Depression, Divrei Torah and Shopping in Partial Lockdown

I had a weird dream about my maternal grandparents last night.  They were doing decorating or something and then my grandma dropped dead (after doing a flip while dressed as a dog, rather improbably).  I had to call for an ambulance and for my Mum and somehow ended up locked out of the house and unable to unlock the front door while Muppets (actual Muppets, from The Muppet Show) crowded me and put me off.  It was a pretty weird dream, but I think it’s an attempt to process feelings about my parents’ mortality after Mum being ill on Sunday and her cancer in general (it was her parents in the dream).

Perhaps because of this, I felt pretty depressed on waking.  Or maybe I just did too much yesterday.  Plus, it was a fast day today in Judaism, one of the sadder days of the year, which always brings me down, even though I’m not allowed to fast on most of them any more because I’m on lithium.  I usually at least don’t brush my teeth on fast days as a small gesture, but I forgot and did that.  It’s hard to stay in the fast day state of mind when not actually fasting.  Similarly, in previous years I would have drunk just water today, but I drank tea and coffee and I doubt I would have got through the day easily without them.  The longer my depression goes on, the harder I find it to get into the mindset of the “sad” days of the Jewish calendar.  I guess I just feel that I’m depressed all the time and I’m struggling to get to normality even on a sadder day.

I did have depressed feelings about the future on waking.  The usual thoughts that I won’t ever get married, or probably even be in a relationship again, rooted in fears that I will not find another job, which seems to be necessary to find a girlfriend, and that I will  not get over the depression, which would also be good to get rid of before dating.  My unemployment may be fixable.  I hope it is, at any rate.  My depression I suspect is here to stay, on some level at least.

I wrote a lot more about this, but deleted it, as I don’t want to wallow in depression again.  I know I have made progress with the depression over the years and I’m certainly not as bad as I was circa 2003 to 2008 or even later, but it’s still a struggle and I don’t know what my improvement is down to, which makes me worry that I will relapse somehow.  Medication is certainly part of the improvement.  Maybe a certain amount of occupational therapy in terms of keeping active.  Psychotherapy has helped me understand myself a lot better and to deal with some short term problems, but I’m not sure it’s really helped me resolve much in the long term.  It is certainly helpful to talk to a therapist on a week-by-week basis to vent, but I’m not sure how much it helps in the long term.

***

Achievements: despite feeling very depressed, I spent two hours or so working on my novel, fairly absorbed and “in flow.”  I finished another chapter and did some reorganising of the plan for the last few chapters.  Once I started work, the depression feelings did subside quite a bit.  I am concerned that I don’t quite have enough plot left to generate the 13,000 or so words I need to make this acceptable even as a short novel.

I had to do some shopping and wanted to go further afield than I’ve been for a while.  There are basically two places to shop around here: a small parade of shops less than ten minutes’ walk away, and a big high street and shopping centre about fifteen or twenty minutes away.  I hadn’t gone further than the “less than ten minutes away” shops since lockdown started and felt I should push myself to go further, plus the thing I needed was more likely to be in the shops on the high street.

So, I set out.  The weather was horrible, but I saw it as exposure therapy as much as anything, as I’ve been worried about how I will adapt to “normal” post-lockdown life.  I wore a mask when I arrived at the shops, and then wore it home.  I was OK, albeit annoyed that it was often not possible to distance myself from other people as I would have liked.  I went into the Judaica shop too, which was a bit of a reward for getting down there, but I didn’t buy anything.  I still find masks uncomfortable.  I think I will still avoid the shops unless absolutely necessary, at least while Mum is immunosuppressed.

I also wrote my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week.  I realised I’ve never really written about these here in detail.  These thoughts are short essays, typically 800 to 1,000 words on the week’s Torah reading.  I started writing them at the start of the Torah reading cycle last autumn, initially just to read aloud to my parents at the Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner table, but I now send them to a few friends and family too.  I do feel the pressure of the weekly deadline sometimes, but it can be quite a rewarding experience to think about the text, look at commentaries, and set out some ideas about it.

I’m slightly curious to look back over the ten months or so and see what themes emerge.  Even without doing that, I know there are some writers I quote a lot.  It’s pretty much inevitable that anyone writing on the Torah portion in the mainstream Jewish tradition is going to quote Rashi and Ramban (the two greatest Medieval Torah commentators) a lot.  More personal is my looking to the Kotzker Rebbe and (lehavdil bein chaim lechaim) Rabbi Lord Sacks a lot for inspiration.

One theme that I know has come up a lot, including this week, is the concept of individuality in Judaism, the idea that we all have a unique outlook on life and that this is, or should be, a theme of Jewish life over and above the conformist nature of a community.  The idea that God sees our individuality and that therefore we should strive ourselves to see and accept individuality, and that leaders in particular should do this.  I’m sure on some level it’s from feeling that I am not always accepted as an individual that I feel the need to stress these ideas, but that does not make them less valid or true.

***

From Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942 by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, the Piaseczno Rebbe (emphasis added):

Moses was the most humble person ever to walk the earth.  He was constantly asking himself, “Who am I?  And how can I possibly… ?”  So God said to him, “It is not true that you are not fit, and it is not true that you have faults and blemishes, God forbid.  Your self-doubting is itself a form of worship, the type of worship that illuminates the world, coming as it does through a chain of causality from the name of God that is the future.”  It comes from the name of God, EHYE — “I will be.”  When a person feels that there is nothing worth looking at in his heart, but says, “I am nothing right now, but from now on I will try to be something,” his worship takes on the aspect of God’s Name, EHYE — I will be.  It draws out a reciprocal promise of EHYE — I will be.

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”

I know I went on a rant yesterday about politics.  I feel very conflicted about politics at the moment.  I know that civil society depends on people campaigning for change, I just feel disenfranchised and not sure what to do.  There was an interview in The Jewish Chronicle with Ian Austin, the former Labour MP who resigned in protest over antisemitism in the party and is now telling people to vote Conservative to keep Labour out because of their antisemitism problem.  I think he did the right thing, but I’m not sure it’s going to make any difference.  There isn’t a party that represents what I think, and I’m terrified by what some of the parties are campaigning for, particularly Labour, which has gone in the space of just a few years from a moderate social democratic party to rabidly antisemitic crypto-Marxist one (maybe not so crypto).  Challenged about antisemitism, the standard response seems to be, “We aren’t antisemitic, there genuinely is a massive international Jewish-capitalist conspiracy that controls all Western governments and owns all the banks and media.”  All said with no trace of irony (English or otherwise).  I just feel a huge dread of what’s going to happen to our country, and the world, in the coming years.

I’m not sure I can really comment on politics objectively at the moment.  I read an article by someone I used to be friends with and my disagreement with elements of his politics blends into my upset at the way he treated me personally, which had nothing to do with politics, but showed up his desire for brotherly love and treating people kindly as a bit of a sham.  I don’t know how much my annoyance with him is political and how much is personal.  Probably a bit of both, as I don’t think I disagree with his politics enough to explain this much of a negative response.  But I don’t know.  Can we ever truly separate the political and the personal?  Should we?  I really don’t know.

I put Twitter back on my blocked sites list for now.  I just needed to get away from it.  I may go and network on there at some point, but not at the moment.

***

I feel that dread in my own life too.  I just can’t seem to get out of the depressed rut.  I know what I should be doing to work on my life and my career, it’s just so hard to do it.  I still feel a lot of social anxiety even after CBT and that’s holding me back along with the depression itself.

I woke feeling very depressed again today.  It took me more than two hours to get up, eat breakfast and get dressed.  I kept going back to bed and it was impossible to have the energy to get going.  I davened (prayed) after lunch rather than before because I didn’t have the energy earlier.  I hope this does not become a habit.  I had a bit of religious OCD today too, wondering if some frozen microwave food in our freezer was really kosher even though I was fairly sure my Mum had told me she I had bought it from a kosher shop.  I worried that I was mis-remembering and checked with her (which I shouldn’t do).  Now I’m worried that the kosher shop made a mistake.  I know my kashrut OCD flares up when I’m under stress, so that’s a sign that I’m not doing well at the moment.

I’ve been sucked into online procrastination again.  I’m trying to apply for benefits, but the form is so dense and off-putting (probably deliberately).  I felt agitated and on the brink of tears.  I would fill in one or two boxes and then feel overwhelmed (by what?) and stop because I want to cry.  I feel that my life is a mess and there’s nothing I can do about it, that the world is a mess and there’s even less I can do about it.  I don’t want to be on benefits, but I can’t see myself getting any kind of job while I’m in this state, but I need structure and activity…  The form asks for when my illness started and I don’t know what to put.  2003?  2000?  Who knows by this stage?

In the end I gave up on the form and went for a twenty-five minute run in the cold and dark instead, which exhausted me, but gave me some respite from my negative thoughts, although I worried about politics most of the time, when I wasn’t worrying that every shadowy passer-by was a mugger (7.30pm is well after dark at the moment).  I was exhausted when I got home even after a shower and dinner, but I worked on my novel for thirty or forty minutes.  My concentration was poor, but I got through a difficult scene.  I also managed ten or fifteen minutes of Torah study.  I ate a Magnum ice cream, partly as a reward for getting through a difficult day, partly to keep me awake long enough to do a bit of Torah study.  I know this will probably put back any weight I might have lost jogging, but I don’t really care.  I had to get through the day somehow.

I do feel like I’ve really tearing myself apart about a lot of things lately, some obviously trivial (like whether it would be a betrayal of my values to watch James Bond films), some genuinely worrying (the election).  I strongly suspect the trivial and maybe even the serious worries are standing in for something else, or are a return of clinical anxiety, which I’ve never been good at identifying in myself.

***

Ashley Leia commented on my last post to say it must be exhausting hiding my life from my religious community, but I’ve been hiding all my life.  At school it was hard to know which of my interests would be OK and which would be a target for the bullies, but Doctor Who was resolutely unfashionable; even at the more mature age of being an undergraduate, people stared at me in amazement or laughed when it emerged that I was a fan (this was before the relaunch of the programme and its return to popularity).

***

In terms of enjoyment, I’m wondering if I’m not enjoying things at the moment or if I’m just reading/watching/listening to the wrong things.  Over the last few weeks I’ve listened to some Doctor Who audio books and audio dramas.  A couple were good, but most weren’t.  I’ve never been able to get into these audios and I’m not sure why.  Some of it is probably difficulty concentrating on audio when I’m depressed, but I’ve been equivocal about these even when not depressed.

I’m also reading volume three of the complete short stories of Philip K. Dick.  Dick is one of my favourite authors, but I’m struggling to connect with the stop/start pace of reading short stories and having to understand a new set of characters and a new world with each story (“new world” literally, given that these are science fiction stories) so I might switch to a novel.

On the other hand, I started watching The Prisoner again, for the umpteenth time.  I don’t know if it’s autism, but I can watch my favourite things over and over without getting bored, but be really apprehensive about watching or reading anything new unless I’m very confident that I’m going to enjoy it and not be upset by it.  Watching The Prisoner is probably a bit dangerous for me.  For those who don’t know, The Prisoner was an espionage/science fiction series from the sixties.  A British spy resigns from his job and wakes up in a strange Village where people are numbers.  He wants to escape, the authorities want to find out why he resigned (that’s just the title sequence).  They only made seventeen episodes, which, alongside star/co-creator/executive producer/sometime writer and director Patrick McGoohan’s significant input gives the whole thing an auteured feel unusual in British TV of that era.

The reason it’s dangerous for me is that it deals with issues of individuality, conformism, freedom and so on and I respond strongly to it, probably too strongly.  While Doctor Who is my favourite TV series, The Prisoner is the one I connect to most emotionally.  I discovered the series when I was at university, when I was at my most depressed, and in my head Oxford and the Village became one, as did the Prisoner’s loneliness and struggle for agency and my own.  As with Kafka and Dick, the casual surrealism reflected the way I experience life, which often seems disturbing and illogical (this may be the result of autism, but maybe not).  The final episode, which suggests the Prisoner may literally be his own worst enemy only adds to my emotional connection with it, as well as my self-hatred.  The reading of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, that “The Prisoner who continues to resist brainwashing may have brainwashed himself into a prison of the mind.  The series’ thesis may thus be that freedom is impossible, as is opting out” is something that resonates a lot with me.  I do wonder if I’m my own worst enemy, and I do want to drop out of society while simultaneously seeing dropping out as both impossible and immoral.

I can see the Oxford parallels with the Village; in the years when I was too depressed to study or work, I could see parallels with the apparently endless therapeutic process and the byzantine bureaucracy of the benefits system; nowadays I can see the parallels with my position in the Jewish community, and the Jewish community’s position in the country.  Watching the first episode, Arrival, tonight, what I noticed more than before is the way the Village infantilises people to make them placid and docile; there are real-world examples with the market and the state, but what resonated with me today was my illness infantilising me.

The Prisoner is a very fun series to watch, from a time when British TV could deal with serious issues in a popular way without becoming condescending or self-important and self-righteous, and was able to question its own values.  There was a six-part American remake miniseries ten years that wasn’t nearly as fun, although it did have its good points.  And that’s without getting into the non-political readings, that the Prisoner is dead and stuck in Purgatory or a cycle of reincarnations.  It’s a series you can really immerse yourself in.

(And I haven’t even mentioned the enigmatic, silent, butler or the weird Rover weather balloon robot guards or the use of diegetic use of music or the jokes or the theme music or the way the Prisoner/McGoohan (never has it been easier to blur the lines between character and actor) loses it at someone or something in most episodes or the fact that it’s a TV programme with it’s own font or, or, or…)

Be seeing you!

The World is Waiting, Apparently

Work seems to be going OK and my mood has been better this week.  I don’t seem to be making as many mistakes as earlier in the week and so far my boss hasn’t complained about my speed, although I’m going slower than I would like.  I’m shaking again, though, when I talk to my boss.  Shaking is something that hasn’t been a huge problem for a while.  I shake when I get nervous, probably connected with medication side-effects, but I go long periods of not being troubled by it at all and then it can suddenly come out of nowhere.  My gut instinct is that I was so worried that my boss at this job would be like my boss at my previous job (critical and temperamental) that it led to anxiety and shaking.  Then, once it’s started, I begin to worry about shaking when I go into a social situation and my anxiety about shaking triggers the shaking itself and I become trapped by my own nervous system (nervous in both senses of the word).

The main thing I want to blog about today is something I read.  I’ve been reading Halakhic Morality: Essays on Ethics and Masorah by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.  Rav Soloveitchik (as he is known) is a major figure in twentieth century Orthodox Judaism, a major communal figure and a major thinker.  The book is a selection of previously unpublished essays and lectures on Jewish ethics.  The final chapter, titled Religious Styles, deals with the need to develop a unique personal religious style.  Rav Soloveitchik says that there is the halakhah, Jewish law, which is binding on all Jews in the same way and can be formally taught.  But there is also religious style, the way a person fulfils the commandments, which a person has to develop for himself, based on observing his or her parents and teachers.  One can keep all the mitzvot (commandments) punctiliously and still be a bad person if one has a bad style, for instance if one is short-tempered, rude, gluttonous and so on.

This was interesting to me, because I struggle to find my own religious style and to work out where I fit in the frum (religious) community, and it chimes with my understanding of the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe a century earlier, which stress individuality.  But then the Rav says,

“Sometimes we walk into shul [synagogue] on Rosh ha-Shanah [Jewish New Year] and we are as cold as if we had just come out of a deep freeze.  We want to ignite a fire, to warm up our personality.  It happens to everybody; it happens to me too.  I do not think then about the philosophy of Rosh ha-Shanah and the concepts of malkhuyot, zikhronot, and shofarot [kingship, remembrance and the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn trumpet, the three core concepts of the day’s prayers].  No matter how wonderful and beautiful they are, how fascinating intellectually they may be, they will not light a fire.  One cannot arouse a person by philosophizing.

All I have to do is recollect the tune my grandfather R. Hayyim used while reciting U-Vekhen Ten Pahdekha [part of the Rosh Hashanah prayers] – that’s all!  Suddenly a fire is ignited, my heart begins to warm up and I begin to feel the sanctity of the day.” (pp. 198-199)

I find this interesting, as this is the problem I have been wrestling with in the run up to Rosh Hashanah (starting Sunday night), so it seemed strange to reach this chapter just now when I’ve been reading this book on and off for months.  I also feel cold about the coming Yom Tovim, but I don’t know how to warm myself.  To be honest, I have probably needed warming up for some years.  Unlike the Rav, I do not come from a famous rabbinic dynasty to have examples of ‘warm’ Jews from my ancestors.  To make matters worse, I have a lot of anger and resentment against HaShem (God) to work through and I don’t know how to do it.  Nor do I know what my unique religious style would be.  But I’m glad to know that it’s not just me who struggles.

In a somewhat related way, the assistant rabbi was talking in shiur (religious class) tonight about the need to connect with HaShem and other people in an authentic way, not just out of ego (so we can feel good that we condescend to help others) or to get rewarded.  He said we should find one middah (character trait) that is naturally well-developed in us, something that comes easily to us, and use that to help others altruistically at this time of year so that we will connect with the world in a genuinely altruistic, God-centred way and deserve a good new year.

I don’t know that I have even one good middah.  I can’t think of any good deed or mitzvah (commandment) that comes easily to me.    In the latest of his weekly parasha essays, Rabbi Lord Sacks says “The world is waiting for you” but I don’t know what I am expected to do.  The only thing I can think of where I connect to people in a genuinely altruistic way, doing it for other people rather than to get something for myself, is when I interact with people online, on my blog and other people’s blogs, where I genuinely like to connect and help with advice or support about mental illness.  But if that’s my mission in life, it rather implies that I will always be depressed.

I wish I could tell if I am a good person and a good Jew.  E. told me recently that she thinks that in secular terms, I would be a good person.  Which I guess is good, but I’m not sure if it’s good enough.  I mean, part of the reason I’m frum is that I find the secular Western ethic lacking in many ways and the Jewish ethic to be more meaningful and more fully thought through and in a way actually more humanistic, more attuned to human nature, more aware of its pitfalls and more able to avoid them, but also in some ways more accepting of it.  Somehow it feels that the active good I do is very little, and my goodness, such as it is, is mostly avoiding the bad.  Which is good, at least up to a point.  “Turn from evil and do good” says Tehillim (Psalms) (34.15).  Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz is said to have spent twenty-one years improving himself by following this dictum: seven years removing evil from himself; another seven years finding the good; and a third set of seven years inculcating the good into himself.  Still, I feel that if I started becoming frum when I was twelve, I’ve had well over my twenty-one years by now and I’m far from good.

The world might be waiting for me, but I don’t know what it is waiting for me to do.

Individualism (Enneagram)

Shabbat was reasonably good, although I chickened out of shaking the rabbis’ hands again at shul (synagogue) for spurious social anxiety-related reasons.  My parents talked me into contacting the American shadchanim (matchmakers) who specialise in people with health issues to see if any of them deal with people who are (a) ‘modern’, (b) mentally (as opposed to physically) ill and (c) in the UK, or at least in Europe.  I’m still sceptical, though, but will try to send some emails tomorrow.  Also to email the rabbi of my shul who offered to talk to me about dating.

I also had the idea of doing a SWOT analysis of myself.  SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a type of business planning that I learnt about on the library management part of my MA.  I thought I would analyse what I’m good at and what I enjoy to try to get an idea of where I should be going with my life and especially with my career.  It’s possible that there are some things that I think I can’t do or needs that I think can’t be met that I’m trying to meet in the wrong way or in the wrong area of my life, although I’m unsure about what these things might be.  I’m also increasingly clear about wanting to write more on Doctor Who, for my blog initially, but with an aim of getting published and paid for it.  Work is going quite well on my Doctor Who book, but unfortunately I now have to watch a load of awful episodes for a bit for research.  Aside from the book I’m working on, I’ve had an idea for a second book for some time now and I’m kicking around ideas for a third.

I also want to write a list of everything I feel anxious about right now, as anxiety has been more of an issue than depression this week and I think it would be worth looking at which anxieties I can potentially do something about and which I just need to push away until later (e.g. Pesach anxiety) and which I can’t do anything about at all and are simply not worth thinking about (e.g. not having my contract renewed).

I went to bed late last night, thinking about things and finishing reading The Prime Ministers.  I overslept again today, which was probably inevitable, but I slept for eleven hours or so last night, followed by another hour and three-quarters this afternoon, so I’m worried about whether I’ll sleep tonight.  Sleeping this afternoon meant I haven’t done any Torah study yet, but walking back from my parents’ house in the dark, wet and cold has left me tired and somewhat depressed and I had a slight headache that has only just gone (and not entirely gone).  So I probably won’t do much Torah study today.  I feel bad about this, but I also feel that I need to be/am slowly becoming more aware of my limits and not to push past them out of workaholism, religious perfectionism, low self-esteem or comparing myself to other people (particularly not healthy people, but even mentally ill people because everyone is different).

My non-biological sisters (older friends who have ‘adopted’ me as their younger brother) sent me what they think my enneagram personality type is.  I’m not particularly interested in personality testing and the enneagram seems rather New Agey and unscientific for me, but I found it frustrating that of the nine personality types, the one they ascribed to me (probably correctly), “The Individualist, The Sensitive Introspective Type” was the only one that read like a criticism to me.  I don’t know if that is my paranoia, finding the bad everywhere, or if I dislike myself so much that I read everything as criticism of me or if I really am a disturbed person.

Individualism is good, something I’ve always striven for without, I feel, ever really achieving it.  Introspective is true and neutral.  However, “Sensitive” has always felt like a criticism to me, even though it probably isn’t (“Luftmentsch is a sensitive child” is something I heard more than once growing up, and it always seemed like a criticism) and as for the more detailed description of “Withdrawn, Expressive, Dramatic, Self-absorbed, and Temperamental”… Well, I spend most of my non-work hours alone in my room, so withdrawn is true.  And anyone who has seen my drama queening posts here or on Hevria.com knows I’m dramatic online (although not in person, at least not when other people are around – I suppose self-harming counts as dramatic, though) and I write a blog where I talk endlessly about myself, so I’m self-absorbed.  I don’t think I’m temperamental though as my mood is low fairly constantly…  But it’s all so negative!  I guess “Expressive” is positive at least.

At any rate, this bit, from the longer description (which I only skimmed, because I was feeling too depressed) is true: “The “romantics” of the Enneagram, they long for someone to come into their lives and appreciate the secret self that they have privately nurtured and hidden from the world. If, over time, such validation remains out of reach, Fours begin to build their identity around how unlike everyone else they are. ”  [Emphasis in original.]  I guess that’s why I blog, and why I guard my uniqueness.  I complain that I don’t fit in with other frum (religious) Jews because of my geekyness or with other geeks, because of my religion, but I don’t do much to try to fit in and I have twice picked a job that would automatically isolate me from people like me and put me with very different people, so on some level I must get something out of always being the token Jew/token Orthodox Jew/token geek.

“As long as they believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, they cannot allow themselves to experience or enjoy their many good qualities. To acknowledge their good qualities would be to lose their sense of identity (as a suffering victim) and to be without a relatively consistent personal identity (their Basic Fear). Fours grow by learning to see that much of their story is not true—or at least it is not true any more. The old feelings begin to fall away once they stop telling themselves their old tale: it is irrelevant to who they are right now.”  I have said this to myself before, but it’s hard to change how I see myself (as fundamentally unlikable) when that feeling keeps being reinforced by events.  It’s hard to feel that I’m likeable when no one seems to like me very much and it’s hard to feel ‘normal’ when everyone else is so different to me.

Oh, and this warning about unhealthy Individualists is true (except for the bit about drugs and alcohol, although I probably have other, not much healthier, escape routes): “Despairing, feel hopeless and become self-destructive, possibly abusing alcohol or drugs to escape. In the extreme: emotional breakdown or suicide is likely. Generally corresponds to the Avoidant, Depressive, and Narcissistic personality disorders.”  It also says “Instead of spending time imagining your life and relationships, begin to live them” which is also true but I don’t have a flipping clue how to stop living in my head when I struggle at work, have few social outlets and where pretty much all my friends are reachable only via email most of the time.  There isn’t really anything good in my life other than fantasy of one kind or another right now.

Well, I guess I ought to have something to eat rather than just sitting here all evening…

Miscellany 2

“Some kind of solitude is measured out in you/You think you know me, but you haven’t got a clue.” Hey Bulldog, The Beatles

I went back to bed for half an hour or so this afternoon.  I was too tired and depressed to do very much.  I only got up to answer the phone, otherwise I might still be there.  I wanted to go for a run, but didn’t have the energy.  I’m worried that I still let life get to me, that I can’t accept my alone-ness as a fact of life.  I’m not the only thirty-odd year old virgin and I’m certainly not the only lonely person in the world.  I just can’t see how I can actually meet someone.  To be honest, at the moment I can’t see how I can get through the next week, or go back to work in August, let alone worry about something as abstract as dating.  Forget dating, I can’t even make dinner: I boiled some eggs for lunch, hoping to use some of them to make kedgeree this evening (about the easiest recipe I know that actually is a recipe not just cheese on toast), but it took all afternoon before I could face cooking the rice to go with it and it threatened to spark off kashrut OCD.  I did manage to daven Mincha (say the afternoon prayers), but I had zero kavannah (concentration), even with Tehillim/Psalms 6 which should have expressed what I was feeling.  I managed some Torah study for ten or fifteen minutes, but it was basic and poor; it was hard to read and translate Hebrew, even from my bar mitzvah sedra.   I did at least spend half an hour or so working on the Doctor Who book and I feel I’m getting to grips with the current chapter.

The rabbi was talking yesterday about the need to know oneself before one can grow in any way.  I don’t know that I know myself very well.  In some ways I do understand myself, I think I know what my core values are and I know what triggers the mental health issues (which is not the same as being able to cope with the triggers).  However, I think I might overestimate my negative points and underestimate my good ones.  I don’t actually think I have any good points.  One friend said today that I’m “lovely”, another that I’m “saintly”.  I find it hard to accept any of this.  Not that I would accuse them of lying, just that I think they don’t know me well enough or are trying to cheer me up (I think I already upset both of them for different reasons today without calling them liars too…).  I certainly don’t know what my purpose is in life or how I find out (years of therapy haven’t really helped here).  I would say I don’t have one, except that my religious beliefs indicate that everyone has one.

I wanted to steer clear of dating until I understood myself better, but my CBT therapist felt I understood myself well enough and that frum (religious) couples who get married in their late teens or early twenties don’t know themselves any better than I do (this just adds more confusing feelings about frum people and married people).  Dating has been pretty disastrous, though, with most of the women I have asked out or gone out with this year have apparently decided that I’m too weird or too mentally ill for them.  Maybe there is someone out there who doesn’t think I’m weird (possible) or broken (unlikely… I really am a screw-up), but I think I’m too jaded and hurt to look for her by now.  And unless I marry someone a lot younger than myself (unlikely), a family looks less and less likely.

A friend got annoyed at me for saying on my blog that I have no one to show my writing to, when she would look at it.  I didn’t realize that she would, given that my other friends are unwilling to look at it (they don’t say they are unwilling, they even encourage me to send them stuff, they just don’t give me any feedback).  Anyway, at the moment I have not got the energy, motivation or concentration to write anything other than the Doctor Who book.  I don’t much feel like showing anyone my stuff at the moment anyway.  I’m not very good at taking criticism, it just makes me feel a bad writer and a bad person for even thinking I could write.  It’s bad enough I’ve got a poem coming out on Hevria soon.

I should try to socialize, but I think I hate myself too much to impose on anyone.  Anyway, I only have two friends in London, neither very close and both too busy to see me most of the time.  It was good to see my non-biological sisters last week, though.  If I’m well enough I’m hoping to go to the science fiction exhibition at The Barbican with my Dad later in the week, although I already suspect it is going to bore him and am feeling guilty about going.

I say I want to have people in my life, yet I spend all my time pushing them away.  I’m trying to deal with my social anxiety with a CBT book, but the problem is my social anxiety is worst on Shabbat, when I can’t write down how I feel (and even on other days it is hard to take out pen and paper and write down in a public place, which is where I feel socially anxious).  I bet I don’t even really want to get married to love someone, just to have sex.  As I’m sure I couldn’t cope with casual sex, even if it were religiously permitted, I don’t know what to do about that.

I want to eat junk food, but I don’t have much in the flat, fortunately.  Actually, it’s more that I want to eat, but don’t have the energy or motivation to actually eat anything.  I want to vegetate in front of the TV, but the Doctor Who story I’m watching (Planet of the Daleks) is not very good and I’m stuck watching it for my research for my book (the book that may never get finished…).  It was sufficiently bad that I posted something on my non-anonymous Doctor Who blog to complain, the first I’ve done that in a while (although I have posted some quotes there recently).  I feel the need to press on with the Doctor Who episodes so I can get on with writing the book, although if I’m too depressed to write that’s rather pointless.  I suppose I really want to get done quickly so I can tie it all up with the Peter Capaldi era of the show and not have to worry about writing more chapters for as-yet untransmitted seasons, because I’m not sure I have the ability to come up with new interpretations any more rather than just revising old posts.  I’m also scared that Doctor Who fandom, not always the friendliest place, is about to become very nasty with the new Doctor and I’m afraid that I won’t like the next series as the new show-runner and chief writer isn’t someone whose work I like.

So here I am, playing games of Ain’t It Awful again and waffling in a vaguely stream of consciousness way.  I sometimes wonder what other people’s interior monologues are like; mine are often focused on big religious/political/cultural questions and interspersed with high and popular cultural references (yes, especially Doctor Who), but when I’m depressed like today it becomes full of self-loathing and images of myself being hurt in various ways.  At least I’m doing this on my own blog and not on Hevria.  Last time I did it on Hevria someone said she was sorry that my life had been hard and it took me a couple of reads to realize that she meant it, as I was initially worried she was being sarcastic, which I suppose shows what I think of myself, that I deserve to be criticised and not taken seriously when I say I’m in pain.