Odd Thoughts of an Odd Fellow

I didn’t have a great day today. I overslept, although I rushed and wasn’t particularly late for work. At work I made mistakes, or had mistakes from last week pointed out to me. Work was dull and I was glad that I don’t have to work full 9am – 5pm days in this job. I do about 9.15am – 3.45pm, and I wonder how I would cope if I had to do full days. I drank a lot of caffeine to keep going, although, perhaps worryingly, I’m not sure it was that much more than usual: three coffees, a few teas and some coke zero that J had leftover from his lunchtime meeting. I don’t normally drink fizzy drinks during the week, but I felt I needed something to try to lift my mood a little.


It’s weird that I am reluctant to call myself a writer. I’ve written a self-published non-fiction book, an as-yet-unpublished novel, about thirteen years’ worth of blog posts (which I conservatively estimate at around three million words, probably rather more), a few short stories, a bunch of poems and various reviews and articles (not to mention divrei Torah). Yet I feel that because I haven’t been paid more than a few pounds (£25 for an article and probably about £50 in book sales, mostly to people I know in real life) that I’m not “really” a writer.


I thought today that I’m impossible to satisfy. I find secular Western society too individualistic, but frum (religious Jewish) society stiflingly conformist. Is there a middle ground? In the Talmud, Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am just for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Avot 1.15) It’s surprisingly hard to put into practice.


I watched a mostly humorous episode of The Twilight Zone yesterday. Mr Bevis is, according to the narration, an “oddball” (he may be on the spectrum, but let’s not go there). He dresses a bit like Matt Smith as the Doctor, with a bow tie and jacket. He likes weird things like zither music, crafting model ships, driving a clapped-out thirty year old car, correcting other people’s grammar, and stuffed animals (I couldn’t work out if this meant soft toys or dead animals stuffed by taxidermists. I think the latter). He likes to play with children, but not in a creepy way, because this is 1960. He also has a racist clock, but we’ll set that aside for now.

Mr Bevis loses his job, and indeed has failed to stay in any job for more than six months since he was demobbed at the end of World War II. Not only did he lose his job, he also lost his apartment and his car on the same day. Fortunately, his guardian angel intervened to rectify this — but at a cost of making Mr Bevis lose all his personality quirks and special interests. Because this is television, Mr Bevis decides that he would rather be himself and unemployed, homeless and motor-less, than be someone else with a job, apartment and car.

I thought that this was relevant to me. I also like odd things, or things that other people seem to think are odd, or at least things that don’t fit together properly. Lots of people like Bible study, old TV science fiction or glam rock, but not usually all of them at the same time. But they matter to me. And maybe that’s OK, even if I don’t have a guardian angel.

(I also couldn’t work out why Mr Bevis is trying to get office work he’s clearly unsuited for when he should be a primary school teacher – likes children, corrects grammar, good at crafts. And this is the sixties, so he won’t be forced to do endless paperwork and continual assessment. He really needs to see a good careers advisor.)

I (Don’t) Want To Hold Your Hand

Surprisingly, after going to bed after 1am last night, I woke up at 7.30am this morning and, after failing to get back to sleep, eventually got up before 8.00am, which is pretty much unprecedented on a non-work day!

I didn’t do much: a bit more Torah study than usual, a tiny bit of miniature painting (tidying things up) and a run (I felt heavy and lumpish at first, but my pace did improve as I went on). I’m also going to watch the film The Favourite (about Queen Anne) with my parents later. It was actually a relaxing day, which is not usually the case for me, as I tend to have things I want to do, usually more than I have time and energy to get done.

These are the fantasy wargaming miniatures I was painting (lizard men). I’m not entirely happy with them, but I’ve run out of patience to work on them more. They are quite small and fiddly, which isn’t so obvious in the picture.


I think I need to “come out” as autistic/Aspie. I hope to speak to J tomorrow about being on the spectrum and how it affects my work, specifically regarding difficulty using multiple spreadsheets and data bases at once (I get confused about which ones I’ve entered data in) and difficulty taking in a lot of spoken instructions in one go (I need to take notes). I might also say that I’m not always good with unstructured conversations, especially on the phone, which might impact on my work, particularly the new task I’m doing, which is on the phone, although it is actually a fairly structured conversation.

I’m thinking of talking to my community rabbi (not my rabbi mentor, who I’ve already told) about it too, but I’m not sure when. I’d rather do it in person than on Zoom or the phone, but lockdown doesn’t fully lift until June and that’s quite a long way off. I’m also not sure what I want to tell him, not least because I don’t have a clear sense of how autism affects me at shul, just that I often feel uncomfortable there. I’m not sure if I want to ask not to be given aliyot for a while; it would make me less socially anxious, but is running away from my fears instead of confronting them.

I am nervous about this, as I worry how people will react. I will probably self-describe as having “Asperger’s Syndrome” rather than “high-functioning autism” as I think the latter tends to make people assume lower capability than the former. This, despite my discomfort with mentioning Dr Asperger because of his Nazi/euthanasia links. I think there is a misconception that autism is a learning disability rather than a difficulty with communication and various other things such as executive function and multitasking. I need to find a way to explain this. This is especially important regarding dating. I think my one experience with a formal shadchan (matchmaker) went badly because of this, although I can’t prove it.


I found a study of Orthodox Jewish families in Manchester with children with autistic spectrum disorder or ADHD. It talked about hiding diagnoses to avoid stigma and of the child’s “difference” leading the family not feeling “belongingness” [sic] in the community. It does not correspond exactly to my experience, as these are much younger children, and less functional than I was at that age, but I do feel the sense of “difference” and not belonging, particularly with regard to marriage and family, as well as my impaired ability to participate confidently in activities where the social and the religious overlap e.g. kiddush (refreshments after shul) or seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal, held in shul). I feel this difference even if other people don’t explicitly notice it or draw attention to it e.g. if I manage to function well and “pass,” but feel it’s taking me a lot of effort and energy to do so and possibly end up very burnt out afterwards.

Possibly there is a need for someone to be a more visible high functioning autistic/Aspie in the Orthodox community to raise awareness, although, perhaps inevitably, I would only want to be that person if I could be visible in a quiet, unsocial way.


I think my lack of socialisation into the frum (religious Jewish) world despite decades of observance and my lack of romantic success go together, although both are obviously connected with my autism/Asperger’s and my poor mental health history. It goes both ways: my lack of socialisation has resulted in not being set up on dates, as per the usual method of Orthodox finding a spouse, but on the other hand, if I’d managed to marry someone frum, that would probably have brought me more into the flow of frum social life, because presumably she would have frum friends and a community that I would suddenly be a part of. Instead, I’ve tended to date women who are also on the fringes of the frum community, or outside it completely. My rabbi mentor has encouraged me to do this (date less frum women) and I admit I wonder if he would so encourage someone who didn’t have the social issues that I have. Is he being meikel (lenient) because he suspects I won’t get married otherwise? I’ve never had the courage to ask him.

Related to this is a feeling that I should be go back to being shomer negiah (not touching people of the opposite sex) when dating. I was shomer negiah when I dated my first girlfriend (the only one from inside the frum community), but she put a lot of pressure on me to change, which I did, not entirely unwillingly. We hugged a bit and she tried to kiss me once, which I didn’t like, and I’ve never been able to work out if that was because I wasn’t expecting it or if it’s another autistic touch thing that will be a problem down the line. We broke up when she started pressuring me to sleep with her, or seemed to be doing that; I’m honestly not sure if she knew what she wanted. I think she stopped being frum soon afterwards and left the Orthodox community.

My second relationship was long-distance and we were not around in person when we were actually dating, but E said she would wait to get married for sex, but not for hugging and I agreed to that in principle, again not entirely unwillingly. But we were not in the same country when we were dating. With PIMOJ recently, we held hands and hugged, but I felt increasingly uncomfortable with it, partly from fear we would meet someone I knew from shul, partly because I was conscious of breaking COVID protocol, but also I suppose because of the problems we were having with intimacy and opening up to each other in the relationship. When we broke up, she said she sensed I was feeling uncomfortable hugging, but put it down to relationship issues; I’m not sure how aware she was about shomer negiah (or COVID, which she was a lot less scrupulous about than I was), although I had half-heartedly tried to talk to her about it.

I wonder vaguely if this is covering for an autistic desire not to be touched. I don’t think so, although I have less “touch hunger” lately, but I think it is defending myself against touch I’m not ready for, as well as trying to cement my position in the frum community, a position that I don’t think I hold strongly enough to be able to cope with becoming shomer negiah again.

(And, now this is turning into a ‘frum autism sex/celibacy blog,’ if you can imagine such a thing.)

“To be more like people better than you”

(Title quote from Amateur Hour by Sparks)

Today was not good, although I suppose it could have been worse. But I felt overwhelmed (my new keyword) most of the day. I overslept this morning. Actually, I didn’t oversleep; I was awake, I was just too tired to get up and then suddenly it was half an hour later and I had to rush. On the way in to work I felt overwhelmed and anxious: about Pesach (Passover), about autism, my relationship, my life, and the guy opposite me on the Tube not wearing his mask so he could drink beer 9am. (I’m open to the idea of beer-drinking at 9am being OK for some people, but I don’t consider it sufficient reason to remove one’s mask.)

At work I made mistakes, and also discovered mistakes made earlier e.g. the stationery order I placed on Monday arrived and I discovered that I had ordered one ream of printer paper instead of one box as J, my line manager, had requested. There were other mistakes, and J noticed some of them. He didn’t say much about it, which is good, but also makes it hard for me to judge how satisfied he is with my work. I think there tends to be a programme running in my head all the time wondering about that.

At lunch J asked what book I was reading, the first time he’s shown any interest in my lunchtime reading. Perhaps because my interests were the focus of much childhood bullying, I tend to get really nervous about talking about my interests with anyone outside of narrow “boxes” – so I only feel comfortable talking about Doctor Who with people I know from fandom, only talk about Judaism with other frum (religious) Jews and so on. (Somehow the internet is OK to share and overshare all kinds of stuff, don’t ask me why.)

In the afternoon, J got me to start going through old papers from the office, the start of a long clear out. I tend to be a hoarder with my own papers and property, but if I’m not responsible for the articles in question, I end up wanting to throw everything away. I asked J about a lot of the papers and he told me to keep a lot of it, so I’m not sure how much autonomy I’ll actually have over this task. To be honest, I’m not terribly keen on having autonomy over other people’s things. I did throw away a load of invoices from before 2010 that were unlikely to be used again, but I do feel vaguely apprehensive thinking about it. Unfortunately, it was a dull task that did not use much of my brain and I got stuck in negative thoughts and feelings again and wondered if I am becoming depressed again.

My Mum said that I should tell J about the autism diagnosis. I’m reluctant to do so, partly I admit because J is a friend from before when he gave me the job. I mentioned above about compartmentalising things, and I’ve been reluctant to tell people from shul (synagogue) even about my depression history, let alone something like autism that is understood and accepted even less well than depression. If I do that, I would want to prepare what I would say about autism (if people ask me suddenly I tend to blank and struggle to articulate the symptoms, let alone how it affects me personally) as well as what adjustments, if any, I would want.

That was not the end of the day. The journey home was stressful, with a lot of traffic. I don’t know why sitting in traffic is stressful. A half-hour journey with heavy traffic seems more stressful than a forty-five minute with no traffic. So I came back pretty frazzled, only to be thrown into dealing with Pesach OCD stuff. I’m OK, I know things are OK and I’m not falling back into serious religious OCD, I’m just trying to stay calm and cope with things. My OCD is always worst when I’m hungry and tired and I was both of those things when I got home from work. It’s OK now.

PIMOJ haven’t been able to meet much recently, not that we can really go anywhere at the moment anyway because of lockdown. She is doing a full-time job with significant compulsory overtime two nights a week, plus she’s doing a degree and getting ready for Pesach. At least once the clocks go forward we can buy coffee or takeaway dinner after work and eat in a park, but at the moment it still gets dark too early. I know she’s not avoiding me, but I miss her and I still worry about the stress it puts on our relationship.

So, now I write, write, write, because it helps to get things out of my head and process them. I’m only writing on my blog, as I’ve put my novel on hold until I can show it to someone, which won’t be until after Pesach. To be honest, I’ve lost faith in it. I’d be tempted to start working on a different novel that I’ve been thinking about (is that writing bigamy? Or cheating?), but it requires significant research, both factual (details for the setting) and literary (reading other books in the genre) and I don’t have the time or headspace for that at the moment.

I feel too exhausted to do any Pesach preparation or further Torah study tonight. Yesterday, I said on my blog that I was going to watch more TV, but then felt too tired to actually do so, so I’m not going to do anything as reckless as say I’ll watch TV now. I feel tired, but I want to unwind more before I go to bed. I guess it’s a race to see if I can stay awake long enough to read or watch Babylon 5.

Occam’s Razor and Doctor Who Magazine

I took a while to get to sleep last night. I need to stop watching TV late at night. It doesn’t always stop me sleeping, so I think I can away with it, but periodically it does keep me awake. Then again, I’m probably about to do it again (like a dog returns to his vomit etc.).

Work was OK. I found the mistakes in data that I was looking for on Monday. Some of it was autistic black and white thinking inasmuch as I got stuck in a set of assumptions about where the mistakes were until I stepped back and looked elsewhere. Some of it was misusing Occam’s Razor. I was looking for an error regarding a record, an error regarding a man and an error regarding a woman so I assumed I was looking for one family record covering a man and a woman (don’t multiply entities), when in fact I was looking for one record and additional errors on a man and a woman (three records total).

We (J and I) left the office very early, I’m not sure why; I just leave when J says it’s time to go (he is the boss, and the designated driver). There was no traffic, so we got home very early indeed. As my novel is on pause, I took advantage of the time to do some miniature model painting, which I haven’t done for a while, although it always takes a number of sessions to complete a batch of miniatures.

I had a documentary from a Doctor Who DVD’s special features section on in the background while I painted, the documentary on politics in Doctor Who from The Happiness Patrol DVD. There were some interesting points, although not a lot I didn’t know or think already. As with my current indecision about cancelling my subscription to Doctor Who Magazine (DWM), which I’ve been buying regularly for almost a quarter of a century, I feel a bit like I know every interesting factoid about twentieth century Doctor Who and that I’m not interested in twenty-first century Doctor Who enough to pursue it. There’s less information about an ongoing series than a dead one, and presumably a BBC equivalent of the Thirty Year Rule preventing revealing documents and discussions coming out for years. When Doctor Who was off the air in the nineties and early noughties, DWM got candid interviews from many people who had worked on the programme, often those who had retired from active TV work and were able to be more truthful and reflective about their work and what they really thought. DWM has also cut back on the analytical articles that were my favourite feature, and the ones that do appear are necessarily pitched at a more basic level for new fans who aren’t as au fait with the stories of the sixties and seventies as the hardcore fans of the nineties were. I’m tempted by the Black Archive’s ongoing series of book length monographs on individual Doctor Who stories, new and old, but I don’t really have the time or money to keep up with them, and I’m currently trying to work through a massive backlog of non-fiction books without buying more. Cancelling DWM does feel final, though, like drawing a line under part of my life. Maybe I need to though, to escape from the shadow of Doctor Who and write my own fantasy fiction.

I have more to say, but I’ve run out of energy (I’ve just been helping PIMOJ with something over text). It will keep. I will just say that I’m probably not going to write the article I spoke about the other day, about Judaism and social responsibility, as I think it was becoming incoherent.

Short Update

My novel is on pause again as I want to get some new perspectives on it, ideally from having other people read it (but who can I ask?), but at the very least by going on a break and coming to it fresh in a while, maybe after Pesach (nearly two months’ time). Strangely, as soon as I stop writing the novel, I had an idea for a longer, more analytical blog post than I’ve written for a while (on Judaism and social responsibility). It will probably take a bit of time to write it though. I spent a bit of time on it this evening.

As for today, I was reasonably busy. I drafted my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week and actually feel quite pleased with it. I went for a walk and requested a repeat prescription. I emailed a few friends and my Dad showed me how to use filters on MS Excel, which might come in useful at work. And I dusted my room, which is harder than it should be because of all the bric-a-brac I have out. I think I’ve written about that before. I’m not sure how much of it “sparks joy” (© Marie Kondo), but as of yet I haven’t been able to bring myself to put it away, much less throw it away. It’s probably that I don’t want to think about it – thinking about it would entail thinking about holidays I only vaguely remember (apparently due to autistic autobiographical memory issues), an unconsciously unhappy adolescence, the deterioration of my miniature painting skills due to medication-based tremor, and friends who fell out with me.

I Skyped my rabbi mentor too, which was helpful in dealing with some of the issues that I don’t feel I can write about here, although some of his advice was scary in terms of having to do scary social things.

Post-Success Depression and Negative Self-Talk

I still feel very depressed.  I don’t know if this is about finishing the first draft of my novel or something else, something I don’t want to talk about here.  If it is about my novel, I had something similar when I was doing my MA: I would struggle against depression to finish an assignment, but when I handed it in, instead of feeling positive, I would feel more depressed and often be unable to start the next assignment for weeks.  It took me nearly three and a half years to finish a course that should have taken one academic year.


I was thinking of buying some more music and graphic novels and maybe some war gaming miniatures to paint (I don’t play war games any more, but sometimes I paint the models).  Then I started thinking that this was retail therapy, and I felt more guilty about it, and just started procrastinating, which is a worse problem than retail therapy, at least with the relatively small sums of money I’m thinking of spending.  In the end I bought two graphic novels, but am undecided as to whether to buy the miniatures.  It would be good to do something that doesn’t involve thinking (I guess there’s running), but I feel depressed when comparing miniatures painted by me recently with the much better ones painted in my teens, before I had medication-related tremor, and perhaps when my concentration and will power were better.


I finished fiddling around with my iTunes playlists, which was good.  I’ve been meaning to sort them out for a while now.  That was my main achievement for the day, alongside my usual pre-Shabbat chores.  I did a little Torah study, and I’ll probably do a bit more later, but it’s hard to do anything today.  It’s partly depression and exhaustion, but also the heat and humidity, which are both high today and make me uncomfortable.


I had another weird dream about conflict with my religious community, where a bunch of thugs mobbed the car I was in when it pulled over (which for some reason was being driven by Hugo Drax, the villain of the James Bond film Moonraker) and then I realised they were frum men, with suits and fedoras, and then I recognised some of them from shul.  That might be part of the reason why I woke up depressed and exhausted again.

I’m not sure why that conflict is on my mind when I haven’t had any real contact with the community for five months or so and am not likely to have any for another couple of months at least.  Maybe that’s it, though.  Maybe I’ve forgotten the good parts and the people I like and am only thinking about the negative.  Certainly there’s a lot of social anxiety over going to shul (synagogue) again, wondering if I can remember what to do and how to behave (I mean behave socially more than religiously, although that too, I guess), as well as autistic anxiety about wearing masks and the changed layout of the shul being different and confusing.  Shul has been reopened for a few weeks now, but I haven’t gone as we’re still shielding Mum as she’s immuno-suppressed and the risk is just too great.

Related to that, I don’t know when going to a shop is going to feel safe again.  I’ve hardly been in any for months.  The only one I really go to is the pharmacist, to collect my anti-depressants, but that’s awkward as not only is it often busy, but the post office is in the same shop, separated by a partition wall and that’s also often busy and people have to queue from the post office section into the pharmacist section.  I’d like to go to the nearby charity shop to browse second-hand books and DVDs as I know that’s something that de-stresses me a bit, but I just don’t dare to.


I wrote in yesterday’s post about blaming my teenage/early twenties self for not being more social.  After I turned off my computer, I remembered something I once said in therapy, that if I think of my very young self, say five or six years old or younger, I feel a great deal of love and compassion towards him, but I think of my somewhat older self (eight or ten years old and up) suddenly a whole load of negative feelings and internalised anger/aggression comes out about him (me) being too clever, aloof, irritating, an unintentional show-off, a Doctor Who obsessive to the exclusion of all else (even more than I am now…) and so on.  I’m guessing this is because the difficulties of my childhood started when I was somewhat older and that’s the time that I internalised negative thoughts and feelings about myself.  It is hard to know what to do with these thoughts.


I just heard that Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz died today (barukh dayan ha’emet).  He was a great man.  Among his many achievements was translating the Talmud into Modern Hebrew (most of the Talmud is written in Aramaic) and writing explanatory commentary, and then overseeing its translation into English and, I think, Russian.  It’s not the only current English translation, but it is very accessible and while the Artscroll Talmud (its main competitor in English translation) is focused on the detail of halakhic (legal) debate and only uses traditional sources, the Steinsaltz one is more focused on basic comprehensibility and uses modern sources and photos (of plants, ancient artifacts, etc.) to illustrate the social and material context of the Talmud.

He wrote many other books too, including a few I own.  I’m very fond of his book Simple Words and his translation of some of the stories of Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav, again with commentary.

He was an important figure for me, not just because of the books that I have read, but also his attitude, being in some ways very traditional and Hasidic and in other ways very modern (he was originally a scientist before becoming a rabbi).  I believe his yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) taught Jewish philosophy and creative writing alongside the traditional yeshiva Talmud curriculum.  He once said, “An intellectual is not necessarily a university professor: he can also be a shoemaker.  An intellectual is a person of boundless curiosity, who has the desire and the ability to discuss everything, and the spark that can make something new out of anything.”  We can apply this to Rabbi Steinsaltz himself.

Miniature Pic Spam and More

I’ve been going to bed earlier the last few nights, but yesterday I went to bed later again.  Then I couldn’t sleep, because I forgot to take my medication at dinner time.  I remembered before bed, but that didn’t give them enough time to make me sleepy.  I didn’t feel like reading, so I watched the second half of For Your Eyes Only, which may not have been the best thing to do (TV in general + TV violence = still not sleepy).  Consequently, although my parents tried to wake me up when they went to football today with my (female) cousin, I slept through until gone midday.

When I woke, I was still very tired and somewhat depressed.  I’m not quite sure why, as I didn’t do that much yesterday, but it is the middle of winter and that does make me want to hibernate even if my light box helps a bit.  I had intended to go for a run after breakfast, but that was before I slept so late (I didn’t want to make lunch very late) and before I knew it would be raining heavily.  So, no run today.  My weight is the same as it was before Chanukah, which is good inasmuch as eating doughnuts hasn’t piled on the calories, but there are still another four days of doughnut-eating to go.

I did feel better after lunch.  I think when the depression makes me sleep a long time, I wake up with very low blood sugar, and I really need breakfast and lunch to feel “normal.”  I don’t know why breakfast isn’t enough.  It helps a bit, but not completely.  Maybe I’m eating the wrong thing (usually Weetabix or porridge)?

The main thing I did during the day (aside from taking the photos below) was more research on domestic abuse for my novel.  Although I feel a bit frustrated about pausing writing to research, I feel I’ve made significant progress with that research this week.  It turned out that many of my thoughts about abuse were correct (probably because I’ve met a number of abuse survivors of one kind or another in group therapy-type situations), but research has given me new ideas for plot developments as well as reminding me again that my characters have friends and family beyond my three narrators (I tend to forget, somewhat autistically, that my characters have relationships and don’t just exist in their own heads all the time.  This is probably because I exist in my own head too much).  I hope to finish the research in the next week or so and move back to writing.

I did about forty-five minutes of Torah study.  I would have liked to have done more, but my head felt that it would explode if I did.  I did a couple of chores too, but that was about it for the day.


There’s an oneg at my shul (synagogue) tomorrow evening.  I never know how to translate onegOneg Shabbat means ‘delight of the Sabbath’ which doesn’t get us very far.  It’s a kind of party or gathering to celebrate Shabbat with alcohol, junk food, songs, divrei Torah (Torah thoughts) and so on.  I’ve been to a few of these, or tried to go.  Sometimes I didn’t make it inside, being so overpowered by social anxiety that I just stood outside crying (and then inevitably met people who were going).  A couple of times I made it and even enjoyed it a little, but I’m not sure that I enjoyed it enough to really justify the anxiety and feelings of not fitting in that tend to accompany it.  Plus this one is being hosted by someone I was at school with, who is now a rabbi with a wife and kids and a house.  Lately I’ve been doing quite well at not being jealous of other people whose lives are different/better than mine, but I think this might be pushing my luck.

So, I tell myself not to go to the oneg, but then I feel that I’m avoiding social situations again (which is true), which will just reinforce the social anxiety, and that really I should be going to these things.  I tell myself that I want to spend time with my cousin on Shabbat, and that I will be volunteering on Sunday as well as spending time with my family, sister, brother-in-law and cousin on Sunday evening and will struggle to add another social event in, all of which is also true, but none of which makes me feel much better.


I mentioned yesterday feeling dispirited that the miniature models I paint nowadays aren’t as professional-looking as the ones I painted as a teenager and said I would supply photos.  Here goes!

These are the Doctor Who models I just painted (TARDIS, thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Davros):


I wasn’t too happy with the photograph, so here are the fourth and eleventh Doctors (Tom Baker and Matt Smith), which I painted some months ago:


Here are some Daleks I painted and photographed a while back:


On the other hand, here are some Warhammer dwarfs (Tolkien spelling!) that I painted as a teenager:



Even when the photos are blurred (because I’m not good at taking photos on my phone and because of my tremor), the earlier models (the dwarfs) seem a lot more professional to me than the latter ones (the Doctor Who ones).  Admittedly I did cheat slightly in that the most recent models are simply that, the most recent, whereas the dwarfs were some of the best ones of a collection of seventy or so.  But I did also include the fourth and eleventh Doctors, which I think are the best of the ones I’ve done recently, plus the Daleks which are very regular and simple in colour scheme, so they are not as difficult to paint as people despite the fine detail needed for the spheres.  My tremor is particularly clear on the fine detail, which doesn’t photograph well, especially eyes, which are a real pain to do well.  I used to have a technique for doing them with a cocktail stick, but I just can’t get it to work well any more.  It doesn’t help that the model of the thirteenth Doctor is not terribly dynamic, probably because of a lack of reference photographs of her compared with earlier Doctors (although the tenth Doctor model, not pictured, is even less dynamic!).

Quick Update

Not much to report today.  I decided I was too tired to go for a run.  I wrote my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week and was pretty pleased to get something fairly coherent out of an idea that I was not initially sure was going to work.  I did some more research on domestic abuse for my novel, which is depressing, but I have a better idea of plot for the second half of the novel now.  I did some miniature painting, hopefully finishing the thirteenth Doctor, Davros and the TARDIS, but sometimes I find bits I’ve missed or done badly later.  I think I’m going to rest my painting for a bit so I can concentrate more on my novel.  To be honest, I get frustrated that my painting nowadays isn’t as good as when I was a teenager.  That’s partly due to my tremor and partly, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, to lack of patience.  There’s a limit to how much time and energy I’m willing to invest in a hobby like this now; maybe that’s depression, or just growing up.  Maybe tomorrow or next week I’ll post a pic spammy post with my latest miniatures alongside some from my teenage years for comparison.

And that was it really. My parents were out most of the day, coming back in time to light Chanukah candles; one of my cousins from Israel arrived a little later.  I don’t “do” Christmas and there wasn’t anything I wanted to watch on TV.  I started watching the Bond film For Your Eyes Only, but it was dull and uninvolving so I stopped halfway and will probably finish it tomorrow.  A nice, quiet day.

The Bifurcated Jew

I went to bed far too late last night (gone 2.00am), but I needed to shower and watch some TV (The IT Crowd) to be able to sleep after the stress of the day.  The second-hand DVD turned out to have a fault; actually not a fault, but just gunk on it that came off quite easily once I realised what was happening, but that wasted another five or ten minutes.  Once I got to sleep, I slept for ten hours or more and woke feeling exhausted and depressed as usual.  I woke up to a busy house, with both my parents home as well as industrial cleaners which probably didn’t help things, both from the point of view of noise and of people, from both autistic and socially anxious points of view.  The downstairs toilet still smells pungent.  I’m not sure if it’s cleaner or air freshener.  Either way, I struggle to go in there.

It’s now Chol HaMoed, a term which defies literal translation, but refers to the ‘middle days’ in the long festivals of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover) where work is permitted under certain conditions, but it’s better to avoid “real” work if possible and enjoy the festival.  So I’m holding off job hunting (I didn’t really have a head for it after the intensity of the last few days anyway) and also holding off writing my novel, as I feel that if I want to build a career of a writer, I should treat it as work.

In terms of what I did do, I managed thirty-five minutes of Torah study in the sukkah, which was nice, even though I didn’t understand the page of Talmud I was studying at all and even though I really wanted to do an hour, but ran out of time and energy.  I went for a twenty-five minute run.  I would like to increase the distance I run (at the moment it’s somewhat over two miles), but I was exhausted by the end.  I got a bit of a headache afterwards, but not (as yet) a full-blown migraine.  (I seem to be criticising myself a lot for not achieving more rather than praising myself for managing anything considering how I felt when I woke up.)

Exercise is the sort of thing where it’s subjective as to whether it’s allowed on Chol HaMoed; you have to decide if it enhances your joy or diminishes it and only do things that are either joy-enhancing or absolutely necessary.  I decided jogging was OK, as was miniature Doctor Who model painting.  The latter didn’t turn out too well.  Some of my paints have congealed or separated and I’ve ruined a lot of my brushes, particularly the very fine ones, trying to clean oil-based paints in white spirit.  I’ve bought the paints over a number of years from different companies and some are water-based (and therefore easy to remove from brushes), but others aren’t.  (Things I destroy and have to replace regularly without knowing how I destroy them: paint brushes, earphones, shoe soles.)  My hand shakes too much for fine work anyway.  If I had the money, I should probably take the plunge and buy a whole set of water-based paints and fine brushes.  It would be a big outlay, but it would probably pay off if I do this frequently, although at the moment I’m an infrequent painter.  Part of the problem is that different companies produce different types of paint for hugely different prices and it’s not always easy to compare different colours, or tell what you are going to get, although comparison charts can be found online.

Anyway, I now have a rather messily-painted TARDIS that needs further work, a half-painted thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) that needs a lot more work and a Davros that might be finished (I won’t know for sure until it dries, but it’s looking OK at the moment).


The mouse touchpad problem on my laptop is back after going away for a while.  Whenever I turn the computer on, it defaults to tap-to-click instead of left-button clicking, which is problematic for me as it’s too sensitive and thinks I’m tapping when I’m not intending to do so.  It’s weird, the setup isn’t even set to clicking and when I go to change it back to tapping, I don’t even get to the right screen before it sorts itself out.  It’s like it ‘forgets’ what to do and when I start to go to touchpad properties it suddenly ‘remembers.’  Weird.


I was thinking of blogging about something rather more abstract than usual and decided against it, but then I came across a rather old blog post that touched on the same subject, so here goes.

This post is talking about Modern Orthodox parents who send their eighteen year old children (males in the article; the situation for women is analogous, but not identical) to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshivot (rabbinical seminaries) on their gap year where they are exposed to a worldview that is at odds with the Modern Orthodox way of life their parents brought them up to have and end up studying (“learning”) permanently in yeshiva and kollel rather than coming home at the end of their gap year, going on to university and then to work.  They also end up cutting themselves off from wider Western culture (museums, galleries, novels, etc.) and sometimes from a family that is perceived as not frum (religious) enough.  This is opposed to a Modern Orthodox lifestyle that values Torah study, but sees work, not permanent Torah study as the focus of most people’s lives and sees positive worth in at least some non-Jewish culture.

The writer states that such students will either adopt their yeshiva‘s values wholesale or “the student can bifurcate his (or her) world – they can split their life into two pieces: when in Yeshiva, or around their teachers from school, they pay lip service to the school’s philosophy, they wear black and white, they live in line with what their teachers expect. However, outside of school, they live within the guidelines of their more open, modern background: they watch television and movies, listen to secular music, find (forbidden?) pleasure in their required readings for English Lit., and generally, enjoy other activities of which their school would not approve.”

This resonated somewhat with me.  For one thing, it is part of the reason I never went to yeshiva, a decision I still think about a lot and wonder if it was responsible for many of my issues or if going to yeshiva would just have made my issues worse.  When I was eighteen, I was unaware that there were Modern Orthodox yeshivot where this bifurcation would not be necessary.  The (Haredi) Jewish Studies teachers at my (Modern Orthodox) school assumed I would go to yeshiva and were surprised when I didn’t.  They never actually asked me about it or told me about the range of yeshivot on offer.  I suspect if I had asked they would have referred me to a kiruv yeshiva (yeshiva for people not raised religious) which would doubtless have been equally indoctrinating as the yeshivot referred to in the blog post.  Perhaps I’m wrong about that.  (As an aside, one of the teachers who expressed surprise or annoyance at my “getting away” without going to yeshiva goes to my shul sometimes, but I don’t think he remembers me.  Another turned out to be a friend of the new rabbi.)

That was not the main resonance.  I am more concerned that I live with this dissonance in my shul.  From the Shabbat dinner discussion a few weeks ago, I feel that not everyone in my shul considers themselves Haredi, although some certainly are and others aspire to be so.  Most, if not all, of the working age men in the community work rather than studying full-time in kollel.  Some people do not have televisions while others do and there are divergent thoughts on Zionism and perhaps also on conflicts with science.  On the other hand, I suspect many people see television and Western culture generally as a bidieved, something allowed of necessity, for relaxation, but having no intrinsic value.  This contrasts with the more positive view of Western culture put forward by Modern Orthodox thinkers past and present like Rav Hirsch, Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Lichtenstein and (lehavdil bein chayim lechayim) Rabbi Lord Sacks and which I personally follow.

A commenter to the post suggested that, “There’s another option: learn and pray among the Haredim while dressing acting and thinking the way you want. Not for the faint of heart. People will think you’re weird. But I suspect it won’t be as hard to find schools or shidduchim [‘dates,’ but used as a metonymy for ‘spouse’] for your kids as the confirmed would have you believe.”  This is basically what I do, phrased more positively.  But I’m not sure that the consequences are as benign as the commenter thinks.  I don’t know how weird people think I am and I don’t know how difficult it would be to get a religious school or yeshiva to accept my hypothetical children.  But I am struggling to find a wife and I’m not sure how much that is because of this.  Certainly no one in the community is setting me up with people, not even the members who have said I should marry.  Do they not know anyone suitable or do they think I’m too weird/atypical?  It is difficult to tell.

This blog post chimed with the idea I had been thinking of laying out here.  It is an idea I heard at a shiur (religious class) when I was in Oxford, ironically from Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, a Rosh Yeshiva (Yeshiva Principal) from a Modern Orthodox yeshiva (I think one where several peers of mine from Oxford studied after finishing their degrees, I think somewhere where I would feel less bifurcated).  I won’t set out all the proof-texts and reasoning from the biblical text, but it sees Jewish history as having a tension between the descendants of Leah, whose task is to seek pure spirituality, and the descendants of Rachel, whose task is to make the physical spiritual.  This plays out across history, from Yehudah vs. Yosef (Judah vs. Joseph) in the Yosef narrative, to Shaul vs. David (Saul vs. David) later, to the split of the kingdom in two under Rechovoam and Yeruboam (Rehoboam and Jeroboam), finally playing out at the end of history with the two Messiahs, Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David (where the two strands are reconciled, with Mashiach ben Yosef preparing for Mashiach ben David).  My chiddush (innovative opinion) is to see Haredi Judaism and Leah-type pure spirituality and Modern Orthodoxy as Rachel-type spirituality in physicality.  This gives me an idea of where my life should be focused and makes me feel less embattled (because the sons of Rachel were numerically far fewer than those of Leah) and it helps me to conceptualise the Haredi world in a way that makes me less angry and resentful of it, but it doesn’t help me decide what to do about my shul community.

Doctor Who Miniature Picspam!

There will be a normal post later, but I’ve been painting miniature Daleks recently.  It’s a bit frustrating as my tremor (and perhaps lack of patience) means that my recent miniatures aren’t painted nearly as well as those I used to paint in my teens.  Nevertheless, I wanted to share…


The eleventh Doctor caught by 1980s Imperial Daleks!



The fourth Doctor bamboozles the Dalek Supreme and some 1960s Daleks!



And Now for Something Completely Similar

I had another job interview today that didn’t go too well.  I got off to a bad start when I had another weird dream last night where I was in some kind of tiny Jewish community (I think there were literally just ten men, although I couldn’t see most of them, and one or two women) and I was expected to take some kind of rabbinic leadership role, but didn’t want to do so.  It was probably an anxiety dream about feeling that my job interview today would not be at the right place for me (not that it had anything to do with rabbis or Judaism), that librarianship as a whole may not be right for me, but that I’m not sure if I will be any more successful at writing.  It’s not surprising that I was having thoughts along these lines this morning while I got ready for my interview, although things were a bit better in the past in terms of not blaming myself for things.  I think I was less feeling worried and more grounded, even though I wasn’t conscious of using CBT techniques.


I got soaked walking to the station in heavy rain.  I couldn’t find my umbrella, and when I took my old umbrella, it turned out to be broken.  I think it was still usable if I pushed the broken spokes into place, but I was running late and decided it was easiest just to leave it behind.  So I was rather wet through my interview.

The interview itself was pretty bad.  I struggled to remember and process questions, sometimes needing to be reminded what the question was during the middle of an answer.  There were also a number of difficult questions that I hadn’t expected and planned for when I probably should have done so.  I’m not terribly good at interview preparation.  I’m not sure how much of it is finding it hard to predict what the interviewer wants to know and how much is anxious avoidance.

The good thing was that I didn’t blame myself or beat myself up too much afterwards.  It probably helped that I didn’t think the job was really right for me anyway.

I’m currently reading A Guide to Your Aspie by Amanda J. Harrington.  She describes getting “normal” jobs and being OK at them for a while, but eventually the stress of being autistic in a neurotypical environment builds up and she just can’t function any more.  That is familiar to me.  I have the added stresses of depression and social anxiety too.


I came home and watched an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus to cheer myself up.  This was not a great choice, as it turned out to be rather dated and unfunny, although Terry Gilliam’s animations are still disturbing.  I can see why I used to love things like this when I was younger, but it’s hard to appreciate it now.  The autism specialist Tony Attwood says people with high functioning autism often like surreal humour like Python, and it probably does fit a worldview that is intelligent, but struggles to make sense of the world.  But it seems to rely a lot on jokes that seem clever when you’re sixteen, but less so twenty years on when surreal juxtapositions don’t necessarily seem hilarious.

I’ve just done some miniature painting (five Daleks with two different colour schemes some of the TARDIS exterior), which kept me busy for an hour and a half or so, and I’ve read some interesting long-form essays on Tablet Magazine (one political, one historical with political ramifications), but I realised it’s not yet 6.00pm and I have no idea what to do.  I don’t usually get bored; usually I’m overwhelmed by Stuff To Do, or Stuff I Want To Read or Watch, but I feel depressed and aimless.  It would be torture to go back to job hunting today.  Ditto for jogging (certainly not in this weather).   I plan to do a bit of Torah study, but I don’t have the energy to do much.  I would like to work on the novel I want to start (have sort of started), but I’m not sure that I am really capable of doing much.  I don’t feel like reading and there isn’t anything I particularly want to watch on TV or from my DVD collection; the final episode of I Claudius seems too heavy, kol vachomer (even more so) catching up with the repeat of The Vietnam War on BBC iplayer.  I might watch the first Tim Burton Batman film, but even that would be just to fill in time really.

I feel vaguely annoyed with myself, but am not having self-critical thoughts as such, but I worry, given how low my mood is, that my conscious mind is just suppressing the thoughts so that I can’t use the CBT techniques.  CBT doesn’t really deal with the unconscious.  Or, it’s possible that the thoughts are coming at a speed or in a way that I can’t consciously recognise them and try to use the CBT techniques on them.

I’m probably in the kind of mood where I just turn everything against myself.  I just read an (entirely reasonable) blog post criticising people who self-diagnose with autism and now I’m feeling like I’m a bad person for doing that, even though I am pursuing diagnosis and this has been a very long journey (including psychiatrists and therapists who have said I’m on the spectrum without giving a formal diagnosis) and I feel I’m entitled to say something about how my life has been.  But, again, I’m not sure I have specific thoughts to write down and challenge with CBT.

Ugh, OK, I’m going to go and force myself to watch a DVD or something before I go crazy.

Plans, and Plans of Plans

It is still far too hot for comfort and I keep getting headaches.

I have a busy few days ahead.  I had CBT today and shiur (religious class) this evening.  I’m being interviewed tomorrow for a book on mental illness in the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world on Friday and possibly Skyping E. too.  I hope to go to shul (synagogue) over Shabbat (the Sabbath), but am thinking of cutting out something I usually attend (probably seudah and the second Shabbat shiur although the timing is awkward) to try to be less burnt out of Sunday.  Sunday is hopefully volunteering and depending on what time I get home I may be expected to put in an appearance at a lunch for my Dad’s cousins, most of whom I do not really know, only seeing them at intervals of years or even decades at funerals and shivas.  On Monday I have a meeting about different voluntary work.  Tuesday is the dentist, which I didn’t previously worry about, but now I do worry about shaking there.

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about all of this, not so much any specific task or appointment (although some are difficult), but more the amount of stuff I’m doing in six days.


CBT today was draining.  We were doing thought challenging, but I found it hard to say why I feel so sure people will reject me.  I know a lot of it is childhood experiences, which the CBT approach isn’t terribly interested in.  I accept that.  But some of it is fears about owning up to beliefs or behaviours that would be seen as potentially heterodox (I won’t quite say heretical) in the Orthodox community, or fears about people outside the Jewish world seeing Judaism as patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic and racist/imperialist (this is in Doctor Who fandom and potentially depression and autism groups).  I feel these are very real fears, but I struggled to really make that understood.  Perhaps my fears are misguided.  I did admit to the therapist that I mostly haven’t tried to publicise my heterodox behaviours and ideas at shul, so I don’t know what would happen if I did.  I have heard of people having bad experiences in various non-Jewish environments, although, again, I haven’t experienced much directly myself (the antisemitism I have experienced has mostly been stuff shouted, or pennies thrown, by strangers on the street rather than people I knew better).  Likewise, I know frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) people who felt driven out of the frum world for various reasons, although not necessarily for things that parallel my issues.  So it is hard to know what would happen if I was more myself in different environments.

It’s also a lot easier to find reasons to challenge my thoughts in the abstract than it is to believe in or internalise alternatives, which is the main stumbling block I’ve had with CBT in the past.  It can all be very abstract whereas the fears feel very tangible.

What did come out of it that was useful was breaking down my “I am weird” thoughts.  Although the therapist was guiding me towards realising that I’m not weird, the thought I ended up with was that I am weird (albeit not as much as I thought), but that I like being weird.  I like being frum, and I like engaging with academic Jewish studies as well as traditional Torah, even if that sometimes leads to opinions I think are fine, but some people might not agree with (e.g. about the literal truth of Midrashim or the origins of the Zohar).  I like Doctor Who and classic British TV science fiction, I like writing and blogging, I like painting miniatures and I don’t care if these things are considered somewhat unusual and “niche” (as my sister says).

Anyway, I’ve been set some homework to try to push myself to do a few scary social things (shake hands with the rabbi after shul; ask for help in a shop; perhaps also leave a blog comment that is a little more opinionated than I would normally dare, probably about politics or something somewhat ‘dangerous’).  I don’t have to do all of these things and it occurred to me afterwards that with volunteering being this week, maybe I have taken on too much, but we shall see.


Late last night it was very hot and I didn’t feel at all tired, so I sat up late sketching out a plan for a novel.  It’s not really a plan so much as a plan of a plan, as I realised that there would be significant work still to do even at the planning stage.  However, I have an idea of where I want to go and a degree of confidence about my ability to get there, although I’m a lot more confident about one plot strand than the other.  I worked on it a bit more today.  Given that I feel so despondent  of finding paid work at the moment, it is good to think that I might be able to do something worthwhile.  My main priority at the moment is finishing my Doctor Who non-fiction book and I still hope to get a manuscript ready for submission in about three months.  But it’s good to have this simmering away on a back burner.

“Spray Painting Daleks” is probably a more interesting title than “Another Interview” or “Have I Just Lost Another Date?”

I had a job interview today, for a position in a higher education library.  I think I did OK, but not great.  I did manage to answer all of the questions, but I struggled to think of specific examples of the things they were asking for.  My autistic mind tends to go blank when confronted with a sudden request to “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult situation” or whatever.  The first question, just to make it harder, was to tell them about a time I received good customer service, which seemed a strange thing to ask.

So, I didn’t answer the questions that well, but they let slip that my CV looks good to them.  Which should be positive, but while they were describing the role, I was thinking that this position sounds a lot like my role in further education, just with slightly older students.  I did OKish there, but my boss was unhappy with my work and I often felt overwhelmed by the interactions I was supposed to have with staff and especially with students.  When someone would come to me with a problem, I would freeze before my brain moved into gear to work out how to deal with it, which is an autistic multitasking/task changing issue, but it suggests this type of environment isn’t right for me.

Plus, this job is full-time (unlike the further education one, which was three and then four days a week, term-time only) with occasional evening and weekend work, which I doubt I could manage right now with my mental health, even without the problem of Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and Jewish festivals).  Plus sudden evening work is not good for my autistic need for predictability.

I got shown the library.  I’m sure someone who temped in the further education library I worked at when we were short-staffed was working there, although I didn’t say anything as (a) I’m too shy and (b) I can’t remember what her name is.  I guess librarianship, like the Jewish community and Doctor Who fandom, is a small world.  (Don’t ask why I seem to gravitate to small worlds.)


I’m not sure what to do now.  I’m exhausted after this, and after days of rushing around doing Pesach stuff (preparation, then shul and seders and ‘peopleing’) and then a day lost to extreme depression.  I’m not as depressed as I was yesterday, but I am worn out.  I just spray painted some new Doctor Who miniatures I bought with white undercoat, but that didn’t take long and I won’t be able to move on with them until the paint is dry.  I might assemble the as-yet unassembled Daleks once they’re dry, but I don’t think I’ll get much further than that today (frustratingly I also ran out of paint before I could paint the TARDIS).

I don’t want to work on my books on Chol HaMoed (the intermediate, semi-festive, days of Pesach).  I might watch a film if I can decide whether to watch Ghostbusters II for the umpteenth time as ‘comfort food’ viewing or The King’s Speech, which I’ve never seen, but have been told is very good.

I also feel vaguely ill: dry itchy eyes, slightly sore throat, a bit hot and bothered and achey, as if I’m coming down with a cold.


L., who I was set up with via the values-based dating service and who I’ve been texting lately as we can’t meet until after Pesach, asked what I’m doing today after my interview.  I’m not sure how much to open up about myself and my hobbies (mental health blogging, Doctor Who, miniature painting), all of which could describe what I’m doing/about to do today.  I worry about seeming weird.  I have a weird intuition that she would be understanding about mental health stuff, but I don’t want to bring it up this early in the relationship, when we haven’t even been on a date yet.  So Doctor Who and painting it is.  She hasn’t texted back yet, so I don’t know if she thinks I’m a weird freak…  I wish there were some things in my life that I could talk about on dates or to people at shul (synagogue) without sounding weird or messed up.

Feeling Lost

I’m still depressed today.  I feel a bit guilty today as my parents and cousin went to see a National Trust property and I said I might come with, but in the end felt too depressed and tired.  I feel like I’ve let them down, especially as Mum went to a lot of trouble to change the time of her grocery delivery in case I went with, although I did say not to bother and that I wouldn’t come and would stay in for it.  Part of me feels that I’ve been to a million stately homes with my parents and, much as I’m interested in history (my BA subject), visiting stately homes gets repetitive unless you’re really obsessive about history of interior design, but I feel I should probably do something with my parents and especially my cousin.  I did at least watch TV (Jonathan Creek) with my parents last night and tonight, so I am doing some things as a family and my cousin will still be with us over Shabbat (the Sabbath) so I will see her then.


My shul (synagogue) rabbi is probably moving to a new community.  It looks like they’re looking for a new rabbi to replace him, rather than just promoting the assistant rabbi, who is probably still a bit too young.  I didn’t rely too much on the rabbi, taking most of my questions to my rabbi mentor, but he did know a bit about my struggles and had some understanding of mental health issues; it will be difficult to open up to a new rabbi when he comes.  Pesach (Passover) in particular is a time when the religious OCD can get out of hand with the special eight-days-only dietary laws and my rabbi mentor is hard to get hold of then (he generally doesn’t check his emails during chol hamoed).  I’m not quite sure what I feel about this, but it feels like another thing making shul difficult for me.


I’ve had some kashrut OCD again today, from some things my parents did.  I wouldn’t have done what they did, but I know it was all OK after the event, but the OCD voice in my head keeps asking me if I’m sure it was OK and shouldn’t I ask a rabbi to be 100% sure, even though I know that makes the OCD worse.


Overall, I feel rather lost.  I’m still worried about my new job, that I’m going to mess it up.  As it’s only a one month contract at the moment the cost of messing it up couldn’t be too great, but I’m a perfectionist and I don’t like making mistakes, still less being told off.

I did at least confirm my attendance at the resilience class in January and checked that the letter about my autism screening arrived with my GP.  He has been on holiday, but the receptionist kindly left a note on the system for him to remind him to refer me for a formal assessment when he gets back.  And I did some more miniature painting, so the day was not a total waste.  But I do feel like I should have been job hunting or doing chores this week instead of painting Doctor Who miniatures and feeling depressed.

I drafted an email ages ago to the counsellor who does the ‘Q & A for Teens’ feature on Jewish website Aish.com.  I feel I want to ask someone frum (religious) for advice about my self-hatred, the lack of direction in my life and the feeling that God hates me.  But I’m hardly a teen (even though the questions are ones that I could have asked in my teens had I been more self-aware) and I’m not even sure they are still running the column.  E. has kind of talked me into sending the email, but I’m still not happy with it, redrafting and editing it, removing a lot of stuff about dating, my (non-)career and feeling that God hates me to focus just on my issues with fitting in to the frum community.  It’s under 300 words now, but I still feel it’s too long, so I’m procrastinating over it some more.

It’s Normality, Jim, But Not As We Know It

My sister and BIL didn’t leave until 11.00pm last night.  Then I desperately needed some of what I term my ‘introvert time’ after four hours of socialising (albeit with family).  I blogged and then WhatsApped E. for a while (she was trying to convince me to write the book on Judaism I’ve spoken about recently) and watched Doctor Who for a bit and I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2.00am.  I probably should have ducked out of the WhatsApp conversation earlier to get to bed, but I didn’t want to interrupt it, because I am genuinely conflicted about writing this book and wanted to hear what E. had to say.  Despite going to bed so late, I woke up at 7.30am and rapidly spiralled into anxiety and OCD.  It seemed pointless to stay in bed feeling so anxious, so I got up even though I was still tired.  I calmed down a bit after breakfast, but by that stage I was up and awake and caffeinated, so it seemed a bit pointless to go back to bed.

The scary thing about OCD anxiety is that it can come back to haunt you later and even if you feel better, it’s easy to find yourself thinking, “Well, it seemed really scary and important then – maybe I should still be anxious now?  Maybe it’s my current, non-anxious, state of mind that’s ‘wrong?'”  I did that a bit, and had to try hard not to be sucked back down.


25 December is always a weird day for me, as it’s the day crazy religious stuff is going on and it’s not me doing it (Easter at least often coincides with Pesach (Passover), which trumps pretty much everything in the crazy religious festivals stakes).  In recent years, some Jews have started doing voluntary work at hospitals and the like so people who do celebrate can have time off with their families, which is a nice idea.  I thought about doing that this year, but procrastinated from social anxiety until it was too late for me to do anything about it.  Maybe next year.


Because I woke up early, I had time to do some more miniature painting this morning.  I’m making good progress, but the perfectionist in me wants the miniatures to look better than I’m realistically likely to get them.  The frustrating thing is knowing that I used to paint better in my teens, but that was before I had issues with shaking, and perhaps when I had more patience (because I had less depression, I assume).


The other creative thing I’ve been thinking about is the book people said I should write about Judaism.  I still don’t know if I could do it.  As I explore ideas, I feel I’m getting drawn in two directions, both of them wrong.  One is apologetics, defending what Orthodox Jews believe and writing about it in prescriptive, rather than descriptive, tones.  The other is producing a personal account of what Orthodox Judaism means to me.  I find that once I start thinking about ideas for what to write, I inevitably drift towards one or the other of these two forms.  There is arguably a time and a place for both of these things, the apologetic and the personal, but neither was what I was aiming for.  Indeed, those people who were potentially interested in what I had to write were interested because it was neither of these things, particularly not apologetics.  And both of these things would be more likely to bring me into conflict with people in my community than the purely descriptive.

To pick one obvious example, I don’t know how I could deal with the fact that many ultra-Orthodox Jews are Young Earth Creationists without wanting to stress that I’m not and I believe I have strong religious grounds for not being one… but that is a belief that, if publicised, could bring me into conflict with the rabbis at my shul.  They would probably be polite about it, but it’s not a conversation I’m in a hurry to have.  And that’s just one example!  There are all kinds of other hot button issues I would have to deal with if I wanted to deal realistically with the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) world, from the nature of the soul to gender roles to Israeli politics.  I feel my mission in life, if I have one (and I’m reliably informed I do) probably involves writing, as it’s the only thing I seem to do even vaguely well, but I can’t see it being this.


I did at least go to shul (synagogue) with Dad for Mincha and Ma’ariv (the Afternoon and Evening services) even though the noise in the Beit Midrash was uncomfortable for me.  Noise issues, among other things, seem to have got worse as the possibility of autism has grown and I don’t know if I’m observing my discomfort more now that I have a category to put it in or actually feeling it more from psychosomatic reasons.  I think it’s the former, as I used to get really angry about noise in shul when I was a more regular shul-goer, but it’s hard to be sure.


I feel a bit bad tonight, because I think my Dad wanted to watch TV as a family tonight and I ducked it, partly because I wanted to watch something in particular, but I think on some level I didn’t want to do a quasi-social thing after yesterday (it doesn’t help that I don’t like watching TV with my parents because I say they talk too much, which they dispute.  There aren’t many programmes I watch, but I watch those programmes with obsessive intensity).  I try to give myself a break now that I know that I may be autistic, but on the other hand I probably do isolate myself too much. I’m in two minds about whether to go out with my parents and cousin on Thursday.


Still, on balance I would have to say it was a good day.  The depression flared up at odd moments, as did the anxiety about antisemitism, about which I can do almost nothing, and I think I had one or two moments of anxiety about my new job, but mostly I was OK and I did a surprising number of things, so I’m counting that as a victory.

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.

Always Have, Always Will

I struggled last night, but I can’t say why, because of lashon hara (malicious speech) issues.  Basically, there is someone in my life who periodically upsets me to a very great extent for no good reason and who for a variety of reasons I have to keep in my life.  I think this person has undiagnosed issues of their own, but they won’t seek help.  It’s very difficult.  The upshot was that it ruined my Shabbat evening.  I was very upset and couldn’t even read very much.

The other thing that upset me a bit last night was reading this paragraph in the book Sparks from Berditchov by Yaakov Klein:

Every Jew who is serious about his avodas Hashem [service of God] knows how many benefits this lifestyle yields, not only in the next world, but in this world as well… A life lived per the Torah’s Divine guidance is one of utmost vitality.  Every moment is packed with meaning and every circumstance inundated with the possibility of earning a piece of eternity.  There is hardly a situation that an oveid Hashem [servant of God] can’t handle; the raging rapids of life’s ups and downs may toss him about but he remains safe, ever protected by the lifejacket of “Gam zu letovah – This too is for the good,” and “Whatever the Merciful one does is for the best.”

I hardly know where to begin with this, so remote is it from my experience of Judaism.  Vitality?  Meaning and the possibility of earning eternity?   Handling difficult situations?  None of these reflect my religious reality.  I feel such a bad Jew reading this.  I don’t think I’m earning much reward and I don’t feel vitality or meaning, nor am I able to handle difficult situations through my trust in HaShem (God).  I do what I have to do because that’s what God says, because I happen to believe that the Torah is true and that I should follow it.  It looks like I am following because I have an autistic adherence to rules as much as anything more spiritual.  I don’t have the personal connection with God that my rabbis and teachers say is necessary to have reward in the Next World (not having a share in Olam HaBa (the Next World) is not a punishment as such, but a reflection of the fact that one has not built a connection with God in the spiritual world through good actions in this world).

I had some strange dreams at night after all this.  I had a work anxiety dream.  I don’t remember the details, but it was a mash-up of my first two jobs, and I had to go back to work there, except I think I was a volunteer again, rather than a paid employee (I had been a volunteer in the first library I worked in before being paid).  I also dreamt about the first woman I asked out, who turned me down and eventually stopped talking to me because of my depression (she was worried she would say the wrong thing and make me suicidal, but her stopping talking to me actually made me suicidal).  I stop thinking about her for long periods, particularly when I’m dating, but then she comes back to my mind.  In some ways she matters as much to me as the two women I was actually in proper relationships with.  At any rate, we were friends for quite a long time.  I do periodically google her, so I know she’s married with children and living in Israel.  Sometimes I wish I could just tell her that, yes, I’m still depressed, but there’s a reason I’m so messed up (autism) and I don’t blame her for what happened, and please would she at least feel pity for me.

I’ve been thinking about her all day and, after Shabbat, playing music that makes me think wistfully about lost love.  I wonder if anyone could ever care about me this much?  But it’s just fantasy, not real love.  I suppose I don’t really care about her, I care about her as she was fifteen years ago, when I last saw her, and she would say I care about an image of her in my mind, not the real her.  She said if I liked myself more, I would fall in love with someone more like myself; I still think she was a lot like me, more so than the two women I have actually dated (both of whom I thought at times that I was almost certain to marry), but obviously not enough.   It’s never enough, really.  I’m never enough for anyone.

After Shabbat I spent some time starting to paint my Doctor Who miniatures.  I like having a hobby that isn’t just reading or writing (as I seem to have stopped jogging), but I can tell that I don’t paint miniatures as well as I did in my teens.  I’m not sure how much is patience or skill – it’s just another thing I seem to be less good at than I was years ago.  I feel that I’m becoming useless.  The fact that my hand shakes when I’m trying to paint the fine detail doesn’t really help.  I painted for about an hour, excluding preparation and tidying time, but then my attention began to wane and I started getting a headache, probably not from paint fumes (they are very small pots of paint), but I thought it was a good idea to stop.  I basically finished K9 (because he’s easy), but the Doctors will require a lot more work.  I hope to spend some time on it in the next fortnight, before I have to start work.


I felt down on waking again today.  I really struggle in the heat, which leaves me feeling exhausted.  Welcome to global warming (the winter brings its own challenges, though, with depressing short days and little sunlight.  Spring is probably the best time of year for me).  The last few days I have overslept and procrastinated, then gone to bed very late trying to cram stuff in, without managing everything I wanted to do.  I spend what I see of the morning feeling lethargic and exhausted and wanting to go back to bed.  I am chuffed that yesterday’s post got twelve likes, which I think is a record for me, although I know other people regularly get far more than this.

Once I got going, things were a bit better.  I had to have another blood test.  I need blood tests every three months because I’m on lithium tablets, but when I went a week or two ago, they messed it up somehow and didn’t take enough blood (I don’t know if they missed the vein, although they tried on both arms).  So that got me out of the house and in the sunshine as I walked back from the hospital (about a thirty-five minute walk).

I joined another job site, this time one for part-time work.  It didn’t have ‘librarianship’ as a work category, which isn’t too surprising, but it didn’t have anything like ‘information management’ either.  I had to put myself down as working in ‘education’ and ‘research’ which aren’t quite right.  Not sure how many relevant results I’m going to get here.

I am worried about getting a job.  I would say ‘career’ except I think I just destroyed that (what little I had of it).  There aren’t many librarianship jobs around, those that are around are not at my level of qualification and experience and/or require a lot more interpersonal interactions than I feel comfortable with, or think I can manage (bearing in mind my ex-boss more or less told me outright that I’m not good with that side of things).  All the non-librarian jobs I’m looking at seem to presume experience of working in that area, which I obviously don’t have.  I’m beginning to suspect that writing and editing are jobs you fall into by accident, by knowing people who need someone for a job and think you can do it.  I don’t know anyone.

I just spent the last hour and a half or more setting up a new blog.  I won’t link to it, as it’s not anonymous, but it’s a Doctor Who and science fiction blog, intended to showcase my writing ability.  I decided it was worth paying for a domain name without ‘wordpress’ in it and for a site without adverts, as this is supposed to be a career-advancing site.  I’m quite excited about it.

I bought myself a birthday present.  When I was in my teens, my friends got obsessed with fantasy wargaming and I had to join in just to be able to talk to them (they didn’t talk about much else – it was probably around this time that the depression and certainly the loneliness began to kick in).  I didn’t enjoy playing the game very much, but I was good at painting the miniatures.  I drifted away from it as I got older and drifted away from my friends, but when we moved house three years ago, I found my paints and some unpainted miniatures and got back in to it.  It’s quite good to do while depressed, because it uses a different part of my brain and provides distraction from my thoughts.  Recently, a different company has brought out a Doctor Who wargame.  To be honest, the Doctor Who miniatures they’ve brought out so far don’t look that interesting to paint.  Most Doctor Who monsters are one colour, usually black or green.  But I noticed they had a deal: buy the first, fourth, fifth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth Doctors together and get a free K9.  The Doctor has crazy dress sense, which means that the miniatures are more interesting to paint.  So I treated myself to the set.  It arrived today and I’m looking forward to getting started painting.

I went to The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park with my Mum to see As You Like It.  We try to go to The Open Air Theatre every year as a mother-son thing, although there isn’t always something on we want to see.  I think it’s only been rained off once when we’ve gone.  As You Like It was very funny.  I was glad that I followed it as I hadn’t had time/energy/headspace to read it beforehand.  I was a bit melancholy at all the happy-ever-after marriages at the end (I’m not sure if you can spoiler something four hundred years old, but I don’t think it’s a great spoiler to say that there are weddings at the end of a Shakespearean comedy), thinking about myself and E.  Wishing we could just run off to the country and not have to worry about money and mental health.  I still think I will never find someone who can accept and support me as much as she did (and still does, even though we’re not dating any more).  I suppose there is still the chance that it will work out one day, but I can’t see how.

And now tonight we are going into Tu B’Av, a minor Jewish festival.  It’s not really celebrated now, but in ancient times it was a time when single Jewish women would go into the fields and dance and try to attract a husband, so it’s sort of become the frum (religious) Valentine’s Day in recent years.  So, again, I feel a bit wistful about me and E., but I don’t feel too bad, whereas a week ago I would probably have been inconsolable, so that’s an improvement.  I’m still sceptical about my ability to find a job (and a wife), but I’m feeling less depressed than I was a few days ago, certainly not having suicidal thoughts, so that’s good.  I know it won’t last forever, but I hope it lasts a while.  Through my holiday, at any rate.