I woke up feeling super-anxious. I was diagnosed with anxiety a while back, but I’ve never been entirely convinced, as my general anxiety levels seem to fluctuate a lot and perhaps get “drowned out” by depression (as opposed to social anxiety, which I’m sure I have). Today I felt super-anxious though: about my job, about my relationship with E., about her work situation, and about the big thing I can’t talk about here. Trying to breathe and be mindful, I do feel a bit better. But the worries creep back in.
Other things I’ve been doing are being irritable (got into a silly argument with my Dad) and blaming myself for something, anything. Just feeling I’m a terrible person and everything is my fault, which I guess distracts from all the things that are not my fault and which are totally outside of my control.
I went to the dentist for a check up. Everything was fine, except that I’ve somehow slightly chipped one of my teeth, I don’t know how. But the discomfort when the dentist was scraping plaque off my teeth just reinforced my anxiety.
I tried to work on my novel and managed to do so for about half an hour, writing nearly 300 words, but I couldn’t concentrate. I felt like my head was going to explode with all the things in it. There’s so much I’m scared about. A lot of this is inchoate feelings and some of it is things that maybe should not be voiced. I texted my sister about some of this and she is feeling a lot calmer than I am although she is only worried about one of the things I’m worried about, albeit the biggest one. I just don’t know what to say or where to begin. It’s at times like this that I drift back to childhood, mentally, asking my parents for hugs, crying or taking refuge in favourite TV programmes.
I went depression group tonight. Coincidentally, the shiur (religious class) I usually go to on Thursdays got cancelled tonight, so I don’t need to message the group, but it will happen sooner or later, so it would be good if I can think of a non-melodramatic way of admitting to going to depression group. Depression group was helpful, but I came away wondering if I’d handled the interpersonal interactions well enough; in fact my autistic traits made concentration difficult at times and I felt a bit overwhelmed.
I’m trying to be kind to myself, but it’s hard, partly from personality, partly, I guess for religious reasons. These days, lots of frum (religious) Jews would say that it is good to be kind to yourself, particularly at times of stress, only to make small changes to your life at any one time and so on. The problem for me is that, although I’m not an expert, I haven’t really come across these attitudes dating from more than two hundred and fifty years ago or so (from the rise of Hasidism) and in many ways they have only become mainstream accepted ideas in recent decades (since the rise of neo-Hasidism, the ba’al teshuva movement and the rise of popular psychology in the world generally). I’m more open than most Orthodox Jews to the idea that Judaism changes over time, but my poor self-esteem makes me worry, what if this is a mistake God doesn’t want me to be kind to myself? What if I’m really bad at judging what I should be pursuing in life and He will keep sending me pain and suffering until I turn my life upside down? This is probably not true, but I have enough doubt to worry about things.
The Reference Guide to the Talmud arrived today. I’m looking forward to using it in my Talmud study. It explains a lot of Talmudic terminology. As well as using legal terminology, the Talmud also employs a precise vocabulary, so the term used to introduce a counter-argument will tell you whether it is going to be an argument based on a contradictory text or one based purely on logic. There are also grammatical guides to Aramaic (the language of most of the Talmud) and a section on historical background to the Talmudic era that I might read in full at some point, chronological tables of Talmudic rabbis, a diagram of the Second Temple, guides to Talmudic weights and measures and a guide to Rashi script (a type of calligraphic Hebrew script used primarily for commentaries on the Hebrew Bible or Talmud – I can mostly read Rashi script, but some of the letters are similar and I get confused occasionally). This is all fascinating stuff to a history geek like me and I hope it will help with my studies, both to understand the language used and so to understand the arguments and also to provide the contextual information that my brain needs to understand and remember abstract legal thought.
On the way back from depression group, I started thinking about the final scene of the BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (not in the book). George Smiley is with his estranged wife, Ann. Smiley is able to unearth the traitor in MI6, but not to understand human beings, particularly not his wife. “Poor George,” remarks Ann. “Life’s such a puzzle to you, isn’t it?” I felt like this tonight. I can at least sometimes understand things, concepts, ideas, words, stories, histories like the Reference Guide to the Talmud… but I struggle to understand people at all. I don’t know what people thought of me tonight, when I felt a bit overwhelmed. For all my struggles with the Talmud, I suspect I find it easier to understand than people.