I spent a lot of time blogging, here and on my Doctor Who blog, last night. I should have known better than to blog late at night as it always takes longer than I expect. I’m also frustrated that I get such little feedback on my blogs. I tried turning off the ‘like’ notification on this blog to stop me obsessing about how many likes I get. To be honest, I don’t know why so many people seem to follow this blog, as it’s just me moaning about my life. I’d like to write other things about mental health and the Jewish community, but how I’m feeling on any given day drowns out more objective sociological thoughts. I guess that’s why I’d like feedback, to try and understand what people who ‘follow’ or ‘like’ this blog think about it. I’d also like feedback on my other blog to see what people think of my thoughts on Doctor Who as I try to turn some of the posts there into writing that ideally I’d like to have published and get paid for. Blogging, it has to be said, is not really a medium that suits me. I’m not good at search engine optimisation and publicising the blog. I’d rather get a publisher to do that for a share of my profits.
I spoke to my rabbinic mentor today about my guilt and frustration with my religious life. I’m still processing it, I think. He felt I’m a good judge of my own level of growth, but my judgement is disrupted when the depression is bad. I don’t know. I tell myself that I feel that HaShem (God) hates me because of things in my childhood and my loneliness, but it doesn’t stop it feeling real. Also, when I’m very depressed or anxious, I act out in different ways. Nothing really bad or criminal, but I hate myself for the things I do. I don’t know how much this is me setting too high standards for myself, considering everything that is going on in my life or whether I really should be better.
One thing that occurred to me while I was talking to my rabbinic mentor was that I don’t really know other frum men with mental illness to compare myself with, to see if I’m doing above or below average. I know a couple of frum women, but that’s apples and oranges a bit because in the Orthodox world men and women have different obligations and it’s not such a bad thing for women to pray less or without a minyan (prayer quorum) or not to learn Torah. When I compare myself to men at shul, I’m comparing myself to men who are probably much more functional than I am. The only other frum people I know with mental health issues are some of the Hevria.com writers and they are mostly managing their issues infinitely better than I am even though they’re mostly my age or younger i.e. they have spouses and children and learn Torah and even do crazy creative stuff with a Jewish flavour… it’s not stuff I could do right now and perhaps not ever. I would like to know how they cope, but I don’t dare to ask. I guess that’s why the site provokes such mixed emotions in me, aside from the issue of my being rejected as a regular writer. It makes me feel that it’s saying, “We do all this stuff, Jewish stuff, creative stuff, social stuff, and we have mental health issues. You have no excuse whatsoever for not doing the same.” So I feel angry and useless and end up posting comments there going on about how mentally ill I am to justify (to myself as much as to them) the fact that I’m not doing all the things they’re doing. And then when they talk about the miracles God does for them to intervene in their lives and make them better, I just go to pieces, feeling God hates me and they (the Hevria writers) must hate me and I’m going to be useless and lonely forever.
My only other achievement today has been to cook chilli (which I burnt…), which I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks. I feel disappointed, but Sundays at the moment are just a write-off: too dark, cold and wet to shift my mood out of my depression and post-work exhaustion, particularly when, as today, I’m extra exhausted from Shabbat and perhaps also from having a migraine late last night. As a result, most of today has been a washout with me too depressed and exhausted to really do anything: daven (pray) much or with kavannah (concentration), learn Torah, do chores, exercise or even leave the flat… I haven’t even bought my friend a wedding present, which I keep putting off, no doubt because I’m upset at being reminded that I’m still single. Speaking of which, I was planning on emailing the rabbis at my shul and asking if they know of a shadchan (matchmaker) who deals with people with health issues in the UK, but I haven’t got around to that either, presumably because I’m ashamed of having to ask, everyone my age being married already. They know I have issues, but it’s uncomfortable to have to spell out what a failure I am and of course there is the fear that they won’t get back to me and I’ll be stuck again.
Once again, I feel like I’ve let everyone down. I’ve let my parents down by being mentally ill, employed only part-time and single, I’ve let my community down by not being involved and helping, I’ve let my rabbis down by not being frum enough, I’ve let God down by acting out and not meeting my religious obligations and I’ve let myself down by all of the above. It’s hard to see that as depression-influenced judgement and not as an objective reflection of reality.