Much of today it felt like it has never not rained and will never not rain. I feel like that myself, like I have never not been depressed and never will not be depressed. Given that I have been depressed almost all of my adult life, maybe that’s not surprising. Still, lately I had been feeling a bit better, but apparently I still haven’t recovered from three days of Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and festival) earlier this week. I had an answer to an email about writing professionally that has just made me think I will never be able to do it, will never be able to be functional in the world of work at all. I also needed to decide if I wanted to go to a social thing on Sunday (Doctor Who quiz) without the friend who I thought might be going. I decided that I would like to go, if I there is room for me on the team, as I enjoyed it the last time I went and it’s good to do something social that isn’t shul (synagogue) or support group, but it’s another anxiety. Everything just feels too difficult right now. I didn’t go to autism group tonight, as I couldn’t face it today, especially after the last time (last time I failed to talk to anyone and left after just fifteen minutes, feeling lonely and depressed).
I think by this stage it’s obvious that there is no quick fix, or even medium term fix, for my problems. I don’t know how to survive in this world as an adult. I got stuck somewhere in adolescence. Or maybe I know how to survive, at a basic level (I haven’t actually tried to kill myself, despite coming very close sometimes, nor do I turn to substance abuse or the like to cope). But I don’t know how to thrive, which I would define as functioning in a way that I enjoy, at least on some level, rather than merely existing.
I wanted today either to go to autism group or to get a haircut, but I didn’t feel up to either (I find haircuts very stressful for autistic and social anxiety reasons as well as having problems with shaking from medication side-effects). I did manage to go for a twenty-five minute walk and to send some emails, as well as redrafting the final chapter of my Doctor Who book for half an hour or so. It’s hard to know whether to be pleased with this or not. I didn’t manage to do much today; on the other hand, I felt so depressed that I achieved far more than I thought I would when I woke up. Is that good or bad? Or both or neither?
I just want to be normal. I want to have a meaningful career and a steady income. I want to have a wife and children. I want to have friends and a community. I want to have a meaningful and enjoyable religious life, to love God and Torah and Judaism in an uncomplicated way, not a difficult and twisted one. I would like to know, at the very least, why I can’t have these things, and how to cope without them. They never taught us that at school.
Of course, there are different interpretations of ‘normal.’ I was thinking before about what ‘normal’ is for frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) men. What I feel I should be like to fit in to a community and to be marryable. These were my thoughts:
Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) man: should ideally spend all day in Talmud study, but if he has to work, should have first studied for many years in yeshiva and kollel (rabbinical seminary). Should study Talmud for two or three hours a day with a chevruta (study partner). Should daven (pray) with a minyan (community) three times a day. Should want to have eight to ten children. Should not own a TV and only use the internet for work.
Modern Orthodox man: should have a BA and if possible a higher degree. Should have studied for many years in yeshiva before qualifying for a profession, preferably law, accountancy or medicine. Should daven (pray) with a minyan (community) three times a day (unless he is a doctor). Should study Talmud for about two hours a day, ideally with a chevruta. Should want to have three or four children. May own a TV, but doesn’t have time to watch it.
Religious Zionist man: similar to Modern Orthodox men, but should live in Israel and have served in the Israeli army, perhaps becoming a career soldier. Is allowed to study Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) as well as Talmud because of its nationalistic overtones. Should want five or six children.
I’m being somewhat facetious, but this is the image I have in my head of frum men. I’m not sure how realistic this image is, but you can see why someone with depression, social anxiety and autism and everything those things entail in terms of energy, concentration, motivation, social communication issues and so on is going to struggle to compete and have feelings of low self-esteem reinforced. I do wonder how I could find out if my image is accurate. For what it’s worth, my rabbi mentor has a BA as well as smicha (rabbinic ordination), has worked in the rabbinate, the charity sector and now privately in business, has five children, but no TV. I don’t know how he would define himself, but he’s closest to Modern Orthodox.
Career-wise, I was told today that I have an interview for a job I forgot I’d applied for next week. I hope I feel somewhat better next week, as I’m in no state to prepare for an interview today. Apparently the interview includes “a five minute presentation.” It is not clear if they are presenting to me as part of the scheduled library tour before the interview, or if I am supposed to present to them, and if so, what about.
I had a positive response to some questions from one of my writing contacts about getting started. I emailed someone else with similar questions. I do feel very uncertain how to proceed. It’s scary to think of starting out on this route, but, the interview next week notwithstanding, I’m struggling to build any kind of library career, let alone a mental health and autism-friendly one. I try to focus just on the next step, but it’s hard not to think that I’m going to mess this up, just as I feel I’ve messed everything else up.
I finished reading Fatherland. It was very good and not as depressing as I thought it would be, at least for the most part. I don’t know what to read next, though. I have a long list of books to read; actually, I have several long lists on Goodreads: Want to Read; To Read Non-Fiction; To Read Torah; Part Read to Finish; and Possibly to Read, as well as books I’ve read, but want to read again, particularly if I’m older and would understand them better now than when I first read them. This is a product of a couple of factors: working in libraries for a number of years, I acquired a lot of cheap or free books, usually unwanted donations or withdrawn books; I often visit charity shops to look for bargains or just for retail therapy when depressed; on the other hand, because of the depression, I don’t often read the non-fiction or heavy fiction that sits on my shelves. I want to read more non-fiction and classic fiction. Even looking at my non-fiction list, there are lots that look interesting: Gershom Scholem on the history of Kabbalah, Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (read in conjunction with an undergraduate level introduction to The Spanish Civil War), America During the Cold War, The Islamist… In addition, I’ve long meant to re-read Great Expectations which I suspect I would understand better, psychologically, than I did when I read it as a set text for GCSEs aged fourteen or fifteen. I feel like a boy in a sweetshop, but also a boy who is aware that he might feel sick if he tries to eat too much i.e. I really might struggle with Dickens or non-fiction.
I just watch the Blake’s 7 episode that contained this line: “However much you might like to pretend you’re a loner, you’re not really.” (Terminal by Terry Nation). Just going to leave that hanging there…