Brave and Impulsive

I’m still all over the place, emotionally.  It’s funny how something can be amazingly good and amazingly terrifying at the same time, although I suppose ‘good’ and ‘terrifying’ aren’t opposites, so there’s no reason something can’t tick both boxes at once.

Anyway, totally unrelated to that, I have an article up on Hevria today.  It’s not really relevant to the content of the blog (i.e. it’s about my peculiar relationship with Jewish mysticism rather than mental health), but I thought some people here might be interested.

I actually wrote it years ago, intended to pitch it to Hevria, but never had the guts.  At the time they weren’t running guest posts so it would have been a bold move on my part.  Then it sat on my computer for years until a conversation with one of my non-biological sisters made me remember it.  I sent it to her to see what she thought and she said I should submit it.  I knew that if I intended to revise it, I would just procrastinate, so I sent it in without really looking at it, which is incredibly brave and impulsive for me (hmm, I was uncharacteristically brave and impulsive with the emotionally-all-over-the-place thing too).  And there it is!  I do feel a bit funny about something that is so old and not 100% what I feel now going up on the internet, but I suppose I can think of it as a sort of time capsule.

Canary in a Coal Mine

The OCD thoughts chase each other.  You resolve one and then another comes in its place.  I thought I was over this, but I seem to have unravelled through the progress I made in the past year.  Pesach (Passover) does that to me.  I feel terrible for bothering my rabbi, I feel terrible for giving in to the OCD, but it’s compulsive (hence ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’).  I just want Pesach to be over now.  I suppose I was lucky to get through four or five days before I got to this state.  (My rabbi just told me to listen to some relaxing music after I sent him a bizarre OCD question…)

Someone at Hevria commented on a post I wrote so long ago I had forgotten it, saying it was “well-written, courageous and honest”, that I am “Kind and sensitive” and should keep sharing my thoughts.  I should feel happy, but I just feel embarrassed, like I’ve stolen the praise someone else deserves.

I feel bad for undervaluing my friendships.  I talk all the time about wanting to be married and forget that I have friends who are there for me, like when my non-biological sister emailed me last night after seeing my last post.  I suppose some of it is wanting to have a proper sexual/romantic relationship, but some of it is probably just fantasy, hoping things would be easier with a mythical ‘someone’ to care for me.  No one should  have to “care” for me, I should be able to care for myself.  Another reason not to start dating again.

I suppose I do have legitimate sexual needs that can’t be catered for with other family/friend relationships.  I can admit that.  It’s harder to admit that I have emotional needs for intimacy that can’t be catered for with family or friends, because it feels like I’m blaming people for not being there for me.  I’m not blaming anyone, just acknowledging that there are different types of relationship.  But it’s hard.  I want to be loved, I want to be held, I want to be forgiven (although I’m not sure of what).  And I am, but not the way I need.

I am, more broadly, fed up of being a spectator of other people’s lives.  I want a life of my own.  But I don’t know how to get it and I’m scared of trying.

I feel I should send Hevria one of the posts sitting on my computer, to try and jump-start some creativity, but I’m scared of that too.  I write too much and do too little.

I’m just trying to do my best, but even that is really hard at the moment.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7/All good children go to Heaven”

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.

Six Bullet Points in Search of a Blog Post

  1. I did over five hours (out of seven) on the issue desk today.  Also, this was at the secondary campus, where people are harder to communicate with (either little, if any, English or serious learning disabilities) so it was seriously draining and depleting.  This was partly my fault as I was supposed to split the issue desk time 50:50 with my colleague, but I miscalculated and didn’t feel able to ask to switch, but it was also because we had VIPs turn up so I had to do extra time on the desk while my colleague showed them around.  My mood was variable, to say the least.  Most of the time I was OK, but after a while, doing a boring repetitive task in a gloomy room, my mood would dip (probably also correlating to low blood sugar level as well as tiredness and boredom).  I’ve actually just dipped again, which can’t be low blood sugar as I’ve just eaten.
  2. Calvin Coolidge is still my mentor (not words I ever expected to write).  Stonewalling is the only way to deal with students who swear blind that they have returned books they have lost.  I’m still not good enough at playing psychological chicken like this though and either back down a little (“You can pay the fine next time”) or my colleagues get involved, either at my request or of their own initiative, which is what happened today.
  3. I have been beating myself up again today.  I listened to a Hevria podcast (Rivka Nehorai) and felt guilty about not being at all creative any more and generally feeling inadequate compared to Hevria people.  I left a loooong comment about art criticism and why I felt it was a good thing.  I left a fairly long comment on another post on Hevria too.  I suspect that deep down I just want people to notice me and I abuse the blog comments to be seen.  It’s like trolling, except that I’m polite and try to say constructive things.  I have a vague plan about going to New York in the summer to meet Hevria people (NB: this will probably never happen because I will chicken out for multiple reasons) and today I was imagining meeting Elad, Rivka and others so I could beat myself up in person instead of online.  You could say I have issues.
  4. Not only are two women I’ve dated (out of a grand total of six, count ’em) going to be at my sister’s wedding on Sunday (fortunately we still get on), it’s possible that the woman my Mum wants to set me up with will be coming, due to a complicated set of circumstances that I won’t go into here.  I’m really not sure that this is a good idea, but don’t feel able to say anything about it and in any case am flirting with the idea of being resigned to being single and virginal forever and never trying to date anyone ever again.  Anyway, I’m too busy being apprehensive about the wedding in general to worry about this in particular.
  5. I honestly have no idea how I’m going to get through the wedding.  Sundays are the most depressed day for me and I usually do nothing except sleep, eat, procrastinate online and watch a bit of Doctor Who.  Saturday is going to be extra draining because I’ve got my uncle, aunt and five cousins staying with my parents for the wedding alongside my sister, so meals (Friday night and Saturday lunch) will be LOUD and draining and there will be an energy and mood debt to be repaid the next day.  I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that I volunteered to walk back to the flat and stay there overnight so my cousins can have my room in my parents’ house.  It means I have a fifteen minute walk in the cold and dark, but at least I can get some quiet and some personal space on Friday night.  As long as that doesn’t feed the loneliness and depression that I’m certain to feel over the weekend, as my sister gets married off and I contemplate being lonely and single forever etc. (did I mention one of my exes who is going to be at the party recently got engaged?  I assume her fiancé will be there too, but no one has told me).
  6. I don’t really have anything else to say, having cut a point since coming up with the title, and I feel exhausted, lonely and depressed now and need to go to bed, but I need a sixth point for the Six Characters in Search of an Author joke to work.  It’s not even that funny a joke.  (This is beating myself up again cf. point 3).