Bad at Doing Nothing

I wanted to have an ‘off’ day as I’ve been feeling very stressed lately, building up to my shutdown (or whatever it was) on Monday. E also suggested I should do relaxing things, and I agreed with her, but, when I faced an ’empty’ day, I found the thought terrifying, which was interesting. I wanted to work on my next novel or do something useful like polishing the silver for my parents. I guess I could have worked on my presentation for the job interview that I may or may not attend.

I’ve already noticed that I find it hard to give myself ‘permission’ to read recreationally for long periods, rather just in small bursts during lunch or while travelling, and while I do watch TV most days, I usually do that while doing something else at the same time, even if just eating dinner or doing my pre-bedtime relaxation exercises, or at least have the ‘excuse’ of feeling too tired to do anything else. Not that I spend my whole time being ‘productive,’ far from it, but I spend time procrastinating online when it would be better to focus on work and then relax ‘properly’ at the end of the day. But even before the internet, I would procrastinate, not doing homework while I skimmed ahead in whatever novel I was reading, before going back to read it ‘properly.’ I’ve intermittently thought of setting time limits on my internet browsing, but that feels like more ‘rules,’ and in any case, I struggle to stick to it, because I suspect that procrastination in my case is a mixture of poor autistic executive function and (at least pre-E) loneliness.

I feel that I’m lazy, because I’m not particularly driven to do paid work, but at the same time I do feel pressure to ‘do things’ every day, as well as a different, more complex and deeper-rooted desire to write (blog, novel, devar Torah) and to read about things in the world around me. It’s hard just to do nothing. I used to think that was because lots of negative thoughts about myself would tumble out, but I’m now wondering if it’s simply because I interpret inactivity as ‘wrong.’ Even on Shabbat (the Sabbath) I find it hard to read for fun rather than to study Torah, although on Shabbat I can lose myself in thought for ages, albeit with a religious focus rather than just relaxing.

Hmm, there are a lot of ‘rules’ in the above passage about how I ‘should’ work and relax. I wonder if I should bring this up with my therapist when she gets back from her holiday.

Despite wanting to relax, I needed to write my devar Torah for the week as I wouldn’t have time tomorrow. I spent a little over an hour on that. It was not one of my most inspired divrei Torah. Sometimes a question or idea leaps out of me from the text of the week’s sedra (weekly Torah reading) and sometimes I find something in the sedra that lets me speak about a subject I want to talk about for other reasons (this can be somewhat contrived sometimes). But this week I was just stuck and had to look for ideas in the books of divrei Torah I own. The one I wrote was based largely on one of Nehama Leibowitz’s Studies in Devarim Deuteronomy.

I did postpone two scary phone calls I need to make. However, I still spent time complaining about a faulty second-hand DVD. The latter made me think about reconsidering the amount of second-hand DVDs I buy, but most of them are really cheap and probably 90% of them play fine, so I think they’re worth the risk. I also tried on two pairs of shoes and then tried to return the pair that didn’t fit, which ran into problems because of a mendacious returns information and incompatible technology. I’m not sure what to do about that. Given that I don’t like shopping, and hate returning things, these might not have been the best things to do on a supposedly relaxing day.

Other than that, I went for a walk and watched TV: The Blue Planet and Doctor Who. I don’t feel that I did much positive to relax overall, whatever that would mean, particularly as the episode of Doctor Who is not a favourite (see below). I feel in the evening in particular I was rushing around trying to do various things (returns, making lunch for tomorrow) and somehow the day just got away from me again, as it usually does on ‘quiet’ days. Plus I feel on the verge of worrying about various religious things I haven’t done, as we come closer to Rosh Hashanah and indeed to this week’s Talmud shiur (religious class). Maybe I need to be busy or do absolutely nothing at all, but not just a few ‘essential’ things.

***

Watching new Doctor Who season two (2006) with E brought us to Doomsday today, an episode which I hated on original transmission. This was unlike the rest of the season, which I liked a lot, but now don’t. Time has some equalised everything and now I think that the season is the least challenging (although probably not exactly the worst) of Russell T Davies’ four seasons as showrunner. The season in general and Doomsday in particular seem bombastic, sentimental and derivative (secret paramilitary organisations stealing alien tech were old hat even in 2006), but not totally unengaging.

Perhaps it’s autism, but familiarity often breeds not contempt, but cosiness and acceptance for me. While I’m never going to understand the people who see Doomsday as one of the greatest episodes ever, I found myself — not enjoying Doomsday hugely, but finding it reassuring and, as I said, cosy. “Cosy” is usually meant as abuse from the type of Doctor Who fan who insists the programme is Serious Adult Drama, but I don’t really believe that and tend to see cosiness as a strength, and something present in more stories than the Serious Adult Drama (SAD) Fan would think. Like other stories I once hated, it has turned into something I can occasionally tolerate and find “moments of charm” in, if not exactly love it.

E seems to have liked the “Daleks vs. Cybermen” aspect, something the original series was never allowed to do, as Dalek creator Terry Nation didn’t want to risk devaluing the Daleks by pitting them against an enemy they couldn’t defeat (other than the Doctor). I’ve always found it gimmicky, but I guess it was going to happen sooner or later.

Next up is a return to a certain junk yard in London 1963 as we watch Doctor Who‘s earliest episodes (at E’s request), episodes I will probably prefer to the 2006 vintage despite having last watched them a few months ago.

Volunteering, Relationships and Tea

I went volunteering again this morning. There are basically two groups of tasks, packing food parcels (mostly in the garage) and shlepping (carrying, but you probably knew this word) food parcels into different sized piles for different communities and then from piles into the cars that are transporting them. The packing is mostly done by women mostly around my parents’ age or a bit younger; the shlepping is mostly done by younger people, some I think working professionally for the organisation that organises the food parcels or subsidiary organisations, some possibly on gap years doing voluntary work. (A lot of Jewish teenagers spend a year in Israel between school and university. Some, mostly the more Orthodox teenagers, go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or sem (women’s seminary), but most teenagers go on organised programmes with Jewish youth organisations that mix volunteering, study and sight-seeing. I didn’t take a gap year at all.) None of these programmes are running this year because of COVID and I’m not sure what has happened to those teenagers, so I’m guessing that some of them are here, but maybe not. Anyway, the last few weeks I’ve been in the younger, shlepping group instead of the packing group. There isn’t really anyone my age, so far as I can tell. I guess they’re working. Probably most of the volunteers are unemployed or part-time, hence mostly very young or older women.

I still worry that I’m not helping effectively or that I’m just waiting around some of the time not sure what to do. I tried watching people today and I was glad to see I’m not the only one who sometimes getting things confused or has to check which bags go in which pile/car or is just hanging around not sure what to do. Still, I worry I do these things more than other people, and that my habit of repeating instructions either to myself or as a query, to help me check I understood and to remember, is annoying people. I assume if I was actually a liability they would ask me to stop coming, but who knows?

I feel a bit like every Wednesday I write a “I went to volunteering and I worry I messed it up, but who knows?” post.

I came home hungry and tired. I spent the afternoon doing various chores, notably sorting out some issues with my bank accounts and purging a lot of old emails. I did about an hour of Torah study (Rabbi Lord Sacks’ commentary to Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) in his Pesach Machzor (Passover prayer book) is really helpful despite being short).

***

It was suggested in the comments section to a recent post that I should ask PIMOJ if we are “officially” boyfriend/girlfriend as I was assuming we were, but worried that PIMOJ doesn’t see it that way for various reasons. I was going to text her and drafted something, but I mentioned it to my parents and they said it should be done in person. I bowed to their opinion – given my lack of dating experience, I tend to be easily influenced by others regarding dating, especially as my brain is running a “I’m autistic, I don’t understand people and relationships” programme. So that will be hanging over me for a while, even if I get the courage to ask her and if she says yes. I think she will. She seems keen, and for Chanukah she gave me (among other things) a book about being a Jewish husband, which seemed a rather big hint that maybe I missed a bit. But, as I said, I’m autistic and I don’t understand people and relationships.

Instead, I drafted an email to her. She had asked about my childhood. I had some difficulties at that time that I don’t really mention here, as they are not entirely mine to share. I wanted to share some of that with her although I’m not sure how she will react. She probably does need to know a little of it if we are going to try to build a relationship, not to mention having children of our own. I hoped to at least send that, but I’m too tired and don’t want to send it while I’m half-asleep and might say something I regret. I have the day off work tomorrow as J is isolating, so hopefully I can finish it then.

***

My consumption of tea has shot up over the last year or so. I seem to be unable to sit down to any difficult or unpleasant task without making a cup. It’s not the caffeine, as decaffeinated in the evenings is fine. It could be a procrastination tool (and probably is, on some level), except that once I’ve made the tea, it does genuinely seem to help. I don’t make coffee so much, just one cup at breakfast and sometimes a second (and, shockingly, a third one day recently) if I feel really tired.

Hyperfocus, Procrastination and Spies

I was able to spend longer on Shacharit (morning prayers) yesterday and got a lot out of it. I wanted to do the same today, but struggled to get up and get going again, feeling tired after yesterday. I’m glad the emotional symptoms of depression are largely (although not entirely) gone, but I wish the physical symptoms (oversleeping, lack of energy) would go too as they really stop me living the life I want to live. I struggle to understand why one has gone and not the other (autistic burnout is a possible explanation, or partial explanation). That said, I did get up a bit earlier than I had been even on work days, and spent a bit longer on Shacharit, even if not as much as I would have liked.

I felt very tired on the train into work and was unable to do much Torah study. It was hard enough to stay awake, and it took two cups of coffee at work (after an earlier one at breakfast) to wake up enough to work adequately.

Work was OK. I was doing something that was not, in the abstract, particularly interesting, but I got involved in it. I know I feel negative sometimes about the presentation of high-functioning autism as a positive thing, but maybe I do have the ability to focus on things that are not so interesting. I do still worry about making mistakes. I feel that I am less meticulous than I used to be, and I don’t know why. It occurred to me today that maybe my anxiety about making mistakes is actually causing me to make mistakes.

I did also realise that procrastination for me is more about anxiety than boredom. When I started the task, I was daunted by it and worried that I would mess it up and I was easily distracted, but as I got hold of what I had to do, it became easier to focus on it.

***

I dreamt last night that I was with one of my shul (synagogue) friends and realised he was abusing his wife and children. I woke up feeling guilty that I could think that about him even on an unconscious level (he’s a nice person and I’m sure he treats his family well), but I also tried to work out what my mind was trying to tell me. My best guess is that I’ve had a break for a couple of weeks from my novel, which deals with themes of domestic abuse, and my unconscious is sending me a message to get back to work.

***

I seem to be on a spy kick at the moment. James Bond, writing about John le Carré yesterday and now I’m watching one of my Chanukah presents, the DVD of The Sandbaggers. This is a 1970s TV spy drama. I heard about it years ago, but only got around to checking it out now. It’s my sort of spy drama, low on violence and action, but with lots of politics (Cold War geopolitics, but also internal politics in Whitehall), jargon and strong characterisation. I’ve only seen the first two episodes, but they were very good.

That makes three strong “new” (to me) TV series I’ve seen this year: Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, Twin Peaks and now The Sandbaggers. I’ve also dated two women and found a job, (re-)started volunteering and got to a much more stable place of mental health. Dare I say it, I think my 2020 has actually been better than most people’s. Even the biggest personal shock/worry – Mum’s cancer – turned out alright (cured), albeit with the usual caveats about worrying about cancer returning.

Writing Again, and Therapy

I went (on Zoom) to a time management at work webinar this morning. I thought it might be useful for general life as well as work and it was free so I thought I might as well go. I found that I knew a lot of what I was told, which in a way is good because it shows I’m doing the right sort of things. It was good to hear that everyone is busy, everyone procrastinates and so on.

I struggled to get down to work on my novel in the afternoon. I hadn’t worked on it for a while because of Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and preparing for job interviews, so it took a while to pick up the thread again. I worked on it for a while. I am not sure how much actual work I did and how much procrastination (and, to be fair, how much being called away by my parents to help them with things). I did some editing and rewriting, perhaps the first bit of significant rewriting. The goal was really just to sit down and resume work on the manuscript for the first time in a month or so; the actual time spent and quality of output was not as important as just bringing it back into my life.

I had therapy, which was exhausting. I’m seeing my therapist once a fortnight now, as things felt reasonably stable; I still want to check in and talk regularly, but I don’t have so much to say. Even so, it can be a struggle to talk for an hour. I just don’t have much new to say, but I need that first fifteen or twenty minutes when I can just offload and everything comes rushing out. I think if I move to monthly sessions, there will be too much of a build-up of things I want to say in between sessions.

I find therapy is as much about letting me see things differently for myself as the therapist saying things that make me see things differently. I realised today that I should focus on the number of things I do every day (a lot) rather than the time spent on things, because somehow saying “I did two hours of job applications, one hour on my novel, half an hour of Torah study” seems less than “I did job applications and worked on my novel and did Torah study.” It’s like once you put a number on it, it can never be enough. Plus sometimes I do a lot of tasks that don’t take up much time individually, but do build up cumulatively.

I still have times of depression during the day, including today, where at times I felt that I wanted to cry, but fortunately these times tend not to be long lasting. I spoke a bit in therapy about trying to be more present-focused as a way of getting out of these depressed periods and also about seeing this way of dealing with depression by being present-focused as a process to learn rather than a skill I either have or don’t have.

I went for a walk right after therapy, as the rain (which had been heavy during therapy) had stopped and I didn’t know when it would restart. I managed some Torah study too, a reasonable amount considering how busy the day was. So it was a fairly busy day.

I’m Only Sleeping

I didn’t sleep well last night again. I thought/hoped I would sleep better now the interview is out of the way, but obviously not. First I couldn’t get to sleep, although I felt incredibly tired. I think I didn’t have enough “introvert alone time” after “peopling” for so long. Then I woke up about 5.30am feeling anxious. I can’t even remember what I was anxious about, although I know it was connected with the other job interview, the one I had last week and haven’t heard back from yet where I wanted the job more than the job interview I had yesterday. I think I was worried about being able to take off Jewish festivals and “early Fridays” in the winter when Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) starts early. I did eventually fall asleep again, and slept through until gone 10.30am and still woke up exhausted and burnt out. I don’t know if it’s depression, autistic burnout or medication side-effects (or a combination of the three) that makes me so tired in the mornings, but it’s hard to know what I can do about it. I know this increasingly feels like a sleep/burnout blog, which I guess is good, as it means the depression is less of an issue during the day and my other autism and social anxiety symptoms are under control (albeit probably because I’m not doing much that is social), but I’m not sure how interesting it is for anyone else.

***

I try not to use the word “triggering” regarding myself, as I feel that it trivialises the term for people who really have c-PTSD (just as I don’t like people saying they’re “depressed” when they mean vaguely down, or they’re “OCD” when they mean they’re neat and tidy). Still, some things are more likely to upset me and start negative thoughts than others. These upsetting thoughts can be vaguely obsessional, in the correct sense this time of being hard to get rid of, spiralling in on themselves and making me anxious and agitated. These kinds of thoughts tend to come from newspapers, news sites and the dreaded Twitter (Twitter is a bit like swimming in raw sewage that occasionally tells a good joke). I’m most vulnerable to these types of thoughts when feeling burnt out and mildly depressed… but I’m more likely to encounter these things when procrastinating (online or leafing through the hardcopy newspapers at home) because I’m feeling burnt out and mildly depressed, as happened today. I actually coped OK with coming across them today and dismissed said thoughts reasonably easily, but it can be difficult sometimes.

I probably should delete my Twitter account, just as I deleted my Facebook account seven years ago, but I think I would still be able to see other people’s Tweets, which is the dangerous bit and I have vague thoughts that I could use my Twitter account to job hunt or join in with Doctor Who fandom, although if I avoided doing either of those two things during lockdown, the likelihood of doing them afterwards seems very remote.

***

Achievements: after a lot of procrastinating (see above about the risks of this) I wrote a first draft of this week’s devar Torah (Torah thought). I managed to write a thought for every week this year, excluding a couple of weeks when Yom Tov (festivals) fell on Saturday and the regular Torah reading was postponed. The thoughts were about 600 to 1,000 words long, which is longer than it sounds (for comparison, I think most of my blog posts are around 1,000 words), and I do try to do some research for them rather than just rely on secondary sources; even if I find something in a secondary source, I like to trace the reference back to the original source in the Talmud or the Midrash or whatever, if I can find it and if my Hebrew/Aramaic is up to it (Sefaria.org is a blessing).

I didn’t manage a lot else. The main thing was a half-hour walk. I did some Torah study – as yesterday, listening to a shiur (religious class) for fifty minutes or so as I was too depressed to read much. Even so, I struggled to concentrate and drifted in and out of it. I think I should consider listening to shiurim more on days when I feel depressed and/or burnt out, although I need to work out how to get shiurim from YU Torah Online on my phone or ipod.

Otherwise, I watched TV: another episode of The Civil War (after talking of gore here the other day, there were some graphic photographs of wounded soldiers that I couldn’t look at) and I’m about to watch Star Trek Voyager.

EDIT: I forgot to say, I had dinner in the sukkah with my parents and two of their friends. I feel more comfortable with these friends than with some others, but I still was really only eating with them so I could eat in the sukkah. It started raining heavily after a while and we all went in; fortunately I had just about finished my pizza and went upstairs.

“Eaten By the Monster of Love”

Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK.  I slept too much again.  I did a bit of Torah study and not much else, not even much secular reading, although I finally started The Islamist, Ed Husain’s book about his experience as an Islamic fundamentalist, and why he finally left radical Islam.  It looks interesting, but serious, and I’ve been putting off starting it for several days (or years, if you consider how long it’s been on my shelf, but days since I told myself I would start it).

I was somewhat worried about whether I’ve made a bad idea with JDate.  It was a lot of money to subscribe.  I think I can cancel my subscription up to Tuesday.  I’m not sure whether to do it.  I think the money is less a problem than the fact I did something impulsive, and when I do that, I always second-guess myself.

There aren’t many frum (religious Jewish) British people on JDate.  Like, really not many.  When I browse, I only come up with a few profiles, even if I add in “traditional” Jews.  Actually, forget frum, there aren’t many British people on JDate.  I guess this is what it means to be a minority of a minority of a minority.  Do I feel up to another long-distance relationship?  I think there are more frum women on JWed, but that’s a site for people dating-for-marriage and I don’t feel I’m quite there, plus there’s still the limit on British people because of the small size of the Anglo-Jewish community.

Plus, dating-for-dating feels vaguely wrong, as I’ve said before.  I feel I should wait until I’m not depressed (which may never happen) or until I have a job or publish my novel (ditto) or until I have my autism assessment (why?) or…  I don’t know what.  It’s just easy to think of reasons it’s a bad idea.

My parents said to go for it.  My Dad says it’s a sign I’m ready to move on with my life.  I think it’s more a sign that I’m lonely, and that I periodically do crazy things when I’m lonely.  When I was growing up, when I used to procrastinate over something and then make a decision and then question it and start procrastinating again, my Dad said, “Whatever decision you made, it’s the right one.”  I think it was a quasi-religious statement about things turning out well (Dad is an optimist, not like me at all in that respect).  I just second-guess all my big decisions and then present them as moral failings.

I think some of the fear is that a lot of women on the site have posted very “glamorous” pictures of themselves on JDate, at parties or whatever, all made up, and I find that vaguely scary and off-putting, partly because “glamorous” isn’t really something I’m looking for, partly because I don’t think I could appeal to such a woman.  Mind you, my photo on there is of me in my dinner jacket after my sister’s wedding, just because it was a good photo.  You wouldn’t know that was one of two or three parties I’ve been to in the last ten years.

I suppose I should try to find something to write to someone on JDate tomorrow, or cancel my subscription.

Off to watch Doctor Who to try to cheer myself up…

Post-Success Depression and Negative Self-Talk

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

Telephone Anxiety

I had to make a couple of phone calls, both medical-related.  One to my psychiatrist try to resolve the question of where I can have my blood test at the moment because most hospitals are either not doing blood tests at all or are only doing urgent ones; the alternative is to travel to a hospital quite some way away.  The other call to the GP because I have a suspicious mole on my back that I’ve just noticed – itchy and I think new, although it’s hard to tell, as I have a lot of skin blemishes.  I’ve had two moles removed in the past and they were fine, but it’s more anxiety-provoking now with Mum being treated for cancer and with COVID disrupting everything, leading to autistic “new thing” anxiety.

I was experiencing very strong social anxiety before phoning.  I generally would experience that before phoning anyway, but it seemed worse than usual.  I really think lockdown has set me back regarding social anxiety.

I spoke to the psychiatrist’s secretary.  She went to speak to the psychiatrist and phoned me back to say I could have the blood test done in September, which was what the GP originally wanted.  Hopefully things will have changed a bit by then.

As for the GP, I was on hold for a long time and then was told that non-emergency appointments are only dealt with at 8.30am.  I suppose I could have known that, as that was sort-of the pre-COVID system (new appointments were only released at 8.30am and 6.30pm, which is a really awful system on so many levels, particularly when dealing with people who may not be keeping straightforward hours), but it wasn’t clear from the surgery website.

It feels like almost every interaction I have with GP reception staff ends with me feeling stupid.  That’s an exaggeration, but does it happen a lot.  I think a lot of the receptionists at the practice are just bad-tempered and I internalise their mood and turn it against myself.  I do dread contacting the surgery now, which is not good.  It took a huge effort to phone today; I can’t imagine how it will feel tomorrow.  The doctors are really nice there, so I don’t want to change practice, but getting past the “gatekeepers” can be a challenge.  They mess up prescriptions and the like a lot too.  Coincidentally, a friend posted on his blog to say that even pre-COVID, a lot of doctors’ receptionists seemed to be trying to stop anyone from seeing a doctor, which is sadly my experience too.

***

Aside from the hour or more that I spent doing that, it was a good day.  (It didn’t take me an hour to phone, but it took a long time to psyche myself up to doing it and to calm myself down afterwards.)

I worked on my novel for about an hour and three quarters.  The writing flowed easily for the first hour, but the second part was harder, and I ended up procrastinating online.  I think I should try to split my writing time into two chunks with a break in-between in the future.  I did write well over 1,000 words, which was good.  I did another fifteen minutes or so after dinner too, to get up to two full hours, which was also good.

I went for a walk after that.  I found I was ruminating on being single and the fact that my therapist said that I should widen my dating pool to include less religious women as otherwise I was likely to struggle to find someone kind and understanding enough to cope with all my issues.  This may be true, but I have noticed that, since breaking up with E., who was a lot less religious than me, some (not all) of my religious anxieties have reduced.  I feel a lot less of a sense of inner conflict about how religious I am/should be.  So I’m a bit wary of dating someone else less religious.   That said, frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) women seem not to like me at all, so maybe I’ll have to date non-frum women.

I found I was sinking into despair about this and quite consciously tried to change my thoughts to think about my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week.  I wrote that when I got home, or at least I wrote a draft.  As is usually the case, I’m not brilliantly happy with it.  In particular, there was one Midrash (rabbinic expansion of the biblical text) that I think I interpreted correctly, but superficially; I felt there were depths to it that I could not reach.  Then I quoted the Medieval commentator Rashi, but couldn’t find his source; the references given didn’t seem to be correct.  It’s frustrating, but at 500 – 1000 words a week, my divrei Torah are never going to be exhaustive, so I shouldn’t feel too bad.

My partial regret for the day is only managing twenty minutes of Torah study, but that is in addition to spending an hour or so researching and writing my devar Torah, so that’s really not bad for one day.

Flow, Masks and News Media

The world is just so horrible at the moment that I want to steer clear of news and Twitter, but there is some kind of masochistic attraction.  I think it’s partly fear of not being informed about something important, even if there isn’t much I can do about it (like COVID), but mostly boredom and procrastination.  It’s easy to click on something and read it, and the news is always updating.  However, we seem to have abandoned the idea of analysis.  It feels like every media or social media outlet is just a list of things or people to hate, mostly things or people I have not heard of and have no opinion on until goaded by the media or social media to come up with one.

Mind you, when I gave in to temptation today, I did read an interesting and possibly career-pertinent Twitter discussion (actual discussion, not argument, rant or invective) about whether literacy standards in children’s books and young adult books have slipped over the last few decades.

***

Away from the real world, Mum cut my hair.  That’s the most noteworthy thing about today.  I’m glad not to have to go to the barber, given how anxiety-provoking that can be for me because of autism, social anxiety and tremor.

My novel writing flowed quite nicely today, the way I feel it “should” for a professional writer.  I wrote quite a lot, although towards the end I realised I’ll have to re-order the sequence of events in this chapter a bit to make them flow better.  I’m also reconsidering the ending of the story, which is a slightly nerve-wracking thing – I’m not entirely sure where I’m going now, when previously I thought I knew.

I went for a walk to pick up my prescription.  I wore a mask because I was going to the pharmacist.  I still can’t get used to wearing it and I’m dreading when I have to use public transport again.  I suspect that they will be around for a long time.  Even if the official requirement to wear a mask on public transport is lifted, I am guessing people will still wear them out of caution and a kind of politeness.  Who knew that rush hour on the Tube could get more depressing and uncomfortable?  Then again, given what happened when lockdown regulations were eased last week, maybe I’m wrong about that.  Maybe everyone will just go crazy and mask-free.

I managed quite a bit of Torah study today too, including Tehillim (Psalms) in Hebrew and Mishnah.  The Mishnah’s point seemed straightforward, but as usual the commentary made it seem more complicated until I couldn’t understand it all, which is not good.  I spent some time thinking about what to write in my devar Torah (Torah thought) for this week.  I admit I’m finding it a bit harder than I expected to find something to write about for 500 to 1,000 words each week.

***

I was feeling quite self-critical last night and this morning.  I had an interaction elsewhere on the internet that I felt went badly, which may have been catastrophising.  This led me to over-generalise that all my interactions go badly.  It’s easy to think that I can’t cope with interacting with people in general.  It is true that sometimes I try to say the right thing and fail, but I need to focus on the fact that that does not always happen.  It is more correct to say that there are certain types of interaction that I handle badly, but I’m not sure what I can do about that.

Otherwise, my mood was reasonably good today, but I feel like there’s stuff bubbling under the surface that might come up soon and I’m not sure what that’s going to feel like.

***

I realised that I’m not thinking about E. much.  In a weird way, I feel guilty that I’m mostly over the ending of the relationship.  I felt like it  (the ending of the relationship) should have affected me more.  I don’t think it means I didn’t care about her, or that the relationship wasn’t real, just that I realise it was not really possible to save it the way things turned out.  I think I also worry more about bad things that might happen before they happen; once they’ve happened, I can generally deal with them.  If only I could channel some of that emotional energy back in time to before it happens and stop the worrying in advance.

I am still trying to work out if E. and I could still be friends, if that is sensible or something I want.  I definitely lack friends at the moment and would benefit from another one, but I worry about us being sucked into an unending on/off relationship, plus if I do ever end up dating again within the frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) community, having close female friends will probably not go down well.

It’s hard not to endlessly probe at the, “Will I ever be in a lasting relationship?” question, although I wish I didn’t.  That’s part of what I mean about agonising over relationships before they’ve started.  It is, I suppose, the emotional equivalent of probing a painful tooth.  No good can come of it, yet it’s compulsive.

Darker Than Expected

I struggled to get going again.  It’s difficult.  Once I get going, I’m OK, but I really struggle with depression, exhaustion and motivation for the first couple of hours that I’m awake.  Today I was missing E. a lot and feeling quite overwhelmed and depressed.  Once I’ve had breakfast, got dressed and davened (prayed) a little bit (only a fraction of the morning prayers, and sometimes skipping straight to the afternoon ones because I’m too late for the morning) I do tend to feel better, but even then I don’t feel 100% until after lunch.  Even when I was working full days I had a similar situation.  I had to rush out in the morning and I managed that OK, somehow, but the mornings at work would pass slowly and not always terribly well, bolstered by coffee, and only after I had eaten lunch would I feel that I could really do any good work.

Then I wasted far too much time at lunch trying to answer one of the questions in the Doctor Who Magazine crossword and failing to get it.  I can usually answer about three-quarters of the clues fairly easily, others with some difficulty and a few I need to look up online, but I was really stuck on one today, even after looking at a couple of scenes from the story in question.  This sort of thing really irritates me.  I’ve only been unable to find an answer once or twice before!

I procrastinated a lot in the afternoon, partly at least because I kept getting hit by waves of anxiety and depression.  I did eventually manage to email the Amazon seller I bought the broken DVD box set from that I mentioned yesterday.  I also emailed four psychotherapists to ask if they have client vacancies and if they charge lower rates for the unemployed.  One replied promptly by email, which was good.  Another phoned me, which was not good!  I dislike talking on the phone at the best of times and I was taken by surprise, which meant my anxiety level shot up.  Then he tried to get me to commit to an initial appointment, when I was hoping to compare the different fees, but obviously I didn’t want to say that to him.  I asked for time to think.  Still, I guess it’s good to know he could see me next week if I want.  I felt that he was a bit pushy, but maybe that was because I was so anxious.  I’m not sure if I really want a male therapist anyway; I seem to be able to open up more to female mental health professionals than males, although there have been exceptions.

I tried to get back to work on my novel, but procrastinated and then got roped into helping my parents with some stuff.  I did eventually manage about thirty minutes of work on the novel, redrafting a chunk previously written in the first person into the third person.  It seems to work better that way, leaving questions for me about how to write the rest of the book.  I also went for a walk for thirty-five minutes or so.  Even when walking I drifted into negative emotions, particularly anxiety and depression, despite listening to a podcast for distraction.  I did manage twenty-five minutes Torah study too.

Writing this down, I see that I achieved quite a bit, but would have liked to have done more Torah study and novel writing.  I also feel like I’m struggling a bit with emotional regulation at the moment, inasmuch as there are a lot of strong, difficult and sometimes conflicting emotions in my head, but I lack the ability to get rid of them or do much other than acknowledge their existence.  I’m struggling to just sit with them.

I wasn’t aware of this so much during the day, but looking back Mum has been struggling a bit today and I think that was also in my mind on some level and adding to the anxiety and depression.

I watched Star Trek Voyager to unwind, but it was unexpectedly dark.  Basically, the holographic doctor wanted to learn to experience family life, so he made a holographic family.  But he made them too sickeningly perfect, so one of the other characters introduced some changes and random program elements, which meant that his wife now had a life aside from pleasing him and his kids were now rebellious.  So far, so good and I thought we would stop there with the holographic doctor having Learnt An Important Lesson Today About Real Life (not coincidentally, Real Life was the title of the episode).  Except there was another quarter of an hour left, and his daughter rather shockingly had a fatal sporting accident and he had to deal with that, which was quite a lot darker than I needed today, or than the previous three seasons of the programme had led me to expect.

After this I had my daily call with E.  I do find it frustrating that I can’t be there in person for her.  We both want so much to have a ‘normal’ relationship without coronavirus and without the Atlantic Ocean being in the way.  But, at least we have Skype and WhatsApp, without which we really would be too far apart.  I can’t imagine having even an email long-distance relationship, let alone an old-fashioned one via letters (taking weeks to cross the ocean in a steamer, no doubt).

***

I find it increasingly hard to deal with all the applause and plaudits for the NHS.  Today we had the weekly applause for the NHS and carers as well as the slightly bizarre Doctor Who thank you (also: Jo Martin is a ‘real’ Doctor, but Michael Jayston isn’t? Hmmm…).

I acknowledge that NHS staff are doing a huge amount at the moment, and some have become ill (including my sister’s former flatmate) or even died as a result.  At the same time, I can’t forget the often appalling way I feel I have been treated over the years.  In my experience, there is a big difference in quality between NHS psychiatric care and care in other front line areas like accident and emergency or oncology.

I feel like a child whose father’s appearances in his life were erratic, unpredictable and highly variable in quality suddenly seeing his father lauded as a diligent, conscientious and a great man.  It is hard to deal with the dissonance.

Autism and Gear Shifting

I’m still getting up at 11am, which is late, but earlier than previously, but getting going is proving much harder.  I have so little energy and motivation, even after breakfast.  I try to avoid going on my computer before getting dressed, but then I just check emails and blogs on my phone.  It’s especially hard at the moment, as I’m not listening to music because of the Jewish semi-mourning period of the Omer, when we don’t listen to music, even though music helps to motivate me.  To be honest, there is a heter (permission) for depressed people to listen to music in the Omer, and I do use that heter at times, but primarily when my mood is low, not when I’m lacking energy, which is silly because lack of energy is just as much a symptom of depression as low mood.

***

I spoke to my rabbi mentor today.  He was glad things are going well between me and E.  I opened up about some of my fears about the relationship, not specific fears so much of a sense that something will go wrong, that something always goes wrong for me and that God wants to continually test me rather than let me be happy.  We spoke about this in the context of my difficulties with bitachon (trust in God) and my tendency to worry in general and also about the way that in the last week or two I’ve been trying to re-frame my understanding of my life to see that it can be seen as a series of achievements and positive events and not only as failures and negative events.

Unfortunately, after speaking to my rabbi mentor, I lost focus.  I meant to continue my search for a therapist, but ended up drifting into researching and writing my devar Torah (Torah thought) for the week, which was not exactly intentional.  I have at least nearly finished it now, although it needs some polish and I need to look something up.

It’s interesting, I think that since my teens I’ve had problems shifting tasks.  Once I’ve done one thing, it can be hard to change and go into a different task.  It’s only relatively recently that I’ve learnt that this is a classic autistic trait.  Although I can be a fairly driven person, and at university before depression I was quite capable of working long days, including working late into the night even with no work due the next day, since my teens (at least – I can’t really remember earlier) I’ve had this problem with procrastination, getting down to work and changing tasks – things that involve “changing gears” from one mode to another.  Strangely, it never affected me at school.  I don’t know if that was willpower or if I used the routine and mini-break of “pack books and stationery; dismissed from class; leave classroom; walk to next class; wait for teacher (talk to friends); file into classroom; unpack books and stationery” to end one task and reboot.  I did struggle with attention for my homework at weekends (I know all teenagers do, but still), so maybe that routine and movement to a new location really did help.  I’m not sure how I could replicate it though.

I struggled with this in the work world, particularly manning the issue desk when I was working in a further education library, as I would be doing some work, then get interrupted by someone borrowing a book; go back to work, then get interrupted by someone needing help finding something or with the photocopier and so on and I really struggled with that.  When someone turned up to talk to me, I would often go completely blank for a second, as if my brain was literally rebooting.  I think my line manager noticed and that was why she was dissatisfied with my work.

And then I stopped to write this (to get it out of my head) instead of Getting On With Things…

***

I did eventually get on with the therapy hunt.  I still feel pretty overwhelmed by it and think the names I’ve picked out are almost totally random.  OK, not totally random, but still fairly random and arbitrary; likewise my decision not to look any more for now.  I picked four names from the nine or so I’d found to email about prices (specifically if they offer concessions to the unemployed, as otherwise I can’t afford it) and availability.

I also went for a longish walk with some shopping and listened to another Intimate Judaism installment and was feeling somewhat more focused in the evening.  I had planned to do more therapy hunting after dinner, but while eating I was watching Life on Mars and now the DVDs are jamming on the laptop DVD player as well as the TV one and they crashed the DVD drive.  I wonder if it’s some kind of fault from the factory, although there are what may be scratches on the discs.  I guess this is the downside of buying cheap second-hand DVDs online.  I’m going to have to return them and buy replacements.  Annoyingly, I managed to get these very cheaply, but the copies currently available on Amazon are more expensive..

***

I mentioned that I’ve been writing a short story lately.  I finished it and I’m thinking of putting it in a password-protected post so that some people here could read it.  If you’re interested in reading it, please comment on this post and I will post it on a locked post and email you the password.  I would give the to anyone who comments regularly and maybe also to some people who ‘like’ my posts a lot, but don’t comment, if I think they’re real people and not spammers.

Post-Yom Tov Post

I’m breaking with my usual post-Yom Tov (festival) habit of trying to catch up on blogs and stuff in the hope of getting to bed before 2am.  For the same reason, this is going to be more of a summary of the last three days than a blow-by-blow account.

The shortest version is that the first two days (Yom Tov proper) where an emotional rollercoaster, but I was broadly coping, but Shabbat (the Sabbath) was just too much and I was not good.  To be honest, three day Yom Tovs, or “Three Day Events” as my parents call them, are pretty draining for everyone even without COVID-19 disruption and without depression and OCD.

As for the more detailed version… well, the first two days I was up and down.  At times I was worried or depressed about some things, but mostly I was able to calm myself by reminding myself that my rabbi mentor told me not to worry about chametz (leaven food, forbidden on Pesach) smaller than an olive (although I know he is being lenient with me here, so it doesn’t always help) and by reminding myself that I’m not responsible for what my parents choose to do.  I think there was probably in the background the usual current worries: worries about my Mum, her cancer, and her risk of COVID-19 infection; worries about COVID-19 in general; worries about E.; worries about my relationship with E. (which is going well, I hasten to add, but is at a crossroads, which is exciting but also scary, or was at a crossroads until COVID-19 put our plans on a back burner).  And so on.

The sederim went quite well, considering there were just three of us, although it felt a bit weird.  Usually we would have about ten or so people in total one night; the other would be me, my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law.  This year it was just three of us both nights (“Why is this night so different?”).  We did have some more discussion than usual, which gives me an idea of how to do things differently in the future.  I had a migraine on the afternoon of the first day, but it had subsided by the second seder, which was good.  I still struggled to learn anything new at the seder, and to connect emotionally with the ideas of the night.  I still end up over-thinking things and not feeling them.  I wish I could get more out of seder, and out of Judaism in general.  The only real feeling of connection I had was via guilt and anxiety when I did something wrong (see below).

One interesting thing while I was eating the matzah (unleavened bread) was a strong feeling that freedom is being able to “just go,” which obviously connects with the story of the matzah in the Torah, that the Israelites did not have time to bake bread before leaving slavery in Egypt, but is interesting in terms of my usual procrastination and my awareness that my relationship with E. is going to require quite a bit of risk-taking and adventurous departures if it’s going to work.

I made some mistakes, in terms of forgetting to do a few things.  Most of them were rectifiable, but in opening some celery I had forgotten to open before Yom Tov I tore some writing on the packaging, a big no-no on Shabbat and Yom Tov (it’s considered erasing).  I felt very upset about this, and then managed to do it again the next day on something else (that was less obviously my fault though).  As I say, I felt upset, but I did manage to move on.

And then we got to Shabbat…  It was going well, and then there was an Issue.  There was an oversight in the kitchen (I won’t go into the details which are fairly complex) and potentially we had messed up the Pesach kosher-ness of some food.  I was 80% sure it was OK, but still couldn’t bring myself to eat it.  I didn’t argue with my parents, but they did eat it, and put it on our plates, which meant that the plates were now potentially problematic.  I tried to stay calm, but it was hard to do that with all the worries I mentioned above in my head plus the minor Pesach worries and now plus this.  I tried not to eat anything potentially ‘contaminated’ for the rest of the day, but it was hard to keep track of what cutlery had gone where and by lunchtime on Saturday I was de facto relying on my opinion that the food was OK (which at least had now grown to 90% certainty).

After Shabbat we emailed my parents’ rabbi and he said what I had thought: it was OK, we had just infringed a protective measure intended as an extra level of safety.  But it’s hard to spend Pesach every year wrestling with feelings that God is going to deny me any reward in the afterlife because of confused and panicked decisions I take at Pesach, especially as those are motivated more by a desire to avoid arguing with my parents than some selfish desire to eat chametz on Pesach.  I thought I was past this stage, but apparently not, or at least, not in this crazy year.

It’s hard to treat OCD at a time of the year when we are supposed to be worried about what we eat.  I suppose the analogy would be to someone who had germ contamination OCD and was trying to treat it with exposure therapy, but now has to deal with COVID-19 and suddenly being told to wash her hands all the time.

I also ate a load of junk over the three days and little fruit and veg, again because of a complicated religious/not-arguing-with-parents reason (I usually eat a lot of fruit and veg).  On the plus side, my biscuits tasted good, despite the cinnamon balls turning into macaroon shape and the almond macaroons ending up as a solid block that my Mum had to hack into smaller chunks.

Other than that it was the usual Yom Tov mix of over-eating, oversleeping, praying and reading.  My parents more or less forced me to go for a half-hour walk each day, which I needed.  I worked through a couple more Tehillim/Psalms in Hebrew and read more of Ani Maamin as well as more than half of a murder mystery set in a Haredi community, the first in a long sequence.  I’m enjoying it enough to stick with it to see how it ends, but I’m not sure if I’ll be reading any more.  It’s not really as interesting as I thought it would be, maybe because the Haredi community doesn’t seem so exotic; if anything, it seems less strict than my own community, which probably wasn’t the intention.

***

I should really go to bed.  I’m already violating my “No screens after 11pm” rule just to write this, but I’ve been struggling for the last few days with trying to keep going without being able to off-load.  I feel like I need to watch some TV to unwind.  I know it might keep me awake, but not relaxing will also keep me awake and I don’t really feel like reading any more.

Golden Ages

I’ve mentioned before my feeling that the “J-blogosphere” (the Jewish blogosphere) that I used to be a part of has declined in recent years.  Yesterday I came across this list of the “Top 50 Jewish Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2020”.  I was surprised that a lot of them are institutional rather than personal blogs, and many of the private blogs are defunct.  I don’t want to read too much into this, as I don’t know how the list was compiled and I think it’s just another online list, but it does reinforce my feeling that the thriving J-blogosphere that I was a part of (or at least, slightly more than a spectator to) ten or fifteen years ago has gone somewhere else, but I’m not sure where exactly.  Probably Facebook and Twitter.  It’s strange that I mourn it now, as I never really felt that I fitted in to it, but I miss particular blogs and feel a sort of wistful regret that I could express my Jewish identity online, and to talk with people whose Jewish identity, however defined (Orthodox, Reform, secular, Israeli, diaspora etc.) was more instinctive and natural than my own.  I don’t think I really appreciated that when it was available.

It occurs to me that I tend to get nostalgic for communities that I was never really a part of.  I participated in the J-blogosphere, but while I commented on some blogs and read others, few (no?) Jewish bloggers read my blog, so far as I could tell.  Similarly, I can get hugely nostalgic for the Doctor Who fandom of the “wilderness years” when the programme was not on air (1990-2004) and when fandom was a kind of club for people who found Mensa insufficiently geeky and obscure, mixing quasi-academic analysis with juvenile humour, yet my active involvement in fandom was limited both in scope and in time.

I don’t really know why this is the case.  Perhaps it’s easy, when looking at my current struggles with socialising, to look back to a “golden age,” but I don’t think there ever was one for me.  There were social groupings that I wanted to join, but I never really managed to infiltrate them (not really the right word, but in many ways exactly the right word).  But, as the Doctor said (Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs), there never was a golden age; it’s all an illusion.  Perhaps I should take that as my starting point when trying to make friends.  I am at least slowly making friends and getting known in my shul (synagogue), or was before coronavirus hit, albeit possibly just in time to move somewhere else with E.

Perhaps it’s related to my tendency to avoid categorising my religious, political and cultural opinions, to always opt for the “Yes/And” rather than the “Either/Or.”  To see myself as someone who doesn’t fit into convenient boxes, but rather who unites opposed points of view.  It’s a sense that I’m too big for anyone else’s categories, which is probably self-aggrandising, on some level, as well as providing an overly-convenient explanation for my failure to make friends (“They don’t understand my complexity!”).

***

Good news for the day: my oldest friend got in touch to say he’s read my non-fiction Doctor Who book and really enjoyed it.  He even paid me the biggest compliment you can pay a writer: he stayed up later than intended because he couldn’t put it down!  I feel really pleased about this.  I may ask him to write a review on Amazon or Lulu although he must be incredibly busy at the moment (he’s a rabbi).  Of course, my negative thoughts are already trying to discount his praise…

(This also means that I’ve sold at least one copy more than I thought, and than Lulu.com’s tally suggests.  Possibly Amazon sales take time to register?)

***

I actually got up early today.  Well, earlyish, for a Sunday, when I hadn’t slept well.  I got up just after 10am.  Considering I’ve been getting up around midday for weeks, this is an improvement.  I hadn’t even slept well.  I shouldn’t have watched Life on Mars late last night, as the blue light stopped me sleeping.  I just felt I needed to relax, but I should have read, or rather should have just read, as I read too.  I did eventually fall asleep, but woke just before 10am from a nightmare where my “Dad” (in inverted commas, as it wasn’t my real Dad, but some violent thug) was fighting with me.  I didn’t want to go back to sleep after that.  Maybe I need to have a nightmare every day.

Unfortunately it did take me a while to get going.  I felt tired and got distracted online.  Once I got going, the day was mostly taken up with Pesach (Passover) preparation: cleaning fridges and freezers and cleaning the hob.  I got very tired by the late afternoon.  It’s a continual source of frustration to me that I can only do much less work in a day than most people, because of lack of energy and depressive procrastination.  I would have liked to have done a whole day’s work today rather than just an afternoon’s.  Still, I did manage to go for a decent run in the twilight for about half an hour and had a Skype call with E. that was very enjoyable.  I think I laughed more with E. than I have since the coronavirus hit.

I felt less anxious about Pesach preparations today and more able to keep things in perspective and resist the religious OCD.  What the logic of the Jewish dietary laws, and the special Pesach dietary laws, might be is a subject of debate and from the outside I imagine that they don’t seem to have much logic at all.  Nevertheless, there is an internal logic to how it all works, an understanding of how food or its taste might be passed on that holds true across all the Jewish dietary laws.  As I understand this better, it becomes less a vague and fear-inspiring superstition (“I think that’s wrong, but I don’t know why”) and more something I can assess and analyse for myself and decide if it’s a problem without asking a rabbi.  I still have a long way to go, but I am getting better at this.

One thing I’ve learnt to look out for with OCD (I think it probably applies to any OCD with compulsions) is doing things multiple times.  The mindset of, “I think I’ve done this, but I’ll do it again to be sure” or simply “I must do this X number of times” with no clear explanation.  I fell into that a little bit today while cleaning, cleaning things multiple times, but I have become wary of it.  Similarly, I need to avoid checking things: asking questions of a rabbi when I know the answer or looking through old emails where I’ve asked questions to check the existing answer.  It’s very hard though.  Really the difficulty of OCD is resisting this desire to check things, whether it’s locking doors and windows, or washing hands repeatedly or checking about ritual performance.

The Return of the Indefatigable

Bureaucracy! is never defeated, merely subdued temporarily.  Today I got a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) saying that my medical certificate has expired and I need a new one.  If I want to keep receiving benefits (which I have not received at all yet) I am to send them the new one by 28 February i.e. three days before this letter arrived.  I am not entirely sure what I am supposed to do, given that the medical certificate I had before was apparently not a proper medical certificate.  I wish they didn’t have to make things so difficult for people who are already struggling with life.  This is one reason why I’ve become so sceptical of people who think that the state can and should take on so responsibility for so many aspects of life, because I don’t think it’s managing with what it’s got already.

***

Mum had a tube put in her arm today under local anaesthetic to prepare for her chemo later in the week.  Perhaps because of this, I suddenly felt really depressed this afternoon.  I think it’s a mixture of worrying about her and worrying about myself (whether I’ll ever get another job and what will become of me and E.).  My Dad has had a backache for two weeks now.  It’s not dangerous, but it’s left him in a lot of pain.  Both my parents being ill at the same time has just reinforced the “facing my parents’ mortality” thoughts and everything that entails, in terms of worrying about them dying and worrying about how I would cope without them (emotionally and materially, given that I can’t currently support myself).  I felt bad that Mum sorted out dinner as I was doing a job application, which had only taken so long because of depressive oversleeping and procrastination.  Then we heard that the son of my parents’ friends (who is younger than me), who has been fighting leukemia for years and years, is not doing well in his current battle, which just made me feel more depressed and morbid.

***

I spent about an hour and a half on the job application (including procrastination time, sadly).  I filled in all the basic “name, address, education, previous jobs” stuff, but I still need to write the actual “why I would be good at this job” bit tomorrow.

I tried to work on my novel for about half an hour.  I procrastinated a lot, but wrote about 350 words.  I realise that my mind is working while I’m procrastinating and there’s no real point beating myself up about not concentrating (within limits).  Unfortunately after about thirty minutes, I realised I was getting tired and the quality of my writing was deteriorating, so I gave up.

I spent ten or fifteen minutes revising Saturday’s Talmud shiur (class).  I didn’t understand it much better this time around.  I spent nearly another thirty minutes on other Torah study.

Other than that, I went to the doctor’s surgery to ask about getting a new medical certificate (which is a twenty minute walk each way, plus a lot of time waiting in the queue at the surgery).  While walking, I listened to a podcast that E. suggested I listen to about sexuality intended for religious Orthodox Jews.  I listened to the first podcast in the series and will probably listen to some of the others.  I wish I could have heard it years ago, as it probably would have helped me not internalise some of the guilt that I’ve internalised about my sexuality.

The post title was intended to refer to bureaucracy, although I suppose it could apply to me.  I’m not sure what I feel about that.

Xeno’s Chapter

Things are quiet.  I’m bored.  Who wants a referendum on leaving NATO?

Just kidding!  (I hope.)

Seriously, Shabbat (the Sabbath) actually was quite quiet, but that was good after this stressful week.  I am still struggling to get motivated to go to shul (synagogue) on Friday and Saturday afternoons.  I woke up in time to go to shul this morning, but decided I couldn’t face it and went back to sleep.  I think a lot of it is to do with not feeling like I fit in and being worried that if I say the wrong thing, I’ll be… not thrown out, but perhaps pushed to the fringe of the community (or the fringe of the fringe, because I feel I’m on the fringe now).  If I feel that uncertain about being there even on Friday and Saturday afternoons, where I do quite enjoy the services, it’s no wonder that the service I already struggle with is impossible to get motivated to go to.

Similarly, I thought of sending some friends my weekly devar Torah emails and then thought better of it when I thought of basing some upcoming essays on controversial rabbis or ideas.  This happened during my weekly Friday night insomnia, which I now think is anxiety-related, like my pre-work insomnia.

I did have a better time doing Torah study, managing about an hour and twenty minutes on Friday (very good), and mostly having the time/energy/patience to do it properly i.e. read Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) in Hebrew, study Talmud in Aramaic, look up words I didn’t know in the dictionary or the Reference Guide to the Talmud, take time to think about things and so on.  I do get much more out of Torah study when I do it this way, but I don’t always have the time, energy or patience to do it, and certainly I can’t take several thick books on the Tube with me.

My mood was rather better having remembered to take my tablets, but I’m still worried about a lot of stuff, including my relationship with E. (although, as she said, we’ve got to a stage where not trying to be together is as scary as trying.  We care about each other too much by this stage for “It’s complicated, let’s give up” to be a pain-free option) and the other thing I can’t blog about.  I’m not so worried about work, mostly because I’ve become hugely pessimistic about my job prospects and can see myself stuck doing odd jobs on short-term contracts with long gaps of unemployment in between for the rest of my life.

I do need to move on with applying for benefits now I know I can work part-time and still claim ESA.

***

There’s a lot of noise from downstairs.  A charity my Mum is involved in does a quiz at home each year, basically a supper quiz where you get a group of friends together in a house and fill in the answers online, allowing the charity to save on overheads and have many more tables than would be possible in an ordinary supper quiz.  My parents always host a table.  I used to join in, but I can’t always cope with the people and the noise (they usually have fifteen to twenty people, all talking at once) and, anyway, to make googling the answers harder, the questions are mostly lateral thinking rather than general knowledge and I’m no good at those.  They gave me some unanswered questions and I answered one of them, so I guess I’m good for something, although I felt vaguely that I was cheating.

***

I struggled to work on my novel.  It was hard, given the noise from downstairs and the fact that my brain does not want to engage with the current chapter, which is based to some degree on the most difficult time of my life; like Xeno’s Paradox, I work on it and work on it, but only seem to get halfway there.  I worked for about an hour, but a lot of that was spent on procrastination.  I try to tell myself that my mind is working at those moments, ticking over in the background, but I’m not sure that it is.  I did at least almost meet my 500 word target.

I tried to work after dinner too, but I felt too depressed.  Guilt-tripping myself for the times I slipped up and wrote things here that I shouldn’t have written about my parents.  Stuff that should have gone into therapy or not been said at all, that I wrote down here.  And I invariably went back afterwards and deleted it, but anyone subscribing to my blog by email would have seen it.  I’m a terrible person sometimes.  I try to be a good person, but I don’t manage it, and I feel awful for those slips.

I tried watching Star Trek Voyager over dinner, hoping to come back to my writing refreshed, but it was one of those episodes focused on a character we’ve never seen before, which can be hard to get into, and about a Big Moral Dilemma, which was arguably too big to be dealt with in a forty-three episode in which several cast members are made up to look like aliens.  So my mood was, if anything, worse, and I didn’t feel like writing any more.

Ugh, I should write off the rest of the evening.  Watch TV, something more fun than the Voyager episode.  The Avengers or something (Avengers or New Avengers).

Went the Day Well?

I realised lately that I’ve been thinking/watching/reading a lot about spies.  Not real spies, but fictional ones: James Bond, John le Carré, The PrisonerThe Avengers.  That’s a lot of very different spy stories, both in term of tone (from escapist to realistic) and sub-genre (some are as much science fiction as espionage stories).  Still, always spies, even though it’s not one of the genres I’ve been most into in my life.  I’m not sure why this is the case, but perhaps it is a sign of a dangerous lack of trust in politicians and our democracy, that I’m worried that someone unsuitable will win the election – actually I’m fairly certain someone unsuitable will win the election, as I’m not convinced any of the parties are suited for high office right now – and worried that only the intervention of some undercover maverick agent could save us.  Perhaps modern politics induces in me a strong desire to punch someone that I need to channel safely lest I dangerously repress my emotions.

Otherwise it was a fairly busy day.  I Skyped E., or tried to, as my webcam wasn’t working and she had to make do with listening to me without seeing.  I later briefly got it working again only for it to stop again.  I’m not sure why my computer is not registering the in-built webcam as present.  My computer is slowly dying, but I’m trying to keep it alive as long as possible as I don’t have the money or time to think about getting a new one.  I may have to use one of my parents’ computers next time I need to Skype someone.

I spent some time working on the job proposal from last week.  I don’t know how long I spent on it.  Probably a couple of hours, on and off, but it was interrupted as I found it hard to concentrate and procrastinated online a lot, which I’ve learnt to interpret as a sign of anxiety about something.  In this case, I’m anxious about getting the job and not being able to do it well, or charging the wrong amount for my services, either being turned down for asking for too much or accidentally misleading people into paying me too much (this is possibly overly scrupulous of me).

I managed half an hour jogging, half an hour of Torah study and another half hour on my novel.  I would have liked to have done more of both, but I have limited time and energy.  I did make good progress with the novel, writing another six hundred words as well as making some amendments to existing passages.  I have discovered to my surprise that I’m a fairly intuitive writer.  I did write a six page chapter breakdown before beginning to write, but I increasingly find that I want to wander away from that; it’s a starting point, but as I write, new ideas suggest themselves to me or that weird authorly cliché that I never believed happens and the characters start driving the story.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ve learnt relatively recently that I’m not a great planner; I make plans, but struggle to stick to them.  Maybe this is the obverse side: I can be intuitively creative.

My sister and brother-in-law invited me and my parents to stay with them for Shabbat.  I had a lot of anxiety about going, for various reasons, but in the end I decided that it was a bit of religious OCD-anxiety and a lot of autistic nervousness about new situations (I’ve only been to their house three or four times and never stayed; in fact, I think I only stayed overnight with my sister once in the years when she was flat-sharing with friends before she got married).

And that was it, really.  I’m tired, but I feel I did accomplish some things.  It’s another late night though, which is more of a problem as I try to move back towards work and “normal” life.

Busy Day

I used my new SAD light this morning, although it’s too early to tell if it will do anything to my depression levels.  My sister and brother-in-law came for lunch along with my second-cousins and their young children.  I spent a lot of time playing with the children, particularly the eldest, who has some serious learning disabilities and sometimes needs more attention than the others.  I think she liked me, as she kept coming up to me and trying to get me to hold her unicorn toy or walk around with her.  I think I’m better with children in a one-on-one scenario than a group, which would suggest tutoring or special needs teaching rather then class teaching if I do choose to change career (which I am by no means sure about).  They were all here for about three hours and I was completely peopled out by the end.  I was struggling to stay around for the last half-hour, because I didn’t want to walk out as they were leaving, but it was hard to stay there.  I managed to avoid my religious OCD fears of food being contaminated vis-à-vis the dietary laws too, which were very prevalent when less religious family members visited in the past.

After they left, I subscribed to a whole bunch of job alerts and different agencies.  I also subscribed to loads of librarian blogs for CPD (Continuing Professional Development).  I don’t know how I’ll find the time, energy or headspace to read, let alone internalise, these blogs, but at least I’ll see them now, even if I delete or ignore them.  Subscribing to all those things took about an hour.  I’m nervous about the amount of stuff that’s going to build up in my email inbox every day; sometimes it feels like I spend the whole day skimming emails and deleting them.

I still feel that I’m not really a good librarian and am worrying about how I will reorganise the Jewish library about which I’ve been asked to make suggestions for improvement.  I’ve drawn up a basic proposal, but I really need another look at it before I can work out a detailed plan.  I also need to state my salary; I’ve found some tables on the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) website that will help, although it’s not easy to find an exact parallel role.

Other than that I did some long-overdue dusting.  I knew I wouldn’t have much energy after seeing family, so I listened to an online shiur (religious class) while dusting to get some Torah study in painlessly.  I should probably consider listening to shiurim for my Torah study more often on days when I’m too depressed to read much, except that I learn better from written texts than from lectures.

I also managed to work on my novel.  I struggled to write at first, not least because my protagonist was going to an Oxford student ball, something I deliberately avoided in my time at Oxford more or less for the reasons why my protagonist hated it and ran away.  I had to look online for some detail about what a student ball is actually like.  My imagination was probably somewhat limited.  I hope I haven’t made any schoolboy errors.  After a while I finally got ‘in the zone’ on this book and the words started flowing.  I wrote for about an hour and a quarter, writing about a thousand words.  I stopped more because it was late than because I was tired.  Hopefully this chapter is nearly finished, at least for a first draft, just needing proofreading and editing tomorrow.

I made myself feel depressed while working on the novel, inasmuch as it is somewhat autobiographical, and I was essentially channelling the feelings of loneliness and not fitting in that I had at Oxford and ever since, the desire to have friends and fit in, while feeling terrified of opening up to anyone for fear of how they would respond.  The feelings of being weird and abnormal when I’m just different and neurodivergent.

I had a quick look for publishers who accept on spec submissions of non-fiction books on TV science fiction (niche I know) who might publish my non-fiction Doctor Who book.  Most publishers seem to require manuscripts to be sent via an agent.  I’m not sure it’s a good idea to look for an agent for a non-fiction work when I’m planning on writing more fiction than non-fiction in the future.  This may be over-thinking things though.  I still haven’t ruled out self-publishing although I dislike Amazon and don’t really want to use them, even though they’re the logical choice.  I worry that my book doesn’t contain much original thought on Doctor Who anyway.  I could be procrastinating over this too.  I procrastinate a lot (you may have notice).  Procrastinate Now! as the joke goes.

Another Difficult Day

I’m feeling really depressed again.  I went to bed really late (gone 2.00am) because I had a small burst of energy and not-feeling-awful and did a load of stuff (working on my novel, Torah study, enquiring about a job).  I then slept for ten hours and woke up feeling exhausted and depressed again.  I’m concerned about managing to get to my “second career” conference on Wednesday, especially as I’ll be out late on Tuesday at shiur.

I spend ages procrastinating online, probably because I want to connect with people and to read interesting ideas, but I’m too scared to actually reach out to people or get scared off by the abusive commentariat on “free for all” sites like Twitter, so I read intelligent sites that don’t have comment sections like Unherd and Tablet Magazine.  I don’t know if I’d be willing to interact about religion; the Jewish blogosphere seems to have mostly died or moved to Facebook, so it’s somewhat academic.  I read some mental health blogs and sometimes feel I can connect, but mostly I end up posting here on what was described as my “whiny, self-obsessed blog.”

I went back to bed for an hour after breakfast.  I do this quite a bit.  I tend to think of it as being a depressed thing about not wanting to face the day, but I think it’s also an autistic thing.  Like a lot of people on the spectrum, I like feeling wrapped up tight in my duvet and find that comforting and reassuring.  I think going back to bed in the daytime lets me do that as an autistic comforting thing as well as just withdrawing from the day.  I did just manage to daven Mincha (say Afternoon Prayers) in time (the sunset deadline was 4.07pm today).  This looks set to be another winter where I barely see the sun.

***

I finished the benefits form I was filling in.  It was easier than I expected, as I don’t have to list my medical condition at the moment.  There’s another questionnaire for that later.  I’m dreading that one already.  It’s so hard to make clear how my life is impacted by depression.  If I say “I’m always tired, I can’t get up in the morning, I have negative thoughts about myself and the world, I have no energy, I can’t concentrate, I have no motivation to work…” well, almost everyone feels like that about work.  The difference is that I feel like this on days when I don’t work too, but they don’t ask about that and they certainly don’t pay you benefits for not being able to relax.

Now I need an appointment at a Jobcentre to go through the form and see if I’ll be allowed [sic] to go further with the application.  I also need an appointment with my doctor to get a medical certificate/sick note.  I don’t have one of these as I’ve been out of work for so long, and in my last two jobs I either didn’t mention my illness and hid it (not good, it probably made me worse) or had an informal conversation with my super-understanding boss (I wish that job had lasted longer than three months, but there wasn’t the budget to make it permanent).

***

Over dinner I spoke to my parents again about tutoring.  Yesterday they spoke to one of their friends who tutors teenagers for maths and who may be able to give me some ideas about tutoring.  I’m worried I’m going to essentially have to study again to do it.  I could probably do English language and literature without too much effort; a lot of it is about spelling, grammar, paragraphing, structuring an argument, creative writing and so on that you either know or you don’t.  I could read up on a few set texts; to be honest, as I’ll be marking and giving feedback, not writing the answers myself, I probably won’t need to know the texts that well.  Tutoring history would be harder though, despite it being my BA subject because my BA was a long time ago and, in any case, history is so vast that one can study a lot of history and still have significant gaps.  When I did A-Levels, the curriculum my class did focused on nineteenth century British domestic social change (public health, public education, female franchise etc.) and post-Napoleonic European political history down to World War II, although everything post World War I seemed a bit rushed, or maybe I just wanted to focus on the earlier section.  I just looked up contemporary curricula, and they can cover different periods, with stuff I haven’t learnt either at A-Level or university; to be honest, I’m not sure how much I can remember of what I have studied.  How much detail would I have to remember and how much would it be a case of making sure that my students can structure their answers properly and respond to gobbets of text in the appropriate way?  I’m not sure.

***
Scrolling through my WhatsApp contacts, I see I still have details for someone who I dated years ago and who dumped me pretty darn quickly when I told her I had mental health issues.  Her userpic is now a wedding photo, and her husband looks super-frum (black hat), which makes me wonder why she was willing to date someone like me.  I mean, it’s good for her that she’s married and in a way it proves that she wasn’t right for me, but I’m not sure what it leaves me feeling.  Not really envious and despairing the way it once would because I’ve given up most hope of getting married.  I think E. is the only person who could accept me, and possibly one of very few people who I could accept, but that doesn’t look like going anywhere any time soon and I’m not even going to bother looking for anyone else while I’m unemployed and this depressed.  I just wish I could cope with things better in the meantime.  I mean cope with loneliness and celibacy and worrying what will happen when my parents aren’t here to look after me, particularly if I never work full-time (or learn to drive, a bigger thing than most people realise, or remember from their teenage days).

***

I did manage to work on my novel for about an hour.  It was admittedly interrupted by online procrastination and blog commenting, but I wrote about 500 words, which is my target for one hour.  I also managed about thirty or thirty-five minutes of Torah study.  This all seemed impossible when I woke up today, as I struggled to get going and when I had lunch and tried to do things in the afternoon.  I guess this is positive, but I wonder if I do not push myself too hard sometimes, ridiculous though it seems to say that.

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be seeing you!

Muppets

I’m having some trouble with OCD thoughts again, albeit on a very small scale at the moment.  I’m not sure where this has come from.  I can identify the immediate trigger, but I’m not sure why I’m back in OCD thought-territory when I thought I was doing so well in recovery.  I hope it’s just the stress of being ill and preparing to go on a trip that I’m anxious about after a month continually interrupted by Jewish festivals.  I’m trying to stay on top of the thoughts, but it’s hard.

***

I’m struggling a lot with procrastination over packing today.  I did pack, but slowly and it’s fairly clear to me it’s because I really don’t want to go on this trip, but it’s too late to back out now.  Shabbat (the Sabbath) and all the bar mitzvah stuff is likely to be tough on me and I just have to do the best I can and hope no one gets angry or upset if “the best I can do” doesn’t correspond to “what others want/expect me to do.”  I can’t get hold of my rabbi mentor to meet him while I’m there either, which is upsetting.  I go to Israel every few years and always meet with him, but this time it looks like it’s not going to happen.  I’m actually worried more than anything else, as he’s not usually this hard to get hold of.  I hope he’s OK.

After Shabbat, hopefully things will be a bit easier.  We’re in a hotel tomorrow night and some kind of youth hostel (??? it has not entirely been made clear to me, but I think my aunt and uncle are renting a youth hostel to put 75 or so people in it) for Shabbat, but then from Sunday onwards we’ll be renting an apartment and if the worse comes to the worse, I can spend the morning or even the day there while my parents go off and do tourist stuff.  I’ve got books, and the latest Doctor Who Magazine had a special promotion of eleven hour-plus long Doctor Who audiobooks that I downloaded, so I can be occupied.  It will be a bit of a waste, but at least I would have done the important family bit.  Unfortunately, I can’t always read much when I feel depressed, and reading a non-fiction popular science book may have been a strategic error, although I’m taking a short story collection and a novel as backup.  The flight may be hard.  Fortunately I’ve charged my iPod.  I wish the latest copy of The Jewish Review of Books had arrived as it should have done (I need to chase that when I get home).

***

I finally started reading the latest issue of Information Professional, the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).  They send me this each month because I’m a member of CILIP (mostly to access their job vacancy listings) and I hate it.  The magazine just makes me feel so inadequate.  It’s full of librarians who are doing amazing, creative things with their libraries or who are doing lots of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and becoming Chartered Librarians or whatever.  I don’t do CPD.  It’s hard enough for me to do a job, or look for a job, with all my issues without having to do unpaid extra work in my free time, just in order to keep up with a changing workplace.  I know this is the reality of the modern labour market, but I simply can’t keep up with the kind of CPD that my peers from university seem to be doing to stay in their well-paid, middle class, professional jobs.  Likewise, I can’t come up with amazing projects in my library (even if I had one), like the article I was reading today about a prison librarian who started a film club that became a massive successful project a famous actor and director getting involved.  That’s just not how my mind works.

***

(The next few paragraphs are a bit of a rant, so if you aren’t interested in politics, or rather with people who are fed up with politics, you might want to scroll down beyond the next row of asterisks.)

One advantage of going away is avoiding general election commentary for a week.  There will be enough of that when I get back.  Sometimes a political party does something that makes you think, “I could never vote for them ever again, or at least not without a fundamental change of personnel and ideology.”  The things is… all the parties have crossed that line for me in the last few years.  What do I do?  Do I abstain?  Do I say I’m an anarchist and don’t believe in government and The System?  (I actually have a bit of an anarchist streak, but not enough to usually consider seriously acting on it.)  Do I swallow my pride and vote to stop the antisemitic party getting in?  It is hard to tell.  I spoiled my ballot at the EU elections earlier this year, but I’m wary of doing that and handing Jeremy Corbyn a victory.

I was brought up to believe that I should always vote for someone, because people died to win me the vote (a somewhat specious argument; as Oscar Wilde pointed out in The Portrait of Mr. W.H., the fact that someone was willing to die for an idea does not, in itself, prove that it was a good idea).  But the last ten years or so have shown how little influence most people have on politics.  Your vote might bring to power people who share your ideas, but it’s just as likely to bring in a coalition (literally or figuratively) who do a little bit of what you want and a whole load of what you don’t want.  Even Brexit, formulated as an ‘in or out’ question looks like ending up as a compromise Brexit that annoys Remainers by formally leaving the EU without pleasing Brexiteers by staying in line with a lot of EU legislation like employment and environmental law.  That’s without the feeling many people have that MPs see themselves and not the voters as the ‘adults in the room,’ and place their own consciences ahead of what the public voted for.  This is possibly the right thing to do morally, but surely requiring more discussion before becoming part of our constitution.

Much of the problem is that we seem to be moving from a political system dominated by two parties with clear winners and one party in power at any time (like the USA) to a system with multiple parties of varying sizes, no clear winners and coalition governments (like much of Europe) so it could be that with time this will seem less frightening and we will find ways to make our voices heard (or just lapse into chaos like Italy).  It’s true that Brexit has been damaging and difficult precisely because the views of most MPs, of all parties, were so out of sync with a dangerously slender majority of the public, making clear decisions difficult and it could be that with Brexit dealt with (hopefully, one day, maybe) the political wounds will heal.  Who knows?  I just know I’m not the only person in the country, or the world, feeling politically powerless and unwilling to engage in the toxic debate that engulfs just about every opinion these days.  It’s much easier, and better for my mental health, to leave the big political questions to my supposed “betters,” the people who care about this stuff and want to argue it, and just focus on my own life, the bits I can actually affect and change.

In Britain we have a tradition of joke candidates.  In the 2017 general election, Lord Buckethead stood against then-Prime Minister Theresa May, just as he had stood against previous Conservative Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major (albeit with different people inside the helmet each time).  Also standing against May was a man dressed as Elmo from Sesame Street, who I thought was a joke candidate, but was actually campaigning for child access rights for divorced fathers.  He got three votes, rather less than Lord Buckethead.

It did make me think that an official Muppet campaign could solve my political woes.  Who wouldn’t vote for the Muppet Party?  Their slogan could be, “Tired of useless muppets running the country?  Vote for the real Muppets.”  The Count from Sesame Street could be Chancellor of the Exchequer.  “I’m raising income tax 1%… 2%… 3%…”  Kermit the Frog could be Environment Secretary.  He could sing It’s Not Easy Being Green with Greta Thunberg.  The Cookie Monster could be Health Secretary.  He would make sure everyone has their five-a-day: chocolate chip cookie, digestive, garibaldi, bourbon, shortbread.  Fozzie Bear could be Foreign Secretary.  He could defuse volatile conflicts with bad jokes.  The Prime Minister would have to be someone with immense charisma and boundless self-confidence.  There’s only one possibility there: Miss Piggy.  If Donald Trump tries anything, she can karate chop him!  Kiii-yyaaaa!!!!!

***

Sigh.  My life still seems so unfocused and drifting, but sometimes – sometimes – it feels like things are moving forward or falling into place, just really, really, really slowly.  It’s like there are two big dramas, the one out there of Brexit and Trump and the economy and the Middle East and identity politics and a million other things and all the shouting and screaming and ranting that goes with all those things.  And then there’s the drama in here, in my head of me trying to sort out depression and OCD and social anxiety and autism and making friends and finding a religious community and sorting out my feelings for E. and a number of other things that I don’t talk about here.  And I can’t really do anything about the out there drama and I don’t really want to any more.  But the in here drama is maybe, possibly, slowly shifting, but it’s far too early to say where or how it’s shifting or what I can do to help it along.  It’s just frustrating that the out there drama tends to get in the way of the in here drama and trying to work that out.

Earlier today I thought I should be back in therapy, but now I don’t think that’s true.  I think I might have to go back to therapy one day, but for now there isn’t anything my therapist could tell me that I don’t already now.  I need to work things through somehow.  The only way I know to do that is writing, here and in the novel I’m working on.  Even that’s not a cure, but a catalyst for different thinking.  Maybe.  To be honest, I’m really not sure about this bit.  Writing has been disrupted a lot recently, by Yom Tov (Jewish festivals) and my cold and now my trip. Hopefully I can set aside some significant amount of time for writing my novel when I get back and we’ll see where that takes me.

Book Pitched

Not much to say today except that I’m a bundle of nerves.  I’ve got a job interview tomorrow and I just sent my first book pitch!  I pitched to some specialist science fiction publishers to ask if they want to publish my non-fiction Doctor Who book.  I feel so nervous…  The book pitch took longer than expected and I spent some hours on interview preparation too, plus I had a (routine) blood test this morning so I haven’t had much time for Torah study today; hopefully I’ll do some after dinner, if I’m not too anxious.  This hasn’t stopped me spending time procrastinating…

The Guidebook to Depressed, Autistic Life

I feel rather frustrated today.  Most immediately, while I was davening Shacharit (praying the morning service), admittedly very late, my Dad phoned twice and my Mum phoned once in the space of five or ten minutes.  Although they do tend to phone me a lot when they’re out (Dad was shopping, Mum was at work), three phone calls in ten minutes is a bit excessive, so first I got annoyed, but then I started worrying that something was terribly wrong and they were desperately trying to get hold of me to give me bad news.  I wasn’t very anxious, but I was a little anxious.  It was all fine in the end, but it’s left me feeling a bit on edge.

I also feel frustrated about my work life.  I obviously don’t have a job at the moment and on one level that’s frustrating; on another level, it’s a relief, which is probably an indication that I’m in the wrong job or at least of how anxiety-provoking I find the world of work, I think primarily because of my autism.  I think my mood is better since I’ve been out of work, which is worrying.  I’ve been trying to allocate time to job hunting, working on my book(s) and doing various chores that need doing, either regular chores I’m supposed to help with like cooking or various one-off things that need doing, but I’m finding it hard.  I spend too much time feeling lonely or depressed and/or procrastinating.  I feel very sluggish and depressed for parts of the day (I would say morning, but I tend not to wake up until mid-morning), which takes a chunk of useful time out of my day.  Then I stay up late trying to catch up on things.  Even so, the list of chores is barely touched and I don’t spend as much time on my writing as I would like.  I would like to spend three hours on job hunting a day plus an hour on writing or chores, and time on Torah study, prayer and walking (for exercise) each day, but I’m struggling with that, especially as I get exhausted so easily (not to mention distracted, sadly).  Today I managed to finish a piece of writing and submit a job application, but the actual amount of time spent on those things was rather short.

On the plus side, I think the general trend in my mental health is upwards.  It’s hard to notice because I feel depressed most days, particularly on waking, but I’m definitely not where I was when I was at most worst (2003-ca2010) where I was barely functional, if that.  My functionality is obviously a lot better and I have held down a number of part-time jobs, of varying hours.  I think my mood is generally better than it was, even if it is bad some of the time most days and even if it tends to get worse when I’m working (even with jobs I’ve enjoyed, I find myself anxious and depressed on the way in to work, sometimes to the extent that I can’t read on the train).  I don’t think I will ever not be depressed, though.

I think progress for me now is about managing (rather than curing) my depression, social anxiety and autism, as well as managing my religious obligations and family and social lives.  It’s hard as there isn’t a guidebook.  I have to invent the rules and adapt them as things change.  I’m might never have a full-time job or structured career and I may well never live the ‘normal’ frum (religious) life that is expected in my community of davening with a minyan (community) three times a day, doing extensive Torah study each day and participating actively in the life of the community.  I may never get married and have children.  Sometimes that all seems OK, but sometimes it upsets me.  I don’t want people to think I’m a bad person or a bad Jew for not having a career, not davening with a minyan and so forth.  But I think it’s more that I don’t want myself to feel that I’m a bad person or a bad Jew.

Maror Fressers

Unusually, I woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up.  I didn’t get much of an early start on the day, as I frittered away some time listening to podcasts on politics and antisemitism as well as trying to get rid of emails.  I use a free email site for Oxford graduates, but really they intend you to move quickly from the free site to a paid upgrade.  I’m reluctant to do this, but I am fast running out of free space now my email folders are filling up with work- and job hunting-related emails, sometimes with huge attachments.  (It’s telling that it’s taken me fourteen years to get to this stage, whereas their business model presumably expects most people to get to it within a year or so of graduation.)  I am not quite sure what to do about this.  I have a free gmail account with a lot of free space which is associated with my other (non-anonymous) blog, but I know if I switch accounts, some of my friends will miss the email telling them to update their address books.  Then there is the hassle of changing my details on internet shopping sites and the like (I could lose some spam, though).

This was all procrastination as I knew I had to set up some online accounts to try to get some freelance proofreading/copy editing work.  I started to do that, but then I started getting anxious, worrying that I didn’t know the proper procedures for proofreading and would mess it up, not being sure what to put on my profile, worrying I wouldn’t get any work because I have no experience or positive reviews…  I wasn’t hugely anxious, but it was a struggle to work on my profile page.  It turned into a struggle between hope and anxiety/procrastination.  I did email a friend who proofreads to ask for help, although I felt very stupid.  Suddenly I felt like I didn’t have a clue what proofreaders and copy editors do, beyond the most general outline.

I could feel the worries spiralling out like fractals in a way that I am familiar with from my OCD, where each answer leads to another three questions.  Being autistic and fearing the unknown probably didn’t help either; I wanted to know and prepare for every eventuality.  Soon I was drifting into self-critical thoughts, thinking that I’m not good at anything, I’m not going to be able to get a job, even that no one really likes me, feeling incompetent and unskilled compared to other people advertising proofreading and copy editing…  I ended up feeling really depressed again and not sure what to do.

I did complete a profile for one site in the end.  I might go on a couple of others too.  My friend was also really helpful.  So that is all positive.  In other news, however, I got two job rejections, for the job I was interviewed for recently and for another one that I quite wanted.

***

This evening I went to my parents’ shul (synagogue) for a Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) event.  I enjoyed it to some extent, but not hugely.  There was a good magician, but I was terrified he would pick on me to come up on to the stage to help with his act.  I also felt swamped by the number of people, most of whom I didn’t know, and by the noise.  I slipped out during the raffle to get away from it all.  But I think the real reason I was subdued was that, with a small war in Israel over the weekend, the festivities seemed a bit hollow.  They just seemed to show how far we still have to go.  I thought a bit about this story about my hero, the Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi).  I found the story here some time ago.  I edited it and tidied it up a little to read at the seder this year, although I didn’t have time to rewrite it totally into my “voice”:

One  year, the Kotzker Rebbe failed to pass out Maror [bitter herb, eaten at the seder in memory of the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery] to his family and those at the Seder.   The people around the table whispered to the Sochatchover Rebbe, the Kotzker Rebbe’s son in law, that he should remind the Kotzker to pass out Maror.   The Sochatchover in a light-hearted comment to the Kotzker Rebbe mentioned a disagreement in the Talmud whether Marror today is Rabbinic or Biblical.  The Sochatchover said to his father-in-law that I have a proof from the Rebbe that Maror is Rabbinic, because the Rebbe has not passed out the Maror.

The Kotzker responded to his son-in-law, you are correct and gave Maror to everyone.  Suddenly, the Kotzker declared in a loud voice, “Maror Fressers”, Maror Fressers translates into, People who indulge in Maror.  Due to the fear of the Rebbe everyone around the table scattered and only the Sochatchover remained.

After a while Reb Hersh Tomashover [the Rebbe’s gabbai, essentially his PA], came in the room and the Kotzker asked him, where is everyone.  Reb Hersh answered that the Rebbe chased them out of the house when the Rebbe screamed out, Maror Fressers.  The Kotzker replied that he did not mean the people around the table.

When the Kotzker screamed out Maror Fressers, he was praying to God.  Maror is bitterness and slavery and persecution.  Enough already.  It is time for Moshaich [the Messiah].  The Jews have suffered and suffered and suffered.   The Jews are constantly eating Maror and it is time for salvation.

Living in a Thomas the Tank Engine Dystopia

I haven’t written for a few days.  You may have heard that there was a flare up of violence in Israel.  700 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza in 48 hours, with four Israeli civilians killed.  Like many diaspora Jews, I feel a strong connection to Israel, doubly so as I have family there (my cousin spent Sunday running in and out of bomb shelters).  For all the in-fighting in the Jewish community, Jews see each other as family and come together when one is attacked, more so, as far as I can tell, than is done by other religious or ethnic minority communities.  It’s an intuitive thing for us.

I don’t really want to write about the conflict here, because I don’t want to get dragged into a political discussion about the rights and wrongs of the situation, nor do I want antisemitic trolling, which has happened to me in the past.  Yet there is no denying that antisemitism and Jew-hatred, let alone Jew-killing makes my mood plummet, and I felt it would be dishonest not to acknowledge that here on my blog, where I am usually open about my feelings.  It’s frightening that my mental health and well-being as well as my physical safety is under constant threat from outsiders who I have no control over, but that is the daily reality of being Jewish.  So I was stuck feeling that the one thing I had to write about was the one thing I didn’t want to write about.

That is all I want to say about this.

***

I had a one-off therapy session yesterday, my first in some months.  I felt a bit sheepish afterwards because, as my therapist said, there isn’t much that therapy can do for me right now.  She said I have ongoing life-struggles (getting an autism diagnosis; job hunting/wondering if I’m in the right career; dating), but I seem to be coping with them OK.  She said I need a friend to mull things over with rather than a therapist at the moment, which is probably true.  I feel a bit sheepish about this, but perhaps I had to go through a therapy session to realise I don’t really need it at the moment.

***

My sleep is still disrupted.  I’m getting to bed a little earlier than I was, but I still sleep through most of the morning and sometimes, as today, I wake up feeling so exhausted and depressed that I can’t get up for an hour.  Cereal and coffee helps, but I have to get up to eat them, which is the hard part.  I’m fed up of living like this – sleeping too long, at the wrong time, being too exhausted and depressed to do as much as I would like during the day, procrastinating when I should be doing things – but it is hard to change things.  I do just enough to avoid the total collapse that would lead to outside intervention, but I’m only doing the bare essentials; I have a long to do list that isn’t getting attacked.  I actually went back to bed after breakfast today.  I didn’t sleep, but I just felt too drained to do anything, even to get dressed.

***

I eventually managed to send off another job application, but, again, I don’t feel that I really have the necessary skills and I think that was reflected in my answers to the questions on the application, which were waffley and not really reflective of the experience needed.  The second interview for the job I was interviewed for during Pesach is on Thursday and I haven’t been called for that either, so it looks like I haven’t got that, although I suppose they could still call tomorrow.

After the job application (which only took about forty minutes to finish), I went for a walk and to do some shopping for an hour or so, but when I came back I was exhausted.  I did manage to hoover my room, which needed doing, but took longer than I would have liked due to low energy and the hoover not working properly.  I hate that I get tired so easily and manage to do so little.  I wanted to start work on a small writing project I recently agreed to work on for Ashley Leia, but after all this and my struggles complaining to the council (see below), I ran out of time and energy.  I did at least manage about twenty-five minutes of Torah study after dinner.

Looking at this, I did achieve things, and I did perhaps achieve more than I have managed on some days recently.  It’s just hard to let myself feel proud of my achievements instead of attacking myself for not managing more.  I think it is a bad idea to predicate one’s happiness on having more money or power or fame, but I’ve somehow got stuck with the idea that my worth in life is predicated on the amount of things I do.  To some extent this is supported by Judaism, which makes looking at it differently difficult, but Judaism speaks of giving one’s best effort, even if that does not result in much of a practical result, whereas I want to achieve a certain (dangerously undefined) amount without taking into account how hard I try or how difficult it is for me to achieve things because of my ‘issues.’  Perhaps I should call it The Really Useful Engine Fallacy, after the online theory (picked up by various print newspapers on a slow news day) that the Thomas the Tank Engine books are set in a brutal dystopia where one’s value depends on one’s ability to work and be a “really useful engine”*.

* This is going way off the topic, but looking for articles on that theory led me to this page where a commenter said “I think both worlds [Thomas the Tank Engine and Star Trek] are relatable to a certain kind of person because they both depict worlds where your value doesn’t come from navigating social hierarchies, but from simply loving what you are doing.”  Is it too much to say that “a certain kind of person” is “an autistic person”?  Because it fits the rest of the statement.  I did love Thomas as a child and I still do like Star Trek, although I prefer Doctor Who, which is more anarchic, because I’m a rebel (a bit).

***

I did also try to send a complaint to the council about the fact that they have stopped the household food waste recycling service they used to run.  I’ve been meaning to do this for months and had not got around to it.  The decision is bad enough for the environment even without the fact that they did not inform the public that it was happening; I’m sure we aren’t the only household who continued using expensive compostable bin liners for food waste after they had switched to burying it in landfill.

They don’t make it easy to find the relevant address to write to, as they funnel you to specific online reporting forms and if you can’t find one that’s relevant it is hard to find a general address to write to.  I tried to set up an account with them, which they recommend doing to send a complaint, but the website wouldn’t accept a password from me, even though I met the rather stringent criteria given (eight characters, letters, numbers, upper case, lower case, some special characters!).  In the end I had to use a different form to complain without setting up an account.

The form referred to me as a “customer” which annoyed me.  I’m not hugely anti-capitalism (reading about Thomas the Tank Engine as a capitalist dystopia notwithstanding), but I don’t think all our interactions can be reduced to the market, and this is one of them.  I’m a resident (not technically a ratepayer, but my parents are), not a customer.

The whole thing left me feeling as if the machinery of government in this country is in the hands of uninterested technocrats who think they know better than the electorate, but that surely is just my paranoia…

***

I’m still worried about dating.  I feel no one could ever love me or live with me, so I should stop seeing L. for her own good.  But when I reflect on that, it doesn’t seem so logical, though.  “My thoughts are not always my friends.”  I can see that there would be some difficulties if we were in a relationship, but I can also see how we could possibly balance each other out in a positive way, if I don’t panic and inadvertently sabotage the relationship.

I guess I can’t see anything in my life turning out well, though.  Certainly not in the next year or two.  I try to focus on the improvements I’ve made to my life, but they seem equivocal.  I’ve had jobs… but nothing lasting or that I feel I’ve done well.  I’ve dated… but never built a lasting relationship.  My shul (synagogue) attendance and Torah study fluctuate wildly.  It’s hard to see things suddenly turning around.

Still, I’ve just set up a date with L. for Sunday.  We’re going to picnic in a park in central London.  I’m hoping it won’t rain.  The weather forecast is dry, but you can never tell in this country…

Politics and Despair

I went to bed far, far too late even without losing an hour from putting the clocks forward.  It was mostly down to posting late at night and then procrastinating.  I’ve mentioned before that I idly browse online when I feel lonely.  This is not terribly helpful, because I can’t get the kind of contact I want/need, plus lately I’ve blocked a lot of sites for being too triggering, so there aren’t many places I can actually go (unless I switch the block off.  Which I just did out of boredom/curiosity.  Not good).  Anyway, I spend ages flitting around the internet, not knowing where to go, often until I hit on something that upsets me (usually the news).

The upshot of this was that I overslept, and then was too depressed to get up.  I did eventually get up and somehow got out the house and to my volunteering at the asylum seekers’ drop-in centre, albeit without davening (praying) first.   I was very late for volunteering, but they were understaffed, so they were just grateful I was there.  I spent the afternoon looking after the children in the play area, struggling to watch all of them at once because of a lack of other volunteers and trying to get the children to play together nicely.  It’s hard to discipline other people’s children, especially when they don’t say anything and you can’t work out if they’re pre-verbal or just don’t speak English.  I survived, but have come home completely exhausted.  I somehow did a few minutes of Torah study on the bus home; I’m not sure that I will manage much more.

***

Just now I skipped over what happened at home between crawling out of bed this morning and getting to volunteering.  I had lots of very self-critical thoughts.  I felt tired of being the person no one can rely on at work, in my family, in my religious community or at volunteering.  I wanted to burrow into the earth and get away.  I actually crawled under my desk (I’m not entirely sure why; it seemed like a good idea at the time).  I tried to cry but I had no tears, I just made sobbing noises.  I told myself a lot of very harsh, self-critical things: “I’m a ******* waste of space.  No one could love you, you’re ******* incompetent.  You’re a ****** retard.”  (Don’t ask why my inner monologue flips between the first and second person.)

I’m not sure what I can do when I feel like that.  I think I only stopped because I went out to volunteering.

***

Pretty much anything in the news is triggering.  I no longer know what to think about Brexit.  I have a kind of mental tutorial essay on the history of Britain’s post-war involvement with Europe that gets triggered when anyone starts talking about Brexit, a commentary running from Churchill’s belief in European unity without Britain and Attlee’s negativity to de Gaulle’s “Non!” to Heath speaking bad French and Wilson’s referendum to Thatcher’s downfall, Major’s paralysis and now this.  I think whether we had never gone in to the EU, or whether we had voted to Remain, the tensions would still be there, because they come from the fact that Britain is on Europe’s doorstep, but has a very different political system and history to most of Europe, which produces centrifugal and centripetal forces pulling the country in and out simultaneously.  Whatever happens, the forces are still there; in or out, Europe is going to be a major issue in British politics for the foreseeable future.

I want to vent about Jew-hatred too, but I’m too scared.  I just wrote a paragraph on this, but I deleted it.  I’m too scared of being attacked.  I hate being attacked by antisemites, because I know they’re wrong, but their hatred of me fits with my self-hatred, so the attacks don’t bounce off as they should. Then I spend hours/days obsessing over their hatred, even though the fault is with them not us; it is in fact antisemitic to suggest that Jews “provoke” antisemitism, just as it is misogynistic to say that women in short skirts are “provoking” sexual assault.  I hate that I can’t speak about the hatred that is upsetting me for fear of provoking more of it.  I hate that I still have to deal with this.

I wish I had the mental strength to do something productive to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism, but I don’t have the mental stamina.  I feel I have let my people down.  I also wish I could turn off the pain and the obsessive, agitated thoughts that seeing this hatred causes me.

***

Happier things: I ordered some more Doctor Who miniatures to paint last night, partly a reward for getting through my job, partly because if I’m going to be unemployed again, it’s probably worthwhile having a non-screen-based hobby (i.e. not watching DVDs, blogging or working on my books).  Just under £45 bought me twelve Daleks, Davros, the TARDIS and the thirteenth Doctor to paint, which should keep me busy for a while.

“I don’t believe in modern love”

I’m in a bad autism environment today.  I’ve mentioned we’ve got a decorator in; he’s decorating the room next to mine.  I dislike the smell of paint, which sometimes makes me ill, plus he has the radio on really loudly.  It’s Radio 4 Extra (or whatever they call it these days), which is drama and comedy and so probably somewhat better than music – it’s not loud enough for my autistic brain to attempt to tune in to the words too much, but it is still loud enough to be annoying.  I was glad to be out most of the day, first at my depression/resilience course and then shopping and I will be at work tomorrow.  The smell is going to linger, though, and the decoration will continue for a while.  The decorator is estimating he’ll be finished by the end of the week, but my Dad and I are sceptical, particularly as we’ll want him out of the house by about 3.00pm on Friday for Shabbat (the Sabbath).

***

Resilience course today was focused on activity.  We listing activities done over the week; activities we enjoy; activities that make us feel better; activities that we don’t enjoy, but have to do, but are important for our well-being; and what activities we would like to do.  I realised that I do actually do things I enjoy, at least in theory, perhaps too many given how many essential-but-not-enjoyable things I do (albeit I do more of those now I’m working again)… The problem is that (a) I don’t actually enjoy a lot of the stuff I theoretically enjoy because of anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure) and (b) I spend too much time that could/should be spent doing something either productive or relaxing on procrastination when I feel too exhausted or depressed to read a book or job hunt and just stare into space on the train or aimlessly surf the internet.  I’m going to try to limit internet use to after 5.00pm Monday to Thursday (Fridays and Saturdays I don’t procrastinate on it much because of Shabbat, while activity on Sundays varies too much from week to week to set a rule).  Hopefully if I can reduce procrastination I can increase productive time without reducing enjoyable activities (even if I don’t always enjoy them).

The problem I seem to be having with the course is that while a lot of their tips are straightforward and seem good (and some have been suggested to me before, when I was seeing an occupational therapist), it can be hard to implement them.  I am a bit concerned that the tips would probably be better for someone with mild depression or anxiety.  Some people on the course seem to have done several courses through this scheme and that suggests to me a bit that people with severe depression or anxiety can get stuck in the system, getting enough out of the courses to keep coming back, but not enough to actually recover.  This is something that I have experienced myself in previous occupational therapy.  The other difficulty is appearing to recover, getting discharged from the support system, then getting very depressed again as a result of a trigger, which might not even be a ‘bad’ thing – I think I’ve been triggered by positive events before.  Any change can be difficult for people at risk of mental health issues especially with autism, which craves routine, and even positive or neutral change can remind the unconscious of negative events in the past and trigger a relapse.  Then one has to start all over again, remembering or relearning the skills.  Other people on the course seemed to share this experience.

***

I have a bit of a crush on one of the women at the group.  I even ended up speaking to her briefly today, which is a major thing for me with my social anxiety.  Also, there were a couple of awkward moments when our eyes met and I smiled awkwardly which makes me worry that I come over as stalkerish.  She seemed shy, gentle and geeky, but, statistically speaking, she’s almost certainly not Jewish and from her clothes (trousers) she certainly isn’t frum (religious Orthodox Jewish).  I wouldn’t date anyone who isn’t Jewish and I’d be a bit wary of dating anyone who wasn’t frum although I did date E. who wasn’t frum.

I’ve had crushes on people who are ‘off-limits’ before and they (the ‘bad’ thoughts/feelings) do go eventually.  I don’t believe that crushes are “LOVE”.  They’re just hormones.  I think love is something you build slowly over time through caring actions (being very frummy here, but true) and mostly when people talk about being “in love” (noun as opposed to “loving,” verb) they mean hormones.  Likewise when they think they’re not “in love” any more it often means the hormones have gone and they haven’t built anything deeper.  Nor do I think that LOVE can, or should, conquer all.  I think there are things it can’t overcome and, statistically-speaking for many people religious differences are very hard to bridge long-term.  There are also things I think love shouldn’t overcome and I think (and I’m aware how reactionary this will seem to many people, but I’m going to say it) breaking Jewish law and breaking faith with the traditions I follow are, for me, too big a price to pay for a relationship.  I don’t just want to get married, I want to build a specifically Jewish household.

She is cute though.  So right now I’m trying to sit with the crush feelings and not feel too guilty about ordinary human feelings, even though some people would say I should stop myself from having them (how?  I would if I could).  It wouldn’t be so frustrating if it wasn’t for the fact that I struggle to meet Jewish women who do tick any of the boxes she seemed to tick: gentle, geeky, understanding of shyness and mental health issues.  Very frustrating.  I’m not really sure how I could ever meet someone like that in the frum community.  I’m not sure if I could really go to a shadchan (matchmaker) with a list like that, short though it is, along with my core values, which are probably integrity, commitment to Judaism and desire for knowledge.

Oh, and the person has to actually like me which has been a stumbling block in stopping many of my crushes from turning into relationships.

The Boy You Always Wanted

Donnie was the boy you always wanted by your side./Donnie was the boy your girlfriends fell for one by one./Donnie was the one you always wanted day and night. – Donnie by Ace of Base

“Every lonely monster needs a companion.” Doctor Who: Hide by Neil Cross

At the moment I’m in the nervy, agitated state that for a while in the past I mistook for hypomania and wondered if I really had bipolar disorder (I had a psychiatrist who fuelled this a bit by saying I was probably somewhere on the bipolar spectrum, but I suspect that by that stage she was just saying anything to shut me up).

I think the reality of leaving my job has hit.  I’m not technically unemployed for another five and a bit weeks (I’m technically on paid holiday), but I think I’m already spiralling downwards.  I worry that I should not have left, given how hard it will be to get a new job, but I think if I had stayed I would either have stayed there indefinitely, despite being miserable, or been fired for being incompetent under the new job description.  I gave myself a day off from job-hunting today to sort some chores, but I felt depressed, procrastinated and only did a fraction of what I wanted to do.  I suppose I should allow myself a mental health day, except this hasn’t been that.  It’s fallen between two stools, neither a relaxing day off to recuperate from a draining term (draining physically, mentally and emotionally) nor a day in which I did many chores.  So now I still feel tense and tired, but I haven’t achieved much.

Job hunting in earnest should start tomorrow, but I’m fearful of it.  I spoke to my rabbi mentor today; he seemed to expect me to have surveyed the entire field by now and sent of some applications.  That would seem to underestimate how anxiety-provoking this is, and how inadequate I feel about my ability to do most jobs.

The reality of breaking up with E. keeps hitting me too.  I keep thinking I’m over it, or at least accepting that something might happen in the future, but not now, and then I realise I’m still telling myself we might get back together… well, we might, but it depends on my finding a better-paying job than seems likely and just generally being better at coping with The Real World than I’m likely to be any time soon (I don’t want to deal with The Real World.  The Real World is full of terrorism, antisemitism, sexism, racism, war, famine etc.  I want to leave The Real World to its own murderous devices and escape somewhere quiet).  E. said I could date other women if I get bored waiting for her, but (a) I don’t want other women, I want E. and (b) I can’t imagine there are many other women out there who are (i) interested in me and (ii) willing to be the main breadwinner.  So, I’m alone again, and I’m not good at dealing with that.

I’m beating myself up again and struggling with my thoughts.  I’ve messed stuff up again (I mean procrastinating and acting out in ways that I wish I wouldn’t do when depressed).  I suppose it’s nothing serious, but I always seem to be running in quicksand, sinking fast.  I wonder how I compare with other frum (religious) men, in terms of meeting religious obligations for prayer, religious study, personal development and so on.  It’s hard to tell how much latitude I should give myself because of the depression and other issues and I don’t have anyone to compare with, especially as my own mental health can vary widely from day to day and even across the day.  I also wonder what other people really think of me, but if they tell me they like me, I assume they’re being polite or, more bluntly, lying.

I’ve been using the heter (permission) for depressed people to listen to music in the Three Weeks of mourning when normally it would be forbidden (I wish I’d learnt about that years ago).  Despite never having deliberately listened to Ace of Base in the past (I think I must have been passively exposed to them through my sister), I’ve been obsessively listening to Donnie over and over (in the past I would have worried more about kol isha, but I think my depressed disaffection with Judaism has eroded my ability to care about some rabbinic mitzvot).  I do this sometimes, listen to the same song a million times in a month and then stop as suddenly as I started.  It usually assumes some bizarre significance in my mind, usually about my life, as if the singer is singing directly to me.  This is probably borderline psychotic.

Donnie (not my name, but sounds vaguely like my Hebrew name) is about unrequited love (I suspect I prefer songs about unrequited love to the other kind) and carrying a torch for someone.  I find myself wondering if I want E. to always want me by her side.  I find that I do, and then feel both guilty and frustrated because it could never work and I should want her to find someone else who can make her happy in a way that I can’t.

Sometimes I feel that if I could understand things better, things in the outside world, I could stop them or make them better.  I don’t consciously think this, but I think the feeling is there, on some level.  I spent years trying to understand antisemitism (I probably still do try) and I suspect that I felt that if I understood it, it would go away.  No, that’s not quite it.  That’s fairly psychotic, again.  Well, maybe it is a little psychotic.  It’s hard to put into words, but sometimes the pain in my head seems to have a direct relationship to the pain in the world (The Horrible Real World again), but it’s hard to work out in which direction it goes.  Maybe both ways.  Maybe I feel somehow responsible for things?  That’s not quite it (although it can happen with depression, particularly when it’s on the border of psychosis, as I’ve probably been in the past).  I guess it’s tied up with my quasi-solipsistic feeling of importance, that there isn’t really anything other than my mind.  That the barrier between my mind and the world is somewhat permeable?  I don’t really think that either, but… I can’t really put it into words.  It’s very frustrating.

Sometimes I imagine myself at my own funeral, listening to eulogies, getting angry at the lies to make me sound good, walking behind my own coffin…  This probably isn’t normal.  Sometimes I imagine burying myself, only me and no one else (this is a blatant steal from the Doctor Who novel Alien Bodies).  Sometimes I wonder if I’m dead and this is Gehennom.  That probably isn’t normal either.

Sometimes I feel like I’m this close to losing my grip on reality.  That’s probably why I take refuge in improbable, surreal fictions.  (I recently wrote a post on this, ostensibly for my Doctor Who blog, which I haven’t got around to posting yet.  Arguably it could fit on either of my blogs, but I can only put it on one, because one is anonymous and the other isn’t.)  Stuff like Doctor WhoThe Prisoner and Sapphire and Steel seem much more reflective of how I experience reality than most ‘realistic’ fiction.

“I bet you were the school swot and never got kissed”

I went to bed at 2.30am last night/this morning and I don’t know why.  Actually, that’s not true.  I do know why, I just don’t want to admit to it.  I spent ages procrastinating before cooking dinner, because I wanted to cook something from fresh ingredients, but felt too depressed to do so.  Then after dinner I spent ages emailing and procrastinating online again.  I slept until 1.00pm, which was far too long, with weird dreams (from what little I can remember – more on this below).  Then I procrastinated, getting in and out of bed for hours, eating breakfast but not being dressed and having lunch until after 4.30pm.  I still watched Doctor Who while eating lunch, because I’m on holiday and I can (since you ask, it was The End of the World, an episode that has grown on me over the years, although I still don’t know what I think about the line I quoted in the title of this post).  I just feel so burnt out, like I’m recuperating from a physical illness.  I guess depression will do that to you, but somehow I feel like I should be able to power through the exhaustion somehow, even if I can’t get through the low mood.  I wanted to go jogging today, but I just don’t have the energy, or the time now, as I want to do some other chores.

I was thinking today that postmodern Western society today offers us more choices than probably in any other society in history: choices about work, free time, sexual partner(s), food and drink, fashion, everything and anything.  And, on the whole, this is  probably a good thing, but even when it doesn’t get confused by our more negative emotions (particularly our tendency to choose immediate gratification over patience and pleasure over personal growth) it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices, particularly if, like me, you don’t always have such a clear idea of who you are, what you want and what is good for you (not always the same thing).

I don’t really know what I should be doing career-wise, or when/how to look for a wife and what I should be looking for.  My job is what I saw myself as doing when I started down the librarianship road, but I don’t think I do it very well.  And as for dating… well, I’m not sure that any of the women I’ve dated are really who I would have thought I should date, except perhaps my ex when we started going out (less so as I learnt more about her, and as she changed over the course of the relationship).  I don’t know whether the problem is that I get attracted to the wrong women (due to ignorance, fantasy or self-loathing) or if it’s more that the people around me set me up with the wrong women.  Probably a bit of both, given that some of the women I’ve dated I’ve asked out, while others have approached me or I’ve been set up with them by third parties.  It’s probably too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions from.  So I guess my dream job and dream girlfriend turned into difficult situations and I don’t know how much that was my fault or how to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Admittedly my ignorance and naivety plays a part here.  Although I’m in my mid-thirties, I’m only on my second job and I’ve only had one real relationship (maybe one and a half), so I don’t really know what I can do and what I want in either sphere.  Worse than that, my low self-esteem and depressive sense of self actively distorts what I think I want, what I think I value, and what I think my abilities are, so that what I think I want might just be the opposite of what I really want or need.  Even worse than that, I don’t really know how to decide, except by trying different jobs and dating different people, but, aside from being a strategy for getting hurt and aside from feeling like I’m running out of time as it is with both work and marriage, it’s hard enough to get people to pick me as an employee/partner without even going into the situation thinking, “This probably isn’t The One, I just want to see what it’s like” (which also seems pretty manipulative of the other people involved too).

On that note, I still can’t decide whether to ask for a reduction in my working hours.  I did a pros vs. cons list and there were more pros, but I worry that the cons carry more weight.  Certainly the pros are largely unknowns that I hope will turn out well, and hopes don’t usually turn out well for me*.  LinkedIN just recommended a librarian job at Penguin Books to me.  I was actually tempted, even though – or especially as – it was entry level, on the grounds that I can’t operate at the level my training and experience suggest I should be operating at.  However, the job was in Northamptonshire, which saved me a difficult decision.

I was supposed to be reading Halakhic Morality by Rav [Rabbi Joseph] Soloveitchik over the holiday and I even read the preface, but I was feeling too depressed to deal with dense religious philosophy, so I picked up Why Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt instead.  It’s a theodicy book, but it’s based on his experiences when his first wife died of cancer leaving him with four young children and then marrying his second wife and is written in a very readable way.  Still, there’s a fine line at the best of times between encouraging people to look for positives in terrible situations and victim-blaming people who are unhappy.  To be fair, the book isn’t written for people with messed-up brain chemistry that is physically incapable of being happy (there’s an excerpt from the first edition of the book, which had a different title, here if you want to judge for yourselves).  Yesterday the book seemed encouraging and helpful; today I just feel jealous that both his wives seem like total angels, and resentful that having smicha (rabbinical ordination) carries so much weight in the frum (religious) marriage market, then feeling guilty for being jealous of someone whose wife died of cancer.

Speaking of Jewish stuff, my shul (synagogue) is starting a programme where the men of the community are to study a page of Talmud each week, followed by an explanatory shiur (class) on Shabbat (the Sabbath).  I would like to be a part of this, particularly as they are starting with Brachot, one of the few parts of the Talmud that I have studied a little bit of, but I don’t know if I will have the time or energy to do it.  One page a week doesn’t seem much, but a page of Talmud is incredibly densely written, full of complicated legal reasoning.  Frankly, it makes my head hurt.  It pains me greatly that I just don’t have the head for Talmud, given how vital its study is to Orthodox Jewish life, but feel I can’t pretend to be something I’m not any more (except when I do, because of social anxiety at being myself – see above about being in the wrong jobs and dating the wrong people).  I don’t know when I would even get the time to study it; I do most of my Torah study on the train into work and I don’t want to take a heavy volume with me.  On days when I don’t work, it can be hard to do any Torah study at all.  Maybe I’ll just go to the shiur and see how much I can take in without the preparation, although I suspect that the answer will be very little.  I had an anxiety dream about this last night, which probably does not bode well.

I feel I said stuff I shouldn’t say on Hevria again yesterday, although I was fairly restrained by my usual standards.

On the plus side, last night by “chance” I found a quote I had been needing for my Doctor Who book while flicking through an old Doctor Who Magazine.  It’s not the greatest hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) story in the world (I can’t see Aish.com running it), but I need to take my hashgacha pratit moments where I can get them, given that my life feels so rudderless and uncontrolled right now.

 

* Pros: I could get more sleep; I would have more time at home to relax; I would be more alert; I would have to travel less at rush hour; it might increase my concentration.
Cons: it feels like a backwards step; my boss might not like it; I feel I take too much already (particularly in terms of poor concentration and time off for Yom Tov); it might lead to my contract not being renewed in August.
There are more pros, but I feel they are repeating the same idea (more sleep and relaxation leading to greater concentration and alertness), while the cons have more weight and are more certain.

Vices

Some days I merely hate myself.  Some days I can even forget about myself for a while, usually at work, or while watching Doctor Who.

Other days I hate, loathe, detest and despise myself.

Today is in the latter category.

My grandfather used to tease me, saying I was too good, that I had no vices.  He was wrong, although to be fair, none of my vices are illegal or particularly extreme and certainly they are all common, even (especially) the ones I don’t want to talk about her.

I sleep too much, particularly when depressed.  I hurt myself sometimes.  I am self-critical.  I find it hard to keep up with my self-imposed targets for prayer and religious study.  I avoid things that make me socially anxious rather than confronting them.  I go on too much about my issues.  I procrastinate.  I want to be loved, but I get too scared to take the steps to find someone who might love me and let me love her.  When I’m lonely, it’s too easy to fall into fantasy and avoid reality, both pleasant fantasies and also unpleasant fantasies, suicidal ones or simply self-loathing ones that make me out to be worse than I actually am.

I did most of these over Shabbat and in the hours afterwards, as well as other things that I won’t go into.  It’s easy to convince myself that I’m a bad person.  I’m certainly acting contrary to halakhah (Jewish law) in numerous respects (e.g. missing shul due to depressive oversleeping and socially anxious avoidance).  It’s particularly hard at the moment to keep up with davening (prayer) and studying Torah – it’s hard to try to connect with a God who I’m convinced hates me and turns down all my requests.  I haven’t done any Torah study yet today; I did a bit amount yesterday, but almost none on Thursday.  It’s very hard to get the energy to daven at the right time, particularly in the morning.  It’s hard to carry on generally.  I thought I was losing my faith, but I’m not, it’s just hard to get the energy together to start on davening or Torah study.  I’m just too depressed, but I’m afraid of going backwards in my recovery (which is arguably not a recovery; for all that I’m still a lot better than I was this time last year, I’m a lot worse than I was in the spring and early summer).

My parents and my non-biological sisters are encouraging me to go to a different shadchan (matchmaker) after the one who didn’t get back to me.  I’m tempted, but all the frum (religious Jewish) books/websites/teachers say don’t date when suffering from serious illness.  Wait until you’re over it.  Particularly for mental illness, which can change your whole persona.  Except that I don’t think I’m ever going to be ‘over’ my depression.  It’s just a question of trying to manage it.  And at the moment I don’t feel like I’m managing it well.

I just feel I have so many marks against me when dating, that it’s not even worth trying.  I have depression.  I have social anxiety.  I may be on the autistic spectrum and even if I’m not, I have a lot of autistic traits.  I still get occasional flare-ups of OCD (religious OCD and pure O).  I don’t daven or learn Torah enough.  I didn’t go to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).  I’m too sarcastic and irritable at times.  I’m needy and emotional.  I’m extremely introverted.  I procrastinate.  I have other vices.  I can’t see why someone would go out with me.  I have nothing really in my favour, except that I’m not violent, which isn’t very much.  I should just give up, but I’m so lonely.  I really hope there’s someone out there who I can connect with, in a way that I don’t really connect with my parents or my friends.  Someone really on my wavelength.  Someone willing to make space in her life for me.  Someone I can communicate with without the autistic communication difficulties I get into with my parents, or the fact that I can only see most of my friends for short periods at long intervals for fear of running out of things to say.  That’s probably asking too much, though.  Everything seems to be asking too much.

I probably will sign on the matchmaking site I’ve identified later in the week, although I want to talk to my rabbi mentor about it first.  I feel like I’m signing up under false pretences i.e. that I am a psychologically healthy, normal, attractive person when I’m not.  It all seems very pointless, but I suppose I need to go through the motions.  The site offers various matchmakers; I read their mini-biographies and found one studying counselling and psychotherapy, so I hope she will be more understanding of my situation.  It’s a fairly arbitrary choice, as all the matchmakers have access to the same database of clients.

I don’t really know how to end this post.  I guess I’m just complaining about my issues (another one of my vices).  I wish I was the super-adept frum Jew I want to be.  Tonight I was supposed to go to shul, study some Torah, do various chores and get an early night.  I missed shul, struggled to daven at home, have done no Torah study, no chores, am unlikely to get to bed early (and unlikely to sleep, given how much I slept over Shabbat) and will probably have to postpone most of tonight’s chores to tomorrow, making tomorrow even more of a rush than it should be.  I’ve only started my ‘holiday’ and already I’m behind on my chores, and very lonely and depressed.  I feel like I’m just rambling.  This post probably needs editing and re-ordering, or deleting, but I’m too fed up and tired.