application plus (I admit) procrastination means little time for Torah study, which I feel bad about, and possibly a later night than I would like before work, as I ‘timeshifted’ watching tonight’s Doctor Who episode to later to concentrate on the application.

In Jewish thought God interacts with a person according to how much he or she wants Him to do so; He doesn’t force Himself on a person.  To some extent at at least a person receives overt divine intervention (as opposed to things happening apparently by ‘chance’, which is really also divine intervention of a different kind) in proportion to how much he or she wants it and is willing to let God in.  I think this is something of a simplification of a complex idea and God does not act in this way 100% of the time, but aside from the question of the difference between overt and covert intervention, it seems to me that this would act against people who can’t trust from their experiences (e.g. me).  I can understand philosophically that everything God does is for the good and even my suffering must have a purpose, but I find it hard to just trust Him; I assume His plan for me involves much more suffering and very few pleasant experiences, and that He hates me for my sins.  It is very hard to abandon myself to belief that I can recover from mental illness, find a job I can do, marry and have children and generally be happy.  It seems this is another way that the bullies of my childhood win.  Not only did they make me miserable at the time, but they have trained me to expect only the worse for myself, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether for religious reasons or just psychological ones.  Even viewing the matter from a secular perspective, lots of cognitive psychologists would say that one’s experiences come to meet one’s thoughts and expectations, rather than the other way around.  I try to tell myself that my life could get better – and it could – but I can’t believe that it will get better or that God wants it to get better or that I deserve it to get better.

I feel I should be doing a lot better than I am with my life.  I had a whole paragraph here which I would have liked to have kept in, but which I thought was probably lashon hara (malicious speech) so I cut it.  But I feel a lack of affection and love in my life.  “Failure to thrive” was the term used when (I think this was in the 1950s) excessive hygiene fears led to parents and nurses being discouraged from holding babies for fear of passing on germs, resulting in unnecessary premature deaths, because babies need hugs and love as well as milk and warmth.  I feel a bit like that, that I’m failing to thrive in many senses of the term, particularly from lack of support, although it seems unfair to write that as I have some support and it is hard to state what exactly I want.  Certainly, despite doing so well at school, I have failed to thrive in any sense since going to university and especially since leaving it.

Intimations of Mortality

I was going to go to autism group after work, but on the train I felt terrible, exhausted and overstimulated.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I struggle with, especially as some times I’m fine with some things, but not at other times.  I have no problem with trains most of the time, but they are hard at rush hour, and I’m not sure if it’s the noise, the heat or the people, which means it’s hard to tell if it’s social anxiety or autism.  Similarly, I can’t tell if I struggle at work from the noise (autism) or the fear of interactions with others (social anxiety) or the feeling that I’m doing badly and am going to get fired (depression and low self-esteem).  Then being depleted makes my blood sugar drop and I feel faint and sometimes start trembling, so I have to eat, which makes me worry about clomipramine-induced weight gain…

Whatever the reason, my work days are terrible ordeals at the moment.  At some point in the afternoon today I found myself crouched on the floor of the toilet, trying to escape from things.  If this was a permanent job, I would be seriously considering resigning.  As it is, I’m counting down the next six weeks.

I do worry if I’m fit to work, but, again, it’s hard to tell anyone that, because I’m not sure myself if the problem is depression, social anxiety or autism.  Someone told me that where I live one can have free (i.e. state-provided) help with autism, including a pre-assessment (for want of a better word) where they tell you whether you are likely to be diagnosed with autism and what that would entail.  I don’t know if I qualify because I’ve already been assessed twice and told I’m not autistic, but if I can go, I’m seriously thinking of going and saying that I really think that I’ve been wrongly diagnosed and that I’m autistic, that much of my life only makes sense if I’m autistic and that several mental health professionals (and some friends) strongly believe that I’m autistic, especially as the diagnostic criteria have been revised and broadened since I was assessed.

I had a lot of death fantasy today, not so much wanting to die, although there was some of that, but wondering if I’m dead and in Gehennom (Purgatory).  It’s probably just as well that I’ve finished reading VALIS, as that was probably encouraging me in that kind of solipsistic fantasy.  I just want not to be here.  I can’t imagine my life ever being worth living.  I just seem to be a mass (or mess) of mental illness and autism and trying to unpick and cure – or even just alleviate – one part of my problems runs into the problem that they are all interconnected and you can’t deal with one without dealing with all the others first.

My self-belief is at an all time low (which is saying something).  I can’t see myself managing to get a permanent job and stay at this level of functionality indefinitely.  I don’t even need to worry about getting married, just worrying about functioning is bad enough.  I don’t think I have ever worked as hard with depression this bad as I have this year.  Usually when working with depression in the past I was doing very short hours or studying with control over my study schedule, but now I’m nearly working full time with a long commute at rush hour.  On one level it’s impressive, but I worry that I’m going to burn out; goodness knows what that would entail – suicide? psychosis?  To be honest, I don’t think it would be either, but I don’t know what it would be.

I feel inclined to withdraw from social things, as I did with autism group and as I have been doing with shul (synagogue).  It occurred to me today that I probably do have a couple of friends, or potential friends, who could accept me if I would open up to them, but I’m scared that if I do that they won’t accept and I’ll be worse off than I am now, where at least I have them as somewhat friendly.  So I don’t open up and so never get to move those friendships on to closer friendships.  I don’t know how to talk to people about my mental health/autism and I don’t know how to explain that they dominate my entire life to the exclusion of almost everything else.  And then there’s the shame I feel about my geeky interests with other frum (religious) people, so that’s another key part of me I don’t open up about.

I did at least get to shiur (religious class), as by the evening I had eaten and relaxed a bit and felt somewhat restored, although I was inwardly a bit disquieted by the unusually large number of men packed into the assistant rabbi’s dining room.  The topic was not so easy for me either as it was about having purpose in life and living according to that purpose, whereas I don’t feel I know my purpose at all and don’t know how to find out; I’ve been told I can work it out by listing the five happiest moments of my life and what I would do with a million pounds and six hours of free time a day, but I don’t think I can think of five times I’ve been really happy and I simply don’t know what I would do with money and time.  This was also tied in to having a spouse and children to take forward your mission, which is obviously sensitive to me.  The assistant rabbi was saying that a person can be studying Torah and doing mitzvot (commandments) and still be messing up by not studying the Torah and doing the mitzvot  needed for his precise mission, so obviously that’s just going to reinforce my feeling that I’m a bad person and I’m not going to go to Olam HaBa (Heaven).  And he spoke about my acting out too and about that being wrong (not that he knows that I do it, he just meant it generally).

In terms of finding my mission in life, sometimes I think I should try to contact the author of this article and ask if she can offer any tips on finding my life’s mission, but I don’t know what she could say that isn’t in the article.  Other than that, I have no idea what to do.

Triviality in Extremis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Acting Out, Suicide and Uncrossed Lines

It’s a bit silly to post again today, but I want to get this down before I forget, as it’s a sudden realisation I just had and as it’s not very long it’s probably OK.  And maybe this is something to sneak out when people aren’t looking anyway.

When the depression is bad, I act out sometimes.  Nothing illegal or anything that hurts anyone, but something that the person I want to be would not do.  Imagine I responded to the depression by eating ice cream.  Then, imagine a limit in my ice cream eating that I have never gone beyond: say, eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting.  Then imagine that I console myself when very depressed saying, if it gets very bad, at least I could eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, because I’ve never done that, but I know it’s there, as a concept.  And then I realise that, regardless of the healthiness (or otherwise) of eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one go, I will never do it.  I will never go through with it, no matter how depressed I am.  I just can’t cross that line.  Which should feel good, but instead I just feel envy for all those people who do eat a whole tub of ice cream when depressed.  They as miserable as I am, but at least they get to enjoy that ice cream that I never will.

It’s the same with suicide.  Suicidality can be calming (not always, but sometimes), because I can think that I have a way out if things get unbearable.  But now I think I’ll never have the guts (or whatever) to go through with suicide.  So I envy… not people who have committed suicide, but I do wish that I was dead.  I want to be out of the world, and deep down I think I know that I could never bring myself to hasten that (not even by eating whole tubs of ice cream).  So I feel trapped.

I don’t know how to get out of this, how to find a way to feel glad for not eating the ice cream, even to feel glad for being alive.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever really felt glad for being alive.  I either took it for granted or I felt that I wanted to die.

Lost in Thought

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was pretty awful.  I spent most of it asleep.  When I wasn’t asleep, I was lost in agitated thought, mostly about death.  I spent a long time last night lying on my bed after dinner, wanting to die.  I was thinking obsessively about the Talmud, where it lists seven people who have no share in Olam HaBa (the World to Come i.e. Heaven), but later says that some interpret that six of them (the six Jewish ones) will have a share in Olam HaBa.  This became hugely important to me.  I suppose I was thinking that if Yerovo’am, Achav and the rest have a share in Olam HaBa, then I would too, although my reasoning doesn’t strike myself as hugely convincing today.  I don’t really feel that HaShem (God) could love me.

At times like this I get lost in my thoughts and drift away from the world.  I guess it feeds my tendency towards solipsism.  The stuff going on in my head feels a lot more real  than stuff in the external world, which can’t be healthy.  That’s probably always been my problem, but particularly when things are bad.  It’s hard to remember that other people exist and that some of them care about me, because I just get caught in the labyrinth that is my thoughts, my books and my DVDs.  I’m really worried about starting my new job this week, because I have no idea how I’m going to give the right level of attention to it.  I guess when my mind is screaming “I want to die, I want to kill myself” the whole time, I end up focusing on that to survive.  My thoughts seem really loud sometimes.  Like they drown out everything else.  I don’t think other people can hear them, but somehow it wouldn’t surprise me if someone said that they could hear them.

The book I ordered on C-PTSD arrived, which was very quick.  I wanted to read the stuff in it on self-love.  I’m not sure when I’m going to get to read it, though.  I usually read on the train to/from work or on lunch, but I’m not sure I really want to be seen reading this in public.  Then again, I don’t really want my parents to see me reading it at home either.  It still feels wrong to even think that I might possibly have C-PTSD, as if I’m attacking my parents or laying claim to an illness that I have no right to (as with autism – I still wonder if I’m seizing that unfairly too).

Follow Up Post

My parents’ house was fine.  I have no idea why the alarm went off, or why it stopped after twenty minutes for that matter.  I was out for well over two hours in the end, including two fifteen minute walks in the cold and dark.  I did at least manage to finish sorting out the bookcases in my room there.  Once the blinds are fitted (coming later this week, hopefully) I’ll just need to move my bric-a-brac and the war gaming miniatures I used to paint in and put up my certificates and 3D map of Israel for it to be home.  Which it might have to be, if my contract doesn’t get extended past the summer and I can’t find a new job, in which case I won’t be able to afford to carry on living in my flat and will have to move back with my parents.

I am now worried that I left my father’s computer on after I needed to use it to look up something.  I suppose it will go into hibernate eventually.  At least I know I set the burglar alarm and locked the front door.

***

I brought back a heater.  My landlord doesn’t like me using ordinary convection heaters, on the grounds that they use too much electricity (my electricity is included in my rent, so the more I use, the more the landlord has to pay).  However, it is freezing and I have no intention of dying of hypothermia.

***

When I listed everything I’ve done, without success, to try to cure the depression the other day, I forgot to add practising gratitude (I thank God every day for at least five things) and trying Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s idea of finding good things that you have done to hold on to when you feel overwhelmed by guilt.  The problem is, there are only a couple of good things I can think that I have done in my entire life, and I think even these would have been done by someone else if I hadn’t been around.  So this just makes me feel even more useless and sinful.

***

A couple of people have suggested that I take vitamin B (either B6 or B complex).  I don’t know.  I’ve been taking zinc for a couple of weeks and omega-3 for about six weeks and neither seems to be doing anything for me.  Between prescription medication and vitamins, I’m taking ten tablets a day.  I think I rattle when I move.

***

I do feel that nothing helps.  People try to be helpful and suggest things, but (unless it’s alternative medicine or segulot (magic charms), which I don’t believe in) I’ve usually tried it before, without success.  But if I say that, people think I’m just being obstinate.

***

I wonder sometimes if anyone really connects to my blog or if I’m doing any good generally.  I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life (it sounds too depressing), but I suspect that if I was shown the effect my life had had on those around me, the impact would be minimal.  Certainly not enough to justify the promise I supposedly showed as a child.  I have just hit ninety followers on WordPress, and I think there are a couple of people reading in other ways, so someone must find all this verbiage meaningful, but then again, a lot of my followers seem to be from dubious sites that only exist to sell things, rather than from legitimate bloggers,  so perhaps I should not read too much into it.  I think some people follow blogs just to boost their own follower numbers.

I do really wonder what it would be like to see the impact I had on those around me, though, especially as I’ve been thinking about death (my death, I mean) and suicide a lot recently, but it scares me to think how minimal it probably is.  I know Freud is rather out of favour with the psychological establishment these days, but my life does seem like a constant struggle between eros and thanatos, between the desire to love and be loved (which I know isn’t quite what Freud meant by eros) and the desire to die.  Because life without love seems pretty pointless, really, and while I’m holding on to the fact that, for some strange reason I don’t understand, my parents and sister love me and I have a couple of friends who seem to like me, I want more.  I don’t think it’s selfish to really want to have a proper relationship for more or less the first time at the age of thirty-four.  (I had one previous relationship, that lasted eight months on paper, but was actually in crisis for much of that period, although I was just too glad to finally be in a relationship to realise it.  I got badly hurt by the whole experience.)

***

It occurs to me that this week was a ‘perfect storm’ with my parents being away at the same time as my therapist.  All are back by the end of next week, plus I have a meeting on Friday morning (just before therapy) with my doctor to discuss increasing the dosage of my medication, although I suspect he’ll just refer me on to a psychiatrist, which will take time.

Mind you, it’s easy to dismiss my feelings as a ‘perfect storm’ of bad things, while ignoring how many ‘perfect storms’ I seem to have been experiencing lately.

I Am OK (Explosion on the Tube)

Just wanted to reassure anyone who heard the news about the explosion on the London Underground that my family and I are OK.  I don’t use the Tube on Fridays as it’s my day off work and my therapy is now over Skype, although when I was having therapy in person I actually went through Parsons Grove, where the attack was.  I do worry sometimes, not quite in a mental-health-anxiety way, about how dangerous the Tube is, not just from the point of view of terrorism, but of fires.  It really is a death trap, especially at rush hour: deep underground, hundreds of people packed like sardines in tiny trains and tiny corridors…  I try not to think about it or I freak myself out.

I guess no where is safe, though.  I get haunted by a story from the 7/7 bombings.  One of the victims was Israeli and had moved to the UK because she was frightened of being killed by Palestinian terrorism in the second Intifada.  She narrowly escaped being on one of the trains that was blown up only to be murdered on the bus that was blown up as she was going to (as she thought) safety.  It’s a real Death in Tehran story.

The psychologist Viktor Frankl tells the story of Death in Tehran in his book Man’s Search for Meaning:

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death.

I guess you’re going to go when you’re going to go, which is the message of the next few weeks in the Jewish calendar, with the exception that “repentance, prayer and charity, avert the evil decree.” (Unetaneh Tokef, from the prayers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).  May we all be written for life this year, physically and spiritually.

I wasn’t intending to blog today, but I seem to have written a fairly substantial post, but I must leave things here and get on with lunch and pre-Shabbat (Sabbath) chores.