The Demons of Self-Criticism, Doubt and Guilt

I’m being tormented by the demons of self-criticism, doubt and guilt today.  Wondering if those around me only pretend to like and support me out of kindness and pity, rather than genuine positive regard.  Wondering if I do anything in my life right.  Not just if I can get a job or sell some writing, but if I’m a good friend to anyone or do any genuine chessed (kindness).  E. says I’m a good friend to her (and she’s OK with me talking about her online in this way, so I feel comfortable saying that), so that’s something, but I wonder about other people.  I know I’ve had the problem at work in the past of thinking I’ve annoyed my boss and so staying out of her way and thereby not asking important questions and making much bigger mistakes, which is not good.

There’s a Jewish joke about two yeshiva bachurim (Jewish seminary students) who go for a walk in the woods and are mistaken for a bear and shot at.  They drop to the ground.  After a moment, one cautiously raises his head and says, “It appears we are still alive” and the other one responds, “And what is the evidence for this assertion?”  I know I’ve driven people away repeatedly asking, “What is the evidence for this assertion?” whenever anyone says I’m not stupid or useless or wicked, but I don’t know how to stop it.  I really am not convinced by the evidence that I’m not stupid or useless or wicked.

I’m second-guessing everything I put on my blog now.  The comments I made about interactions with people in shul (synagogue) yesterday seemed innocuous to me; I thought they might reflect badly on me, but not anyone else.  Now I wonder if that is true.  I went back and made that post private.  I worry about things I’ve said in the past, when I was sure this blog would remain anonymous.  Now I wonder if people will find out my identity one day.  Perhaps people will be able to go back and discover who I was writing about, or interpret comments that I thought were neutral or positive in a negative way.  Given that social anxiety and autistic social interaction difficulties are such a big part of my issues, I wonder if I can actually blog about how I feel without saying anything about people that might possibly be recognised and misinterpreted by other people.  I also wonder if I need to go back through the blog and purge a lot of posts.  I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that obvious or negative, but maybe I have.

The resultant depression from all this (or maybe it was a cause rather than a result) has led to a rather wasted day.  I struggled to do some interview preparation for Tuesday, but was really too depressed to focus on anything.  I only managed a few minutes of Torah study for the same reason.  I’m feeling so depressed, I’m not even worried about being unemployed or lonely forever – I just feel that my mood can’t get worse, even if my situation can.

My only real achievement was going to shul (synagogue) for Mincha and Ma’ariv (Afternoon and Evening Services).  I tried to arrive just as they were starting to avoid having to talk to anyone, but mistimed it and was late.  I felt horribly self-conscious and depressed the whole time I was there, even wanting to self-harm at one point, because I was feeling so self-loathing and tense (self-harm can be a release).  I wondered, not for the first time, what would happen if I appeared as visibly ill as I feel emotionally.  If I arrived at shul covered in blood, bruises and open wounds.

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) seems a long time ago, somehow, although it’s less than ten months ago.  I had hoped for a better year, a fresh start, but it didn’t really happen.  I’ve just drifted, drifted through jobs and job hunting and drifted through friendships and community life, as well as drifting through my own religious life.  I’ve struggled to take back control of my religious life, to try to get some joy and meaning out of it instead of just effort, but I haven’t really managed it.  I suppose I don’t feel as angry with HaShem (God) as I did then, which is good, but I don’t feel that I have any meaningfully close relationship with Him.  I still worry that His plan for me is just more suffering.  And I know people say that you have to expect Him to do good for you for it to happen.  I just expect Him to treat me as He has for the last twenty years.

I’ve lost friends this year and last year.  I feel sad about that.  I don’t have many to lose.  While I may have been responsible for losing this year’s friends, on some level, I wasn’t responsible last year (it was more that we drifted apart), but I still lost that friend however it happened.  I have another friend I haven’t seen for years and don’t know how to see him again, given how busy his life is.  I’m not on Facebook, so I tend to drift out of people’s lives, as they only publicise news on there.  I’m not sure how many children this friend has, whether he has had more since we last met.  I suppose I feel as if I’m drifting out of my friendships too.

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Bounded in a Nutshell

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare

I felt a huge amount of anger with HaShem (God) yesterday evening.  I’m just so lonely and feel so useless and I can’t see any way out.  It’s illogical to be angry with Him about my own failings, but I feel that if I wasn’t autistic and depressed, I wouldn’t be so lonely and isolated, which leads on to anger with Him for making me autistic (blame for the depression is more complicated).  I feel if I wasn’t autistic, I would be able to function in the frum (religious) world as He wants, but as it is, I can’t function.

I didn’t know how to process the anger, so I ended up hurting myself for the first time in a while.  I hit my legs with my fists while trying to talk to HaShem;  later I scratched myself slightly, but I’m not quite sure why I did that.  I have been fantasising about death again lately too, mainly just thinking that however bad things are here, one day I’ll be dead and unable to feel any more pain.

***

I’m still struggling with what to do about dating.  It still feels wrong, morally wrong, to date while I’m not just unemployed, but not even sure what I want to do with my life any more.  And I can’t face the thought of rejection and it seems there are so many reasons why someone would reject me (autistic, depressed, weird geeky interests, didn’t go to yeshiva or otherwise tick the appropriate frum boxes) even without being unemployed too.  Nor do I look forward to having to turn down someone I don’t feel is right for me.  And I’m wary of thinking that things will be better if I’m in a relationship (although it is true that I have felt better when I’ve been in a relationship in the past, even if I wasn’t “recovered”).

However, I just feel so lonely.  I feel like everyone has their partner except me.  This is blatantly untrue (a number of my friends are single), but reflects how I feel.  I feel that I am mostly self-contained.  I don’t need other people with me all the time.  I have solitary hobbies and even things like watching TV I prefer to do alone (I don’t like watching TV with other people because I don’t watch TV casually.  I don’t channel hop, I only watch things I want to watch and which I think are worth my time, but then I watch them with complete concentration and dislike noise and interruptions, particularly as the programmes I watch tend to be plot-heavy and reasonably complex to follow).  I should really be happy living alone as I’m an introvert and a bit of a loner.  But, as seen when my parents are away, when I’m actually alone, I do get more depressed, even though logically I should welcome being alone.  I do, on some level, need people around me, even if I don’t interact with them much.  I also need to be able to love and to feel loved and I’m rather starved of both of these things and have been much of my life.  My parents and my sister do care about me, but there are so difficulties in those relationships, most probably stemming from my autism and my having different “love languages” to my family.  We probably aren’t very good at showing love to each other in ways the other person can comprehend.

I try to cope with things and be self-contained (“If you are miserable alone, you will be miserable in a relationship” as everyone says), but I just feel so unbearably lonely and unloved that it’s impossible to escape the depression for long.

***

I saw the psychiatrist today.  It didn’t go well.  She focused on my unemployment, repeatedly telling me that I should get a job, which wasn’t terribly helpful.  She did suggest doing voluntary work, which is probably a good idea.  I didn’t feel like she was really listening, nor did I have the confidence to tell her that my depression and social anxiety are just as bad, if not worse, when I’m working, because of issues surrounding autism and mental illness in the workplace.  In fact, I haven’t told this psychiatrist about my autism at all, as the last one said that if I’ve been told I haven’t got it by the Maudsley Hospital, I don’t have it and that’s final.  As my GP has referred me for another assessment at the Maudsley, I’m not going to raise the issue again until I’ve had that assessment.

As well as sounding disappointed with me for not having a job, she sounded disappointed with me for not having friends.  I said I had “one or two” which is a simplification (I have two or three I’m in contact with regularly, but via text as they live elsewhere; I have one or two friends who live locally, but I usually only see them in shul (synagogue)).   I couldn’t really be bothered to explain as she didn’t seem interested and I was struggling to understand her accent; possibly she was struggling with mine too.  She asked if I am in a relationship; she didn’t really react when I said I’m not.  When she asked what I do when I’m not job hunting, I said I write a bit, which she misheard as “write a book” which is basically true so I didn’t correct her.

She asked if I have thoughts of self-harm or suicide and I said yes, because I have had them in the last couple of days, but she didn’t really seem to care as I said I wouldn’t act on the suicidal thoughts, which is probably true, and that I wouldn’t act on the self-harm thoughts, which was a lie because I did last night.  I don’t know why I lied; probably because it was very minor and I just wanted to get out of the appointment room.  I just didn’t feel comfortable opening up to her as she seemed to just want to process me quickly and get to the next patient and seemed to think that finding a job will be a panacea for me.

***

Today’s potential jobs: a school librarian maternity cover job (I don’t want to work in further education again after struggling previously); an “information assistant” that seems to be a library assistant role rather than an assistant librarian and has a lethal-looking commute; and a role billed as “knowledge librarian” but which also seems to be a library assistant role rather than a trained librarian role, judging from the lack of professional skills in the job description and which also requires SharePoint experience that I don’t have.  I was then reminded that I applied for a “knowledge librarian” role a few days ago; I think it was the same job as the job descriptions are similar, although it’s hard to be sure, as both jobs are advertised through different agencies and don’t state the name of the company that is advertising the job (this happens a lot and is very frustrating).

It is probably no wonder that I really want to do something else with my life, something I find more rewarding.  But, just as I don’t have the courage to start dating again, I don’t have the courage (or knowledge and perhaps the ability) to try to write professionally.

***

I feel like I’m coming down with a migraine, so the rest of the day is probably a wipe-out now.

Fouled Up

There was another shul (synagogue) engagement of someone around my age today, albeit this time a divorcee.  I think I once tried to ‘talk’ to her on a dating site (when I didn’t know she was from my shul), only for her to say that I was “too worldly” for her, which reinforced my feeling of having put myself in a position between two worlds (Modern Orthodox and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox)) where no one could be interested in me.  The feeling of “when is it my turn?” never seems to go away, despite my occasional feeling that getting married would not solve my problems and perhaps would worsen them.

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Ashley Leia said, “if you put off dating until you feel you are likeable/acceptable to a woman, but you don’t consider yourself likeable/acceptable full stop, and being unmarried reinforces the idea of being unlikeable/unacceptable, that seems like a vicious circle that’s never going to end. Why not let the potential dates decide for themselves?”

This is probably true, but hard for me to accept.  It just seems so ludicrous to think that anyone could ever love me.  Anyone wanting to marry me would basically be marrying my issues (autism, depression, unemployment and more) and I don’t think I have enough positives in my favour to counter-balance that.  I’m seriously not kind enough or rich enough or clever enough or good-looking enough or frum enough or whatever to be worth marrying in my own right.  So I would basically be marrying someone who wants to care for someone, which isn’t a healthy basis for a relationship.  I know people say you shouldn’t be dating if you don’t love yourself, which pretty much means I will never date again.

I also feel I have exactly as much chance of getting married by doing nothing proactive at all as I have by going to shadchanim, on dating sites or asking women out i.e. no chance at all.

Of course, if I did get married, I would still be depressed and have low self-esteem and my first girlfriend was probably right that I’m frigid (certainly I have autistic issues with touch and intimacy, both physical and emotional), so I could end up in a worse situation than I’m in now.

***

Am I punishing myself too much?  With dating, or rather, not dating, and other things?  I don’t know.  Probably.  There is definitely self-sabotage in not going to shadchanim and not going on dating websites, but there has probably also been self-sabotage in doing those things too, in going to shadchanim and on to dating sites when I didn’t feel ready as well as asking out women who had little in common with me and apparently didn’t like me much (which seems to be most of them).

I’ve had thoughts of self-harm again, yesterday and today.  I haven’t acted on them, at least, not physically, but I feel that, as I try to live my life on multiple levels (physical, spiritual, ethical) there are ways I can hurt myself that don’t involve physical harm, but which can be just as dangerous and lasting, if not more so, at least to someone who believes in the soul.  “For he who lives more life than one/More deaths than one must die.”  I don’t like myself very much.

It’s a number of years since I read The Brothers Karamazov, but there’s a bit in there I’ve been thinking of yesterday and today.  The Karamazovs are all hedonists and libertines except for Alyosha, who is an ascetic, but someone says that, even so, he’s still a Karamazov.  He still has the libertine streak, he just uses it for asceticism.  The idea is that one can be a hedonistic ascetic.  I’m not a hedonist and I’m not really an ascetic, but I do have an ascetic streak, but it’s probably more about punishing myself than withdrawing from the world.  Maybe I’m being too hard on myself again.  I think I probably do like to punish myself, on some level, but then I feel I deserve it.  Sometimes I feel like I want to list all my sins here so no one would read this any more.  When the depression is bad (like now), I just want to hurt myself, physically and perhaps also by shaming myself (I’m not sure if that’s a desire or a fear, maybe both).

I just feel my life isn’t a story that can end well for me.  It’s doubtful that I will ever manage a career, a relationship or a family.  It’s doubtful that my writing will be published (more than the little scraps that have been published).  I don’t perform mitzvot (commandments) or daven (pray) well or study much Torah.  So I’m not sure, without all those things, how my life could ever be worthwhile.  I just feel fouled up beyond all repair.

***

Someone elsewhere on the internet said that if people at my shul (synagogue) won’t accept me, they aren’t worthy of my time.  The problem is that I don’t know if people accept me or not, or where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie.  Plus, I don’t have a better community to go to, and you can’t be a frum Jew (certainly not a frum Jewish man) without having a community.  The silly thing is that lately, when I was feeling a bit better, I was beginning to believe people liked me.  I don’t know what I think now.  I also don’t know how much I think people like me because they don’t really know me; if they knew me better, they wouldn’t like me.

***

Otherwise today has been a slow day.  The summer seems to have evaporated and it’s another dreary grey English June day here.  I sent off another job application (for a Knowledge Librarian post at a large company), but all they wanted was my CV, no covering letter to adapt or long application form to fill it.  This was good, as the forms usually just cover the same information as the CV, but in different little boxes making cutting pasting fiddly.

Because I didn’t have any more jobs to apply for, I finished the first draft of the final chapter of my Doctor Who book.  I need to redraft it at some point and it might be worth re-watching some episodes again to help flesh the chapter out; at the same time, the book as a whole needs some serious pruning, so a fourth draft will probably be necessary when I get feedback from my friends.  It does feel never ending at times.  Still, I’m probably on target for my aim of finishing around Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year, in the autumn).

***

I just hate myself and my life, really.

King of Pain

In the end I went to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law.  The restaurant was very noisy and I found it hard to focus on what they were saying.  The food was good, but we left after the main course.  I would have liked dessert, but was put off by the noise, and didn’t want to risk my mood deteriorating again, so I didn’t ask to stay for it when my sister and BIL said they were full.  They didn’t really talk much about their new house, to my relief, as I’m finding it increasingly hard to take an interest in a topic I know nothing about (never having been a homeowner) and which makes me feel like a useless and inadequate freak for not being able to join in.  My sister and BIL invited me to a housewarming in a month’s time, which I’m already feeling anxious about.  Thinking about this, it occurred to me that, as I’m extremely unlikely to get married any time soon, my sister will continue to be the centre of the family’s attention for an indefinite time to come, unless I hurt myself.  This was a dangerous thought to have.  I wish I had not thought it, but I did.  As I’ve said before, I’m not a very nice person, nor a very stable one.

(I don’t plan on hurting myself, I should say.  I’m just aware of the possibility, and how people might react – probably negatively, but putting me in the spotlight.)

***

Ashley Leia commented on my last post to say “This single person’s take on it is that the top two essentials people are looking for in a relationship are to be loved and to be accepted, and the rest is more or less negotiable.”  As we say in Yiddish, alevi, if only.  I really hope this is true, if not for me then for other people, but it hasn’t been my experience so far.  Both the women I have been in a relationship with said I was particularly kind, loving and understanding of their issues in a way that their previous boyfriends had not been.  Yet both broke up with me for other reasons (actually, I technically broke up with my first girlfriend, but only because I could see that our views were incompatible; she agreed that it was the only solution).

My first girlfriend was worried that I would be frigid even after marriage.  E. was worried that together we would never earn enough to support a family in comfort.  I don’t think either of these fears are unreasonable.  I think a lot (too much) about sex, but frequently feel uncomfortable with even casual, non-sexual physical contact (aside from Jewish law, guilt and everything else that complicates sex even more).  I worry that even if I do ever have sex, I will be one of those autistic people who finds it disgusting.  When my ex tried to kiss me once, I did indeed find it disgusting, although it probably didn’t help that she took me by surprise (not as much fun as I would expected); I half-heartedly tried to kiss her again after my shock, but found that I could not work out how to do it.  Similarly, I can’t see myself working anywhere near to full time in the next few years, so unless my spouse was earning a lot herself, money would be an issue (and if she was she was earning a lot, she would probably be a career-focused person I would have very little in common with).

This is without the extra baggage wanted in frum circles, where it seems to be expected that men will study a certain amount of Torah and pray with a minyan (community) three times a day.  I don’t know if any women would really see those as deal-breakers, but it seems like it would be hard to admit to not doing them, like admitting to not showering or brushing your teeth regularly.  Probably no one has a list of desired character traits in a mate that starts, “Good personal hygiene” because it’s taken as a given.  It’s generally accepted that if you want a partner, you have to take care of that, and if you don’t shower, then you will be rejected automatically without any other reason.  I don’t take care of the spiritual equivalents of showering and flossing.

My rabbi mentor once told me not to worry about not having been to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) because in reality no one cares about that in a husband and that I have good knowledge anyway for someone who hasn’t spent significant time in yeshiva.  I hope he is right, but it seems hard to imagine a frum (religious) woman choosing me over a hypothetical yeshiva bachur, unless he was particularly bad in other ways.

I have thought of marrying a ba’alat teshuva (Jew raised non-religious who became religious later in life) or a geyoret (convert to Judaism), but even aside from the fact that they would probably buy into the frum community social norms, the issues of physical relations and finances are still going to be there, as they would be if I dated someone not so frum.  In addition the issues caused more directly by depression and autism will be around whoever I date: low energy, irritability, communication difficulties and so on.  Plus, in the frum world dating is for marriage.  While frum people don’t all get engaged after eight dates, the expectation is that one will get engaged quickly or move on quickly.  I feel the need to date for a longer period because of my issues and the bad experiences I’ve had dating in the past, but the option isn’t really open for me.

While I hope – I really, really, really hope – that what Ashley says (which is similar to what my parents and my rabbi mentor say) is true, my experience in life so far is that things are not that simple, at least not for me.

***

A quote from Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav by Arthur Green: “It may have been in reaction to the extreme senses of depression and worthlessness which so frequently overcame him that Nahman developed a compensatory sense of unique greatness and value to the world.” (p.122)  This sounds worryingly familiar from my own life, although usually I keep my narcissism and megalomania private and only share my self-hatred.  Even at my worst, I can see I’m not really a great person, but believing I’m not a terrible person is much harder.

Crash

Today I crashed.

I suppose it started yesterday, when I got into a very agitated state in the evening when my parents were out.  I went to bed trying to count the number of people I thought would be upset if I killed myself, which was not an encouraging sign although it was good that I did at least acknowledge that some people would be upset, whereas in the past I might have assumed that no one would really care.

I woke up feeling much the same this morning.  I wanted to try positive self-affirmations again (don’t ask me why, as they haven’t worked in the past), but for every time I can tell myself I’m a good person, I tell myself several hundred times more that I’m a wicked, defective freak.

At work I felt terrible, really despairing and sure I couldn’t do my work properly.  I felt like I was going to fall asleep and had a powerful urge to hurt myself, because I felt so unable to cope.  I struggled to work because I was thinking about death so much, fantasising about overdosing and calling myself a defective freak who can’t do anything right.  I was feeling that I hate myself so much that there are no words for it and that I don’t hate anyone else this much, not even those who made me like this.

I somehow got through the morning, but was not restored very much by lunch.  I’m struggling more than I expected to with a forty-five minute lunch and wonder if I should ask to switch to one hour lunches and leave at 5.15pm instead of 5.00pm.  It didn’t help that there were two people in the staff room watching different programmes on their phones without headphones, which I felt was rude and antisocial.

Things came to a head when I went to prepare some books in the book store and virtually had a panic attack, terrified that I was going to damage one of the rare books.  I got into a complete state and phoned my Mum to ask what she felt I should do as I wasn’t being particularly rational.  She said to come home as I sounded too agitated to do any work.

I obviously needed to tell my line manager that I was not well, but I decided to tell her about the depression in some detail.  She was really supportive and said I should think about whether there are any changes I could make at work that would help me.  She also said that she’s really pleased with my work so far and that I’ve picked up a lot in a very short space of time; also that there isn’t much that I can do disastrously wrong in my job and that I’m very careful with the rare books.  I mentioned going too slowly in previous jobs because of my fear of mistakes and she didn’t think that that would be an issue here.  She was so supportive I went for broke and mentioned the autism as well.  I’m not quite sure why I did that, but it seemed appropriate to mention it as context and it turns out just as well that I did as she said she had already wondered if I’m on the spectrum (it seems that everyone thinks I’m autistic except the psychiatrists making the assessment…).

On the way home I had a telephone appointment with the duty GP at my doctor’s surgery.  It was slightly awkward as I had a couple of ‘autistic misunderstanding’ moments, which I guess is not surprising when I’m agitated and taking a serious private call in the street.  He felt that I should see my regular doctor, but unfortunately the regular doctor is off tomorrow, so I’m booked in for Thursday morning, which will make me late for work.  I did get a bit annoyed that he said that, if I’m suicidal, I should phone the crisis team, not the surgery.  I’ve done this in the past, only for the crisis team to say if I’m not actually about to try to kill myself, I should go to the GP.  Seriously, when I phoned the crisis team to report suicidal thoughts within twenty-four hours, I was told only to phone if I was actually having them at that moment.  As I know the GP will speak to me if I’m in crisis, even if he says I should phone the crisis team, whereas I know the crisis team will not speak to me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer as to which one I phone, regardless of what the proper protocol is supposed to be.  (More NHS fun and games.)

It was awkward telling my parents all this.  I suppose there isn’t an easy way to tell anyone you’re having suicidal thoughts.  My Mum got very emotional when I told her; perhaps because of this, I couldn’t tell my Dad that at all, just saying I was having “difficult” thoughts.  It’s awkward because most people don’t realise that (in my case, at any rate) there are a spectrum of thoughts that I would describe as “suicidal” from suicidal ideation (thinking or fantasising about suicide and dying) to vaguely noting how you could kill yourself to actively working out how you would kill yourself.  I don’t always find it easy to tell the difference between them, to be honest, so maybe I shouldn’t expect others to do so.

Mum burst into tears when I spoke to her.  Dad… I just struggle to talk to Dad at all these days.  We literally don’t speak each other’s language any more and I don’t know why.  His speech has become more garrulous and rambling, full of unnecessary detail, diversions and repetitions as well malapropisms and vague pronoun use (using pronouns without making it clear what objects they refer to) which are not easy for my autistic brain to understand.  He, on the other hand, has always found my vocabulary difficult to understand and I probably do some of the things I complain about him doing, like not sticking to the point or throwing in unnecessary detail.  Things are not helped by the fact that I think that both my parents are beginning to go a bit deaf and I can’t always tell if they’ve not heard something, heard it and are processing it or are just choosing to ignore it.  My Dad and I seem to bicker a lot more than we used to because of this and I’m not sure why it’s happened.  It upsets me, not least because I think it’s at least in part my fault, but I don’t know what I can do about it, especially as I can’t seem to explain to them about autistic thought patterns and how difficult Dad can be for me to understand.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

So that was my day.  I’m still feeling elements of post-trauma shock.  I know it sounds silly to say ‘trauma,’ but I guess that was how I felt telling my line manager about my issues.  I’m still feeling rather shaky and in shock.  I’m about to watch some Doctor Who for distraction and to make progress with the research for my book, which hopefully will make me feel a bit better.

The Exiled Child

“We are not of your race.  We are not of your Earth.  We are wanderers in the fourth dimension.” – Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (I think only the untransmitted pilot)

7.30pm: just back from picking up my prescription (I got it all in the end).  Really agitated when out.  Images of hurting myself, wanting to hurt myself.  Agitation, perhaps unfocused anger.  I want to write about my childhood trauma.  I want to write about the wicked things I do that make me hate myself so much.  I don’t want to be here.  I can’t function in this world.  One day I’m going to lose it, hurt myself or someone else or just scream and shout until they come and take me away and section me and hospitalise me.  I’ve had a couple of close calls over the years, my luck can’t last forever.  I’m an incompetent defective freak.

I don’t belong here.  This place, this time, this isn’t my home.  Please let me go home.  I’m a very small child and I want to go home.

9.00pm Mid-watching a Jonathan Creek episode I had never seen before to try to cheer myself up.  Bad mistake.  The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb, about the murder of a Jonathan Miller-type scientist/comedian/intellectual, turns out to be fall of stuff about how stupid and evil religious people are.  Plus, it’s also full of sex, which I guess is no surprise (murder mysteries are generally about sex or money, they’re the main reasons to murder someone, and sex is more interesting to write about), but also Jonathan Creek’s new wife has persuaded him to sell out, stop living in his antique windmill, creating magic tricks and become a high-powered business man, which just makes me feel more inadequate.  I couldn’t – and wouldn’t want to – be a big businessman (I would live in an antique windmill, though), but E. might not have broken up with me if I was, nor would I get people asking me (as happened on Friday) if they’re right that no one becomes a librarian for the money.  Actually, senior librarians are paid well and I think being a senior librarian at a university library is comparable to being a senior academic, but, let’s face it, I’m never going to manage that either.  I’m too depressed and unworldly (not in a good way), uninterested in anything beyond my autistic special interests and simply bored and panicked by the thought of professional development or networking (social anxiety!).

9.45pm DVD finished.  Exhausted, but not sleepy.  Agitation is tiring, fantasising about hurting myself is tiring.  Not hurting myself is surprisingly tiring.  Not telling anyone about this is emotionally draining.  I should go to bed because I have work tomorrow, but I feel like I’m carrying a lot of agitated nervous energy in my muscles.  I don’t know what to do.  My life is such a mess.  I’m such a mess.

I don’t belong here.  This place, this time, this isn’t my home.  Please let me go home.  I’m a very small child and I want to go home.

The Seven Beggars

I had a silly Doctor Who dream last night, but for some reason I woke up very anxious about work, really worried that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m going to make a terrible mistake.  I’ve been thinking again that I wish I was dead just to be away from these worries and this loneliness.  I can’t see things ever get better in a substantial way.  Things seem so hopeless at the moment, although “at the moment” has really been for most of the last sixteen years, give or take the occasional six months of remission.  I’m trying to stay open to the idea that I might have a full-time job “one day” and manage to get married “one day” but “one day” is probably years if not decades down the line, which means I probably won’t be able to have children.  I worry what will happen to me when my parents are gone, given I rely on them for financial, practical and, to a lesser extent, emotional, support.

On the Mental Health at Home blog, Ashley Leia posted about being “over-educated and under-functioning” and having to revise career goals because of mental illness, all of which seems familiar to me.  I don’t know how to make more feasible goals, though. I still want to have some kind of full-time/nearly full-time job that will make me financially independent, able to have place of my own and a wife and kids, but none of those things seem at all likely to happen any time in the short or medium term and would require some major unexpected changes to happen in the longer term.

***

I went out today for about an hour and a quarter to do some shopping, but came back feeling exhausted and depressed, really just wanting to go back to bed.  I felt strong feelings of self-loathing and a feeling of not wanting to be alive while not being suicidal as such.  I messed around online for a while, which I shouldn’t have done, but then laid in the dark for a while, first listening to music, then silently, which seemed to help a little; I was still depressed and tired, but felt less exhausted and totally drained.  Perhaps I get autistic sensory overload when out shopping; it seems likely even if I’m not always good at recognising the signs because “I’m always like this” or “everyone gets tired.”  I should probably factor in more recovery time in the future, and after work, and do so in quiet and darkness rather than in front of the computer or TV.

***

I have mentioned before that my presumed autism went undetected for a very long time, even through psychiatric assessments, because I’ve learnt a lot of workarounds and algorithms (for want of a better word) for dealing with certain situations, especially social situations.  I suppose I have a different algorithm for interacting with non-depressed people, one for interacting with neurotypical people, one for frum (religious Jewish) people, one for non-frum people…  The reason I like to find people who are a lot like me, I suspect, is that I have to run fewer algorithms to interact with them or more simply, I don’t have to hide as much of myself.  To interact with non-depressed, neurotypical frum people takes up a lot of ‘processing power’ to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing, even before you factor in the fact that for many autistic people, the amount ‘processing power’ needed in a social situation or interaction increases exponentially with the number of people present.  Like running a lot of apps at once, using so many algorithms, so much processing power, is very draining.  So, at a social event, like the Shabbat (Sabbath) meal I’ve been invited to on Friday, I use a lot of energy just being in the room regardless of what I’m actually doing.  And, of course, work also requires a lot of processing power both for autism and depression.  This is why having a more client-facing role or being in a large noisy office was so difficult for me, because they were so draining.  So, I finish work or social situations incredibly drained, which triggers depression, and I can take hours or even days to recover (in which time I may have to go to work or into social situations again).

***

My Mum thinks I was at kindergarten with the person who invited me for Shabbat dinner this week.  The Jewish world is very small.  The flipside of this is that you can’t escape, or at least that it’s very hard to, which I find a bit depressing.  Sometimes I think I want to be forgotten.

***

I wish I could find the key to unlock the potential and joy hidden in my life, assuming such potential and joy could even exist for me, which I doubt.  I certainly can’t imagine anyone finding enough potential in me to date me for long.  I do really want to love someone though, which I guess brings me back to pets as an object of doting again, despite my Mum’s objections.

***

There was another engagement announced from children of members of my shul again.  It was also announced last Friday – engagement and birth announcements seem to be made twice, as soon as the rabbi hears, he posts something on the shul What’sApp group and then later there’s an email from the administrator.  There is a certain logic to this so that no one misses the news, but it feels like rubbing salt in an open wound.  I don’t really want to opt out of communal announcements, but I do feel like someone trapped outside in the cold, looking at a fun party happening indoors through the window.  I do feel bad for getting so upset and envious when this happens, though.  I don’t want other people to be miserable and lonely, I just wish I wasn’t so miserable and lonely.

***

Listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits while cooking dinner (red bean chilli, a familiar recipe because, once again, I feel too depressed to try something new – I’ve only once used the Jewish cookery book my parents bought me for my birthday in the summer), listening to the loud and angry chords for some reflection of my own inner turmoil.  By the time dinner is ready, I’m very agitated and wanting to hurt myself and am not sure if it’s from my thoughts (which have been going on all day), the music or looking out of curiosity on Only Simchas (not a site I usually frequent) and googling old friends and crushes to see what they’re doing.  Some of the men on Only Simchas are… less attractive than I am, or was, before clomipramine made me put on weight, but I guess they don’t have autism or depression and low incomes.  At any rate, not everyone looks younger than me, but the trend is definitely that the frummer-looking people do look younger than me, and the people I know (yes, it’s a small Jewish world) are significantly younger than me (like ten or fifteen years younger).  I shouldn’t look there again…

***

I keep thinking that I could bear my suffering if I knew it had a purpose, to help someone else somehow, but thinking that it’s just so I can reap more reward in the next world, or worse, to punish me for something, is not enough to be able bear it.  There’s a parable in the Talmud (somewhere early on in Brachot, can’t remember the exact page and I’m not going to look it up now) which in context isn’t relevant to me, but out of context sums up how a feel.  A man is in prison (presumably wrongfully… the Talmud was written when people, especially Jews, could be locked up by the monarch without having done anything wrong) and everyone says to him, “Hold on, tomorrow they’re going to release you and give you an expensive treasure to repay you for your experience” and he responds, “I don’t want the treasure, just get me out of here now!”

I feel that I can’t bear this any more, but somehow I have to.  Vicarious suffering is a complicated area in Judaism, but it doesn’t seem likely that my suffering could help anyone else, which is the only thing that I feel could keep me going.  I feel that I would gladly give up my life to help people, but I can’t live like this, so miserable and lonely, indefinitely without knowing why.  Maybe that’s just a reflection of how little I value my life, how little joy or meaning it gives me, that dying would be a release and potentially more invested with meaning than living.  I’m not suicidal, but it’s hard not to think about being hurt or killed right now.

Crazy Logic

I phoned Samaritans, but I was held in a queue and I chickened out after a minute and hung up.  I hate myself so much, I hate my life so much, I just want to be free of everything, but I can’t.  I want to hurt myself, but I’m too scared.  I could do anything if I wasn’t so scared of everything.  I’ll try Samaritans again in a minute, but I guess they’re undermanned at this time of the year.  It makes me feel like I shouldn’t phone, because I’m not feeling bad enough.  After all, I won’t kill myself and my parents will be home later.  This is probably all crazy logic.

New Logic

I had a whole post I thought of while I was cooking dinner, one of my ‘crazy’ agitated posts where I get caught up in some bizarre chain of reasoning about myself and my life…  As Philip K. Dick said, “Either I’ve invented a whole new logic or, ahem, I’m not playing with a full deck.”  I think we know I’m not playing with a full deck, it’s just a question of how long I can last in the real world.

The chain of thought potentially had an interesting kernel for me to consider some other time, but it is frightening how I get caught up in things and get so agitated and upset.

I feel really upset right now and lonely.  My parents are still at the wedding and probably will be until very late.  I don’t know how I managed to cook dinner; I certainly don’t feel able to do anything else.  I watched some Jonathan Creek.  I don’t know what to do now.  I hate myself right now.  I really, really hate myself.  I half-heartedly tried to self-harm before, hitting the walls.  I feel like I’ve gone mad, but everyone expects me to carry on and function like a normal (that word again) sane person.  I hate myself for not living up to my own standards.  I hate myself for screwing everything up again, as I always do.

I ought to phone Samaritans.  At any rate, that would be better than writing here or hurting myself (literally or metaphorically).  I don’t know what to say to them, though.  I’m scared what’s going to happen to me and I feel so completely alone right now – not because my parents are away, I mean in my life at the moment – a few people care about me, but no one can actually help me, because there’s nothing that can be done for me.

Time Capsule Fragment

I wrote this about an hour ago and interrupted myself before posting.  It feels somewhat unfinished.  I don’t feel as bad now as I did then, but I want to post it as a sort of time capsule, albeit one preserving a recent time, but also as a demonstration of how bad I feel at times, often when I’m not able to post.  I kind of wish I could have a reverse time capsule, with my future self sending encouraging messages back to me, but then again, maybe there’s nothing encouraging to say about my future (this is me positive, wait until you see the negative).

I’m feeling really bad and I don’t know why.  My parents haven’t even gone away yet, although they are out at a charity event at the moment (EDIT: they’re back now).  I want to write what I feel, but when I try to write it all becomes sanitised.  I can’t put what I feel into words.  I’m not sure I entirely know what I feel.

I’m beating myself up because of a religious OCD situation that isn’t really my fault and probably isn’t anything to worry about, but I feel I made a mistake and It’s All My Fault if it Goes Wrong.

Sometimes I wish I was asexual (I believe a number of autistic people are).  I can’t see myself ever getting married, and I wouldn’t have sex outside of marriage (my first girlfriend thought that I wouldn’t even if I was married to her and maybe she was right).  It’s a mitzvah (commandment) for men (not women) to get married and have children, but it’s unlikely that I ever will.  It would make my life easier and less guilt-ridden.

I want to hurt myself, but I feel too scared.  I feel that I’m just messed up beyond all hope of repair.

None of what I’ve written remotely portrays how much emotional pain I feel I’m in right now (plus physical discomfort, as my parents turn the heating up far too high for my liking.  I’ve only recently discovered that sensitivity to heat can be an autistic sensory issue, although I shouldn’t say that as Officially I am Boringly Neurotypical and any unusual behaviour is just common or garden weirdness and the intractability of my depression is just Bad Luck).

This was the point where I stopped writing.  Goodnight.

Ambushed by Despair

It’s nearly Shabbat, but I wanted to blog quickly.

Work is difficult.  The noise of the open plan office (not good for autism), the boring nature of the task and the uninspiring field make it hard to concentrate.  I’m working faster, but with less thought.  The processes have become automatic; every so often I ‘wake up’ with a start and hope I’m doing the right things by rote.  I’m still very worried that I’m making mistakes and think that if I get told off less, I must be disguising the mistakes better, or just eliminating the really obvious ones and leaving others buried.  I still feel like I’m learning the ropes after a month (admittedly a month disrupted by Yom Tov (Jewish festivals)).

Being bored leaves headspace for depression.  I felt depressed, self-critical and self-loathing today.  Also fantasies of self-harm, fantasies because I’m too scared to actually hurt myself.  Perhaps it was good that I even noticed and labelled these depressive and self-critical thoughts as thoughts rather than accepting them as givens.

At 2pm, in the toilets, I just froze.  I wanted to cry, but couldn’t.  I felt useless, not good at this job, not good at any job.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to cope with shul (synagogue) tonight.  It took me five or ten minutes to get myself together enough to go back to my desk.

On the way home I was overwhelmed by sadness.  Why am I so lonely?  Why can’t I function normally in the world the way other people can?

“How Are You Going to WIN?”

“Rule one of dying: don’t. Rule two: slow down. You’ve got the rest of your life. The faster you think, the slower it will pass. Concentrate. Assume you’re going to survive. Always assume that. Imagine you’ve already survived. There’s a storeroom in your mind. Lock the door and think. This is my storeroom. I always imagine that I’m back in my TARDIS, showing off. Telling you how I escaped—making you laugh. That’s what I’m doing right now. I am falling, Clara. I’m dying. And I’m going to explain to you how I survived. Can’t wait to hear what I say. I’m nothing without an audience.” – Doctor Who: Heaven Sent by Steven Moffat

So, there’s this time traveller.  And on the worst day of his life, when he’s lost everything he cares about, he finds himself in a clockwork castle inhabited by his worst nightmare, his own bespoke prison, designed to extract his deepest secrets.  And the only way out is to get through a twenty foot thick wall four hundred times harder than diamond.  And the only way to do that is to punch it repeatedly – billions and billions of times – until it cracks open, each time effectively reincarnating himself whenever he gets killed, horribly and in agony, killed by his nightmare.  Only he comes back without his memory of what’s going on and has to go through the whole process of discovery again to realise that he has to punch the wall again for a bit and die and come back again and punch it some more and die and come back and punch it even more, until eventually after four and half billion years (4,500,000,000 years) he punches through it and out (and then his problems have only just begun, but that’s a story for another time).

Doctor Who: Heaven Sent is supposed to be about grief, but I’ve found it a metaphor for depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression.   By the end of each loop of the story, at the point where he’s in emotional and physical agony, when he can suddenly remember all the times he’s been through this already and knows how much he’s going to have to go through it again, the Doctor wants to give up.  He just wants to die.  But he doesn’t.  Because that’s the most basic fact about the Doctor.  He is never cruel or cowardly, he never gives up and he never gives in.

“I can’t keep doing this, Clara. I can’t! Why’s it always me? Why is it never anybody else’s turn?  Can’t I just lose? Just this once? “

I don’t know how he doesn’t give up.  I feel like I’m running round my own clockwork castle, alone, chased by my own worst nightmare.  And it always catches up with me sooner or later and it always kills me, but somehow I get the strength to send myself through that teleporter again and reincarnate myself for another day.  Just one more day.  But I don’t know how to get through to the other side.  Maybe it will take billions of years?  But I’m not a Time Lord and I can’t live forever.  It’s just a constant struggle getting through the day without hurting myself (I’m having thoughts of suicide and self-harm again).  It’s exhausting, but it’s hard to get people to understand that.  People think I can push myself so much harder, but the reality is that I face a constant battle just to stand in the same place.

I didn’t intend to apply for a job after my surgery yesterday, but I ended up doing so, except that the process was so long (and, to be fair, I procrastinated so much over it initially), that I didn’t get it finished, especially as I needed to cook dinner (and walk to the shops for ingredients which it turned out were in a cupboard and not the fridge as I thought – I haven’t got used to my mother’s kitchen again).  I only did five minutes of Torah study too.  At least I made a good start on the application.  I stayed up late working on it and doing essential (and inessential) shopping, mainly shoes, which I hate buying (I can’t think of any other item of clothing which you buy knowing it won’t quite fit and hoping it will be OK once you’re “worn it in” and softened it up).  Of course, today I feel depressed and can’t get going again.

I’ve finished that job application today, although I worry that I’m unconsciously self-sabotaging, telling myself I don’t have the relevant skills and not answering the questions as well as I might.  I certainly find it hard to tailor my CV, cover letter or application form to the job in question, rather than just handing in a standard CV.

I found out today that I didn’t get called to interview for the job I applied for a couple of weeks ago at a London university library, for a position similar to my last job, even though I was over-qualified for, at least in terms of job title (library assistant instead of assistant librarian – the difference sounds trivial, but it masks very big differences in training and responsibility).  That was the only job so far that I really wanted (the one I applied for today is a tentative second, although I think I’m under-qualified for that one).

My parents want me to apply for this job, researching kosher food products for the London Bet Din (rabbinical court).  I’m reluctant to do so.  Apart from the fact that I’m probably overqualified and would get bored, which may have been part of the problem with my old job, and that I suspect the pay won’t be great, I fear it would trigger my religious OCD even worse than before: not only would I risk treifing up my kitchen, I would risk treifing up thousands of kitchens!  I don’t need that kind of responsibility.  The fact that they want someone who has studied at yeshiva or seminary doesn’t help either.

It often happens that my parents want me to do something and I feel it would be a really bad idea and then I end up doubting myself because I can’t work out if they don’t understand me or I’m being influenced by my mental health issues.  Sometimes I do what they say and it goes wrong as I predicted, not that that has led to anyone trusting me in the future.  My parents don’t always get my mental health issues and underestimate how much they affect me, but then sometimes I genuinely am blinded to reality by them.

E. messaged me late at night saying I’m a good person and shouldn’t beat myself up (I assume that was based on yesterday’s post).  I don’t feel like a good person, though.  I don’t feel like a competent person either.

I had the weird idea to email the agony aunt who writes the Teen Q&A section on Aish.com (Jewish website).  I’m hardly a teen, but my problems did start when I was a teen, but the main reason is she seems to give good advice.  I wanted to ask not so much about practical things (like changing my therapist), but whether God loves me, what should I do about having no simcha shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments) and how I can fit into the frum (religious) community?  It might be helpful to have a perspective from someone who hasn’t known me for years and isn’t so close to things.  But then I think this is just drama queening again, like when I comment on Hevria.com, and why would a complete stranger understand me better than my family, friends, rabbi mentor, therapist I’ve been seeing for six years etc.?  I often think about reaching out to people I don’t know personally to try to talk through things.  It’s rarely a good idea, as it usually just leads to me drama queening on their blogs in the hope of getting sympathy, which I don’t usually get and which I feel bad for asking for when I do get it.

The saga of trying to get a doctor’s appointment continues: last week I was told to phone back at 6.30pm today.  I did that, only to find that the surgery had shut (I was sure they had a late night opening on Mondays, so maybe they just switch off the phones).  The automated system didn’t have any appointments at all with my usual doctor, nor were there any on the online booking system.  I could try to get an appointment with a different doctor, but it’s so hard to find a doctor who understands me that I’m reluctant to do so at this stage.  I will try to get up early tomorrow morning and make an appointment, and tell them I’m suicidal if they refuse.  The problem with playing the suicide card (aside from them getting tired of it, as it’s not the first time it’s happened – it’s not my fault that suicidality is something I live with on an ongoing basis) is that they can then respond that if I’m suicidal I should phone the crisis team or go to A&E.  In the past I’ve been pushed back and forth between the GP’s surgery and the crisis team (who are literally worse than useless – they actually make me want to kill myself even more.  They won’t help you unless you are literally about to kill yourself; when I told them I had wanted to kill myself the previous day, they said they couldn’t help me).

Sensitive, Depressed or Autistic?

I’m still job hunting.  I applied for two jobs yesterday and two today.  It seems the library sector was not as good a fit for a borderline autistic/Aspie as I thought.  Almost all the jobs going seem to require promoting the library service to other staff, which was the element of the renewed contract I was offered at my old job that I thought my boss was saying I would not be able to do, and which I felt I could not do.  It’s surprising how many librarianship jobs have a strong interpersonal element, or even an element of training others, but I have seen stuff in my professional training and development about the industry moving that way, towards teaching and education and away from classifying, cataloguing, maintaining and giving access to books.  I feel under-qualified and under-experienced for every job.  I increasingly feel that I should have stayed in the job I was offered, difficult though it seemed, because I’m not going to find anything to which I am better suited.  I applied for some jobs anyway, but I can feel myself hoping I won’t get called for interview, which is not the right mindset to go in with.

I just can’t see myself being able to do these jobs (a disproportionate number of which seem to involve law librarianship at very exclusive law practices), let alone doing them and being happy.  I feel my life took a wrong turn somewhere, probably a long time ago (university or even school) and I don’t know how to get back on track.  I try to job hunt, but I keep getting distracted and procrastinating, often blogging or wanting to blog, here or on my Doctor Who blog, which I guess is telling.

Looking at my CV and application, I seem to lack a lot of the skills I feel I should have acquired by now.  Looking at my experience, it seems to have been mostly trivial stuff, punctuated by the occasional brief moment of initiative or responsibility.  Is everyone’s first job or two like this, I wonder?  Perhaps they are.  I think my peers are all long past this level of work, though.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else.  It’s impossible not to, though, because I want to know how I am faring in the world and in the absence of an absolutely objective God’s-eye perspective, I can only judge myself against other people.

I want to write an honest CV that would read something like: An overly-rule bound individual who struggles to use his initiative, is pedantic to the point of missing unspoken instructions, is profoundly uncomfortable with social interactions and goes completely to pieces under pressure.  He is unable to make a decision, however trivial, without serious procrastination.  His skills are limited as a result of his training at a third-rate university and are increasingly out of date as he has done little professional development.  He suffers from mental health issues and, frankly, you’ll be lucky to get more than a couple of months consistent work out of him.  He won’t steal the office stationery, but there’s a strong chance you’ll catch him self-harming with it.  Plus it’s likely that any spoken instructions will be lost under the tidal wave of racing socially anxious thoughts that start up whenever someone talks to him.  He has yet to develop any serious Howard Hughes-type eccentricities, but give him time.  And whatever job you give him, he’ll probably be wishing he was blogging.

I also realised that I still can’t remember what my gross annual salary is.  To be fair, I can remember my net monthly salary, but I can’t remember the monthly gross and I have to work out the annual by multiplying the monthly.  I don’t think this is the biggest problem in the world, but it was one of the things that convinced E. that I was too unworldly for her.  It also necessitated a time-wasting walk back to my flat to retrieve my contract so I could check.

The world does often seem too miserable, sordid and complicated for someone like me to thrive in it.  When I was a child, I would often hear it said that I was “sensitive.”  It always seemed that being “sensitive” was not considered a good thing.  I do feel too sensitive to operate in the real world, which upsets me greatly, as I think people should function in the real world and not retreat to solipsism, fantasy or, except for certain select individuals, an ivory tower (my three great retreats).  I don’t know what the exact correlation is between ‘sensitive,’ ‘depressed’ and ‘autistic,’ but I suspect there is one.

I know I write about sex and being a virgin at thirty-five a lot (too much) for a frum (religious) Jew, but I feel it somehow symbolises a lot of my areas of ineptitude: that I can’t form lasting relationships, obviously, but also that I struggle with relationships in general (friendships, family relationships – obviously not the same as being married, but there is some overlap of intimacy, involvement and concern) and that I’m not good with the entire practical, concrete side of life (again, as E. noted).  Then there is the religious side of things that comes with marital sex being a mitzvah (commandment), both for spousal intimacy and for procreation, two areas where I have obviously failed which lead in turn to social dislocation from a community geared towards those who married and started a family in their early twenties or even late teens.  I was at a kosher restaurant this evening with my family and I could see the young frum women in there and in the street outside, and I felt so conscious that they could never love someone like me, and wondered how I will ever find someone who can accept me for who I am.  I felt that this would be a suitable topic for a poem, but I haven’t any poetry for years, not since being rejected as a writer for a website.  Also, when I wrote about sexuality for Hevria.com, I was told that I need to stop viewing women as “anxiety-inducing sexual objects.”  Obviously I ignore the many positive responses I had to the article from women and focus on that one critic (it was a nasty thing to say, though, and I hope ungrounded).

Even at dinner (it was to celebrate my birthday) I felt somewhat inadequate.  I enjoy eating out sometimes, but I do find the noise somewhat draining (a classic autistic trait).  I also felt that the conversation was a bit uncomfortable for me at times.  We spoke a bit about my leaving my job and my job hunt and whether I should have accepted that revised contract.  We also spoke a lot about my sister and my brother-in-law’s ongoing and complicated house move.  I felt that we were saying that I may have made a serious mistake with my life decision and gone backwards while they are moving forwards in a big way, moving up the property ladder (a big thing in the UK, especially in London where property prices are astronomical, although strictly speaking they were already on the ladder).

It feels that the more I try to work on my career, socialising, family, relationships and so on, the harder it becomes, rather than the easier.  I was told that the more I socialised, for example, the easier socialising would become, but it has stayed the same or even got harder for reasons I do not understand.  It is as if I pushed against the world, and it pushed me back, harder.  Similarly taking on new work responsibilities only led me to more social awkwardness and greater expectations of achievement (from myself and in others’ view of me), without actually making it easier to achieve anything.  Working less than two-thirds of full time would seem a backwards step after my previous job, but I am not at all sure that I can manage even those hours.  I wonder again if I should make a third attempt to get myself diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s or whether I just use that possibility as an excuse for living with my parents, being unemployed and being unmarried.  It is very difficult to know what to do, especially without being supported by my therapist.

The Infinitely Deferred Marshmallow

I need to write, but don’t really feel able.  Just had therapy.  I sat in almost complete silence for forty-five minutes (like when I first went to counselling, more than half a lifetime ago), then ended the session early because there seemed no point in continuing.  I felt that my therapist was saying that I made the wrong decision in turning down the job and that there was nothing she could do to help me if I was moving backwards from employment and living independently.   This is probably true.  It underestimates how much I thought my boss was telling me not to take the job I was offered, though.  My therapist focused on my boss’ surprise when I turned the job down and ignored what I said about my boss making it very clear that she did not feel I had the people skills for the new job I was being offered.

I feel I’m just a screw up.  I feel I let everyone down: my therapist, my friends, my non-biological sisters, E., my sister and especially my parents.  Everyone was right: I should have taken a job that would have left me miserable, but would at least have had a steady income.  I can’t see myself getting a new job.  I certainly can’t see myself getting the other things I want in life (community, wife and kids).  I’m just a completely useless screw up.  I haven’t really succeeded since the sheltered, structured environment of school, which suited my (real or imagined) autism.  Even at Oxford, where initially I did well academically, I failed socially.  I used to cry in my room with loneliness, even in my first year, before the depression ‘officially’ began in my second year.

I used to cry in my job.   I don’t think my therapist believed me when I said that, or at least she didn’t think it was a good reason to give up on the job.  I don’t know how many people literally cry at work and whether they should all keep their jobs.

There’s a famous experiment where researchers offer children one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in twenty minutes.  Being able to wait for the second marshmallow is seen as a predictor of self-control and adult success.  I feel like my life is one whole string of infinitely deferred marshmallows, with other people stuffing their faces with their marshmallows and blaming me when I say it must surely be time for me to have one now.

My therapist seemed to make it clear that she can’t do anything else for me and doesn’t think we should continue meeting.  We’re not meeting next week while I think about it.

Today is my birthday.  Thirty-five.  Felicitations, ha ha ha.  I still feel like an anxious, emotionally neglected, bullied child.  I want to go back to bed.  I want to hurt myself.  I want to die.  I don’t have the energy to do any of these things.

I’ve let everyone down.  I’m such a screw up.

Listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, feeling agitated

This is a sort of an addendum to my last post.
“What is that noise?”
                          The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                           Nothing again nothing.
                                                        “Do
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
“Nothing?”
       I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?” 
It seemed sensible to post a chunk of The Waste Land, I’m not sure why.  It freaks me out when I feel agitated like this.  It really does feel like I imagine hypomania would, even though I’ve been told by two psychiatrists that I’m not bipolar (mind you, I’ve been told by lots of psychiatrists that I’m not autistic).  It’s when I’m in this state that I’m most likely to hurt myself, not least because in this state I sometimes feel angry and paranoid and my anger and paranoia tends towards self-destruction.  It’s also in this state that I’m most self-pitying, helpless and attention-seeking (this would be how I feel when I leave self-pitying comments on other people’s blogs), so apologies to the three people who have just received cry for help texts from me.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.
I’m listening to Pachelbel’s Canon to try to calm down, but I don’t think it’s helping.  Watching TV is probably not a good idea, but I might watch some Doctor Who to try and calm down.  At any rate, I don’t feel able to get to bed.  Eat porridge for warm milk to soothe and put to sleep.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

This is the worst feeling.  For much of the afternoon I’ve had a mixture of depression, agitation, despair and loneliness and maybe anger, envy and paranoia running through my head.  I feel that God hates me, that my life is awful and will always remain awful until I die, that everyone hates me, that even my friends and parents only talk to me out of pity and that they secretly don’t like me.  I feel that nothing can ever change for the better and that I am powerless over my own life.  I just want to die and fantasise endlessly about hurting or killing myself, without having the guts to do anything about it.  I wrote stuff I shouldn’t write on Hevria again.

I know that no one can ever love me unless I love myself, but I don’t know how to love myself when there is so little about me that is lovable, and the proof of that is that no one loves me, so how can I break out of this circle?  My therapist once said I was “lovable”, but I don’t see anything about myself that seems remotely lovable.  Surely if I was lovable so people would, you know, love me?

I even found a proof-text that God hates me: “[Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa] would also say: One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to God. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to God.”  (Pirkei Avot 3.10, translation from Chabad.org because I was too depressed and lazy to look elsewhere or translate it myself.)  I don’t think I’m very pleasing to my fellows, given that I have about three real friends at most (as in people who actually contact me rather than waiting for me to contact them) and I worry they only contact me out of pity or worry that I’m going to hurt myself.  I seem to alienate all my friends sooner or later with my depression (or by falling in love with them, I’ve done that a few times).

Or maybe I alienate people by saying that they don’t really like me, as I did here.  It’s very confusing, when you are not good at reading people, to tell if people really like you, particularly if it’s a long-distance friendship over email, text and blogs, as all of my close friendships are (if that doesn’t stop them not being close friendships.   I mean, I would associate close friendships with actually seeing each other sometimes).  I guess that’s why I see marriage as the ultimate seal of approval, because then someone would have chosen to actually see me every day and not just that but to live with me.  So then she would have to really like me.  Except that I would probably worry that she didn’t love me any more and would probably end up pushing her away with my self-loathing and paranoia.

A blogger I really admire who recently got married at the “ancient” (for frum Jews) age of 32 (younger than me) said frum singles should trust in God because there isn’t much else we can do.  But what do you do if you are convinced that God hates you and is deliberately sabotaging your life to make you miserable for reasons unknown (but probably to do with you being evil and wicked)?  And that He wants you to be alone and miserable forever (because you’re so wicked) unless you repent (which you can’t do because you’re too wicked and also too mentally ill and because He’s really trying to make it as hard as He can, within the bounds of free will, for you to be frum because He hates you)?  There isn’t really a lot you can do if an omnipotent being is out to make your life miserable.

I feel like my reasoning went wrong somewhere in this post, or maybe in several somewheres.  Maybe my friends do like me and I am lovable and God doesn’t hate me.  Maybe.   Maybe, as Philip K. Dick said, I either invented a whole new logic or I’m not playing with a full deck.  Maybe.  Either way, it doesn’t change what I feel and the way I get carried away by my feelings when the depression and agitation are so powerful, like an ocean wave against the tiny wooden canoe of my reason and self-esteem.

(At least I’m a bit better at recognising and distinguishing these emotions than I used to be – alexithymia.)

Another Day of Excruciating Brutality

The title of this post comes from a quote from Patrick MacGoohan to Alexis Kanner on the troubled set for Fall Out, the final episode of The Prisoner, probably the second most influential TV programme in my life.  So far as I can remember (the book I read it in is somewhere in a box at my parents’ house) MacGoohan would greet Kanner every morning with “Are you ready?  Because it’s going to be another day of excruciating brutality!”  (He may have used a different adjective, but you get the idea.)  I think about this a lot at the moment, especially as my train pulls in to the station I get off from at work in the mornings.

 

Anyway, Thursday was a day of excruciating brutality.  (I’m throwing Friday and Saturday, which weren’t as bad, into the post because I picked the title on Thursday, but ran out of time to post before Shabbat (the Sabbath).)  On the way into work I was probably not thinking about Patrick MacGoohan, because I was too busy thinking about whether I should buy some razors to self-harm better or even buy some tablets to overdose with.  This was partly from my daily anxiety about work and partly from anxiety about seeing the occupational health nurse there.

As it happened, the nurse turned out to be a really kind person.  We discussed various strategies for work and ended up discarding most of them, as I expected.  I thought that working reduced hours would make it harder to keep coming in rather than easier, just getting me out of the habit of work, and that avoiding the issue desk would just fuel the social anxiety (this comment would come back to haunt me later in the day).  So in the end I just asked for more positive feedback from my boss (something else that would shortly come back to haunt me).  Not much was achieved, but I was just glad to get something down on paper and sent to HR to confirm that, yes, I really am struggling and that I really do have depression.

The nurse also told me not to bang my head on the wall when depressed and anxious and she wasn’t exactly happy about my scratching myself either.  I remembered later that animals in captivity bang their heads on the walls as a sign of boredom and distress…

In the afternoon, my boss pointed out some errors in my work and said that the need for greater speed that she pointed out to me earlier in the week should not come at the expense of accuracy.  I began to worry in earnest that I can not do my job.  As I commented to one of my non-biological sisters (close friends) later, I have a need for reassurance and an Aspie inability to tell the difference between isolated criticism and “I hate you and want to fire you.”

This was bad enough, but I was completely finished off later in the day.  I was on the issue desk from 4pm to 5pm, which I regard as the graveyard slot even on days (like Thursday) when we are open until after 5pm.  However, this time I did get one student with a problem that I had not come across yet who also had a problematic way of requesting help, not really saying what the problem was or what she wanted me to do about it and out-Coolidging me by staying silent until I cracked and started babbling.

By 5pm, I dashed to the toilets to phone my parents.  I didn’t even wait until leaving college as I was so upset, I just wanted to resign and leave this college.  They talked me round, saying that I only have three months left on my contract (and some of that is holiday).  The college may not renew the contract anyway, which would save me worrying about it and they are certainly unlikely to fire me at this stage, as it would be easier just to put up with me for another three months.

Through text conversations with my non-biological sisters, the idea of a career in the research side of librarianship came up.  I worry that I don’t have a good enough MA to do this (I passed with distinction, but it was not at a great university, which I worry could be held against me) and also that my research skills and knowledge are not good enough and that I should have a PhD in a specific subject to research.  I also have a friend who works as a researcher (via academia rather than librarianship) and having seen his financial struggles I am wary of going down the same route as his problems stem from his personality which is very like mine, at least in terms of shyness, difficulty networking, bouts of depression, difficulty selling himself and concentrating on writing that is satisfying, but unpaid (blogging and writing for Doctor Who fan sites) rather than paid writing.

In the evening I was out for dinner with my family, the one good point of the day.  Although it was for two family birthdays, we ended up talking about my work experiences quite a bit.  My parents seemed positive about looking into doing research work.  I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that if my contract is not renewed, I will look at research work; if it is renewed, I will accept the renewal, but think more slowly at changing careers in the future.

I mentioned all this to my therapist the next day.  I’m not sure if she was just being contrary to challenge me, but she seemed a bit worried that I was just running away from things and said that I need to be around people, especially as I don’t live with family or have friends that I see frequently (most of my friends live far away and/or have busy careers that prevent socialising).  I guess this is true, but no job is going to be perfect and this job is probably less Asperger’s-friendly (or my personality-friendly, if I don’t have Asperger’s) than I had thought.

I feel rather confused about all of this.  I am vaguely excited about the thought of doing professional research, as I do enjoy that sort of thing, but I am conscious of the need to network and sell myself, to learn yet another load of skills and techniques and perhaps to find some kind of mentor.  I’m a bit panicked, although I thought I would start by talking to my friend to ask how he got into research.

Friday evening was also difficult.  The rabbi spoke to me after shul (synagogue), saying he got my email about looking for a shadchan (matchmaker) who deals with people with health issues.  He said he doesn’t know anyone, but would be willing to talk to me anyway.  I was too socially anxious to say much in response (I’m not good when people talk to me when I’m not prepared), so I didn’t ask what exactly he meant, but I guess he means tips about the best way to approach looking for someone like me, which might mean someone with ‘issues’ of some kind.  I would be grateful for the help, as I still don’t really understand the shidduch dating process, but I’m pessimistic about the whole thing.  I still thing that freaks like me don’t get married and people as wicked as I am don’t merit God’s attention.

My parents had friends over for Shabbat dinner which is rare for us.  I didn’t really cope well.  I was exhausted from the tough week and couldn’t cope with the noise and the people, even though there were only five of us.  The talk was gossipy, not in the sense of talking behind people’s backs, but just talking about news of family and mutual friends, which I find incredibly tedious and depleting anyway, especially as the talk was of people important to my parents and their friends, not to me.  I spent an hour in bed before dinner and another hour afterwards.  I’m not sure if I dozed or if I just lay there mentally beating myself up.  At any rate, I was too exhausted, depressed and self-critical to do much Torah study or to read much.

I thought a lot about my boss’ comment that my work rate is too slow and I began to wonder if I spend too long looking at the books I am cataloguing as she suggested.  As a librarian, I find that I have to look at the books a bit, both to know the stock and be able to guide students to it and to allocate correct subject words as titles, back cover blurbs and even contents pages can be misleading.  Still, one can get too absorbed in things.  I came to the conclusion that if I had been spending too long on each book, this was tantamount to theft from my employer and my previous employer.

The Talmud talks of the six questions a person is asked after death to get to the afterlife, of which the first is “Were you honest in your business dealings?”  I always thought that at least I could answer that one in the positive, even though it seemed unlikely that I could affirm the others, but now I wonder about even that.  I felt that I had effectively “stolen” large amounts of money by not working 100%, even though I know that other people do things at work that I would never do, e.g. look at social media or have long conversations with colleagues about non-work matters.  I try very hard to give my employers seven full hours of work a day, even when I am very depressed and exhausted, and now I was telling myself that I had “stolen” huge amounts of time (albeit in tiny minutes-long increments over a number of years).  My previous employers seemed to be OK with my work rate and as an academic library, they probably needed more accurate and thorough subject words on their records, but I still felt bad about my time there and especially about my current job.

Today was similarly a wash out.  I was too depressed to go to shul.  I spent a lot of time in bed again, either sleeping or beating myself up about things.  I had a little religious OCD regarding kashrut and I also came to the conclusion that the worry about not working fast enough being theft is probably also religious OCD, but I’m not sure.  I only did about five minutes of Torah study.  I just feel that I can’t be bothered to do more, or I can’t face it, which isn’t quite the same thing.  I obviously slept through Shacharit (morning service) again, did a truncated Musaf (additional service) and struggled to get through the whole of Mincha and Ma’ariv (afternoon and evening services), although I did manage it, despite initially thinking that I wouldn’t.  I don’t really praise myself enough for these things.  It seems silly to praise myself for things that most frum (religious) men would consider basic, like saying, “I’m such an amazing tzaddik (righteous person), I didn’t murder anyone today!”

Self-Harm

After my last post I went to bed fully dressed.  I think I must have dozed off, because I lost an hour.  I got up and ate dinner.  A friend texted to continue a conversation from days ago that I had forgotten, asking if I had ambitions that didn’t involve someone else (i.e. not marrying and procreating).  I said no.  My therapist has noticed this too.  My ambitions growing up were to watch the whole of Doctor Who (done, as far as is possible), to get to Oxbridge (done, and I was thoroughly miserable there) and that was it really.  I have at different times had vague ideas of being a historian or a writer, but nothing ever materialised, because my self-esteem was too low to push through the setbacks and the thinking-I’m-awful-ness.  I guess I did push through some of the setbacks to be a librarian, but nowadays it feels like a job, not a career, and I wonder how long it will be before I get fired.

All of which is nothing to do with why I opened WordPress up again, which is to say that I just scratched my arm with (blunt) scissors, which I haven’t done for a while.  Even drew a little drop of blood, which is rare (they’re very blunt scissors).  I have a lot of anger and frustration inside of me right now, and I’m not sure who it’s directed at: myself, God, my job, my friends, people online, all of the above…  It is a release of tension.  It’s also a cry for help, but no one really seems to know what I should do and people who don’t read this are only vaguely aware that there’s even an issue (I did just feel I should phone my Mum, but I didn’t tell her about scratching myself).  I don’t really want to be hospitalised and I know from experience they won’t hospitalise me unless I’ve more or less got the drugs in my hands to overdose with, but I don’t know what I do want.  I just can’t cope right now and both work and not-work are pushing me over the brink in different ways, which makes it hard to know what to do.  Likewise religion and thinking about not being religious are pulling me too hard in opposite directions.  On which note, I did daven Ma’ariv (said evening prayers) this evening, but I was too tired to do any Torah study, which hasn’t happened for something like thirteen years and I will probably skip my hitbodedut (unstructured prayer) too, which is also rare.  I just haven’t got the energy or really the inclination – I just feel sure that God hates me and doesn’t want anything from me and I probably feel too angry with Him.

Sometimes I want to hurt myself visibly so people can see how bad I feel and take me seriously.  I think most of the time I don’t really want to die either, I just want to make a failed suicide attempt so people would take me seriously, even though I know that the usual reaction to failed suicide attempts on the part of friends and family is anger, not sympathy or empathy.  Or maybe I just want to move things to a crisis, in the hope (probably inspired by fiction) that if I did that there would be some kind of catharsis.  But I nearly attempted suicide fourteen years ago and I still haven’t really moved on.

I vaguely feel that I want to hurt myself again, but I feel too tired, which is probably a sign I should shower and go to bed.  I suppose I ought to clear up those scratches first as they bled.

Russian Roulette

I was going to act out.  I was going to write a furious post, full of anger and bad language and vague suicidal threats.  It was in my head on the way home.  Already now I’m calming down, as I always do.  Sometimes I wish I had the energy to just do it, do the crazy thing, isolate everyone from me, even try to kill myself, but at least to express to everyone that I feel my life is screwed up and I can’t bear it a moment longer.  But it never happens.

Rewind to last night.  I was agitated.  I wrote a blog post and then deleted it ten minutes later, worried about who might read it (some of you might have seen it, one way or another).  I was angry with HaShem (God), I said things that I probably shouldn’t have said.  I don’t even remember what they were, just that I was feeling hopeless and hated by Him and wanted to last out at Him.  I don’t think I even said anything that bad.  I’m pretty repressed, even at this stage.

And today I felt He was punishing me again.

I was too depressed and lethargic to get going this morning.  Somehow I managed to get to work on time (just).  I didn’t have time to put on tallit and tefillin, though, and I hurried through a couple of prayers briefly on the Tube, sitting when I should have been standing.  I felt guilty for this, but not guilty enough.  Moments later the train suddenly changed destination and I had to change, nearly making me late.  He can be quick when He wants to be.  I didn’t have time to shave either and felt a mess the whole day.

I could hardly function at work.  I somehow did some work, but I am fairly worried that at some stage it will emerge that it was substandard.  I had to stop at times because I was just overwhelmed and couldn’t concentrate.  I made mistakes.  I felt that I am not good enough at my job, which led on to thinking that I am also not good enough at my religion or my life.  I thought of resigning.  I had frequent, vivid thoughts of suicide and death.  I self-harmed a bit (this is still at work), pulling my hair and hitting myself when no one could see.  I wanted to go to the toilet and make myself sick, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure why I didn’t.  I fantasised about being beaten up, I wanted to hurt myself physically because I deserve it and because I want to blot out the emotional pain.

The final straw was finding out someone I once asked out got married.  I couldn’t even go into a real sulk, because I also found out her mother died a few months before, so that made me feel bad for being envious and frustrated.

This morning (this was actually before work, but it probably coloured the day, subconsciously) I felt that I could see all the great figures of Jewish history, everyone I respect and revere, from Avraham Avinu (Abraham our father) to my rabbi mentor judging me, angry and disappointed in me.  I’m sure that HaShem hates me.  I’m not a functioning Jew any more.  I should just die.  I thought of overdosing, but thought I probably don’t have enough pills and I would probably tell someone (I’m too much of  a  drama queen not to) and they’d pump my stomach, which would be painful, but I would survive.  Jumping in front of a bus or train was dismissed as too painful and unfair to others, but I nearly got hit by a car twice on the way home – accidents, but I’ve clearly got a death wish.  I don’t know how it’s possible to keep functioning while having such frequent suicidal ideation.

I feel as if I’m playing Russian roulette.  I’m the only player and the game goes on indefinitely, which means that sooner or later I’m certain to shoot myself.  Whenever I tell anyone this, they don’t believe me or they blame me or they try to stop me, but they can’t do the necessary thing and take the gun away from me.

I wish I could write what I feel.  I mean really write it, in a book or at least a coherent blog, instead of these inane ramblings.  I’ve long dreamed of writing a graphic novel about my depression, but I couldn’t do it and anyway, the idea has been done.  As I said in the first paragraph, on the way home I kicked around ideas for a post with language like… I actually can’t remember what it was.  It was very angry and graphic, with lots of use of the f-word (which I never use, I have literally never used it aloud) and complaints that everyone else is happy and everyone else is sexually fulfilled (neither of which is true, obviously, although it feels like they are at times; it also feels like almost everyone is more happy and more sexually fulfilled than I am).  But that doesn’t feel like me now.  In the security of my flat, as opposed to the depressive- socially anxious- and autistic-Hell of work and the London Underground during rush hour, I feel calmer.  I don’t like myself, but I don’t particularly feel like killing myself or losing my temper with my friends or leaving self-pitying comments on other people’s blogs or self-harming or making myself sick or generally acting out in other self-destructive ways that I was thinking of doing at work or on the way home.  I suppose this is how I manage to stay out of hospital: work and the commute and shul push me almost, but not quite, over the brink, then a few hours of relaxation leave me set to start all over again the next day.  Nothing is ever resolved, I never try to kill myself, but I never get better either.  The ‘stuckness’ remains.  It’s just a question of how long I can go on like this without something giving, and what will happen when it does.

“I am but mad north-north west”

I’ve had an awful twenty-four hours.  It’s hard to indicate how disturbed and agitated my thoughts have been.  I don’t want to write in detail and worry everyone… but then, I do feel the need to reach out.  Then again, even if I wanted to, I doubt I could replicate the fast, choppy, agitated and often visual thoughts going through my head this afternoon.

Picking up from yesterday’s post I was very depressed before going to bed.  I didn’t really want to do my hitbodedut spontaneous prayer; in the end I did a few minutes before giving up.  I think I went to bed around 11pm, but I couldn’t sleep and ended up getting up and watching Doctor Who and somehow getting a stomach ache from I don’t know what.

The bottom line was that I overslept this morning and didn’t have time to daven (pray).  I got to work before 9am, so I was able to say the Shema and the Amidah and Alenu prayers in the little conference room, but I couldn’t put on tallit and tefillin today.  On the train in, I was too depressed to read (either Mishnah or recreational reading) or to listen to music.  I just sat with my eyes scrunched shut.  I wondered if I was losing my ability to be frum (religious).  If I believe in God and the Torah surely it should follow automatically that I would at least try to be frum, but apparently not.  It’s as hard to do it now as when the religious OCD was at its worst, but this time with no obvious reason.

I struggled through the morning feeling shattered and having great difficulty concentrating, but it was afternoon when everything really went wrong.  I kept texting myself brief notes of what I was thinking, primarily to write this post, but it strikes me that I do have a timecoded record of my thoughts in case I decide to go to a doctor about this.

Shortly after I got back from lunch at 2pm, I was still struggling to concentrate and feeling exhausted (so no energy boost from lunch).  My anxiety spiked and I started worrying that I was going to be fired or even be arrested.  I haven’t really mentioned this here, but as well as OCD worries about kashrut and other Jewish things, I have anxieties that I might have committed a crime without realising it and I’m going to get arrested for it, or that I will commit a crime or a sackable offence at work.  Mixed in with this were some more or less rational worries about the political situation, but the OCD and related anxieties were more worrying for coming out of nowhere and dominating.  OK, not quite nowhere, as they are clearly based on my experience last week of my boss finding out about my blog, but these types of thoughts had been dormant for a while and I thought I had largely beaten them.

Shortly afterwards, I was crying and thinking about resigning my job.  I can’t remember why this seemed like a good idea, but it was probably because I feel I just can’t cope with it.  I was the only person in the office at this point; I didn’t want to be seen crying… but part of me did, just to get it out in the open.

By half-past three, I was feeling the feeling I refer to as being ‘sunk’, when I feel like a sunk ship at the bottom of the sea, unable to move or do anything.  I was feeling overwhelmed by despair.  Strangely, I was still working with this going on in the background.  I would work for a few minutes, struggle with my thoughts for a bit, work some more… I think the amount of cataloguing I did wasn’t particularly bad.  I doubt my boss will complain or think anything amiss if I don’t tell her what a bad time I was having.

It was around this time (3.40pm) that I was having thoughts of hurting myself.  Either actual thoughts of self-harm and later of suicide, or images of being beaten up by my doppelganger.  The thoughts were vivid enough to make me wince sometimes.  I can’t remember at what point I started thinking about overdosing on my medication, but it persisted through the afternoon.

By the time I finished work at 5pm, I was having intense thoughts of hurting myself/being hurt and of suicide.  I usually phone my parents most days, but I didn’t phone them yesterday and I was trying to think of how to avoid phoning them today, because I feel I have let them down, and that I’ve let the college I work for down too.  I feel I’ve pretty much let everyone down and that I’m not really capable of doing anything right.

Then on the way home I was reminded of a major mistake I made fifteen years ago… the story is too long, not to mention too embarrassing, to mention here, but it makes me feel like I can never escape my mistakes, that they will always come back to haunt me.

I’ve written this down and, as I feared, it sounds fairly rational.  What I can’t really communicate is how frightening this is.  I know I’m not psychotic, but my thoughts are so agitated and violent, they come so quickly and so (apparently) outside of my control that they frighten me, especially when I start thinking of throwing myself in front of a train or overdosing on my meds, even if I don’t really intend to follow through on those thoughts.  It’s the fear that I might have a moment of weakness and act on them.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if I can really go to the doctor having had two or three bad days, particularly as I would have to miss work to do so, possibly most of a day, as I would be an emergency appointment squeezed in when they had time.  And getting time off for an appointment means telling my boss and, realistically, my parents (a) because I tell my parents all my major news and (b) because I’m not sure how much of a fit state I’m in to coordinate making an appointment and getting to it on time without at least having the potential of a lift to the doctor if I’m running late.  I do feel like I’ve let everyone down.

Then there’s the question of what would happen if I did go to the doctor.  I do have a sympathetic GP, but I know from experience that there isn’t much he can do for me when I’m in distress, but not actually hurting myself.  He might refer me back to the psychiatrist, but there’s a waiting list for that.  He might send the crisis team round, but they’re completely inadequate.  I’ve been here before.  All they do is turn up some time during the day to make sure you haven’t killed yourself in the last twenty-four hours.  They’re useless timekeepers too: if they say that they will come at 10.00am, they could turn up at any time from 10.00 to 3.00pm… unless you assume they’re coming late and stay in bed, in which case they’ll arrive at 9.30am.  To be fair I can see that their day would be hard to schedule, but it makes carrying on with work and my routine difficult even though the main thing they say is to carry on with one’s routine and work.  So that would require more time off work.

I’d rather go to work if I can, given that I think being off work for two weeks was what triggered this episode, or at least worsened it.  I’d like to ask for something to be made easier, but I don’t know what is both a “reasonable adjustment” that work will agree to, and which doesn’t render my job meaningless.  What upsets me about work is screwing everything up, so reducing the workload isn’t going to make that fear go away, because however little I do, I will still be afraid of screwing it up.  I could potentially ask to be kept off the issue desk for a while, as that’s the most anxiety-inducing part of the job, but (a) I think that might go beyond “reasonable adjustment”, (b) it would advertise to all my colleagues that I have issues and (c) I don’t think running away is a particularly good strategy.

So I feel fairly stuck.  I don’t feel as agitated as I did earlier, when I was worried that I would become suicidal, but at the same time, I sometimes feel it would be better if I stayed agitated and fantasising of self-harm because that would be easier to deal with than having my mood change all the time.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Having made the decision/mistake to stay up late blogging last night and then got sidetracked into reading news sites with horrified fascination, I didn’t wake up until 11.00am today.  Even then it took another hour to feel well enough to get out of bed and a couple more hours of eating breakfast, going back to bed, getting up again, procrastinating by reading online (mostly political news, mostly horrifying) before I could get dressed.  When my depression is bad, I try to avoid the news, but then I feel ill-informed and a Bad Citizen, so I go back to reading it and get depressed.  I don’t like to talk about politics here, but, whatever one’s views, it does seem that we live in a much more unstable world since the upheavals of a few years ago (Credit Crunch, Arab Spring) where anything can happen (Brexit, Trump, Corbyn) except, of course, what all the pundits expect.  I don’t know whether the Chinese really consider it a curse to live in “interesting times,” but it feels like one to me.

Something else I’ve read today indicates that depression really is making me stupider.  So at least it’s not my imagination.  I do wonder what my IQ is these days.  I certainly seem to have more trouble with reasoning and problem-solving, although as most of my problem-solving is at work, it’s hard to tell what is social anxiety panicking me into making mistakes and what is depression making me less intelligent.  I guess I did get both my BA and my MA while very depressed, so I can’t be that stupid, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.

The only thing I really achieved today was a only partially successful shopping expedition.  I ran into a load of people I knew who I would rather not have met, particularly the person several years younger than me who was out with his three children, just to make me feel more inadequate.  I had a partial breakdown in the kosher deli, trying to buy bread (the kosher baker was long-since shut).  They didn’t have the wholemeal bread I wanted and I stood there for what felt like an age trying to work out if I should buy granary bread or ask my parents to buy a loaf for me tomorrow (I get home from work long after the baker is shut).  It was only after I had bought the granary bread that I realised that I had other, better, options: come back to the deli tomorrow or buy kosher hechshered bread from the supermarket (not everyone agrees that that’s OK and I always feel vaguely uncomfortable about it even though my rabbi mentor says it’s fine; I suspect that a lot of people at my shul would not eat it, but then I suspect they wouldn’t buy ordinary milk either and I do that… another instance of not quite fitting in to my community).

My iPod battery had died without me noticing, so I didn’t have music to distract me when I was walking to the shops (I don’t drive), so I got my full depressive internal monologue unadulterated for half an hour or more.  I was thinking that I don’t know how I am going to do any cooking tonight or to get to work tomorrow, which led me to feel that I am failing with my life, that I should just resign my job and tell the shadchan (matchmaker) not to bother to set me up with anyone (not that she’s got back to me yet anyway) and generally stop trying to be a grown up because I can’t cope with it.  I had thoughts of self-harm, more to do with trying to avoid work than because I really wanted to hurt myself.  There was some movement towards mental monologuing, but at least I shut that off.

I’m supposed to be cooking chilli for dinner, but I don’t have the energy to do it.  I don’t even have the energy to cook macaroni cheese, which is my standby ‘easy’ recipe.  I’m not sure I can even just cook plain pasta.  I have to think strategically about food now, because I’m too tired and too lacking in time to cook on workday evenings, have limited “freezer” space (I don’t have a freezer, just a small freezer compartment in my small fridge) for convenience food (which I try not to eat too much anyway) or cooking for the freezer and have now lost some easy meals now I don’t eat fish except on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  I need to save easy meals for workdays, but that means I really should be cooking for two days on Sundays, when I feel depressed and exhausted.

I feel very listless.  It’s hard to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes.  I can’t really read properly.  It’s hard to feel motivated to do anything, even just to watch TV.  I just want to go back to bed, but I won’t sleep.  I want to be alone, but I also want someone to reassure me somehow, even though I doubt anyone could.  At any rate, when people try to reassure me here, it doesn’t work, at least not for long.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about these lost Sundays, as it does no good.  I really do think I need the time to recover from the work week.  Still, I wish I could do more and, if I don’t actively do things, I wish I would sit and read a book or watch a DVD rather than browse aimlessly online until I find something that upsets me.  Sometimes it feels like I want to make myself depressed.  But on days like today it’s hard to concentrate on anything or to get the motivation to do something.

I wrote the above on and off during the afternoon.  At 6.20pm, I turned off the lights and went to bed fully clothed, because I couldn’t face being up any more.  I lay there for a long time too depressed to do anything and eventually fell asleep.  I got up a few minutes ago.  I feel a little bit better, although it’s too late to salvage anything from the day.  I’ll scavenge something for dinner and then go to bed and try to go to work tomorrow.

Angry with God

A while ago, when I started writing about not knowing what my mission is in life, Louise Dennis commented to say that testifying might be part of it.  This seemed meaningful to me, but it is hard to know what exactly I am testifying to, how I am supposed to do it and how big a part of my life it is supposed to be.  I mention this because I am in two minds about this post and this perspective of testimony only makes me more confused.  Is what I am about to write a meaningful testimony, or does it even undermine what I have said until now?  I am not sure.

Last night, I felt very angry with God.  This is not new and I think I have even mentioned it here before, but what did seem new was the ferocity with which I felt it and my willingness to express it.  I felt really ‘mad’ with anger, not something that I often feel.  I should point out that being angry with God is not the same as atheism.  Even the ‘New Atheists’ like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens are arguably not angry with God.  Angry with religious believers, certainly (and Hitchens’ preference for disease metaphors when discussing Jews was notorious – he surely knew that the Nazis had done the same thing in their antisemitic propaganda), perhaps angry that the concept of God persists, but to be angry with someone, you first have to concede the existence of what you hate.  No one ever got angry with Sherlock Holmes.

I acknowledge that my anger stems from incomplete knowledge and from ‘trivial’ personal reasons.  In Judaism there is a conceptual difference between emunah, belief that God exists, and bitachon, trust that God intervenes in a positive way in your life.  I believe very strongly that God exists, that He wrote the Torah, that I should live my life according to the Torah and so on through the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith.  Conceptually, I completely agree that God is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent and that whatever happens that seems bad is only a product of our lack of omniscience; if we could adopt God’s perspective, we would see the event’s necessity (albeit that that necessity might be “Action X is bad, but removing man’s free will by miraculously preventing his bad actions would be worse” – the classic ‘free will’ answer to theodicy).

However, knowing that someone is doing something for a good reason is an intellectual process.  It doesn’t deal with the emotions aroused by the actions and indeed I have heard rabbis speak of the need to distinguish between intellectual and emotional questions about suffering and to respond in the correct way, not because one is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’, but because emotional questions can not be answered intellectually and vice versa.  To pick a mundane example, if you are running late for a meeting and have to pull over to allow an ambulance to pass, you might still get angry, even though intellectually you realise that the ambulance’s need for access is greater than yours.

Emotionally, I feel very angry with the way my life has gone.  I feel that I have spent most of my adult life, perhaps most of my whole life, lonely and depressed while others who seem no better than me (and sometimes rather worse) have achieved success in many areas where I want to succeed.  The roots of my depression go deep back into childhood experiences of bullying and mild emotional neglect and I used to feel anger at the people involved, both those who actively perpetrated them and at the adults who let those situations develop; although I thought I had put those feelings behind me, yesterday evening, probably not for the first time, I extended that anger to God, Who at the very least let the situations arise.

Yesterday this spilt out into active anger.  I can’t remember what the trigger was.  Perhaps there wasn’t an obvious one.  I just felt really angry late in the evening.  I thought that I needed to express the anger rather than just let it bubble up inside of me, so I hurried to my hitbodedut (spontaneous prayers) to say how angry I felt.  Interestingly, once I did that, a number of other emotions were, so to speak, dragged up from my unconscious with the anger: depression, leading to crying, and intense anxiety leading to my unhealthy coping mechanisms for anxiety, notably mild self-harm (hitting myself, hitting my head on the wall) even while I was still talking.  I do not experience anger like this very often, so it is hard to know how much of this was from the anger itself and how much was from my guilt over being angry specifically with God.

Afterwards, I felt upset and exhausted, as after a draining therapy session, but it was late, so I hurried to bed.  In retrospect, I should have watched TV or read something light to ‘come down,’ as I couldn’t sleep and when I did fall asleep, it was not refreshing sleep and I could not get out of bed in the morning.

I drafted the above paragraphs on my lunch break today at work.  I had intended to continue with some thoughts about where I go from here with these feelings, but I can’t remember what I intended to write because I’m too upset about what happened next.

About 3.30pm, my boss asked if she could have a word with me.  “Don’t worry, it’s not a disciplinary matter,” she said, which immediately got me worried about what I might have done that is nearly, but not quite, a disciplinary matter.

It turns out she knew about the blog.  I was anxious to stress that I only write during my lunch hour, which she knew already.  The issue was that the computers in the college can detect key words being used online and they had been picking up some of my blog posts.  I don’t know what the words in question are, but I would imagine that ‘self-harm’ and ‘suicide’ are on the list as today was apparently not the first time my blog posts have been detected.  (No, I didn’t write any of the posts about being scared of sex and frustrated by my virginity in college.  I’m not that naive.)  Copies of suspect material are automatically sent to HR who sent it on to (in my case) my boss, my boss’ boss and the principal of the college.  Short of sending copies to Scotland Yard, the Home Office and MI5, I’m not sure I can imagine a more embarrassing scenario.  So now everyone I work for knows I’m a mentally ill, melodramatic, religious hypocrite and loser with a childish prose style and a self-destructive streak.  I think I can say goodbye to any chances of my contract being extended beyond April.  My Dad (because I was so upset that as soon as I finished work at 5pm I had to phone my parents and vent, thereby adding another two people to the list who know of my frailties and mistakes), eager to put a positive spin on things, says that maybe they’ll make me a mental health ambassador.  It doesn’t seem very likely that I’ll be any kind of ambassador for anything, ever.

The main good thing to come out of this is that it has reminded my boss that I have issues and that she promised to refer me to the college occupational health team, something she had forgotten.   My boss also stressed that I’m free to continue blogging in my lunch hour, but I should be aware that what I write may be scrutinised, and it’s an automatic process that they can’t stop.

I suppose I should be careful what I wish for, as I have reflected here in the past that I sometimes wish that other people could know that I am struggling without my having to find the courage to tell them.  Somehow I didn’t think it would happen like this.  And I don’t know which old posts showed up, whether they included anything about the social anxiety and borderline Asperger’s or just the depression and self-harm/suicide.  I suppose I should be grateful that at least I didn’t write anything that might have been a sackable offence.  I tend to be careful what I say online because I’ve always been aware that my anonymity was far from secure (I’m a fundamentally honest person and bad at keeping secrets like that and I’m too honest and open about myself here to hide crucial information that could identify me to anyone who really wanted to find out).  Anyway, it isn’t in my personality to go around complaining about other people, only about myself.

Still, it does reinforce my anxiety, which I had again only this morning, that I’m going to be fired for something at some point.  And also my feeling that God is punishing me, although I’m not sure that I’ve said anything actually sinful here; I’ve heard from rabbis in the past that it’s OK to be angry with God.

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.

Overwhelmed by Emotions (written over two days)

Written Sunday 17 December:

I feel very depressed today and I don’t know why.  I just want to curl up in bed and sleep.  It’s pretty much impossible to do anything, even to read.  I managed a little bit of work on my Doctor Who book and three minutes (!) of Torah study and a few minutes sorting some stuff on online banking, but that was about it.

I took another Asperger’s test online.  As with many of these things, I came out quite neurotypical in some ways, quite autistic in others.  I might have come out more neurodivergent if some of the questions hadn’t been oddly worded, and there hadn’t been so many questions about relationships and sex that I couldn’t answer properly from lack of experience.

One of my non-biological sisters sent me a link to a page with “15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like ****“.  The problem is I do or have done almost all of them.  One or two help a little bit (e.g. exercise, which I haven’t done for too long), but most of them don’t help much, or at best make sure I’m ‘merely’ very depressed and not suicidally depressed.  Another article on the same site (which I gave up on) stressed the importance of exercise and social interaction, but the former is hard when you have no time because of work, a long commute and religious obligations and it’s cold and dark out when you’re not at work (I can’t afford to join a gym) and the latter is almost impossible with social anxiety and Asperger’s (and when you’re a freak who doesn’t know how to talk to other people and that no one wants to talk to anyway).

Written Monday 18 December:

I’m still in the office.  I have finished work for the day, but I need to type to try to get rid of some of my thoughts.  I was more or less OK this morning, although it was hard to concentrate (end of term, I guess) and I had some OCD at lunch, but the afternoon has been hard.  About 2.30pm one of my colleagues came to the office to talk to the second in command in the library (my boss being at the other campus).  They went into the conference room and I could hear my colleague crying.  I don’t know what she was so upset about, but I nearly burst into tears in sympathy just from hearing her.  She went home shortly afterwards, so I ended up being on the issue desk for most of the afternoon to cover for her.  I didn’t know what to say to her when she left, and felt bad for not handling the situation well.

My social interactions on the issue desk were difficult again and I made some mistakes.  I am probably beating myself up for trivial things, but I feel that I am not coping here.  I suddenly started feeling really anxious about three quarters of an hour ago and I don’t know why.  I guess it’s partly guilt/self-criticism for the mistakes and partly from the books I was cataloguing.  I was cataloguing a book about the use of psychological profiling to help the police solve serious crimes.  I started worrying about my own dark side and whether that corresponded with those profiles.  Worrying if I would ever commit a serious crime.  This is probably OCD (pure O – obsessional worrying without compulsions) and indeed I did have some religious OCD today too.  But that doesn’t make it easier to live with when you are beating yourself up for crimes you haven’t committed.  It’s not too out of control, I can see they are just thoughts, but it’s still hard.  For the last half-hour or so my muscles have been painfully tense and my brain is just not working.  For the last five or ten minutes of the work day I couldn’t really do much more than just try to breathe because I felt so tense and anxious.  I haven’t felt this bad for nearly a year, when I was often missing work in my old job.  I hoped I wouldn’t be that bad in this job.  I’m glad that we are almost at the end of term, because I feel I can’t cope.

For the first time, I have borrowed some books from the library where I work to read over the holiday: two books on Asperger’s Syndrome (to try to understand myself better and find some tips on coping with social interactions – one book has a whole section on romantic relationships) and one on Gothic fiction (as background research for my Doctor Who book).

A Day in the Life

Disjointed ‘early morning’ (actually after 11.30am, but I’d only just got up) thoughts:

“I didn’t realise I was crying until I felt the tear on my cheek.”

“Why can’t I get anything right?”

“I’ve done things that would make everyone hate me if they knew about them.”

“I am such an idiot.”

“If I’ve been shomer Shabbat for half my lifetime, why am I still having anxiety dreams about breaking Shabbos?”  [It was also a yeshiva anxiety dream, which is at least new for me.]

“The world is sick and crazy” (this on looking at the BBC news website).

“I hate myself.  I hate myself.”

“I feel sick.  I sicken myself.”

“Would I rather be dead or happy?  I’m not sure.”

“Weirdo.  Freak.”

“Why would I be happy as myself?  I hate myself.”

Afternoon thoughts:

Thoughts of scratching myself with my (very blunt) desk scissors (not acted on).

I want friends, I even try to make contact, but they don’t get back to me and live far away anyway and I lack the confidence and energy to chase them or make new friends.  I doubt that I’ll get to the oneg (Shabbat party) organised by my shul this week, and as my parents are out for Shabbat dinner it will be a lonely Friday evening, feeling everyone is having fun without me (it’s Shabbat UK/The Shabbat Project).  I will try to get to depression group for the first time in ages

Mid-afternoon:

Retail therapy: I just bought a load of books.  I bought a book on the laws of muktzah (things that can’t be touched on Shabbat) from the local Jewish bookshop and three books from the charity shop: Homage to Catalonia (which I’d been meaning to get around to reading for ages), a popular economics book and The Writer’s Tale, Russell T. Davies’ book on writing Doctor Who.  The latter was only bought as background for the book I’m writing and I probably won’t read it all, because it’s huge and because I don’t like Davies’ writing or the persona he projects very much and I doubt I can stick with it for 700+ pages.  Maybe that was a mistake, though, as I’ll probably end up reading it (I just flicked through for a couple of minutes and already found something that (a) really annoyed me (for two different reasons) and (b) is important for my book so it’s swings and roundabouts.  I just have to be able to write the chapter without it turning into abuse.  Also, Davies says that Martha is the only one of his companions who is genuinely selfless, which probably explains why she’s my favourite).

Late afternoon: I’ve been sitting aimlessly browsing online for about an hour (to be fair, I did catalogue my new books on Goodreads and eat some fruit (yes, I catalogue my own books.  I am a librarian!)).  Even though I told myself not to.  Even though I didn’t read anything interesting and mostly ended up skimming pages without reading properly (and did read something upsetting in an old blog post by someone who reads my blog – upsetting that she’s struggling with life rather than something offensive).  Even though I told myself to read a book when I’m depressed or even watch a DVD if I’m too depressed to read a book.  Actually, now I think about it, I did spend some time browsing through the Russell T. Davies book, but that was annoying too.  What I’m really doing is procrastinating to avoid cooking dinner.  I feel like crying again.

Early evening:

Still haven’t cooked dinner.  Struggled to daven Ma’ariv (say the evening prayers) when I feel so distant from God and feel like He doesn’t care about me.

I realised I have barely spoken to anyone all week, just a couple of phone calls to my parents, a few words with shop assistants and davening.  I just phoned my Dad and kept shouting at him without really intending to do so.  My parents thought that I’ve been well this week, so I’m obviously becoming a better liar, but made me think that was what prompted him to ask why I’m depressed today, so if I’d been truthful, perhaps that wouldn’t have happened.  Or maybe it was just small talk again.  I don’t see the point of small talk.

My relationship with my parents does make me wonder if I could get married.  I’m not always good at tolerating their quirks and different personalities and I think there has historically been a lot of incomprehension (unstable, unsociable introvert vs. stable, sociable introvert and extrovert, incomprehensible (to neurotypicals) Aspie tendencies, depression and OCD… the depression is probably the thing they deal with best although to be fair they have promised that at my sister’s wedding, they’ll try to get a room for me to go off and be Aspie and introverted (and probably depressed, but I shouldn’t say that)).  All of which makes me wonder if I could cope with someone who wasn’t improbably like me… and if she was improbably like me, then I still probably wouldn’t get on with her, because I hate myself!

I managed to cook dinner in the end, and even did a few minutes (OK, about fifteen or twenty minutes) of Torah study.  I felt tearful again over dinner, watching Doctor Who (The Ribos Operation, not even a particularly bleak or emotional story).  I’ve edited out quite a bit from this post, because it was too personal and too bleak.  I didn’t want people worrying about me.  And yet, that just leaves me feeling lonelier.

There is so much pain in the world and I do so little to alleviate it.  I probably make things worse (e.g. shouting at my parents).  I wish I could do something.  I wish I could say that my suffering is somehow a kapparah (atonement) for the world.  That would make it all worthwhile.  But I’m not a tzaddik (saint).  I wish I was like my childhood hero, the fourth Doctor, saving the universe every week with a smile, a joke and bag of sweets.  There’s an often-repeated idea that your favourite Doctor is the one you grew up with, but I grew up with the first seven in rapid succession.  I think the fourth is my favourite (I have cosplayed, without calling it such) because he’s the one I most want to be: confident, casually intelligent, funny, charismatic and eccentric-yet-endearing (rather than shy, intelligent-but-too-shy-to-speak, serious and freakishly weird.  And I genuinely am as stupid as I seem).

Simchat Torah

It’s been a busy few days with through Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the festival) including my end of probation review on Wednesday and then straight into Yom Tov (festival) on Wednesday evening until Shabbat (Sabbath) today and then helping take down two sukkot (shul (synagogue) and home) (actually, there is more to do on both of them tomorrow).  I have a lot to write, but I will split it into two or three posts for time reasons and to avoid a mammoth post.  Today I am going to slip out of chronological order and focus on Simchat Torah (the festival of the Rejoicing of the Torah, really day two of Shmini Atzeret, itself a semi-independent holiday, but in some sense the eighth day of Sukkot (Tabernacles)) and then hopefully I will go back to what happened at work tomorrow or during the week.

I went into Simchat Torah badly, having missed shul on Thursday morning (Shmini Atzeret) as I was too exhausted and depressed.  It seems to be hard for me to go directly from work mode to Shabbat/Yom Tov mode without an intervening day to adjust.  I went to shul on Thursday evening nervous about what to expect as I hadn’t been in my new shul for Simchat Torah before.  It is a boisterous festival, the second most boisterous after Purim and is celebrated with ecstatic dancing in shul.  I have never liked it much for reasons I will explore below.  In short, it is hard for me to enter into the appropriate spirit of things.  Once or twice I have managed it, but very rarely.

Ma’ariv (evening prayers) started OK, but once we finished the bulk of the prayers, the difficulties began.  First, they started auctioning off honours.  I had heard of shuls where honours (e.g. reciting passages aloud in the service or carrying the Torah scrolls) are auctioned off for charity on Simchat Torah.  This was different, as the ‘price’ of the honours was a commitment to study a specific amount of Torah in the coming year.  The first few honours went for a low ‘price’, forty or fifty chapters of Mishnah, but the more important honours went for literally hundreds of pages of Talmud.  (I think the rabbi bid something like 400 daf (800 pages) of Talmud for one honour, which is a lot.)

I felt uncomfortable with this.  Partly it’s my inner Kotzk Hasid being angry at public declarations of goodness, even good intent, as well as anything that seems to set some people up as better than others.  But mostly it was that I felt unable to join in.  As I have written, I am struggling to keep up with my private decision to learn one Mishnah a day without taking on an additional set to study and even if I could count my current Mishanyot for the bidding (which I don’t think I could, as people were assigned particular Mishnayot so the community would complete certain Sederim) I do not know if I will be able to continue studying them if I get too disheartened or too depressed to set aside much time to study each day.  I already feel inferior to people who can study a lot of Gemarah without having this to rub it in.  The assistant rabbi, who was the auctioneer, tried to get me to bid, so I left the room and stood in the corridor because I was worried I would be forced to bid for something.  I didn’t want any of the honours either – I didn’t really want to read anything out aloud because of social anxiety and I didn’t want to carry a sefer Torah (Torah scroll) in case I dropped it.  Standing in the corridor did attract a certain amount of attention, but I thought it was safer than going back inside.  I stood in the doorway so I had some idea of what was going on and so I looked like I was involved in some sense.

Then they started the hakafot, the circuits around the shul carrying the sifrei Torah and dancing.  The dancing was Jewish dancing, which is dancing in a circle holding hands with those next to you or with your hands on their shoulders and vice versa.  I tried to join in, but I couldn’t manage it and ended up standing at the edge watching.  Pretty much every single one of my issues except the OCD was triggered here.  I was too depressed to get the sense of joy needed to dance, I was too socially anxious to do anything that would risk people looking at me and my borderline Asperger’s was stopping me from being touched by other people or just standing close to them and sharing personal space.  I was generally to inhibited and repressed to let go of my depression and anxieties and just join in.

On top of all this was my usual aversion to being part of a big group and being deindividuated and losing my sense of self.  This is always scary for me and explains why I don’t like big crowds especially when designed to unite everyone there in some way e.g. political rallies, concerts (public transport is less of a problem because you are not supposed to give up your identity, accept a political or religious viewpoint or listen to the same music).  I don’t know why I have this problem.  It may stem from having a weak sense of self and being worried about losing it, it may stem from being bullied at school and associating crowds with bullies or it may be because the bullying meant I had to fight hard for my identity and I’m reluctant to let go of it, even for a few hours.  (Incidentally, this article talks about why we do circle dancing; he talks about what I say about deindividuation, except from a positive viewpoint.)

Whatever the reason, I just could not join the crowds dancing around the shul.  I stood there for the beginning of the first hakafa (of seven), before I felt awkward just standing there and went into the corridor again.  I came back for the start of the second hakafa thinking maybe it would be easier to quietly and unobtrusively join this one, but it wasn’t.  I was sort of hoping one of my “friends” (the people I like; I don’t know if they think of me as their friend) would see me and drag me in, to give me the boost I needed to get in (I thought once I started I would probably be OK), but no one did.  The rabbi did try to get me to join and dragged me towards the circle, but he then went off somewhere else before I got there and I lost my nerve again and went back away.  So I gave up and went home.

I should say that the Simchat Torah dancing is fuelled by whisky.  Aside from the children and the young men, I think most people would have difficulty getting past their inhibitions without alcohol.  I can’t drink because of medication interactions and because alcohol is a depressant.  Also, based on the one time I accidentally tried whisky, I think it’s disgusting.  I was also struggling because most of the men vaguely my age were dancing with their young children, so I just felt a failure for not getting married and having kids.  This is before taking into consideration the fact that two of the three most important honourees were people I was at school with, who now have families and rabbinic ordination and basically seem to be better than me in every possible way.

On the way home I was feeling very depressed and self-harming (hitting myself).  I felt bad for missing shul and not being involved.  I also felt bad because I was thinking that I had missed a lot of shul this Tishrei and as I was using the Yom Tovim as a test to see if I was ready to date again, I thought maybe this means I shouldn’t date, in which case, will I ever be ready to date?  I have only managed to dance once or twice on Simchat Torah in my entire life!  If I wait until I manage that again, I might never date again.  Even waiting to have a ‘perfect’ Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot could take a long time.  I came home and told my parents that I hadn’t stayed “because I’m crap.”  I don’t usually use even mild profanity, but I did here because I hated myself so much.

What I omitted to say is that when I was trying and failing to join the dancing, I really wanted to curse God for making me like this, making me so I can’t even enjoy my own religion (which matters to me more than anything else, even Doctor Who) or do the simple things that most people do to get some enjoyment out of life, which is often fairly miserable for most people unless you can seize the day and enjoy basic pleasures like dancing with your friends (assuming you have friends; I don’t always feel like I do.  I suppose I shouldn’t say that, as I do have a couple of friends, but it’s hard to feel it sometimes).  I wasn’t even that angry with God, I just wanted to “act out” and get His attention as I learnt from childhood that the children/people who misbehave the most are the ones who get the most attention.  I do wonder what I’ve done to make Him punish me like this when all I want is to be a good Jew.  If He does miracles for people at Hevria to get them to become frum, maybe He’s telling me to go away because He hates me and doesn’t want me to frum any more.  But Judaism is a one-way ticket; you can convert in, but once you’re in (by birth or conversion) there’s no way out.

I felt terrible the rest of the evening.  I missed shul the next morning fairly deliberately, because I couldn’t face the second lot of dancing.  I went for Shabbat in the evening, but missed Shabbat morning today because I was still feeling depressed and nervous about going back to shul after what I did (or didn’t do).  I managed to go back this evening for Minchah, seudah and Ma’ariv and to help take the sukkah down which made me feel a bit better, as I was doing something for the community in a way that I could manage, but writing this has just brought it all back and I think I had better stop now.

I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down

“He talks to himself sometimes because he’s the only one who understands what he’s talking about.” Doctor Who: The Ark in Space by Robert Holmes

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Pretty much immediately after havdalah I spent over an hour writing a blog post to try to get my anxiety out of my system, then spent half an hour looking at the news (depressing) then I watched some Doctor Who to unwind from everything else which probably amounted to far too much blue light late at night and certainly amounted to being up too late, which, combined with self-loathing and agitation, meant I didn’t fall asleep until some time around 3.30am.  I don’t remember what I was thinking about when I was trying to fall asleep, but I got pretty agitated about something to do with my depression and mental health.

Whatever hope I might have had yesterday that I have some kind of share in Olam HaBa (the next world) has dissipated.  Thinking about my posts about not knowing what my mission is (which is obviously connected to having a share in Olam HaBa – our reward depends on fulfilling our missions) – I found this article I’d saved to my bookmarks ages ago and forgotten about which asks two questions to find your mission:

Rabbi Nivin offers two methods for discovering your mission:

  1. Ask yourself (and write down): What were the five or ten most pleasurable moments in my life?
  2. Ask yourself: If I inherited a billion dollars and had six hours a day of discretionary time, what would I do with the time and money?

I honestly don’t know the answer to either question.  Regarding the former, I find it hard to remember any pleasurable moments in my life since adulthood.  Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) is a key symptom of depression.  I think I’ve found socializing with known friends somewhat pleasurable, but I can’t do that for long without needing to be alone to recharge and anyway it can’t be my mission to socialize and it’s almost impossible for me to socialize anyway, due to lack of friends and social anxiety about making new ones or getting in contact with existing ones.  Likewise it’s doubtful that watching and writing about science fiction counts.  Before I moved communities two years ago, I used to get something from leading services in shul and giving drashot (religious talks), but with one very tiny exception, I haven’t done that since moving, partly from lack of opportunity, partly from lack of confidence now I’m in a much frummer community, partly from the fear that enjoying doing them was pride and that it would be punished by my making a fool of myself if I ever tried to them again.  Other than that, things I might enjoy are mostly stuff that I wouldn’t want to encourage myself to do, like self-harm (which can be a real release) or posting self-loathing comments here and on Hevria.  Jogging?  We’re getting silly now.  As for the second question, I don’t have a clue at all.  I know I’m supposed to say Torah study or maybe chessed (acts of kindness), but I know I wouldn’t do that really.

This is why I will have no share in Olam HaBa, because when I die they’re going to ask me, “Why didn’t you do X?” and I’ll say, “Because I didn’t think I was good enough to do it” or even “I never even thought about doing it.”  I want to be a husband and a father, but I don’t think that’s a life mission (otherwise most people would not have a mission beyond that) and it’s not going to happen anyway.

I just tried looking at some blog posts about how to hate myself less, but they either list things I’ve tried without success (think of my skills, achievements and virtues; write a list of my values; say positive affirmations every day) or stuff that I don’t think I can do (worry less about what other people think of me (this was why I got dumped a few weeks ago); accept other people’s positive views of myself as being as valid as my negative ones (why should I when they clearly don’t know me as well as I know myself?  And what about people’s negative views of me – how can I accept one and not the other)).  In particular, everyone says not to care what other people think of me, but no one can give me a practical way of reaching this zen-like state.  What’s the point of telling me, as one site did, “You may be in a tough place right now where you feel lonely or like a loser. No worries, we’ve all been there. But it’s time for you to realize how common these things are, and that they’re experienced by even the most successful and happiest people in the world. Those people get past them, and you will too” when for twenty years I haven’t managed to get past these feelings?

This article says that when you criticize yourself you should imagine part of you shouting abuse at the other part of you, perpetrator and victim, so you can see you have learned the hatred (the perpetrator) and direct love at the victim part of you.  The problem is, when I was thinking “Luftmentsch, why don’t you just **** off and DIE!” I tried to imagine seeing the perpetrator-me and tell him to **** off himself, but I automatically imagined him shouting it back at me (the real me, not the victim-me) so vividly and loudly that I actually flinched in real life.  Now I’m being bullied by imaginary people…  Maybe some people are just messed up beyond all hope?

I managed to go for a jog, at least and now feel too exhausted to hurt myself, which I suppose is good, although I also feel too exhausted to make dinner, which is less good.

Tune in tomorrow when you can see how much flak I’ll have taken for my poem on antisemitism on Hevria…