I feel that the wedding euphoria wore off today. I’m still very happy to be married to E! I just mean the high from the ceremony and party wore off and life felt normal again. I knew this would happen eventually and I slightly dreaded it. I thought something bad would happen to shift gears. In the event, it was just an ordinary day.

We had a family lunch in Golders Green, “we” being E, my parents, Sister, Brother-in-law, Nephew and myself. Sister tried twice to ask us about our minimoon, but we kept being interrupted by someone who shall remain nameless changing the direction of conversation to something involving them. I was somewhat annoyed about this. Maybe on some level, as my therapist suggested, I thought getting married would allow me to renegotiate the dynamic of the family and be heard more, but in the event I wasn’t heard much and E wasn’t heard much either. At least we could engage in public displays of affection while everyone else spoke. Speaking of which, Nephew (now nearly six months old) bestowed about eight beaming smiles on me, far more than he gave to anyone else, so it seems I was his special favourite today. To be honest, I would rather have baby smiles than people talking to me.

We got back from the restaurant pretty late. I did a bit of Torah study, and E and I prepared dinner. I also made a start on the thank you notes for wedding gifts. We watched the final episode of the 2010 season of Doctor Who too, The Big Bang. (I appreciate that the way I’m currently writing this blog, going back to the wedding and forward to the present, is probably analogous to the Steven Moffat’s writing style with time-travel episodes like these, a style that annoyed a lot of people. Sorry.)

Otherwise, I’m feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by life. Overwhelmed by all the things I need to do (we’re house-hunting, I’m going to make another effort at setting myself up as a freelance proofreader and I’d like to start work on my next novel in greater earnest some time), but I think overwhelm in me can manifest in focusing on minutiae, like how many books I own and haven’t read yet (an awful lot), the DVDs E and I want to watch together (quite a lot, some that I’ve seen and want to share with her and some for both of us to watch for the first time, a few she’s seen and I haven’t) and also my quiet, but firm belief that I am really going to hate the forthcoming new Doctor Who episodes for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot to this, but the return of my least favourite Doctor, least favourite companion and a showrunner/head writer I find hugely over-rated and often annoying are the main points, as well as the rapid deterioration of Doctor Who Magazine since Russell T Davies’ return, just like it did the first time he was showrunner. Similarly, I’ve just given up on a book on Doctor Who continuity problems (not engagingly written, massively out of date, and a weird mixture of pedantry and wild imagination) and I have mixed feelings about a Terry Pratchett novel I just started. As a teenager I loved Pratchett and he is still funny, but he simply isn’t as clever as his many adherents claim, and his observational humour depends on his having a sort of sage understanding of the world that he is wittily disclosing to readers and which I think he simply doesn’t have. I also think that Pratchett’s witches are basically Jews, not in an antisemitic way, but in a frustrating way, but that’s another story.  This is a kind of overwhelm (at things to read and watch) and underwhelm (I won’t like these things, or at least the new ones). I guess it can lead to a kind of “analysis paralysis” where I end up wanting to “get through” books and TV rather than enjoy them, because there are too many stories or because I think I simply won’t enjoy them, my tastes being too different from the mainstream. Autistically, I seek the comfort of things I know I like, which is more old TV than modern and familiar books. Ugh, breathe, Luftmentsch, breathe. I don’t want to be overwhelmed or underwhelmed. I just want to be whelmed.

I do feel a bit annoyed that there’s yet another bank holiday this week, the third this month, so I’ll be working on Tuesday instead of Monday and missing volunteering. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but, being autistic the disruption is unsettling even without it coming right after the wedding.

The Wedding Part 1: The Auf Ruf

I’m finally beginning to blog the wedding! I’ll do it over a few days as it’s very long.

Friday 19 May

We had a lot of my family over: aside from Mum, Dad and myself, Sister and Brother-in-law came over with Nephew and Uncle, Aunt and Cousins 1, 2 and 4 came from Israel. I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) this evening, as Sister wanted earlier dinner for Nephew’s sake (although he slept through the whole meal in the end) and I wanted to be in bed early too, to make it easier to get up for shul for my auf ruf (being called to the Torah as a groom) on Shabbat (Sabbath) morning. Sister, BIL and Nephew actually came around a bit before Shabbat to drop some stuff off and Nephew was awake then, so I got a couple of dazzling smiles from him. He’s nearly six months old now and beginning to really pay attention to the world around him.

The dinner was good, but I missed E, who decided to stay with her parents elsewhere (we weren’t sticking to the custom for bride and groom not to see each other for a week before the wedding for various reasons). Afterwards, I read some of The Guide for the Perplexed for a brief period for Torah study then read recreationally for a while before bed.

Saturday 20

I did make it to shul fairly early for my auf ruf. Various relatives got aliyot (called to the Torah) too, which was nice. I did have to put up with a couple of well-intentioned, but painful (to me) jokes. When I got to the bimah (Torah reading platform), the warden said I should smile; I was actually struggling with social anxiety in front of the crowd in the shul and worried I was going to do the wrong thing. And someone else later said it was “about time” I got married. I know people don’t know my neurological and mental health struggles or the difficulties I had finding dates, let alone getting married, but this kind of thing is painful. I guess it does make me wonder if any jokes I make are painful to their recipients; probably.

Lunch was good, but there was a heated discussion of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, the part of the Talmud dealing with ethics) between Uncle and Cousins 2 and 4. That side of the family debate/argue very loudly and passionately and I couldn’t get in and found the intensity of discussion too much, so I went to play with Nephew for a bit.

After lunch I slept for three hours. I woke up with a slight headache. The extended family had all gone, so it was just Mum, Dad and me, which was fortunate (you may remember I tried to stop extended family hanging around all afternoon because I knew I would get peopled out). The headache seemed to be getting better, but then, about half an hour before the end of Shabbat, it turned into a full-blown migraine. I took medicine, but it took ages to work, so after Shabbat I spent a while in my parents’ bedroom (mine was too hot), watching The Twilight Zone and feeling sorry for myself. By the time the migraine went and I could get ready for bed, it was very late. I think I got to bed about 2am, and then woke up briefly about 5.30am before falling asleep again. I did get about six hours sleep, which is the minimum I need to function, and it was reasonably refreshing, so things weren’t too bad.

After The Event

I still haven’t blogged the wedding, and I’m not going to do so tonight. I hope to get to it in the coming days. But I wanted to quickly set down some thoughts from Shavuot, the Jewish festival that just passed (the English word is Pentecost, but that confuses people as it has nothing to do with the Christian Pentecost).

Each day of the two-day festival went much the same: I went to shul (synagogue) in the evening, had dinner with my parents and E, read for a bit with E, then went to bed (I didn’t go to tikkun leil (all-night Torah study). In the morning, E dragged me out of bed (almost literally) and I fought sleep disorder-induced exhaustion and social anxiety to get to shul, very late, but still for a chunk of the service and which I enjoyed once I was there, but ate too much in the kiddush afterwards. After lunch, E and I napped, then on the first day, we went on a long walk and on the second day E and Mum went to a women’s tea and Torah event while I stayed at home and read.

It was enjoyable, and E enjoyed it too, but I felt a bit religiously disconnected. On Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah, but as I study Torah every day, it can feel hard to connect it to just one day, particularly as I missed the Torah reading in shul due to over-sleeping. I often go through Jewish festivals feeling I should be feeling some kind of noticeable spiritual feeling or connection. Maybe that’s not how it works, either in general or for me with alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions).

Lately I feel like I’m juggling a lot of stuff. A lot of this is in the wake of my wedding, but also two years after my autism diagnosis I’m still trying to understand what that means for me, especially for my Jewish life. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m juggling, or soon will be juggling, practical things like writing wedding thank you notes, finding somewhere to live with E and trying to set up a secondary career as a freelance proofreader and editor. At the same time, I’m trying to find the right balance between the Jewish life I want (which would feature quite a bit of prayer and Torah study) with the wider life I want (doing stuff with E and writing fiction) and balancing that against my various current diagnoses (autism, sleep apnoea, social anxiety, alexithymia).

I used to feel that, with my current and past diagnoses, my life has been a bedieved, something that is only religiously justified after the event. As in, you shouldn’t pray with no intention to concentrate, but, bedieved, after the event, if you prayed and your mind wandered, that would be OK and you shouldn’t repeat the prayers. I felt that the life I was living was not an ideal frum (religious Jewish) life and was only permitted because I was depressed, autistic, living with less religious family, etc, etc.

Now I’m married to E, I very much feel that our marriage is NOT a bedieved, that we are supposed to be together. But if we are supposed to be together, then the things that brought us together were supposed to happen too, which largely means our various diagnoses. Which in turn means that my life wasn’t/isn’t a bedieved. Which means God wants me to live this life, with all the ways it is imperfect from a strictly frum perspective. I don’t quite know what this means for me. I’ve discussed it/am discussing it with my rabbi mentor and also with a rabbi from the Ma’aglei Nefesh rabbinic mental health service, but I feel I’m still finding my way forward between wanting to study Torah and pray, but also wanting (or rather needing) to work and to build my life with E without burning out again, as well as to do things that matter to me and help keep me mentally health, like blogging and fiction writing, and also reading fiction and watching the TV programmes that help me switch off.

It would be nice to have a snappy conclusion here, but I don’t have one. I’m a work in progress and this is a topic I keep returning to here. But maybe I am inching forward; at any rate, being married to E does feel like a big positive change, even if I am not sure exactly what the ramifications are at this stage.

Insecurities; Or No One Belongs Here Less Than You

I woke up feeling peopled out after yesterday, drained, a little anxious and somewhat irritable. It makes me a bit worried about the weekend, my family being here for Shabbat (I envy E being in West London for Shabbat a little) and then the wedding on Sunday. I do still want the party as we’re having it, but I’m very aware it’s not a no-cost situation for me. At least E and I have two nights in a hotel (in Hendon…) to decompress afterwards.

I got up at a not-totally-crazy time, but after helping take in the weekly Tesco order, I had to lie down in a dark, quiet room for forty-five minutes to get into some kind of working state of mind. I just felt burnt out after yesterday. I did some Torah study and had therapy (online, as always), but experienced some anxiety and kept getting interrupted by wedding stuff, so I didn’t get much else done, but also didn’t get to relax and recover before dinner with E, her parents, her best friend, and her best friend’s father.

E and her parents were in town today, so I went to the restaurant by myself. I got lost and when I found the right road, I ran into E and her parents. E asked me about the wedding cake that we have now ordered, even though it’s not really what she wanted. She is worried about getting a “tacky” cake that will make people judge her taste negatively, even though she didn’t order the cake in the first place. I feel like I don’t really know what would count as “tacky” and, in any case, the baker isn’t running designs past us at this short notice. I worry that the cake will indeed be tacky and E will be upset.

This started a negative thought spiral of thinking about people judging me. I feel that, given the spread of people coming to this wedding (even though it’s pretty small), some will judging aspects of the wedding as proof that I’m going off the derekh (stopping being religious) and others will be judging me to be some crazy religious maniac. This, I guess, is what happens if you try to have a diverse friend and family group and accept people as they are regardless of their religious or political beliefs. I’m not too worried about being judged tacky, but I maybe that just shows I value religious devotion (genuine religious devotion, not the fake kind that is much easier to find) more than aesthetic taste.

Over the evening, I spiralled further into feeling that I was a FAILURE, that I vaguely thought about being an academic and FAILED at that, that I tried to be an academic librarian and FAILED at that too, that I FAILED at working full-time, FAILED at getting a vaguely decent job at all, FAILED at being religious, FAILED at fitting into the frum (religious Jewish) community, FAILED at writing and self-publishing, FAILED at proofreading…

I feel that E’s family are a lot more educated and sophisticated than mine, or than me. I like to think I’m well-read and know things about literature, history and a bit about politics, economics and philosophy (not that I share these thoughts much, because of social anxiety, but I know things). But E’s family seem to be on a whole other level of sophistication regarding things like food, music and art. I would not know about a tacky cake and I don’t know that anyone in my family would.

The irony is that I guess E’s parents are the type of people I would have wanted for parents when I was a child, when I was being silenced for being an “intellectual elitist” whenever I tried to talk about anything I saw as interesting, but now I know them, I’m too socially anxious and too afraid of seeming weird and meshugah frum (insanely religious) to say much.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I need to stop thinking of my life as a bedieved, rabbinic Hebrew for something valid only after the event, when the best option has failed (FAILED) to be done properly. It is hard to see that, sometimes (often). It is hard to see my job history as something meaningful and good, or my academic history as anything other than patchy, or my religious life as anything other than far from ideal (even if relying on genuine leniencies for disability). I’m holding on to the idea of my marriage to E being something that is valid for itself, in the first instance, not as Plan B after something else failed. And I suppose that entails that a lot of other things that happened that seemed like failures must have been necessary after all. But it’s a hard paradigm to shift. I’m just used to looking at myself as a failure, after so many years/decades of apparent failure not to mention the expectations of at least two different cultures.

Anyway, the evening was something of a FAILURE in itself, not through anyone’s fault. The music in the restaurant was incredibly loud. It felt more like a nightclub than a restaurant. I asked twice for it to be turned down and said both times that I had sensory issues and both the waiters I asked said they would turn it down, but it didn’t happen. Probably they went away wondering at my sense of privilege and entitlement in thinking I could demand something like that (more judging). I couldn’t hear what was being said and felt physically uncomfortable the whole time. I literally do not know what everyone was talking about, I could not hear more than occasional words, except for a historical anecdote E’s father tried to tell, but never finished because the food arrived. I felt the food was OK, but not really worth the high price tag, although other people thought more highly of it.

To be honest, if the idea was for me to get to know E’s best friend, inviting her father and both E’s parents was probably going to make it hard for me to join in anyway, as, like most autistics, I find conversation gets harder exponentially with the number of people added to a group. E’s friend seemed nice, though and it would be good to meet her again in a less fraught environment. Unfortunately, she’s only here until Tuesday and lives somewhere remote where we’re unlikely to go. The options are to see her on our two day “mini-moon” (which I’m not keen on because (a) I expect to be fairly burnt out after the wedding and (b) it’s our honeymoon, I don’t really want a gooseberry) or to organise a Zoom at some point, which I would have suggested before now if I’d thought of earlier.

E is working late tonight, so I’m going to read Lord Peter Wimsey and/or watch The Twilight Zone to try to decompress as I still don’t feel great. I’m off work tomorrow as I thought I would need a break before the weekend, but I still need to write my wedding speech (which I’m not 100% I’m going to deliver, but I want to have the option) and doubtless there will be wedding stuff I’m supposed to deal with. I also need to phone (dread word) the dentist to move my appointment next week as I’m working now and try to chase the psychiatrist appointment I was promised for June, which has not materialised (surprise surprise, NHS, etc.).

Five Days

There’s a lot going on, as you can guess. I don’t really have time to write, but I need to process some things.

E and I went to Golders Green on Sunday and she bought me a new tallit (prayer shawl). There is a custom for a woman to buy her groom a new tallit before the wedding. This is because in most Ashkenazi (Northern/Eastern European) communities, men don’t wear a tallit until they’re married. As it happens, I’ve worn one for years, partly because I sort of identify as a Yekke (German Jew) (I’m only one-eighth Yekkish, but I identify with the stereotypical Yekkish traits of decorum, precision, punctuality and scrupulous honesty), partly because I thought I was never going to get married, but mostly because the book To Pray as a Jew said it was a rather silly and ungrounded custom and the mitzvah (commandment) of wearing a tallit during prayer was too important to pass up. But E and I both thought a new tallit will look better in the wedding photographs (I will wear it during the wedding ceremony), so we got one. We got a nice one. Afterwards we went for lunch in a new Israeli-style cafe. It was rather noisy, but the food and atmosphere were good. We tried to get me a new tie for the wedding, but couldn’t find anything we liked, so I’m going to wear a tie I already own that will go well. We made tacos in the evening.

Monday was a work day, and a dull one at that. In the evening, E and I watched Vincent and the Doctor, one of the better episodes from Matt Smith’s first season of Doctor Who. It features Vincent Van Gogh and deals sensitively with depression. Not the easiest watch, but an important episode

Today E, her parents and I went to Tate Modern art gallery, which I’d never been to before. We went to see the Klimt and Mondrian exhibition. It took me a while to warm to it. I wasn’t conscious of feeling stressed about the wedding, but I found it hard to get into the right headspace for the exhibition. I did find some paintings I liked, though. After a while, I started getting a weird synaesthesia, where I didn’t hear the colours, but I heard the shapes, weird sounds (like 1960s science fiction) and then music (mostly theme music from TV or films probably triggered by association of shapes). Afterwards we browsed some of the other galleries, although I didn’t see a lot that really spoke to me. I’m not opposed to abstract art or even conceptual art, but I do wonder if some artists are just seeing what they can get away with. I can imagine some of them privately laughing at how much money they can get for a found object or a pile of sand.

In the evening the four of us met with my parents for dinner at a kosher Chinese restaurant. We had a good time, although I didn’t say much. I’m glad my parents get along so well with E’s parents; I feel that it shows that at least some people in this family are normal. That said, E’s father is a lot like me, except that I’m religious and he’s very much not religious.

The wedding preparation is mostly going OK, except that the cake, which should be the easiest thing, has turned into a nightmare. I’m too tired to go into the details.

There’s a lot happening that I haven’t written, because I don’t have time or I can’t remember (I have poor autobiographical memory) or it’s too private. But I feel mostly OK. Anyway, we get married in FIVE DAYS. Which is ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY HOURS (less now).

An Anthropologist on Mars

We had a quiet Shabbat (Sabbath) at home. I was too exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) last night or this morning. E was too tired too. We slept a lot and read quite a bit (in my case, mostly Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers by Aviva Gottleib Zornberg and more of Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers). We didn’t go for a walk as the weather was grim. I was OK with things, but E wishes she could have got out the house.

I also read some of An Adult with an Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Gillan Drew, which I borrowed from the library on Friday, even though I’m not newly diagnosed. I’m really just skimming it as I know a lot of what’s written in it (and some of what’s written strikes me as questionable). However, there were some metaphors for understanding autism that seemed useful.

One, which originated with Temple Grandin is that an autistic is “an anthropologist on Mars.” That rather than intuitively fitting in to allistic (non-autistic) society, we just watch and study. This is not an entirely new idea to me. What was new to me was the fact that I do this in Jewish society as well.

I have so much book learning about Judaism, Jewish history and Jewish culture that I assumed that I know all about the Jewish world and the frum (religious Jewish) world and that my problems fitting in to them were because of general autistic issues like not knowing how to start conversations or sensory overload in crowded spaces. But I probably don’t really understand much of the way Jewish and frum society works, certainly not in an intuitive way. I’ve never really grasped things like “Jewish geography” or shul politics. I am an anthropologist studying Orthodox Jews as much as an Orthodox Jew living a Jewish life. No wonder so much of my religious life takes place away from the usual centres of community such as the shul and the beit midrash (study hall), being located at home instead.

I wonder if I will ever manage to fit in to the frum community. I did manage to fit in better in the past, but that was when various other things in my life were different, when I had fewer responsibilities, more time and was generally in a different situation (better in some ways, worse in others).

There probably is more to say about this, but I’m too tired to write it tonight.

Two Autistics Walk Into a Social Event

I used to blog my day in obsessive detail. I’m currently just blogging the highlights, or sometimes the lowlights. This is probably better, but autistic monotropic (single-focus) mind gets focused on details.

I went for my pre-wedding haircut on Wednesday. It was only the second professional haircut I’ve had since the pandemic started in 2020. The previous one was before my civil wedding last August. My parents think the haircut is a bit short. To be fair, I know my hair usually looks short when cut, which is why I got it cut a week and a half in advance, so it can grow out a bit. Not cutting it so short would have left it too long, I think. I do worry about my kippah (skullcap) and the clips holding it being too visible in the photos, so I might have to take it off then. I didn’t shake, but I do realise now that I hate having other people touch my hair and I’m surprised it took me so long to realise this was an autistic thing. (Sometimes kids would pat my frizzy hair at school; if I was black, this would now be considered a micro-aggression.)

I had therapy on Wednesday too, which was helpful, although the main thing I remember from it is just to be kind to myself at the moment, even if that means eating slightly more junk food than normal. It’s hard. As I’ve noted before, I tend to equate ‘being kind to myself’ with ‘turning into a lazy, greedy narcissist’ and back away from it. I think therapy was helpful even if I didn’t remember all of it. I think there’s an unconscious effect from a good session.

Thursday was another dull day at work. In the evening, E and I went to an event for Jewish newlyweds and nearly-weds (a term I just made up for people who are getting married soon). The food was good, but we struggled to talk to people. It really brought home to me how similar E is to me and how likely it is that she’s autistic too. She did a bit better than me: she started some conversations with other people (I definitely needed help with this) and was better at making small talk, but she also struggled with it and we spent quite a while standing and eating by ourselves and telling each other how out of place we felt. I had the extra problem of sensory overload, so even when we spoke to people, I couldn’t really hear what they were saying. We do both wonder how people make friends at events like these: between struggling to start conversations, sensory overload and unawareness of the “protocols” for exchanging personal information, we did not come away with any new friends. I don’t think I shook visibly while talking to people, but I felt I was about to shake a couple of times, resulting in some awkward (to me, I don’t know if anyone else noticed) pauses while I was mid-sentence as I tried not to shake.

I did think E was the most beautiful woman at the event. Some would say I’m biased, but I think this is an objective assessment.

There were some speeches, one from the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mirvis, and one from an American-Israeli basketball player who refused to play on Shabbat (the Sabbath) (shades of Chariots of Fire, which I’ve never actually seen). They were both funny and interesting, the former talking about the role he played in the king’s coronation ceremony and the acceptance of Jews and Judaism by British society, the latter about fulfilling his dream of playing professional basketball without compromising on his religious principles. I didn’t feel completely comfortable with it, though. I felt that there was some survivorship bias: obviously they don’t ask the people who fail to live their dreams while living a Jewish life to speak, and it’s probably easier to get people to make adjustments for you if you’re a leading national religious leader or an incredibly talented sportsman than if you’re just an ordinary person who wants to leave work early on Fridays in the winter to be home before sunset.


I want to write a speech in case I decide to deliver it at the wedding and I sort of know what I want to say, but every time I set aside time to write it, I lose that time to something else. Possibly there’s some kind of psychological block at work here stopping me from getting down to it.


Now I’m exhausted and trying to work out if I should watch TV to unwind for a bit or just go to bed. I do feel really tired, but I don’t know if I’ll sleep without relaxation.

Shanah Rishonah

I wrote a whole post on Sunday, then decided I shouldn’t post it publicly or even for friends and posted it privately so only I could see instead, as a private journal record. Today, I’ve just done the same thing. I feel totally overwhelmed with wedding stress and the stress of having E live with my parents, where I feel caught between the two. They don’t even get on badly, they just have different wants and needs. I am a people-pleaser and want to please everyone, but I can’t always do it.

I had therapy today and felt good, but now I feel overwhelmed again. It doesn’t help that the things that upset/stress out/worry me are not the things upsetting/stressing out/worrying E which makes me feel like a bad husband. E told me earlier that it would be hard for something to upset her so much that she wanted to leave the relationship, which should reassure me, but my attachment issues seem pretty pervasive despite this.

To be honest, between the wedding and just living in a house with three other people, there are a LOT of decisions coming up and my autistic brain is getting overloaded. Autistic executive function issues tend to mean that I struggle with decisions anyway and dealing with so many in so short a period of time is difficult, especially as it’s not always clear which ones are important and which can be left to other people or chance. I want to say, “You decide,” but depending on who I ask out of E, Mum and Dad there will be a very different answer that might upset the other two, so then the decision becomes, “Who do I authorise to take this decision?”

My mood goes up and down across the day with anxiety and low mood (not quite depression) alternating with feeling fine. The result of mood shifts, plus living with my parents and E at once (learning how to live with E, in fact), is feeling autistic exhaustion at times, particularly if there are other things that can set it off. I don’t really have good coping strategies for dealing with anxiety, aside from letting myself listen to music despite the omer and trying to spend time with E away from wedding stress and religious triggers. When I’m actually with E, there’s a lot less anxiety. The anxiety comes when I’m alone, particularly at work.

There’s a concept in Judaism of “shanah rishonah” the “first year” of a marriage. In the Torah, this refers to an exemption from religious conscription for newlyweds. In modern terms, yeshivah students are exempted from night classes to spend time with their wives and adjust to the new family dynamic. It’s accepted that the first year can be bumpy as two people learn to live together (bearing in mind they won’t have lived together before). E and I aren’t religiously married yet, but we are living together for the first time and it’s not always straightforward.

Super-Duper Long Catch-Up Post

I haven’t blogged for a few days. I have things to say, although probably fewer things than in the past, I just don’t have the time. So this is a catch-up post for the last few days.

As I mentioned in my last post, on Monday night E was staying away overnight at a work event and I ate dinner with my parents, as much out of politeness and not knowing how to say no as anything else. The result was extreme autistic exhaustion. I watched The Twilight Zone, which helped relax me a little, but I had a late video call with E as she couldn’t get away from the work dinner until late, so I was up late.

By Tuesday morning I was still tired. I got up later than I intended, but I managed to go to volunteering, cook dinner and speak to my rabbi mentor. On Wednesday I was still tired, but went with E to Dad’s jeweller friend to discuss her wedding ring, as well as having therapy afterwards. E and I went on a date in the evening as we haven’t actually gone out much since she’s been here. We went to one of the three local kosher pizza places, the one with the worst ambience (it looks a bit like an old-fashioned American diner, but in a slightly tacky way rather than a retro way), but the best pizza. To be fair, I haven’t eaten at one of the other pizza places, so maybe I’m maligning them, but the pizzas at the place we went to were really good. We bought two pizzas and shared them, one vegetable, one four cheeses. They were both pretty good, but I worry that the four cheeses may have upset my stomach today, although I’ve had stomach issues for a couple of weeks, so maybe not. The date was good, though, and we both feel that dating is easier once you’re committed to each other and don’t have to worry about getting dumped at the end of the evening.

Unfortunately, I then stayed up late again. I had no reason, I just lost track of time on the autism forum. The result was that I struggled to get going for work this morning. I had some mild anxiety or agitation at work in the morning and I’m not sure if that was related. It could just as easily have been caused by J pointing out some mistakes I made at work on Monday. He never tells me off, but I feel like an idiot whenever this happens, which is too often. There was quite a bit to do at work today, but I was bored much of the time. Afterwards I got some glucose tablets at Boots. I struggled to find them and had misleading advice from shop assistants, so I ended up being in the shop for twenty minutes looking. The weather had been warm and sunny when I went to work in the morning, so I went without a coat and had to come home in the cold and wet this afternoon. So it was a stressful day without anything really bad happening.


I mentioned going to get E’s wedding ring. We were not planning to get a ring for me. It is required by Jewish law for the man to give the woman a ring, but not the reverse, although it is permitted for the woman to give a ring to the man if they want. In the Haredi world men generally don’t wear wedding rings as jewellery for men is frowned on. In the Modern Orthodox world it’s more of a personal choice; some do it and some don’t. I assumed I wouldn’t, as I don’t like wearing jewellery, which is probably an autistic sensory thing on some level (I have never liked wearing a watch much, the only jewellery I’ve worn until now), and I was thinking in very rigid halakhic (Jewish law) terms about what was legally necessary. But on the way back from the meeting with the jeweller, I surprised myself by thinking that I would like to show the world that I’m E’s husband, so I think I am going to wear a ring, although I’m a little nervous about it. I do still need to see the jeweller about it.


I finally heard from the NHS about the sleep study I had done in November. I got a text saying the advice from my sleep study is to get a mandibular advancement splint. No indication of what that means. I googled, and it’s a sort of mouth guard used to hold the mouth open in people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea. I assume that’s my diagnosis, although they didn’t say (!). Apparently the splints help a third to a half of people with this condition. I did find a short article online from a different NHS trust saying a bit more about it, including that the splints are not available on the NHS, which was implied by the text I got, which told me to reply YES if I had a splint and wanted an appointment with a member of the sleep team and to reply DELAY if I wanted a splint, but hadn’t purchased one yet. No advice in the text about how to get a splint, but the article I found has some suggestions. They do seem quite expensive, although if it can help with energy levels and getting up earlier it will be worth it. I will try to look into getting a splint. I might ask the dentist next week if they can help or recommend anyone, which was another suggestion from the article I found. Otherwise I’ll have to use the sites listed on the NHS article.


As I mentioned, I spoke to my rabbi mentor yesterday. I told him that I feel I’m being less strict with myself religiously, partly to create a religious environment that E feels more comfortable in, given that she does not come from an observant background, and partly because I feel that I need to prioritise my mental and physical health, as I am slowly recognising that I am an autistic person living in a deeply allistic (non-autistic) world and becoming increasingly aware (two years after diagnosis!) of what a toll this has taken on my mental and even physical health since childhood (I am nearly forty now). I knew this before intellectually, but I hadn’t internalised it.

I am doing things if I am 95% sure they are permitted rather than refraining unless I am 100% sureas I would have done previously. In some cases I am doing things without really knowing if they are permitted or not, but I am doing them just because I think the result of not doing them would be terrible for my mental health. For example, we are in the period of the omer, between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) where there are traditions of national mourning, including not listening to music (the exact parameters of this and the dates included are very complicated and I won’t go into them here). I knew there is a leniency that allows depressed people to listen to music and my rabbi mentor has told me that this leniency applies if I need to listen to music when suffering autistic exhaustion. However, I didn’t know if it applies whenever I feel emotionally disregulated. As I wrote recently, I realised recently that I am very disregulated emotionally as a result of my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions). To cut a long story short, a couple of times since Pesach I have felt very emotionally disregulated without suffering autistic exhaustion or depression and I listened to music knowing that it might not be correct according to halakhah (Jewish law), because I felt that the psychological/emotional consequences of not doing it would be too great. I am not seeing this as a blanket permission to listen to music whenever I want nor am I listening to music when I just feel vaguely down and tired (as was the case today), only when I feel totally exhausted or emotionally disregulated.

When I said this to my rabbi mentor he suggest that, rather than being lenient with myself (excessively or otherwise), it might be more accurate to say that I am finally learning to find more balance in my life. I hope he is right. I feel my behaviour before was as much about perfectionism as halakhah.

Related to this, I just read an article in the latest Jewish Chronicle by David Baddiel, plugging his new book attacking religion (about fifteen years after this was fashionable, but anyway…). I only skimmed it because it was too awful to read properly, all stuff about religion existing to stave off fear and that Orthodox Jews only keep the mitzvot (commandments) because of fear that undefined terrible things will happen if they don’t.

I don’t know if people really think like that. I’ve never met anyone who does, although I read an anthology of passages written by the Chofetz Chaim about the Yomim Noraim (High Holy Days) that was full of fear of punishment and I’ve encountered (online) people who have left Orthodoxy (particularly the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world) who say that atmosphere of fear was how they were brought up and part of the reason they left observance. I don’t want to deny their stories, so maybe some people/communities do think like that, but it’s not the only or even primary attitude in Jewish texts of the last 3,000 years. (I did just read a review of Baddiel’s book that says exactly this, that he doesn’t actually seem to have read any Jewish theology as research for his book and just makes sweeping generalisations based on what he thinks Jews believe.)

When I had religious OCD, my religious thoughts were fear-orientated (although not so much punishment-orientated as fearing my being imperfect), but I was mentally ill. If I had had schizophrenia and thought the government was monitoring my thoughts, it would not be accurate to say that Orthodox Jews believe the government monitors their thoughts, so my OCD shouldn’t reflect badly on Jews as a whole. Since recovery, the level of fear in my religious life has declined a lot.

My problem is that, having alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions), I struggle to put this into words to explain how I feel to other people, particularly E and (hopefully, one day) our children. There just seems to be a kind of rightness, an almost mathematical elegance to Judaism and Torah and a sense of calm about Shabbat (the Sabbath) that I can’t put into words. I don’t feel it about every mitzvah or religious concept; there is much that I don’t understand, some things that I do not like, and I struggle greatly with many sociological aspects of the Orthodox community. Sometimes, to borrow a phrase from E, I want to go on a holiday from – if not Judaism, then particular mitzvot. But it kind of makes sense to me in a way I can’t seem to explain or transmit and it’s frustrating me that I can’t do that, particularly as I’m supposed to be good with words, at least in writing. I want to be able to express this to other people.


E and I have been watching the Doctor Who story The Chase. This came about because E said that she thinks I am right to prefer old (twentieth century) Doctor Who over new (twenty-first century) Doctor Who. I said this wasn’t a fair test, as we had been watching new Doctor Who sequentially (we are on series five), so it’s not surprising they are a mix of good and bad, but I had mostly cherry-picked good stories from the old series for us to watch, aside from a few that came up when we were watching a whole season or a bunch of connected stories. So she challenged me to show her a really awful old story.

I went for The Chase even though it’s not quite on my absolute worst list (although it’s close) because I wanted something we would get some enjoyment out of, even if in a “so bad it’s good” way. This backfired a bit, as E found it boring in parts, but also enjoyable in other parts and “cute.” Overall, she says it’s absolutely not the worst Doctor Who story we’ve seen together. To be honest, I found myself agreeing and enjoying it more with her than in the past. The first episode is a typical early 1960s story, focused on exploration and the main characters. The second episode is the worst, trying to build an alien world with about two sets, three costumes and no time. The third is vaguely dull, but E was amused to see Doctor Who’s first trip to New York (stock footage, a single set and some bad accents representing the top of the Empire State Building). The fourth is actually quite funny and is possibly unique as the only time the Doctor doesn’t really work out what’s going on even by the end (he thinks he’s landed in the collective unconscious, but is actually in a robotic haunted house). The fifth is mostly set-up for the final episode, which is pretty good. The Mechanoids were never going to work as a recurring foe, but are quite striking in appearance and the sequence where Ian and Barbara finally get home is a gem. I’m not entirely sure why this seems to have shot up in popularity among younger fans, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

Maybe we should watch some more clunkers. E says that her least favourite new Who stories are the depressing ones, but the old series generally wasn’t that depressing, except for in the mid-eighties. Maybe we should watch something from then, not least as it’s my least favourite era of the old series. Although maybe I shouldn’t be looking for things we won’t like.

Baby Snuggles, Headaches and Low Blood Sugar

I’ve been too busy to write for a few days again.

I didn’t go to shul (synagogue) again on Friday night. I probably had the energy, but I was just running late, trying to cram in a lot the day after Pesach (Passover) when I was already exhausted from Yom Tov (the festival). We had a quiet Shabbat (Sabbath): E and I went for a walk and got rained on a little, but not much and we read a bit and I dozed for forty minutes or so. E and I are both looking forward to an ordinary week without extra religious events and in a weird way, I was glad to be back at work, just to be back in a routine again.

I did listen to music briefly on Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat, despite it being the part of the omer (period between Pesach and Shavuot) when frum (religious) Jews observe an element of national mourning, including not listening to music. I did this because I felt I needed to do so to regulate my emotions, which were becoming depressed. I’ve decided I will continue to listen to music if I need to calm myself, even though I’m not sure if it’s technically allowed. (It is permitted to listen to music if suffering from clinical depression or autistic exhaustion, so it might be allowed anyway, I’m not sure.)

I had headache on Saturday night and again on Sunday night, but I did realise that I haven’t woken up with a headache since E has been here, which seems to indicate that she’s good for my stress levels. Despite the headache, I drew up a schedule for the next five weeks, until the wedding (FIVE WEEKS!!!!!!!), which made me a little less stressed, as we’ve mostly got it under control. The big things still to organise are the ring (we’re seeing a jeweller Dad knows through shul on Wednesday to discuss this) and E’s dress (which may not be a traditional wedding dress, for various reasons).

Yesterday afternoon E and I went out with Sister, Brother-in-law and Nephew on Hampstead Heath and then on for coffee at a cafe that was nice, but ridiculously expensive (it was in Hampstead, so what do you expect?). The walk on the Heath was good, but there were a ridiculous number of dogs, including many not on leads. We are all at least mildly dog-phobic (technically Nephew isn’t, but with this family it’s basically only a matter of time). Nephew seems a lot more interested in his surroundings than he was in the past, particularly lights and the abstract painting on the wall of the cafe. E and I both had some baby snuggles, which was good. I caught up a bit with Sister, although any conversation with her or BIL is likely to be interrupted after a minute or two by Nephew. E and I also checked out some charity shops that were surprisingly open on a Sunday, but we weren’t willing to pay Hampstead prices for anything.

When we got home, we opened the wedding presents that had arrived before Pesach. We had been so busy with Pesach stuff that we hadn’t opened them yet. They were what we wanted (obviously, because they were from our wedding list), but I guess crockery and a kettle are never going to seem that fun to me.

Late in the evening, I started feeling faint again. I don’t know if this is low blood sugar or low salt or something else. When I feel faint, I don’t really want to slowly do scientific tests to work it out, I just want to eat and feel better. I felt faint at work today too and again when I got home. I am worrying that I’m hypoglycaemic, but don’t really know what that would entail or have time to research right now. I want to mention it to the doctor, but I have other things to talk to him about and I can’t get an appointment anyway.

Work was incredibly noisy again this morning with workmen outside and inside the building, the former with a loud radio blaring TalkSport again (is there really so much to say about sport 24/7?). The carpet under my desk has now worn away to the underlay. I told J and asked if we could get a new carpet, but he made uncommitted noises and muttered something about needing to replace the whole carpet, not just under my desk, and some of the furniture not being easily movable, so I shelved my radical plan to suggest that the walls could do with a coat of paint too. I guess before COVID I’d have had a stronger argument, but now we get about two visitors a year who don’t work in the building, so the economic argument for not doing anything is strong. I do keep catching my foot on the rim of the circular hole in the carpet, though, so I might see if some health and safety rationale develops.

The afternoon was largely devoted to sticking erratum stickers in prayer books and sorting papers again. When I got home I did a few necessary chores and read a few pages of Children of Dune. It’s still heavy-going and I’m struggling to remember all the plot points, but I’m determined to see what happens and finish it before my wedding. I ate a lot because of low blood sugar/salt/whatever. E is away for work, so I had dinner with my parents, which was probably a mistake, as I was feeling very depleted and peopled out, but I couldn’t find a polite way to say no (and now I’ve just annoyed my Mum by saying this to her when trying to explain why I couldn’t help her with something). I am too exhausted to do anything, so will probably just watch TV. I’m too tired to read, even The Sandman graphic novel that I started recently.


There has been Drama on the autism forum again. It’s happening a lot lately. It’s probably not surprising that a community of people who are pretty much defined by having poor social skills, no tact, obsessive focus and logical minds would spend so much time pointing out the (real or perceived) flaws in each others’ religious and political beliefs and opinions, but it is frustrating to watch given that I can mostly stay out of that sort of behaviour. Of course, this sort of thing happens all over the internet every day without neurodivergence. It’s just a shame as there are some people there I like a lot, but it’s getting harder to focus on the signal, not the noise, and it seems that some people I like are around less. This is probably not due to the Drama, as looking at old posts, most people only seem to stay on the forum for a year or two as they get a sense of their autistic identity, then move on.

Number Crunching

I woke up feeling drained today and not sure why except Pesach (Passover) stress and maybe wedding stress, although it hasn’t been on my radar much lately. I love having E here, but I guess we’re going through the “first year of marriage learning to live together and compromise” stuff, even though we aren’t fully married yet. Having worked out our position on the “big” topics, we’re having to find compromises on topics that we didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago, with the added complication that this isn’t actually our home, so we have to organise a whole other set of compromises with my parents too. I wish we were living in our own place, but it won’t happen for a while. E was very homesick this morning too. Married life is hard, and we aren’t even allowed to sleep in the same bed or share very intimate touch yet.

Related to feeling drained, I would like to have more energy, but I’m not sure how feasible it is. Other autistics seem to think there is no real way of boosting energy levels, aside from relaxation and sleep and sleep is not always refreshing to me due to my suspected sleep disorder. You can only manage your environment better to lose energy slower and leave more rest time to allow energy levels to naturally restore. I’m not sure how much I can do that right now, given that I have to go out to work and do a lot of non-negotiable (to me) religious stuff, although I’m trying to find ways to make the religious stuff more negotiable and hope to move completely to work from home one day, although it’s a distant dream right now.

Speaking of sleep, the respiratory department (which weirdly was responsible for my sleep study) finally got back to me today regarding my email about my sleep study results. They asked for my date of birth and post code to try to find my results. I don’t know why it took them over two weeks to write one line. Small steps…

Other than that, I feel like I took advantage of one of the Jewish Facebook groups I’m on to post about how I’m feeling rather than asking a specific question, so now I feel bad about that, and also feeling that no one likes me on the autism forum (I haven’t looked at that much for the last week and don’t feel I’ve missed much).

I’m also struggling to feel the meaning and joy of Pesach, but I feel like that about much of Judaism. I can’t tell if it doesn’t really engage me and I only do it out of abstract belief or if it’s just the alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions) screwing up my life again. I think Judaism engages me, but that means I can’t reach the positive emotions I have about it and maybe never will, which amounts to the same thing in practice as not having them in the first place. It makes it hard to share the joy and meaning of Judaism with E when so much of my own presumed joy and meaning goes unnoticed by me.

E and I did some cooking together just now and that felt positive, but on the whole I feel slightly down and alexithymically unaware of what my problem is and what I could/should do to fix it, if that’s even how I should be looking at it. I think that some sadness is just part of the human condition and needs to be ridden out rather than changed.


I’m still thinking about the statistic I saw yesterday that there are about 1,380 autistic Jews in the UK. I suspect it must be an underestimate either of the number of autistics or Jews. Looking online, it seems that a little over 1% of the UK population is diagnosed autistic. Assuming that’s the same in the Anglo-Jewish population, the equivalent figure would be just over 4,000 Jewish autistics.

I did a back of an envelope calculation, admittedly with some questionable assumptions, and even with this higher figure, it’s likely that there are just forty or so autistics in this country who are broadly in the observant Modern Orthodox community, and many of them are probably severely autistic (I can’t find statistics on the percentage of autistics who are described as “high-functioning”). This means that the number of people who experience the interaction of autism and Jewish life the way I do in this country is almost non-existent. Even if I widen that to include the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, I think it would still be hard to actually find people like me, as I’ve encountered almost no Haredi non-severe autistics online or in person and suspect that anyone even vaguely functional in that community is encouraged to keep quiet about any neurological differences as it would be “bad for shidduchim” (finding a partner for yourself and your siblings).

No wonder there’s so little support for non-severe autism in the Jewish or frum community. No wonder I’ve struggled to so hard to find people on my wavelength in the frum community over the years. And no wonder my wife came from overseas!

Pandora’s Box

Today was difficult and I feel rather down. I suppose the background is a week of stress of various kinds and disrupted sleep (too little, too much), as well as meals at different times, and different foods as well as too much peopling. Pesach (Passover), basically.

E and I went to the science fiction exhibition at the Science Museum this morning. Unfortunately, a number of things went wrong for us. They were mostly minor things, so I won’t list them all, but the major ones were that the exhibition didn’t have enough exhibits, many of the exhibits it did have were replica props or costumes rather than originals, and the exhibition as a whole seemed pitched more at children rather than adults, although not quite at either, which was not clear from the advertising. The intellectual level of the signage seemed aimed at children, but the exhibits themselves were probably more recognisable to adults; I’m not sure how many children have seen Forbidden Planet or The Day the Earth Stood Still, let alone Alien (actually, more likely Alien than the 1950s films). We came away feeling we had neither seen anything unusual nor learnt very much and felt a bit ripped off as it was an exhibition we had to pay for, unlike the regular exhibits at the Science Museum. There was a lot of ambient noise in the exhibition too (it was supposed to be set in a spaceship), which, to be fair, they warned us about, but the noise and the people probably contributed to my feeling bad. It wasn’t terrible, but I felt short changed. I would have liked to have learnt more about some exhibits, especially the robot doll with highly realistic facial expressions that teaches young autistic children about emotions.

Afterwards, we found the museum as a whole too busy and noisy and went outside to eat lunch. We found a bench by a memorial to victims of the Soviet Union and ate our lunch until someone sat next to me and started smoking. The smell and fear of secondary smoke put me off finishing my matzahs. We decided we didn’t really feel like going back in the museum and wandered around for a bit, but there wasn’t much to see except a so-so bookshop, so we came home. I did a few odd chores, but lacked concentration and motivation for anything more significant. Anyway, there isn’t much that can be done at the moment for the wedding, which is my main focus. I do feel that I wasted the afternoon, though, aside from a short walk with E to the two local free bookshelves.


I struggled with interactions with Dad again. I feel I should be able to cope with his repetitions and intrusive small talk, but I can’t, certainly not when I’m already feeling down. E struggles with them too, but is more polite than me, or more inhibited. I get sarcastic or just short.

I think part of the problem is that I have an autistic “script” on how to live with my parents, albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one that involves being sarcastic and then apologising, then doing it again. I have no script on how to live with my fiancée/wife, but I am more able to be myself with her and we’re slowly learning how to live together, although it is very early days and we probably won’t really make progress until we’re living in our own space, away from my parents. The problem is that I have no script at all for living with parents AND my fiancée/wife at the same time, even though this is a much more difficult thing to do than living with either parents OR fiancée/wife separately. It feels like being in two plays at once. Added to this is that the family dynamic is changing because of my marriage, so even old scripts don’t apply.

It’s probably noteworthy that E thinks that I’m a very different person, a happier and more functional person, when I’m alone with her than when I’m around my parents. I suspect I’m also happier and more functional with her than at work, but I’m not sure how social situations and volunteering fit in. My Mum texted something today about me being happier with E too.

While E and I are still PG-rated in our behaviour, we are relating to each other more in a sexual way, unsurprising given that we will be married in six weeks. This is probably the first time I’ve really interacted with a woman in such a sexual way, certainly the first time for over a decade (depending on what you think of my behaviour with my first girlfriend, who did not respect my boundaries, unlike E). I think this is bringing up some difficult feelings for me that I can’t articulate to E or in writing and which I wouldn’t share here anyway, but I feel I need to access them in some way before our wedding. It’s fun, absolutely, but I think there’s also guilt, shame and fear in there from decades of sexual repression, as well as the fear that sex is a big Pandora’s box and if I (or we) open it, there’s no telling what might come out, even though I know I’m pretty vanilla.

I feel like I really need a therapy session to help process the last week or so (wedding, Pesach, having E here with my family, sexual maturing), particularly as I haven’t blogged much here lately. Unfortunately, I don’t have another session until next week because of Pesach and my therapist being away.


E picked up a book on Jewish marriage years ago that she didn’t like. She offered it to me, but I looked at it and thought it would upset me and trigger religious OCD, so we left it in a free book box. It takes an attitude to dating that makes me wonder how any frum (religious Jewish) people get married. Dating should be through a matchmaker (professional or amateur), it should consist of serious conversation (interrogation) to see that the couple have identical life aims and key values (if people in their early twenties or even late teens even have clear life aims and values). The conversation should be used to determine whether the other person has good character traits, particularly kindness, charity, patience (in the sense of no anger) and, for women, an indefinable “charm.” They should be on comparable religious levels from “good” (i.e. conventionally religious) families and ideally the man should be a good Talmudic scholar too. It’s acknowledged that no one has all these characteristics, but no guidance is given about how to prioritise those they do have. It feels like every normal person would  have at least one serious mark against them, so I don’t know how anyone gets married in the frum world, particularly as it’s increasingly common to do advance checks of a person through their “shidduch resume” (dating CV) and character references so you can ditch potential dates who you deem inadequate without even bothering to go on a date with them. The boys apparently just judge by the attached photo. I bet some of the girls do too. I guess people just lie and regret it later.


There is an article in the latest Jewish News about autism and youth movements in the Jewish community. Inexplicably, I can’t find it on the website, only in the hardcopy newspaper. It says there are an estimated 1,380 Jewish autistics (in the UK, I assume from context, although this is unclear). However, it is not clear if this includes high functioning autistics. Certainly the article seems to be based on the idea that autistics are excluded from Jewish youth movements because they have learning disabilities as much as, or more than, social impairments. The idea that children of average or above average intelligence can be autistic and still be excluded by other children and struggle to fit in and join in at youth movements is not mentioned. High intelligence in children can be just as isolating as learning disabilities, entitled though that sounds, especially when combined with poor social skills and sensory sensitivities. I stopped going to anything resembling a youth movement when I was twelve, because I couldn’t make friends and was untrusting of children my age from my history of being bullied at school.  As I’ve said before, I think this had a big long-term effect on my socialisation into the Jewish community, from which I’m still suffering today. I’m wondering whether to write in about this.


From a comment I left on a previous post: Yes, I also love the meaning of Pesach, but struggle with the practice. I’m struggling to find where I am with stringencies. I feel that I want to obey “basic” halakhah [Jewish law], not stringency, but that basic halakhah can be hard to find. And I have an ascetic side that tends unconsciously to self-denial and stringency which I don’t always notice until E or my parents points it out to me, by which time I can have upset them. Even without stringencies, it can be hard to negotiate a way through Pesach when there are four of us in this house each with their own take on what the “basic” practice (not the same as halakhah) is for us, or should be, even without taking into account the evolving family dynamic.

Also, with alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions) it can be hard to tune in to even the spiritual meaning.


It is six weeks, or forty-two days, or less than a thousand hours until the wedding! This still seems far off at times, but too close when I think of all the things that need to be done.

Seasonal Anxieties

I’m going to have to abandon my usual blow-by-blow account of my days for a bit due to lack of time (actually, I’ve wanted to get away from that for a while, I just stuck to it out of lack of imagination). This is really a quick update.

I’ve had weird anxiety and non-anxiety lately. I have plenty to feel anxious about, with Pesach (Passover) a little over a week away and my wedding less than two months away. I feel strangely not anxious about various things I thought I would feel anxious about (I won’t list them), yet I think there is some anxiety there. I noticed that I had various physical anxiety symptoms today (this is alexithymia, not understanding my own emotions, at work again) without being entirely sure why. I think there is a fear that something will go wrong with Pesach preparation or the wedding and also a strange fear that if I’m not anxious, that’s a sign of pride. I have for years struggled with the fact that we’re supposed to trust in God to help us in our difficulties, but it always seemed like pride to me to assume that I’m good enough for God to want to help me, even though I’ve been assured by rabbis that this is not the case.

I find it a time of year where it’s hard to find the time to relax anyway, with Pesach preparation eating up non-work time. This is a problem, given that I need to relax quite a bit to avoid burnout. I think I struggled to sleep last night as a result. It’s also a strange time of year seasonally, with longer days now the clocks have gone forward, but weather that it still often very bad.

I spent a fairly mind-numbing afternoon at work sticking error correction stickers on books. As well as being mind-numbingly boring, is rather humbling. I have two degrees, one from Oxford, and I am being paid to stick stickers in books. Thousands of stickers. Not hyperbole, literally thousands of stickers. And I know I’ve got to this point as a result of struggling so much in more “suitable” workplaces. I don’t mean this to sound entitled, although I know it does, it’s just that I feel I went wrong somewhere and wasted what gifts I have, but I don’t know how I did this.

I made an impulsive decision to go to the charity shop on the way home and ended up buying Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. It’s an academic book on understanding classic Jewish texts: Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Talmud, Midrash, Medieval commentators, Kabbalistic texts and prayer-books. E and I both have a feeling sometimes with Jewish texts of thinking, “What is this trying to tell me? Why should this be relevant to me?” so hopefully this will help us.

Quick Update

I’m still here! I have been struggling with some family issues around the wedding. I didn’t want to go into them publicly, so I haven’t been posting. I think we’ve reached an equilibrium for now, but certainly the family dynamic is changing/has already changed as a result of E joining the family, our wedding and the birth of Nephew and I’m struggling to adjust. My therapist said this kind of change is normal and I guess most people would struggle to adjust to it, but being autistic and having all the social interaction issues that come with autism seems to make it harder. Part of the issue is that my family aren’t very much like me in terms of personality and outlook. That’s not to blame them (or me), but it does make it harder.

I wrote a post on the autism forum about family issues, but after two hours, I panicked and decided to delete it, but apparently I can’t. Someone responded to it (d’oh!) and said I’ve let my parents control my life because I’ve been unwilling to take control, which isn’t entirely my perspective on things, to put it mildly, although I guess there’s a grain of truth in there or it wouldn’t hurt. And it’s true I let them do some things for me because I can’t work out how to do them for myself or because I struggle to assert myself.

I spoke to my rabbi mentor about some of the things I’ve been struggling with lately, around family, Pesach and the wedding. He said some helpful things about focusing on one step at a time and that stresses are common around these events. I said I was upset that I wouldn’t have time this year to do much religious study with a view to sharing ideas at the Pesach seder. Really the seder should be an educational event; I’m always the person with the most Jewish knowledge at our seder, so I focus on teaching more than learning, but he said I should focus on the family aspect instead of the educational aspect. He also said he struggles with this, which surprised me a bit as he comes from a frum (religious) family, but it made me feel a bit better.

Dad and I went shopping for suits for the wedding. There is probably a lot I could say about this, but as it led to my ill-advised autism forum post, maybe I should not say anything at all. I got a wedding suit, which Dad paid for and he insisted on buying me a second suit (or got talked into it by the salesman), which I don’t actually need. But they are nice suits.


I thought today marked the fifth anniversary of when E contacted me on email via my blog, but it turns out it was yesterday. I missed our anniversary! We didn’t know then that we would get married or even date. We’ve definitely come a long way since then and I look forward to the next stage in our relationship. And it’s ten days until she comes here!

Day of Statistics

I got a message on LiveJournal this morning to say I started my blog there seventeen years ago. My blog there has been defunct and hidden for years, but it means I’ve been blogging for seventeen years, minus eighteen months or so when I switched to writing poetry that I didn’t feel confident enough to share. Other important dates: E comes to the UK in two weeks today. And we’re closer to our wedding than to New Year’s Day.

However, I’m in full-blown negative mood today: pessimistic (not about marrying E, but about everything else, from wedding planning to global politics) and drained. I got up late and it’s been hard to do anything. Mum and Dad have been doing Pesach preparation and I haven’t been joining in, which I feel bad about. Dad and I were supposed to buy suits for the wedding today, but the Tube strike ruled that out. I wanted to start getting the invitations done, but I didn’t manage it. I just felt overwhelmed and unable to do anything. I got a bit of a stress headache again too. I ended up taking the day as a mental health day. I know I’ve had a busy few days and I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, but Pesach and the wedding are going to happen when they happen regardless of what I do and I need to be ready.

Family wedding drama has continued. It’s not actually drama, mostly because I agreed to most of my family’s requests. I just feel uncomfortable about what I’ve agreed to and I worry that E and especially I will be exhausted by the time we get to the wedding day (or wedding night). I feel my family understand autism up to a point, but they don’t really understand autistic exhaustion (e.g. today) as opposed to just being tired and I don’t know how to explain it to them. I’m pleased they accept that autism exists and that I’m autistic (many people on the autism forum don’t have that from their families), but there’s probably an empathy problem of them not understanding how I think and feel and not even realising that they don’t understand. Most of them don’t even know that E may be autistic too, as I haven’t told them, as I thought it was E’s decision to say, not mine.

(Parenthetically, autistic exhaustion is something that isn’t really acknowledged by autism researchers, who are only beginning to research it, yet it’s something that so many autistic people complain of, particularly those who should probably be described as “moderately-functioning” – not super-high-functioning people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk (supposedly) and not non-verbal severely autistic, but able to do some “normal” activities, but who struggle with them and often suffer afterwards.)

 I don’t know what to do about any of this. Sometimes I feel that I come quite low down the family pecking order, when it comes to making decisions of mutual concern. My therapist says that there’s often someone in a family who isn’t heard, or isn’t heard as much. I think in my family, it’s me. For years this didn’t worry me much. I would either opt out of stuff, citing mental illness, or I would grin and bear it, but I didn’t get much say over what was happening and I guess I didn’t actually care that much. But now I want more say for E’s sake as much as my own and I don’t know how to be heard. My therapist said this is common too, and why so many weddings result in arguments, because it’s when people get married that they try to change the family dynamic for their spouse’s sake, but I know from experience that people don’t like changes in the family dynamic, especially where the less-assertive person becomes more assertive. It’s hard to draw boundaries after so long (I’m nearly forty!) and when I do genuinely need more help from my parents than most people my age. Sometimes the boundary between “willing to compromise” and “not enforcing boundaries” is not clear.


Lately I feel difficulty engaging in autistic special interests that might revive me. I still enjoy the original series of Doctor Who, but the last few years, and the news about the episodes coming later this year, have soured me on the new series, although I’m still looking forward to watching Matt Smith episodes with E when she’s here. We’ve put Doctor Who viewing on hold for the next fortnight, though, as E is busy moving and is going to be living with her parents for a bit.

I don’t know if Judaism counts as a special interest, but I’m too exhausted and lacking in time to engage much with it, and it’s hard working out what I can do, as well as realising that to be a “good frum Jew,” you really have to be neurotypical and mentally healthy, and ideally quite well-off. And I don’t have time, energy or spoons at all for writing (other than blogging), my other hobby. So I feel rather stuck.

I ended up taking some time out for a while for my mental health and maybe think about invitations later today. Watched Undermind and Yes Minister. I’ll probably read Batman before bed. I tried reading Children of Dune before, but it’s heavy-going and by this stage in the series, it seems like all the even vaguely-likeable characters have died or become evil and unlikeable/unrelatable.


Just read a not-very-good devar Torah (Torah thought) from a very prominent UK Modern Orthodox rabbi that said that, if you keep Shabbat (the Sabbath), God will ensure you aren’t out of pocket as a result. I don’t know why rabbis share ideas like this. All you need is to find one person who ended up out of pocket as a result of keeping Shabbat and you’ve disproved it, casting the whole of Judaism into doubt. Plus it sends a negative to people struggling financially that God is not looking after them. It just reinforces my feeling that the Orthodox world is designed for “winners” and not “losers.” Although the community does provide support for the poor, unlike some other minority groups in the Orthodox community.


I also read a very unhelpful article on dealing with wedding day anxiety for autistics. Like a lot of stuff aimed at autistics, it made me feel like a Fake Autistic for not reacting the way we’re “supposed to,” e.g. I don’t have such a problem with bright light, I only stim very subtly and don’t use stim toys. The only thing I took from it was the need to have time away from the crowd during the wedding day, but E and I have basically planned almost the reverse, four or five hours around people and nothing before or after. I guess we can see if we can slip away during the tea, but I worry my parents will want us to mingle the whole time. I hope it works out, especially now the Shabbat the day before has basically been joined to it.

Resentful of God?

You might recall that yesterday I went to a big family get-together, stayed longer than I intended (because I was enjoying it), then forced myself through wedding preparation and Torah study when I got home. This was probably not so wise as I was pretty exhausted today.

I got up on time, but I struggled to get going. I did get out on time, but was delayed by my oyster card (London public transport fare card) not working. Apparently if the card cracks even slightly, it’s completely broken. At work, my jumper ripped and I felt quite faint before lunch. I’m used to feeling exhausted and faint at home, but struggling to get through the last half hour before lunch is a new difficulty. I’m glad I’m speaking to the doctor tomorrow (half glad anyway – see below).

The afternoon was mostly spent sorting papers in the office, which I hadn’t done for months. It feels a bit like the children’s toy where you have to rearrange tiles to form a picture, except that I didn’t have a “missing” tile to allow me to move things around. I probably also need to get clearer instructions from J as to what I should keep or dispose of. I worried in the past that I was throwing away too much; now I worry that I won’t be able to throw away enough. It doesn’t help that I haven’t done this for months (it’s a job for the slow times at work and not the busy time at the beginning of the year) and couldn’t really remember where different papers were.

I spent most of the day feeling down, drained and bored and was exhausted to the point of feeling somewhat ill again when I got home. I feel better now for having had dinner and watched Yes Minister (the one where Hacker is made “Transport Supremo,” a job Sir Humphrey says he needs “like an aperture in the cranial cavity.”)


I said I was only half glad I am speaking to the doctor tomorrow. This is because I will miss volunteering because I don’t want to take a phone appointment with the doctor somewhere were reception is poor and there is no privacy. As a lot of other volunteers are away, this means that tomorrow there will be no non-perishable food packers (my usual job). I’m sure food will get packed; there are paid staff as well as other volunteers. But I feel a little bad that I’m missing the whole morning for a ten minute call, especially as I didn’t want to admit to the doctor’s appointment and so said I’m doing wedding stuff. Which is not a lie, as I will be, but I could have done that as well as volunteering, although I would have been exhausted (again).


During my twenties and early thirties, when I spent much of my time struggling with depression (which was probably at least in part autistic burnout), I was angry at God sometimes. I tried to express it in my hitbodedut (unstructured prayer), but I felt like I was being blasphemous so didn’t always vocalise it much.

I thought I was past that and grateful for the positive things in my life now (E, having some kind of job even if it is part-time and not ideal for an autistic person), but I have been wondering if I’m harbouring some anger or at least resentment against God for making me autistic. As I’ve said before, I experience my autism more as a disability than a difference, even though many of the autistic people I’ve come across advocate for the “difference” model. If I wasn’t autistic, I probably wouldn’t have met E, therefore it’s good that I’m autistic, but I feel that our financial troubles would be eased if I could hold down a full-time, nine to five job. I also feel that I would be serving God better if I could daven with a minyan (pray with a community) three times a day, study more Torah, be more involved in a community, focus on personal growth (etc.) than I’m able to do right now and not being autistic would make that service easier. This is despite the rabbi who said I should not be doing all those things right now (ever?). I guess it’s hard for me to believe that I shouldn’t be trying study Torah, grow, etc. even though a rabbi told me. The whole mindset of “Maybe I exaggerated how I feel so he gave the wrong answer?” kicks in.

I’m thankful to God, but maybe I’m resentful too. I stopped doing regular hitbodedut some months ago because I was “blocked” and couldn’t think of anything to say. Maybe I couldn’t vocalise my resentment OR my gratitude and just couldn’t say anything. (Lately I have restarted hitbodedut, but in a more structured way, trying to take ideas from a text to start a conversation.)

It doesn’t help that I have complex feelings towards the Orthodox community at the moment. I go back and forth blaming the community for my social isolation, then blaming myself (or my autism again) for not reaching out to them. Plus, there are a lot of wider negative societal issues in the Orthodox world right now that make connecting with it seem difficult. On some level, I ask if Torah can’t stop people being corrupt, racist or abusive, then what is the point of it? It’s easy for those negative feelings to carry over to God or alternatively to try to disconnect my feelings about God from those about the community in a very unJewish way.


OK, going to try to relax for the rest of the evening (probably Batman or more Yes Minister as I don’t think I should push myself to read something heavy like Children of Dune).


I mentioned in my previous post that I woke up in the early hours with a headache and couldn’t get back to sleep. I did eventually dose for a couple of hours during the late morning, so I’m not too sleep-deprived, but it wasn’t a great night.

I woke up the second time in time to go to my second-cousin’s house for lunch. As I said yesterday, I have lots of second-cousins, but only two I see regularly. We had a big family gathering of eleven adults, three children and one baby. I only intended to go for a while, as I thought I would be overwhelmed and I had wedding stuff to do at home. I didn’t say much and I did feel overwhelmed at times and struggled to join in conversations, but on the whole I had a good time and stayed for the whole afternoon. I had a cuddle with Nephew too, who drooled all over my jumper, but I didn’t care. When it was time to go, he did a weird sticking-out-tongue thing at me, which Dad thinks is his attempt at a kiss.

Afterwards, I intended to do wedding stuff, and I did, but not as much as I intended. I was probably too distracted after peopling to focus properly.

I had a slightly heavy Skype call with E dealing with our wedding, family and autism. I feel I still don’t know who I am now that I know I’m autistic, but I’m suddenly required to make decisions about the wedding, our marriage, relations with family, friends and community, decisions about work and career… It all feels overwhelming, but maybe it’s only by making those decisions that I can actually work out who I am.

I feel that I’ve gone through life on auto-pilot thinking things “had to be this way” from autistic rigidity, not noticing how bad I felt at times due to alexithymia (to be fair, years of depression and burnout felt very bad, but I couldn’t work out why exactly). I’m actually mostly OK with my religious decisions, even if I am trying to find ways to make it easier for those around me, and even if I’m now trying to acknowledge that my mental health, autism, and having less religious family and friends give me unique challenges here and that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. However, other decisions possibly need to be challenged e.g. assuming that I need to aim towards one day working 9am-5pm in an office. I don’t believe this now, but it’s a recent change.

It’s kind of sad that so many of my life decisions are determined, at least in part, by my neurology and my tendency to certain mental illnesses, but I guess that’s life. We get to choose the decisions we make, but not the conditions under which we make them.


I’ve got a phone appointment with the doctor on Tuesday morning to discuss my missing sleep study results and a few other things. I find phone appointments very hard and would like to challenge them on inclusion grounds, but don’t currently have the time or energy. I’ll be skipping volunteering that day to take the call as I didn’t fancy taking it with other people around and, anyway, I need to have energy in the afternoon for wedding stuff and lately volunteering exhausts me.

Autistic Purim

I couldn’t sleep last night. I think it was a weird mixture of still “buzzing,” in a good way, from the Facebook group call (for people with health issues that impact observing Jewish fast days or celebrating Jewish festivals – we have one of both this week) and anxiety about Purim (Jewish festival this week). I did finally fall asleep about 1.30am, only to wake up at 5.30am and be unable to get back to sleep.

Work was boring and went slowly. I always feel awkward eating in a shul (synagogue) on a fast day (it was the Fast of Esther) even though I’m medically supposed to eat on the minor fast days. My boss J knows I don’t fast, but I worried about the rabbi walking in, even though I know I shouldn’t (and he hardly ever does either as we’re not really a part of his shul, we just have an office in the building). I went to Minchah (the Afternoon Service) purely because I was in the building. I thought I was going to be asked to do something and have to say I’m not allowed to as I’m not fasting, but it didn’t happen. I felt more positive about Purim as the day went on, but once work ended, the anxiety came back. I’m also anxious about having to make a bunch of calls to strangers asking them to pay their bills over the next week or two. That never gets easier. Definitely the second-least favourite part of my job, after the Very Scary Task.

I got home in time to go to my local shul for the reading of Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther). It occurred to me that this is my thirty-ninth Purim, but only my second knowing that I’m autistic. I was diagnosed shortly after Purim 2021. Last year’s Purim was still a bit COVID-ey and restrained, so this felt in some ways like my first “real” autistic Purim.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like Purim much, but I didn’t know why. I felt guilty about it. I assumed it was just because I was a non-rowdy, serious, vaguely melancholic person who has trouble letting his hair down and also that I didn’t like the noise during the Megillah reading that stopped me hearing every word (you are supposed to hear every word of the Megillah, both morning and evening, but this is made harder by the fact that everyone boos the villainous Haman (Haman = Hitler, basically)). Then when I was sixteen, I was mildly ill during the morning Megillah reading in school. I didn’t know it, but this was part of my first autistic burnout.

Then across my twenties and thirties there were years when I was too depressed and/or autistically burnt out and anxious (although, again, I didn’t know that) to go to a reading at all, plus the years when I had religious OCD and I came home distraught because I wasn’t sure I’d heard every word and my religious OCD was in overdrive telling me I was a bad Jew and should go to another reading to be sure.

Now I know that I’m autistic and there are a whole load of difficult things at Purim including the noise (just in itself, without the hearing the Megillah question, but also the fact that I can’t “tune out” background noise and focus on the reading; I am aware of every cough and grunt in the room), the number of people, the removal of social boundaries (I struggle with social conventions at the best of times and now even the ones I know about are gone) and the expectation (religious expectation and social expectation) that I should have fun (is there anything more likely to stop someone enjoying something than being told that they MUST or WILL enjoy it?). In theory alcohol could also play into this, but I mostly avoid boozy places; in all my Purim struggles, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone trying to get me to drink, which is good. Then there is the fear of autistic exhaustion or even burnout as a result of all this (lately I’ve been feeling about as exhausted as I’ve been without hitting burnout because of wedding planning even without Purim). Then on top of all these autistic issues, there are fears that the minutiae of the laws, particularly the “hearing every word” one, will send me spiralling back into OCD. And all of this together sets up a lot of anxiety: social anxiety and religious anxiety. I could feel as we started the Megillah that I was “wound up” and tense.

I might have understood all this years earlier if it hadn’t been for my alexithymia (difficulty recognising and understanding my own emotions).

(An aside: I find the Megillah reading nerve-wracking even without the “hear every word” law. I always get a weird feeling that everything hangs in the balance every year, that if we’re not careful, somehow Haman could still win and wipe out the Jews this year. We’re supposed to have this level of imaginative involvement at the Pesach seder, but not here. I have no idea why I’m like this. Maybe after the Holocaust, the idea of someone wiping out the Jews doesn’t seem like something academic that happened “in those days”. Like I said, Haman = Hitler.)

Looking at this year’s reading, as I mentioned, I was very tense the whole time. It was a noisy reading; even aside from the “Haman” noise, there were a lot of people with coughs. As it went on, I began to worry about having missed words, repeating them to myself. Then I thought the reader made a mistake. I don’t know if he did or not. I often thought this when the OCD was bad. On balance, he probably didn’t, but I worry. I actually instituted a “one reading rule” a few years back, that I can only go to one reading in the evening and one in the morning, so that I’m not tempted to repeat readings. I’ve never actually gone to a remedial reading, but I’ve come close a few times. (Another aside: I have probably missed the morning Shema prayer thousands of times over the years I’ve been struggling with sleep issues (depression, medication side-effects, burnout, suspected sleep disorder), but it doesn’t bother me as much as missing the Megillah, even though the Shema is more important (biblical vs. rabbinic commandment). Somehow, the fact that we only read it on one day in the year makes the Megillah seem more important, even though Jewish law actually rules that the more frequent something is, the more important it is.)

I tried to focus on the idea I’ve had lately that the minutiae of the laws are less important than whether I’m moving towards God. I told myself that I tried my best, and I struggle a lot more than most people, and I hope God will accept my effort. I tried not to get caught up in the obsessive thinking that characterises OCD, to keep these thoughts as passing thoughts and not obsessive ruminations that could lead to full-blown OCD again. It’s hard, but, until I can find (or start?) a sensory Megillah reading in North-West London, I don’t really have a choice.

I had dinner with my parents afterward and felt better. We had Purim bread, which E tells me doesn’t exist in the US. It’s sweet challah bread, like Ashkenazi Jews have on Shabbat (Sabbaths) and festivals, but with raisins, sprinkles (we call them “hundreds and thousands” in the UK, which E thinks is quaint) and icing, although this one didn’t have icing for some reason. I had a hamantashen (Purim pastry) too. I wore my jester’s hat for some of it, my nod to dressing up for Purim. I heard somewhere that you should dress up as something you want to be, so obviously I want to have licence to tell people painful truths by couching them in humour (my satirical novel is still in the planning stage, though).

Now I’m going to watch Doctor Who to try to relax a bit, then sleep and get up early enough to do it all over again before going to volunteer…

Being Accepted

I woke up about 10am and got up to go to the loo, but then went back to bed and oversleep, which I really shouldn’t have done. I was glad to get some peaceful relaxation time when I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, which has been hard to come by lately, but the rest of the day was a rush.

I felt sad for much of the day. The immediate trigger was an email on a mailing list I’m on, but I think it broadened into not fitting into the frum (religious Jewish) community. What I’m slowly thinking about Purim is that I have to do it on my own terms, trying to keep the mitzvot (commandments), but trying not to beat myself up if I can’t do all of them, or not perfectly. This is hard! But really I need to do it with my whole religious life. The frum world is not made for neurodivergent or mentally ill people.

The problem is still wanting to be accepted by frum people and wondering if I’ll ever have friends who can understand all of me. Maybe that’s not necessary, I don’t know. I just feel uncomfortable compartmentalising my life: frum friends, Doctor Who fandom friends, blog friends, autistic forum friends… Maybe that’s normal. I guess I remember the rabbis at school who were upset that I didn’t go on to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary) for a year and who were disappointed in me. I felt it was partially their fault for not convincing me that it was important to go or guiding me to an appropriate yeshivah, but I still felt bad for letting them down. Sometimes I wonder if people on the Orthodox Conundrum blog would shun me if they knew more about me (which just wants to make me dump my life story on there to see what reaction I get, which would not be sensible).

I wrote the above in the early afternoon. Towards evening, I joined a video call from a Facebook group for Jews with medical struggles related to festivals, in this case, Purim, which starts tomorrow evening. The group was originally for people who couldn’t fast on fast days, but it’s broadened to any kind of medical problem affecting fast days festivals. Actually, the conversation drifted into even more general issues with religious observance and I spoke a bit about some of the issues I’ve posted about here above and in the past. It was good to feel heard and accepted, although I struggled to work out when to speak on a multi-person video call. Another call is planned for before Pesach (Passover) and I hope to attend. The organiser said that they’ve had attendees from different Jewish denominations in the past, although everyone there today seemed to be Orthodox-affiliated. I did feel a bit like “Maybe I’ve found some people who can really understand me?” and one participant messaged me on Facebook afterwards and asked to stay in touch as she has autistic family.


E and I were talking about making friends when we get married and live together. I suggested we might want to volunteer at our shul (synagogue) or similar as neither of us is great at the “talk to people in the Kiddush (refreshments in synagogue after the service)” mode of socialising and making friends. I feel like I’m a lot better at making friends online than in the real world.


Work was not good again. The morning was OK, but in the afternoon I was very bored. First I was going through a list of outstanding payments from the auditors trying to check which ones were genuinely outstanding, not helped by the auditors not making the timescale clear. I do this task once a quarter and I still haven’t figured out what “Current”, “Period 1”, “Period 2”, “Period 3” and “Older” refer to exactly. I assumed Periods 1, 2 and 3 are the same length, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case. After I got bored of that and fed up staring at my computer screen, I started on another task: adding stickers to correct typos in some books. I have to add stickers to three pages in each of five thousand books, totalling 15,000 stickers. I stuck about ninety stickers today, so about 0.6%. It was very boring and also very difficult, as the books had never been opened before and wouldn’t stay open, so I needed three or four hands to hold the book open, unpeel the backing from the sticker, align it correctly over the book, stick it down properly and smooth it flat. I only have two hands.


I sometimes imagine myself as a “normal” frum (religious Jewish) person, rather than the idiosyncratic frum person I am in reality, sitting on the margins of the frum community. Before I met E, I wondered why God didn’t make me an FFB (frum from birth), as it would have made my religious observance easier, with family who were equally frum and habituation to Jewish life and socialisation into the frum community from birth. However, I wonder if I would have stopped being frum, as I feel poised between two worlds. I want to escape the tension of the balancing act, but maybe the balancing act is the point. Or would I just have been a more conformist, less interesting person? I wouldn’t have met E, so I don’t see it as a better alternative any more, but I find myself still fascinated by the idea, wondering what sort of person I would have been. Maybe it’s a form of over-thinking.

I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, therefore he wants me to be where I am, but where I am is a constant spiritual struggle, always becoming and never quite getting there, never just being. But becoming is probably more Jewish than being, even if frum Jews don’t always see it that way. The Kotzker Rebbe, as I’ve said before, said that the searching is the finding. However, it is much easier to believe this when I’m calm than when I’m depressed, stressed and anxious as I usually am at the moment, particularly at work.


One thing I realised today, which may be related to (not) finding my place in the frum world in a strange way: the novels I tried to write in the past needed an audience. I was trying to say something that I wanted people to hear, because I felt it was important and because I wanted it to justify my existence and place in the frum community. The current one makes me happy even with it just in my head. I’ve told E some of the jokes, but just “playing” with it in my mind and understanding the world differently through that play makes it worthwhile to me even if I never actually set it down on paper, let alone get published. This seems a breakthrough.


E and I have been watching season eighteen of Doctor Who, the 1980-81 season, Tom Baker’s last in the title role. We’ve just reached the final story of the season, Logopolis. I’ve never been sure what to make of it. I loved the novelisation as a child, but as an adult watching the episodes, I find it a bit of a mess.

It’s popular with fans, albeit mostly with those who complained that the stories of the late seventies were “silly” (I don’t think they are, and Logopolis certainly has its own moments of inadvertent silliness). It has a small cast, but is manifestly not a character piece; characterisation is limited and mostly provided by the actors not the script. The plot is atypical, which is good, but it’s not advanced in a clear or logical way and it’s hard to get a clear sense of why things happen. It’s epic, but not the normal Doctor Who epic of armies of Daleks or Cybermen or both. OK, armies is more the new series than the old, but even so, epics in the original series were usually about action, such as Destiny of the Daleks the previous season or Earthshock in the next. This is about silence and entropy, about the universe falling apart from old age. It’s atmospheric and ghostly, but the author is the most vocal rationalist to work on the show or at least the most vocal in his declarations that the programme should be fundamentally about rationalism and empiricism. And yet it somehow lives on in my mind through its imagery and dialogue when much better stories have faded into obscurity. It has a sort of poetry which might not be what author Christopher H. Bidmead intended, but is still there.

Every Mitzvah Counts

I was exhausted today, but had to get up to help with the Tesco grocery delivery. I went back to bed for forty minutes after breakfast, even though it was late, and that helped a lot. Just lying still in a dark room wrapped in my weighted blanket can really help with mood, even though it’s not a practical suggestion much of the time.

I do also need to get off the computer earlier at night. It’s such a relief to be off it, but it’s so hard to get to that stage, partly because of writing my blog post and speaking to E, but also because of internet procrastination. Procrastination does me no good, but I do it anyway. As I’ve said before, the internet seems so urgent and attention-grabbing, but often it’s not urgent or even relevant,  it provokes pointless negative emotions and just leaves me feeling bad, but it’s addictive. It is the junk food of activities. At least E will be here LATER THIS MONTH and we won’t need to have late night (my time) Skype calls.

There was an apology for the family drama of the last few days, so hopefully things will be a bit more stable there from now on.

We got a contract from the photographer we want for our wedding. It’s good, but I find every stage in wedding planning can prompt “Did we make the right decision? This seems so final” thoughts.

I went to the bank and did a little shopping and was totally exhausted afterwards. E and I did some wedding paperwork stuff and I’m going to do a little Torah study after this, although it’s late. Unfortunately, I spent most of the day struggling with exhaustion and some of the evening with a mild, but persistent headache.


Sometimes (often) I wonder what it would be like to be a “normal” person, with no autism, mental health issues, a full-time job and so on. I used to think about it mainly in terms of marriage; now I have a wife who loves and accepts me, I think about it in terms of the Jewish community, being accepted and having friends, but also performing mitzvot (commandments) “properly.”

When I speak to my rabbi mentor, he always seems positive about my religious life, even when (as at the moment), I feel like I’m giving up on aspects of observances because I can’t cope practically and emotionally. I can’t work out if he really thinks I’m doing well or if he’s just trying to keep me Jewishly engaged and positive. He’s an honest person, so I imagine he really thinks it, but it’s hard to believe. Similarly, I never worked out if he said I should be open to dating less-frum (religious Jewish) women because he thinks that, as a general rule, frum people should be open to atypical relationships or because I found so few frum women willing to go out with me that I needed to broaden my search. I wouldn’t have dated E if he hadn’t said that, so it’s good whatever the reason, but I wonder about it sometimes. Likewise, when my Dad tells me he’s proud of me, I can’t help but wonder if he’s proud of me in the abstract, that I have done things that are inherently worthwhile or if he’s proud because I have a lot of “issues” yet I have done stuff which, although trivial to a “normal” person (e.g. my sister) are challenging to me. I guess I feel a degree of shame in not being “normal.”

Related, I’ve been thinking a lot about alexithymia (not being able to understand and process my own emotions) and Judaism. There are lots of emotions that I am supposed to feel as a Jew, for example, love and reverence of God, love of other people, joy on Yom Tov (festivals). I find all this very hard as I’m often not aware of these emotions and don’t know how to inspire them in myself. Now I wonder if I do feel some of them and just don’t know it. There are mental health and autistic challenges for me with most Yom Tovim, so I am probably not feeling joy there so much, but it occurs to me that if I can “prove” to myself that I love my family by looking at what I’m willing to sacrifice for them and how anxious I am about losing them, the same applies to God and Judaism. I have sacrificed a huge amount for them and don’t want to lose them I know it’s not from fear as it doesn’t feel like the anxiety I used to have with religious OCD. That would seem to indicate that it’s from love.

Other related thoughts I’ve had today: I had a headache, which reminded me of something I read in the book Calling Out to You, about Judaism and depression and anxiety, that if you had a headache, you would not pressure yourself to do your regular Jewish activities, so you shouldn’t pressure yourself if you have depression or anxiety. I feel a bit like I have a “permanent headache” in the form of autism, at least in some respects and maybe I shouldn’t pressure myself to behave like a neurotypical person.

E and I were speaking about Chabad and their kiruv (outreach) philosophy of acceptance of all Jews wherever they are religiously. While some kiruv organisations are very focused on getting people to commit to a fully observant Orthodox life, Chabad have an attitude of “every mitzvah counts.” They focus on getting people to do just one mitzvah regardless of whether they’re going to go on to do more mitzvot. Maybe I need to focus on one mitzvah at a time and just do what I can.


I still haven’t had my sleep study results and I don’t know who to chase. NHS, etc, etc.

Purim, Being Pathetic, and the Autistic Talking Service Parrot

It was a rather stressful day again. Volunteering went wrong from the start. It wasn’t set up in advance, so we would have been delayed fifteen minutes just catching up. Then a table collapsed. I was worried I had not put it up correctly, but it turned out that a leg had just snapped off (I assume from corrosion). Unfortunately, when it collapsed, it squashed a large carton of mango juice, spraying juice everywhere, so we had to tidy that up before we could really start. Then it turned out that we had all misread the number of bags of food needed this week and we were sixteen short when the volunteer drivers came to deliver them. They ended up being added to tomorrow’s workload as it was late (the food bank operates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but I only volunteer on Tuesdays). I had to get home as I was talking to my rabbi mentor at 3pm, so I missed coffee even though I could have done with the sugar boost of a biscuit or two and even though I like the social interaction of sitting with the others even if I don’t say much.

Other stuff: there was some family drama that I inadvertently started. Not going into it here, but I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. I cooked dinner after talking to my rabbi mentor (the call was helpful), but didn’t do much else this afternoon. I feel like I’m struggling to hold everything together at the moment and even minor stresses like those today can feel like massive, intractable issues.


Other issues: I’m going to volunteer next Tuesday even though it’s the minor festival of Purim. There is a Megillat Esther (Book of Esther, read Purim night and day) reading where I volunteer, as it’s a Jewish institution, so I can listen there and volunteer afterwards. Unfortunately, I’ll have to get up very early, despite being likely to be drained the previous day with work and the evening Megillah reading (crowded, noisy). J wanted me to cover for him in the afternoon in case we have to do the Very Scary Task (he’ll be getting drunk at his Purim seudah (festive meal) as per custom), but now I’ll be out of communication for a bit in the early afternoon. I did check with him and he said it was OK, but I feel a bit guilty. I felt I should volunteer nonetheless as we’ll be several people short next week. I vaguely feel like I’m ruining J’s seudah deliberately because my seudah will probably be alone and I don’t approve of Purim drunkenness (or other drunkenness), even though that’s not really what’s happening.

The other Purim issue is struggling to do mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends). I can’t give to my parents (which I mistakenly did for many years) because we’re in the same household. I only really have two friends in the area; one I haven’t seen for the better part of a year (although I will be inviting him to the wedding) and he’ll probably be either at work or at a seudah somewhere else when I get back from volunteering (the gifts have to be given after hearing the Megillah, but before sunset). The other person is J, but I don’t know exactly where he lives and it seems vaguely inappropriate to give gifts to my boss. The timing issue might also be relevant there too.

I can’t find any charity doing a system where you can give money to them to buy food to send to someone, only for giving money directly (which is also a Purim commandment, but a separate one). I’m not sure what to do. E wondered if I can give money to be included in my parents’ mishloach manot gifts to their friends, but I need to check with a rabbi if that “counts.” This is the type of thing that makes me feel a pathetic Jonny No Mates, something that will be reinforced by the four or five sets of mishloach manot my parents will probably receive from their local friends. This is just a part of the reason that Purim is not fun for me. Actually, I do have friends, just not necessarily Jewish, local or in the real world rather than the virtual one (you can’t send virtual gifts of food).


I wrote to the rabbinic mental health email helpline again a while back about my struggles with spiritual growth and Torah study when dealing with autistic exhaustion. The rabbi sent back a long email that I need to re-read and process, but summarised in the quote that “personal and spiritual growth is welcome only where it enhances your wellbeing, and if you find it causes you anxiety or exhaustion- it is “off limits” for you!”

I am not sure what to make of this at the moment. I don’t think stopping growth or Torah completely would be good for me, but I keep thinking of my first burnout/depression when I was sixteen and the doctor told me to stop working for a couple of weeks. I stopped for a bit, but then went back to it. Realistically, a week or two off wouldn’t have stopped my slide towards major burnout a couple of years later, which was driven by undiagnosed autism, but I feel it shows I should take this kind of thing more seriously.

Incidentally, that first burnout/depression started on Purim, which may be another reason it’s not my favourite festival.


Someone on the Orthodox Conundrum Facebook group opined again that for non-married adults, the choice is between transgressive sex or “pathetic celibacy.” I suggested that Moshe (Moses) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) were celibate and not pathetic. I was told by the first person and one other that they were great people and we can’t compare ourselves to them, which wasn’t really my point. (Also, this is a classic frum (religious Jewish) debating/pedagogical tactic: when famous biblical or Talmudic figures do something the speaker wants others to do, they’re examples; when they don’t, they’re exemptions who we can’t copy due to their special status. Frum girls are brought up on the Talmudic story of the woman who covered her hair even when home alone despite this being unnecessary according to Jewish law; if anyone suggested she was too holy to copy, they would get short shrift.)  I said that fulfilling the will of God isn’t pathetic and was also told that “pathetic” was being used in the sense of “inspiring pathos” which seemed pedantic and unlikely, and that something can be admirable and pathetic at the same time.

At this point I gave up on the argument, but it touched a nerve as for years I did feel pathetic for failing to attract a spouse and did want people to pity me, on some level, but I also feel, particularly in retrospect, that it was, at least on some level, difficult and admirable for me to stay a virgin for so long (by the time I get to my wedding, I will be just two months short of my fortieth birthday). I am reluctant to describe myself as “pathetic” in either sense.


E and I were talking about service animals and I decided I need a talking service parrot that will sit on my shoulder and make small talk to people for me when I can’t do so.


I just read an old Dilbert comic strip the joke of which was that Windows 95 was new and exciting and I felt ridiculously old, although not as much as when E and I went to the Museum of the Home last year and I heard a small girl look at a landline phone and say, “I’ve seen one of these before, but I don’t know how to use it.” It was possibly a rotary dial phone, but even so.

Not Secure in My Self and My Life

Last night, I blogged that I would do ten minutes of Torah study and relax. I actually did about twenty minutes, although it made sense to split the sedra (weekly Torah portion) where I did, as Tetzaveh falls into two very different chunks. I just spent too much of the evening doing “stuff,” but it was important stuff. The upshot was that I had little time to relax (just one episode of Yes Minister) and when I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I am not good at the whole balance thing, even though I only work two days a week and don’t take my work home with me.

I did eventually get about four hours of sleep and coped OK at work, but it was slow and boring and even a trip to the bank was hard as I got overloaded from the crowds in the streets. J asked me to cover for him on Purim next week if we need to do the Very Scary Task in the afternoon, as he wants to fulfil the commandment (“unhealthy custom” is probably a better description) of getting drunk at the celebratory festive meal. I agreed, as he’s so flexible and forgiving for me, but also because I didn’t have the courage or vocabulary to explain just how much I’m dreading Purim and how this could make it even worse. I just have to hope we don’t have to do the Very Scary Task. Between all this and worrying that alexithymia (difficulty experiencing and understanding my own emotions) means that I will never experience religious joy, I came home feeling pretty depressed.

I watched another episode of Yes Minister and some of Undermind and spoke to E and I feel a lot better now, but I still feel very drained and as I have volunteering tomorrow and more stuff to do, I will try to keep this briefer than might otherwise have been the case.


Reading some of this week’s sedra, combined with the family event yesterday, got me thinking about not being envious. Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) could, according to rabbinic tradition, have fulfilled each other’s roles as prophet and leader and as high priest, but each was happy for the other’s success in their roles. I suspect this is a lot easier if you are secure in knowing what your own role in life is and this is where I struggle as I just don’t know.

On the Intimate Judaism podcast they spoke about the Orthodox world’s tendency to exhort young people to “date for marriage” being counter-productive, as it encourages over-thinking and turning down dates for reasons that need not prevent a relationship developing. They said instead to date for the date, to see if there is something there. I’m glad my rabbi mentor said something similar to me, otherwise I would not have gone out with E. But I wonder if I need to think the same about my role in life, to stop over-thinking my role in my life as a whole and just focusing on being a good husband/son/brother/friend/online community member in the current moment. The problem is that I’m not sure how good I am at any of those…


A while back I watched a video on Chabad.org where an abuse survivor said he struggled with tefillin (the leather boxes Orthodox Jewish men and some non-Orthodox Jews strap to their arms and heads during weekday morning prayers) because wrapping them tightly around his arm gave him abuse flashbacks. He asked a rabbi, who said he could stop wearing them, but after a while he went back to wearing them again despite the flashbacks, as he felt that a Hasid should go further than the letter of the law.

I’ve been struggling with this. Aside from the negative social effects of the way this attitude of going beyond the letter of the law in everything has taken hold in many parts of the Orthodox world, it just reinforces my feeling that relying on so many legitimate leniencies myself (leniencies for mental illness, autism, low income, living with less religious parents) makes me somehow inadequate. That I should be able to get by without the leniencies, let alone the things I do that are against halakhah (Jewish law) without being permitted even by a genuine leniency. It’s a struggle and probably connected with the idea of not being secure in my sense of self and my own role in life.

Wedding Anxiety, Religious Anxiety

I feel quite stressed and anxious, partly about the wedding, partly aware that E is struggling with things at the moment and I can’t help her. I’ve contemplated jumping on a plane just to give her a hug, but she said not to, and, for reasons I won’t go into here, it might actually make her situation worse, in practical terms, if I did, so I just have to wait. It’s very frustrating. I guess now I know how my parents felt for years when I was struggling with depression/burnout and they couldn’t do anything for me.

Once I get to that point, my thoughts start to spiral out of control worrying about how two people with so many diagnosed and suspected neurodivergence/mental illness “issues” between them, and such an insecure income as a result, can actually be happy, particularly when my parents aren’t able to help any more, practically and financially. At least we’ll be together, that counts for a lot. It’s scary, though.

Other than wedding/marriage/future stuff, I’m worried about Purim, the minor Jewish festival coming up in about a week and a half. I’m actually more worried about Purim than Pesach at the moment. Pesach is a more major festival a month later that triggered my religious OCD much more than Purim in the past, but I think that’s under control now. Purim triggers a lot of things, like OCD, social anxiety, perhaps autistic sensory issues, social overwhelm and so on as well as feeling like a loser for having no (local) friends. Ugh.


In terms of the last few days… on Thursday I had to do the Very Scary Task at work. I think I’m getting better at it, but it’s still hard and I get flustered and confused on the phone, especially if J isn’t around. On the plus side, I did get to go out to the Post Office and do some shopping which at least broke the day up a bit. I spent the afternoon doing a very boring printing and scanning job that is not yet finished. After work I went to Sainsbury’s and was so distracted and confused that I nearly left my food behind. I also collected my glasses with new lenses and left my spare pair so the new lens prescription can be put in them. I have to remember to wear the spares on our wedding day otherwise my glasses will turn tinted from the sunlight/camera flash (the everyday glasses have reaction lenses, but the spares don’t).

I was exhausted again on Friday. I probably would have been OK if I could have had a mental health day (autism day?), but even minor Shabbat (Sabbath) preparation finishes me off on Fridays recently. I felt too exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) again, which upset me a bit. I feel as if I’m drifting away from the Jewish community, while still believing and practising Judaism privately, and the Purim anxiety is a part of this. I don’t want to do it, but it’s what my mental/autistic health seems to demand right now and I feel that if I go away, the community won’t come after me they way they would for someone more involved and connected. I’ve never really felt fully a part of the community, except maybe for two or three years in the shul I grew up in, before we moved. Three years out of nearly forty is not a good record.

My uncle is here for the weekend. We had a good time at dinner, but there are aspects of the family dynamic that I find uncomfortable. I mentioned the other day that E and Nephew joining the family has changed the family dynamic, which it has, but there’s been another, more subtle, shift for a decade or more that I don’t feel comfortable with, but it’s not really my place to do anything about it. The problem is that I get sucked in and say things that I later regret. Speaking of which, I said something completely different (unrelated to family stuff) that I immediately regretted for religious reasons. I am trying not to beat myself up about it and accept it was a slip of the tongue, but I expect myself to be perfect.

I had a headache that got bad enough that I took tablets for it on Shabbat (the rules about taking medication for minor ailments on Shabbat are complicated. In the past I was very strict with myself; now, as in other things, I’m trying to tell myself that sometimes it’s more religious to be more lenient. It’s hard, though). I lay on the bed for a bit after dinner because of the headache. Lying down made it worse, but I propped myself up by the headboard and covered myself with my weighted blanket and adjusted the Shabbat lamp so there was only a little light.

After a while the headache went and I wanted to do some Torah study before it got too late. Like last week, as it was late, I went for depth over length of time, studying some Talmud (reviewing the page I’m on) and a chapter of Shoftim (Judges). It took about forty minutes in total. After that, I read for fun for a bit, finishing Greenmantle and starting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before going to bed.

Today was more of the same, really, until Shabbat ended and the anxieties I mentioned above kicked in.


I worry that I over-shared on the Orthodox Conundrum blog Facebook group on Friday. There was  a thread about Orthodox men not wanting to date women who study more Talmud than them, or better than them, and I asked if the reverse is also true, wondering if I got set up on so few dates in the Orthodox community because I didn’t go to yeshivah (rabbinical seminary). To be fair, there were plenty of other plausible explanations for my lack of dates, but, as you know, I’m paranoid that my failure to go to yeshivah or to study Talmud at a high level marks me as a “bad (frum/religious) Jew” even though I know that the idea of universal male yeshivah study or Talmud study for all but an elite is a product of not much more than the last century, not the entirety of Jewish history.

Perhaps relatedly, on Friday night/Saturday morning, I dreamt I was back in school. I had done my BA and MA, but, somehow, not my A-levels, so I had to come back to do them, but I was in the middle of burnout again and felt I couldn’t finish the course. Of course, I probably did have burnout when I did my A-levels, but it was mild compared with the burnouts during my BA and MA. I think the dream is about me trying to come to terms with not being the academic success that my achievements at school led me to think I would be, particularly in terms of secular academia, but also in terms of the frum community, where so many people seem to be able to study Talmud at a much higher level than me and where this seems to count more than other types of religious knowledge and perhaps even than being a good person in some circles.


It turned out that I did not copy all my music (or my non-classical music) to my phone. I need to delete some phone apps and try again…

Thief of Joy

It’s been a tough twenty-four hours. Last week I felt I was getting my life on track, but I worry that I’m too prone to autistic exhaustion to earn more or to cope with children. Last night I was looking at the last twenty years, dominated by depression and/or autistic burnout. Sometimes it feels that I have nothing to show for that period until E arrived (OK, two degrees that have not got me far). I have to believe that there is meaning in those years or that I can give them meaning. That I met E in the end and before then I grew resilience and empathy, but it’s hard to feel that sometimes, particularly as I feel I’ve suffered “autistic regression,” essentially losing skills as a result of burnout.

These thoughts were inspired by seeing the blog of someone autistic who I felt was doing a lot better than me at life. Looking at the post again today, that’s not necessarily the case, but either way I failed at not comparing myself to other people, even though I’m trying to work on that right now.  And, yes, there are autistic people worse off than me and not just severe autistic ones.  On the autism forum it seems that, of relationship, children and career, people rarely have two let alone all three and some don’t have any. I have a relationship and while I don’t have a career I at least have a part-time job. I still hope to have children (and maybe a career). Of course, many people join the forum because they’re struggling, so that probably creates a bias in favour of less successful people.

I do feel I struggle with Orthodox Judaism placing a lot of emphasis on doing things, learning, growing as a person. There is a whole concept of bittul zman (wasting time) or bittul Torah (wasting time that could specifically be dedicated to Torah study) to show that we should constantly be thinking about using our time productively.  It’s hard to feel that I can or maybe should take things slower. Maybe this is a question to ask the rabbi I emailed a while back (from the helpline of rabbis trained in mental health).


Today was stressful: train problems on the way in, a lot of noise at work, boring work (although I could at least listen to a podcast today) and an unexpected visit by our treasurer, which put me on edge at having someone else in the office, especially as he had no real reason to be there and was just killing time. I was still exhausted and stressed from yesterday and the noise, boredom and unexpected peopling made things worse and really put me on edge. I didn’t stay for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers), but felt bad leaving as people were coming in (fifteen minutes early!).

I also worry that, if I was wearing noise-cancelling headphones, as I would like, I would have missed an important announcement about the train problems this morning and could have ended up halfway to Bank before I realised I was on the wrong branch of the Northern Line (the train switched lines).

Emotionally, I have had some Purim anxiety today. Purim is the Jewish festival in two weeks’ time and it is not autism-friendly at all (as well as also being an OCD trigger risk for me). Maybe that’s something to ask the mental health rabbi too.

I do frequently feel stressed and overwhelmed at the moment from wedding planning. I feel like I’m struggling with alexithymia regarding it. I have depression from work and anxiety from the wedding as negative emotions always make themselves felt, but it’s hard to tune in to the excitement especially as it’s so hard being away from E. I need to try to push the anxiety and impatience to excitement, not depression, but I don’t really know how.

Getting Better All the Time

I got up about 10.30am today, which was earlier than I expected, as I thought I would be exhausted after yesterday. However, I wasted what I had of the morning as I was too exhausted for anything other than internet stuff. I’m not sure if I’m going to go to shul (synagogue). I want to and I don’t feel exhausted to the point of illness, as I have on recent Fridays, but I do still feel exhausted, am getting the “headrush”-type feeling I associate with autistic exhaustion and I am at least trying to notice the signals my body is sending me and not try to push through them in the belief that “doing something” is always better than “doing nothing” (relaxing/reading/watching TV or literally just lying still and recuperating from the noise and busyness of the world).

I had a Pesach anxiety dream last night, but it was a “can we make Pesach in time?” dream, not a Pesach OCD dream, which was good.

It feels like my life is getting better lately, but not uniformly. I don’t think any of it is getting worse.

Good Things

Getting fully married soon is good. Wedding planning is eating up a lot of energy, with less for cooking and housework and none for writing, but I can live with that for a few more months.

Volunteering has become my main social activity. I don’t say much, but do occasionally make a funny remark and people laugh. It’s good being around people. It’s slightly awkward that they’re all twenty years or more older than me and retired (hence time for volunteering), but it means I’m not comparing myself to them. I don’t expect people of my parents’ generation to be living lives like mine. I often get on better with older people anyway.

Work is difficult, but bearable and at least my boss seems to tolerate my mistakes. I do worry that he secretly thinks I’m an idiot, but I’m trying not to care.

I’m trying to give myself more breaks and more relaxation time (at home, not yet at work), as indicated by my remarks about possibly missing shul today. It’s hard. As I said in a comment today on Paula’s blog, since my teenage years, I’ve found it hard to set aside more than half an hour or so at a time for reading fiction or TV; it feels too much like “wasting” time that should be spent on something “productive.” Yet not relaxing means I can sucked into hours of internet procrastination instead (much of it designed to make me feel angry and threatened), because of the addictive “junk food” nature of internet links (“Just one more”).

Getting There

I have a lot to do still regarding proofreading. I want to set up profiles on more sites and chase the person I worked for to get a review, although I think it’s probably too late (I’ve been focused on the wedding). I know I have a lot to do to build my brand before this becomes a significant revenue stream and it does seem that it will take a long time to do, maybe never.

I am accepting that my novel(s) may not ever get published. I would like to write more despite this, even if it’s just for E. I still need to type up notes for my new novel, plus research and actually write the thing. Unfortunately, this all takes time, time I don’t currently have. However, I enjoy just thinking about it, so that’s good!

I feel like I fit in a bit better on the autism forum and am connecting with some people, although it can be hard, especially when I try not spend too long on there. I do wonder how some people can say that they feel an affinity with all autistics and no allistics, which seems very strange and stereotyping (and possibly an example of autistic black and white thinking). I find autistics, even high-functioning ones, to be as varied in personality and interests as any other cross-section of the population, albeit with certain traits or interests that come up perhaps a bit more than in general society.

There is sometimes drama on the forum, but I try to stay out of it. It can be hard to work out what I should post there and what on my blog. I definitely feel that the Jewish aspect of my autism is not really recognised there and there is still some Impostor Syndrome regarding traits that others have that I don’t, whether it’s the fact that I have some ability to make small talk (even though I don’t like it and it’s draining) or the fact that I increasingly think I like reasonably bright light and strong contrasts rather than preferring muted lights as most autistics prefer. Again, the fact that many people on the forum assume their experience is universal for autistics is probably not surprising when you consider that difficulty with perspective-taking is a classic autistic trait.

Still Struggling

Religious life is still hard. Going to shul is draining and I don’t always have kavannah (concentrate) well there. Davening (praying) at home can actually be much better on that score. Shacharit (Morning Prayers) are a lost cause, but the other services can be better, although I’ve got a long way still to go.

I am doing quite a bit of Torah study most days, and fairly difficult stuff at the moment, not fluff (Talmud, The Guide for the Perplexed, Aviva Gottleib Zornberg’s Torah essays which combine traditional Jewish thought with contemporary literary criticism, philosophy and psychology). Even so, I feel like I should do more, although maybe I don’t need to.

I am also aware that I’m going to have to compromise religiously with E when we get married, but I’m trying to keep in perspective the fact that the compromises will largely be on chumrot (stringencies) or, if not, will be for the purpose of shalom bayit (domestic harmony), which is a legitimate halakhic (Jewish legal) concern that can counter-balance some laws, even some biblical ones. I also think that E and I will grow together religiously in ways that I can’t manage alone e.g. I think she will help me get back to going to shul on Shabbat mornings and take more of a role in the community. I am also trying to stay aware that I can legitimately make compromises with myself over religious engagement because of my autism e.g. less shul attendance, pressuring myself less to daven, or daven with kavannah or study Torah when exhausted. I find it hard not to strictly “follow the rules,” (which may not always be actual halakhah, but the customs or even whims of the community) which may be another autistic thing and not halakhically necessary.

I do worry a bit about how E and I will cope if we have children, as we would like, given our respective “issues,” but I think first we need to see how we cope as a couple!

I do still have some Impostor Syndrome in different areas, particularly with my Judaism, but also feeling I’m not autistic “enough” or not coping with life “enough,” but I guess things are getting better overall.

Online Vigil

I was in the office alone today. Work was mostly boring. I dealt with a couple of phone calls, including one call with an elderly, somewhat hard of hearing woman. Between her hearing and my autistic phone issues, we struggled to communicate. I think she became a bit annoyed with me, but I was doing my best.

I spent the afternoon looking through invoices, trying to find old invoices of particular amounts for the bookkeepers. It was made more difficult as I only had a total amount paid; it could be for several smaller invoices. I desperately needed music or a podcast, but my iPod had died. It looks OK now I’ve recharged it, but I was surprised it died in the first place. I don’t usually let the battery get too low and one charge lasts a long time, which makes me worry that the battery is dying. I was planning on having another go at transferring music from my computer to my phone, which so far I have failed to do, at the weekend, but it’s become more urgent. Also, if I start listening on my phone, I could potentially get noise-cancelling headphones for the Tube.

At one point, I was in the toilet when I could hear a bunch of visiting teenage boys coming down the stairs outside. As there is nothing else down in the basement that they would have access to, I knew they must be coming to use the toilets. I confess I just hid in a cubicle until they were gone. My social anxiety does seem to have got worse post-COVID.


Having had a quick look at some of my old blog posts, there does seem some evidence that the headaches I sometimes get are caused by autistic exhaustion or at least that they occur a day or so after doing something autistically exhausting, although as I feel exhausted quite a lot, that may not mean much.


Last night someone started a thread on the autism forum for queer members to hold an online vigil for Brianna Ghey, the trans teenager who was murdered in a transphobic attack. I said that I wasn’t queer, but that people shouldn’t be murdered for being who they are, which I didn’t think was a controversial point to make. The person who started the thread then described me as an “ally” which I found didn’t quite fit me, although it was meant well. I guess “ally” seems like a political statement. I didn’t see myself as making a political statement about trans rights, which I find a complicated area to talk about. To me, all people are made in the image of God, and I try to respond to them in that light. I feel that’s a religious statement rather than a political one. I didn’t say any of this, but I guess it makes me feel again that I think about things differently to other people on the autism forum, and elsewhere. I’m also very aware that some people in the Orthodox Jewish community would be critical in the opposite direction, of making a statement that could be seen as an affirmation of trans identity, although I’m sure many others would share my sentiments.

Overwhelm (Again)

It’s been a quiet few days, so I haven’t posted. I had a headache on and off on Friday, not a bad one, but a persistent one despite medication. That contributed to my not going to shul (synagogue) in the evening, combined with the usual end of week exhaustion.

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was quiet. I did some difficult religious study: a bit more of The Guide for the Perplexed, focusing on an argument for the existence of God (largely irrelevant now, as based on an Aristotlean worldview that is no longer held); a complex Talmudic section that I will have to go over again to have any kind of chance of understanding it; and an interesting, if depressing, article I had printed out from Rabbi Jonny Solomon about the lack of interiority and spirituality in the Modern Orthodox community.

The fire alarm went off on Saturday morning. Rather disturbingly, even though it’s right outside our rooms, neither Mum nor I woke up, although I had a weird dream about the fire alarm going off. Dad at least woke up. Still, even though I knew I’m a heavy sleeper, it’s disturbing that it failed to wake us. What if there had been a real fire? I’ve never been so worried about not being woke…

I didn’t get much response on the piece I posted on the autism forum about being Jewish and autistic, just two comments, plus the first commenter responded to the second one. There was one interesting comment where the commenter said they’re autistic, queer and blind and that while there are a lot of queer people in the autistic community, they feel their blindness separates them from everyone else in a fundamental way and suggested that’s similar to how I feel about being Jewish. It’s not a perfect analogy (I don’t see my Judaism as a disability), but I suspect there’s a lot of truth to it in terms of feeling fundamentally different and unknown, even unknowable, in a community that prides itself on its tolerance. I guess it feels that some things, while not intolerable, are inconceivable to outsiders.

On the plus side, a couple of people friended me on the autism site, including the person I tried to friend weeks ago.

I woke up at 9.45am today (Sunday) and got up rather than going back to sleep, mostly because I was too hungry to sleep. It was good to get up a bit earlier, even if I spent a long time online before getting dressed. I feel I wasted the day, although I did manage to do several things, and I was fighting against low mood/depressive and anxious feelings for much of the time.

I did some Torah study. Unfortunately, it’s a very difficult parsha (portion) this week, mostly legal, with complicated and unclear syntax in many places and, to make matters worse, lots of places where Jewish law rules completely differently to the apparent literal meaning of the text, while still basing itself on it. I also managed to quickly put together a “Save the date” note on Canva (I hope to send it out before bed) and went for a walk. I didn’t manage anything else, although I would have liked to have done so, but maybe that’s enough for a depressed and anxious day.


E set up an online countdown timer to our wedding.  I look at it quite a lot. I’m glad we’re down to double digits in terms of days now, but ninety-eight days is still nearly three months. I miss E a lot. She’s hoping to get some idea of when she’s coming to the UK soon. It will be good when we’re in the same house, even if we aren’t sharing a bedroom/bed.


I’ve managed to fix the wedding Dalek, at least for now, but I worry it’s going to be too fragile to take to the wedding. Sigh.


I posted the following on the autism forum.

I struggle to advocate for myself in the workplace. I have to deal with things like using multiple documents at once or doing things with multiple steps which is hard with executive functioning issues. I have lists of what to do, but I still make mistakes sometimes, not least because I don’t always remember to look at the lists. I also have to make and take phone calls occasionally. Periodically, there are days when I have to make a lot of important and very difficult phone calls, which means dealing with social anxiety, spoken word processing issues, telephone issues and problems talking to people and remembering the correct responses or even problem solving on the spot. That doesn’t happen too often, thankfully, but it did last week.

I feel uncomfortable with this aspect of the job, but I’ve had long periods of unemployment and don’t want to risk losing this job, which in other ways is good (relatively high pay considering the hours and workload; a very understanding and laid-back boss). When I try to think of possible adjustments, autistic rigidity kicks in and I feel like there are no adjustments I can ask for that would be both reasonable and useful. I don’t feel that asking not to use the phone is not [1] reasonable, given my contract. I actually don’t know what reasonable adjustments I would like, I just know that I feel a certain level of depression and anxiety in the workplace, not to mention feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm. I just feel I have to deal with it somehow or lose the job.

I would be grateful for any possible suggestions.

[1] I actually missed out the crucial word “not” in the forum post and couldn’t work out how to edit it! I had to add a comment to clarify.