Anxiety Central

Today is a bad day for anxiety and self-recrimination.  I discovered that the Oxford Doctor Who Society team did get to the quiz on Sunday.  I’m not sure how I missed them, although only one team member from Sunday was there when I went previously, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I didn’t recognise them.  And I had an acknowledgement email from one science fiction magazine (that I probably shouldn’t have mentioned by name – I have amended that) for my pitch, which is making me more anxious than any job interview.   I suppose it’s understandable that receiving a formal acknowledgement sets off anxiety, but I’m not sure why it sets off self-critical and self-loathing thoughts.  I feel that I just beat myself up for trying things even before I get rejected.  There is, I suppose, a hope that everything will work out this time – or that at least something will work out – coupled with a fear that, judging by past experience, it probably won’t work out.

I’m also struggling with irrational guilt.  I had a question about my job interview on Thursday and emailed the head of HR, but my Dad said I should have phoned.  He is right that it might have been quicker (assuming she was at her desk), but I hate using the phone.  Many autistic and socially anxious people feel the same.  The autistic time lag in processing and responding to conversations seems worse on the phone.  So I emailed, but felt guilty, which is the worst of both worlds.

One Jewish newspaper I wrote to for submission guidelines asked to see copies of my work.  As it’s a fairly religious newspaper, I didn’t want to send any Doctor Who/science fiction criticism.  However, this meant going even further back in time to when I had an article on antisemitism published on a site now absorbed into Tablet Magazine.  I feel awkward about this too, especially as, unlike yesterday, today I sent screenshots of the articles I had written on the sites as well as sending them as Word documents; then I realised afterwards that the sites might be considered inappropriate by a religious newspaper (nothing unsafe for work, just geeky stuff on one site and the fact that the other (a Jewish cultural site) had a “Sex & Love” column tab at the top of the screen).  Nor did I mention that one column was pseudonymous.  The newspaper said they’d keep my details on file and consider me on an ad hoc basis in the future, which I think was a polite brush-off.  Everything today seems to be triggering social anxiety and self-recrimination.

Also, it turns out that I have few copies of material I have had published online.  I guess a mixture of tidiness and low self-esteem regarding my writing have led me to delete much of my writing after posting it online or not to bother transferring it when I’ve upgraded computers.  This applies not just to material from my blog, but even stuff I’ve had published professionally or semi-professionally.  I just never thought I would want or need a copy of it ever again.  Silly of me.  I had to copy and paste stuff I’d written from the web.  There’s a lesson in there about self-esteem and confidence in my work.

I guess the outcome of all of this stuff in the last two paragraphs is a need for better curation of my work.  It probably doesn’t help that I have varied interests that I’ve written about in the past, while it’s only really in the last few months that I’ve been thinking seriously about a career as a writer, with the need to target consistent markets and build up a portfolio of work rather than just writing about anything I fancy and sending it wherever anyone will take it.

Other than that, the day was largely spent in interview preparation and a long phone call to some friends who are sitting shivah (Jewish mourning ritual).  I was glad I was able to phone them, but I find long phone calls draining at the best of times.  I did some Torah study for about forty-five minutes, but I felt quite tired and struggled to concentrate; then my mood plummeted in the late afternoon.  I went to shul (synagogue) in the evening despite these feelings.  I made sure to arrive exactly on time rather than early as the new rabbi has been making a point of speaking to everyone before the service and I didn’t feel like talking, but he wasn’t there (he only works part-time).

The optimism I felt a day or two ago is beginning to evaporate again as I feel lonely, unlovable and unemployable.  I keep thinking of ‘near-misses,’ women I have a lot in common with, but where there is one key difference that stops us turning the friendship into a relationship, or one key reason it wouldn’t work.  I ask myself if I should compromise, but I know that would not be a sensible idea for either of us.  And I worry that I’m not actually employable, that my mix of depression, social anxiety and autism makes it impossible for me to do a job, while not being severe enough for me to qualify for state benefits.  I’m not sure where I go from here.

This all sounds depressed and pessimistic again, when it shouldn’t be.  Nothing really bad has happened to me today.  My friends sitting shivah should be an example of how life can go badly wrong and how lucky I am in comparison.  But I just can’t feel any positive feelings.

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Fouled Up

There was another shul (synagogue) engagement of someone around my age today, albeit this time a divorcee.  I think I once tried to ‘talk’ to her on a dating site (when I didn’t know she was from my shul), only for her to say that I was “too worldly” for her, which reinforced my feeling of having put myself in a position between two worlds (Modern Orthodox and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox)) where no one could be interested in me.  The feeling of “when is it my turn?” never seems to go away, despite my occasional feeling that getting married would not solve my problems and perhaps would worsen them.

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Ashley Leia said, “if you put off dating until you feel you are likeable/acceptable to a woman, but you don’t consider yourself likeable/acceptable full stop, and being unmarried reinforces the idea of being unlikeable/unacceptable, that seems like a vicious circle that’s never going to end. Why not let the potential dates decide for themselves?”

This is probably true, but hard for me to accept.  It just seems so ludicrous to think that anyone could ever love me.  Anyone wanting to marry me would basically be marrying my issues (autism, depression, unemployment and more) and I don’t think I have enough positives in my favour to counter-balance that.  I’m seriously not kind enough or rich enough or clever enough or good-looking enough or frum enough or whatever to be worth marrying in my own right.  So I would basically be marrying someone who wants to care for someone, which isn’t a healthy basis for a relationship.  I know people say you shouldn’t be dating if you don’t love yourself, which pretty much means I will never date again.

I also feel I have exactly as much chance of getting married by doing nothing proactive at all as I have by going to shadchanim, on dating sites or asking women out i.e. no chance at all.

Of course, if I did get married, I would still be depressed and have low self-esteem and my first girlfriend was probably right that I’m frigid (certainly I have autistic issues with touch and intimacy, both physical and emotional), so I could end up in a worse situation than I’m in now.

***

Am I punishing myself too much?  With dating, or rather, not dating, and other things?  I don’t know.  Probably.  There is definitely self-sabotage in not going to shadchanim and not going on dating websites, but there has probably also been self-sabotage in doing those things too, in going to shadchanim and on to dating sites when I didn’t feel ready as well as asking out women who had little in common with me and apparently didn’t like me much (which seems to be most of them).

I’ve had thoughts of self-harm again, yesterday and today.  I haven’t acted on them, at least, not physically, but I feel that, as I try to live my life on multiple levels (physical, spiritual, ethical) there are ways I can hurt myself that don’t involve physical harm, but which can be just as dangerous and lasting, if not more so, at least to someone who believes in the soul.  “For he who lives more life than one/More deaths than one must die.”  I don’t like myself very much.

It’s a number of years since I read The Brothers Karamazov, but there’s a bit in there I’ve been thinking of yesterday and today.  The Karamazovs are all hedonists and libertines except for Alyosha, who is an ascetic, but someone says that, even so, he’s still a Karamazov.  He still has the libertine streak, he just uses it for asceticism.  The idea is that one can be a hedonistic ascetic.  I’m not a hedonist and I’m not really an ascetic, but I do have an ascetic streak, but it’s probably more about punishing myself than withdrawing from the world.  Maybe I’m being too hard on myself again.  I think I probably do like to punish myself, on some level, but then I feel I deserve it.  Sometimes I feel like I want to list all my sins here so no one would read this any more.  When the depression is bad (like now), I just want to hurt myself, physically and perhaps also by shaming myself (I’m not sure if that’s a desire or a fear, maybe both).

I just feel my life isn’t a story that can end well for me.  It’s doubtful that I will ever manage a career, a relationship or a family.  It’s doubtful that my writing will be published (more than the little scraps that have been published).  I don’t perform mitzvot (commandments) or daven (pray) well or study much Torah.  So I’m not sure, without all those things, how my life could ever be worthwhile.  I just feel fouled up beyond all repair.

***

Someone elsewhere on the internet said that if people at my shul (synagogue) won’t accept me, they aren’t worthy of my time.  The problem is that I don’t know if people accept me or not, or where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie.  Plus, I don’t have a better community to go to, and you can’t be a frum Jew (certainly not a frum Jewish man) without having a community.  The silly thing is that lately, when I was feeling a bit better, I was beginning to believe people liked me.  I don’t know what I think now.  I also don’t know how much I think people like me because they don’t really know me; if they knew me better, they wouldn’t like me.

***

Otherwise today has been a slow day.  The summer seems to have evaporated and it’s another dreary grey English June day here.  I sent off another job application (for a Knowledge Librarian post at a large company), but all they wanted was my CV, no covering letter to adapt or long application form to fill it.  This was good, as the forms usually just cover the same information as the CV, but in different little boxes making cutting pasting fiddly.

Because I didn’t have any more jobs to apply for, I finished the first draft of the final chapter of my Doctor Who book.  I need to redraft it at some point and it might be worth re-watching some episodes again to help flesh the chapter out; at the same time, the book as a whole needs some serious pruning, so a fourth draft will probably be necessary when I get feedback from my friends.  It does feel never ending at times.  Still, I’m probably on target for my aim of finishing around Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year, in the autumn).

***

I just hate myself and my life, really.

Meaning from Suffering

A random selection of stuff that went through my head today with even less thematic unity than normal…

Ashley Leia commented on the previous post regarding the high level of socialisation required in the Orthodox community.  I guess that’s what a lot of my blog is about, really, and certainly what I would want a book on mental health and autism in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community to be about: that Orthodoxy does require a lot of socialisation and it isn’t always possible for people to fit in.

This dovetailed with a thought I had last night after I posted.  When frum people talk about what they like about Judaism and when non-Jews say what they admire about Judaism, some things often come up: strong family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals.  The problem is that because of my mental health issues and autism, things I struggle with in Judaism include family life, close-knit communities and many festivals with their unique rituals.  It feels sometimes like I have the usual difficulties of Judaism and more without the positives, or without many of the positives.  Sometimes I wonder why I’m frum, but I just “happen” to believe and am not hypocritical enough to believe and not do, or at least not try to do.

***

I’m having silly crush thoughts about someone I knew from a previous shul who I haven’t seen for about four years and who I have never (as far as I can remember) spoken to, not even to say hello.  When she saw my parents at a party last year, she apparently asked them how I was, by name.  I didn’t think that she knew me, let alone knew my name.  Somehow I can’t see that going anywhere, but I’ve been thinking of her for the last few days for no very obvious (or good) reason.  Even if I thought it was a good idea for me to be dating (which I don’t) and that she might be interested in me (which she almost certainly isn’t) I wouldn’t really know how to get in contact with her, nor would I have the confidence to do so.  But, still, I keep thinking about her.  My Dad once claimed that he’d had a dream where I was married to her.  (My Dad thinks his dreams are precognitive, which is why he isn’t worried about me not getting married and having children, because he’s seen my wife and kids in dreams.  I’m rather sceptical of things like that.)

I’m a very lonely person.  I’ve never had many friends and, even now, when I do have a small circle of friends, most of them live far away and I communicate with them by blogging, emailing, texting and/or What’sApping.  I long for real intimacy.  I mean the feeling when one really opens up to a close friend or especially a partner and is understood, and they open up and are understood in return.  This has been a rare and short-lived phenomenon in my life.  I suppose it’s related to what I said last week about existentialist Judaism and finding holiness in the interpersonal.

***

I went out to do some shopping for ingredients for dinner.  I was out walking for an hour and came back with nothing.  I couldn’t find lentils in the two small supermarkets and I’d forgotten that the big Sainsbury’s shuts early on Sunday and they were closed when I arrived.  I became so focused on finding the lentils that I forgot we needed apples too.  By the time I got home I was feeling too depressed and exhausted to cook much anyway.

***

I felt very depressed and despairing when I was out, not about myself, but about society as a whole.  Sometimes it’s easy to convince myself that society is just corrupt, and that Jewish society has been corrupted too, and that (as per the Rambam) I should go off somewhere and be a hermit.  I don’t think society has passed the point of no return, and as a student of history, I’m not really convinced that society is worse than ever before, overall, but one only needs to look in a newspaper to see that there’s a lot wrong with the world.

Nevertheless, I felt very agitated when trapped with my thoughts, despite taking advantage of the heter (permission) to allow depressed people to listen to music in the omer.  I don’t know why I experience this agitation sometimes, what triggers it or ends it, nor do I understand the anger and grandiosity that can accompany it.  I don’t know where it comes from or why or how to calm down without just waiting until I’m burnt out and exhausted, not to mention still depressed, just too tired to think.  I’ve been told it isn’t mania, as I once thought.  It seems to be associated with loneliness and comes particularly on days when I am alone.  It started while my parents were out today and continued while I was out shopping, but when I got home and saw my parents it subsided (maybe I do need to get married ASAP).  The immediate triggers are usually seeing political stuff online or in the newspapers, particularly stuff about antisemitism or other political events that trouble me.  But I’m not sure if they are really the triggers; it feels like they are just the proximate causes and there’s a deeper psychological cause somewhere that I haven’t identified.

Sometimes, particularly when I’m very agitated, I feel, on some level, that I want to die for everyone’s sins, although that’s not a very Jewish thing to say (in theory we don’t believe in vicarious punishment.  It does appear in some sources, but we downplay it).  When I was at university I had a couple of borderline-psychotic episodes for for a second or two I was convinced that I was Mashiach (the Messiah).

I just want my suffering to be meaningful beyond myself.  It’s hard just thinking that, at best, I might be atoning for some of my sins and saving myself from different suffering in Gehennom (Purgatory).  It’s much better for my ego and sense of purpose to feel that every day I suffer somehow pushes the world towards redemption, that every tear I shed spares a child from a terrorist’s rocket.  It’s hard to find real meaning in my suffering, so it’s easy to slip into fantasy.  I suppose that’s why I want to write a book about my experiences, to try to rescue them (the experiences, I mean), to let other people find meaning in them.  There is very little written about mental health from a frum Jewish perspective and, as far as I can tell, virtually nothing at all about high functioning autism.

***

In the end I did manage to do a few useful things today: I went shopping/walking for an hour, did ten minutes of Torah study (all I could face, really) and spent an hour and a half redrafting another chapter of my Doctor Who book as well as watching and taking notes The Ghost Monument episode for the chapter I still have to write.  I also cooked a packet of couscous.  I feel I should have done more, though.  I wanted to do ‘real’ cooking, not convenience food and I feel frustrated that I can spend an hour and a half or more on my book (not to mention blogging) and only ten minutes on Torah study, but the latter is draining while the former is restoring.  Still, it feels like a wasted day.  I can sort of see that maybe (maybe!) it shouldn’t feel like a wasted day and maybe I shouldn’t be beating myself up for not doing enough Torah study, especially as at one point I didn’t think I would manage any, but it’s hard to think like that.

Not Quite An Argument

I guess I posted my last post too soon.  I just had dinner with my parents and it didn’t go well.  Dad wanted to carry on talking about my job interview and told me that I should have answers to why I want the job and where I see myself in five years time.  I sort of have a stock answer for why I want a librarianship job in higher education, but it seems less and less accurate; I really don’t think I’m cut out to be an academic librarian (but then what am I cut out for?).  The five years question is just impossible.  I don’t know where I see myself in five months.  I don’t know if I even want to be a librarian in five years time.  Dad said that I should say I want to take on more responsibility in the library, which might not be true even if I stay as a librarian (like a lot of autistic people, I have very little personal or professional ambition).  I said that I could say that, but it would be a lie.  Dad got annoyed with me and I ended up saying, rather more loudly than I intended, “I’m sorry I’m depressed, I’m trying hard…” and then breaking off.

I know it’s not easy for my parents having their elder child living at home in his mid-thirties, especially as my younger sister has left home long ago and ticked almost all the adult boxes (career, husband, house, mortgage) and I know it isn’t easy that my mood is often low, that I’m often negative, pessimistic and irritable and that they still are, in some sense, my carers (not to mention my bankers).  But it’s not easy for me being in this situation either, and I’m the one who has to live with my emotions and my autism 24/7.

I insisted on doing at least some of the washing up to apologise, even though I have zero energy.

I feel really guilty right now, not so much for the incident above as for other things that I would sort of like to write about, but feel that I shouldn’t.  I don’t feel that I’m a very good or lovable person.

I don’t feel tired enough to sleep, but I have zero motivation, concentration or energy to do anything, not to read and not even to watch TV.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fill the next three hours before bed.

Wasting Time

I’m struggling today, with depression, OCD and irrational guilt.  The depression is probably from exhaustion as much as anything after the last three days.  I just have no energy and low mood without particular depressive thoughts.  Seder has disrupted my sleep pattern again.  I was up until 3.30am or so last night writing my blog, but also because I was not tired from sleeping during the day too much.  I slept until about 12.30pm today and then spent two and a half hours trying to get the energy to eat breakfast and get dressed.

The OCD is about kosher supermarkets, and whether all the food in them is kosher for Pesach if they aren’t rabbinically supervised.  It’s silly really, as I buy food from there during the rest of the year without feeling the need to check the hechshers (rabbinic seals of approval).  I just worry that we might have bought non-kosher for Pesach food by mistake.

The guilt is the silliest thing, because it’s not even primarily for things I have actually done.  I was reading Neshamas.com, a website for people within the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community where they can post anonymously about anything non-insulting.  People write really moving stuff on there about abuse, crises of faith, confusion about their sexuality and so on.  I was reading posts about abuse and marital rape and worrying that if I was married, I would be abusive, even though I have no evidence for that, and possibly some evidence against.  It’s silly, really.  I guess that’s low self-esteem, or more likely pure O OCD, which can make people feel guilty for things they haven’t done.  My CBT therapist said that people who have OCD thoughts about abuse are the least likely to actually be abusive.  Then I commented on some posts on Neshamas, but felt that I had said the wrong thing and might have made things worse and felt bad about that.  It’s hard to know what to do sometimes.

I guess I have some other guilt too today.  I’m not sure how justified it is.  Sometimes I just have to cope anyway I can.  So, for example, today I’m making an educated guess that I’m doing the right thing about the non-supervised, but kosher, supermarkets and carrying on eating food from there, assuming that the desire not to is just OCD.  But it’s hard to know that it’s right; it could be that I’m just trying to find an excuse to stop worrying.  Other things I know are wrong, but are hard to avoid e.g. being irritable when I’m depressed (although actually today I’m not particularly irritable, just exhausted).  Also, I feel that I should be preparing for my interview tomorrow or doing Torah study or something semi-productive, but it’s hard, but because I’ve got the interview tomorrow I can’t say I’m taking Chol HaMoed as holiday.

I don’t think I really want the job I’m up for tomorrow.  It’s similar to the job I did in further education, but with higher education students, which should be good, but I just remember how I messed up that job and how my boss thought I couldn’t cope.  There’s a job description the length of my arm and I just think, “How can I do this?”  I don’t know what I’ll say if I get asked why I want the job at the interview.  I don’t know where I see myself in five years either, the other question my Dad says gets asked a lot.  I don’t really feel able to cope with any kind of job that involves interactions with other people at the moment i.e. most of them.  I feel I could be a writer or a lighthouse keeper and that’s about it.  I feel I should take some positive steps towards becoming a writer, but I’m scared and taking on a career with no experience and no sure and steady income just because a few people have said I can write well.  I feel I should earn a lot of money first to subsidise myself for a couple of years while I try to write, but there isn’t much chance of that happening.

I guess I’m feeling lonely too.  I wish I could connect with someone, but it’s really hard.  I just feel awful, all burnt out and depressed, unable to do anything.  I did go for a twenty minute walk, but that’s about all I’ve done today.  I want to do some Torah study, but I don’t have the energy, concentration or really the motivation.  I suppose I could try to listen to a shiur (religious class) online for a bit.

I’m not particularly anxious, because the depression is so strong today that it drowns out the anxiety, but I’m vaguely worried about that OCD anxiety, about my exhausting my parents’ sympathy and patience for me, about my career, about dating L. (I don’t feel that anyone could love someone as messed up as I am) and so on.

I just feel like I want to cry right now.

***

One thing I forgot to talk about yesterday/last night regarding my seder was the idea that we are supposed to imagine that God redeemed us individually from Egypt.  The idea is that if the exodus had not occurred, we would still be slaves 3,000 years later, or at least that we would still have a slave mentality and not be able to live truly free lives.  I find this hard.  I found I could imagine being a slave and I could imagine HaShem (God) being with me in slavery and suffering, but it was very hard to see myself as actually freed.  I think I may have achieved it for a few seconds, but not for long.  I guess it’s good that I think that God is with me in my suffering, which I wouldn’t have thought a little while ago.

Pain

I feel bad today, but I can’t work out what ‘bad’ means.  I guess it means ‘depressed.’  I’m struggling to understand my feelings again.  I did feel close to tears at times.  Earlier I was virtually crying, except that I couldn’t quite manage it.  I should feel anxious, about Pesach and about working late tomorrow (I’m going in at 1pm and working until 9pm to help with a public evening event, which will mean – gulp! – talking to strangers) and I do feel a bit anxious about these things, but I’m not sure that that’s what I am really feeling.  For much of the day I just wanted to curl up in a ball and ignore the world, really.  That’s more depression than anxiety, although, looking at the news, maybe it’s a rational response to the world (cf. Catch-22).  At any rate, it’s hard to do anything today.

I feel guilty, too, because I make myself out to be a better person here than I actually am.  I confess a lot here, but I can’t quite bring myself to confess everything.  So people think I’m better than I actually am.  I feel bad about that.  I suppose I have the idea that if everyone knew all my faults and accepted them, maybe I could accept them myself or forgive myself or something.  Or maybe I just feel bad that that people think I’m a good person when… well, in the past I would have said “when I’m not a good person,” but today I feel more that it should be “when I’m not such a good person,” which I suppose is an improvement of a kind.

***

I did look for extra cataloguing training on the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) website, but I couldn’t find anything current.  I tried to sign up to some education and research mailing lists on JISCMail, but got panicked by the sheer numbers of lists there and the obscure areas they deal with (A forum on Hoshin Kanri [?]; Huddersfield Consortium College Libraries; Hull Geochemistry and Geobiology; Historians of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland – that’s just some of the Hs).  I signed up to a higher education list in the end and thought I would see how that goes before I decide whether to sign up for any more.  I’m not very good at CPD, or anything connected with my career, really.

***

My self-perception has really altered in the last year.  I used to think that I would be good at a job if I could find the right one, that depression was the main obstacle to my building a career, that one day the right combination of therapy, medication and activity/occupational therapy might – might! – help me deal with my depression, that I was an organised person and so on.  Now I have this huge thing called ‘autism’ looming over me as a potential diagnosis.  In some ways that’s good, because it leaves open the door to hoping that one day I will find the ‘right’ way to work and to live in order to have a career and potentially a family with my mental health issues managed at the root rather than just treating the symptoms, but in the meantime I am struggling to know who I am, what I could/should be doing about my career and relationships (relationships with family and friends as well as romantic relationships), how I can live and what I can expect of myself in my religious life.  I guess it’s no wonder I feel depressed, exhausted and confused so much of the time.

I wish I could have some kind of careers advice session, except not just about my career, but about the whole of my life, that someone would tell me what kind of career would suit me, where I fit in with the Jewish community, what type of woman I should be trying to date and how to meet her, how to cope with everyday life…  A S Mentoring might be able to help with some of that, but I’m not sure how to formulate the questions I need to ask yet, as well as being nervous about asking for help and embarrassed that I seem to need to rely on charities (mental health (JAMI) and autism (A S Mentoring, Mencap)) all the time when I feel I should be able to do things for myself.  Plus, I feel somethings are harder because I have more than one issue.  Autism and depression can interact in different ways and it’s not always clear which is predominating at any given time e.g. when should I try to push through exhaustion on the grounds that it’s just a symptom of depression and when should I accept it as a sign that I’m overstimulated and need quiet and rest.

I did fill in the online form for A S Mentoring, so that’s something positive I’ve done today.

***

Other than that, I didn’t do much today.  I went for a forty minute walk in the sunshine, which was good.  I started to apply for another job, but it was hard to overcome the depression.  This one is listed as a librarian role, but from the qualifications they are looking for, I think it’s another job where a librarian would be over-qualified and that it’s really a glorified library assistant role.  I tried to fill the online form in, but kept lapsing back into despair.  I find this whole process so tedious and I’m terrified that while I have the skills to write job applications and I apparently interview well, I’m actually incapable of holding down a real job.

***

This article is very true.  It would have been pretty much impossible for me to have had support for autism at school, certainly at primary school, as high-functioning autism/Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t recognised until the year I started secondary school; when I was a child, if you were verbal, you weren’t autistic, end of story.  Even so, I think my parents and teachers were aware that things weren’t right in some way and that I was a target for bullies (but usually different bullies; I wasn’t usually consistently targeted by the same people, which made stopping it hard, especially when it was kids I didn’t know from other years shouting stuff at me in corridors when we passed) and was lacking in confidence, but that wasn’t considered special needs.  My Mum tried to get me to see the school counsellor, but handled it badly and just upset me and my form tutor once told me I needed to… I can’t remember his exact words, but he basically told me I was working too much and needed to develop my life outside of work .  But the general view was that my grades were good, so I was doing well, even if I wasn’t socially integrated, especially as I don’t get meltdowns or stim in a very obvious way or have other external symptoms of autism.

I suppose I was also lucky, going to a Jewish school, that there were voluntary shiurim (religious classes) to go to at lunchtimes, so I didn’t have to spend them in the playground.  On days when there weren’t shiurim I could be quite lonely and miserable if I got separated from my small circle of friends (e.g. they were at music practice or we got split up in the lunch hall crowd), which happened quite frequently.  I do wonder if I would be in the emotional/psychological state I’m in today (depression, social anxiety) if more support had been available when I was growing up, but I guess that way madness lies.

***

I keep having mini revelations about my autism.  I used to think I was a bad writer because I don’t use much metaphorical language, not in my blogs and non-fictional writing, but also not very much when I was writing fiction or poetry.  Now I realise that that could be autism.  I don’t struggle with non-literal language the way some autistic people do, but I don’t use it much and I’m very aware of, and irritated by, clichéd language, which often consists of tired metaphors that are just taken for granted and not even used as metaphors any more.

***

I looked at some articles on Neshamas, which I hadn’t done for ages.  I don’t know why, because I could have guessed it would be upsetting.  I suppose I was lonely and I just wanted to connect with people who feel as awful as I do, even if it’s just by reading what they wrote.  I read stuff written by women who are being abused/raped by their husbands.  It makes me angry and upset that this happens.  But also, it makes me think that I do have something to offer in a relationship, in terms of not actually being abusive.  But then after a moment it somehow seems inadequate.  That those women deserve better than the men who are abusing them, but that they would also deserve better than me.  That I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone’s needs, I just wouldn’t hurt her.  That I’m objectifying women just by wanting to be in a relationship with someone, even though I just want to be able to give to someone.

It’s possible that I’m not thinking straight about something here, but it’s hard to tell what.

Thanatos

Trigger warning: suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

Pensées

My mood was rather better today than it has been recently.  It felt a bit like my emotional ‘crash’ at work on Tuesday has helped me to get some things off my chest and now I feel I can work more confidently.  This is doubly so as my line manager was very pleased with my work today, including some where I was using quite a bit of initiative, so it’s good that she has seen what I’m capable of.  I did have some slight OCD anxiety about locking up the office and the rare books which I’m going to have to monitor to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.

I did manage to use an affirmation to try and fight my negative thoughts at work, including the OCD anxiety, which I don’t usually manage to do.  I’ve tried positive affirmations before (“I am a good person” etc.) without much success, as I don’t believe them, but at well-being group yesterday they gave us a long list of possible affirmations, a couple of which seemed to me to be more realistic.  I’ve opted for “My thoughts aren’t always my friends” to be used when depression, self-loathing, guilt or anxiety (including OCD anxiety) are threatening to get out of control.  I will see how I get on with this.  I think the actual affirmation was supposed to be “My mind is not always my friend” but I unconsciously changed it.  I think my version is better, because it’s less self-critical (talking about bad thoughts rather than my mind/self being wrong).

***

I saw the doctor this morning and we discussed why I felt so bad on Tuesday.  To be honest, I’m not sure what the trigger was, but it may have been going out for dinner with a large crowd of people I didn’t really know on Friday, plus trying to go to the shul (synagogue) meeting on Sunday and not making it, plus my parents being out on Monday evening and my mind spiralling downwards as sometimes happens when I’m alone.  We discussed ways to prevent this in future and I’m already thinking about how to avoid similar slumps after social engagements in the next few weeks.  I mentioned this to my parents, introducing them to the “spoon theory” of mentally ill/autistic energy levels; they seemed receptive.

***

As a result of the meeting I missed on Sunday, I’ve now found out about the six principles of my shul (synagogue).  They’re not really unexpected or controversial (fortunately), so I don’t feel that I’m in completely the wrong place, but two of them are about family, which makes me feel a bit… not unwelcome, but out of place.  But I think that would be the case wherever I went in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world.  It’s a very family-centred religion.

***

I’m slowly inching towards writing the book about Judaism for non-Jews and non-religious Jews.  I’ve just started brainstorming a few ideas and I have some idea of what the structure will look like.  After my well-being course finishes next week, I’m hoping to spend some time writing on days when I don’t work.  That way I can think of myself as working partly in a library and partly in trying to become a semi-professional writer.  I will probably do some job hunting too, although my line manager hinted on Tuesday that she’s hoping to extend my contract past March if the money is available (“if the money is available” – the mantra of all libraries and universities).  I want to make progress with my Doctor Who book, but as I’m doing research and writing at the same time, my work won’t be continuous, as periodically I will write up all my notes and be waiting to do more research.  I hope to make progress with the Jewish book then (although that will also involve a mixture of researching and writing).

I’m less worried about the book being banned now.  I think that was the social anxiety speaking.  I still think I’m going to say stuff that would not be considered 100% OK in my community, I just don’t think anyone is going to notice or care (not noticing is quite likely; not caring less likely).  After all, no one in my shul is realistically part of the target audience.  I do need to talk to my rabbi mentor about what Torah I can write in a book for non-Jews, as technically non-Jews are supposed to learn Torah (except the first eleven chapters of Bereshit/Genesis and the whole of Iyov/Job), but I’ve raised the subject with him beforehand in the context of writing Torah on my blog and he didn’t think it was a problem (I just found the email where he told me, “We are required to be ambassadors to non-Jews, especially in today’s world where there is so much distorted
information out there… You MUST continue feeding informative and positive information to your friend, and others…”).

***

Yesterday I said I would consider dating if my contract gets renewed after March.  Today I found myself wondering if I need to wait that long.  The game-changer was realising that I actually need to date for quite a while to find out if a person is right for me and that the frum “dating for marriage in eight weeks” model of dating just won’t work for someone with so many issues and such poor people skills, not to mention such little dating experience and difficulty understanding his own feelings and emotional needs.  I need to date for many months to be sure my date can cope with me and that I can cope with her and to ease myself back into the idea of being in a relationship with someone else (bear in mind that in thirty-five years, my total time in a relationship amounts to about one year).

So, I don’t think I will be going to frum matchmakers just yet, but the dating service I linked to yesterday is, I think, for more ‘modern’ people and might be a way to meet someone who can cope with me and is on a compatible values level, which would include some basic religious compatibility (as religious observance is one of my core values, along with integrity).  I don’t think my wife would have to be as religious as me, as long as she kept what are sometimes thought of as the core mitzvot (commandments) of Jewish home life: Shabbat (the Sabbath), kashrut (the dietary laws) and niddah (the rules about when a couple can have sex), at least in a basic way.  While it’s tempting to fantasise about marrying a really shtark (super-frum) woman, it’s debatable whether I could actually cope with living with such a person even if I wasn’t mentally ill; it’s certainly unlikely she could cope with someone whose religious life is as impaired as mine necessarily is, not to mention issues about television, involvement in wider culture, my having non-Jewish and female friends etc.

I discussed dating with a friend who also has depression and autism recently.  She thinks it’s unfair that people say “If you aren’t happy single, you won’t be happy in a relationship” on the grounds that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has love, sex and emotional security as fairly basic needs.  She thinks that most people in relationships would be pretty miserable if you separated them from their partners.  I can see her point.  I think I do still need to do a lot of work to be happy, and I probably never will be 100% happy, but I think it’s worth seeing if someone can accept me as I am as long as I don’t see her as the sole source of my happiness (which I think would be a mistake).  I know my mood is still very low, but I’m a lot more functional than I have been in the past and I think if I was in a successful relationship, my mood would be somewhat better even if it wasn’t 100% better.  Certainly when I’ve been in a relationship in the past, my mood has got visibly better to those around me.

Dating is scary, though.

***

An odd thing happened at shiur (Torah class) this evening.  Shiur is a slightly unusual place for me, in that there’s a bit of a “the weekend starts here” atmosphere.  It’s Thursday night, it’s a group of men away from their families and jobs and there is whisky.  Plus, the assistant rabbi, who gives the shiur, has a slightly mischievous sense of humour.  However, much of this is not normal for me.  There is some good-natured teasing, mostly in the form of running jokes e.g. a lot of people who attend are South Africans, so there’s rivalry to see each week the proportion of English-born vs. South African-born attendees and people tease the South Africans about their accents.  I don’t always understand the jokes nor do I always completely approve of the atmosphere; I don’t know whether that’s coming from autism or my history of being teased at school.

Today the assistant rabbi asked a question which no one could answer (not actually a Torah question; he was looking for a formal English word) and he said something like “amazing, we have an intellectual [points to the person on my right], an academic [points to the person on my left] and an intellectual and an academic [points to me] and none of them know!”  Now, I know that’s meant in good spirits and I know it’s a backhanded compliment because he’s saying I’m clever and well-educated, but something about it made me feel uncomfortable even as I laughed.  I’m sure he wouldn’t tease like this if I said I don’t like it, but I feel that saying something is a bit petty and maybe me being autistic/socially anxious and not entering into the proper spirit of the thing, but I don’t feel 100% comfortable with it.  Plus, I suppose part of me does like the fact that I’m apparently considered “one of the lads” and able to be part of this little group.  It’s difficult to know what to do.

When Autism Fuels Depression

I feel very depressed today.  Drained and despairing.  I was supposed to go with my parents to see my sister’s new house (I’m ridiculously easy to manipulate into doing things I don’t want to do – just guilt-trip me), but I feel too ill, partly my cold, partly depression.  To be honest, it’s probably largely depression, despite the fact that I felt like I was burning up before.  I can barely move, I feel so depressed.

The best book I’ve read on depression is Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher.  He argues that people with depression are almost always highly reliable, conscientious, diligent, responsible and morally strong.  They become depressed because in a difficult situation, where most people would back away from the difficulty, they carry on trying to work through it until, in his words, they try to put 100 amps through a 13 amp fuse and it ‘blows’ causing depression.  The cure is medication, to stabilise the situation, but also counselling or psychotherapy to resolve the problematic situation or find a new way to cope with it, as well as learning not to overdo things.  Otherwise the result is recurrent bouts of depression.

Unfortunately, although I’ve had his book for years, and in many ways it has been helpful, he explicitly states that it won’t help with “depression complicating other illnesses… [or] depression as part of long-term personality problems”.  I’m not sure exactly how autism would fit there (it’s not technically an illness or a personality problem per se), but his general point, that depression that is caused by another medical issue is not easily treatable in the way he describes, seems to be true.  I’ve tried so many of the ‘normal’ depression treatments (many different antidepressants, psychotherapy, CBT, exercise, occupational therapy/work) without much success.  This can happen with ‘just’ depression, but it does make me think that there is something else to my state than ‘just’ depression.

I don’t know how to cope, though, what I should be doing when my life just seems so unbearable and so out of control.  I guess “out of control” is an odd thing to say, as it summons up images of mania or drug abuse, not the motionlessness of depression, curling up in bed for hours unable to face the day, but that is how I feel.  I don’t know how to live my life with depression and autism and the things I read seem to only deal with one of those issues, not both, even though autism has a lot of comorbidity with depression and anxiety.

I’m not sure that I’m explaining myself very well.  I’m sorry.

I just found this comment online:

Depression and autism is such a challenging dual diagnosis because traditionally the autism diagnosis coincides with rigidity, perseverating, and rule governed behavior. However when you spend all of your time perseverating on what makes you feel depression, create rules that you will never feel happy, and are rigid enough to be stuck in those ways – you are digging yourself deeper and deeper into a huge hole of despair.

This seems a lot like me.  According to this site, depression in autistic adults correlates with higher IQs, perhaps because they are more aware of their social difficulties, triggering depression.

I wish I was in therapy of some kind at the moment.  I know my psychodynamic psychotherapist has at times said my problems are too all-pervasive for her to help with, but I would just like to talk to her.  Or to try CBT, as I was hoping to do, to see if it can help practically with my low self-esteem, which I think is a key factor in my depression and social anxiety.  But I’m stuck on the NHS waiting list.

***

My rabbi mentor hasn’t responded to my emails lately, which is unlike him.  I’m worried about him, but I’m also worried about getting answers to some questions.  It also adds to my feeling of being lost and abandoned.

***

I’m a bit nervous about the depression/resilience class I start tomorrow and very nervous about the new job that starts on Tuesday.  I haven’t been told about where to go or anything yet (I assume to where I went for the interview, but I’m not sure).  I’m also nervous about speaking to my GP tomorrow about being referred for another autism assessment, as I’m worried he will say I can’t have another assessment on the NHS.

We’ve also got decorators coming in from tomorrow, which always makes things difficult for me both from an autistic point of view and a religious OCD one, as I worry they will bring in non-kosher food.  Hopefully once this room is finished, that will be the end of the intermittent redecorating we’ve had for over three years, since we moved in to this house.

***

I feel lonely, despairing and lost.  I also feel run down from my cold and my lips are painfully chapped, which seems trivial, but is somehow harder to cope with when I feel so bad in other ways.  I want to be happy, loved and comfortable in my life (and in my own head), but it doesn’t seem possible.  Failing that, I’d prefer to be dead, but I’m not suicidal, so no one really takes that seriously.  Plus, I’m scared to mention it to most people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I probably shouldn’t be here at all.

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

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

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

I hate this blog.  I hate my writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down Again, Down Again, Jiggity Jig

My parents and my cousin went to football today (Spurs vs. Bournemouth… perhaps inevitably, the family are Spurs fans (they have a reputation for being the most Jewish club).  Spurs won 5-0).  I’m not sure whose idea it was; I think it was my parents’ and then my cousin asked to join them, but I’m not sure.  I don’t like spectator sport, so I stayed at home.

***

I woke up feeling really drained and quite depressed again.  It’s only got worse as the day has gone on.  I wish I could have a good day that wasn’t followed by a bad one as ‘payment’ for it.  I don’t feel up to doing the chores I was supposed to do today.  I forced myself to go for walk and to do ten minutes of Torah study.  I should also try to write back to the author Yaakov Klein, who emailed me about my recent comment about his book on my blog, although I’m procrastinating about that because I feel ashamed that I got annoyed with what he wrote.  But really, I just want to eat and sleep.  My problem with depression used to be fighting the urge to sleep too much.  That’s still an issue (I got up after 11.00am today), but lately it’s become just as much of a struggle to avoid eating.  I’m probably better at fighting the urge to comfort eat than the urge to oversleep, but it’s hard.

I don’t even feel particularly motivated to watch TV, let alone do anything more active.  I’ve got a lot of anhedonia today, although there’s a lot of exhaustion and depression too.  I just wrote the following about anhedonia in a comment on the Mental Health at Home blog:

Anhedonia is hard too. I find that it can be the hardest thing because the people around me will give me more sympathy if I’m visibly exhausted or suicidal, but if everything just seems meh, no one really cares or even knows that I’m sitting there not enjoying things that in the past I would have liked. To make it worse, I suspect I’ve had anhedonia since my early teens (at least) so it’s difficult to remember by this stage that I used to enjoy stuff a lot more.

***

I’m thinking about relationships again.  I don’t know why I’m so desperate to be in one, considering I usually avoid social interactions.  Actually, that’s not really true.  I do know why I want to be in a relationship: because I have a complicated relationship with my parents and sister stemming from a difficult, love-starved childhood (for reasons not in my family’s control) and so I’m desperate to be loved by someone to try to meet that long-felt, rarely-met need for affection and care.  This is not a particularly healthy reason to want to be in a relationship, doubly so when you consider that it’s compounded by a lot of religious repression and guilt about perfectly normal sexual desires, plus the fact that my lack of romantic success in the past makes me feel that I’m destined to be romantically and sexually inadequate forever, even if I do end up getting married.

I just wish someone really understood me and connected with me, I suppose.  I want to love and be loved, which probably isn’t surprising given my personal history (loneliness, bullying), but I worry I want to be loved more than I want to love someone else.  I’m not sure I could express love correctly anyway.  Whatever “correctly” is in the context.  Autism, social anxiety and depression do not make it easy to develop social skills, and I guess that loving is a social skill.

I’ve been told that I’ll meet someone when I least expect it, but that’s not how dating really works in the Orthodox world, where people mostly get set up on blind dates by third parties and it’s often all researched and thought out beforehand.  That said, I did start dating E. out of nowhere (she contacted me through my blog and we emailed for a while platonically before dating), but that didn’t end well and I can’t imagine lightning striking twice with another random emailer.  Actually, thinking about it, I met someone else I briefly dated through my blog, in a slightly different way, so maybe I’m wrong.  Or maybe lighting will strike twice, but not thrice.  Although I find it hard to imagine that anyone could like me even platonically, let alone romantically, having read the embarrassing, self-centred rambles I post here.

I just feel it would feel good if someone loved me, and let me love her, but I would still be depressed, anxious and autistic, so it wouldn’t really change anything.

Trying To Be Normal

I tried to phone Samaritans twice yesterday, but couldn’t get through.  The ringing phone was just making me feel more anxious and agitated, so I didn’t wait very long.  I guess they are busy and under-manned at this time of year.  A couple of friends saw my posts and texted/WhatsApped me, which made me feel a bit better.  Thank you to them and the people who commented here and emailed, although I only saw those messages this morning.  It’s good to feel that people do care about me, even if they live far away and can only stay in contact remotely.

I do wish I didn’t hate myself so much, but I feel I could not in all honesty hate myself less unless I was a better person and a better Jew, and I don’t know how to do that.

I just feel overwhelmed by the world, and by my life.  In my mind personal things (my self-hatred and despair) mix with Jewish worries (antisemitism) and global things (hate-based populism) and I can’t breathe or focus.  Everything feels like… if not my fault, then at least my responsibility to fix.  (I’m not sure I’m expressing this well, that’s not quite what I feel, but I can’t find the words.)  But I can’t.  I know I shouldn’t have to fix the world and that I can’t, but I feel I should.  I can’t even fix myself, but I feel I should be able to fix antisemitism.  I was still in my pyjamas at 1.15pm.  I don’t know how I can do that and still expect to be able to save the world.

I don’t know why my life feels so hard so much of the time.  I don’t think I deserve an easy life, but it’s getting so hard just to keep going.  It’s arguably not even objectively that hard (I’m not physically ill or in dire poverty), I just cope so badly at the moment.  I feel a bit pathetic that I can’t do things other people can manage easily.  It’s hard to give myself a break for being depressed and autistic and struggling with stuff that other people find easy.

***

In the end I did manage to go for a walk for half an hour (which was incredibly exhausting, as much as running used to be) and I spent some time painting my Doctor Who miniatures and trying to accept that they are going to take a while to paint (I tend to be impatient with big projects) and that they are not going to be perfect (I’m a perfectionist).  I’m glad that Peters Davison and Capaldi are both about 75% done, although Davison’s striped trousers are giving me difficulties and I don’t know where to draw the line (in both a literal and metaphorical sense).  But I also feel vaguely guilty for not doing something “worthwhile” with my time.

***

Liora suggested I try to assess my activity levels each day in a more objective way.  I tried to apply some numbers representing emotional energy expended to tasks I regularly do to work out how much energy I expend, although it’s hard to tell, as it can vary from day to day and even during days e.g. my walk to the station in the morning is a lot easier than the same walk home at the end of a working day, the difficulty of which can also vary according to how tiring the day was.

I worked out that a typical work day would involve expending a bit over 400 units.  The last few days, since I’ve been doing this, I’ve been expending 100-200 units a day, which is understandable given that I’m not working at the moment, if a little disappointing, but yesterday I only managed 65, but I was completely exhausted all day.  I’m not quite sure what this demonstrates.  I’ve been measuring my mood each day for years, but I’m not sure how useful that is either the way I do it, but I don’t really want to monitor my mood repeatedly across the day.

***

“Your unique contribution to the world is a very specific activity which you love and excel at” is today’s quote on Aish.com.  It sounds very sentimental and mushy, but I can see where it’s coming from.  However, I can’t think of anything I love and excel at and which seems like a worthwhile contribution to the world.  I feel like there’s no reason for me to be here at all.

I think occasionally of the book I mooted a few weeks ago, about Judaism aimed at non-Jews and/or non-religious Jews, but I can’t get round the problems.  I don’t feel qualified to write it without research in books in languages I can’t read fluently and without using a library I’m nervous of using given the criticism I received when I was volunteering there.  Plus, I can’t work out who the primary audience would be (the background and needs of non-Jews and non-religious Jews are not the same) or what my aim in writing would be or if I’m writing about the whole spectrum of Orthodox observance or just my views, in which case I would probably get into trouble with my community for various things… Whenever I have a new idea it ends up like that and I give up.  I probably don’t have enough self-confidence to write that book, although I’m still working on the Doctor Who one.

On a related note, I was surprised to get an email from the person who wrote the book I quoted here.  He said he was sorry if he upset me and that he didn’t mean to imply that the religious life is easy or that someone who struggles isn’t really religious.  He also said he read several of my posts and that I have a talent for writing.  A few people have said this to me, on the blog and elsewhere, but I’ve never had the confidence to really sit down and work out what I could do with my writing or known how to go about it.  Similarly, I’ve mentioned that my parents, my aunt and some people at the asylum seekers drop-in centre where I volunteer say that I’m good with children, but again, I don’t know how to do something with that beyond doing volunteering with them.

I feel a bit like my understanding of the world of work (or the world full stop) is rather like a child’s and I struggle to understand the mundane day-to-day tasks required in a job or how to apply myself to them.  This is not a positive thing by any means, but I don’t know how to deal with it.  I don’t know if it’s an autistic thing or a depressive thing or just me being strange and incompetent.

***

My cousin is staying with us for a few days from tonight.  She’s in her early twenties.  My first cousins all live in Israel, and life there is so different to life in any other Western country that it can be hard to connect sometimes.  For instance, she hasn’t gone to university yet (she’s hoping to go next year), but she has done a couple of years of military service.  I sometimes wonder how I would have coped with military service.  I think I would have ended up having a breakdown and getting discharged, even if I wasn’t on the front line.

My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner and my cousin arrived afterwards.  We sat around talking for a long time and I did join in and enjoy, but I did get drained too and ate too much as I do when nervous and bored.  I was trying to find a polite way to slip away when my sister and BIL left.

It’s interesting that when I thought I didn’t enjoy social gatherings because of depression, introversion or social anxiety, I thought of that as a problem of mine, but now I think it’s autism, I feel a bit more understanding of myself.  I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not.  I feel I should try to work on myself to be more ‘normal’ (i.e. to pass better as neurotypical).

One autistic thing I noticed myself doing was switching off a bit when the conversation was about stuff I’m not interested in, which was quite a lot.  I struggle to concentrate on conversations about jobs, house renovations and people my family know who I don’t know.  Maybe this is also normal.  I don’t know.  I do feel guilty about it, as I expect people to listen to me.  But some people in my family talk in a way that seems rather autism unfriendly to me: lots of details about people and places I don’t know and struggle to picture given over too quickly.

Crazy Logic

I phoned Samaritans, but I was held in a queue and I chickened out after a minute and hung up.  I hate myself so much, I hate my life so much, I just want to be free of everything, but I can’t.  I want to hurt myself, but I’m too scared.  I could do anything if I wasn’t so scared of everything.  I’ll try Samaritans again in a minute, but I guess they’re undermanned at this time of the year.  It makes me feel like I shouldn’t phone, because I’m not feeling bad enough.  After all, I won’t kill myself and my parents will be home later.  This is probably all crazy logic.

New Logic

I had a whole post I thought of while I was cooking dinner, one of my ‘crazy’ agitated posts where I get caught up in some bizarre chain of reasoning about myself and my life…  As Philip K. Dick said, “Either I’ve invented a whole new logic or, ahem, I’m not playing with a full deck.”  I think we know I’m not playing with a full deck, it’s just a question of how long I can last in the real world.

The chain of thought potentially had an interesting kernel for me to consider some other time, but it is frightening how I get caught up in things and get so agitated and upset.

I feel really upset right now and lonely.  My parents are still at the wedding and probably will be until very late.  I don’t know how I managed to cook dinner; I certainly don’t feel able to do anything else.  I watched some Jonathan Creek.  I don’t know what to do now.  I hate myself right now.  I really, really hate myself.  I half-heartedly tried to self-harm before, hitting the walls.  I feel like I’ve gone mad, but everyone expects me to carry on and function like a normal (that word again) sane person.  I hate myself for not living up to my own standards.  I hate myself for screwing everything up again, as I always do.

I ought to phone Samaritans.  At any rate, that would be better than writing here or hurting myself (literally or metaphorically).  I don’t know what to say to them, though.  I’m scared what’s going to happen to me and I feel so completely alone right now – not because my parents are away, I mean in my life at the moment – a few people care about me, but no one can actually help me, because there’s nothing that can be done for me.

The Most Evil Person in the World

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

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

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

Pre-Interview Angst

Today I was OK, until I remembered that I have the interview tomorrow, or until I remembered how lonely I am, then I sank down again.  By mid-afternoon, I was staying down the whole time.  I feel like I did years ago, when I was too depressed to work.  I don’t know whether I physically can work right now, but I don’t feel able to do so and, in my experience, that’s all it takes to trigger overwhelming anxiety and despair when I even think about working.  I am not proud of this, as I think, generally speaking, people should work, if they can, unless they have some strong reason not to.  I think I should work.  I just don’t know how.

So, today I’m not really working on my presentation for the interview.  I read through it once and I might try to do it again before bed,  but I’m not going to add to it, even though it’s probably too short.  Similarly I’m not going to make a Powerpoint presentation to go with it, although that is mostly because of irrational anxiety that something terrible would happen if I did, even though I couldn’t think what could go wrong, realistically.  My parents suggested that I should write a short summary for the interviewers, which I have done.  I worked out how to get to my interview tomorrow (it’s right by where I was working in my last job), and various other places I’m going to in the next week.  Even that seemed a daunting task.  I’m so ridiculously under-prepared for the interview, there’s no chance of my getting the job.  It’s only a six month contract anyway, which makes the whole thing seem pointless.

I think, after my last two jobs, I have lost confidence in my ability to actually do a job properly.  I’m hunting for some kind of diagnosis that will show what I can and can’t cope with, so that hopefully I can find some kind of job I can do.  It worries me that the only jobs I seem to have done well were those with minimal responsibility.

***

I shook again while lighting Chanukah “candles” (strictly speaking, I use oil lights, not candles), quite badly, bad enough to make it difficult to light the lights, although not, I  hope, enough to be dangerous.  Tremor (a medication side-effect for me, particularly from olanzapine) isn’t as big a problem for me as it once was, but I worry about it getting worse.  At the moment it feels like any time I could shake makes me tense and anxious that I will shake, and that tension and anxiety actually causes the shaking.  I worry a lot that I will shake at my interview tomorrow, particularly when I give my presentation.

***

I get irritated with my Dad and I shouldn’t.  Then again, perhaps my irritation is not wholly unwarranted.  I don’t know.  This type of thing makes me feel guilty and self-loathing.  There’s quite a bit of self-loathing today.  I wish I was a better person.

***

I say I’m lonely, but actually connecting with people is hard.  I’m trying not to be irritable to my Dad.  I’m struggling to send or reply to texts, What’sApp messages and emails.  I was woken this morning by a phone call, but I didn’t answer because I was worried it was about the job interview tomorrow (I had just woken up and probably was not thinking straight).  I should have phoned them back to find out who they were, but I was too socially anxious.

***

I get the urge to eat a lot at the moment.  I guess it’s comfort eating.  I have had it in the past, generally when the depression is very bad.  I have the kind of depression that basically makes me want to hibernate, to eat too much and especially to sleep too much, particularly at this time of year.  I’ve put on a lot of weight with clomipramine, though, and I don’t want to put on more.  I haven’t remembered (or dared?) to weigh myself for ages, but I feel fat and I’m pretty sure I’m overweight for the first time in my life.  I want not to care, but I do, particularly as part of me still hopes to go back to dating at some point.  And there’s the health risks of over-eating to consider.  I try to mostly nosh on fruit and veg, but even that can be fattening (I probably eat far too many nuts and raisins) and I do eat some junk and, of course, with it being Chanukah at the moment there are doughnuts around (see how I worded that in the passive to avoid responsibility for eating them).

***

I forgot to take my tablets last night until I got to bed and couldn’t sleep.  All my childhood I had insomnia and then when I got depressed at university it got very bad, going to bed around eleven, but not falling asleep until 3.00 or 4.00am.  That lasted until I was put on anti-depressants.  Since then, the medication knocks me out.  It’s useful, as if I forget to take the evening tablets, I’m usually reminded by the fact that I can’t sleep even if I’m tired.  However, although I took the tablets last night at 1.00am or so, they didn’t put me to sleep for another hour or two, so I got to sleep very late again which is not good.

***

I broke my ‘No Twitter’ rule already, but after getting annoyed about politics, this cheered me up for fifteen seconds, even though I’m not usually a dog person.

Up and Down

Today was my last day at work.  I finished the work I was set early and as my boss is still away and hadn’t left me any extra work, there was no reason to stay, so I left at 2.15pm.  I’m glad to be away from the office.  The people were nice, but it was not a good environment for me: too noisy and busy and I was too shy to talk to anyone, although I guess that’s partly the problem of being a temp and not ‘really’ on the team.  Plus, I made too many big mistakes, although I think some of them were because I misunderstood how the search engine on LinkedIn functions rather than pure incompetence (or depressive poor concentration) as I initially thought.  The early finish meant I could do some Shabbat shopping before it got too late as well.  I’m glad I got through the whole three month contract without a single sick day or late arrival due to depression, although I nearly fell at the proverbial last post, as I overslept by nearly half an hour this morning, but I rushed and took the bus to the station instead of walking and arrived at work on time.

I’m glad that I’ve got an interview for another job lined up, but I’m already terrified about it.  The interview is scary and so is the cataloguing test.  I feel that my cataloguing skills have gone really rusty, especially as I haven’t really done big number-building in Dewey (building up the long shelfmarks) since my MA eight years ago.  However, the really terrifying thing is the ten minute presentation about which I have no idea what to say.  It doesn’t help that I can only vaguely remember what this job involves and I don’t have access to the online job description.  Plus, I’m sure I’m going to start shaking when I speak and that anxiety in itself can trigger shaking.

***

Someone at work asked me about librarianship and what I had to do for my MA and I panicked and my mind went blank.  This happens to me a lot: people ask me questions about myself and topics that I know a lot about and that mean a lot to me, but I panic and can’t think of anything.  I tend to dread those kinds of conversations, rather than ones where I can hurriedly pass back the conversation by asking the other person a question (or the same one they just asked me).  With Doctor Who it’s even worse, as I grew up in the nineties when the programme was not in production (except for one TV movie) and its memory was a laughingstock, so I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and change the subject.

***

I’ve been put back on the security rota at shul (synagogue) even though I’ve said that I have health issues and can’t guarantee to get there.  I may have to be more explicit and say that I have mental health issues and can pretty much guarantee to not be there in the mornings at the moment because that’s when things are worst and the fact that I get to shiurim (classes) and services in the evenings is not proof that I am well enough to get there in the mornings.  I always hate to say things like that, though.  I get scared how people will react if I say I have mental health issues.

***

I filled in the questionnaire that I was supposed to fill in before my therapy assessment on Monday.  I’ve done so many of these things now that I did it in just a couple of minutes, whereas the first time I did one, at the counselling service at university, I took so long over it that the therapist told me to just stop wherever I’d got up to.  Here the difficulty is more focusing on the last twelve days when the depression has lasted, with occasional brief gaps, for fifteen or twenty years.  Other than that it’s just ticking the worst box for most of the questions.  In the past I would probably have agonised over exactly how depressed I’ve been in the last two weeks, but this time I just answered for how I’ve been feeling “lately” as I know there hasn’t been much variation for months; I also don’t want to distort the answers by focusing too much on one or two better days when the average is so awful.  I guess I’ve been in the NHS long enough to learn to play the system, although I’m not sure that anyone really pays much attention to these questionnaires anyway.

(Also, is it autistic of me to wonder why “filling in” a questionnaire is the same as “filling out” a questionnaire when they sound like they should be opposites?)

***

Problem: I want to interact with Doctor Who fans on Twitter, both because it’s fun and to promote my blog.  Unfortunately, many Doctor Who fans are very political, whereas I want to avoid politics at the moment (including/especially Brexit).  I’m not sure how to do this (and wasting more time online is possibly not a goal I should be exploring).  Although I’m wondering if I should be using my blog to review new Doctor Who episodes at all.  My better reviews tend to be written after multiple viewings, often long after the event, and I want to reserve that blog for high-quality writing with an eye to professional publication one day.  On the other hand, if I don’t review there, I only end up writing mini-reviews in the comments on my friends’ blogs or in response to emails/texts.

***

I ate too much unhealthy food at shiur (Torah class) again.  I don’t know why I do this.  I do the same on Shabbat (the Sabbath), particularly at shul (synagogue) at kiddush (the refreshments after the service) or seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal).  I thought it might be a social anxiety thing, that I eat to distract myself or to look busy so no one talks to me, but I over-eat on Shabbat at home too.  Although today I didn’t intend to drink what my family refers to as “fat coke” (non-diet coca cola), which I don’t even like much.  I am possibly coming down from a sugar rush now.

Shiur was interesting, but left me somewhat depressed again.  The assistant rabbi was talking about the importance of building an ‘inside,’ an internal world.  He said that’s his primary message in the Torah he teaches.  I worry I don’t have an inside.  I spend a lot of time in thought, but I don’t know that my thoughts are worthwhile and they go round and round inside my head without going anywhere.  Sharing many (not all) of my thoughts here is not keeping my “inside” inside me in the way the assistant rabbi said we should.  I can’t remember everything he said, but he was talking about challenges and how they are often about engaging with things externally only.  I feel attracted to someone and then I feel guilty because that’s focusing on externals.  I think that I really want to have a meaningful relationship with someone which would be an interior relationship, but maybe I’m wrong and I could only relate to someone in a superficial way.  I don’t think that was my experience when in a relationship, but that was for such a relatively short period and I wonder sometimes what would happen if I was married and was with someone for years.

The other thing that happened at shiur was the subject came up of the time when the rabbi offered to give £50 to tzedaka (charity) if someone could answer a particular question that he was sure no one would be able to answer and I answered it correctly.  I still feel embarrassed about that, without really knowing why, and then I feel guilty (??? I find it hard to understand or name what I feel a lot of the time, let alone why I feel it) that I feel embarrassed.

***

Well, my mood is sinking fast and I’m tired, so I probably ought to get ready for bed.  I doubt I will blog tomorrow as Shabbat starts at 3.45pm and I have a lot of preparation to do as I’m home alone (which reminds me that I need to take some food out of the freezer before I go to bed tonight), so I probably won’t have time, especially as I’m likely to sleep in.  Last time I did Shabbat alone I said I would get myself invited out for at least one meal if it happened again, but when it came to it, I chickened out and didn’t.  In the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world it’s considered normal and acceptable to ask for dinner invitations if home alone or visiting for Shabbat and people who were not raised religious often cite it as something they love about Judaism, but the only time I tried it (when I went to New York in the summer), I got turned down flat.  Normal frum community stuff just doesn’t seem to work out for me (see also getting set up on dates, or not).

Fifteen Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I Will Work Harder”

I worry that I may have lost a – well, friend is too strong a word, but friendly acquaintance – by owning up to my weaknesses/bad habits.  I nearly owned up to them publicly, or rather, I did, but then tried to retract what I said.  I have a pathological need for confession and absolution, and probably a desire to be hated by others as I hate myself by revealing my shortcomings.  This only applies online, though.  In person I can’t even admit to things that aren’t particularly shaming like my mental health or geekyness.

***

I feel like Boxer the horse from Animal Farm.  I beat myself up endlessly about my moral and religious failings and I keep telling myself “I must work harder” just as Boxer was always saying “I will work harder”.  But it never works.  Perhaps I work as hard, or harder, at my religious and moral life than most people (or most frum (religious) Jews), but the results are much less.  I try to judge myself based on my effort (which according to the Talmud is what God judges), but it’s hard.  I can’t accurately measure my own effort, let alone anyone else’s; I can measure outcomes.  I can see that I’m not going to shul (synagogue) as often as others, that I’m not studying Torah as much and so on.

So I try to work harder, but I can’t because I’m already at my emotional limit, if not beyond it (all that crying must signify something).  My rabbi said (at Ne’ilah on Yom Kippur, the holiest time of the year) that making resolutions to do more were pointless as they won’t work; we should be doing things better and smarter than before, using our existing routines and schedules in a better way to get more out of the year.  Don’t try to study an hour of Talmud each day when you get home exhausted, but use your half hour train journey to do it instead.  This is probably good advice, but I’m not sure where I have the free capacity at the moment to follow it.  I don’t know what I can actually change right now.

Indifferent Honest

In which I try to use religious ideas to support myself, but end up self-loathing again.

Today I am alternating between feeling wicked and incompetent.

I woke up early, at least for a Sunday and considering I went to bed so late last night.  For some reason when I woke up this morning I started thinking about a Midrash (ancient rabbinic expansion of the biblical story to interpret or explain it).  It runs like this (translation pasted with slight amendments from here; I don’t have the original):

“HaShem [God] tests tzaddikim [the righteous] whereas His soul despises those who are wicked and who love corruption.”  (Tehillim/Psalms 11:5)

“1) Rabbi Yonatan explains: a potter checking his pots (by tapping on their surface) doesn’t check faulty pots that would shatter after one tap, rather he checks strong pots that can survive even a number of knocks without shattering. So Hashem doesn’t test resha’im (wicked people) but tzaddikim (righteous people).

2) Rabbi Yosi ben Channina explains: When a flax dealer knows that his flax is superior, the more he beats it the more it thickens, whereas if his flax is inferior one beating causes it to split.

3) Rabbi Elazar explains: This is like a farmer who has two cows, one strong and one weak. To which does he attach the yoke, surely to the stronger one?”

– Bereishit Rabbah 32:3 and repeated with variations in 55:2

Three rabbis bring three different parables to explain why good people suffer in this world rather than wicked people.  In none of the parables does God benefit from the test, as He is perfect.  In the first case, the potter hits  his pots to show their strength to potential buyers, so he only hits the ones he knows won’t break.  This sees suffering as a way of demonstrating the strength of the person suffering to the world: God afflicts the righteous so other observers will see their strength of character in adversity.

In the second case, the flax dealer beats his good quality flax to improve it, but he doesn’t beat the inferior flat because it will have the opposite effect and make it worse quality.  From this point of view, suffering is to improve the person suffering.  God afflicts the righteous so that they will grow spiritual through their suffering and become better people as a result.

In the third parable, the farmer has a job that needs doing.  The suffering – the cow pulling the yoke – doesn’t actually benefit the person suffering either directly (parable two) or indirectly (parable one, where suffering made the virtues of the righteous obvious to the world whereas previously they were hidden and known only to HaShem).  It’s just something that needs doing.  From this point of view, God needs some suffering in this world as part of His plan for it; the reasons why aren’t dealt with in this parable.  It doesn’t directly benefit the righteous; God just knows that the wicked won’t be able to cope with it, but the righteous will, so of necessity He tests the righteous, not the wicked (and presumably rewards the righteous later although that isn’t stated here – see the discussion of “the sufferings of love” in Talmud Brachot which arguably deals with this issue).

I tried to apply some of this to me, but nothing seems to stick.  I don’t feel that depression and loneliness is making me stronger.  The opposite, really.  Maybe for a while it was making me stronger, but now I think it’s really holding me back.  Certainly most of my worst sins happen because of the depression, not despite it.  I don’t think it’s demonstrating my worth to others, because I hide my suffering and depression from most people and, anyway, I don’t know that there’s much to demonstrate.  And I don’t feel that I’m doing useful work ‘ploughing’ for God.  I don’t know.

I shouldn’t even say any of this.  I’m so wicked and evil, it isn’t surprising that I suffer.  Really everyone should hate me, but I hide my wickedness and trick people into liking me.

I wanted to write about why I hate myself so much and think I’m such a bad person, but I can’t bring myself to write about the thing I hate most about myself, the negative behaviour and acting out.  I wrote a bit yesterday, but then went back and deleted because I was too ashamed.  I don’t think I deserve to have friends and readers, but having got them, I’m scared of losing them.

What I will say is that I feel guilty that I have strong likes and dislikes about people.  Some people I just don’t like.  I don’t think I show that, but I feel bad about even feeling it.  Sometimes I feel like I’m judging people and although I try hard to see the best in people and find excuses for their bad behaviour, I feel bad that I have to do that consciously and not automatically.  Also, I don’t speak lashon hara (gossip, broadly speaking, although it’s a somewhat wider term than that) much, but I feel I shouldn’t speak it at all and I can feel guilty about that even for years afterwards.  I’m too short-tempered and sarcastic with my parents and sometimes in my head I say terrible things about people who annoy me.  I don’t meet my religious obligations as an Orthodox Jew: I don’t daven (pray) when I should or with a community or with concentration, I don’t do enough Torah study and there’s the fact I never went to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary)…  I’ve been going to Talmud shiur (class) at my shul (synagogue) for six months now, but I don’t understand it.  I would drop out, except that I’d be embarrassed to be the only one to do so.

And then there’s the one big, terrible, inexcusable thing that I can’t get around and which makes me feel everyone would be better off without me, that I’m such a liar and a hypocrite for doing this and trying to make people think I’m a good person and I don’t deserve to have friends and a community.  But I do want those things, so I’m keeping it quiet.

***

From wickedness to incompetence: I’ve been recording my budget/expenditure a particular way since I started university (eighteen years) and it’s worked fine, but in the last few months I’ve had a big discrepancy between what is actually in my bank account according to my statement and what my own records show and I can’t trace the discrepancy, no matter how hard I try.  The discrepancy was a surplus, but today turned into a deficit i.e. the surplus was being eroded and it seems to be self-correcting, as I suspected it would at some point.  I haven’t lost money and I’ve probably just missed something somewhere, but this does not help my feelings of being an idiot or at least not an adult.  I probably ought to run my bank accounts another way, but I’m not sure what would be easiest.  I used to be good at maths at school, but since leaving I’ve struggled with it and get vaguely panicked and confused by complicated calculations and big numbers, which is a self-confidence issue as much as anything: I can do mental arithmetic, but I don’t trust myself to do it correctly and double check myself.  It doesn’t help that my Dad is always getting me to open new savings accounts with different interest rates, which just confuses me (the current problem started when I opened one such account and I’m sure they’re related).

I shook at the barber again.  He noticed and asked if I was OK.  This also adds to the incompetent feeling, even though I know it’s just social anxiety and Not My Fault.  It also turns out I don’t just cry at work or when doing hitbodedut meditation, as I started crying at home while davening (praying).  I try not to beat myself up about that, as I think crying is healthy (even if crying in an open plan office probably isn’t), but it’s just another sign of the bad state I’m in.  My sister phoned to see how I am doing and asked if I’d found a new job yet for when my current contract ends in six weeks; I couldn’t tell her I’m just terrified and think I’m not actually capable of holding down a ‘proper’ job.  I honestly don’t know what to do about work, as I really don’t feel capable of working, but I know I will get even worse if I drop out of the labour market again and I know I won’t qualify for benefits.

Triggers and Case Histories

(I’m experimenting with a timed post here.  I’m writing it on Sunday night, but it should post while I’m at work on Monday morning, so I’ve written it as if it were written on Monday.  So “yesterday” is Sunday not Saturday.)

I submitted a job application for a cataloguing yesterday.  I feel pessimistic about it, but I keep changing how I feel pessimistic.  Sometimes I feel my application will be rejected; other times I feel I’ll get the job, but won’t be able to do it.  I have completely lost whatever confidence in my professional abilities that I might once have had.

I spoke to my rabbi mentor yesterday.  I think I sounded more upbeat than I feel.  He said a lot of frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people feel far from God, struggle get in the right mood for Yom Tov (sombre for Yom Kippur, joyous for Simchat Torah) and that lots of people feel they don’t fit in to the community.  But I feel a bit as if I hadn’t expressed myself well or helped him engage with what I was trying to say.  I know it’s hard for everyone to engage with Yom Tov (a while back I posted here a quote from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, one of  the greatest rabbinic thinkers and Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, where he said that even he sometimes feels “cold” on Rosh Hashanah morning and has to get himself in the right frame of mind), but I feel that it’s harder for me, although I can’t quantify that or prove it.  I feel that I don’t fit in to the community at all, as shown by my difficulties making friends and talking to people.  I feel that I am having a kind of crisis of faith, as although I believe in God strongly and although I can accept intellectually that one day I might find meaning and purpose in my life/struggles (the two seem largely the same to me and have for decades), I can’t feel that at all emotionally.  What I feel emotionally oscillates between a cool disengagement and lack of desire to daven (pray) or study Torah, and a raging anger at God for letting my life be like this (depressed, anxious, lonely) for so long.  Then I feel guilty that I feel like this, not because it’s sacrilegious, but because other people have it so much worse and I should feel angry for them.

Speaking of not fitting in to communities, yesterday evening I was feeling fine, packing for work, when suddenly I got hit by intense despair and perhaps some anxiety.  This time at least I could work out the chain of thoughts that led to it.  It went: looking at Doctor Who stuff online –> thinking I should try again to be more involved in fandom as it would be fun and good to do something social that isn’t shul- or mental health/autism-related –> a lot of Doctor Who fans are very left-wing and into identity politics –> they’ll hate me because currently left-wing people in the UK are insisting that Jews make up antisemitism for political reasons –> vertiginous despair and loneliness, maybe some anxiety.  I’m not sure how I can cope when even positive thoughts (Doctor Who was really good tonight) can be so triggering.

In attempting to get an appointment with a psychiatrist on the NHS, I was told I could also apply to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) for help.  I’m not quite sure what they can offer me, but I feel I might as well try.  I summarised my condition on the online application form:

I suffer from treatment-resistant depression. I have consistently low mood and despair as well as occasional suicidal thoughts. Very occasionally I self-harm.  This has continued despite medication and talking therapies for fifteen to twenty years. Although I am able to work four days a week, I find work exhausting and struggle to get through the days. I often spontaneously start crying at work for no obvious reason and I struggle to work through intense depression, despair and anxiety. I lack energy and motivation most of the time and on days when I don’t work, I sleep up to twelve hours a day.

I also have social anxiety which may stem from high functioning autism and/or complex trauma. I find it difficult to know how to initiate and continue conversations and to read unspoken social cues. I struggle to make friends and to cope with social situations and avoid social situations as much as possible.

I also have extremely low self-esteem and struggle with negative, critical thoughts about myself as well as intense guilt and shame.

It seems somehow bland and clinical to see it written down like that.  Do I think it sounds whiny and pathetic or is that just the critical inner voice again?  I probably should have put more about my history with medication and therapy (that was supposed to go in a different box, but the drop-down menu wasn’t working properly), although my experience with these questionnaires is that no one reads them, least of all the person who actually assesses you for the service.  And summarising fifteen or twenty years of personal history in 2000 characters is not easy, nor is opening up about your deepest thoughts to anonymous strangers (so not at all like blogging…).  I shall have to wait and see what comes of it.

Sukkot and Stress

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

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

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

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

Anyway…

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

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

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

The Wrong Path

I was offered the chance to lead Ma’ariv (the evening service) in shul (synagogue) tonight.  In my old shul I used to do that a lot and got a bit of a buzz from it (albeit that I felt guilty about ‘showing off’), but I hadn’t been asked in the three years that I’ve lived in this area.  I assumed everyone had me down as not knowledgeable and/or religious enough, given how little I get to shul because of the depression and social anxiety, so I was surprised to be asked.  However, I panicked and turned it down, which I feel bad about, as I may never get asked again now.  I really need to do something about my social anxiety, as not only did I turn down Ma’ariv today, but I avoided shul this morning because of it.

The shiur (religious class) today during seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat (Sabbath) meal) at shul reinforced my feelings that I’m barely even treading water at the moment regarding Judaism.  The idea was that not only is it important to to the right actions, but one has to be on the right path too.  Otherwise one can end up doing the right thing, but in the wrong place.  I don’t have a clue what path I should be on, or what that would even mean in terms of my life.

A weird thing happened during Ma’ariv.  At one point I just stopped and realised that the top of the letter tzaddi looks like two horns (צ).  This reminded of the Midrash where Aharon (Aaron) is afraid to become High Priest, as the horns of the altar look like the horns of a calf, reminding him of his role in the Golden Calf.  He has to be reassured by Moshe (Moses) that HaShem (God) has forgiven him.  I stopped for about minute (which is quite a long time) thinking about this, unable to go on.  I’m not quite sure what my unconscious was trying to tell me, but I guess it may be related to being asked to lead Ma’ariv.

Weird mind thing number two: this morning I dreamt about the twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) telling me, “Whatever you do, be a Doctor” which may mean that my unconscious wants me to do a PhD.  Or it may mean that I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who (got one full season and one special episode (= thirteen episodes) left of my epic re-watch of all surviving TV Doctor Who from its creation in 1963).  (Also, Clara told the Doctor to “Be a Doctor” and not a warrior when she was killed, but I’m not sure how that fits in.)

Family Tensions

I will admit from the start that this story doesn’t reflect well on me.  I started writing to vent, but the more I wrote, the more I realised that it really is my own fault.  I’m writing partly to get perspective, partly to explain why the next X number of months while I live with my parents are going to be tough, and why it’s doubtful that anyone could bear to live with me for long.  Also, no explanations of Jewish words/concepts this time as I’ll be here all night.  Sorry.  If you’re not Jewish, you’re just going to have wing this one.

I just had a conversation with my Mum that went something like this:

Me: My friend who I thought was taking me to shul on Friday night next week when I’m in Crown Heights has said he doesn’t go, so I’ll have to daven at home.

Mum: Why don’t you go online and see if there are shuls in Crown Heights?

Me: I don’t want to wander around Crown Heights by myself at night in case I get lost.  It’s an area with a lot of crime.

Mum: But there may be a shul on your road.

Me: If I did, it would be Chabad.  I’ll be the only person there not in a suit and is clean-shaven.

Mum: We davened at Chabad and we didn’t stand out.

Me: You davened at Chabad House.  It’s geared up for kiruv.  It’s not the same.

Mum: So you’ll be a guest and they’ll make you feel welcome.

Me: They’ll try to convert me.

I can’t remember what Mum said next, but it ended with me saying that I understand the frum world more than her and her storming out while I said something unpleasant (I am not proud of this, but I am being honest).  This was just after Mum and Dad had a conversation across me while I was in the room, but as if I wasn’t there, asking who is giving me a lift to the doctor tomorrow morning when I hadn’t asked for a lift and was planning on walking.

OK, I admit I handled this whole situation badly, partly because I’m tired, hungry, stressed and anxious.  I know I’m a difficult person to live with, but there are also psychological issues here.  I guess the specific issues here that I can see now I’ve calmed down a bit are:

  1. My parents think of me as a child.  This is partly because I always will be their child, but mostly because I’m unmarried, live at home, am unemployed and am lacking in some life skills.  They don’t treat my sister as a child to the same extent, even though she’s younger than me.
  2. I hate being thought of as a child, especially as I realise that in many ways, I am still a child.
  3. I don’t like it when people try to solve my problems.  A lot of the time, when I raise a problem, especially if I don’t specifically ask for advice, I’m looking to vent, not to have a solution thrust on me.  I’m not good at taking advice.
  4. Worse than that, what I say the problem is is not always what the problem actually here.  Here I came up with lots of problems, all of which were true to a greater or lesser extent, but the real problem was only vaguely touched on: I hate walking into a new shul by myself.  The fact that the shul would be Hasidic makes it worse, but that is the issue.  When I calmed down, I googled shuls in Crown Heights as Mum suggested and in a few seconds found two on the road I’ll being staying on, albeit I think quite a way away.  One at least was Hasidic (although not Chabad), but that isn’t the point.  The point was, I had said my problem was one thing, when it was really something else.
  5. The something else here, and probably usually, is social anxiety.  That’s what stops me walking into a new shul.
  6. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I tend to try to tell people that my problems are hopeless.  I generally want either to be agreed with and proved that they are hopeless or to be disagreed with and proved that there is hope.  However, no one can prove the future, so people just try to problem solve or dismiss my problems, both of which anger me.
  7. I just have personality clashes with my parents which naturally lead to a lot of bickering.  To be fair, there is a family dynamic of bickering.  I am not by any means the most argumentative person in the family.  There are deeper issues here that would carry me outside what I think I can halakhically say in public, even anonymously, but there are historical family issues that mean that when arguments start, a lot of bad buttons get pressed for me – not anger management ones, but catastrophising, feeling frustrated, not taken seriously, isolated and ignored and so on.
  8. You may have noticed that being ignored and isolated is pretty much the worst thing in the world for me, and I spend a lot of my life worrying that I will die lonely and unloved and then go to the afterlife where God will tell me that He hates me and isn’t interested in me.  Basically 90% of the biggest mistakes I’ve made and sins I’ve done, and perhaps also a lot of arguments I’ve got into, come from my fear of being isolated and ignored.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost ALL my problems are rooted in this dynamic of the family dynamic of bickering leading to feelings of isolation and rejection.

There probably is a lot more I could say if this was a therapy session, but the takeaway point is that I realise that that argument was (a) largely my fault (my parents might have realised after thirty-five years that social anxiety is at the bottom of most of my fears, but I don’t blame them for not doing so) and (b) was largely preventable.  But I can’t work out how I could have got out of the argument.  From the point where I nonchalantly said I’d have to daven at home (when I was just venting, not looking for a solution to a problem or even much of a response), I was basically locked in to an argument because every further step pressed more of my buttons about rejection, isolation and not being listened to, but because I couldn’t openly admit to my fears, I was just driven to more bizarre (albeit logical in my head) reasons to defend my position.  Logically, my Mum was right: google and find a shul (plus I don’t know how dangerous Crown Heights really is, as a non-New York resident.  I was just freaked out by people on Hevria joking about crack addicts on the streets.  I basically don’t want to be in Crown Heights at all and am only there because of a friend who has seriously let me down and am finding more and more reasons to hate the fact that I’m going to be there and worry that they’re going to find my bullet-ridden corpse in the gutter).

In my defence, all I can say is that some of my fears are justified.  Orthodox shuls are often not welcoming, sadly, and ultra-Orthodox communities in particular are notoriously insular and suspicious of outsiders, especially those who, by dress and bearing, are clearly not ultra-Orthodox themselves.  That doesn’t really justify what I said, though.

Mostly Bad News

I had a therapy session today to discuss whether to continue therapy.  My therapist says that she was recommending ending therapy less because I made ‘wrong’ decision, more because she felt therapy was not helping me and I was moving backwards into a child state that she thought I had moved away from.  I agreed that I’m not sure if therapy is really helping, although with psychodynamic psychotherapy it’s notoriously difficult to measure any kind of improvement.  I had been wondering whether to try a new therapist with a different approach (although I don’t know what) or a frum (religious) Jewish therapist who might be better placed to help me navigate the Orthodox Jewish community.

Contrary to what my therapist said, I do feel that I am still trying to push outwards, albeit that it is often two steps forwards and one back because, as I’ve said before, the harder I push at the world, the harder the world pushes back at me.  My therapist did at least feel that I’m a lot better than I was when I started seeing her six years ago, which is true.

We decided to leave things for a bit.  We were breaking for a month or so anyway because of my holiday and then her holiday, so we decided to meet again after the break either to discuss how to continue or to do a proper end of therapy meeting.

That was fairly positive.  More problematic was what happened when I tried to get a repeat prescription of my medication.  My antidepressant, clomipramine, was not available in the dosage I take at four different pharmacists, due to undisclosed supply problems (the supplier says there is a problem, but not what it is).  I take 75mg  in the morning and the same in the evening, as a 25mg tablet with a 50mg one.  Neither 25mg or 50mg tablets are currently available.  10mg tablets are available, but you can’t take 75mg with 10mg tablets.  In theory I could split it 70 : 80, if the doctor prescribed it, but that would involve taking fifteen tablets a day even before my other tablets (four psychiatric medications, one hay fever tablet and four vitamin supplements).  I don’t really want to have to take twenty-four tablets a day and I certainly don’t want to have to take all of those to America.

Whatever happens, I have to get a new prescription from the doctor.  My GP’s practice seem to arrange their appointment system to prevent people from seeing the doctor (seriously, I think they told one of my parents that they deliberately make it almost impossible for you to get a quick appointment so that you will have to book one in two or three weeks, by which time you may not need it any more and cancel), but I have a note on my record to say I can book an emergency appointment within twenty-four hours if I need to (in case I’m suicidal).  I thought it was legitimate to use that here, as I need to sort this ASAP as I’m running out of meds and am away from Sunday, but it turns out the note is not on my file any more.  I guess it gets taken off automatically after a while.  Which is problematic as I was getting suicidal last week and nearly needed to use it.  Anyway, the receptionist booked me an appointment for tomorrow morning, but I did feel a bit like a liar, or that I was stuck in an Orwellian world where I was suddenly an unperson.

I suspect the clomipramine may be out of production, as I believe it’s rarely prescribed these days (it’s an old generation of drug), which is a problem for me, as it’s about the only antidepressant that has ever done much for me.  Plus now I may have to go cold turkey over my holiday, which will not be fun.  Maybe it’s just as well that it looks like most of the people I wanted to see while I’m in New York aren’t able to see me.

My OCD is still a bit worse, although not as bad as it was eighteen months ago.  I think I’ve got it under control, but it’s frightening that it can come out of nowhere, both the kosher food OCD and the pure O (obsession) OCD.  I’m trying to remember the CBT coping strategies that I learnt for dealing with the OCD.  I think can control it reasonably well these days (better than the depression or the social anxiety, anyway), but it is worrying whenever it returns, especially as some pure O thoughts never really go away completely.  It just makes me feel that I’ll be messed up forever.

I know the OCD comes partly from stress and upheaval, but partly from anxiety and guilt about my sexuality.  That I feel I have to completely suppress my sexual feelings, which is not easy and probably not healthy.  I guess that probably feels into the depression too.  Unlike some religions, Judaism is strongly opposed to celibacy, but has no answers for what to do about sexuality outside of marriage other than “Get married young (or remarry quickly if you find yourself divorced or widowed).”  It has no answers for someone like me, who is a weirdo freak who no one will marry and who in any case (as I said yesterday) has no contacts in the frum (religious) community to set me up on dates and no confidence for online dating or singles events and certainly not for meeting women casually and asking them out.  I’m just an communal outlier no one really cares about.

I’ve been feeling more lonely.  I feel that things are never going to work out romantically with E., but I can’t see them working with anyone else either.  I find it hard to believe anyone could be as understanding and gentle with me as E. was and even if someone was, I can’t imagine she would be more forgiving of my quirks, flaws and mental health issues (and consequent financial straits) than E.  This post I saw today spoke about the power of love to heal mental health issues, but it’s not really something I have experienced much of, or feel likely to in the future.  E. was supportive, but ultimately couldn’t cope with my issues (for legitimate reasons); my only other relationship ended partly because my girlfriend expected me to deal with her (undiagnosed) issues, but ignored me when my depression was bad.

It’s hard to know what I want from a relationship.  I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be in a stable, loving long-term relationship with someone or to live with someone other than my immediate family, as neither of my relationships reached that point (one lasted eight months or nine months, but was interrupted a couple of times by my girlfriend saying she wasn’t sure she really liked me and could I leave her life for a few weeks while she decided what she felt; my relationship with E. only lasted two months, long-distance the whole time).  Being a virgin, I can’t really imagine what a physical relationship would be like either, though it is perhaps a little easier to try to imagine, though what I imagine may bear no relation to what it would be like.  I suppose what I can imagine is little things, gentle touch, support, shared jokes, feeling comfortable together.  It’s hard to imagine that happening again though and certainly not long-term, as both times it began to happen in the past, the relationship broke down because my partner either got scared or took advantage of the situation.

I feel I’m not coping with living with my parents again either.  It’s partly that their behaviour can trigger the OCD, but also just their habits and interactions can be difficult for me to deal with, partly from depression or autism, but partly from just different personalities.  It’s mostly trivial things that I shouldn’t really complain about (I guess a lot of people develop annoying quirks as they get older), but (a) it’s hard to live with people who have annoying habits when I didn’t choose to live with them and (b) it makes me feel a bad son/person/Jew who would never be able to live with a wife and kids.  Though sometimes I wonder if I am justified in getting annoyed about some of these things.  It is hard to know, or to know what I can actually do about them.  I know I can’t change them, but at the moment, I’m pushing myself to my maximum and I don’t feel I can change myself to be more patient either.

I guess that struggle to imagine things getting better is how I feel about a lot of things right now.  I try to put a brave face on things and for a while I can even genuinely be positive, as I was with my therapist earlier.  But sooner or later, the pessimistic voices start again.  “Do you know how few people with treatment-resistant depression achieve sustained recovery?” (fewer than half, apparently).  “Do you really think you can fit in to any workplace with all your issues?”  “How could anyone ever care for a freak like you – and if she did, how would you actually meet her and talk to her in the first place?”  As I’ve said before, CBT didn’t work for me because it tries to get the depressed person to find evidence against their negative perceptions of themselves and the world, but the evidence seems to indicate that my perceptions of the world are all actually true (my self-perceptions perhaps less so).

Corrosive

I am not, by nature, an angry person.  I am arguably one of those people who turns his anger inwards as depression and OCD.  At the moment, I feel the angriest I’ve ever been with HaShem (God).  Usually I cool off quickly and apologise (often without thinking I’m in the wrong.  I just can’t stand the tension and feel I have to apologise), but here I calm down and then I start up all over again a few hours later.  I get triggered by thoughts of loneliness and despair, thoughts that I am wasting my life and by feeling obliged to try to get the energy and motivation to study Torah or daven (pray).

The worst of it is that ultimately I know that He’s right.  I don’t just believe in God, I believe specifically in an immanent, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God, so that anything that happens to me has been deliberately allowed to occur by Him because it is the best possible thing that could happen to me right now.  And that just makes me furious, because why should the best possible thing to happen to me be my feeling lonely and despairing?  It’s like arguing with your parents when you know they’re right, but you can’t back down without losing face.  It’s even worse than losing an argument when you know you’re right, because at least you have a certain amount of dignity and self-esteem there.  Here I just feel like an idiot, complaining about something that I know I have no right to complain about.  No one ever told me that life was going to be easy and it’s stupid of me to want it to be.

I feel that I can’t go on much more.  I’m too lonely, depressed and hopeless to live like this forever.  I just want something to change, but I don’t know what to do.  Contrary to the magical thinking (segulot) that permeate much of contemporary Orthodoxy, I don’t think I can force God’s hand.  As for prayer… I once gave a fifteen minute drasha (religious talk) on prayer, setting forth three different perspectives on prayer and what it does.  1) Prayer is a mechanism by which we can change ourselves and become worthy of what we want (Rav Hirsch); 2) prayer is a method of creating community (Rav Soloveitchik); 3) prayer is a method of building a relationship with HaShem (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov).  The community aspect isn’t relevant here.  The idea of prayer as a vehicle for growth is problematic for me right now because I don’t have the energy or motivation to grow any more.  And as for building a relationship with God… well, at the moment I want to shout at Him or just sulk because I don’t know what to say.  I’ve hardly done any hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer over the last few days because I don’t have anything to say to Him any more.

I feel ridiculously silly, but I can’t calm down.  Every time I feel that I could be this lonely and depressed for the rest of my life, I get angry all over again.  It reminds me of my least favourite moment in one of my least favourite Doctor Who stories, The End of Time, where the Doctor, realising that he is going to have to give up his life (ish) to save his friend goes into a huge sulk and complains that it’s not fair.  It’s a horrible moment bereft of all heroism and dignity (I’m not a great fan of the tenth Doctor or David Tennant, but they deserved better).  That’s how I feel.  I know I’m posturing like an adolescent.  I know.  But I can’t help it, because I really feel on the brink.

I’ve been told that it’s OK to be angry with God, it’s even an argument I’ve used myself, but I still feel silly, especially as I suspect some of the anger is really directed at E., or at my situation in general, but I can’t express it to them, so it gets turned on God instead.

Here we segue from the very embarrassing part of the post to the incredibly embarrassing part.

I also feel (and this is not new) a lot of anxiety and guilt about sex, which probably feeds into the anger against God for keeping me single.  I feel guilty whenever I feel attracted to anyone, for feminist reasons as much as religious ones.   I have heard lately about involuntarily celibate men turning into women-hating monsters.  I remember after the Fort Hood shooting, an irresponsible newspaper article listed five signs of serial killers, and I had all five.  I’ve had a girlfriend now, so I guess I’m 20% less likely to become a misogynistic serial killer, but I worry about myself sometimes.  This is doubtless pure O OCD again, as I don’t think I’m realistically likely to turn into a a serial killer (misogynist or otherwise), but I do have a lot of hang ups about sex, questions and anxieties and also fear of being alone forever.

I’m not sure if my hang ups are the cause or the result of being a virgin at thirty-five (OK, strictly speaking I’m thirty-four for another couple of weeks, but unless my life changes in a series of radical ways, it will still stand).  It’s possible that they both feed each other and grow, which is a depressing thought.  It occurs to me that by this stage this is probably going to be another reason why I will end up single forever; any frum woman would be shocked by how jaded and impure I am, while any non-frum woman would doubtless find me laughably naive and inexperienced.  I’m beginning to suspect that sex is never going to be something I could be fully comfortable with, even if I get married.

It’s fairly safe to say that I have a lot of powerful emotions that I’m not allowed to express, either by circumstances, upbringing, religion or personality, and that these eat away inside me.  I’m not quite sure what I can do about this, except talk about it a lot in therapy and try to work through it that way.  I mostly feel too inhibited to blog about it.  I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with this post.  I can’t really express myself in fiction or poetry, let alone art or music, although I wish I could.

Jam Tomorrow

I managed to get a few chores done and cooked dinner (just rice and vegetarian sausages with tinned sweetcorn.  Doesn’t really count as cooking).  Other than that, I haven’t achieved anything today, except to feel depressed, despairing, lonely, anxious, incompetent, angry and Aspie, as well as a bit headachey.

I feel so incredibly furious right now.  I mean, at the world in general and maybe at God, and maybe the Jewish community.  I want to scream and shout and rage at the way I have done, if not everything, then at least most things that I was told to do to be liked/happy/successful and none of it has worked.  It’s always, “Well done for trying, now do this” (if I get congratulated at all on what I’ve achieved).  There’s always something else I have to do.  I can never be happy or loved romantically, not even for a short time.  How do other people get to be happy and loved and, if not rich and successful, then to pay the bills?  I know everyone has issues, but I can’t help feeling that my issues have been going on longer, and are more painful and persistent, than most people’s.

The stupid thing is that I’m already calming down, because I know that life isn’t fair (not from our understanding of it, anyway; maybe from God’s point of view, in the Next World, but not here) and that no one promised me even a modicum of happiness and romantic love and really I can’t complain and, of course, deep down I know I’m mainly angry at myself for not being able to deal with my issues and for acting out and succumbing to negative coping strategies.

Back on the hamster’s wheel again tomorrow.  Round and round and round and never arriving.

Insight into my Trouble Trusting HaShem (God)

I had a thought about feeling that HaShem (God) hates me and that I have no share in Olan HaBa (the Next World/Heaven).  I have known for a long time that these fears are connected with the family trauma I suffered as a young child and from which I have never fully recovered, which made me fear that my parents would abandon me.  My feeling that HaShem hates me is holding all my fear and anxiety about that, which I have never been able to express to my parents, because obviously they didn’t actually abandon me, it was just my childlike understanding of the problems that were around at that time, and what happened wasn’t their fault and I don’t want them to blame themselves for my issues by opening up to them about this.

I realised that the Pesach (Passover) fears are a precise parallel to this.  If one deliberately eats chametz (leaven) on Pesach, one is theoretically liable to karet, which is generally accepted to mean losing one’s share in Olam HaBa (although there are other interpretations.  Also, in practice most people probably wouldn’t get such a severe punishment, or at least so I was taught at school).  The idea is that one does something so bad that one is completely cut off from HaShem (karet mean literally ‘cut’).  For me, this is the equivalent of worrying that my parents would abandon me and so my anxieties got focused on Pesach.  No matter that, as one rabbi said to me, to incur karet you have to deliberately and knowingly eat chametz on Pesach; you don’t get it for doing the wrong thing through ignorance of the law or accident.  I was just fixated on the fact that we had done our Pesach preparations wrong in the past (through ignorance) and I was worried that we would do them wrong again even if it would be an accident.

Of course, this has now been going on so long that it is mixed up with my feelings that I can’t trust HaShem for other reasons, that I have suffered so long with the depression and other issues that I can’t trust that He will heal me or help me to get married.  I don’t know how to resolve this.  It is very hard to trust when I feel that I have been struggling certainly all my adult life and, on some level, even for much of my childhood.  I don’t know how to achieve the level of bitachon (trust in God) that I should have.  Although the funny thing is that it’s only regarding recovering from depression and getting married that I feel like this.  I have no problem trusting that I will muddle through somehow financially, despite my somewhat precarious employment position (maybe because I’ve never really been on the breadline, even though my parents have always had to help me), nor do I really worry too much about the survival of the Jewish people, something that historically has never been assured, although I do worry somewhat about serious persecution or another war in Israel.  But it’s only about achieving some kind of mental health and managing to get (and stay) married and have children that I feel absolutely pessimistic.

Doing Good and Feeling Loved

I looked online for “Does HaShem [God] hate me?” (I have a habit of using search engines like a magic 8-ball or the I Ching when depressed, albeit not literally taking the results as prophetic, more to find reasons to make myself more depressed.)  I found an article on Chabad.org (deliberately not going to link to it) that wasn’t helpful.  It said that I only think that HaShem hates me to give myself an excuse to carry on sinning and that I should accept that He loves me and therefore be good.  It would have been better if it had said that I only think HaShem hates me because I’ve been so bullied, neglected, belittled and boundary-trampled by my peers and especially by some of the authority figures in my life that I can’t believe that anyone could love me and that I need to accept that HaShem doesn’t have the hang-ups and inadequacies that they had that led them to put me down or prevented them for being there for me.  But now it just reinforces the feeling that I’m a terrible person who tells himself that HaShem hates him so he can sin even more.

I tried doing what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov suggests and focusing on good things I’ve done.  It’s hard.  I can think of two things, but the amount I had to do in both cases was trivial and anyone could/should have done it.  I don’t like to boast, but I did something on on two separate occasions that may have saved lives.  Yet they seem such trivial affairs.  All I did was alert the relevant authorities to the danger in time.  I didn’t do anything difficult, dangerous or brave (unless you count overcoming my social anxiety to speak up), I was just in the right place at the right time.  Anyone could have done it.  Perhaps someone would have done it if I wasn’t there.  But perhaps they wouldn’t, and looking at the outcome, what I did had very positive effects, even though my action was trivial and could have been done by anyone who was there.  It’s very confusing.

The Talmud says that saving a single life is like saving the universe.  I don’t think of myself as someone who has done great things, yet the Talmud would say that I did do two great things.  So why don’t I feel better?  It reminds me of a Doctor Who comic strip where the Doctor is feeling depressed in a bar.  The bartender asks what he does and he says he helps people.  The bartender asks how many people he’s saved and he says that he doesn’t really know because the number is too big and the bartender says if it’s that big, he should basically give himself a break and relax occasionally.  But if I relax and rely on past success which, even if non-trivial, were a long time ago and could, and perhaps would, have been done by anyone with little effort or cost, then I fear I will go downhill rapidly into arrogance and sin.  Even just thinking of this makes me feel overwhelmed (by what?  I don’t know) and want to act out to escape my thoughts.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing myself to other people.  Hevria.com sometimes (often, if I’m honest) makes me feel so stupid and inadequate, everyone seems to have led ten lives and achieved great things while I haven’t even lived one.  I haven’t done anything, really.  Not anything difficult or worthwhile.  Nor do I expect to ever do so any more.  It’s no wonder I have such difficulty finding someone willing to spend time with me, as a friend or partner.  I don’t exactly have much to offer, whether to a potential friend or wife or to God.  I can’t spend my life living on the benefit of what I may or may not have done years ago.

I guess it’s also easy to fall into the trap that because ‘older singles’, people with mental health issues and people with unusual interests or hobbies are not always treated with respect in the frum (religious) community, that somehow makes me any less worthy of love, just because other people are too short-sighted to see my virtues.  But it’s difficult to believe that I’m worthy of love in the abstract by God if hardly anyone down here on Earth loves me.  In any case, I don’t just want to be loved in the abstract.  I want to be loved by physical people.  I suspect that the only people who really care about me are my parents, my sister, maybe my brother-in-law and one or two friends.  Which I guess is more than some people have, so I feel bad for saying that it’s not enough, but it isn’t enough.  Which I guess is because I don’t love myself, otherwise it wouldn’t matter to me who loved me.  But – and this is the circular logic – it’s hard to love myself when society is sending messages that I’m not worthy of love, even though society tends to love people who loves themselves (and who behave “normally”).

Sometimes I wish I could just open up to people in my community about my mental health and my geeky interests and see what would happen.  Maybe they wouldn’t care (even though mental health is stigmatised in mainstream culture as much as in frum culture, and even though just owning a TV is considered at least vaguely disreputable in frum culture, let alone writing a book about a TV programme).  But I don’t have the social skills to direct the conversation like that or the confidence to do it.  I find mentioning long-term health issues difficult because it’s a big thing to casually drop into the conversation and unless you’ve only just been diagnosed, there’s a feeling of, “Why are you telling me this now?”

One minute I think that God hates me and that I’m a terrible sinner, the next I think maybe he loves me, but then why don’t more people love me and maybe He doesn’t love me if no one else does… it’s very confusing.  I wish I knew what to do.

I feel nauseous with anxiety right now and I don’t even know why.

Follow Up Post

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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