Sleepy Shabbos and Community

It’s late (Shabbat goes out too late in the summer in this country), but I need to off-load some stuff that happened over Shabbat (the Sabbath).

I’m really struggling with my sleep at the moment.  I know I’ve written before about my curious obsession with my sleep pattern and my tendency to write too much about it, but messed up sleep has always been my most persistent depression symptom, and one of the most difficult to deal with.  I wanted very much today to get to shul (synagogue) particularly as there was a kiddush (refreshments afterwards) for the rabbi and rebbetzin, who are leaving soon.  Shul starts at 8.45am, but I knew I wouldn’t make it for then.  I just wanted to get there by 10ish.  I even asked my Dad to open my blinds at 8.30am in the hope that that would wake me up.  It did bring me out of my deep sleep, but I spent the rest of the morning in a not-very-deep sleep, at times almost waking up and being conscious enough to feel I should get up, but not actually waking up enough to do so.  I slept through my alarms as usual.  It was very frustrating.  I eventually got up about midday, much too late for shul.  Once I’d eaten, I felt somewhat better, as is usually the case.  It’s just getting up in the first place that’s the problem.

The silly thing is that I can get up for work or job interviews or health appointments, just not for shul or to start my day at a reasonable time.  I don’t know why this is the case.

And then I did it again after lunch!  I wanted to stay awake and read, but I felt drowsy, probably from overeating and being in a warm room and I slept for two more hours!  I have no idea how I will sleep tonight.

***

At seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal, between the afternoon and evening services) the rabbi was doing a Q&A because he is leaving soon.  I’m not sure if this was his intention, but people mostly asked him about his achievements and regrets in the eighteen years he was our rov (rabbi).  He spoke a lot about trying to get people involved with the shul, turning up to weekday services and so on, which made me feel bad for not doing that.  Before we moved to our current area nearly four years ago, I was present almost every day at Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Services) and was trying to go to Shacharit (Morning Service) more often, sleep problems notwithstanding.  But when we moved, social anxiety and depression undid a lot of the good work I had done over the years in getting to that point of regular attendance and I’m still struggling to get back to that level.  I go to my father’s shul midweek sometimes, but not usually to mine.  I’ve told myself I will try to get to one weekday service a week at my shul for a bit and see what that does.  I’m hoping it will have some kind of unconscious effect on my Shabbat attendance too, but that may be wishful thinking.

The rabbi also spoke about the need to cultivate a relationship with your community rabbi and asking him shaylas/sha’alot (religious questions, usually practical questions on relevant points of Jewish law) and about the need to have friends in your community.  He presented an idyllic picture of a community united by common values and helping each other with personal/spiritual growth.  I would really like to be part of such a community, but I struggle with these things.  I tend to take my sha’alot to my rabbi mentor even though he lives abroad, largely because he knows me very well now (he’s known me for about seventeen years) and he has had some training with mental health issues (many of my questions are mental health-related, on some level).  He is also sensitive with questions about dealing with family members who are less religious and when one can be lenient for shalom bayit (peace at home – again, many of my questions fall in this category).   For those reasons it probably is best for me to keep taking my sha’alot to my rabbi mentor, but it does put me in an odd situation, not quite fully in the community.  It doesn’t help that I have many friends outside the community, and indeed a number of my friends are not Jewish or not frum (religious), which is not typical for Orthodox Jews.

But above and beyond this, there is an issue about my fitting in that has made it hard to open up to people in the way that the rabbi was suggesting, either to a rabbi or to friends.  I know my shul isn’t a perfect fit regarding hashkafa (religious philosophy, which relates to a lot of things, but broadly attitudes towards those things known as modernity and postmodernity).  I like that my shul takes davening (prayer) and Torah study very seriously, but I know I’m more ‘modern’ than many of the community, in terms of things like attitudes to science, to broader Western culture and popular culture, to non-Jews and so on.  But I’m not sure that there are really many shuls in the country that are a good fit for me; United Synagogue shuls (like my old shul and like my parents’ shul) are more modern in outlook, but tend to have a mostly less religious community.  My parents’ shul has a larger than average cohort of committed, frum Jews, but it was far too large and unfriendly for me.

The rabbi’s words did make me worry again about whether I’m in the right place with the right rabbi and the right community/friends.  I think I’m probably in the right place at this precise moment in the sense that there is realistically no better fitting community for me at the moment.  Where I am in five years time, particularly if I get married (it could happen)… well, I suppose that’s another thing to consider as and when.

***

As an aside, there’s a quite famous anthropology/history book about the shtetl (the small Jewish townships of pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe) called Life is with People*.  I think the title sums up how focused Jewish life is on family and community, and how difficult it is if you have issues like autism and social anxiety that inhibit socialisation.

* It’s quite a good book, but apparently methodologically problematic as one of the academics who worked on it faked his academic credentials and seems to have been a KGB spy who probably assassinated Trotsky’s son.  At any rate, he was obsessed with issues of class and status and, as was pointed out in The Jewish Review of Books, spends some time in the book describing in detail who gets to sit in the best seats in shul.

***

When I dozed this afternoon I had a weird dream.  Aside from totally surreal or random elements (carrying a large dining room table up and down escalators in a department store; a box of weird Doctor Who toys based on the Dapol range), the main thing that stuck with me was talking my parents and possibly someone else (I think a former boss (one I got on with), but here she was some sort of teacher or even governess) about some subjects I was studying (A-level? BA?).  There were two subjects and I was sure I was going to fail both of them, but my parents disagreed.  When I woke up, I thought perhaps my mind was expressing anxiety over the career I’m trying to grow (librarianship) and the career I’m trying to build from scratch (writing), both of which I fear I’m going to fail at, but that the fact that my parents didn’t agree that I was going to fail perhaps indicated a deeper belief in myself.

Or it could just be a silly dream.

(Plus, in real life they really would insist that I won’t fail anyway.)

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Pesach Surprises

Another weird anxiety dream last night, this time about being bullied somewhere that felt like a mix of school and my last job and not knowing if my friend was secretly behind it.  At least I feel asleep easily last night and got up at 10am, which is earlier than I’ve managed all week, I think.  I wish I didn’t sleep for nine or ten hours each night, though.  I can’t work out how much of that is depressive hibernation and how much is that I get so overwhelmed by things (from mental health issues, but also autism) that I need to sleep longer than most people.

Some OCD anxiety yesterday and today and emailing of my rabbi mentor late last night, but I’m trying to keep things under control.  The full Pesach (Passover) preparation craziness starts today, though, and goes on until 7.30pmish tomorrow, when Yom Tov (the festival) actually starts.  After that there is a lot less to do and a lot less risk of something going wrong, although there are still contamination (or “contamination”) fears for the eight days of Pesach.

***

I’ve got a job interview on Tuesday, on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the intermediate, semi-festive, days of Passover).  I’m going to go as one can work on Chol HaMoed to avoid a significant loss, which turning down the interview potentially would be, but I’m not happy about it, especially as lately interviews seem to be a chance for me to humiliate myself.  I suppose the experience will be good (this is one of those things people say to make things sound better that doesn’t actually make things sound better).  The job is full time Monday to Friday, which I don’t think I can cope with at the moment, plus occasional late nights and weekends (obviously I couldn’t do Saturdays or late on Fridays at all).  Working full-time will make it hard for me to go to support groups and will probably lead to burn out.  The job specification is very long and terrifies me.  Then there is the fact that I’m waiting for CBT therapy and don’t know how I could fit that in.  Also, this is a job through an agency, and I haven’t told anyone there about my autism, so I won’t get any adjustments for that.  But, I will go, and try to put aside this catastrophisation, and ask if I can make it a job share if necessary.

Strangely, the job interview makes me feel depressed more than anxious.  I just don’t feel that I can do the job, but then, I don’t really think I’ll do well at the interview either – one of those situations where the feared outcomes can’t both happen, but I worry about them both anyway.

***

I find with Pesach there is sometimes a nasty surprise in the last day or two.  I think of it as analogous to an October Surprise in the American presidential election.  Something where you plan and plan and everything seems to be going to plan, but then a big disruption happens and you have to improvise.

Last year I had a migraine the day before Pesach.  I was right the other side of London for a work staff development day and I was supposed to come home (a two hour trip), tidy my flat, then go to my parents’ house, help tidy there, kasher the sink and do bedikat chametz (search for leavened food).  I came home with a bad migraine, went back to my flat, took some painkillers, fell asleep for an hour or two and woke feeling a lot better.  I got everything done.  So it can be done.

This year our cleaner, who was supposed to come today, cancelled at the last minute.  For a while it looked like we had to magically find a couple more hours to make up the shortfall, but fortunately we managed to get another cleaner through the same agency.  I’m just hoping that that’s the last nasty surprise (I’m telling myself the job interview is a good surprise, difficult though it is to believe it).  A few other minor things have happened, but so far nothing major.  I’m worried that something will go wrong, though.

***

Tonight I have my least favourite part of Pesach preparation: kashering the sink.  This is to remove any traces of Pesach food taste that might linger.  To kasher a sink, you clean it thoroughly, don’t use it for anything hot for twenty-four hours and then pour boiling water all over it, including the taps, followed by cold water (this is a simplification; ask your local Orthodox rabbi if you want to know how to kasher an actual sink).  The tricky parts are (a) the water must be boiling, not boiled, which means you only get about five seconds to do this before the water in the kettle is too cool and has to be reboiled and (b) the water must be from the main spout from the kettle or at least a small radius around it, not water ‘downstream’ (so to speak), again so that it stays hot, so no pouring it just at the top and letting it flow down.

The problem is partly that I’m not that dexterous and find it awkward to pour a very full kettle of boiling water quickly at different angles to get all four sides of the sink, but mainly that there is no way to see how much of the sink has been done correctly or if it was quick enough, so my OCD makes me do this repeatedly.  I think most frum (religious) people do it in one or two goes, but I take seven or eight or even more.  I wish someone would make a sink that changes colour when boiling water is poured on it so I could see what I have done.

This is so triggering to my OCD that when I moved out of my parents house and into my own flat, for nearly a year I refused to put things in the sink itself, because I didn’t believe that I had kashered it correctly.  That was partly because I misunderstood a few things about how to do it, but mostly because of my anxiety about the whole process.  Even now I ask my Dad to kasher with me, so that he can check I don’t take too long or miss bits… except that then my OCD tells me he is wrong, so I do them again anyway.  I know several rabbis who can’t understand why I find this so stressful, they can just do it in a matter of minutes and then move to the next thing, but I find it a nightmare.  And we always leave it to the night before Pesach because we need to use the sink for chametz (leavened food) as long as possible, which means it gets done late at night at the same time as searching for chametz (which is fun, but takes a while) when I want to go to bed early to try to get up in time for shul (synagogue) the next morning so I can go the siyum and get out of fasting the Fast of the First-born (not even going to try explaining that, sorry).

Still, I have just made the charoset (one of the symbolic foods at the seder: a sweet brown paste symbolising the mortar the Israelite slaves made and used to sweeten the bitter herbs), which is a job I enjoy more, perhaps partly because my Mum always says it reminds her that her father used to do it.  I’m trying to stay calm and focused and just hold on to the fact that so far, things are going according to schedule.

Baking

I slept for about eleven hours again.  My Dad woke me about 12.15pm (he sounded rather annoyed that I was still asleep, which didn’t help), but I lay in bed for another hour feeling too tired and depressed to move.  I think I was just burnt out from all the things I did yesterday, the Pesach preparation and the stressful experience I had at shul that I blogged about.  I think I drifted in and out of sleep for a while.

At some point in the night (or morning) I had a weird, disturbing dream that I can only vaguely remember, something about a Jewish (?) youth organisation which was actually secretly being run as some kind of cult or gang and that young people were being brainwashed into murder and other criminal activities.  Aside from maybe picking up on things in the news about radicalisation and “Jihadi brides” in Syria, I guess it reflects the fears I had as a teenager and still do have to a large extent that frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) institutions and communities would want to brainwash me out of my wider interests, particularly Doctor Who, and my friendships with my non-frum and non-Jewish friends.  It is a bit silly that I still have these fears when, by objective standards, I am very frum, although I do still feel painfully on the fringes of the community rather integrated as I should be.  I feel that I have capacity that I’m not using; I feel I should be going to shul (synagogue) more often and not be put off by depression and social anxiety.  Likewise, if I wanted to, I could do more in the community, in terms of leading services and writing divrei Torah (Torah thoughts), but I don’t have the confidence to do it any more because of my feelings of inadequacy compared to other people in the community.  I don’t know where I go from here.

***

I spent much of the afternoon baking biscuits for Pesach.  It proved to be good exposure therapy for the OCD, as I had the choice of washing my hands virtually once a minute or accepting that I can touch things and then touch foodstuffs and crockery without transferring invisible amounts of forbidden chametz (leaven) onto them.  I even coped with a minor kashering issue without panicking.

My rabbi mentor says that these days before Pesach are harder than Pesach itself.  On Pesach, all the chametz is gone, burnt or sold, so the opportunities for mishaps are relatively limited.  It’s the days before when we’re still eating chametz, but getting ready our Pesach stuff, kashering utensils and cooking in advance, when the real risk of problems comes.

I feel exhausted after the baking.  It seems strange, having slept so long last night, but I guess this is an emotionally draining time of year for me.  There’s a lot of stress and anxiety.  I think I’m mostly coping OK, but it is taking its toll.  I still feel a lot of stress and anxiety even if I am ultimately coping with it better than in recent years.  Tomorrow I need to get a haircut, which I always dread in case I start shaking and because I don’t like strangers touching me, and then on Wednesday things shift up a gear in terms of Pesach preparation (again) when I have to kasher the hob.

More Over-Thinking

I had another anxiety dream last night, this time explicitly about kashering the oven (preparing it for the special Pesach/Passover dietary laws), although it ended in a stranger strangling me for no very obvious reason.  I think the stress is getting to me.

***

I got feedback on my job interview from last week.  Surprisingly, I did quite well in the test part of it (the one I thought I messed up because I had to skip a bit).  But they said I lacked experience with periodicals (which is completely true) and that my answers lacked depth and focused on what rather than how, which made me feel that my skills and experience were less important than my inability to talk about said skills and experience.  This was in regard to the very open (= not autism friendly) question where they gave me the person spec and asked me to describe how I’ve met those requirements in other jobs.  So I guess I have to put it down to one of those things.  At least the test answers were better than I thought at the time.

***

I’m struggling to write job applications.  Somehow all the jobs seem to be things I’m not qualified for or things I’m overqualified for, sometimes even both at the same time e.g. today I was applying for a job that was intended for new librarianship graduates (overqualified), but that also desired experience at a health library (under-qualified).  It is so hard to stay focused to write these applications, partly from boredom, but also because they just remind me of how badly I’ve struggled at work over the last year or two and of my fears that I just can’t function in a work environment.

***

I’m trying not to over-think things, but it’s hard.  I went for a walk after writing the job application to try to clear my head, but it didn’t work.  The walk was brisk at first, but became slower as I got tired and as the thoughts came out: that I am not good enough to get a job or a partner; that I have already messed things up with the woman I’m texting (call her L.); that I’m making a very large mountain out of a very small molehill regarding selling my chametz (leavened bread and the like), which nevertheless I worry I won’t do correctly; and that I can’t fit in to the Orthodox Jewish community.  I started wondering if I should have stayed working in further education last year after all.  It would at least have been a job.  I just felt that I couldn’t do it, and that my boss had no confidence in me either.  I have at least decided to look seriously into working as a proof-reader/editor to supplement my income after Pesach.

Dating is the hardest thing not to over-think.  I am more or less resigned to being unemployed for a while, perhaps because so far all the job opportunities I have found have been more terrifying than unemployment.  I haven’t really seen anything that has made me say both, “I could do that!” and “I want to do that!”  I’m trying to take Pesach preparations one day at a time and I seem to be doing OK with that, at least some of the time.  But it’s very hard not to catastrophise dating.  It’s hard to get an idea of someone from a few texts, but I constantly fear that we won’t be compatible and that I’ll have to break up with her and either I won’t have the courage to do it and will get stuck in a dysfunctional relationship or I will do it and she’ll be upset and I’ll feel terrible.  Strangely, it doesn’t really occur to me that if I don’t connect with her, she probably won’t connect with me and she may break up with me first.

I do worry that I’m so, um, unusual (weird) that no one will really connect with me.  I don’t honestly expect to find someone who is anything approaching a perfect match for me, the kind of fantasy female version of me, but I don’t know what I should realistically expect and what I should compromise on.  Sometimes I feel that I can’t connect with anyone, not family or friends, so maybe I should just accept the first person who seems to care about me regardless of how much we have in common.  I’m not sure how sensible this is.

Still, as I said yesterday, I’m trying to “look to Him [God] and do not inquire of the future, rather accept everything that comes to you with wholeheartedness”.  It’s very hard though.  The worst part is the feeling that I’m leading L. on somehow and am going to hurt her in a way that would be avoidable if I was a good enough/clever enough person to see it, even though it’s hard rationally to see any reason for thinking like that, beyond the fact that I look for reasons to beat myself up.

Ugh, I ate sugary ice cream earlier (Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie) and now I think I’m crashing from the sugar because my mood is plummeting.  I should probably stop writing.

Chores, Jobs and Puddle-Ducks

I did a few chores yesterday, but spent some time procrastinating and putting off Pesach (Passover) chores number.  In the evening I went to depression group.  The Monday meetings (which I haven’t been going to for a while because of work commitments on Tuesday mornings) tend to have a speaker or theme for the first half.  Yesterday we were talking about hobbies and other ways that we distract from our mental health issues.  Lots of people shared some (very good) artwork, so I spoke about my blog and read part of a post out.  Although I had spent some time beforehand choosing a post, I didn’t really hit me until I read it how suicidal I sounded in the post; I think one person was quite worried about me.  A few people said it was very powerfully written and a couple of people asked for the URL to read it, so I may have picked up a few more readers.  I do feel a bit embarrassed thinking about it today.  I always get embarrassed when people congratulate me on my writing, plus I wonder if maybe I did pick a very negative post to read (it was the beginning of this post).

Today was split between Pesach preparations and writing a job application.  I was slow to get up and get going because I was feeling depressed, but I managed to do a few things in the afternoon.  I feel frustrated by not being able to do as much in a day as I used to be able to do because of the depression, although “used to be able” is now going back so far that it isn’t really helpful any more.  Plus, I think that even when I was younger I still got distracted.  It’s possible that I just set targets I could never reach or, as my Dad says, that I’m just bad at planning.  Someone from the therapy group I attended at The Network said she only puts one thing on her to do list each day now and, depressingly, I could see the appeal of that.  I usually try to do far more than I actually manage to do and end up making myself more depressed by failing to meet my plan.

***

I found out that I didn’t get the job I was interviewed for last week.  It was not surprising, given how long I have been waiting to hear and how badly I did at the interview.  I suppose I should just put it down to experience, but it reinforces my feelings about not being able to work.  Related to these fears, I spoke to someone from A S Mentoring today, an organisation that helps people with autism in the workplace.  They could potentially help me, but there is a quite steep charge for seeing them after a free trial meeting as well as a three month waiting list.  My Mum is in favour of going on the waiting list, while my father was more sceptical of whether they could help.  I’m not sure what to do.  It doesn’t help that I’m not sure what my support needs actually are.  A lot would depend on what job I end up in.  Some of my issues, like needing extra-long processing time when asked an open question, my difficulty changing tasks at short-notice or my preference for written instructions over verbal ones, would apply in many environments.  If I had an understanding boss, as I did in my last job, but not in an earlier one, that would make things easier.

***

I seem to be having disturbing dreams at the moment, perhaps because of my high anxiety levels.  A couple of nights ago was a Nineteen Eighty-Four dream which, perhaps fortunately, I didn’t really remember, I was just left with a vague impression of it.  Then last night I dreamt about terrorism, shootings and plane hijackings.  And Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddle-Duck.  Don’t laugh, it really upset me as a child (when the dogs eat her eggs).

Frustrations

I got to bed about 3.30am, which was rather ridiculous.  I had a horrible, gory nightmare that I won’t go into in detail, which was based on two accounts I read on Neshamas.com of women raped and abused by their husbands.  It makes me angry that some men are so evil and exploitative.

I want to have a wife and children I can love, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to work out – soon or at all?  I don’t know.  I guess it’s good that I’m even acknowledging that I might get married one day.  I’ve realised that accepting that I’m not going to get married isn’t going to work, because it doesn’t make me feel any less lonely.  I can only tell myself that if I get married, then my wife may will have been through some kind of stress or trauma, so I have to be strong for her.  This is probably a stupid thing to think, but it has been somewhat helpful in keeping me going, because I feel like I’m doing something for a reason/for someone else, rather than just trying to accept being unlovable and lonely indefinitely.

***

I feel a bit like I’m marking time until my autism assessment.  That I’m not really able to deal with finding a new job or dating until I know where I stand.  The thing is, there’s no guarantee I will be diagnosed.  After all, I’ve had two assessments that said I’m not autistic, and even if I understand myself and autism better now than I did then, it’s still possible that I won’t be… I nearly wrote ‘accepted,’ which is telling, but I meant ‘diagnosed.’  I’m not sure what would happen then, as by this stage I’m 90% sure I am on the spectrum and I would not really accept that I’m not autistic unless someone came up with an alternative diagnosis that described me even better.  But my assessment probably won’t come for another six months to a year, so I’m not sure what to do in the meantime.  It has to be said, though, that I’ve investigated other diagnosis options (e.g. bipolar disorder) over the years without success, so I may still not be diagnosed autistic.  I just feel there is something different about me, something that is more than ‘just’ depression, that how I think and act is noticeably different to other people, at least after you know what to look for.

***

I had my meeting at The Network, who provide group therapy and support.  There wasn’t much left to offer now I’ve done both their group therapy courses, with mixed success.  I was told that it’s good that I’m being proactive in job hunting and contacting support organisations like Remploy (who help disabled people into work) and A S Mentoring (who offer support in the workplace for people on the autism spectrum).  I was asked what I wanted from The Network, which in my experience is what mental health service providers ask when they can’t think of anything to offer themselves; if they still have options left they tend to suggest them themselves.  I said I couldn’t think of anything.  I wasn’t sure what they actually had left to offer, plus I’m autistically bad with open questions like that.

I cried on the bus home without really knowing why, although I did at least manage to do some Torah study too.  It was hard, as I was feeling too depressed to read.

***

When I got home I wanted to work on the job application I started the other day, but I couldn’t log into the site even though I was 90% sure I had the right password.  I requested a single-use password to login and change my password, but didn’t receive one.  I emailed for help, but by that stage it was after office hours, so I don’t hold out hope of being able to access it today.  Interviews are on the week beginning 8 April, so I’m guessing they want the applications in by the end of this week.  I won’t name the organisation, but it might just be a major institution whose incompetence has often been noted here in the past…  I remembered that the main section I had left was the box where I should write why I wanted to apply for the job and tried to draft a response from memory, but I would have liked to have seen the form again, especially as the job description that I have saved is very vague and I think there was a more detailed one behind the password firewall.

I did at least use the time to work on my Doctor Who book, redrafting chapter four, although I’m still frustrated by how little I’ve been able to cut and by the fact that, stylistically, it isn’t what I want it to be, but I can’t enunciate how or why.

Depressive Thoughts

(A stupid, pointless title, but I’m feeling awful.)

Last night after I blogged my mood went down quite rapidly.  I felt like I had been going flat out all week with networking workshop, Jewish Book Week, work two consecutive days and my parents away.  I just fell back into despair and lethargy and crawled into bed at midnight hoping I would wake feeling better or at least more alert.

However, I had strange dreams in the night.  First I was on the Tube and ended up helping a doctor who was helping a pregnant woman who I thought was a nun, but looked, in retrospect, like she was wearing a hijab.  I was aware that she had cut herself off from her community by getting pregnant, but I felt sorry for her.  I was worried about not getting home in time for Shabbat (the Sabbath), but was assured by the doctor that it didn’t start until 7.30pm (in reality, that won’t happen until the clocks go forward).  Then things shifted and I was in some sort of classroom (although I think I and the friends/other people with me were all adults).  A huge and intimidating man, about twice my height, stocky and with a long, thick beard was trying to test me on reading Hebrew aloud; I stumbled on this, but couldn’t convince him that this was due to social anxiety stopping me reading confidently rather than poor Hebrew literacy.  We started to daven (pray) the Friday evening service, but the intimidating teacher told us to skip Kabbalat Shabbat as it was too late.  At which point I woke up, I think.

I am not entirely sure what any of this means, although I can see that it was an anxiety dream (which may be why my sleep was not restful) with some obvious allusions: the pregnant “Muslim nun” rejected by her community represents my fears of being rejected by the frum (religious) world for being too worldly, but also by Doctor Who fandom for being too religious (she was still a nun even after presumably breaking her vow of chastity); more prosaically, the motif of being late for Shabbat reflects my fears that I’ll run late tomorrow getting ready for Shabbat by myself, plus I do still get occasional anxiety dreams about breaking Shabbat even though I’ve been shomer Shabbat, at least at a basic level, for half my life.

***

It was fortunate that I woke up when I did, as I had slept for eleven hours, dramatically oversleeping and having to rush out and skip both shaving and davening (praying) to get to my psychiatrist appointment on time, both of which I hate missing.  The radio was on in the waiting room and I found it irritating.  I don’t know why all NHS and social services waiting rooms seem to have TV or radio on these days.  I find it really annoying and it’s not terribly autistic-friendly.  It was a new psychiatrist as the one I saw last time is ill.  The appointment was OK, but I felt that I was just a statistic on the waiting list being processed.  She didn’t ask about my case history or the causes of my problems and didn’t seem terribly aware that I’ve been depressed without cure for most of the last sixteen years or more.  Maybe she didn’t know.  I didn’t say anything about autism, because the last psychiatrist was dismissive of it, saying I’d already been assessed and told I was not autistic.  My GP has sent my autism referral through and I’m on the (very long) waiting list, so there didn’t seem any point talking to this psychiatrist about it at this stage, although I did get vaguely upset when she said that social contact will get easier the more I practise it.  For a neurotypical person, maybe, not for someone whose brain isn’t wired to understand people.  The psychiatrist was also a bit blasé about my work issues, saying I would find part-time work easily.  I didn’t ask for a medication change, as the clomipramine seems to work a bit, sometimes, even though it still leaves me quite depressed and has led to a lot of weight gain.  I don’t think it’s particularly sensible to mess around with medication while I’m working if I can help it anyway.  I have another appointment for three months time, so I’ll see what happens and maybe ask to change things then.

***

In the afternoon I did not do much, but was busy with my job application spreadsheet, which I keep up to date, even though I have not actually applied for anything for weeks and have missed a lot of deadlines, alongside a few other chores.  I was hoping to work on one or both of my books too, but I didn’t get the chance again.  I’m so busy just surviving from day to day that I don’t have time for anything more future-orientated, whether writing books or job hunting.  I didn’t actually achieve much today, but I didn’t really relax and get the rest I need either.  Maybe I will be able to rest over Shabbat, but who knows?

***

Looking at job adverts again today brings back my work worries.  I know I’m over-qualified for my job, which is not too difficult, and although there are harder elements (choosing appropriate material for exhibitions is difficult but interesting, although it would help if I knew the collection better, but my background in history has been very useful here and won me praise from my line manager).  But the whole reason I like my job is because it’s not pushing me too hard right now, when I am struggling with self-esteem and energy and motivation issues as well as confusion about whether I’m autistic and how I should live my life if I am, as well as how to manage my mental health (with or without autism).  I don’t know what to do.

***

The work worries bleed into relationship worries, because I don’t think anyone will date me until I’m working much closer to full-time.  I know that I could still get married at some point, but it seems a long way off, which in turn makes having children (which I really want to do and think about a lot) less likely.  But it’s the loneliness that is so hard, and difficult to survive.  It’s probably loneliness more than anything that has triggered my suicidal times, even if it gets mixed up with despair and hard to isolate.  I don’t know how to survive the ten or twenty (or thirty or forty) years that I might have to wait until I’m functional enough to look for love and to meet someone who can see past my considerable dysfunctionality and all the baggage and drawbacks I come with.

I just wish I had people to talk to who understood me.  It’s been hard to talk to my parents lately, which is probably my fault.  I get irritable and sarcastic when I’m depressed, not to mention focused on catastrophising.  But my parents don’t entirely understand depression or autism entirely, although their understanding is greater than some people’s.  That’s not their fault, but it makes it hard.

I have friends who understand depression and autism and care about me, but they don’t live locally and I can only communicate via text and email, which is better than nothing, but also lacks something somehow, even to a socially anxious and avoidant person like me.  My local friends don’t really know so much about my issues, for various reasons, again, largely my fault.

I just wish there was someone in my life who cared about me and understood me and I could see regularly (and feel comfortable seeing regularly).  I know I depend too much on other people for my self-esteem, but I don’t know how to change that and I get annoyed by people who aren’t lonely telling me I have to love myself before anyone else can love me.  I could just as easily state that other people have to show me I’m worthy of love before I can love myself, because I don’t see myself as worthy.

***

On a related note, my sister phoned tonight to see how I’m getting on without my parents.  I struggled a bit to deal with the call.  I find that usually happens when she phones me.  I thought it was because she usually interrupts dinner/Doctor Who, but I wonder if it’s an autistic predictability thing and I would cope better if she told me in advance that she was planning to phone at a particular time on a particular day.  Still, I think she takes better care of me than I would be able to do if our roles were reversed.  Maybe I couldn’t cope with someone in my life who cared about me and understood me.

***

About 8pm, I was watching Doctor Who and noticed that I was crying.  I thought it was odd, as I didn’t consciously feel depressed.  Then about twenty minutes later, I realised I was depressed, painfully depressed and sad.  It’s strange how out of touch I am with my emotions.

***

I read a davar Torah (Torah insight) sent out by my shul (synagogue) for Rosh Chodesh Adar II (New Moon) upset me.  I felt I was being attacked and to some extent deserved to be attacked.  I don’t really know what ‘spirituality’ or ‘Jewish spirituality’ means any more, if I ever did.  I try to study some Torah every day and pray at least a bit of the three daily prayer services (although I often miss Shacharit on non-work days like today).  I want to be a good Jew, but I don’t really connect with HaShem (God) or Torah much these days emotionally.  I certainly can’t find “authentic spiritual joy” for Purim.  It’s just a struggle to get through Purim in one piece.  I want to be a good Jew, but it’s hard enough trying to perform the mitzvot (commandments) in my situation without worrying about kavannah (mindfulness), spirituality, meaning or connection to HaShem.

Then shiur (religious class) tonight was about genuine joy being connecting to HaShem via Torah, but we get distracted by false pleasures.  This might reinforce my feeling that I’m depressed because I’m a bad person and God hates me, which I hadn’t felt quite so much recently.  I think I might have missed the point of the shiur, though, or wilfully misinterpreted it to make myself feel bad.

Whether I misinterpreted things or not, I feel that I’m a bad person and a bad Jew who doesn’t connect with HaShem through davening, mitzvot and especially not through Torah and who is wasting his life on meaningless transitory pleasures like Doctor Who and writing (despite this I am still thinking of cosplaying (dressing up as a fictional character) the fourth Doctor for Purim, but I might not have the guts to do it).

So much of Jewish religiosity is tied up with community, which is problematic for me because of social anxiety and low self-esteem (it’s feeling that people would reject me  if they knew the real me that keeps me away more than actual experience of rejection), and with family, which is difficult for me because my parents don’t connect with Judaism in the same way as me and because when Jews say “family” they primarily mean spouse and children (maybe most non-Jews think like that too).

The silly thing is that I really believe intellectually, I just can’t connect emotionally with my religion, perhaps through depression (or autism?).

***

I can’t believe anyone reads this rubbish I write.  I shouldn’t write it, but I need to vent and here you go.  I suppose it’s better than hurting myself, at least assuming it isn’t just a very clever and complicated way of hurting myself, which might in fact be the case.

“You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again.”

I’m very tired after a difficult few days (with more stress to come in the next few days), so I’m just listing a few things from today with one slightly longer reflection.

I had a disturbing dream last night.  I even know what inspired it: an episode of Jonathan Creek, although why my unconscious mind waited a month since I watched the episode before forcing it on me is a mystery.  Perhaps because of this, I woke tired and struggled through the early morning.

***

I had to fight my religious OCD last night and today.  It’s generally under control, but I know that I can easily slip back into it, particularly when tired, stressed, hungry or depressed, so I have to keep on fighting, which can be draining when combined with my other issues.

***

I had some success using CBT techniques to ignore or challenge negative thoughts about myself (thoughts that my colleague hated me and my insistence on precisely following security procedure with the rare books).

***

One of my other colleagues congratulated me on my book choices for yesterday’s exhibition saying they were powerful and she was still thinking about them.

***

I had a migraine by the time I finished work again.  I’m not sure why I keep getting them lately.  It may be because I work so long without breaks.  I worked for three hours without much of a break this morning and four hours after lunch, with one or two toilet breaks, but no food breaks and little or no water because of the fact that I’m not supposed to bring food or drink near the rare books.  This was after deciding that the basement was too hot to work in and taking the books up to the office despite the extra time taken in the hope I wouldn’t get a headache from the heat.  Then again, one of the migraines was not at work, so I could be seeing patterns where there are none.  I felt so bad that when the working day finished I stayed in the staff room for a long time because I was worried that I would throw up on a hot and crowded Tube train.  Eventually I felt well enough to come home, by which time the Tube was less crowded and I got a seat easily, but I had to walk home from the station as my parents had gone out.

***

I listened to/watched three of the four episodes of The Celestial Toymaker today “listened” because 97 episodes of 1960s Doctor Who survive only as off-air audio recordings made by fans in the days before home video.  Listening at least meant that I could do something when I was in the staff room with a migraine.  The Celestial Toymaker is one of my least favourite stories, but I found a nugget of new insight for my book, so it was worth it.

***

The more likely it seems that I’m on the autistic spectrum, the easier it gets to “forgive” myself for not having the lifestyle I “should” have (career, spouse, children) or the religious life I “should” have (career, spouse, children again; plus daven (pray) more often, at greater length, with greater kavannah (mindfulness) and with a minyan (community); study more Torah, especially more Talmud; and improve my character traits more).  I don’t know why depression on its own was not enough to make me forgive myself, but somehow with autism, depression, social anxiety and occasional OCD, I feel I have a “reason” to be where I am.

I do feel a bit like I have to constantly reinvent the wheel every day, though.  Every day I have to learn how to cope and be Jewish with autism and depression.  The fact that I managed it yesterday is no guarantee that I can manage it again today.  The quote that came into my head today, even though I don’t like football, was England manager Alf Ramsey to the team before extra time in the 1966 World Cup final: “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again.”  That’s how it feels, that every day I have to learn how to win, how to be me, how to be depressed and autistic and Jewish and survive, and then the next day I have to do it all over again.

Anxiety and Progress

I stayed up late last night watching The Dalek Invasion of Earth for research for my Doctor Who book.  Realistically, it was probably too much Doctor Who in one go (two and a half hours), but I just want to get the rest of my research out of the way so I can get to work on redrafting for style rather than content and also so that I can watch something other than 1960s Doctor Who, which I’ve been watching for nearly five months, albeit interrupted for a while by Sherlock and Jonathan Creek.  I worked out that at my current rate I should be able to finish my research within five weeks, just in time for Purim (and, currently, the ending of my contract at work) if all goes well.  We shall see.  It’s become a slog, though, which is sad.  When I started my research for the book in 2016, watching Doctor Who in order from the first episode until I caught up with the ongoing TV series for Twice Upon a Time at the end of 2017, I mostly enjoyed it.  But this is too recent to my last viewing and I’m too impatient to finish the second draft and get on to the third draft.  I did at least finish the second draft of another chapter today; just three more to go.

I’m also trying to cram in a skim reading of Inside the TARDIS by James Chapman (a cultural studies history of Doctor Who).  I read it when it was published many years ago and my memory is that a lot of it is repetition of established fan interpretations, some of which I am challenging or developing in my book, so it probably won’t be that helpful, but it’s worth skimming as I have a copy.

***

I had anxiety dreams last night.  Ever since I became shomer Shabbat (keeping the Sabbath) about twenty years ago I’ve had occasional anxiety dreams about breaking Shabbat.  They’ve never gone away despite my being shomer Shabbat (at least at a basic level – it took me a while to learn all the details) for so long.  Last night’s dream had added shul (synagogue) anxiety too, perhaps a product of my thinking about why I struggle to go to shul on Shabbat mornings.

I was in my parents’ shul for some reason (although it didn’t look like their shul) on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and my Dad was warden (as he was in our old shul years ago before we moved).  For some reason I had my phone with me, even though carrying phones is forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov (festivals) and I had some legitimate, life-threatening reason to carry it, but no one else knew that, so I wanted to put it somewhere safe where no one would hear it if it rang which resulted in my literally running out of shul during Kol Nidre (the opening of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) prayers even though it was clearly Rosh Hashanah and people were drinking unlike Yom Kippur) and someone saw the phone, I think, and I ran home to hide it… it all got rather confused, and there’s a lot of detail that I’m skipping over as irrelevant, but I suppose underneath it was about feeling that I might have legitimate reasons not to go to shul or participate in the community in certain ways because of depression, autism and social anxiety, but that other people would not understand and maybe that my current shul isn’t 100% right for me, but it’s the best option at the moment.

***

I woke up feeling anxious about work, which was a little surprising – I mean surprising that I was feeling anxious about work and not shul.  There’s one task I have to do at work about which I worry that I did not write down clear enough instructions for myself; I mentioned it to my line manager that I was worried that I was not doing it correctly, and she felt that I probably was doing it OK as it is not a very difficult task, just a time-consuming and boring one.  But I still can’t shake the feeling I’m missing out a step, even though I can’t think what that step could be.  This is probably just anxiety too.  I’m not sure that it would be a good idea to seek further reassurance from my line manager, both from a work point of view and because it would probably further stimulate any anxiety.  I don’t know why I woke up thinking about it after a completely different anxiety dream, unless it’s that all my anxieties are linked somehow, or at least that feeling anxious about one thing can quickly lead to feeling anxious about another.

***

I’m off soon to a monthly Doctor Who pub quiz.  I wanted to go last month, but got a bit overwhelmed by anxiety, depression and the need to get up early the next day for my well-being course.  I hope to actually make it there today, although I’m a bit nervous about being in a pub full of strangers (bar one friend who I know is going).  I don’t think I’ve been in a pub for about fifteen years and wonder what I will make of the noise given my growing awareness of my issues with noise.

Communication Problems

Shabbat was stressful in several respects.  After shul on Friday night, the person who invited me for dinner a couple of weeks ago invited me again, that evening or next week.  I can’t really handle the super-laid-back nature of many frum Jews with regard to sudden changes of plan (aren’t religious people supposed to be control freaks?).  Autistic people are not good at last minute plan changes.  I didn’t want to go to his house without telling my parents and I felt I had a reason not to go next week, but I couldn’t remember what it was.  It was only later that I remembered that I had the first session of my new course at The Network on Friday morning and that’s likely to leave me drained for the rest of the day.  But I couldn’t really hear everything he was saying to me anyway, partly because I was getting overwhelmed by the amount of noise in the room, partly because of my social anxiety.  When I’m talking to someone I’m nervous about talking to, my internal monologue starts saying stuff like, “Oh no, someone’s talking to me, what if I say the wrong thing?  What if he thinks I’m crazy?”  It’s hard to hear anything over that, let alone to respond appropriately.  I would like to be friends with this person, though, especially if he really wants to be friends with me and isn’t just doing it as a mitzvah (commandment/good deed) because I’m single.  He may even know a single woman to match me up with, although to be honest it’s doubtful that many of the people he or  his wife know that are our age are single.

***

When I got home I had a conversation with my father that was awkward for other reasons.  I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really communicate well at the moment.  I find his rambling, discursive mode of conversation confusing while I think he finds me curt and pedantic (which is probably not untrue).  I’m trying to sound less blunt, but it’s hard.  I’m really not expecting anything to change here until my parents go to an workshop for families of people with autism in about three weeks time.

Anyway, Dad asked me how old my line manager is and I said I can’t tell, which surprised him, although I thought he might have remembered that I can’t really estimate ages at all.  Then he asked if I’m enjoying my work and I said I don’t know.  I suppose he was more justified in being surprised at that answer, but I really don’t know if I’m enjoying it.  I didn’t even try to explain alexithymia (difficulty knowing or understanding one’s emotions) to him as I could see that being a difficult struggle, but I just tried to say that it keeps me occupied, but is pretty menial work, albeit that I get paid quite well because it’s a role that requires care and responsibility in handling rare books and documents.  Still, it was once again hard to help him to understand my worldview.

***

After dinner I tried reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.  I like Le Guin, but I just can’t get in to this book, which is probably more a product of the various things going on in my life right now rather than the book itself.  After a while I gave up and carried on with The Complete Peanuts instead (I’m up to volume four, covering 1958-1959).  While it would be a stretch to read too much in to it, in terms of mental illness, Charles Schulz really knew how to express loneliness and life’s disappointments, but somehow he made us laugh at them.

***

I went to bed early for a Friday, hoping that I would get up early and go to shul for the first time on Shabbat morning in over a year.  However, although I briefly woke up early, I fell asleep again.  I don’t know how much of that is laziness, depression or social anxiety keeping me away from shul.

***

While I was asleep I had a dream that two orangutans were living on the roof of our house.  However, these orangutans were very carnivorous, grabbing birds and squirrels and killing them by smashing them hard against the windows before eating them.  I was going to call the RSPCA to get rid of them, but conversations about this had to be conducted in whispers at the other end of the house to prevent the orangutans hearing, as they could speak English; one had a pipe in his mouth, but I don’t think he actually smoked it.  I have no idea what on earth this dream might mean.

***

My parents hosted a supper quiz at home tonight for a charity.  It’s an annual event.  People host friends at their home and different homes compete.  They open the envelope of questions at 8pm and have three hours to enter them online.  Most of the questions are lateral-thinking ones rather than general knowledge to prevent people Googling the answers.  I used to join them sometimes, but these days I get put off by the numbers (usually around twenty people, although this year it’s fewer) and the fact that I can’t really answer lateral thinking questions, only general knowledge ones.  There’s a house in Oxfordshire that seems to win ever single year.  At any rate, the house was crowded tonight.  I’m hiding in my room with Doctor Who, both watching it and typing up over a week’s worth of notes for my book.

***

Tomorrow I’m off to my sister’s in-laws for her mother in-law’s birthday party.  It was delayed as she (my sister’s mother-in-law) is very ill.  I’m nervous, as I’m not going to know many people there and I’m worried that, although the food is being provided by a kosher caterer, I may have kashrut OCD issues.  I’ve been told I can leave early; fortunately there’s a bus that stops at the bottom of their road that, after a long journey, does eventually stop near our house, so I can get home easily, albeit not quickly.

***

Thought: I’ve had crushes that went nowhere on lots of women who I thought were perfect for me, but who would, in retrospect would have been terrible for me.  Does this mean that God is saving someone amazing for me?  Or that there isn’t anyone in the world who could possibly be right for me?  The latter seems more logical, especially as if someone is amazing for me, I would (in fairness) have to be amazing for her, and I can’t see myself be amazing for anyone, certainly not in the next five to ten years.

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.

Fear and Loathing in the Frum Community

Tonight seems to be the quiet before the storm.  I’m going to try to see my sister’s mid-renovation house tomorrow, even though I’m not entirely happy about it and even though I feel a little grumpy that my parents say I have to “show an interest” in my sister by going to see her house, even though it’s not finished, despite the fact that they still haven’t read the little leaflet I gave them about autism, which to me seems a bigger thing.  I asked my parents if they had read the leaflet, and where it was (as it wasn’t where I left it in the lounge, placed there so they would see it on Shabbat (the Sabbath) when they have time to read without distractions) and was told that they haven’t read it and that it is somewhere on my Mum’s desk, which is a bit like saying that the boat vanished somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, as stuff on Mum’s desk just disappears in the mess.

Then later in the week, on Monday and Wednesday, I have the first two sessions of my  “Action for Wellbeing” class on coping with depression and on Tuesday and Thursday I’m starting my new job.  Also, on Monday evening I have a phone appointment with my GP about my autism referral and I’m rather nervous about what he will say and whether he will agree to refer me for an assessment.  So, I’m very nervous about all of these things.

Anyway, my parents are at the theatre tonight, so I’m home alone and free to do what I want really for the last time this week.

I had an anxiety dream about work last night, dreaming I was working in a library and feeling that I was enjoying it for once and getting on well with my colleagues, but my contract still didn’t get renewed.  Mixed in with this was more surreal stuff, like spiders laying giant eggs, an episode from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy about Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia (one of my favourite novels, but an odd thing to turn up in a dream about work) and some kind of student art exhibition.  No idea what the rest of that signifies, but the work fears are pretty obvious.

I spent Shabbat feeling quite angry, partly with my parents (who didn’t take the hint that I wanted them to read the autism leaflet), partly with the Jewish community, particularly the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world I seem to have somehow found myself in despite not considering myself fully a member of it.  For the record, I think both the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds have problems and each could learn things from the other (I won’t go into detail here as it would take too long and probably not be of interest, but in short the Modern Orthodox world doesn’t take religion seriously enough while the Charedi world doesn’t take the world outside Orthodoxy seriously at all).  While the Modern Orthodox world is somewhat receptive to criticism, the Charedi world sees any criticism from the outside and most criticism from the inside as unjustified and the product of hatred of religion or antisemitism, so things are not likely to change in any good way.  Unfortunately,  the demographics mean that the non-Charedi world (Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox) is in decline while the Charedi world is growing and will soon dominate Jewish life globally, which is not something I’m looking forward to.

I don’t know what any of this means for me, trying to find a place in a community that will accept me and is reasonably accepting of me, as well as providing friends and a wife and schools that I see as giving a reasonable (i.e. not totally brainwashed fundamentalist) education to my children.

Somewhat related to this fear of not fitting in: at Talmud shiur this afternoon, the assistant rabbi asked if I had a cold as I wasn’t in shul (synagogue) this morning.  I do have a cold, but I was absent because of depression and social anxiety, but I didn’t say that.  I also didn’t say that I’ve been to shul in the morning only once or twice in the last year or more, but only a couple of people really noticed.  I think I was only noticed today because the shamash (the person responsible for the practical running of the service) was asking where I was, I assume because he realised I haven’t had an aliyah to the Torah for a long time as I can’t think why else he would be looking for me.

Part of the issue with having a chronic, but invisible illness like depression is that even people who know about it forget about it (I have told the assistant rabbi a little in the past about my depression).  People don’t generally notice my absence; when they do and ask me about it, I don’t know what to say.  Maybe it’s my social anxiety speaking, but it’s hard to casually drop major depression into the conversation.  Even if I wasn’t afraid of stigma and incomprehension (and I am), it’s just a big thing to casually mention.  Maybe it doesn’t help that my autism means that I’ve had to learn the rules of conversation by rote and by trial and error and I have never learnt a ‘safe’ way to mention my depression easily; I don’t have the social intuition to know what I can say and when I can say it.

On a related note, there is an oneg (Shabbat party/social event thing) next Friday evening.  It’s a cross-shul thing so in theory people from all fifteen or so Orthodox shuls in the area could be there.  Usually I feel like I have to force myself to these things, but then I stand outside crying and overwhelmed with social anxiety or go inside, sit rigidly and anxiously, full of social anxiety, not talking to anyone, eating too many crisps and nuts, refusing alcohol (whisky is a big part of these things), not knowing any of the songs, sometimes having issues with the religious speakers, then making an excuse after an hour or so and leave.  Plus, the person whose house it is being held at is someone I have to confess I feel deeply envious of: about my age, married with a pretty wife and several cute young children and a large house.  I feel I will never have any of these things (yes, I know, he could have some major tragedy or struggle in his life that I don’t know about.  That’s not my point, though).  But not going feels like chickening out, is bound to upset my parents, and will just make me more sure than ever that I will never fit in to the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, never make friends and never be known enough to be set up on dates with women (the main way of meeting someone in the frum world).  I don’t know what to do.

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.

The K is for Kindred

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

“Good Ol’ Charlie Brown… How I hate him”

I seem to be stuck in a rut, getting neither better nor worse.  Last night in shul (synagogue) I was thinking of writing a bitter, sarcastic post about not fitting into the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, but today I don’t feel so bitter, although I’m still pessimistic.  The frum world is a community where one fits in largely by contributing.  There are various different roles available, but I can’t find one that suits me.  I don’t earn enough to be a big philanthropist, I don’t have the confidence to lead services (although I have in the past), my social anxiety keeps me away from a lot of chessed (social care) opportunities and so on…  I feel there must be something I’m good at that contributes meaningfully, but I can’t find it.  Even my blog seems to be read more by non-Jews than Jews, which wasn’t really what I expected (I think the number of Jewish blogs has declined in recent years, but that could be a subjective impression or reflective of my own reading habits.  They may have been crowded out by professional or semi-professional sites like HevriaTabletThe Wisdom Daily and Mosaic.)

Today yet again I knew answers in shiurim (religious classes), but was too shy to speak up.  There’s a guy in one shiur I go to who seems to like the sound of his own voice too much.  He knows a lot, but he does speak more than anyone else, both asking and answering questions (and sometimes answering questions that were asked of the rabbi before he can answer).  This is starting to really annoy me, but I’m sure it’s only because his over-answering throws makes my shyness look even worse.

I spoke to my parents about dating last night.  It was a mistake, because it was me playing ‘Ain’t it awful’ again and getting annoyed when the disagreed, but I guess some good came out of it.  First, my Mum said that the woman she was trying to set me up with lives in America, so I’m not quite sure why she even got mentioned.  I asked my parents if they thought I would ever get married and they both said yes.  I knew my Dad would, because he’s dreamt about my being married and having children, and he thinks his dreams are precognitive (I disagree).  I still don’t think I’m going to get married, but in the course of the discussion we did come up with the name of one Modern Orthodox rabbi (and Doctor Who fan) who might be able to find me a suitable shadchan.  It does seem hard though as I have two separate (although not contradictory) set of criteria: within the category of frum women, I want to find someone who is geeky (or at least tolerates my geekiness), but I also need to find someone who accepts my mental health issues.  It’s hard to go in both directions at the same time.  My Mum tried to encourage me to go back to dating websites or to try dating apps, but I’m wary of them.  My experience was that dating websites are expensive and, for whatever reason, women were generally not interested in me (either in contacting me or responding to emails I sent them), although to be fair I met my first girlfriend through J-Date.  I actually had more success on J-Date than I did on J-Wed (which is a more specifically frum site geared particularly for dating for marriage rather than just looking to date generally), which seemed counter-intuitive.  Mind you, I’m not sure whether I had a reasonable sample size in terms of numbers of people and amount of time I was on there.  I still don’t think they’re the way to find geeky and/or mental health-tolerant individuals, although I’m not sure what a better way to do that would be.

I read various online cartoons every day.  I saw a Peanuts cartoon today (obviously not a new new one, but one newly on this site) where Peppermint Patty refers to Charlie Brown as “boring, dull, wishy-washy ol’ Chuck” and says that no one could love him,  not knowing that he is hiding nearby.  I feel that one could say the same things about me.  Actually the very first Peanuts cartoon reads “Well!  Here comes ol’ Charlie Brown!  Good ol’ Charlie Brown!  Yes, sir!  Good ol’ Charlie Brown… How I hate him!”  I worry that that’s me too.

(It also slightly disturbs me nowadays that all the children in Peanuts are in love with each other.  Patty loves Charlie Brown, Sally is in love with Linus (“My sweet babboo”), Lucy is in love with Schroeder and of course Charlie Brown is in love with the Little Red-Haired Girl who we never see.  (The bird Woodstock once tragically fell in love with a worm.)  This never bothered me as a child, but it does bother me as an adult.  I also have a horrible feeling that one day I’m going to buy the Complete Peanuts books, which run to twenty-five volumes and will cost serious £££ (that’s serious $$$$$ if you’re American).

A couple of people have told me lately that I’m a good person.  I find that really hard to believe, especially as no one ever gives me concrete examples of the good things I’m supposed to have done.  I don’t know why they believe I’m a good person; it’s certainly not a belief I’ve ever tried to spread.  And I think about sex far too much for a frum person, although to be fair people who don’t read my blog won’t know that, as I don’t talk about sex at all.

I had a weird dream last night.  I don’t remember all the details, but my boss from my old job was my step-mother (yuk!) and she was telling me off for various things and I answered her back and said she had no right to tell me what to do.  I’m hoping that means that my resolution to reduce my negative self-talk has gone down to a deep level, although so far all I’ve really been able to do is try to be consciously aware of my self-critical thoughts rather than challenge them.  I still worry that if I don’t beat myself up all the time, I’m going to turn into a narcissist.  I did just send an email to find out if a nearby therapy centre could potentially offer me CBT for my low self-esteem.

Tomorrow I’m writing a job application and talking to my rabbi mentor and, if I get time, trying to catch up with the pile of stuff that has built up over the Yom Tov (festival) period.  The job actually looks like a good one, primarily cataloguing, fairly easy commute and well-paid, but full time, which would be hard.

New Doctor Who in less than twenty-four hours…

Stuff and Nonsense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Love

I dreamt about someone last night.  I’m not quite sure how to describe her relationship to me.  I have described her as the first person I really loved, but I’m sure lots of people would take issue with that and say it was just infatuation, that as we were never in a real relationship, I could never have loved her.  At any rate, she was the first woman I asked out, when I was nineteen and at Oxford.  She turned me down.  She just wanted to be friends, except eventually she couldn’t cope with my mental health issues, particularly my suicidality and broke off the friendship, going so far as to cut me dead in the street and at Jewish Society meetings.  Which made me angry at the time, but I can understand it now.  I worry that all my relationships and friendships will end up like this eventually.

I dream about my first love a lot and rarely, if ever, about any of my other lost loves, so I think my subconscious tends to use her as a shorthand for all of them.  Which is a bit lazy of my subconscious, when you think about it.  It’s not like it would take much effort to whip up the dream form of anyone else.  Maybe it’s been long enough that I can cope with her better than with the others, although given that when I get depressed and lonely, I tend to google her (as I did the other day), I still may not be entirely over her, fifteen years on.

Apparently she now works for a charity that provides counselling and mentoring to teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds.  I wonder whether her experience with me influenced that job decision.

I dreamt that I met her again and she was divorced (in the real world, I believe she is married with a couple of children) and basically hinted that she was interested in me.  I think she touched me in a U-rated, but interested way.  Despite the fact that we had both clearly moved on from Oxford, we were back there, although I think the Jewish Society from my Oxford days merged with my current shiur (religious class) crowd.

The romantic side of the dream petered out into an anxiety dream about exams.  I don’t know why I was dreaming about exams; again, it was probably standing in for general anxiety.  I was worried I was going to fail my finals, because I hadn’t really looked at the work for years.  (This may have been triggered by finding an A4 ringbinder full of my old tutorial essays from Oxford and not knowing whether to throw it out or not.  It’s currently sitting on my floor, awaiting a decision.)  I think I must have woken up at this point.  My dreams tend not to have clear plots anyway, but to just flow from one thing to another in a way that makes them hard to recall on waking.

The fact that I googled her recently, along with find the Oxford work probably explains the dream, that and the fact that even fifteen years on, when I have dated (a little bit) and had two relationships, I still don’t really have my love life sorted out, at a time when most of my peers, even many of the non-frum ones, are settled.  As I’ve said, I can’t really ever see myself matched off and happy.  I don’t think anyone could be happy with me.  In the last eighteen months or so, I’ve dated someone who was OK with my mental health, but not with my geeky interests, someone who was OK with my geeky interests, but not my mental health and someone who was OK with neither (probably – it wasn’t clear) and someone who was OK with my interests and, broadly speaking, with my mental health, but needed me to have a full-time job because she also wasn’t well enough, emotionally, to be the main breadwinner.  Not to mention the super-frum woman who I was supposed to be set up with who spent a month trying to investigate me to see if I was suitable to even go out on a date with her (I eventually gave up waiting) and a couple of women who sent mixed signals, but things never went anywhere.  All of which convinced me that frum women who might be a match for me religiously aren’t interested in me because of my geekiness and religious non-conformity; that only women with emotional issues of their own will be able to see past mine, but that would not make for a good match; and no one is going to be interested in me unless I can get a full-time job and support a family, which may never happen and certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon, probably not soon enough for me to be able to have children.  Which is sad, but I’m not sure what I can do.  In Judaism, we believe in miracles, but we’re forbidden to pray for them.

I feel there ought to be some concluding paragraph here, but maybe it’s appropriate that it just tails off, unfinished, because that’s how so many of my relationships tend to feel, unfinished, things unsaid and undone, not least that non-relationship from Oxford.

Fear and Self-Loathing in North-West London

It was not a good Shabbos (Shabbat/Sabbath).  Over Friday night dinner, I spoke to my parents about my job situation for longer than I intended.  That at least went OK.  I think they understood where I was coming from more.  Mum was upset that I said in my blog post earlier in the week (I sent her the link and she read it) that they weren’t empathetic about my worries about my ability to do the job I’m being offered, saying they were just trying to get me to see the positive side because I have low self-esteem (more on which below).  The one really useful thing that came up was that someone (I think my Mum) suggested trying to find a careers adviser to find out what practical steps I should take regarding writing or researching.

I got to bed at a reasonable time, shortly after midnight, which is good for a midsummer Shabbat (when I don’t even get home from shul (synagogue) until 8.30pm followed by a three course dinner which takes a while even if we don’t stop between courses for said long conversation about my career).  But I slept through the whole morning, missing shul yet again, and, as my parents were out for lunch, I slept until gone 2.00pm, got up, forced myself to eat some cereal to try to get some energy, failed to get energy and went back to bed for a while.  I then slept for two or three hours after lunch, so I’m unlikely to sleep much tonight.  I think the combination of heat and depression was not good for me.  I also had weird dreams.  They were  too stream of consciousness-style to adequately describe, but they were clearly anxiety dreams, at least on some level, about being a writer/researcher focusing on Doctor Who, about my holiday in New York and fears of getting lost or being mugged and about my worries about the political situation in Israel.  One thing that probably doesn’t come across on this blog that maybe did on earlier ones (for the two people still following me from my first blog) is that I tend to take antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict very seriously and act as if I could stop them, if only I could understand and explain them properly, which is flawed on many levels.  (There is a psychological term that I can’t remember for thinking that tragic global events are your fault, but that’s not quite what I mean.)

Speaking of which, I was reflecting that some people with depression get depersonalisation, where they feel like a detached observer of themselves.  I have had this in the past, occasionally tied in with possible psychotic mini-episodes (mini because only lasting a couple of seconds), but most often I get the reverse.  I guess that would solipsism, for want of a better word, where my sense of existence and my thought processes are so absorbing that it’s hard to really remember that the rest of the world exists.  I guess that would probably be an autistic thing as much as a depressive one.  My inner monologue is very “loud,”  for want of a better word, and I often want to compare it with that of other people, out of curiosity and a bit of arrogance as much as anything.  Am I more self-critical, self-aware, intellectual, profound than other people?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I got up so late and was so depressed and exhausted, that I missed Shacharit (the morning service) entirely and did a tiny bit of Musaf (the extra Shabbat service, normally said right after Shacharit) at 7.30pm, which is probably some kind of a record.  I did make it to shul in the evening for shiur (Talmud class) and Mincha, seudah, the other shiur and Ma’ariv (the afternoon service, the third Sabbath meal, another class and the evening service).  I felt pretty bad during, and probably as a result of, the second shiur.  I just feel so inadequate.

This feeling of inadequacy is usually partly because of my  career issues and single state (the fact that Talmud shiur was partly on why praying to have a good (=righteous, I guess/hope) wife is the most important thing anyone can pray for (according to one rabbi)) didn’t help.  However, today it was more about my moral and religious standing.  I just feel so wicked and reprehensible.  The other people at shul all seem to be more or less sorted religiously and working on very trivial aspects of their personality and divine service and I’m performing pretty much every major aveirah (sin) and missing out most of the positive mitzvot (commandments).  I feel everyone would be disgusted with me if they knew what I think and do.

I once asked my rabbi mentor (who knows most of my bad side) if he thinks I’m a good person/Jew, but his counselling training kicked in and he just turned the question around and asked me what type of person I think I am.  I just feel like such a lousy person.  E. said I had lots of good points, but they ultimately weren’t enough.  My Mum only came up with two good points that I have yesterday.  I think that’s probably stretching it a bit.  I don’t really feel that I have any good points, even on a secular ‘being a good person’ level, let alone a frum (religious) ‘keeping taryag mitzvot’ (all the commandments) level.  If I have not done anything absolutely awful (and I think I probably have, on balance), it’s only from lack of opportunity.

It’s funny, in a strange way.  I’ve never really known what I want to do on a career level or had any ambitions in that sense, but for years I’ve wanted to be a tzaddik (saintly person), but the more I try, the further away I realise I am.  Sadly, you can’t go to a careers advisor to learn how to be a tzaddik.  I guess you would have to go to yeshiva or to a rebbe.  I’m not sure that’s a guarantee of anything though, as I’ve seen some people who come out of yeshiva with flaws.

Ugh, this is turning into a silly rambling post.  Matthue Roth (author of several books I should read, but haven’t yet) once told me off on Hevria.com for calling my writing ‘bilge.’  But this post really is bilge.

Elementary Success and Elementary Errors

“Like most people who lead a lonely life, she was shy at first, but ended by becoming extremely communicative.”  – The Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Arthur Conan Doyle

I had a weird anxiety dream last night about sitting an exam I was not prepared for, partly in French and I realised I could not remember any French.  I kept drifting into Hebrew.  We kept having to move rooms and none of the rooms was really suitable for an exam anyway, being run down at best and lacking suitable tables.  One of them looked like a shop.  Other students kept cheating without the invigilators noticing or caring, but when I couldn’t get one of the invigilators to understand my ID number and went to type it in on her computer directly, I was ‘arrested’ for cheating myself.  And there were some antisemitic students who wanted to kill me or at least threaten me.  I don’t know if this is a general anxiety exam or specifically related to having to do exam invigilation this coming term and being terrified of doing the wrong thing.  I’m specifically worried about students asking me something they shouldn’t (which apparently they do) and panicking and giving an answer instead of stonewalling.  But it could have just been an ordinary anxiety dream.  I’ve got other things to make me anxious.

The dream at least meant I was wide awake at 8.30am, even though I hadn’t got to bed much before 2.30am.  I managed to get up before 9.00, which is a recent record for a non-work day.  I started the day feeling bad and it still took me a long time to get going.  I suddenly burst into tears while eating my lunch and watching The Andromeda Breakthrough.  One minute I was OK, the next there were tears running down my face.  I have no idea what triggered it.  This usually only happens to me at work, not when I’m on holiday.

As I’m on holiday, I went to visit The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street with my Dad.  It was expensive, but I did enjoy it.  The museum basically bought period rooms in Baker Street near (but not quite at) 221b and did them up like Holmes and Watson’s rooms from the stories with some things taken from the stories (like the VR in bullet holes in the living room wall shot by Holmes when bored and wanting to do shooting practice) and others taken from the period (the slightly freaky stuffed owl in the bathroom).  I’m a big Holmes fan (incidentally, my reading of Holmes is that he’s autistic and bipolar), so I enjoyed it, but even as a collection of late-period Victoriana it was interesting.  We were allowed to take photos; I tried to take some with my phone, but I’m not sure how well they will come out as I had some tremor and the light levels weren’t great.  Afterwards my Dad and I wandered around Regents Park in the cold for a bit, but my mood was already starting to drop again and I was glad that Dad didn’t want to stay out too long.  On the train home I was largely too exhausted and depressed to read.  I started a big book about two weeks ago (Voyage by Stephen Baxter) and I’m only twenty-five pages in largely because of my mood and energy levels although I did read A for Andromeda scripts in that period and we did have Pesach too, so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

On the way home my thoughts were drifting towards loneliness and broodyness again.  There was a frum woman on the train, probably a bit younger than me, saying Tehillim (Psalms) with a toddler who looked like I did at that age (blue eyes, blonde curls) although she was a girl, which just made me feel lonely and broody.  Again.  I was thinking that Sammy Davis Junior used to say, “I’m black, Jewish and Puerto Rican, when I move into an area, I bury it!”  I must be the equivalent for the shidduch world.   I’m a borderline autistic, depressed, geeky, not particularly employable ba’al teshuva with no yichus.  The only person willing to date me would have to be so desperate that I’d have to worry what her issues were.  I would probably date her anyway, though.  This led on to thinking about my needing to make compromises to get someone to marry someone as ineligible as me and feeling that because of my autistic inflexibility, I’m not sure how many concessions I would actually be able to make (religious concessions, personal trait concessions, anything), which led on to thinking that I think my boss must regret hiring me at work, the honeymoon there having lasted somewhere between six months and a year (at the end of my six month probation period my boss said I was doing fine; six months later, she was expressing dissatisfaction with my work), so how long would the honeymoon period in a relationship last?  It probably lasted about four months in my previous relationship, although I convinced myself everything was fine until right near the end when I should have noticed the red flags much earlier.

What I’m trying to do when I feel like this is simply to acknowledge my more negative, or just plain difficult, emotions rather than repress them or fight them or label them as ‘bad’ or get caught up in fuelling them.  I’ll have to wait and see how this goes.  Certainly on the train just now, and writing here, I got carried away with the thoughts in the last paragraph rather than just noting them and trying to move on.  I feel it’s what my therapist would want, although it’s hard to tell as I’m halfway through a month-long enforced break in therapy due to bank holiday, Pesach and my therapist going on holiday.

So Lonely: Jumbled Thoughts from a Lonely Day

I’m off work today, which is probably just as well, as I need to get ready for spending Shabbat (the Sabbath) alone in my flat (usually I stay with my parents).  This can get pretty lonely.  I’ve got stuff to read: Dracula, which I am very much enjoying re-reading, the latest Doctor Who Magazine, and volume two of Vampire Knight (manga comic aimed at teenage girls (vampire romance/school story) which I can’t work out if I like.  I like the main character, but a volume and a half in, the plot is only really starting).  Still, it looks set to be a lonely Shabbat.  Most single people in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community would get themselves invited out if they were by themselves for Shabbat, but I don’t know that many people and I’ve never felt comfortable inviting myself around to people’s houses, even though I know that English and Jewish customs are at variance here and that most frum people would consider it perfectly acceptable behaviour.  Of course, eating at other people’s houses can be just as difficult for me, trading loneliness for social anxiety.

I was in bed for about twelve hours last night/this morning.  I’m not sure how long I actually slept, as I lay in bed for a while feeling too depressed and exhausted to get up and put some cereal and milk in a bowl, even though I knew I would feel better if I ate and restored my blood sugar level, but I must have been asleep for at least eleven hours, which isn’t good.  I somehow slept through the racket of building works two houses away (it’s sounds like they’re demolishing the house brick by brick).  I dreamt about Groundhog Day which wasn’t that surprising as my parents had borrowed the DVD from me and I’ve often reflected that I seem to be in a Groundhog Day-type situation of repeating the same actions again and again without breaking out of the loop, but it was disturbing to dream of myself being in such a situation for millions of years (or was it billions?) without breaking free.  That’s how I feel with my depression and loneliness.  Also some weird stuff about falling into the Thames with someone (someone female, not sure who, but I think I liked her in the dream) and her being rescued without me and (nearly?) abducted while I couldn’t do anything to save her, because I was stranded holding on to a fence that stuck out over the river (?), trying to avoid drowning.  My sister was involved too, somehow, and Jack the Ripper was in there too, for some disturbing reason.  I don’t usually remember my dreams, or only in fragments; maybe this should make me glad.

Today is Rosh Chodesh (New Moon of the Jewish month of) Adar.  The Talmud says that with the start of Adar, we increase in joy, as we head into the month of Purim, the most carnivalesque Jewish festival and then into the month of Nisan, the month of redemption and Pesach (Passover), the festival of redemption.  I, however, feel extra anxious and depressed at this time of year.  The enforced jollity of Purim sets of my depression and social anxiety.  The many commandments of Purim and especially of Pesach, set off my religious OCD.  I find the whole time of year a struggle.  Just seeing the bags of Purim food in the kosher shops just now made me feel anxious and depressed and, I suppose, lonely, knowing that most people don’t feel like this and are looking forward to spending enjoyable times with friends and family (I don’t have friends nearby to spend time with).

It occurs to me that to the lists I made about myself yesterday to try to understand what I should be doing with my life, I could add another matched pair of lists with things that are depleting and things that are restoring to me (I can’t remember where, if anywhere, I read this idea).  In the depleting box goes work, shul and pretty much all socialising.  And more or less everything else, really: housework, cooking, shopping, commuting on the Tube, davening (praying), Torah study.  In the restoring box goes a tiny amount of socialising (unfortunately it’s hard to tell in advance what will be restoring or depleting), possibly writing my blog and certainly writing my Doctor Who book (it’s telling that I work on it in my lunch break at work without worrying about my energy levels).  Also watching classic Doctor Who and some new Doctor Who (which sometimes presses a whole load of my buttons about emotional relationships, love, loneliness and not fitting in, not least when the Doctor turned into one of the kids who used to bully me at school) and watching my favourite vintage TV science fiction series on DVD.  I’m not sure where watching Sherlock fits into this, but it seems to have finished and I haven’t bought any DVDs because I can’t work out if it’s sufficiently triggering to steer clear.  And that’s pretty much all the TV I watch.  I’m not sure about recreational reading.  I do tend to like reading ‘heavy’ books (fiction or non-fiction), but I do enjoy them, even though they can feel like a slog and take ages to read because a lot of the time I don’t feel up to it.  I have some lighter reading piled up on my ‘to read’ pile, though.  Perhaps depleting and restoring in equal measure.

Hmm, looking at this, I’m really not sure how I increase the restoring activities and decrease the depleting ones, as most of the depleting ones are unavoidable and crowd out the time available for the restoring ones.

I’ve pretty much given up on waiting for the shadchanim (matchmakers) to get back to me.  As far as I can see, they aren’t interested in looking for someone for me, whether because of my geekiness, mental illness, ‘modern’ outlook or some other reason.  I don’t know where to go from here.  I could try Shidduch.im, the UK affiliate of Saw You at Sinai, which is kind of a cross between a dating site and a shadchan, inasmuch as they send you profiles each week and if you like the profile you are sent and she likes yours, you can date.  It’s a paid site, so they would be legally obliged to send me profiles each week, but there’s no guarantee they will find anyone suitable (rather than randomly matching me up to see if anything sticks) or that the woman in question would want to meet me.  I’m not sure I’m willing to pay for more rejection.

I went into the Jewish bookshop today and saw various books on dating.  The questions seem pretty remote from me.  Should you start at 22 or 25?  (I couldn’t find someone willing to go out with me until I was 27.)  What should you do if you’re dating someone, but someone else suggests someone even better-sounding to you?  (I can’t imagine that ever happening to me.)  Nothing about, “What if you’re such a freak that no one wants to set you up with anyone, let alone actually date you?”

“Where do I go from here?” is question I keep asking myself about my mental health, dating, my career and my religious practices, and I don’t have any answers at all, which is scary.  I honestly don’t know where I’ll be in one year’s time, except that I will almost certainly still be mentally ill and I hope I will still be frum, but I don’t think I can guarantee even that.  It probably isn’t true that I haven’t felt this hopeless for a long time, as I feel hopeless a lot of the time, but I haven’t felt challenged in so many ways at the same time for some years.  I keep hoping that this is the ‘darkest before dawn’ moment that always seems to come in tales of hasgacha  pratit (Divine intervention), but somehow I just bumble through without really resolving things very much, at least until the next crisis.

I want to go to my parasha shiur (weekly Torah reading class) tonight, as it’s likely to be the only really social thing I’ll manage over the next few days, but I don’t really have the energy, plus I need to cook dinner and clean the flat (which hasn’t been cleaned for weeks).  Also, the assistant rabbi always seems to ask me the hardest questions, or at least expects me to answer them, which is nice on some level (he asked me how I know so much if I didn’t go to yeshiva), but also puts me on the spot on nights like tonight when I don’t really want to be around people very much.  Can you be lonely and withdrawn at the same time?

Struggling to Understand Emotions

I wasn’t planning on writing, certainly not at midnight (1am now – writing this took a while and then I got distracted reading hilarious-but-terrifying New Yorker articles about the most powerful man in the world and his enormous ego) but I feel depressed and want to try to get my thoughts out of my head.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was hard again.  I struggled in shul (synagogue) on Friday night, feeling quite depressed and socially anxious and not really concentrating on the prayers.  I managed to avoid going to bed when I got home, which I’ve done for the last few weeks (this would be around 5pm), but I still went to bed right after dinner, about 8.30pm.  I told myself I wanted to think about things, but really I wanted to wallow in the depression and sleep.  I did both.  I woke up about an hour later, feeling bad about what I had done.  I did my hitbodedut (speaking to God).  I can’t remember what I said, but I know I spent a lot of the time crying.  I think it was loneliness and feelings of inadequacy and wanting to know that God loves me.  I went to bed late because of this.  Hitbodedut on Friday nights can be like this.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m in more of a spiritual mode or something else, but I get much more emotional and often more depressed, but also sometimes I feel some connection with HaShem (God) which I don’t normally feel.  During the week my it’s a struggle to get my hitbodedut to last the ten minutes I try to do and I’m often tired and feel like I’m talking to myself, whereas on Fridays I can speak for thirty or forty minutes and I don’t usually feel tired whatever time it is and sometimes there’s a bit of a connection.  I don’t quite know what to make of this.

Nor do I know what to make of the dreams I had last night.  I don’t normally remember my dreams, but every so often I go through phases of remembering bits and pieces of them.  I know I had odd dreams last night with religious undertones, or maybe even overtones – I don’t remember enough detail.  I woke up with a phrase in my head that I thought was a great chiddush (novel interpretation of a religious text) and its arrival in my head might just be a sign that God was communicating His love to me.  Still, I was sceptical, as I always am of things like that, and as the day wore on, the supposed chiddush seemed less and less coherent or justifiable.  Eventually I dismissed it as an irrational thought from my subconscious, perhaps trying to make myself feel better, rather than anything more supernatural.

I missed shul in the morning again.  I woke up on time, but I felt too bad to get out of bad.  I say “bad” because it’s hard for me to tell if I’m avoiding it because of exhaustion, depression or social anxiety.  I know I’m going to have to face shul again sooner or later, but I can’t find the inner strength to do so.

Another thing I don’t understand is my reaction to films.  I wrote in a previous post that this might be sensory overload in the cinema, but this evening I was watching a film on TV with my parents and felt depressed when it finished without being sure why, or even being sure of what exactly I was feeling, except knowing that it did not feel good.  Other potential reasons why the film might have upset me today was that I didn’t like it  very much (it made a mess of one of my absolute favourite novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré; read the book or watch the TV adaptation with Alec Guinness as George Smiley, very faithful to the novel and beautifully acted, unlike the film) and that I abandoned my semi-diet and had an ice cream because I was so disappointed by the film; I’ve mentioned before that I worry that eating too much sugary food can trigger a dip in my mood as my blood sugar level goes up and down and I suppose that could have happened here, although it would have had to have happened very fast.

So it’s gone 1.00am and I’m left feeling a bit tired, but not really sleepy, if that makes sense, a bit lonely and depressed and very hungry (why?!  I’ve done nothing but eat or sleep all day!), but not sure what to do about it.  I don’t know why films and theatre seem to make me depressed in way that books and TV don’t or if sugar really does affect my mood so much.  I wish I wasn’t single and alone at the moment.  I don’t really want to talk and certainly not to do anything physical, just to have someone I feel comfortable being around and being quiet with, if that makes sense.  Someone who can just accept me.  But I know that that won’t happen until I can accept myself.  The problem is that I don’t know how to do that.  I went on a self-esteem course years ago and while it did give me hints about how to say “No” and deal with recalcitrant students at work, the CBT-style hints about self-esteem (say positive affirmations about yourself, congratulate yourself on even trivial achievements) have never really helped me.  My self-loathing seems to be too deeply-rooted for anything to shift it.  Nor has years of psychotherapy helped me, leading me to fear a solitary and self-loathing existence for the rest of my life.